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"DON’T LOOK BACK: Methodist Hope for What Comes Next" with Rev. Dr. Will Willimon (Part 1)
Episode 2216th August 2022 • Be Encouraged with Bishop Julius C. Trimble • Bishop Julius C. Trimble
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Bishop Julius C. Trimble is the Resident Bishop of the Indiana Area of the United Methodist Church.

Bishop Trimble has the personal mission to encourage all people with the love of Jesus Christ to rise to their highest potential. It is his commitment to his personal mission that led Bishop Trimble to create the “To Be Encouraged” Podcast along with co-host Rev.Dr. Brad MIller.

Bishop Trimble says, “I am compelled by Jesus to share with you an encouraging word or two about Jesus, theology, the Bible, the pandemic, the environment, racism, voting rights, human sexuality, and the state of the United Methodist Church.”

To Be Encouraged with Bishop Julius C. Trimble is to be published weekly and is available at www.tobeencouraged.com and all the podcast directories.

https://www.inumc.org/bishop/office-of-the-bishop/

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon

https://divinity.duke.edu/faculty/william-willimon

The Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at the Divinity School, Duke University. He served eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, where he led the 157,000 Methodists and 792 pastors in North Alabama. For twenty years prior to the episcopacy, he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

He is the author of "DON’T LOOK BACK Methodist Hope for What Comes Next" to be released in September 2022 and is available at:

https://www.abingdonpress.com/catalog/search?term=don%27t+look+back

https://www.cokesbury.com/Dont-Look-Back-2?select=879126

Transcripts

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

Hello good people. Welcome to the to the to be in couraged podcast with Bishop Julius C. Treble. This is a podcast where we look to help you to have an encouraging word to an often dis encouraged world. I'm your co host, Reverend Dr. Brad Miller. We have with us, Bishop and Dr. William will among will will Aman from the Duke Divinity School among other things. He is the director of their doctrine ministry program and a professor there. But he also is the author of many, many books. I know. I've read several of his books. One book that we'll wrote that really struck me was fear of the other which came out a few years ago, and I preached a sermon series out of that it was important to me but he's with us here today to speak to us about his new book called Don't look back, that's a bishop tremble. This is your podcast, my friend. Help us say Say hello to our audience and to welcome our guests with us here today.

Bishop Julius Trimble:

Greetings to all who will participate in here at the here this podcast. And I want to welcome Dr. Weil, Willa man I sometimes I call him Bishop sometimes I call him we'll sometimes I call them the most prolific writer in United Methodism. So we're welcome. We're glad to have with us. And he has, he's a great storyteller, a great theologian and a great encouragement. So we'll glad to glad to have Habibi on the podcast with you.

Dr. Will Willimon:

Thank you, Bishop. It's great to be with you.

Bishop Julius Trimble:

Let me let me begin brand by telling a quick story. And and some accolades. For what you've already done affirming the work of will Wilma, this story is over 20 something years ago, it's a true story, I have to say to Stuart Brand, because years ago, I remember preaching and son Cameron, who's now 40 years old afterwards, asked me that that story you told in church today, was it true? Or were you just preaching? Now I have now I have to say when this is a true story, this is over 20 years ago, I was on the Board of Trustees for Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio. And it was at the graduation Baccalaureate with graduation for the seminary students the day before graduation, and it was a pastor and I believe she was ame, Pastor, African American female pastor, excellent, who was graduating who, who gave the message in chapel. And one of the things he said was, I really appreciate seminary because in seminary I learned about exegesis. But she said, I'm serving in a community that needs extra Jesus never will, I never will forget that because he went on she gave an she gave an outstanding message, to talk about the importance of really presenting Christ to people in the present in the present context. And what I appreciate about appreciate about will Wilma and all of his books, particularly fear of the other, who will be saved. And this new kind of books don't look back. There's an emphasis on us looking forward. And also following Jesus in a Western way.

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

We are talking about storytelling here of will. And that's the story that should triple told about you. But I really like to hear a bit of your story. I don't ever like to presume that our audience knows everything about our guests already, or has even written, read your books and so on. But I know people appreciate a good coming to faith story. And I just like to hear a bit about your how you came to know Jesus Christ in the first place and kind of how that led you to attract to be is an educator Patrick bishop, and what you do now?

Dr. Will Willimon:

Oh, wow. It's a it's a story of indebtedness. I grew up in a big downtown, traditional Methodist Church, downtown Greenville, South Carolina. And I grew up in a single parent family and looking back I think that church meant a great deal to me as providing me with a succession of mentors, Sunday school, teachers, pastors, and all who it proved to be a wonderful context for sort of growing in the face for learning about the face for significant encounters with a living living Christ. And I've gradually felt drawn toward ministry. I did the Boy Scout God and country award was a our associate pastor. And he had me read all these books about Methodist history. I had to get a map and put dots on the map of Methodist missions all around the world. And all of that just provided me fertile ground for a feeling very close to Christ and The reality was presence. In college I went to a Methodist college Wofford college and in college when I arrived to college, I was sort of thinking, you know, to be a Christian, you got to kind of have a lithotomy or something, you gotta you can ask questions, and oh, well, luckily, in college, I had some great religion professors who are wonderfully intellectually driven people, and they were Christians. And that made a big impression on me. So but my junior year, I found myself drawn towards seminary, and a lifetime of ministerial ministerial leadership preaching. And so that's how I got on this course.

