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Faith, Hope and Clarity

Most of us know the great closing of I Corinthians 13, "And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:13).  What many of us are unaware of is the old King James Version translation of love was charity.  Thus the phrasing of I Corinthians 13:13 in the KJV is: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the great of these is charity." During my work on my D. Min. I took a preaching course in which the preaching professor would deliberately misquote the closing of I Corinthians 13:13.  His version as advice for preachers was the statement, "so faith, hope and clarity abide, and the greatest of these is clarity!" If you step back and think about, this is great advice for preaching.  Clarity is crucial in presentation of the preached word.  Even more, it is critically important in communication in general.  During our recent Forum for Active/Residential Bishops, Professor Maria Dixon Hall noted that most people don't know what the United Methodist Church stands for and what our mission is.  (Our mission is to "make disciples of Jesus Christ and for the transformation of the world.")  Despite our best attempts, clarity of communication is still lacking. This Friday I was participating in a meeting of leaders of the Council of Bishops, General Secretaries (leaders of the UMC's Boards and Agencies), Presidents of the Agencies (elected heads of their governing boards) and representatives from the Connectional Table of the UMC.  It was an impressive group.  These people hold a deep common conviction in Christ and a great love for the church (especially the UMC).  Good intention and honorable convictions were the order of the day. And yet, the very complexity of our struggle kept tripping us up.  Listening, I was reminded of a recent comment from Bishop Robert Schnase.  "Complexity is the killer of organizations."  He referred us back to the book Orbiting the Giant Hairball (which is a mini-classic in business management about the complexity of Corporations).  (Note:  I may have paraphrased his quote from mistaken memory.  The quote may not be original to Bishop Schnase.) It is easy to blame the general church or individuals involved or various groups.  But, as I reflected on what I was participating in, it reminded me of so many local churches, including some that I served!  This is not an issue for the larger system alone but for every local congregation!  We can get so complex and rule bound that the mission disappears into the back ground.  Blaming is not only not helpful; it is counterproductive.  The question for each of us individually and as members of groups (agencies, churches, etc.) is to wrestle with governance structures that enhance decision making, reduce the veto power of a few, and open us up to the mission we all believe in - "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Now may faith, hope and clarity abide!  And the greatest of these is really love!  (But clarity is needed!)