‘Give until it heals,’ Oklahoma bishop advises

Translate Page

When Bishop Bruce P. Blake attended the funeral of the Rev. Tom Roughface, a Native American leader in the United Methodist Church, the Oklahoma bishop was struck by the Ponca Tribe practice of giving gifts to friends and visitors.

A year later, the bishop returned for the end-of-mourning ceremony where he again received symbolic gifts. Inquiring about this tradition, he was told, “We believe you can accept death better by giving than by getting.” The Poncas find healing in giving.

Blake shared that experience in an April 28 morning worship service at the 2004 General Conference. He suggested that the practice of “giving until it heals” was more effective than following the age-old adage of “giving until it hurts.”

Bishop Blake explained that his process of sermon creation is to do a critical analysis of the Scripture, then to “exegete” the congregation and preach at the intersection of the two. As he read all the resolutions and legislation coming before General Conference, it felt to him as though “we were coming to Pittsburgh with the agenda to protect what is important to us in the budget rather than to focus on raising the standard of giving.”

“Our attitude is one of giving until it hurts, rather than heals. Everything is focused on our limited resources when in fact, if United Methodists would give until it heals, we would have so much money to facilitate God’s mission in the world that conferencing would be a celebration of sharing rather than our experience of divvying up a shrinking pie.

“Could it be that the crisis in our family of faith is a crisis of faith, not of the pocketbook?” he asked. He suggested United Methodists have somehow lost the connection between grace and giving. “It has become more important for us to protect our standard of living than our standard of giving.”

The bishop encouraged the international assembly to follow the direction of Jesus Christ in Matthew 23:23-26, when he says people must scour their lives and rid themselves of gluttony and greed.

He challenged the delegates to live a gospel of giving until it heals.

Blake presides over both the geographically based Oklahoma Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, which is composed of United Methodist members of several Native American tribes. This is the first time he has preached at a General Conference.

The morning worship service opened with praise music led by the Mass Choir and Dance Ministry of St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., and ended with a dismissal in Choctaw by David Wilson of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. The service included songs in English, Nigerian and Zulu, a traditional hymn, praise choruses and African tunes.

*Whorl is a correspondent for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

Related


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Human Sexuality
Supporters of LGBTQ rights in The United Methodist Church rally around the central Communion table at the close of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. An updated edition of “American Methodism,” a history of the denomination published by Abingdon Press, adds a chapter covering 20 years of contentious debate over sexuality. File photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Eventful 20 years added to Methodist history

Abingdon Press has published a revised edition of “American Methodism,” its history of The United Methodist Church and its predecessors. The new version adds a chapter covering 20 years of contentious debate over sexuality.
Annual Conferences
Conference members ratified disaffiliation agreements and prayed over departing churches during the 2022 North Georgia Annual Conference that took place June 2-4. In an email sent out Dec. 28, 2022, North Georgia Conference leaders announced they were pausing for now approving anymore disaffiliations. File photo courtesy of the North Georgia Conference.

North Georgia hits pause on disaffiliations

The largest United Methodist conference in the U.S. announced it is blocking church exits as a result of “the misleading, defamatory, and false statements and materials shared with local church members.”
Judicial Council
The Book of Discipline contains the rules that guide The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council — the denomination’s top court — faces multiple questions related to how to interpret Disciplinary provisions about General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church court deals with General Conference delay

Three United Methodist annual conferences, including one in Africa, have asked the denomination’s highest court to rule on the ramifications of General Conference’s third postponement since the onset of COVID. The Judicial Council also faces more questions about church disaffiliations.