From the Worldwide Faith News archives

'Give until it heals,' Oklahoma bishop advises

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 28 Apr 2004 16:31:41 -0500

April 28, 2004	    GC04009

By Suanne Whorl*

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - 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. 


United Methodist News Service
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