News and Views

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling opens BWC Annual Conference With fiery words of wisdom

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Kindled by sparks of grace, The United Methodist Church was started by a man whose heart was strangely warmed and that has now grown into a denomination aflame with social holiness. At opening worship on May 29, the 1,100 members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference claimed the “fire shut-up in our bones,” and began to let it out to ignite a spirit of renewal and revival.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, the BWC’s presiding bishop, preached at the worship service and called on the members to embrace a spirit of hope, deep listening, study, and revival.

In her sermon, the bishop celebrated the recent General Conference as collaborative, collegial, and compassionate.

“There was a different spirit, a different energy, a different character that permeated the entire space,” the bishop said. “There was joy and hope for our future together. The delegates seemed to understand at a visceral level the phrase, ‘unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.’ This exemplifies our identity is in Christ. Now it is time for us to live into this future together.”

She echoed the words of Rev. Eleazar S. Fernandez, President of Union Theological Seminary of the Philippines, who said, “Without the Spirit, we will not only have conformist churches, we will also have churches suffering from respiratory failures. If churches are not inspired by the Spirit, they will eventually expire.

The bishop also pointed out that United Methodists today are “a people of a movement. We are a people on a journey together,” she said. “We are a people going on to perfection. We were never meant to be a people stuck in the quagmire of brokenness, exclusion, restriction or hatred. … We can no longer delay our mission, waiting on perfection. … We will grow deeper in love on the way!”  

And the best way to journey most faithfully along the way is to focus on love, Bishop Easterling said.  Love provides the light and illumination that guides our way, she said. 

“Beloved,” the bishop stressed, “now is not the time for mandates and dictates and constraints; rather, now is the time to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Now is the time to study together, to learn together, to wrestle with our Wesleyan theology, to hear God speak a fresh word into our lives, and we need to lift as we climb. We don’t need boards, councils, and committees, rushing to control the church. We need to engage in some deep conversation as we are led by the Spirit. We need to pray with fervor and intention, Veni Creator Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit!”

Prior to the sermon, the bishop shared the bejeweled stole of flames that she was wearing, which was a handmade gift from the youth of the conference. Members of the Conference partook in Communion and committed themselves to taking the next step with boldness and audacity to let their light shine forth, bearers of God’s holy fire.