Special updates and thoughts from Pastor Joel.
Dear St. Matthew Family,
The temperature has finally turned to fall weather. I almost forgot what it was like to have cooler weather. I love this time of the year because it’s a time when gardeners plant and grow leafy green vegetables as well as root vegetables. I love gardening. Getting my hands in the soil and smelling all the nutrients is fascinating to me. I love waking up in the morning and going out to the garden to see how things are growing. It brings me great joy and sometimes surprises. There have been a few times, when the garden has become a buffet for the various animals who have found it. When I first started gardening, this would make me so upset. However, over the years I’ve learned to accept that this is a possibility and give thanks that I could contribute to the animals lively hood. Sharing our resources isn’t it always easy, especially if we aren’t expecting too. However, through gardening, I’ve learned to share resources that I’ve been given in unexpected ways. St. Francis said it best, “through giving, we receive.”
Since I have been at St. Matthew, I have witnessed so much generosity through your financial gifts, time and service to missional work, care of the grounds and buildings, through gifts of conversation and so much more. Thank you St. Matthew for being the unexpected gift to so many in our church family and community. It is through your generosity that we are able to share God’s love in unexpected ways. In this season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for you. May you continue to grow in your faith and be the unexpected blessing to everyone you meet on the journey.
You are loved and appreciated,
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us:
- Romans 12:4-6a NRSV
Grace and peace be with you all this day. As United Methodists we, the bishop and the members of the Desert Southwest Conference Appointive Cabinet, have been in prayer for our pastors and our United Methodist churches and would like to share a statement of faith and grace. Our Conference has a commitment to be a ‘big tent’ church. We recognize that we do not all think or believe the same. We have differences in understanding of scripture. We have different gifts that have helped us serve countless communities in ways specific to the needs in those places. We speak many languages, come from many cultures, and hold differing theological perspectives. And yet, amidst our differences, there is one God who activates and enlivens us as disciples of Jesus Christ, sending us out into the world as bearers of Christ’s love.
As United Methodists, we continue to aspire to be a more just, loving, and inclusive force in the world. Yes, we have failed in this calling many times and we have the work of repentance and restitution to do. Yet we believe with intentional effort and with God’s help we will become the beloved community God created us to be, living more faithfully into our identity as God’s people. We have the ability to end the harm done to LGBTQIA+ siblings, to communities of color and our immigrant congregations, to those who live with differing conditions, and to creation itself. As an Annual Conference we made a commitment to end harm when we adopted our Vision Statement which reminds us all:
God calls us to be a Courageous Church:
loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope.
As United Methodists, we believe we are stronger together. Our diversity is a gift from God, one we have not yet fully claimed. We need not fear our differences. Instead we believe we are called to embrace our differences in a way that models what unity in Christ looks like. We believe that unity does not require uniformity. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us how much we need one another. The pain and sorrow experienced through the pandemic has been overwhelming, yet we have risen to the challenge, and in the process we did not ask first what someone believed before deciding whether or not we would serve with them. We have stood shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and have been the Body of Christ in powerful ways. As United Methodists we embrace a church built on loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action.
Washed in the waters of our baptism, as United Methodists we will walk in our commitment to love one another in grace-filled ways. We will be liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist, or something else and together we will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As your Bishop and Appointive Cabinet we value each and every one of you as a precious child of God. We believe that every church in Desert Southwest Conference is an important part of this shared work. There is a place, through God’s grace, for us all.
Let us all be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Rev. David McPherson
Rev. Dan Morley
Rev. Javier Olivares
Rev. Matt Ashley
Rev. N. Susan Brims
Our Commission on General Conference decided this week that our next General Conference will be held in 2024. I imagine this means that, for now, the policies and positions espoused by the United Methodist Church, and by the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, will remain more or less status quo. As for us at St. Matthew, we will continue to worship, serve, and fellowship together across unity and diversity as we have always done. Our call to ministry and mission to and with all people in the name of Christ, in connection with other United Methodists around the world, and in ecumenical solidarity with Christians everywhere, remains.
