Greetings, Virginia Conference United Methodists.

As you know, on Nov. 22 we are going to have a conference-wide conversation on human sexuality. I am deeply grateful to Rev. Marc Brown and the members of Common Table and the work group members who have been preparing for this conversation. Though the team members have different
opinions on this difficult issue, they have been respecting each other and working together
in prayer. I appreciate their dedication to this conference-wide conversation.

The issues relating to human sexuality have been very difficult to The United Methodist Church for many years. Though we think that this is not a primary thing in our church, this issue has been dividing our churches, and we have been experiencing pain. Now, we reach the point that some people
start saying that the time of amicable separation has come. In this situation I think it will be very important to have a time to sit together, to share one another, and to try to find a way to be one in mission in our conference.

My expectation for this conversation is to seek and find a way to deal with this issue in a different way. Is there any way for us to move from political battle to prayerful discernment? Is it impossible for the people with different understandings to respect each other and move forward in God’s mission? Is there any room in each of us to listen and reflect upon the other side’s stories? How can we restore a respect for the discerning process of the church even though the decision of the church is different from my opinion?

One of the reasons this issue is more serious and difficult is a different understanding and interpretation of the Scripture. Both sides argue on the basis of Scripture. So, this issue is more than a different understanding on human sexuality. This is related to a different understanding on the
authority and the interpretation of the Scripture.

Though we have differences in our understanding on this issue, I believe that all of us are seeking the truth, God’s truth on this matter. And I believe that truth will prevail in the end. In Jesus’ death and
resurrection we confirmed that God’s truth would prevail in the end. For the time being truth may seem to lose, but God’s truth will prevail in God’s time. All of us are on the journey of seeking and following God’s truth.

I still remember what I have heard from my Old Testament professor in my first year at Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul Korea. He told us that conviction was important, but if our conviction was not open to truth, our conviction would easily lead us to self-righteousness.

Can we not open our conviction to the truth, our Lord Jesus Christ who is still alive and leads our churches through the Holy Spirit? Can we not stop labeling the other side and pray for each other that we may be more humble in discerning the guidance of our Lord? Can we truly apply our faith, hope
and love in this matter?

For many times we have used this kind of conversation to advertise one side’s agenda. That was the reason we have lost the trust in our discerning process. This time we tried to do our best to be fair in preparing for this conversation. Now, I appeal to you to pray for this conference-wide conversation. This issue is too sensitive, too complicated and too divisive. And we, The United Methodist Church, are a global church. The decision we make here will impact the mission of fellow United Methodist
churches on the other side of the earth. I think without God’s help, we human beings cannot handle this complicated issue properly and wisely. Please, please pray for this conversation.

My prayer is that with God’s help and intervention our gathering may be a blessing to all of us.

One more time I appeal you: Please pray for this conversation.

In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho
 
 
Blow the ram's horn in Zion.
Schedule a time to fast.
Call for an assembly.
Joel 2:15

        As I write this article, I am aware that Rosh Hashanah begins with sun down this evening, September 24.  Jews are called to the festival with one hundred blasts of the shofar, a hollowed out ram’s horn.  A Jewish website writes, “The instrument looks like an oversized pipe, plays the most annoying sound you’ve ever heard, and is a call to awakening and repentance. If [the sound of the shofar] doesn’t wake you up, nothing will!”

        Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival, begins a ten-day period known as the Days of Awe.  It ends on October 4 with the celebration of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  During this ten day period Jews have the chance to acknowledge their false steps of the preceding year, steps that make them vulnerable for having their names written in the book of death.  Jews have a ten-day window to return to the Lord, to make amends, to perform deeds of righteousness and to give alms so that their names will be recorded in the book of the living.  The books are closed on the Day of Atonement. 

        Bishop Young Jin Cho was with us at Wellspring last Saturday morning, September 20, as we began our Spiritual Renewal Retreat.  He didn’t come sounding a shofar, but he might as well have.  He began our revival by offering us an honest assessment of the situation in the Methodist Church in America, and a fervent call to repentance, prayer, and restored vitality!  His words were loud, annoying to some, but a clear call to awakening!

        And awakening to the Word and will of God was the purpose of the Spiritual Renewal Retreat. 

        Of course I was anxious about the event because worrying is what I do best.  I was afraid that no one would want to come to church for a day of fasting, prayer, confession, and witness.  I was afraid that those who came would not find the event meaningful or useful because we had not planned it well enough, or had not thought it through enough, or had not executed our plans as well as we could have or someone else probably would have.  I was afraid….

 
 
May the grace and peace of our risen Lord be with you!

