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From Your Bishop: We Belong to Each Other

Posted: November 29 2023 at 10:51 AM
Author: Bishop Dan Schwerin

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“The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you.”
       —1 Corinthians 12:21

When I introduced myself to the districts last winter, I told my call story. It really isn’t all that remarkable. I will spare you the furniture and the play of light in the room and go straight to the scripture: I Corinthians 12. It broke open my moral imagination. This notion that all members of the body are of sacred worth, that all have gifts, and that our unity and love engage the world in ways that make Christ known—wow! I remember thinking: I want to give my life to this! The way we offer ourselves to each other communicates that we belong to each other, in Christ.

John Wesley taught that the covenants of Methodist polity affirm that we share for the good of the whole, be it the trust clause, the appointment, or the apportionment. I write today to ask you to pray and consider how to finish well and move toward 100 percent payment of all your church’s apportioned items, both conference and general church apportionments.

After the news of Bobby Knight’s Nov. 1 death became public, I saw again the clip in which this very successful college basketball coach taught that everyone wants to win, but not everyone is willing to prepare to win. I write to encourage you to do what preparation is needed to finish our apportionment covenant strong for 2023.

As we learned about Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7, it was clear to me that this conference was prayerful and concerned, but also wanted to do all it could to support our colleague, Rev. Jane Eesley, our United Methodist staff person with the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem. This ministry is a partnership of the World Methodist Council, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and the Methodist Church in Great Britain. Our connexion appointed her there for such a time as this. We belong to each other. (And let’s keep praying for her and all in this web of war.)

During one week in October, I attended two different conference events: one a meeting of Hispanic leaders and the other a meeting of our Korean leaders. Both groups receive support from the agencies that administer United Methodist ministry plans that are funded by general church askings. The United Methodist Church so believes in our mission in Northern Illinois that they have invested in us. Praise God. We belong to each other.

I can’t imagine a world without our general agencies! I know when I was an assistant to the bishop, I depended on the Commission on the Status and Role of Women to help guide my work in dealing with cases that involved abuse of power and boundary violations.

We depend on the General Commission on Religion and Race. I have learned so much from them! Recently a contingent of Northern Illinois Conference leaders—the largest conference group in attendance—returned from a GCORR training event that will bless this annual conference. We belong to each other.

In a recent conversation with Andrea Hall of Methodist Youth Services Inc., she told me of a young person who had been homeless so long he has no memory of experiencing Christmas. Their work with young people brings tears to my eyes. Add Kids Above All to the list of UMC-related organizations that change the lives of children and youth. At their recent celebration I presented awards to amazing leaders who are impacting the life of kids. I can’t imagine life without them! Ditto for Rosecrance—how many lives and families are healthier for that ministry?

Our partners at the Midwest Methodist Foundation, including its president, Chris Walters, offer us so much to bless ministry. Add Justice for our Neighbors. Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and North Central College are leaders in the field—and we belong to each other.

I know times are hard. I know that maintaining support of our local church ministries is more difficult every year. I also know we will not shrink to greatness. Remember, when your church does not remit its apportionments in full, another church is paying your share. Every year, our annual conference budget includes an additional amount to apportion to make up for those churches that cannot take their place in the connection.

I ask you to pray and consider if your church can finish well for 2023. Whether you do or not, every gift is significant, every gift is an expression of grace. Thanks be to God for the giver of every gift! Thank you for your ministry.

Know that I am praying for you.

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