Who God needs for us to be

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“Then one of the angel-seraphs flew to me. He held a live coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with the coal and said, ‘Look. This coal has touched your lips. Gone your guilt, your sins wiped out.’ And then I heard the voice of the Master: ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ I spoke up, ‘I’ll go. Send me!’”—Isaiah 6:6-8 (MSG)

We have now concluded the 2024 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference. We have experienced, during our time together in Greenville, how the strength of our connection is found in our relationships with one another. Reuniting with sisters and brothers in Christ, celebrating all that God is doing in and through the faithful across our state and praising God through worship were all highlights of our time together.

The mighty, rushing wind of the Holy Spirit swirled through our midst as lay and clergy members of the annual conference shared stories and memories, asked questions and sought understanding in this season.

It is abundantly clear that we are not all of one mind on many things, but the tone and tenor of the dialogue was one of care, concern, compassion and our shared commitment to faith in Jesus Christ as we seek to be who God is calling us to be. Our time together truly embodied what it means to seek a more excellent way.

No matter what each member of the annual conference had on their minds when they arrived or which concerns or anxiety they brought with them, what we all found in our gathering together was the abundance of life in Christ. Regardless of what is happening in our world, in our denomination or in our church, God still has work for us to do.

The prophet Isaiah spoke to the need for redemption in each of our lives—that reality that we are all in need of the grace that comes from a loving savior. The grace that wipes out our sins and cleanses our guilt. And in response to this redemption, we can be transformed.

Rather than getting stuck in what was or what we want for ourselves, let us be who God needs for us to be. As people redeemed and transformed by the love and grace of God, let us live in a way that our actions lift up rather than tear down; that our words speak wholeness, not harm; that our clenched fists open up to receive God’s grace, mercy and love so that we might share this precious gift with others.

The South Carolina Conference is filled with faithful, talented and generous disciples, many of whom worked diligently to cultivate the spirit-filled environment in which we gathered and praised God. To the Rev. Ken Nelson, the Rev. Mel Arant, the Committee on the Annual Conference, the secretarial staff, the worship team and all who worked behind the scenes to plan and prepare for our time together, we owe you a great debt of gratitude.

To the Rev. Jim Dennis, the clergy and laity of the Greenville District, the Rev. Kurt McPherson and the good people of St. Matthew UMC, thank you for welcoming us so warmly to your community and for ensuring that we were comfortable during our stay.

To the countless volunteers, tellers, ushers, musicians, song leaders, speakers, liturgists and all who enhanced our time together during both worship and business, we are grateful for your willingness to serve.

To all who serve in district and conference leadership and on committees and boards that work throughout the year to imagine and enable ministry and mission to happen—we see you, we celebrate your commitment, and we thank you for sharing your gifts, talents and aptitudes for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

The strength of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church is found in the multitudes of clergy and laity who are committed to being on the leading edge of ministry and mission for the sake of Christ. Each of you who have heard God’s call and answered affirmatively, taking time away from home to be present at the Greenville Convention Center or following along on the livestream—you are exemplifying what it means to seek a more excellent way. Your commitment both to Christ and to the church is a testimony to your faithfulness. You can be counted on through your prayers and your presence, whether in the pulpit or the pew, at meetings and missions, during worship and even in the waiting.

God is preparing us, even now, to be the people God needs for us to be. God is preparing us to be on the leading edge of ministry. God is preparing us for that which we have not yet experienced, and through it all, God is with us.

Are you ready to live in the light of God’s victory already won in Christ? Are you ready to love your neighbor? Are you ready to be freed for joyful obedience? Are you ready to be the people that God needs for us to be?

Then let’s go. Let’s move forward together in mission and ministry. Let’s continue to have God-sized dreams and live into God’s purpose for the people called United Methodist in South Carolina. Let’s go!

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