It is a beautiful season! Someone said that May is the “queen of the seasons.” I fully agree. Trees are getting greener, and we are experiencing the vitality of life. We cannot but give thanks and praises to God who has created this world and given us this beautiful gift.

The 2nd Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer went very well. Almost 400 people gathered and learned about prayer and spiritual disciplines. Dr. Tom Albin, the keynote speaker, did a great job, and many participants expressed their appreciations for his leadership. I am also deeply grateful to all the workshop leaders and to the members of the Planning Team. All of them prayerfully prepared for this convocation and worked very hard.  (to continue, click "Read More")

 
 
In a recent radio sermon, the Right Reverend Michael Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, recalls that when he was a boy in Sunday school, he was asked to memorize a poem written by noted 20th century poet, Langston Hughes.  The poem had a profound effect on his life. 
Hold fast to dreams
For life without dreams
Is like a bird with a broken wing
That cannot fly.
Bishop Curry writes, “Hold fast to dreams. Hold fast... because God has a dream.  God has a dream...a vision...a plan...a sublime purpose for this world.  From day one, God has had a dream for his creation which encompasses every man, woman, and child,...all who walk upon the face of the God’s earthly creation.”

“God’s dream will not rest” he adds, “until the nightmares of all people are ended and God’s dream is realized.  That’s where Jesus came in.”
            I get this!  This makes sense to me and sums up the mission and ministry of every Christian congregation:  Jesus is the Word of God become flesh.  Jesus is the Dream of God made flesh and sent to overcome the Nightmares of all humanity!  The Church exists to be “for the world the Body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”  God shares with every Christian His Dream and then calls each of us to act without weariness to end humanity’s Nightmares.   “Let us not grow weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).”

            Moreover, God compels the Church to share His restlessness for humanity by making human beings restless for Himself.  In a little book called, Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo concurs, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

            Bishop Curry continues, “Jesus came to share the ways in which we might live out God’s dream...a way to be authentically human as God intended.  Jesus came to lead us beyond self-interests... and into self-sacrifice.  He came to make certain that we would provide all people with the food, housing, and care they require...just as if we were providing it all for Jesus himself.  He came to show us how to become the human family of God (Michael Curry, ‘God Has a Dream,’ October 2012.  Retrieved, October 23, 2013 from http://day1.org/5105-god_has_a_dream).

            I think it is wrong-headed to measure the success of the Church on the volume of its in-gathering, the depth of its offerings, the height of its steeples, the clarity of its sound system, the number of folks on the roll, or the square footage of its sanctuary.  The only measurement that matters, it seems to me, is the congregation’s restlessness to hold fast to the dream of God.

In what way does every Wellspring activity and ministry promote God’s Dream and mitigate the human nightmare?      -Pastor Edward
 
 
A Wellspring Family Mission Trip

Pending the approval of the Risk-Taking Mission Committee and to the Administrative Council, I would like to propose a Wellspring UMC Family Mission trip set for the late winter or early spring, 2014.  The trip will encompass a Friday to Sunday. 

Furthermore, I suggest that we travel to Petersburg, Virginia, and work with Pathways Ministries, directed by two United Methodist Pastors, Dwala Ferrell and Mike Watts.  Dwala and Mike have ridden the Holy Rollers bicycle tour for the past five years on an awesome tandem bicycle.  I have heard them speak passionately on many occasions about the desperate needs in their community.

Pathways was begun in 1995 as an inter-faith community development corporation and is now an incorporated, 501(c)3 institution serving human needs in Petersburg.

Reality in Petersburg
  • has the highest child poverty rate of any city in Virginia with 41.4% of its children living below the poverty level
  • 25.2% of all residents in Petersburg, or 8,015 people live in poverty, which is up a startling 37.6% from 2000
  • The median household income is $32,435, only 54% of the state median, and down 9% from the 2000 census
  • 31% of households in Petersburg are single-parent families [children in married-couple households are far less likely to experience poverty (5%) than children in single-parent households (25%)]
  • 79% of the residents of Petersburg are African American (33% of black children in America live in poverty, as compared to 10% for white children)
  • Poverty impacts crime:  In 2008, the crime rate in Petersburg was three times that of the national average
  • Poverty impacts nutrition:  34% of adults and 17% of preschool aged children in Petersburg are obese
Petersburg is only 50 miles from Wellspring.  I would like our mission trip to be a multi-faceted experience with activities for people of all ages.  I am going to invite students from the Wesley Foundation to participate as well.

We might work with our hands to repair buildings and serve food, and then hold hands and build relationships with people who have lost hope.  We might assist in the Health Clinic, mentor children, work in a garden, teach the Bible or sing songs.

Please consider my proposal and whether this would be a meaningful weekend for you.  Watch for details as we get closer.

Pastor Edward