New year brings new opportunities
A new year has dawned! A new life (every day is new) and a new opportunity have been given to us! At the beginning of this new year, I pray that the grace and peace from our Lord will be with you now and throughout the year.
I am very excited about the new year. Although we are still facing challenges, I have not lost joy and gratitude in my heart in serving my beloved annual conference. Although we still have a long way to go, I am deeply grateful to our Lord and to all of you for the changes taking place in our conference. By the grace of God, we see some signs of hope for a new future.
I thank God that the conferencewide conversation on human sexuality on Nov. 22 went well. It is a very difficult and sensitive agenda that The United Methodist Church has been struggling with for many years. We conducted this conversation in a calmand respectful manner although there are differences among us. I am deeply grateful to the members of the work team who made the preparations for this conversation. They had differing thoughts and perspectives on this issue, but they respected each other and prayerfully prepared for this gathering. They worked hard to make this conversation a meaningful one.
Of course, one conference-wide conversation will not solve all our struggles related to this issue. But it was a good beginning, and I hope there will be follow-up conversations in the districts and in local churches, especially as we approach our Annual Conference in June. My prayer is that Annual Conference will be a time of prayerful discernment on this issue, not a time ofjudgment and confrontation.
This year marks an important time in my ministry. I am now in the second half of my tenure as your bishop. So far, I have worked hard to spread the culture of prayer. I still believe that our churches cannot be transformed without rediscovering spiritual vitality, and prayer is the first step towards spiritual vitality in our churches. I will continue to preach on “Lord, Teach Us to Pray”wherever I go and encourage the churches to become Prayer Covenant congregations.
We have scheduled our 2015 Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer for Saturday, March 21. The theme for this year’s convocation will be “Breakthrough Prayer” and the Rev. Sue Nilson Kibby, director of Connectional and Missional Church Initiative for the West OhioConference, will be our speaker. The focus will be how to pray more effectively for a revitalization of our churches and ministries. We have set May 24 as our conference-wide Day of Prayer for the renewal and revitalization of our churches. Please mark these important dates on your calendar and begin praying now for their success.
Our Imagine No Malaria initiative has been making good progress. According to a recent report, we are approaching almost one-third of our goal of saving more than 100,000 lives from malaria. I deeply appreciate all the clergy and laity and children who have been a part of this life-saving mission. We have six more months to go. I invite you to remember our catch phrase “Every LifeSave a Life” and join this great opportunity to make a difference in many lives being lived in another part of the world. Your prayer for this initiative is absolutely essential.
Implementing Discipleship Circles at the district level has been delayed. Because of a staff change in the conference, we have not made as much progress as we had hoped. But under the leadership of our new staff person, Cheryl Edley-Worford, the evaluation ofbeta groups is under way and a training program for facilitators has been launched. It is my hope that during the new year more beta groups of Discipleship Circles will be organized and their designs tested in order that the conference may be better prepared for expanding discipleship groups at the district level.
Whenever I hear that people are praying for our conference and for me, my heart is touched and uplifted by such love. I know my shortcomings, and I know I cannot do this ministry without God’s help and your prayer support. Our conference cannot beturned around without the power and guidance of our Lord. Your prayers make a difference in our churches andin the conference. So please keep on praying for our new future. I will deeply appreciate that.
May the Lord continue to bless our churches and all of you in our journey together during this new year.
Young Jin Cho