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Bishop urges new mindset for way forward

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball told members of the Connectional Table, a 64-member leadership body that brings together laity and clergy to coordinate the denomination's ministries, mission and resources, to help turn hearts ready for war into hearts at peace.

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"Think about what the experience has been for getting ready for coming to General Conference," said Steiner Ball, who leads the West Virginia Conference.

"When I ask that question of people across the globe, they begin to talk about preparing for General Conference like they are preparing for war."

"Your purpose is to discern and articulate a vision for the church. You have responsibility for the stewardship for the mission, ministry and resources," she told the group. "That puts you in the perfect position to help things go well."

Steiner Ball is one of three bishops who moderate the Commission on a Way Forward, which has the task of advising bishops on possible ways through decades-long divisions in the church.

Steiner Ball made clear that the church would not get anywhere if people came to the big meeting girded for spiritual battle.

She hopes delegates will come to General Conference recognizing that their fellow United Methodists have "the same love of God, the same love of Christ, the same love of the church, the same passion for making disciples, the same passion for wanting this world to be transformed."

She suggested United Methodists might help build relationships across differing views if they followed the covenant used by the Way Forward Commission. Specifically, she pointed to the members' covenant "to treat one another with respect, to assume the best in others, to represent one another in the best possible light, to speak the truth with love, and to practice and expect trustworthiness."

The commission's report to the bishops, she said, will include three sketches for the church's future. In recent meetings, the commission has focused on the last two, but all three remain on the table.

In her presentation, Steiner Ball had another piece of advice for church leaders: Trust God.

"If we trust that God will be the final judge and understand that we don't have to be, if we understand that God gives the healing and we are called to be the caregivers, and if we care for people just as hard and as passionately as we can," she said, "we can trust that God is going to do God's work."

Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter, UMNS.

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