We are one church

I have recently begun to say, when I am asked where I serve, that I am the Resident Bishop of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church
    ... which is one church in 914 places
    ... with outposts on college campuses
    ... a children's ministry at Holston United Methodist Home for Children
    ... an older adult ministry through Asbury, Inc.
    ... teaching good stewardship of finances through the Holston Conference Foundation
    ... existing throughout southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, and north Georgia
    ... including one place in West Virginia
    ... and another place where the preacher actually addresses the congregation from his pulpit in North Carolina while the congregation worships from their pews in Virginia.

I want to stress this because we are one church, one body of Christ that happens to gather in different locations to live out our discipleship. The apostle Paul used this analogy when speaking to a divided church in Corinth to help them understand that no Christian stands alone. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ," he said.

We are literally one in mission, ministry, and service as the Body of Christ. The 2004 Book of Discipline is in agreement with this when it states: "A baptized or professing member of any local United Methodist church is a member of the global United Methodist connection and a member of the church universal." (para. 215.4) Therefore, we all celebrate the effective ministry of the body even when it happens in another location. In turn, we all suffer together when things go wrong in another location. There should not be among us any competitive spirit but we should all support, root, and pull for each other.

We just celebrated Easter — the event that confounded the world and still causes some to stumble because we proclaim and assert that Jesus is alive. It is this Spirit of Christ that binds us together whether we serve and live in Radford or Rising Fawn, Dungannon or Dunlap, Staffordsville or Solway, Carvosso or Church Street, Philadelphia-New Hope or Pruitt Hill-Tate Chapel, Blountville or Boone's Creek.

We are all debtors to the man who died on that tree and stepped forth from a borrowed tomb early the first Easter Sunday morning. We are the people of an empty tomb and an Upper Room. We are a people who have the power to break down barriers to liberate and set people free. And we do it all together. There can be no competition among us as long as we keep our eyes on the prize — the call of Jesus to go and make disciples of all persons.

We are one church in 914 places with outposts for children, youth, college students, young adults, middleage adults, and older adults — with the power to turn the world upside down.

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Bishop James Swanson
Resident Bishop

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