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To the Saints who are in Los Osos,
For almost forty years I’ve written an Easter pastor’s column for March or April, whichever month it fell in. I hope you have all received the Easter letter that I sent out. I decided that since I wrote that Easter message, that I would use this column in a different way. On April 22 we will have the honor of being led by our Bishop, Grant Hagiya, in celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of our chartering. We’ll also be celebrating with a prepared meal. I want to encourage everyone to join the Bishop in worship on the 22nd, and also to join us for lunch.
I want to share some Methodist history both local and general. (There is a point to this if you can make it to the end). In December 1957 the first organizational meeting was held. The church was chartered less than five months later in April 1958 – a speed with which things rarely happened today. (Chartering means that a gathered congregation officially becomes a Methodist church and receives an appointment from the Bishop).
In our sixty years we have been a member congregation of two denominations. We were chartered as a “Methodist Church,” and became “United Methodist,” in 1968 when The Methodist Church united with the “Evangelical United Brethren Church.” In that time we’ve also been part of three different Annual Conferences: we were chartered in the Southern California-Arizona Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, which became the Southern California-Arizona Annual Conference United Methodist Church with the merger in 1968 We’ve also been part of two Districts – the Santa Barbara District, and now the North District which is an expanded version of the old Santa Barbara District that includes some churches that were previously in other districts.
In our sixty years Trinity has benefited from the talents of a variety of children’s ministry, youth ministry, and other program leaders. In that time Trinity has been served by fifteen senior pastors and three associate pastors under appointment by twelve different District Superintendents and seven different Bishops: Bishop Gerald Kennedy: 1952 – 1972; Bishop Charles Golden: 1972 – 1980; Bishop Jack Tuell: 1980 – 1992; Bishop Roy Sano: 1992 – 2000; Bishop Mary Ann Swenson: 2000 – 2012; Bishop Minerva Carcaño: 2012 – 2016; and Bishop Grant Hagiya: 2016 – present.
Our English word ‘bishop,’ comes from the Greek word ‘episcopos,” which means ‘overseer.” In the early church the bishop’s primary job was to celebrate the eucharist, (Lord’s Supper) and oversee the catechism of new believers. Over the years the office of bishop grew into a temporal as well spiritual leader until by the High Middle Ages bishops were men of great power and influence, and often poor spiritual leaders.
Methodism began in the 1730’s in England under the leadership of Anglican priest John Wesley. It was a time of change and many English Methodists found themselves immigrating to America. They continued to meet and wrote requesting Wesley to help them organize a church. John Wesley designated two Methodist leaders, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, as General Superintendents to assist the new church. To be brief, Asbury decided that he preferred the term ‘bishop,’ and most of the various different churches that trace their beginning to that event continue to have bishops to this day.
A Catholic Bishop has immense power and authority. United Methodist Bishops have much less direct power. They do have the power of appointment which means that they have the final say on which pastor will serve which ministry. Beyond the (very great) power of appointment, their role is limited. Unlike a Catholic Bishop, a UM Bishop can not speak on behalf of the Church. They can not even determine what or how a pastor may preach – although they do determine where a pastor may do that preaching. Bishops preside over the meetings of Annual, Jurisdictional and General Conferences.
UM Bishops remain very important. In the crisis of our General
Conference of 2016 where there was real possibility of a schism in the United
Methodist Church the bishops established “The Commission on a Way Forward”
which will present a plan for how the church may remain united… or how it will
splinter if it cannot remain together.
Our own bishop, Grant Hagiya is one of the 32 lay and clergy members of
that commission. He is involved in important work that will affect the church
for a generation or more. I invite us to be in prayer for him, the rest of the
commission and the Council of Bishops as they try to craft a plan that will
truly move us forward as the Kingdom of God.
See you in Church,