New UMC: The Future is Now

With the election of new bishops, the emergence of the new United Methodist Church moves farther into its future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11). We have hope that the Council of Bishops will lead us with magnified wisdom and courage, as the UMC increasingly incarnates “loving and blessing all people” (Matthew 5:48, FNV) [1]

Christlikeness must be our aim, with ongoing conformity to that image (Romans 8:29). At the core of this is what the Christian tradition calls life in Christ. [2] It is the abundant life Jesus said he came to give us (John 10:10), a life defined in relation to the fruit of the Spirit, “love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithful hearts, gentle ways, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, FNV).

We advance in this life together in the emerging UMC with the hallmarks of love (hesed and agapé), justice (the common good), and inclusion (affirmation and access). All of this is rooted in the two great commandments and in our belief that “Christ is all and is in all” (Colossians 3:11 NRSVue). [3]

Joining with many continuing bishops, the newly elected ones give evidence of their intent to lead us into the fulfillment of this Gospel in the emerging UMC. Many of us will follow them. The future is now.

[1] FNV is the ‘First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament (IVP, 2021). It is the “complete love” (CEB) Jesus said we are to give to all, not just some. Other translations call it “perfect love.”

[2] I write about this in my book, ‘Life in Christ’ (Abingdon Press, 2020).

[3] NRSVue is the recently updated edition of the New Revised Standard Version. E. Stanley Jones said of these words, “This is the charter of equality. Nothing in all literature can compare with this.” (‘In Christ,’ Week 40, Saturday). Paul wrote similarly in Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 1:23.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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