Opening Worship – Bishop: “Reclaim the Good News”

By Audrey Stanton-Smith

Citing Luke 2:10, Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez called on the body of Annual Conference to share the love of Christ with as many people as possible and live together as a connectional family.

“Like the people of Luke’s time, the people of today need good news,” the visiting bishop from the Upper New York Conference said during the opening worship of the 2024 West Virginia Annual Conference.

“We need a fresh and renewed sense of joy in our lives,” Burgos Núñez said. “The world is filled with bad news, horrible news, scary news. The world is filled with despair, with fear, with brokenness, with more frequent natural disasters that are getting worse every time because of climate change, wars that are born out of a sinful desire for power and intolerance, a polarized society due to political and religious extremism, and the persistent evils of racism and national exceptionalism that insist on labeling some people as less than.”

Bishop Héctor A. Burgos Núñez

But amid that chaos is good news, the bishop reminded the congregation.

“We celebrate that God’s love for us is so big that God gave us Jesus so that all who call upon his name and believe experience healing and abundant lives,” he said. “ … We are humbled by the realization that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”

The joy that comes from that good news must carry us through this season of change.

“When we felt broken, discouraged, Christ has tended to our wounds, and he has lifted us and restored us,” Burgos Núñez said before leading the congregation in a chorus of “Alleluia.”  “Thank God for God’s faithfulness.”

Burgos Núñez said that as some celebrate the pivotal decisions of General Conference, others feel scared or frustrated. Rather, he said, think of the good news shared by angels in Luke’s gospels and “fear not.”

“We have no reason to fear. Do not be afraid. God knows about our diversity. God has already accounted for our different perspectives, and still, in Christ, we are brought together to embody the beloved community of God as the people called United Methodists,” he said. “In Christ there is no such thing as a progressive camp, a conservative camp, a moderate camp. In Christ, we are one diverse body united in Christ’s love.”

Burgos Núñez said this crucial moment demands we apply John Wesley’s thee general rules: ”Do no harm. Do good. And stay in love with God.”

“We must stop questioning each other about the validity of our relationships and experience,” he said. “ … We must stop using harmful language to refer to fellow disciples who think or believe differently than us. We must stop pushing out fellow disciples who think or believe differently from us, thus continuing to divide and weaken our fellowship and our ministry. We must stop these practices from all sides. They do harm.”

Burgos Núñez called on the congregation to move forward as a theologically diverse body untied in love for Christ and a shared desire to share the hope of Christ with the world. He reminded them that they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s witnesses in the world.

“The world is desperate for good news and for experiencing joy and hope; therefore, United Methodists here in West Virginia, as you move forward, reclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”