"Quo Vadis" Church?

January 20th, 2012
This article is featured in the Call to Action (Feb/Mar/Apr 2012) issue of Circuit Rider

I was glad when they said, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
— Psalm 122:1

What willingness and satisfaction is seen on the face of the Psalmist when he utters these contagious words? These words, even today, are still proclaimed with the same emotions when we remember the day of the Lord.

Going to the house of the Lord seems to lead us to a place that is different from other common spaces, with its own captivating rules and edifying principles. Yes, in the house of the Lord there is a foretaste of a culture of differences, but equal among equals. In it, we can hear of what the Lord has spoken, speaks and will say; what the Lord has done, does and will do; how the Lord has loved, loves and will love. We speak of sin and forgiveness, of justice and reconciliation, of serving and not being served, of watchfulness, peace and salvation.

There, we are on a ground unique for those who share, obey, comply, and fulfill. A land where one does not go out looking for God, because in a sense, that would presuppose that God is trapped within the four walls of the temple. Instead, God is walking and living among us day in and day out. What a place of excellence!

There are signs of dark clouds hanging over the voices calling the delegates to work at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. What joy do we feel when we come to this magnum forum of the church? However, instead of seeing us as equals, we are deemed unequal. When will we see and hear about what God has done and spoken in Asia, Africa, America, Europe, and in Oceania, so that we can rejoice with the Lord’s good work and that the world may believe?

Who is interested in the incredible growth of evangelization in Africa, Asia, and South America? Who is concerned about the members decline in Europe and North America? How important is the use of resources to favor the mission of God? How to interpret the saying “The world is my Parish”? Where can we find the abundance for all in light of the interest of a few?

It is time for the General Conference to look at what unites the church and not what provokes disunity. Therefore, let us create a space for equality of circumstances, unambiguous sharing, and solidarity that can demonstrate the love that exists among the Methodists, as we serve the people of God in the world. Let us no longer be “those who wait, but those who are hoped for." (Agostinho Neto*, in The Sacred Hope, 1978) Let us, then, share our agonies, but also rejoice in our achievements. Let us examine everything, but keep only what is good, for “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” (I Cor. 10:23, NIV)

May there be joy when they say, “Let us go to the General Conference.” We pray and hope for good to come from the 2012 UMC General Conference.


* Translator’s note: the quote by Agostinho Neto has a play on the word “to wait,” which in Portuguese also can mean, “to expect” and “to hope for.” Antonio Agostinho Neto was the first president of the Angolan republic, born into a Methodist family and was educated with a Methodist scholarship. (Circuit Rider is grateful to Don Reasoner, GBGM, for his translation of this article from Portuguese into English.)

*Editor's note: "Quo vadis? is a Latin phrase meaning "Where are you going?" or "Whither goest thou?" The modern usage of the phrase refers to Christian tradition, related in the apocryphal Acts of Peter (Vercelli Acts XXXV), in which Saint Peter meets Jesus as Peter is fleeing from likely crucifixion in Rome. . . ." Read the rest of the article on Wikipedia.

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