Bishop Jones' First District Visit
Bishop Scott Jones laid out a measured, critical view of current American reality at his meeting with the Southeast district in Beaumont on September 24. Yet, as he highlighted concern for where we are as a nation, he also expressed profound hope for the future through a United Methodist Church that he believes is uniquely positioned to influence culture and offer a path toward reconciliation through the grace of God and faith in Jesus Christ.
He spoke about specific social, technological, political and cultural changes affecting U.S. society and the church, and further expressed a higher view of the church’s role and how the church is called to respond. Jones also added that, as a fourth generation United Methodist, he has grown up in the church and understands many places we are in crisis.
Part of the discussion focused on how being a Christian and being a leader in the Christian church – “whether you’re a lay leader, serving on a committee or a pastor is a difficult situation. We’re living in a time of rapid change… People are more polarized… they tend to listen only to people who agree with them and don’t interact with people who disagree.”
He noted several distinctions of the United Methodist faith including the concept of an extreme center. “We hold in tension some things other people see as opposite... We’re connected instead of polarized. Our connection means we might know people who might think differently from us… The extreme center is holding these things together in a dynamic tension. That’s true of our doctrine and our commitment to both evangelism and social justice. In some ways that’s true of our organization.”
Illustrating this point, he shared an anecdote of an interview with a Swedish journalist who came to him during the Iraq war with questions on how President Bush could call himself a Christian. Jones’s response was profound as he replied: “[when] you understand that Hillary Rodham Clinton and George W. Bush are both active and faithful United Methodists, you’ll begin to understand how their faith informs their political activities. They disagree on the agenda and how to make progress, but they’re both trying to serve Christ to make the world a better place. -- He looked at me like I was speaking Swahili!”
Jones emphasized that he “firmly believes” that we United Methodists have exactly what American culture needs and asked: “So, how do we use this incredibly good inheritance we’ve been given and yet serve Christ faithfully and effectively so that when I die and I’m at the judgement seat the words I really want to hear are: ‘Well done thy good and faithful servant’? That’s my job. To figure out how is it that the Wesleyan movement is going to make its contribution to serving Christ well in our time and in our place.”
“We Wesleyans see salvation as a journey,” He continued. “Religion is a way of life. Salvation is a life-long process… There is a God and that God’s essential identity is love. There’s a sense in which you ought to approach your life with the understanding that there is a God who is love and that’s the ultimate reality of the whole universe. I think in our materialistic society today it’s hard to get people to realize – Hey! There IS a God and that matters. It’s a good world with issues. When talking Biblically I’m talking about the image of God that cares about you, and you, and you...”
In this time of dynamic change, Jones added that business and leadership books say the most important thing is clarity of purpose.” When you know what your purpose is, you can in fact be effective in aligning your resources to be fruitful and successful.”
Bishop Jones will be speaking in your area soon. As he journeys across the Texas Conference to meet with clergy and laity in each district, he’s offering background on who he is and sharing his perspective on leadership and expectations. There was much, much more to the discussion during the meeting including a Q&A session and opportunities to share your experiences in ministry. Similar gatherings are scheduled in every district in the conference.
See Meeting Schedule to Attend