I am so grateful for your joining me in this season of prayer and confession as we make our way, both physically for many of us and spiritually for all of us, to our 35th Annual Session of the California-Pacific Conference.
In my first letter, we reflected upon what has happened since the Special Called Session of General Conference 2019. In my second letter, we heard the voices of those who have been engaged in different areas of our church. In this third and final letter, we will continue on in prayer and confession in a spirit of courage.
We have to acknowledge for a moment that it is difficult to be in a place like the wilderness. There are, obviously, all of the feelings that we feel inside. There are also questions about our next steps. We often pray, “Lord, show me what to do.” Today, I would ask that we whisper one additional prayer: “Lord, let me have the courage to follow you.”
In times of being unsure of the path ahead, we often want to know what to do. But, we also need to be willing to go where God is leading us. Knowing might lessen our anxiety and that would be a good thing, of course. But, being willing will raise our confidence in what lies ahead because of our assurance that the Lord is leading us.
What is clear to me is that God has been leading our California-Pacific Conference since its beginning. Yes, God is leading us to see a new church and we have been seeing glimpses of it in the church that we have long been.
Below is a statement from our Extended Cabinet of the California-Pacific Conference, a group of leaders that I mentioned in my first letter. I share this statement with you as a reminder of the kind of willingness our leadership has shown. When we meet with each other once again in Redlands, let us be together as one body in Christ, seeing a new church, following in the way that God is leading us.
“Dear Beloved Siblings of the California-Pacific Conference,
As we continue in our season of prayer and confession, we in the California-Pacific Conference must take a moment to acknowledge the real and lasting pain we as The United Methodist Church have caused our children, friends, pastors, and fellow members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual; confess our complicity in their suffering whether by what we have said and done or what we have left unsaid or undone; and seek a new way guided by the Spirit in love towards healing, out of despair, and towards fullness of life.
General Conference is the highest legislative body of The United Methodist Church made up of 800+ people from across the global Connection who usually meet every four years. The decisions of this past Special Called Session of General Conference 2019 which focused on matters of human sexuality, as well as the Judicial Council ruling, and now the many ways our Church has responded have built a ministry environment of tension, grief, and uncertainty. Today, we the Extended Cabinet of the California-Pacific Conference would like to convey to you our awareness of, and sharing in, this reality.
We also acknowledge that, we, as a Conference, are not of one mind. We are a family knit together across a broad diversity of theological and social perspectives, races, ethnicities, cultures, generations, languages, gender and sexual identities, abilities, and other such reflections of the image of God. While we celebrate this richness afforded to us in our complex particularity, we must confess that we have not always engaged our difference faithfully– lovingly. We have not always listened deeply enough to the cries of our siblings. We have not always paid careful attention to the voices and perspectives absent from the table. We have not always reflected honestly about those we may have unwittingly left behind. We must repent, and humbly confess.
Yet, in this of prayer and confession, may we strive to be of one spirit, unified in the effort to welcome all at Christ’s table and for all to move onwards towards perfection in our discipleship. Our history is one of pioneering – always being able to see and build the new church that is emerging. As many decisions are yet to be made in all areas of The United Methodist Church, may we continue in our identity as the California-Pacific Conference without fear as the Lord, our God, is leading us.
The Extended Cabinet of the California-Pacific Conference”
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop
The United Methodist Church