Responsively Yours: Acting Like Hope
“What is the one thing we need today in the United Methodist Church?” asked a seminar leader. It was early in the morning so I may have missed something, but she looked like she expected an answer.
“Hope,” I said out loud.
As it turns out, that was not the “right” answer. The leader elicited the response she wanted, one that showed the importance of her session, and the group moved on.
All except me, of course. I was experiencing my own “ah-ha moment.”
The United Methodist Church needs hope. Maybe most of us most of the time would say that we have hope in God’s providence — that God goes ahead of us and invites us into that great, glad morning. But many times I think we are not hopeful that the church we love can change, or that the Holy Spirit is working in our congregations and communities, or even that in Christ we have something to offer to people who are not part of our church.
How would we act if we did not have that kind of hope? Does it look anything like our current actions?
When United Methodist Women members are driven by our commitment to the needs of women, children and youth, we act. It gives us an external reference point that impels us to be the best United Methodist Women members we can be. It keeps us committed to our partners around the world, and it pushes us into policy matters that shape our communities. It also keeps us committed to the lifeline of our spiritual growth through what John Wesley called the means of grace: prayer, Bible study, worship, Christian conferencing and sometimes even a little fasting. It requires that we continue the education that supports our critical and systemic thinking and that we develop our own and others’ leadership skills.
But I wonder if we have hope that God is working in us in such a powerful way that we can do what it takes to keep reshaping our organization so that it continues to grow and change to be even more relevant for our daughters and granddaughters than it was for our mothers and grandmothers.
I have a pastor friend in Texas who talks about acting “as if.” Jim discovered a marriage-counseling book that asked, “What would you do today if you really loved him/her? Why don’t you try doing that?” Step-by-step, acting “as if” may change our responses and the outcomes.
What if United Methodist Women and the whole United Methodist Church, began acting “as if”? The proposals Women’s Division and Global Ministries are bringing to General Conference and those from the denomination’s Interim Operating Team /Connectional Table are expressions of hope. They may not be perfect, but they invite the church to create a context in which we can act faithfully and powerfully.
Let’s act “as if” that is the sort of role for which we are preparing.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary