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Letter from Bishop Schol 9/4/2012

Our Conference

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Greater New Jersey Conference,

I greet you in the name of Christ, the one who gives strength for the journey.  I give thanks to God for the journey of this Conference that has been instrumental in the formation of our beloved Church.  From the beginning of Methodism in New Jersey when lay person, John Early spread scriptural holiness in 1764 to today’s leaders who are serving courageously in our conference and the greater General Church.  You have especially made strong progress in the journey under the spiritual leadership of Bishop Suda Devadhar who led you in spiritual pilgrimages around the world, grew the vitality of the conference, unified the various parts of the conference, and led you to pay 100% of your general church apportionments for the last five years.  I am blessed to follow Bishop Devadhar and will work to continue and build on his ministry.
Beverly and I thank you for the warm welcome we have already received.  We have experienced the radical hospitality of the Greater New Jersey Conference - prayers, flowers, a fruit basket, salt water taffy, Johnson’s pop corn, facebook greetings and note cards have made us feel welcomed and eased our transition.
Today I want to share with you why I look forward to serving the Greater New Jersey Conference but first I want to share with you what it means to be your bishop. A bishop is a spiritual leader with the responsibility of overseeing the spiritual and temporal affairs of the church and the world. In other words, a bishop leads to raise the spiritual climate of congregations and disciples and ensures the church is being a good steward in the world.
While I have a title that carries with it certain responsibilities, respect comes over time as one leads well. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo in the fourth century said,
For you I am a bishop but with you I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted. The second a grace received. One is danger, the other safety. If then I am gladder by far to be redeemed with you than I am to be placed over you. 
I recognize that we are on a journey together, and while we have titles, roles and responsibilities in the church and world, we are all one working toward the same end, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I invite us together to humble ourselves and journey in God’s strength, to serve as we have been called and receive God’s blessing through one another as we encourage one another in the faith.

Why do I look forward to serving Greater New Jersey?

As I begin this journey with you, there are a few things that I find frustrating in New Jersey, like
  • Tolls along the Garden State Parkway
  • Turning right to make a left, although jug handles may be more a Central Jersey thing
  • Claims by New Yorkers that the Statue of Liberty, the Jets and the Giants are theirs when all three are in New Jersey
  • People from outside of New Jersey identifying where we live by an exit number on the turnpike
But there is far more that Beverly and I enjoy about the Greater New Jersey Conference. We enjoy Jersey corn, tomatoes and salt water taffy. We love the Jersey shore and where we spent many vacations in Wildwood, Stone Harbor, Ocean City and Long Beach Island.
While these are fun, there are other things far more important about the Greater New Jersey Conference that I am blessed by.
  • You are the most urban state in the Nation
  • You are the third most racially diverse state in the Nation
  • Greater New Jersey Conference has the second highest percentage of vital congregations in the Northeastern Jurisdiction
  • You have very diverse sections of the conference, from the mountains in Northern Jersey/Pennsylvania/New York to the farms of Southern Jersey, from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. You have Christians that are liberal and conservative, evangelical and progressive and you have a strong middle. You have some of the largest churches in our denomination and a number of small urban and rural congregations. In the midst of your diversity, you have united as one for the work of Christ around the world.
  • You have committed to make and grow disciples, to strengthen congregations and to serve the world.
I am deeply blessed to have the honor to serve among you and look forward to learning more about the important ministry of GNJ and how we will serve together to glorify God in all we do. I call upon all United Methodists of Greater New Jersey to:
Pray – You have set Sunday, September 23 as a day of prayer across the conference. Bishop Devadhar has written a special prayer for this day. I am calling us to a week of prayer and each day that week a prayer will be emailed and posted on the web site for you to pray during the day. Prayer is essential as we begin our life together.
Discipleship – We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ before we are invited to be United Methodists. Discipleship is a life long journey in which we are continually called to go deeper, wider and further in our discipleship.
Evangelistic Zeal – We have a story to share that transforms lives. I hope this is a season for us to renew our witness in the world.
Humble Service – We are called to seek justice and engage in acts of mercy. I call you to live your faith in the world among the poor and those at the margins of life.
Prayer, discipleship, evangelism and service are the hallmarks of a Christian life. Together let us recommit to practicing our faith in the world.
I look forward to meeting the laity and clergy in the districts this fall and hearing about the exciting ministry God is doing through you. Thank you for your faithful service through The United Methodist Church.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey Conference

Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

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