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Three Advents to Consider and Pray For:
Bethlehem, Now, and the Second Coming
By Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick
Dear C.M.E. Family,
Sunday, December 2, 2018, is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent literally means a “coming to” … and we know the Christ, the Messiah, “came to” us at Christmas years ago, and we know that some prophetically and some hopefully looked to his coming. This fourth Sunday before Christmas Day we celebrate as Advent, the beginning of what some call the Christian Year.
A prayer for Advent is a prayer to come to know more deeply the significance of “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Although the Seasons of the Christian Year are a repeated cycle each year, those of us who follow the Seasons discover that we can know and then know better and then know ever better yet more and more about how God has worked and is workig in our world and in our lives. So let us pray to know God “more deeply.”
A second Advent to consider is what many of you are aware of in the CME Church right now – you are receiving a information and a questionnaire being sent to you or shared in episcopal district or other meetings that surround the discussion of a “strategic plan” being developed. Your opinions are being sought, and many are wondering what we are doing and where this has come from and will it be successful?
Bishop C. James King, Jr., along with individuals who worked alongside him (and with the blessing of the College of Bishops) sought, during the last quadrennial, funding for the CME Church to enter into “strategic planning” mode as we map the future of who we believe we are called to be and what we are called to do. A matching grant was funded by the Lilly Foundation and is being acted upon. Marshall and Associates Consulting of Illinois has been hired to lead us in this strategic planning.
I’m calling the promotion of a strategic plan a “second Advent” for us to consider and pray for. Why do I call it a “second Advent”? Because it is a serious opportunity for the people of the CME Church to also come together, dialogue, engage, and focus on what members of the Church believe God is calling us to do and be? Perhaps I’m stretching to call this a “second Advent,” but I believe we can, at this time, be “coming together” toward God’s greater callings and purposes for us.
Have we done a “strategic plan” before? I would answer “Yes.” For example, I believe that’s what was done when during the 1982-1986 quadrennial when Bishop Chester A. Kirkendoll, with the assistance of Coopers & Lybrand Consulting (also funded by the Lilly Foundation) led a group of persons called out to help design a renewed vision and plan for the CME Church. That work culminated in proposals to the 1986 General Conference, many of which were accepted and some rejected.
Also, during the 1958-1962 quadrennial, a group of persons were appointed to be a “Long Range Planning Commission” for the CME Church and brought back to the 1962 General Conference some suggestions for planning and some structures for facilitating the mission of the Church. Again, some things were accepted and some were rejected.
But, in addition to those two times, I believe it is the structural intent for the episcopal addresses to each General Conference and the reports of the Commission on Life and Witness (formerly called the Long Range Planning Commission) to General Conferences to likewise put before the Connection every four years a vision for the Church as the College of Bishops sees it (in the episcopal address) and the foci for consideration and implementation (in the Commission’s report) from the perspective of representative lay and clergy members of the Church. Yes, I believe a “strategic planning” mechanism is built into our structure.
I ask you, then, to pray for this Strategic Planning Task Force, which consists of about 75-80 members of the CME Church – bishops, general officers (or their departmental representatives), other connectional officials, and at least 3 persons named from each episcopal district (1 clergy, 1 lay, 1 young adult who may be clergy or lay) – and which will meet January 10-12. I ask you to answer the survey.
Please consider this “Strategic Planning Task Force” an instrument for God’s continuing Advent through the life and witness of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and please pray that this “coming together” will be blessed by God.
Finally, the third Advent I speak about is one we shall all witness: a time when the Christ of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One shall return (“I will come back to you” – John 14:18b, CEV). The Scripture says, “… and every eye shall see him” – Revelation 1:7, KJV).
So, while we celebrate a first Advent of the Christ coming into the world, being spoken of prophetically by persons who were prophets and by persons such as Mary and Elizabeth, who were God’s special gifts of great grace … and while we can pray for the Strategic Planning Task Force to also be a gift of God’s grace for ushering into the CME Church a new breath of flavor and hope and synergy, we all look to the God of Creation and the God of Eternity to bring to us a third Advent of the reign of Christ and of Christ’s God for ever and ever. I do not want to be afraid of that day; I want to anticipate that day … and therefore, for that day, too, I do pray: “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20b, KJV)!
+ Lawrence L. Reddick III
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