Bishop Wenner challenges Council to engage in “Laganda”

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner speaks to the UM Council of Bishops in Lake Junaluska UMR photo by Michael Rich

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner speaks to the UM Council of Bishops in Lake Junaluska
UMR photo by Michael Rich

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, drew on the example of the women’s soccer team from her home of Germany to challenge the Council of Bishops this morning. The German team used a Swedish word — Laganda — to describe their recent success, a word which means “teamwork,” or “group loyalty.”

“That team won,” Wenner said, “because they had a clear commitment to work together. They had a desire to work together as a team. They refused to be ‘we’ and ‘they.'” Wenner suggested that their sense of togetherness was the reason for their success.

Wenner’s address represented the formal beginning of the work of the Council of Bishops(COB) at their meeting this week at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. The council is gathering for the first time since Bishop Melvin G. Talbert presided at the celebration of a same-sex union in opposition to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, and the requests from Council of Bishops Executive Committee to refrain from that action.

Wenner acknowledged that while there are places in the church where she experiences laganda (such as the success of the Imagine No Malaria campaign), there a places where there is brokenness, including the recent struggles about Talbert’s actions, and the failures of the 2012 General Conference to restructure the church.

“We are often more occupied by our own angst,” Wenner said. “We don’t dare to trust even our colleagues, and we are more involved in conflict solutions and church trials than mission initiatives and working toward a just world.”

Yet for all of the division, Wenner proclaimed her belief in the unity of the UMC.

“We are one,” she said, “not because of us. We are one through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit keeps us together, and that is stronger than any bond of teamwork.”

Wenner suggested that the Council should draw on the example of the first church council described in Acts 15. She suggested that the issue of circumcision was as divisive for that church as the issue of human sexuality is for us today. Wenner identified five learnings from this early council that should guide the bishops work through the rest of the week:

  1. Serious conflicts have to be brought to the table where leaders are present to offer leadership.
  2. All voices have to be heard — that telling stories is an important part of the discernment process.
  3. That the council has to search for compromise.
  4. The leading question must be missional in nature and concern.
  5. We must recognize that conflicts are an ongoing reality in the life of the church.

Wenner suggested that there were several questions that would be important for the council to consider throughout the week, including:

  • What is our core identity as a church and a council?
  • What do vital congregations look like?
  • How do we describe covenant?
  • How do we lead the church toward the next General Conference?
  • How do we engage the church in holy conferencing?

Wenner concluded her address with a statement that had become important to her: Where the road ends, the journey begins.” “Disciples are like scouts. They find a path where the road ends. And they help each other in order to move in the right direction and to stay together, although the individuals journey at a different pace,” said Wenner.

“I don’t know where we will end up at the end of the week,” Wenner said in conclusion, “but I trust the Holy Spirit to be at work in our midst, so let us learn to relate to one another with laganda.”

Wenner, who serves the Germany Episcopal Area, was elected to the episcopacy in 2005, and was the first woman outside the United States to be elected as a bishop. She has been the president of the Council of Bishops since April of 2012. She will serve as the president until 2014.

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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14 Comments on "Bishop Wenner challenges Council to engage in “Laganda”"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Arthur Winch

And the reply Rebecca would be "nothing!"

Rebecca Cain

The most important question the council should address is "What does the Bible say about homosexual marriage?"

Bob McSwain

Do not post an article, and then modify it. She made positive comments about the UMC sponsoring the same sex marriage in Penn. Now that is gone.

Jay Voorhees, Exec.

Bob, we have not edited this article in any way. As someone present at her speech, she acknowledged the divisions present in the Council of Bishops, but I have no record of her making a positive statement regarding the Pennsylvania ceremony. I am thinking that you may be thinking of another article, but it wasn't ours.

David Brandenburg

You are comparing apples and oranges. Circumcision was practiced in obedience to God by Jews. GLBTQ is practiced in disobedience to God. Recognition of the legitimacy of this practice is moving this country in line with Soddom and Gomorrah rather than in harmony with God.

Tom Starnes
Maybe you have to be eighty-one to remember the time when the Discipline said that preachers were not allowed to marry divorced persons and we did anyway, or when the Disciplione said that no one who drank "spiritous liquors" could serve on the official board. But we elected them anyway. Santayana said that Americans do not solve their problems they just leave them behind. Ours is a history of being unable to excise words from the Discipline. We just move on, following along a maturing society, as we should do — ignoring the letter of the law in favor of… Read more »

The council of bishops worships at the altar of political correctness–which is destroying the umc and this once great country………

Beth Glass
I was once proud to be a United Methodist, first as a layperson and then from midlife on as an ordained elder. We were the progressive church who had united first in 1939 with those who had gone separate ways in the 19th Century and then in 1968 with the EUB. We ordained women long before other denominations. We promoted the rights of all people, established commissions and boards to deal with racism and sexism. The UMC was not perfect, but I could look around and believe we had an understanding of what it meant to follow the teachings of… Read more »
David Brandenburg

Love the sinner, hate the sin. Where did we get the idea that loving everyone meant condoning any behavior that is contrary to Scripture and the teaching of Jesus? Some principles and practices cannot be "compromised", including the Word of God. When that happens, it's not "progressive", it's "sin".


I read this to mean that you've got your opinions and I've got mine, which is okay, guess. But if everyone's opinion is equal, and actions are without consequence, I'm not sure why we need a Book of Discipline–or, for that matter, a connectional system.

Abide Vine

I can see where church administrators can easily become frogs in a frying pan as they climb the ranks; morphing from true believers to administrators responsible for an organization from a position of seeing the substance of the faith as mere bullet points of product. There is such a disconnect between politics and pastoral ministry.

You have some people who believe that performing ceremonies to celebrate homosexual unions even in states where they aren't legally recognized is the most important thing they can do despite the fact that the ceremony has no legal effect and is illegal in the eyes of the Church so other than sticking their finger in your eye it has no meaning whatsoever. The real agenda seems to be to allow those who lied during their ordination vows and have violated the Discipline every day since to be allowed to serve openly and retain all of their laity-paid benefits. That simply… Read more »
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