NM is about to have a party!  See you soon!  

GC2016 Reflection from Rev. Eddie Rivera & Rev. Todd Salzwedel

    
GC2016 Reflections - Rev. Eddie Rivera, GC Delegation Chair 
     "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" (our Denomination's Brand). "Therefore GO" (the 2016 General Conference Theme). At the risk of oversimplification I believe these two may be in direct conflict with each other. Our denomination's brand seems to suggest an expectation of opening our hearts, minds and doors to invite ALL into the fullness of church life in the United Methodist Church. Let me give you three examples of this expectation:
     1. Because of the decline of our worship attendance and professions of faith (at least here in the US and Europe), the local churches are now struggling to bring more people "in." We use radical hospitality strategies to open as many doors to welcome people into the flock while making sure the "back door" is closed so as to keep people in. Many times I have focused my ministry in implementing strategies that will bring more people into my congregations.
     2. This expectation was also evident at General Conference: many petitions that called for proportionate representation of the African Central Conferences in our Boards, Agencies and other national and world-wide ministries were not adopted. Even though 39% of the United Methodist Church is located in Africa, our brothers and sisters from those regions are underrepresented (8-10%) in decision-making places throughout our denomination. Clearly there seems to be a struggle to open the doors to those who are more evangelical.
     3. On the other side of the spectrum, our denomination's stance on human sexuality continues to be a central issue at every General Conference. Most of the 99 petitions submitted on Human Sexuality called for opening the doors to the LGBTQ community to the fullness of church life in the UMC. Here too there is a struggle to open the doors to those who are more progressive.
Because of our denomination's brand and the expectation it creates I believe the UMC has become preoccupied in making sure our doors are always open so that people can come in. Now, where am I going with this? Here is my point. Our brand may have become more important than Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) that can be summed up with two words: "Therefore Go" (The General Conference Theme).
     These two words became one of the most powerful driving forces of the Early Church. Every time the Early Christians, led by the Apostles saw an open door, they did not use it to invite people in. They used open doors to send people out or to go out themselves to preach the Gospel of Christ and make new disciples. Some Apostles were put in jail (Acts 5) for preaching the Gospel. The jail doors were opened and the Apostles went back to the Temple to teach and peach! Even the "title" that the original disciples took on was translated as "the sent ones" (Apostles). Jesus himself was involved in opening doors to give Paul and others the opportunity to do effective work and preach the Gospel of Christ (1Corinthians 16:9 and 2 Corinthians 2:12). And one of the most fervent prayers of Paul was for God to "open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ" (Colossians 4:3). The Church of Philadelphia was praised by Jesus because they have used that open door that Jesus established to courageously give witness of their faith amidst a pagan society (Revelation 3:7-9). No doubt the transformation of the New Testament world was a result of Jesus' followers who used every conceivable open door to proclaim the Gospel.
     Listen carefully, I am not saying that opening doors to welcome others and to be inclusive is a bad thing, but I fear that, we United Methodists, have given the value of being inclusive greater importance than our responsibility to go out. We have used our open doors for hospitality and we have forgotten to use the open doors for deployment. We have become more preoccupied with making sure all people can come in, instead of sending all people out to do the work of the ministry on behalf of Christ.
     If Jesus said "Therefore Go," then, that is our priority! People coming into our congregations and most importantly becoming part of God's Kingdom is a byproduct of our going out to fulfill the Great Commission. So, Beloved... Let's GO! and make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world!
 
GC2016 Reflections - Rev. Todd Salzwedel 
As I think back over the past few weeks, I am struck how significant and unique the people called United Methodists truly are!  I anticipated the varied and amazing worship and was not let down!  I fully expected to engage with our brothers and sisters in the United Methodist connection to gain new insights and perspectives!  And I was not disappointed!  I was also prepared for the emotional and at times divisive issues that threatened to tear at the unity of the Church.
     Understanding and living into what it means to be a global church is not only an enormous task, but one that I have become convinced is a holy task.  It means that there needs to be room to dialogue, pray, understand, and also disagree with one another.  We often refer to our "method" of doing this as holy conferencing.  I witnessed what I believe were holy moments as this took place.  Conversely, I also observed times when I think our faith, witness, and prayer were sorely lacking.  But in the end, I took hope in that the early church experienced the very same thing and was left with no other choice but to rely on the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit.  I trust that even in our disagreements, all of us are earnestly seeking for the direction and encouragement we so long for to lead us in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ! 
     Like any gathering of strong willed and convicted people, there were times when I rejoiced, and times when I felt disheartened.  But in the end, I was confident that God had been at work in our midst!  It was truly an honor and privilege to serve with the New Mexico delegation and those in Northwest Texas!  And I'm grateful for the deep soul-searching of the
Church found in every corner of the connection!
    I will add though that I came away from General Conference convinced that we should be meeting in the years between presidential elections! The anxiety and high emotion we experience in our society was prevalent not only in the American delegates, but our brothers and sisters around the world.  Hmmm...maybe that should be a petition worth considering! Blessings!    


Rev. Vano Kiboko, Brother of AC 2015 Guest Preacher Released from Prison
Kabamba with Cindy Meador at Ordination
Article By Heather Hahn 
     A political dissident who led a prison revival is now free in his native Democratic Republic of Congo after 16 months behind bars - the past four in a military prison.
     Vano Kalembe Kiboko - a United Methodist lay evangelist, businessman and former congressman in Congo - was detained on what the watchdog group Human Rights Watch called "trumped-up charges."  That all changed May 5th, when authorities released Kiboko.

 

Steve Wiard - Missionary in Budapest, Hungary 
Steve Wiard, Pastor at El Pueblito Methodist Church in Ranchos de Taos, teaching English to the young people of Budapest.   
 

2016 One Matters Discipleship
Award Winners

Three churches received the "One Matters " Discipleship Award for 2016.  Each of the churches receiving the award ( one per district) were selected by their respective District Superintendent based on the church's increase in professions of faith and/or baptisms and membership growth.  Each church will receive a check for $1,000 and will be honored at Annual Conference.

The three churches are: 
Asbury UMC - Odessa, Texas - Rev. Russ Nebhut  Click here to read their story 
Grace UMC - Alamogordo, NM - Rev. Dustin Wilhite Click here to read their story 
St. Stephen's UMC - Albuquerque, NM - Rev. Todd Salzwedel Click here to read their story 


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