When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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They will know we are Christians by our love

May 20, 2019

34-35 Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35, The Message)

The idea of Christian conferencing has been with Methodists since the early days of John and Charles Wesley. Christian conferencing was considered a means of grace by John.

In his book, “Living our Beliefs The United Methodist Way,” Bishop Kenneth L. Carder offers this understanding of Christian conferencing: “Conversation with other Christians around issues of faith and mission is a means by which God guides and strengthens us. Sharing our understandings and struggles with others who are seeking to participate in God’s life and work opens new avenues of divine grace and guidance. Through such sharing, the Holy Spirit is present to direct, empower, and transform. Dialogue in an atmosphere of humility and respect is a form of evangelism and prophetic witness…. In the midst of honest discussion and through the power of the Holy Spirit, the risen Christ comes to provide food for our journey toward the fulfillment of God’s purpose.”

I appreciate this quote describing Christian conferencing. Please note some of the verbs used to describe God’s part of the practice: guide, direct, empower, transform, provide. Each of these words describes the work that God will do when he is present in our conferencing. A way to open ourselves to the work that God does during our conferencing is to abide by the words of Christ found in John 13. When we love each other in the same way Christ loved and continues to love, us, the Spirit can move among us to guide, direct, empower, transform, and provide.

We will continue our long-standing tradition of Christian conferencing as we gather for Annual Conference in Columbus June 2 – 5. During this time, we are asked to allow two sets of guidelines to serve as our covenant for conversation.

The first guideline comes from John Wesley. We will have Wesley’s three rules as a part of our covenant. Wesley’s three rules include: 1) Do no harm; 2) Do good; and 3) Stay in love with God. In his book, “Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living,” Rueben Job writes the following about the first of Wesley’s rules: “I have also found that this first simple step, when practiced, can provide a safe place to stand while the hard and faithful work of discernment is done. When we agree that we will not harm those with whom we disagree, conversation, dialogue, and discovery of new insight become possible. When our words and actions are guarded by this first simple rule, we have time and space to think about consequences before a word is spoken or an action taken.”

The second guideline is the HEART principles, a list of practices that comes from “Partners in Ministry: Clergy and Laity” by Roy W. Trueblood and Jackie B. Trueblood. The Truebloods write: “Leading from the heart means allowing the Holy Spirit to govern our behavior in relationship. As the apostle Paul affirmed in Romans 5:5 (RSV), ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.’ Our task as Christian leaders is to allow that love to flow from our hearts to others in very specific behavior.”

Let us remember we are called to demonstrate to the world that we are Christ’s disciples, and we best do that when we show we love each other. If we covenant to abide by Wesley’s three rules and use the HEART principles as our guidelines for conversations, we will accomplish our goal and the world will know that we are disciples.

Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at nitac@sgaumc.com.

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