A phoenix is a mythical bird that at some point in its life builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites. Both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises, reborn. The new phoenix is stronger, better, and destined to live a long life.
Like the phoenix, our beloved church is on the precipice of a great transition. To most, it will feel like a fierce fire. What fire, you ask?
Our brothers and sister delegates from Zimbabwe come with heavy hearts and the reality that Zimbabweans are facing challenging political and human rights abuse, a ruined economy, and limited access to medicine, education, and utilities. People struggle to secure basic needs for their survival on a daily basis.
In addition, 5 out of 12 Bishops in Africa will be retiring this year… and they were stretched too thin to start with. Currently, there are 4 Bishops serving 2.5 Million UMC members across vast distances in the Congo. This is taking the term “Itinerate Bishop” to the extreme. Just getting through Annual Conference could take 3 months. For many clergy, getting to Annual Conference takes a five-day bicycle trip. Our Central Conference delegates face unimaginable challenges as they represent and serve their local communities of faith with integrity.
Delegates have received a recommendation from the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters that the number of Bishops in Africa should increase from 13 to 18. We pray that all delegates will give serious consideration to this matter.
Given these realities and challenges it may be difficult to fully contemplate “inclusion.” Patience, listening, understanding, empathy, and lots of love will help us support each other in spite of our vastly different priorities and life experiences. Joshua 1:9 states, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
It will take courage and perseverance for all of us to face our passions and these fires together. A great transition is in progress. Like the phoenix coming out of the ashes, we will rise.
Rev Dr. Derrick Spiva
Cultural Competency Trainer