News and Views

'Grant us Wisdom, Grant us Courage'

Posted by Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling on

Beloved of God,

As we look toward to Feb. 23-26 and the Special Session of General Conference, anxieties are running high, uncertainty permeates the air, and last-minute appeals are being made to influence delegates’ votes. These are, without a doubt, trying times in the life of our denomination.

During a recent conversation, a young pastor in our conference made the following observation: “We have lost the ability to love one another. The posture is, if you don’t believe as I believe, you’re against me. We’ve just lost our ability to love.” These are strong words, and yet I hear them echoed throughout the conference and denomination in one form or another. Have our differences caused us to become enemies?

As is often the case, the lectionary texts offer prescient guidance. In the text for Feb. 24, the Sunday during the Special General Conference, the Gospel lesson teaches Christ-followers how to bridge divisions. Christ calls his followers to not only bear with those who hate them, but to love them. And, he doesn’t stop there.

In the Common English Bible, the admonition is to: love, do good, bless, and pray for their enemies. If the people of the church are called to love their enemies, how much more is required for their brothers and sisters? I pray that delegates do not see one another as enemies; but even if they do, Christ speaks directly to the high call of discipleship. As always we are called to love.

While attending a College of Bishop’s meeting, we were asked to share one of our favorite hymns during the devotion. The hymn I selected was "God of Grace and God of Glory," by the Rev. Henry Emerson Fosdick. The hymn was written in the midst of The Great Depression between World Wars I and II. The refrain offers a petition to “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage” as we face life’s challenges. I invite you to read the entire hymn and meditate on its powerful witness. The third verse is especially compelling:

"Cure your children's warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss your kingdom's goal,
lest we miss your kingdom's goal."

We have been praying our way forward since we left the grounds of Portland, Oregon, in 2016. And we must continue to pray for those who will vote, preside, and contribute to the work of the Special General Conference. It is my prayer that we will receive and be led by the outpouring of God’s power and be filled with the Holy Spirit to do God’s will. I pray that we emerge from this time of holy conferencing not divided, but more united than ever in mission, ministry, and a passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

On March 3, as we break the bread and share the cup, may we be reminded of our common identity as people of one faith, one hope and one baptism in our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.