Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NRSV
For United Methodists, there may be no better scripture passage to remind us of what binds us together across our rich God-given diversity than this word from Paul. For decades we have been known as a ‘big tent’ church. We do not all think or believe the same. We have differences in understanding of Scripture. We have different gifts that have helped us serve countless communities in ways specific to the needs in those places. We speak many languages, come from many cultures, and hold differing theological perspectives. And yet, amidst our differences, there is one God that activates and animates us as disciples of Jesus Christ and sends us out into the world as bearers of Christ’s love.
We believe that the same God that moves in and through us all – has grace for each of us. None of us stand outside of that embrace, which means we should ensure that our embrace of each other seeks to be as grace-filled as the ones we receive from God. We can celebrate that we stand on a Wesleyan theology of grace, are anchored in Scripture, rooted in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and seek the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit. We can love one another, even as we make room for God to work in and through one another differently.
The California-Pacific Conference continues to aspire to be a more just and inclusive force in the world. Yes, we have failed in this calling many times and have work of repentance and restitution to do. Yet, with intentional commitment and by God’s grace, we can seek to become a beloved community and live more faithfully in our calling. We can stop the harm to LGBTQIA+ siblings, communities of color and our immigrant congregations, those who live with differing conditions, and creation itself.
As United Methodists, we believe we are stronger together. Our diversity is a gift of God, one we have not yet fully claimed. This is a critical time to discover and model what unity in Christ looks like. Uniformity is not unity, and we need not fear our differences. The last two years of living with a global pandemic have underscored again and again that we need each other. We have risen to the challenge of not asking first what someone believed to see if we would serve them or come to their aid. We have stood shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and have been the Body of Christ. As United Methodists, we embrace a church built on loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action.
To honor the God that makes all of this possible, that claims us in baptism and sends us into the world; we will continue to be United Methodists, living into perfect love. We will be liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist, and many other expressions of love and grace. Together, we will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As your Bishop and Appointed Cabinet, we value every one of you as a precious child of God. We believe that every church in the California-Pacific Annual Conference is and can continue to be a part of this shared work, for there is a place for us all through God’s grace.
Let us all be the Hope,
Bishop Grant Hagiya
Rev. John Farley
Mrs. Erin Hawkins-Smith
Rev. Moonyoung Lee
Rev. Melissa Roux MacKinnon
Rev. Mark Nakagawa
Rev. Sandy Olewine
Rev. Dr. David Richardson
Rev. Dr. Saia Tu’itahi