Thursday, July 19, 2012
This is the week Bishops are being elected. At least such is happening in the United Methodist Church in the southeastern part of the country. While it is hardly noticed by most of us, it is an event which happens every four years. It has always been interesting that in our church we place great emphasis on people being called to ministry; yet, when it comes time to set people aside to give the kind of leadership required of a Bishop, an election of peers is necessary. People may be called to preach, but they are elected to the office of Bishop.
Whenever I think of Bishops being elected by the church, I always remember the story of one I regard as a spiritual hero. E. Stanley Jones is best known as a missionary to India. As a young man at Asbury College, he was praying over the career choices which were before him. People were telling him different things. He tells the story of kneeling in prayer and hearing God say to him, "It is India!" and it was to India that he devoted his ministry years. As a Methodist, he was once elected to serve the church as a Bishop. Though he was honored by the election of his peers, he declined to accept because the call to be a missionary was the primary calling of his life. While there are probably others, he is the only person I know who said "No" to being a Bishop.
It is easy to think back over the four decades of my ministry and name the men who have been assigned as a Bishop to the South Georgia Conference. A couple of their names are on my ordination papers. Others assigned me to the different churches which I served. Each one gave up everything familiar to come and be a Bishop and a servant among us. It surely is no easy task. Maybe you do not know the ones elected this time around, but pray for them anyway. God knows who they are.