By Melissa Lauber*
Traveling can give you a window on worlds you never knew existed and provide glimpses and new understandings of fascinating cultures. But visiting others – living, worshipping, learning and working in their own unique contexts – can also provide a mirror into one’s self and to the complex beauty of God’s creation.
Our covenant partners in South Korea opened their meeting of the Nambu (South) Annual Conference today. Bishop Marcus Matthews preached at the opening worship service. He presented Bishop Seung Chul Ahn with an exquisite stole made by Debbie Albrecht, who works in the BWC’s episcopal office. Then they got down to church business, and I found myself looking into both windows and mirrors.
These are some of the things that I saw:
- Everyone who stands in the chancel area removes their shoes. They stand on holy ground.
- Bishops serve an annual conference for two years. During that time, they also serve a church. Bishop Ahn gaveled the conference to order sitting at a table in the front of the sanctuary at Central Methodist Church, where he serves as senior pastor.
- There were 1,500 lay and clergy members in attendance. The vast majority were men – all dressed in dark suits. (In the Nambu Conference there are 736 clergymen and 33 clergywomen.) Attendance was taken to ensure everyone was present.
- A listing of traits required to serve in leadership in the conference was read. The nominations committee noted the birth dates required for different positions. To be a district superintendent, one must serve as a pastor for 10 years. To be a bishop, one must serve at least 20 years.
- The conference budget of $800,000 was adopted. A plea was made for larger churches to pay their apportionments, which I was told is 5 percent of a church’s budget.
- A group of several churches from Canada
arejoining the Nambu Conference. Their pastors were introduced.
- The pastor whose church paid for lunch for everyone in attendance was introduced and thanked.
- A visiting bishop from another annual conference was introduced. He called the Nambu Conference revolutionary, powerful and spiritual. “It has the spirit of John Wesley,” he said.
In his preaching, prior to the business session, Bishop Matthews echoed this Wesleyan spirit that is at the heart of the partnership.
“You and I are each a part of God’s plan for bringing abundant life to a world searching for something more,” he said. “This is why we are here today… We do what we do as people of God, understanding that God has the whole world in God’s hands — you, and I along with those who are hurting and searching for the light of day. But we, as disciples, are here to proclaim that God still heals the sick today, and God still has the power and the capacity to bind up the
“The more we allow the power of Christ’s sacrificial nature to live in us, the more of Christ’s power we bring to bear to change the world and our day-to-day life circumstances,” the bishop concluded. “Let’s together change the world!”
*Melissa Lauber is Director of Communications for the Baltimore-Washington Conference