What does it mean to have purpose? How does someone define purpose? What does it mean to be successful in ministry? I ponder this as I sit and listen to Rev. David Gaewski speak to the state of the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ. I ponder success as I listen to the good news that the Conference has created 20 newly affiliated congregations. I ponder success as I listen to words about a course correction around sacred conversations around questions of race and white privilege. I ponder success as I wonder about the variety of voices around the room. I wonder about the folks who are present and the folks who are not with us today.
I wonder about these questions and more as I ponder the alteration of the mission statement of the New York Conference. The new statement reads:
“Our Mission: ‘United in Spirit, and inspired by God’s grace, we move forward boldly to welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.’
Our Vision: ‘United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.’”
Rev. Gaewski has invited us to consider the question “How can we make disciples of Christ and how can that take place in our context?” Rev. Gaewski speaks of a movement of evangelism into (in my own words) a movement towards deeper discipleship. We are invited to be seeking the well-being of folks for the betterment of the world. We are invited to do these things boldly.
As a United Methodist who serves in this context, I find myself moved deeply. The UCC is seeking to be bold about inclusion. The UCC is seeking to be bold about loving everyone. The UCC is seeking to be a church that seeks justice for all people. This is a bold mission to undertake.
Is this different than the United Methodist mission? Is the goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world radically different than a vision of being united in Christ’s love with a just world for all? Well, yes. These are different goals with different purposes.
Is it better to speak of justice or to speak of transformation? Is it better to be bold about loving everyone or about making disciples of everyone? I serve in a place where both missions have a role in the life of my congregation. I don’t know that I could or should decide, but I’ll be thinking about these sorts of questions.