A Way Forward
posted on September 26
Peace Be with You
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." - John 14:27
Peace and grace to each of you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ:
In many of our churches each week, we engage in a tradition of “passing the peace” in which we greet one another with the words, “Peace be with you” and the response, “And also with you.” This practice and “liturgy,” or work of the people, as we gather as the church is also rooted in Jesus’ final hours with the disciples when he told them, “My peace I give to you.”
Imagine how unsettled, how frightened, how confused and discouraged they must have felt in those hours leading up to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. They had no idea what to expect or what would happen next. All they knew and could discern from the information they were being given, both from their Master and Teacher and the voices of so many others around them, was that something was about to happen. They only knew that things would be different. Imagine how “out of control” they must have felt, wondering what they could or should do in this time of unknowing and waiting.
But Jesus knew their angst in not knowing, their anticipation of what was yet to come, and he knew his calling upon their lives, for which he hoped and prayed they would not lose sight in the midst of the angst. So his words to them, his gift to them, was PEACE be with you.
Jesus’ words and gift to his disciples are the same words and gift he has for us in the church today: PEACE be with you. As we approach the Special Session of General Conference, February 23-26, 2019, when delegates from across the world will meet to prayerfully discern and act on the recommendations from the Report of the Commission on a Way Forward, we may also find ourselves in periods of not knowing and wondering “what happens next.” As leaders in the Blue Ridge District and the Western North Carolina Conference, we are committed to journeying with you and your local church to seek and find peace among us as we, too, prayerfully pray and prepare for our Way Forward. Additionally, as we receive and live into Jesus’ gift of peace in the midst of uncertainty, we also heed Jesus’ call for us to not lose focus on the certainty of our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of our communities and our world.
To find peace in the midst of uncertainty, we need to be informed, prepared, and to remain in relationship and conversation as we move forward. As odd as the comparison may seem, we have also recently experienced across our state a period of uncertainty and anxiety as we waited for Hurricane Florence to make landfall off the coast of North Carolina. We listened to many voices and predictions of when, where and with what force it would strike. To find any sense of peace in the midst of the oncoming storm, we listened to trusted sources of information that could help us, we remained in contact and relationship with others with whom and for whom we were responsible, and we prepared in ways that would help us to respond responsibly and accordingly.
To help us be informed and prepared for the Special Session of General Conference in February 2019, there are many resources available. Below are several links and resources for you and your congregations that will help understanding the nature, context, and content of the Special Session and the potential impact for us clergy, congregations and as a denomination.
- Western North Carolina Conference resource page:
- Commission on a Way Forward Report to 2019 Special Session of the General Conference (In English, French, Portuguese & Swahili):
- Official UMC Commission on a Way Forward website:
- UMC Praying our Way Forward including daily and weekly prayer resources:
- Ongoing news updates from The United Methodist Church:
- Decision 2019: One with Christ, One with Each Other, One in Ministry to all the World (August / September / October 2018 Special Issue of Circuit Rider):
As people called Methodists, we are called to live out our daily Wesleyan discipleship through the practice of the means of grace, or regular but holy practices that help grow and keep us in love with God and one another. One of these essential means of grace, Christian conferencing involves creating the sacred space and time for holy and courageous conversations that help grow us in God’s grace by seeking to understand and love one another more fully. To help navigate through the coming months and years together in ministry, we have trained committed individuals who have made themselves available to facilitate healthy and courageous conversations in the churches throughout our district. These facilitators can also connect your congregation with helpful resources and can model listening and speaking in holy and healthy ways. They will not advocate for any position or perspective but instead will come alongside us to foster better understanding of one another and our decisions in the church. As the shepherd of the Blue Ridge District who cares deeply for the well-being of every pastor and church, I need you to be prepared by engaging in these healthy, holy and courageous conversations using the resources and facilitators provided.
Below is a list of facilitators who are available to work with churches across the Blue Ridge District. You may contact them directly using the emails provided for each individual to discuss the details of scheduling. If you need additional assistance contacting a facilitator for scheduling, please let us know in the district office.
As always, it is our sacred privilege to journey with you and to help you as we seek to grow in relationship and ministry with each other in the months and years to come. Jesus’ hope for his disciples is my hope for us in the Blue Ridge District and for all of us as a people called Methodists, that even in seasons of uncertainty, we would never lose focus on our mission and our calling. For it is our love for Jesus and the Church and his love made manifest in and through us that we receive and give that PEACE, a peace that Paul reminds us, passes all understanding as we remain, together, in Christ Jesus.
Blessings and peace be with you…
Blue Ridge District The Way Forward Courageous Conversation Facilitators
- Joyce Forth (laity, First Hendersonville UMC)
- Jack Knoespel (retired clergy)
- Luke Lingle (clergy, Missional Wisdom Foundation)
- Joy Moss (clergy, Skyland)
- Mark Ralls (clergy, First Hendersonville)
- Jeremy Troxler (clergy, Spruce Pine)
- Deb Vincent (laity, First Rutherfordton)
- John Vincent (laity, First Rutherfordton)
- Nancy Walton (clergy, Trinity-Asheville)
Rev. Beth M. Crissman
Blue Ridge District Superintendent and Missional Strategist
27 Balm Grove Avenue Asheville, NC 28806