The Rev. Benton Heisler lifts the mission of The Michigan Conference as a means of aligning attention and resources in the long-haul battle against racism.
Director of Connectional Ministries, Michigan Conference
Our Common Mission: “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”
Rooted in these 11 words are valuable keys to our opportunities and resources in these challenging days. When people have developed a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, everything begins to change. When the power of the Holy Spirit touches a person’s heart, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors all start to come under the influence of God’s redeeming power through love.
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church notes that the “local Church is the most significant arena for making disciples.” It goes on to state that the purpose of the Annual Conference is “to equip and connect the local church” toward that common mission.
Repeatedly, the Conference has aligned itself toward this mission.
As the brutal pain of racism continues to be experienced far too often, the Conference has sought to mobilize, inform and support local congregations and leaders so that they might engage their communities in positive ways for meaningful change. Specific staff roles and responsibilities have been developed and deployed to assist in that process. I am honored to serve alongside a multi-talented field staff who are committed to and gifted for a process for change. Financial resources have been allocated to help sustain congregations in challenging contexts. My personal commitment as the Director of Connectional Ministries is to continue to advocate for those resources and necessary change.
Please read the “Call to Transformation” from the members of the Full Cabinet. In addition to the actions we have committed to take, the Call to Transformation offers specific resources that individuals, and local congregations may use. We must do our own personal anti-racism work while, at the same time, be part of the collective work to be done as congregations and society.
UMCOR has a guiding concept. “The community owns the disaster.” It means simply, UMCOR will not come in from the “outside” and dictate who will do what, when, and how. It does mean our structures and resources will come alongside each community as it rallies the people and potential resources that can address the crises at hand. Disaster relief is not a competition of who has the most “hot dog trucks,” generators, flood buckets, and chain saws visibly present in the first 48 hours or week. There are some care providers ready with that aid, and then they leave. UMCOR begins to activate in those early hours, but the key difference is UMCOR may remain for two years or more as case by specific case, a household is cared for.
Each community’s protest is evidence of that community “owning the disaster of racism” in our distinct context. Speak, write, vote, advocate, build relationships, pray, and act so that the world is indeed transformed. There will be some who are a similar “hot dog truck here to help,” then they are gone. The Church must be the unified movement that engages for the long haul for needed change and holds the culture accountable for that change. Don’t’ be fooled. The news media will move on. When was the last time you saw a CNN/Fox/NBC/CBS clip about the Great Lakes Bay Region flood?
The media will cover the protests, the riots, the poor leadership responses, the list of who is to blame for what, and they will leave out the inconvenient truths that don’t fit their narrative. The Church must stay engaged for the long haul of necessary reforms, accountable justice, and restored peace. The Church has the one antidote the media and politicians are unable to dispense, The Gospel.
“The local congregation is the most significant arena for making disciples!” Claim your place in the fabric of your community. Use your voice for change and use your space for gathering people for difficult conversations and call upon the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to transform the world.
~ “If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)” Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories, and information will assist you in your witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.