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

Well, that's appreciated so much. And that course has led you to a life in both being a bishop in the church and in many years at Duke University, a Duke Divinity School, and your latest book called, don't look back, and we'll be putting links to to your book, and our show notes to be encouraged.com. Let's just go there. And Bishop you jump in anytime. But I just kind of wanted to your I think you're, I've read your book fascinated by it. And I think you many ways to capitalize a lot of the thinking a lot of us have, but let's I want to go with you this thing, this situation we find ourselves in right now in the United Methodist Church of being at a point of whatever you want to call it, death or divorce or destruction or whatever it can come out of that. But it seems like in many ways, I'll just put it the terminology is kind of my mind. It's almost like we're in a circular firing squad with blindfolds on, and we get ready to pull the trigger. Talk to us talk to us a little bit about what then the world is going on in our church right now. And why it's so important that we just don't look back and keep moving on.

Dr. Will Willimon:

Well, unlike other books I've read, I've written this book, I wrote after scores of interviews with United Methodist clergy all around the country, and in groups or as individuals. I also interviewed a number of retired clergy, retired bishops, district attendants. And in those interviews, I came to the conclusion. The United Methodism stands at a crossroads. But in a way, maybe not for some of the reasons we think. What I heard from clergy was great concern about the post pandemic church. Many of our churches tend to sit down gram nation, its people are using a term like 30% Attendance loss, as opposed to pre COVID. So COVID jerked around a lot of our churches, in some sad ways. And there's a lot of anxiety about COVID. Post COVID. Then, as you mentioned, there is anxiety in our church about threatened separations, forming of a new denomination, churches wanting to leave the United Methodist Church etc. I came to the conclusion though, after listening to clergy that, I think in a way, our concerns about post COVID. And our concerns about separation can be a kind of distraction from the challenge of pre COVID and pre separation, and that is the Methodist Church is an aging, mainline denomination. We have suffered losses for the past three decades. And we our average age, is something like 65 years old. That is a bigger threat to the United Methodist Church. And its future, even than our separations are post COVID. And so, in the book, I urge people, Hey, stay focused. One thing I noticed, you know, in the new, newly forming global Methodist Church, you know, their leadership and their makeup is bound to be probably just about as old as the United Methodist Church. Yeah, so that means that if you've got a global Methodist Church, whatever that is, comes to me. You got the same problems ahead of you that you had before the separation. And so therefore, I'm hoping this time, this period will be a time for us to focus and say chi If we could only solve our deepest problems by separation, then that would make separation a good idea. Unfortunately, it doesn't. And we're still faced with the problems of being a mainline aging denomination that hasn't been very successful in reaching two or three generations of younger Christians.

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

Bishop tremble is what we'll share it here as it resonate with your experience. And what kind of thoughts do you have about the situation that we are in and about how we can move forward with doing something productive moving forward?

Bishop Julius Trimble:

Well, I really appreciate the way in which will is approached this. And the way he writes about it, because it's not it's no longer hypothetical bread, you know, this is we just had an annual conference in June and 29 churches devoted to disaffiliate nine last year, we have a special call an annual conference in November, we'll probably have 50 or 60. Churches, this affiliate, but it's still these in Indiana, they'll still lead close to 800 churches that want to be United Methodist, I really appreciate what we all writes about, you know, we really need to have a healthy appetite. I may be paraphrasing, paraphrasing and healthy appetite for the world is I perish? Because you remember, Brian, I got some pushback when I wrote the article. We don't give a damn about the poor. Some people are saying I got some of that too. Yeah, yeah. And what some people say, they don't give a damn about the United Methodist Church. So they're not they're not interested in the global Methodist Church or the United Methodist Church, either, because we'll pointed it out, you know, COVID, a lot of people have been saying, Hey, we liked you better when we when we check you out online than necessarily, you know, walking through the doors of the church. So a healthy appetite. Will I like when you talk about we need a healthy appetite for the world as our parents,

