Wills shares vision for loving, united church (July 15, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Wills shares vision for loving, united church

July 15, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0112}

An e-Review Feature
By Michael Wacht

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. Wills (left, front) receives congratulations from members of the Florida Conference delegation to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference after being elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church. Photo by Meredyth Earnest, Alabama-West Florida Conference, Photo #04-0045.
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — The Rev. Dick Wills, senior pastor of Christ Church United Methodist in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church July 15. Wills said he hopes to lead the church from his own personal spiritual growth experiences into being a "vital community of faith…and radically following Jesus and his teachings."
Wills was the fifth of six bishops elected at the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference here. He was elected on the 11th ballot and received 339 votes.
Immediately after the election Wills said he was "overwhelmed" that "so many people have trust and a belief in what God has done in my life."
Wills has been the senior pastor of Christ Church for 18 years and has led the church from being a declining, predominately upper-middle-class Anglo congregation with a focus on worship and Sunday school to a thriving, multi-cultural congregation with many unique and effective ministries that draws people from all parts of the Ft. Lauderdale community.
His book, "Waking to God's Dream", told the story of his 1991 experience in South Africa where the joy and faith of the South African Methodists led him in a search for a more personal relationship with Jesus.
Wills said he hopes to lead the church to experience both joy and a deeper experience of Christian discipleship. He envisions "the church whose members are filled with joy, love to worship and have a passion to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone…until everyone knows Jesus as Lord."
"The biggest issue is to have every local church to discover again what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and to have that joy. Once you have that joy, you can't help but share it."
To achieve that vision, Wills said pastors and church members need to love unchurched people enough to do the uncomfortable things that build relationships with them.
Wills shared that he and his wife, Eileen, like a neat house and that he dislikes animated movies, but when his grandchildren visit, "the house is a wreck" and Wills watches popular animated movies several times.
"Why would we do that? Because I love those children. We need to get our folks and pastors to have a heart of love for those who don't know yet Jesus as Lord."
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. Wills (right, front) and his wife, Eileen, after Wills is elected a bishop at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Photo by Meredyth Earnest, Alabama-West Florida Conference, Photo #04-0046.
Wills said the United Methodist Church does not have to be in decline, nor should it accept division. He said the Bible speaks of unity as "one of the most important values of the church" and that the church should "never give up on unity and work to protect it." Part of that work is "obedience to the order of our Discipline and historical principles of Scripture."
The Rev. Debbie McLeod, superintendent of the Broward Palm Beach District, said no successor has been selected for Wills at Christ Church. She said the cabinet will consider whom to appoint during its September meeting and Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker will announce the appointment in mid September. The new pastor will begin serving the church November 1.


*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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