You can find the statement from the Commission, as well as a response from Bishop Cynthia Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops, in the press release at https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/general-conference-cancelled-16384635
December 5, 2021
I continue to receive requests to share an update concerning the postponed General Conference and Western Jurisdictional Conference. I realize that this is an anxious time for everyone in our church. Not only are we reeling from the COVID-19 threats, but our whole church has been on a massive holding pattern for over a year. It has been a tough time for everyone, and that includes the entire global population!
Over the next few months, I will share what I can about the state of The United Methodist Church, and I realize that I will not have many answers. The truth of the matter is no one knows what will happen next, and this fact should sober all of us.
First, let me address what we know about General Conference. The only one who can decide on holding the General Conference is the Commission on General Conference, a global elected body of laity and clergy tasked with the oversight for the General Conference. Their leadership and staff have been meeting regularly to determine if it is possible to hold our General Conference in 2022. They are exploring every angle to this very question. At this time, they still cannot determine with assurance if this is going to be possible. They are juggling hundreds of considerations. One of the major issues is getting Visas and safe travel for our Central Conference delegates. Since the Central Conferences make up over 40% of the General Conference, it would be impossible and unethical to hold it if they could not participate. As the Delta variant continues to rage worldwide, the ultimate safety of our members continues to be a significant hurdle to physically meet in Minnesota or anywhere else in the world.
I have tremendous respect and confidence in the leadership of the Commission on General Conference. I know that they are working diligently every week to answer whether we will be able to meet or not. We can only wait in patience as they do their work, and as soon as they make a definitive decision, they will let all of us know.
My challenge in writing this briefing is how to tie in this season of thanksgiving with the latest information of our general church. One thanksgiving that I regularly lift to God in my daily devotions and prayers is the faithfulness of all of our churches, laity, and clergy during such a trying time as this. I thank God for all of you who are doing everything you can to keep your churches and communities afloat and viable under the COVID-19 conditions. You are the heart and soul of our entire church, and I am proud to be a part of such a dynamic and faithful community. However, it is to God and God alone to whom we must give our thanksgiving and praise. God is the one who is not letting us down and continues to guide and empower our ministries!
So, during this important thanksgiving season, let us turn to God for hope and vision. It is time for us to take stock in all that we have, not what we lack. God will give us all we need to get through the challenges of this hour and the hours to come.
Let me close with that great inspiration from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at
harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an
opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those
of the family of faith. –Galatians 6: 9-10
Be the Hope,
December 1, 2021
by Pastor Brooke
Our world-wide denomination convenes a General Conference, with clergy and lay representation from every Annual Conference, every four years (quadrennially). The General Conference is the legislative body for our United Methodist connection. Following a specially called General Conference in 2019 (for more information and commentary on this, please see my blog post from March 19, 2019 https://www.stmatthewmesa.org/about/pastors-blog/update-on-the-desert-southwest-conference-response-to-general-co), the quadrennial General Conference scheduled for 2020 has been postponed until at least 2022. Much uncertainty remains about whether the General Conference will be able to convene in 2022, with vaccination requirements and travel restrictions likely still to be in place, and with delegates coming from various parts of the world, including regions with less access to vaccines and/or to processing necessary paperwork for international travel. It remains to be seen whether the General Conference will convene prior to the next regularly scheduled quadrennial meeting in 2024.
There is likewise no way to know what legislation will look like at the next General Conference, whenever it meets, as the members of the General Conference decide what to prioritize, make amendments, etc in real time throughout the General Conference. I will, however, take a brief look at some of the possible legislation before the next General Conference in a future update, after Advent.
In the meantime, we at St. Matthew continue to be who we are and do what we do in Building Community, Exploring Faith, and Serving Others. If you are interested in staying up on denominational news related to General Conference, please add the URL below to your bookmarks, as it is updated regularly. In the current page configuration, recent news is near the top of the page, and if you scroll down, you can find FAQs that explain more about how the General Conference makes decisions, how delegates are selected, etc.