By: Christa Meland
“Do you know your why? What story do you live by?”
Bishop William (Bill) McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area posed those questions to Minnesota United Methodists at the 2023 Annual Conference Session, which took place May 31-June 1 in St. Cloud.
“To live your why as a Christian is an act of discipleship,” he said in his connectional address, which focused on embodying our United Methodist way with courage and boldness. (Watch or download full address.)
He pointed out that Jesus’ why comes from Luke 4: 18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Meanwhile, John Wesley’s why was rooted in Matthew 22: 37-39: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Part of our problem is that we have divided Matthew 25 from Matthew 28,” McAlilly told hundreds gathered in-person and online. “We are either social justice Christians or we are evangelistic Christians and that is not the gospel, friends. You cannot divide the two. They go together.”
McAlilly reminded attendees that again and again, Jesus called his disciples to practice love.
“To live with holy boldness and courage as United Methodists is to be rooted in a willingness to live and love like Jesus…utterly, intimately, vulnerably, and mutually,” he said. We must love God, love our neighbor, and include everyone.
McAlilly also highlighted and echoed the recent call of Bishop Tom Bickerton, president of the Council of Bishops, to “reclaim, revive, renew.” Bickerton, who leads the New York Episcopal Area, recently told his episcopal colleagues that “there is a way through the morass, but it depends completely on where we cast our eyes—not on the dilemmas in this world, but on the goodness of God’s mercy and grace.”
McAlilly said Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Lanette Plambeck has offered a fourth “R” word: Respond. In other words, we must move from chaos to order and lead with certainty and purpose.
“Let’s get comfortable living in liminal space,” McAlilly said, noting that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow and we can’t wait for General Conference to meet again. “We have to lean into the future with holy boldness.”
He posed three questions to those present, and they are good questions for every Minnesota United Methodist to reflect on:
· What is your why?
· What does holy boldness look like in a tangible, concrete way in the Minnesota Conference?
· What is one thing you can do to live your why with holy boldness and courage?
McAlilly concluded by exhorting those gathered to “trust in the slow work of God.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church