Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

The Making Of A Bishop

           This past week, July 16-19, 2008, was the occasion of the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church, which met at Lake Junaluska, NC.

            Some 500 delegates came from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

            Our son John was a delegate representing the Western North Carolina Conference. It was his second time as a Jurisdictional Conference delegate.

            The top order of business for the week was to elect a bishop to serve in the church of Jesus Christ.

            Western North Carolina was especially interested in the balloting and assignments of bishops since our own Bishop McCleskey retires effective September 1, 2008.

            The top questions for the WNC delegates were 1) Who would be elected as bishop during the conference? 2) Who would be assigned as the Bishop of the WNC Conference? and, 3) Would this person be one in the same?

            Six candidates came into the balloting process. Of those, Dr. Paul Leeland, the Assist to the Bishop of the NC Conference, was the front runner from the first ballot, gathered momentum with every ballot, and was elected Bishop on the 6th ballot with 298 votes out of a total of 498 valid ballots cast.

            On Saturday morning (July 19, 2008), Paul Leeland was commissioned as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church.

            Part of the service reminded me of the importance of the office of Bishop in our church.

            At one point Dr. Leeland was asked:

Will you guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church against all that is contrary to God’s Word?”

            Leeland answered: “I will, for the love of God.”

            A few minutes later Leeland was charged to:

“…receive the Holy Scriptures, feed the flock of Christ, defend them in Christ’s truth, and be a faithful steward of Christ’s Word and Sacraments.”

            One of the pressing needs of United Methodism in our day is for strong Episcopal leaders who will 1) feed the flock of Christ the Word of God, 2) guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and disciple of the Church against all that is contrary to God’s Word, and 3) cast vision for the church in the 21st century.

           Bishops are expected, according to the Book of Discipline to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs” of the church and to “guard, transmit, teach and proclaim, corporately and individually, the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and, as they are led and endowed by the Spirit, to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically.”

            Episcopal leaders have the opportunity to cast a clarion vision for the church to live out the Wesleyan faith and proclaim the Wesleyan message in a day when Methodism is declining in much of our nation.

            For the Wesleyan movement to right itself and return to a place of health, two things are necessary: The first is a renewed focus on the message of our faith. The second is a new priority on our mission.

            The message of our faith is the Gospel:

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. {1 Corinthians 15:1-4}

            The mission of our faith is the Great Commission:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. {Matthew 28:18-20}

            Now, more than ever before, United Methodism needs Bishops who will proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, and lead the church in our mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

            I pray the Bishops of our church will lead us in this important hour, as the Bible guides them, as the Book of Discipline instructs them, and as Jesus Christ calls them!




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