Dr. Will Willimon:

it seems to me very Westland. A and it is. I've said over the years, you know, different denominations have different sins. To me, one of the maybe it's too strong a word, but one of the sins, if you're a Methodist, is, it's easy to get distracted from the mission of the local church, and its time and place. And worry about things. In the book. I talk about preaching in small Methodist rural church in North Carolina in January. And as I usually do, I asked to meet with the leadership of the church after service for lunch. And we did, and the leadership of the church was all women, about my age of a certain age. And I asked him, I said, what are some of the, what's your greatest challenge you face? And we had attendance that morning, was up with guest preacher. And it was about maybe 35 people that said, What is your biggest challenge? And the person who seemed to be kind of the chief in charge of things said, Well, it's the Methodist Church, it's United Methodist Church is our biggest challenge. And I said, Oh, really, and in what way? And she said, when they ordained that lesbian Bishop at West somewhere, it just made it a lot harder for us to do things here. And I said, really? Because I said I, I didn't even hardly know about that. But now, how has that made it difficult for you here? Well, I'm just we just don't believe in that kind of thing. Well, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. And think I wanted. I didn't say this, because I'm such a nice person. But I wanted to say, Hey, lady, don't worry about that bishop out west somewhere. You couldn't have more than seven or eight more years in this church left to you, if unless you make some changes. But that became a kind of microcosm. I know, my home church, the church of produce me that I gave testimony to earlier. There, I've got a group that won't seem to leave. And the group produced a document which says, here's why we want to leave. And the document goes on about the Council of Bishops. It goes on about a Methodist preacher who was a drag queen somewhere. It goes on about a Methodist preacher who denied the resurrection, somewhere out west, and I'll and I find that just so sad that people have gotten distracted. And I want to ask that church now. Now how is any of that hindering you from accepting You're part of the mission that Jesus Christ has given you in your neighborhood. And I tell you, sometimes it's easier to talk about denominational problems than it is to talk about the survival of and thriving of our congregation, right here, in this time and place.

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

So I'm hearing you say that things like COVID things such as LGBTQ issues, things like the work of the denomination and other aspects of, you know, other parts of the world, for instance, our distraction and keeping the main thing, the main thing, and it seems to me part of the main thing, the main thing is a revisitation of some of the key concepts that make us Christians, things like Hope and Grace and proper grief when things don't go our way. It used to let's just take grief for a second. I know you keep on that just a little bit. How can we have proper grief, you know, we have to come to terms with things are changing. You know, some people say we're dead already know, whatever it is. But you know, there's people we know, in our pastoral ministries, who have had said their goodbyes and had a good death. And there's been others terrible, you know, murders and any number of other things where it's a bad death. calcul we speak to a Christian concept of grief in the midst of all this, it's going on here.

Dr. Will Willimon:

Good, I do a good bit of grief, the treatment of grief and the book. Because I are in my conversations, pastors, I heard a lot of grief bereavement, lament over loss. We were losing people were losing beloved churches, United Methodist Church closes like a dozen congregations a week, we we were losing a denomination that we've loved. My point is, we're not losing the denomination as that we've loved. Because separations, we're losing the nomination we love because all nominations appear to be weapons, and I look at it, you could say they're dying. Another thing you could say is they're just merely changing the nomination. lism was a great idea. It's about 150 200 years old. It's only about 75 years old, as we have known it in the United Methodist Church. But and is grateful for that. I think it's important to be honest about that. I know when somebody left my church, either because they didn't like me or my preaching or because they found the church inadequate. In some way. I was in grief. And I usually told them, This really makes me sad. I need you, I wish you would stay. But along with that, and I talked about, we pastors may not know how to do a lot of stuff. But most of us are kind of experts in grief management. And one of the things you have to do as a pastor is to allow people the space, to be honest about their anger, their sadness, their loss. At the same time, you got to also talk about life after the loss. And I know it's kind of weird. When you're going through grief at the loss of a loved one. What does the church do? It says, Alright, come to church, stand up in front of everybody and sing a hymn even when you don't feel like singing. affirm your faith, even when you think you don't have much faith, focus on the Lord, even when you may be feeling some anger at the Lord. With the church knows that in love to say, Come on, we're still alive. You have a responsibility to stay alive and to keep going. And so that's part of grief, too, is getting through grief. And I have an episode there from Jesus, where a man you know, comes up to our Lord and says, I'll follow you wherever you go. Only only let me go do my funeral for my father. And our Lord says to him, Oh, I'm so sorry. Please accept my condolences. No, our Lord says, Let the dead bury the dead. Follow me. Come on. Yeah, right. And that's just that is they're being very harsh with a grieving person, or very loving with a grieving person to say, Come on, you're alive. I'm a God of the living, not of the dead. And I'm leading you toward a different kind of life. And one of the great things about being a pastor is you watch people go through grief, who think their life is over. And they're done. And their identity that they once had is gone. But to reclaim that, and I note, the woman who told me after the sudden death of her beloved husband, six months later, she said, you know, maybe the new me is the me that God wanted all along. I love my former life with my husband. And I wouldn't have traded it for anything. But now I've been forced to have a new life and my new life. Well, that's Christians do that. So,

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

by the same token, there are some folks who do stay stuck, let's

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

let's go be a dude in the winter, like grief, and things like that. And so let's go then to Grace a little bit in terms of sometimes I think Grace gets abused or gets misused. Yeah. And Bishop trouble.

Rev. Dr. Brad Miller:

Do you have any thoughts about how grace comes to play as how we talked about all these issues here? And how you might any, any questions for for well about, but anything along that line,

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