The deepest expressions of gratitude are the only appropriate way for me to begin this series of monthly episcopal communications with you the people of the Los Angeles Area, the California-Pacific Conference. My family and I have been so moved by the generosity of your hearts and the many extravagant expressions of welcome and hospitality we have received from you. We thank you from the depth of our hearts. I pray that we may be as loving and hospitable to all of you as you have been to us, and as welcoming to our lives as you have been welcoming of us into your lives.
The last 6 weeks among you have been a blessing and a challenge. My learning curve feels as if it aims straight up, and it does; I have so very much to learn from all of you about the context of our ministry and where God is calling us unto faithfulness and fruitfulness.
At the same time, I am so very aware of the blessing that you are and that serving you and with you is for my discipleship and ministry.
I have been commenting to others about the gift that you are to the UMC and to the entire body of Jesus Christ. Among many things I see I marvel at the ways you have become an inclusive and diverse community of faith.You are a welcome sight for the eyes of my spirit that longs to see all God’s children at the table of God’s mercy and grace. Certainly God’s table welcomes all God’s children, but you and I know how individually and institutionally we so often become obstacles to others as they seek God in their lives.
Your intentional efforts to be welcoming of all people, however, are bearing fruit! Thanks be to God! I pray that we will continue being intentionally welcoming of others into the body of Christ Jesus, intentional about the fullness of the task of becoming as diverse as the communities we serve, and intentional about overcoming our own prejudices and other sins that keep us from being a fully inclusive community of faith.
I also want to keep learning about how you have become as inclusive as you already are. I believe we have learnings and lessons to share with the rest of the church about how to move from words to truly being a diverse and inclusive church.
Every day I arise also so very aware of the blessing of serving in an area with such incredible opportunities for gospel work! An enormous growing and diverse population in need of divine grace; a social culture that while not without its limitations and faults yearns for great things; and a geographic area at a place of historic socio-economic and political shifts that leave a window, if not a door, wide open for influence and the shaping of the future. As a people committed to personal piety and social holiness we United Methodists have so very much to offer the expansive region of the world we have been called to serve.
What if we could fully become the church that not only welcomes all people but that speaks in relevant ways to the human needs of the people we serve in every single place where we find ourselves? What if we could boldly and convincingly hold up a grace-filled vision of the kind of community God calls us to be; that Holy-Spirit-given vision that there is no greater hope and no greater life fulfilling goal than to be one with each other and one with God? What if we could be fully engaged leaders in the world in the name of Christ Jesus, working for justice and transforming the world?
So many of you are already doing all of this and so much more, but what if every day we were to bring to bear the power of our collective faith, wisdom, gifts and grace, and the fullness of all our other resources, in joining God who is surely out in the world ahead of us doing God’s mighty work? I believe that we would bless the world and be blessed as well!
Just in case you are wondering, I am also aware of the challenges we face in the Los Angeles Area. The challenges are serious and complex, but we must face these challenges not for the preservation of the church, but in order to release our energy for the work of God out in the world. The church exists for God’s holy purposes which always extend beyond us to the redemption of the whole world. Considering your faithful past and your present desire to serve Christ Jesus, but above all, knowing the faithfulness of God, I have no doubt that we in the Los Angeles Area will be the church of Jesus Christ in the days and years to come. I am privileged to serve with and among you.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño