A Call to Prayer and Confession (June 4)

BishopGrantHagiya

Greetings,

As we continue in this season of prayer and confession, let us keep in our prayers the voices of those who have been hard at work away from our California-Pacific Conference in recent gatherings led by others as well as the voices of those who have engaged in Holy Conference at our own gatherings.

I believe that within each voice, within every sentence that is shared by every one of us, is a prayer for our church and our world to be fashioned in a certain way. As we pray, let us hear the prayers of others. In this way, we are one body in Christ.

One such prayer comes from the UM Forward event in the form of a proclamation entitled, “Loved and Liberated: A Proclamation from Our Movement Forward Summit,” which persons from our own California-Pacific Conference were involved in producing.  The entire proclamation is of greater length than the space that we have in this letter. But, I would like to highlight this portion for our own prayers:

“The Holy Spirit has been unleashed, and we are no longer captive to unjust systems in our denomination that oppress and crucify marginalized bodies. Time and again, these systems fail to live out the rules of the Wesleyan way. In fact, they have repeatedly broken the first rule to do no harm. This betrayal of Methodism catalyzes the unraveling of the UMC. As the connection crumbles, we no longer settle for crumbs.”

Another prayer comes from persons from our own California-Pacific Conference who attended and participated in the UMC Next event. Those persons decided to form a joint statement in reflecting upon the meeting itself. I would like to highlight this portion for our own prayers:

“The success of our forward movement also entails taking our diversity into account. The California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is one of the most diverse annual conferences in the U.S. – diverse in race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, language, national origin, theology, citizenship status, and more. This diversity is a gift and a strength for our current moment. Any plans for the future must engage the diverse people and contexts of our conference. These plans must also attend to already present systemic injustices around race, class, language, ability, and more, or else this “new thing” risks further institutionalizing white supremacy and oppression. We refuse the politics that pit liberation for one group of people against liberation for another; instead, we work for the liberation of all.”

Our District Conferences were certainly houses of prayer as we gathered together to faithfully articulate what was stirring in our hearts as well as in the hearts of those in our churches. I had shared a number of questions to frame our time together through a videoand our District Superintendents helped lead that time. What came about were a number of different topics and approaches, a selection of which I would like to highlight here:

  • How congregations stand currently – In general, there was much mention of a sense of sadness and disappointment in light of the recent decision. Some of our churches have expressed that they have been “inclusive” for a long time now and that this would not change. Some churches have expressed that individuals from either side of the matter of our church and inclusion have left because of this decision.
  • Human sexuality as a topic of discipleship – One aspect of human sexuality and discipleship that was mentioned was how it has not been a topic of much study, discernment, and discussion as a congregation in some of our local churches. One of the reasons named was how some persons would rather not bring up the matter at all.
  • Our clergy – There was also mention about some of our clergy and how they might need to be protected.
  • The “brand” of the United Methodist Church – Some of our churches have considered not using the name “United Methodist” in their church name because of what the brand might convey in terms of LGBTQIA+ exclusion.
  • Next steps – There was a sense of urgency as well as a great desire to know how things would go from here on out. Some churches have expressed a willingness to wait and see while others have considered taking action by themselves.

Before we get to the end of this letter, I would also like to note a comment from Rev. Tom Kendall who had expressed at a District Conference that it seemed to him that reflections from a Traditionalist perspective on the recent decision was missing in our Conference communications around the Special Called Session. From a letter that Rev. Kendall wrote, I would like to highlight this portion here:

“In all these communications from our Cal-Pac Conference we have yet to hear reflections on the GC2019 from the Traditionalist point of view. If we truly are a ‘Big Tent’ when it comes to our theological perspectives, then we must give equal opportunity to all those perspectives, including those of the minority opinion in our Cal-Pac Conference.”

Prayer is one of the ways by which we are heard by our God. In our prayers, we can ask powerful questions to God.  But, remember, that we can also hear the powerful questions that God has for us.  This week, my prayer for all of us is that we might sense such powerful questions stirring inside of us.

Next week, I will be sending my final letter before our 35th Annual Session of the California-Pacific Conference begins.  In that letter, I will share with you the prayer and confession of some of our Conference leadership. My hope is that it would lead and guide us into a genuine spirit of Holy Conferencing in Redlands, CA.

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya

Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop

The United Methodist Church

A Call to Prayer and Confession (May 28)

BishopGrantHagiya

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

Call to Prayer on the Fourth of July

The Immigration Task Force

of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church

The Western Jurisdiction Immigration Task Force invites all United Methodists of the jurisdiction to pause during your observation of our nation’s birth to offer prayers on behalf of our immigrant and migrant neighbors who are suffering from our government’s current policies and practices.

Whether individually or in your various gatherings on the 4th of July, pause to pray for these neighbors, one another, our government, and those who put these policies into practice. May our prayers lead us to greater solidarity with our immigrant and migrant neighbors, and to faithful action and witness on their behalf.

Thank you for joining us in prayer and action as together we seek to be a faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ at work in the world.


JesusAndChildren

A Prayer of Confession

Leader:

Creator God, You placed within each of us Your divine flame. You tenderly breathed Your Spirit into us with the command to love one another.

All:

We have failed to honor Your Spirit of love. Forgive us, O God.

Leader:

As children are torn from their families, call us back to the hope You breathed into us at creation. Call us back to your spirit of radical welcome.

All:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”*

Leader:

Remind us, O God, that we are called to comfort the suffering. Remind us of the
depth of love we sprang from. Remind us of Your light that shines in each of us.

All:

God, forgive us, and send us out with a spirit of boldness to set right the wrongs caused by our blindness to Your divine love in all Your children, on every side of every border we’ve created. Amen.

* These words that adorn our Statue of Liberty, are taken from a poem written by Emma Lazarus entitled “The New Colossus.”

To read the full press statement by the Immigration Task Force, please use the following link:
http://westernjurisdictionumc.org/statement-in-support-of-ministry-with-detained-separated-families/