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Alive Together in Relationships

November 05, 2018

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at Lovely Lane Chapel on the grounds of Epworth By The Sea. What an beautiful, worshipful setting. The sermon was based on the Old Testament lectionary passage, Ruth 1:1-18. After the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi feels that God certainly has abandoned her. Yet, God is as close to her as her daughter-in-law, Ruth. In the midst of tragedy and death, Ruth, the Moabite, says to Naomi, the Hebrew, “Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people. And your God shall be my God.”

Returning to Bethlehem with Naomi, Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David and takes her place in the family line of Jesus Christ. Through this story, God is teaching us the power of unlikely relationships to bring about redemption and a new future. Generations later Jesus will come to bring that kind of salvation to all people.

This past week we have seen the power of relationships as Christians and other faith groups have expressed solidarity with Jews in the wake of the shooting that killed and injured so many in the synagogue in Pittsburgh. In Huntsville, Ala., for instance, hundreds of people crowded the street in front of a local synagogue as an expression of collective grief and an affirmation that we can choose to confront and overcome hate through the power of relationships. I encourage us all to look for unlikely relationships we can create for the good of our local communities.

In the month since Hurricane Michael hit our area we have heard story and after story of unlikely relationships in which people reached out to one another to provide basic needs. One pastor told me how a young woman and her baby came to the church for diapers, water, and other supplies. Later she returned to help distribute supplies to others. Over several days the pastor talked with her about the Christian faith and the meaning of baptism. Last Sunday that young woman joined the church and her baby was baptized. The power of unlikely relationships brought about by a hurricane!

Response teams and work teams from inside our conference and from several other conferences continue to visit our areas of greatest need. Other annual conferences are contributing to our South Georgia Storm Recovery Fund. In a time like this, the connectional system of The United Methodist Church shows us the power of relationships made possible by our common commitment to Jesus Christ.

This week the Council of Bishops is meeting at Epworth By The Sea. This means that we have guests from throughout Africa, Europe, Puerto Rico, and The Philippines, as well as from the episcopal areas in the United States. The Council of Bishops regularly meets here because the South Georgia Conference provides a place of beauty and an atmosphere of hospitality. Thanks to all those who go out of their way to enable our guests experience the power of relationships that comes from being Alive Together in Christ.

Like you, I have been studying the recent ruling of the Judicial Council on the constitutionality of the three Way Forward plans. I think it is very helpful for our delegates to have clarity as to which parts of the plans are constitutional and which parts need further attention. The proponents of each plan will be working to make the necessary changes and bring those amendments to the special session of General Conference, Feb. 23-26, 2019. 

In the meantime, I want to celebrate the power of relationships that I see going on within the South Georgia Conference. A significant number of laity and clergy are expressing their desire to find a way forward that enables us to remain Alive Together in Christ. These brothers and sisters are well aware of the three current Way Forward plans. And they know they differ as to the plan with which they each align. But they also know a bigger truth: they know Ephesians 2:5 and they are committed to remaining in relationship with one another before and after General Conference 2019. The story of Ruth and Naomi is repeating itself in South Georgia. The power of unlikely relationships!

Alive Together in Christ,

R. Lawson Bryan

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