Dear CT Members and Friends,
Greetings in God’s Love! As we go deeper into our Lenten Journey, we are reminded to stop and reflect on how God has been at work in our lives in so many ways across the connection. Recently I received a report from GCFA Statistics office and it caused me to stop again and give thanks for all the ways in which the people of The United Methodist Church are incredibly gracious and generous. Since 2009 the benevolent giving across the Annual Conferences that GCFA collects data for has been over $900,000,000 and increased over the last five years. In the most recent 2013 data, the reported total amount of benevolent giving (which includes apportioned funds for districts, annual conferences and the General Church, along with World Service specials, Advance Specials, Youth Service Fund, Other UM causes, other non-UM charities, and our Special Sundays) was a total of $934,654,715.00. I think about the abundance of generosity that this represents of the people called United Methodist. I know that this data alone is limited and doesn’t fully represent the generosity of United Methodists in other places around the world. If we were to add in the contributions of the Central Conferences to mission and ministry within each region of the world, we would be well over a billion dollars of giving towards "changing the world for the sake of Jesus Christ."
I recognize that money is only one small representation of God's gracious gifts that we share as a connectional system, but if we could recount the story after story of transformed life after transformed life of people who have come to know Jesus because of faithful United Methodist Christians, the stories would be endless. When I look at our unique ecclesiology and the gift of our incredible connection, I see a beautiful masterpiece of God. The impact we can make when we focus on the mission and appreciate each God-given gift through our brothers and sisters in Christ from all the magnificent places around the world would be unbelievable. It's this God-sized VISION that Bishop Ough invited us to dream about at the beginning of the quadrennium. Our God is a gracious, generous, loving God who wants to see God’s people flourish because of our relationship with our Creator.
It will be impossible for us to connect the connection, if we do not first give thanks to the one who created us all. For all the challenges and the frustrations that people may have about our connectional ecclesiology, we need to remember our Creator. We need to remember that there is a God-sized vision out there that the people called United Methodist need to see. We need to give thanks for every penny, every cent, every minute, every hour faithful United Methodist people have shared because they believe in the God-Sized Vision that may transform the world.
My prayer is that this lenten season, we focus on the "God-Sized" Visions that are out there and step boldly into the great unknown with our God and Savior, Jesus the risen Christ! Because he lives – we CAN connect the connection for the sake of the mission.
LET US PRAY FOR:
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Board Meeting (March 11-14): President, Bishop Jim Dorff and General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Kim Cape.
General Board of Discipleship Board Meeting (March 12-15): President, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Tim Bias.
General Commission on Status and Role of Women Board Meeting (March 11-13): President, Bishop Deborah Wallace-Padgett and General Secretary, Dawn Wiggins Hare.
Executive Committee of the Central Conference (March 12-15): Bishop Patrick Streiff
3rd National Hispanic Consultation on UM Hispanic Latino Ministries (March 12-14)
May God’s Gracious Love Surround Us All!!
With God’s Love,
Rev. Amy Valdez Barker,