Bishop encourages members to live in ‘holy tension’



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Bishop encourages members to live in ‘holy tension’

June 10, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011 
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0865}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Christians today must refuse the notion they are right and others are wrong when it comes to issues impacting the church.

Instead of being clearly defined as either progressive or traditional, Northern Illinois Conference Bishop Hee-Soo Jung said church members should consider that both positions may ‘be right’ and learn to coexist with each other in what he called the holy tension caused by practicing both holiness and hospitality. Jung was Bible study leader and guest preacher during the 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #08-0891.

Northern Illinois Conference Bishop Hee-Soo Jung urged Florida Conference laity and clergy to take that suggestion to heart during the communion service May 29 at the 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event.

Using Acts 17:22-23 as his text, Jung explored the duality of religion and spirituality in his sermon “What a Beautiful Journey: The United Methodist Way.” He said people often believe they have to choose between being religious or Christian. It’s a feeling he says he knows well.

Like the Shakespearian characters Romeo and Juliet, who impulsively made a life-altering decision, Jung said he, too, made a snap-decision when he became a Christian during his teens. He disavowed the old ways of praying to his Korean ancestors and condemned the practices his family still followed. He refused to participate in traditional rituals because the God of Christians was not being praised.

Years later Jung said he made a mountain pilgrimage in Korea and repented to the very ancestors he once refused to acknowledge in customary prayers. He said he repented for his arrogance and made peace with the past. Jung said his deep respect for theological learning prevented him from participating with his family years earlier.

Just as he was once in a soul-wrenching dilemma about his commitment to his newfound faith, Jung said the church finds itself divided into camps, particularly around the issues of sexual orientation. He said United Methodists who have labeled themselves progressive and traditional are both convinced of their rightness on the issue, as well as others.

Churches, Jung said, often excel in either holiness or hospitality when they should instead find a way to live in what he called the ‘holy tension’ created by embracing both holiness and hospitality.

Jung defined holiness as a more introverted or inward Biblical principle of clarity on an individual level; hospitality is the outward demonstration of welcoming others.

The church can either break down every barrier, as suggested in the hymn “Just As I Am,” or risk losing who United Methodists are, Jung said. Instead of being clearly defined as either progressive or traditional, he said, church members should consider that both sides are right and learn to coexist with each other in holy tension, practicing both holiness and hospitality.

For those who find that charge impossible, Jung challenged that with God all things are possible. He cited specific examples as proof.

In 1900, for example, Jung said it was almost impossible for Christians to penetrate Korea. Today, 35 percent of the country is Christian, with Seoul boasting 7,000 churches alone. In China, he said, there are 16 million practicing Christians, compared to about 12 million in 1900.

“So whether you catch it or not, God is moving,” Jung said. “Always be prepared to make a decision.”

Hope for the future

After the service, Jung said he wanted the Florida Conference to catch the vision of how God is moving in other parts of the world and how United Methodists can be partners in that movement.

Northern Illinois Conference Bishop Hee-Soo Jung greets a Florida Conference member after preaching at the communion service May 29 during the 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #08-0892.

The Rev. Bo Sim, associate pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, said he, like Jung, once struggled to reconcile his faith with traditional Korean practices. He said he appreciated Jung sharing his story and calling United Methodists to be open to God’s movement.

Drew Weseman, a Florida Southern College student studying theology, said he was surprised by Jung’s grace in bringing to light what many discuss behind closed doors concerning sexual orientation.

“We are The United Methodist Church, and we are best when we are united,” he said. “He presented his case with strength and conviction and, yet, did not offend people. He presented the truth as truth.”

Although it was only the first day of the conference session and he knew there was more to come, Pine Island United Methodist Church member Jacob Boone said Jung’s message was his “favorite.”

“I thought his message was incredibly timely,” he said. “It was about what I see the church struggling with. It’s so easy for people to get swept up in sides so that we can’t see that maybe we’re both wrong. I just thought the balance and openness in which he preached was incredible. I just have a sense of hope leaving here.”

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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.




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