Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We are only weeks from the Special Session of General Conference in St. Louis Feb. 24-26. I must confess, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Just as I don’t know what it will mean here in Arkansas. Or how you’re going to react.
Like you, I’ve noticed these weeks preceding General Conference have been marked by an increasing level of uncertainty. And that this uncertainty is leading to greater anxiety. And the anxiety sometimes is devolving into polarization, demonization and people saying things they normally wouldn’t say.
It’s sad. But we don’t have to remain victims of this state of affairs. We can still choose a different path. We can pray more diligently. We can engage in holy conversations, especially with those with whom we disagree. We can continue to seek to discern God’s Will. We can expect God to do something new that no one yet has imagined. And we can remember several bedrock realities that will remain true regardless of what General Conference decides.
- God is still God.
- Jesus Christ still brings the salvation every human being needs.
- The Holy Spirit is still at work in new, creative and unexpected ways.
- God’s unconditional, invitational and transformational grace is still the most powerful force in the universe and should shape everything we do as Jesus-followers.
The United Methodist Church in Arkansas still is called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
Of course, things will be different when General Conference adjourns on Feb. 26, 2019. While I can’t predict exactly how, I know this. Some of you will be pleased, while others will feel betrayed; some will be ready to move ahead, while others are ready to move on; and some will experience healing, while others will live with broken hearts.
Yet when all is said and done, I want to affirm as strongly as possible that I remain hopeful about our future. Not because I’m in denial about what’s going on, optimistic by nature or trust in our ability to put things back together. But because God gives me hope. After all, Easter Sunday follows Good Friday.
Eternal life follows death. And a new heaven and a new earth follow the turmoil of pain and struggle.
The Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church is an amazing group of churches filled with faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. And the fact of the matter is that I have fallen in love with you these past six years I have served in your midst. I will continue to love you – regardless of what happens and regardless of how you respond. That’s why I want to ask you to join me in a simple prayer every day between now and Easter Sunday: Lord, I pray that all of us who are United Methodists in Arkansas will continue to love each other in the strength, truth and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We pray this in his name. Amen.
May it be so!
Grace and peace,
Gary E. Mueller