Bishops Declare New Day for Church
Speaking for the bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction at the NEJ Conference in Charleston, West Virginia on July 18, Bishop Jane Allen Middleton declared a new day for the church as people called by Jesus Christ.
Citing “an alarming and rising level of vitriolic discourse in the public arena” which spills over even to the church, Bishop Middleton declared, “Never has there been a greater need for the church to offer a prophetic healing voice.”
The church is being called to be the church in risk-taking ways, she said. “Those churches which dare to take this challenge and to go where God leads, no matter the cost, will bear fruit. Those churches which do not will die!”
Although the issues facing the church are daunting, Bishop Middleton, who is retiring this year from the Susquehanna Conference, said there are signs of resurrection. She cited:
- A deep and growing spiritual hunger in our society today.
- Signs of new life and the creation of a firm foundation, including a growing number of small groups and the 30-year history of Disciple Bible studies.
- Congregations moving beyond their walls to impact their communities and beyond.
“ We’re getting it my friends,” the Bishop said. “We’re committed in real ways to being partners with God in transforming the world.”
The reality, Bishop Middleton noted, is that “disciples are not made at the district level or at the conference level or at the jurisdictional level or at the general church level. Disciples are made in the local church.”
“Disciples are made when a neighbor offers to bring a neighbor to church; when a nurse shares with another nurse the transformation she’s experienced through her local church; when a truck driver tells his customer how it is that his life has been changed by Jesus; when a youth brings a lonely friend to youth group.”
Bishop Middleton gave several examples of good news for the Northeastern Jurisdiction. Among them:
- A 53% increase in the number of multi ethnic congregations, defined as those with no more than 70 percent of one ethnic group
- The greatest percentage increase in the number of local pastors of any jurisdiction. We are returning to our roots of more of a tent- maker ministry in which persons who are on fire for the Lord are finding a way to serve!
- The increased use of Certified Lay Ministers, providing creative ways to provide pastoral care for congregations
- A significant increase in the number of constituents, an increase great enough that it more than offset the loss of membership.
To meet the challenges facing us, Bishop Middleton said, we must focus on discerning God’s will.
“We can make grand plans, develop strategies, set a vision, but at the heart of who we are and what we do must be this passion to respond to God’s deepest yearning for us,” she said. “We will rarely hear God speaking to us in a clear loud voice, but if we are faithful in asking the question, we will come to know the way, God’s way, the way of the cross.”