The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church met at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center from November 4-8, 2017. This meeting included all bishops, retired and residential bishops for four days of business, worship and covenanting together.
Time was set aside on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the bishops to be in executive session and discuss the draft report from the Commission on a Way Forward to the Council of Bishops.
The official schedule included these topics for discussion:
- Session 1: From Covenant to Mission-Putting Trust in Action
- Session 2: Reflections on how the future may look from Residential Bishops’ perspective
- Session 3: Action Plans for Leadership- Unity in our Areas
After the final session on Wednesday, the Council of Bishops came out of executive session and worshipped and celebrated with all who were gathered.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Phoenix area preside over the service which focused on John 15, a key passage meditated on by the Commission on a Way Forward since it formed.
The service intertwined portions of the chapter, with various forms of prayer, and song, with pieces of the communion service from the Book of Worship. Each section was led by bishops from across the connection, and then closed with the sharing of the bread and cup.
Basic Outline of the Service:
- Reading of John 15:1-2 (Bishop Jeremiah Park, Harrisburg area)
Prayers focused on the question (individual):
What in your life needs pruning so that you might bear more fruit?
Followed by singing- “I Need Thee Every Hour”- and Closing with “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.”
Prayers focused on the question (Council of Bishops, Church):
What in our life needs pruning so that we might bear more fruit?
Followed by singing- “We Need Thee Every Hour”- and Closing with “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us.”
After Bishop Park prayed a closing prayer in Korean, the congregation sang: “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”
- Reading of John 15:9-17 (Bishop Cynthia Moore KoiKoi, Pittsburgh area)
Prayers for one another- with the instruction that each person find a partner that is not from their jurisdiction or region.
After a time of prayer, the congregation sang: “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying”
Bishop Moore-KoiKoi offered a prayer to close the section, and then all sang; “Let There Be Peace on Earth”
Followed by the Passing of Peace with instructions to hold one hand on your heart and extending the other hand to others.
- Reading of John 15:18-25 (Bishop Rodolfo Juan, Davao, Philippines area)
Prayers for the persecuted throughout the world in “Korean style” prayer. Each in their own language prayed aloud on the theme.
Followed by the singing of “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
- Reading of John 15:26-27 (Bishop Samuel Quire, Jr., Liberia area)
Prayers for the witness of the Church in the world, and prayers for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit because we can’t do it alone.
Singing of “All to Jesus I Surrender” and closing the session of prayer with “Breathe on Me Breath of God”.
Bishop Hoshibata offered the words of institution, and the gathering shared the bread and cup around the table.
Closing with prayer, Bishop Swanson of the Mississippi area called all of the bishops leading the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, along with those serving on the commission to the front. The rest of the Council of Bishops surrounded them and laid hands on them, and there was anointing with oil. Bishop Swanson led a stirring time of prayer for those serving and for their work ahead.
The service closed with the singing of “Go Make of All Disciples.”