EPISCOPAL ADDRESS APRIL 30TH, 2021
I give thanks and praise to God that I can stand before you and greet you this day. Bishops, other distinguished guests, leaders of the Conference, lay and clergy members of the Annual Conference, and all other guests that may be present, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have been serving as your Conference since October of last year, following the tragic death of Bishop John K. Yambasu, when the Council of Bishops (on the recommendation of the College of Bishops for the West Africa Central Conference and in consultation with that Committee on the Episcopacy) assigned me to serve as your Interim Bishop. Due to the Pandemic, I have not been able to be in the country before now, but I have been working virtually with your staff and leadership. Your late Bishop was my colleague and my friend. Like you I wish he were here to present this address. Let us observe a moment of silence in his honor. Amen.
“IT’S TIME TO GET UP”
What can we learn from the situation Jesus encountered at the pool called Bethsaida? Following one of the Jewish Festivals, Jesus was walking in Jerusalem and encountered a crowd of people. Among them were many who are sick. Some are blind, some with legs too weak to stand; and still others sat there paralyzed.
Now some people tell the story, “Sometimes an angel would come down to the pool and stir up the water. Then, the first one going into the water after it was stored up would he cured of any sickness.”
So, I think it is safe to assume that this was a group of people who were sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Jesus noticed a certain man that had been sick for 38 years, Jesus started a conversation with him and listened to him. This man probably had not had someone listen to him for a long time. Jesus wanted to know what this man needed from him, so he asked the man,” “Do you want to get well?”
Overwhelmed by his circumstances the man struggled to fund a response, so Jesus clarified for him, “If you want to get well, It’s Time to Get Up!”
Jesus showed him, if you work with me, we can change everything.
The man did not even know who Jesus was, but together they were able to co-create a new way of thinking, and a new way of being that the man did not think was possible before he began to work together with Jesus.
Sierra Leone Annual Conference, a little over 12 years ago, God sent a man your way that stirred up a new conversation.
- It was a conversation that asked everyone who has a stake in this country, what do you require from us – The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone?
- Bishop Yambasu challenged all stake holders to work together in ways that were generative. By that I mean, he was asking, “How do we generate new ways of thinking and new ways of acting that none of us had considered before we began working together?”
- He united the Church here in Sierra Leone with many partners around the country and around the world with his 2020 Vision. That Vision has given us much to celebrate in 2021. We can see:
- Churches started and growing.
- Primary and Secondary Schools preparing our children.
- Hospitals healing our sick.
- A seminary and University training principled Christian leaders.
- Agricultural and economic development projects that give us a pathway to partnership in creating a strong economic foundation for our churches and the people of Sierra Leone.
- And last, but not the least, a plan through which the United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone can put its financial house in order. The Church also needs to: Get Up, Pick Up its mat and Walk by God’s Grace!
Bishop Yambasu’s tragic death and the travails of the Pandemic have force us to pause, to mourn and move to regroup. Now church let’s get the church moving again. It is Time to Get Up!
When we began planning this Annual Conference the postponed 2020 General Conference was scheduled to happen later this year. We anticipated that we could receive nominations for the Episcopacy and an election could occur at a Central Conference to be scheduled this year. Unfortunately, the 2020 General Conference has been postponed once again and is now scheduled for August 2022. Under our Constitution and Book of Discipline, Bishops cannot be elected until after a regular General Conference. So, we will not be able to elect a new Bishop before the end of 2022. Also, the Discipline states that nominations for the Episcopacy from annual conferences may only be received during the annual conference session immediately preceding the Central Conference. That requirement means that we cannot receive nominations this year. We must wait until next year’s annual conference session. I know this is disappointing because you expected nominations to be made this year.
So far, there are four outstanding leaders in this Conference that have made themselves available to be considered as candidates. I have been meeting and praying with them as they ponder this calling. We know this nomination and election process can become very competitive. Even when candidates remember that we are colleagues and not rivals, their supporters can sometimes get too caught up in a competitive spirit. These candidates have agreed with me that this time we must wait is too long for us to be engaged in competition.
Our Annual Conference needs to place its focus on unity. The unity of our Conference and the unity of the United Methodist Church are our highest priorities. Therefore, each of these potential candidates have agreed to suspend their campaign efforts effective immediately, and this suspension will continue until January 2022. They ask their supporters to stop all campaign activities until that time. This commitment to unity was affirmed by each of these four persons as they stood together before the Clergy Session of the Annual Conference. I ask each of you to show your support for this effort toward unity.
Over the next year and a half, we must not settle for sitting and waiting, whether that is waiting for a Bishop or waiting for the United Methodist Church to decide its future or waiting for an angel to trouble the water. During this season I will be your Bishop. I know I do not know your context, but you know your context and you know how to be the church. I know how to be a Pastor. I know how to be a Bishop. I know how to be a Coach. I will come along beside you and together we will lead this Annual Conference.
What does the Lord require of us? The scripture tells us in Micah 6:8 (Common English Bible):
“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you:
- To do justice
- Enhance faithful love,
- And walk humbly with your God
Listening to God, listening to our neighbors, and listening to one another we must clarify our preferred vision for ten years from now. Our Vision 2030.
United Methodist of Sierra Leone:
- What will be our commission be for the next 10 years? What does the future of Sierra Leone require of us?
- What can we achieve working collectively that we can’t achieve working separately?
- How do we work together in ways that generate our creativity? What are the ways that we can cause our young people to dream dreams and our old people to see visions?
- How do we connect and partner with all our stakeholders for the common good?
- What ever we do, we must put learning at the core of how we work. In a world that is constantly changing we must grow our capacity to meet new challenges and the growing complexity. Doing what we already know how to do will not be enough.
In order to live into our preferred future we must work from the outside in and draw to the center so that we align all our strengths and include all the stakeholders. Getting to that 2030 Vision requires future back thinking. We must know where we want to be in 2030 and then map backwards to find the path to get there. Doing what we did to get where we are will not be enough to get us where we want to be. We must get clear on our mission and why it is important. We must tell our stories so everyone can know them. And we must call out the people who will share leading the work with us.
May God make it so!
Warner H. Brown, Jr.
Sierra Leone Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church