An Important Message from Bishop Bickerton
An Important Message from Bishop Bickerton
One of the most consistent ways to describe a Methodist is to talk about the link between Christian belief and Christian living. In our “Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Stance,” the Book of Discipline clearly connects the unity of faith with the consistency of good works.
In order to communicate this connection between faith and works, John Wesley created “The General Rules.” These directives were designed to be constant, yet simple reminders for those who participated in the Methodist societies.
Do No Harm
by avoiding evil of every kind.
of every possible sort, and as far as possible, to all
Attend upon all the ordinances of God
by staying in love with God in disciplined ways
These rules were designed to help the Methodists see how they could move from general principles to specific actions. These very same rules of living are the ones we use as modern day Methodists to live out our discipleship. These very same rules simply describe the exact manner by which we have and will approach our systematic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This current global crisis is the latest in series of disastrous events that have beset us for as long as the human race has as existed. The only difference is that this crisis is one that we personally have to live through and navigate. This is our moment. Our moment to rise above and declare faith in the midst of uncertainty. This is our time. Our time to step up and demonstrate how we live out our faith in loving actions. Those actions must involve reaching out to the poor and disproportionately affected.
They will also be actions that are smart and well thought out as they inform how we reopen our churches and re-engage ourselves through in-person worship and ministry.
A few short years ago, our Annual Conference embraced a new Mission, Vision, and Core Values. These clear statements have been the baseline for guiding our work and informing every decision we make. When we established our mission, no one had any idea that we would be facing severe restrictions, social distancing, and reliance upon government officials, scientists, and health experts to inform us about our behaviors and practices.
It’s interesting, given our current circumstances that our mission states clearly: We strive to share God’s love by CREATING safe places where all are accepted and welcomed, CONNECTING the needs of people to the presence of God, and TRANSFORMING the world through Christ.
These past two months have presented never before seen challenges in our world and unprecedented impact within our churches. We have witnessed unbelievable levels of illness and death on one hand, and inspiring levels of creativity and inspiration on the other. We have been challenged and we have been blessed.
While significant restrictions remain in place, it is now time to begin thinking and preparing for when we might be able to engage in some form of reopening of our churches for worship and other forms of ministry.
Ultimately, the decisions concerning when and how we resume in-person worship and activity rests squarely on my shoulders. We are not a combination of independent churches. We are bound together in love and in a structure that is best described by our connectionalism. We are not in Florida, Georgia, or Mississippi where standards are relaxed quicker than ours. In every sector of this region there are churches that carry our name which means that it is important to consistently know what happens in and through each of these settings.
My role as your Bishop is to do everything possible to make sure that the heart of our theology and the expression of our faith is in alignment so our people are cared for, loved, and assured that in the midst of these uncertain times there is someone, somewhere that will make sure they are affirmed, safe, and blessed.
I urge you to read this document from cover to cover and begin the hard work of entering this next phase of our re-entry.
You will discover it will not be easy to comply with the guidelines. But it will be more difficult if we don’t, because lives will be unnecessarily affected by our lack of intentionality and care.
I also urge you to make up your mind now to follow these guidelines thoroughly and completely.
You have a lot of work to do. So do I. So does my team. Let us not cause one another undue heartache and stress by not complying. Instead, let us with resolve move forward, determined that God WILL guide our steps on this uncharted path.
Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. And if we do, I believe we will discover how wonderfully God WILL see us through.
The Journey Continues, . . .
Thomas J. Bickerton