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President’s Message: The Church’s One Foundation




United Methodist Church
of Star City, Indiana

As an introduction, you have seen images of people and churches from many different places around our United Methodist connection. The picture you now see is one of thousands of church buildings that dot the landscape of the United States. I chose this particular church because it is the church of my childhood and the place of my baptism. It is located in Star City, Indiana, a small farming community in the northwestern part of that state. Remarkably, the church today looks almost as it did more than fifty years ago when, on a Palm Sunday, I knelt at the altar for baptism and reception as a member, following my six-week confirmation class. On the day I joined, according to the General Minutes, there were more than 350 members; today there are about 170. I am grateful to Bishop Coyner and his staff for sending me this picture less than 45 minutes after I emailed a request for it surely a sign that the world around us has changed since I grew up in that community and took photography as my 4-H Club membership project, using a Kodak Brownie camera and waiting days for the pictures to be returned to me after the film was developed at some unseen laboratory.


First United Methodist Church of Senatobia, Mississippi

recall the churches of our lives. Some of those churches are active and alive; others not so much so. Across our denomination, in every country, there are many churches where not only are disciples being made and shaped by God's amazing love, but they are also being equipped to be servants of Jesus, and sent into the community as witnesses engaged in ministries of justice and mercy, of evangelism and missional outreach. But there are other buildings where the name on the sign out front suggests a relationship to the United Methodist Church, but where what happens on the inside is far from the Wesleyan movement that started with a warm heart, and that has been sustained by both personal holiness and social holiness.


Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster stands at the rock where Bishop Francis Asbury preached in 1801,
in Asheville, North Carolina.

Not too many miles from where we are gathered this morning is a farm that has some historic meaning for United Methodists of this area. A few weeks ago I preached at the 210th anniversary of the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church on the north side of Asheville. Like so many other places up and down the eastern seaboard of this country, it traces its roots to Bishop Francis Asbury. The records indicate that on October 11, 1801, Bishop Asbury visited and preached in that place and, in essence, gave birth to the church that now bears his name. On the day I preached, the church brought out his chair, although they did not allow me to sit in it. Then, I was invited to take a short drive to some land where there is a historic marker noting Asbury's frequent visits and something else!

Preserved through history, there is in that field a rock. Carved into that rock is an inscription indicating that Bishop Asbury used it as a stand or a pulpit to preach to the people. This picture of me standing by that rock is more than a memento of a historic place in our story. Something stirred in me as I stood there and remembered Asbury's years of traveling, planting churches and preaching the Good News of Jesus the Christ as the solid foundation of life and of the church. On this eve of All Saints, we remember one of the saints of our church and his unwavering commitment to proclaim Scriptural holiness and to reform the continent. Today, we bishops are called to continue that work and to lead the church toward becoming a community (one) of faith (holy) active in love (apostolic), alive as the Body of Christ (catholic).

This morning we gather around a Table that bears the elements and signs of God's grace and mercy, and of the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus. This is "our charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name [we bless, partake] one holy food, and to one hope [we press] with every grace [given to us]." This is our foundation.