Greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
In preparation for “I See A New Church,” our 35th Annual Session of the California-Pacific Conference, I am calling all of our clergy and laity into a season of focused prayer and confession as one body in Christ in the lead up to our gathering in Redlands, CA.
I believe that God is leading us through a wilderness as it is articulated in our theme scripture of Isaiah 43:15-21. And, in my prayers, I have come to the conviction that God’s leadership of us as a Conference will not depend on legislative strategy or political agenda, but on our surrender to God as disciples of Jesus Christ. I ask you to join me in daily prayer for our entire California-Pacific Conference.
In trying to share how I have come to this moment, I think that it is important to review some key events that have transpired since the Special Called Session of General Conference 2019 in St. Louis, MO.
First, the Western Jurisdiction Mission Cabinet (WJMC), which is chaired by Rev. Donna Pritchard (Oregon-Idaho Conference) and includes the College of Bishops and Directors of Connectional Ministries, officially gathered in March of 2019 in Portland, Oregon, to set a strategy for moving forward. This resulted in the formation of task groups around key topics or areas of action and the issuing of a statement that invited all with ideas on these topics to share them with each group.
Outside of our Western Jurisdiction, a number of groups which are not official bodies of The United Methodist Church have also held gatherings in response to the Special Called Session. I will note only three among them because of their organization, momentum, and connection with our California-Pacific Conference:
- UMC Next (May 20-22, 2019 in Leawood, KS) – This group, led by Rev. Adam Hamilton of Church of the Resurrection, gathered to pray, listen, and consider the future of the denomination.
- UM Forward (May 17-19, 2019 in Minneapolis, MN) – This group’s stated purpose was to center the voices of people of color, queer, and transgender voices.
- Wesleyan Covenant Association – This group, while it did not have one central gathering, has been organized and gathering in smaller events throughout the denomination.
Here in the California-Pacific Conference, our Appointive Cabinet (myself and all of our District Superintendents) have held intimate gatherings with clergy who might be called “traditionalist,” as well as those who might be called “progressive,” listening to our stories as well as our hopes for what lies ahead of us.
As the Extended Cabinet (all of the Appointive Cabinet as well as Conference Staff Directors, the Chair of our Conference Connectional Table, and our Conference Co-Lay Leaders), we have worked together with members of our General Conference delegation, beginning with the heartwarming worship service at First United Methodist Church of Pasadena, CA the Sunday following the Special Called Session.
In our Districts, we recently held our District Conferences where we heard directly from each other as to where things stand and what we see as possibilities for a greater future. Needless to say, I personally appreciate all of your participation as well as the leadership of our Cabinet and Conference leaders.
Gathering in such groups is something to be celebrated as it is the mark of an active Connection desiring to engage in the time-consuming work of discerning God’s will for our future. I commend all across our denomination and all here in our California-Pacific Conference who wish to be faithful to whom God is calling us to become.
Yet, what I would like to share with you is something that we learn early on in the practice of coaching which is how to resist the temptation to immediately fix something that our coachee has shared with us is broken. While it may take more time, what we learn instead is how to ask powerful questions because it takes such energy and diligence to confront what is difficult to address out loud.
My plan, for my subsequent letters, is to share with you the voices of those who were at these gatherings far from our California-Pacific Conference as well as those who met within our Conference so that their words may raise for us some powerful questions to consider.
Before we get there, I want to end this first letter with three powerful questions that arise out of my own prayers. These questions come from my own belief that this is a moment for us to focus on surrendering to God who is active in, through, and among us:
- How is it with our soul? – Are we hurt? Angry? Depressed? Excited? Energized? Inspired? How has it affected our work and how will it affect our plans?
- What is our ultimate goal? – What kind of church family, what kind of body of Christ, what kind of people of God are we trying to help fashion?
- How do we know for sure that God is leading us? – Are we relying on our greatest strengths or have we been asking our God to be made strong in our weakness?
In these coming days, join me in setting aside some time every day in preparation for our gathering and surrender ourselves to God in focused prayer and confession as one body in Christ.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop
The United Methodist Church