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May 8, 2000 GC-033

Church must emphasize inclusiveness in its message, bishop says

CLEVELAND (UMNS) – Inclusiveness and diversity make the church’s message more effective, a Filipino bishop told delegates attending the United Methodist General Conference May 8.

"Because God accepts us, we should accept one another," said Bishop Daniel Arichea Jr., Baguio City, Philippines. "There is room for diversity as long as we hold onto the center of our faith — Jesus Christ."

Arichea delivered his sermon during opening worship, as delegates to General Conference began their second week of work. The legislative assembly is meeting through May 12 at Cleveland Convention Center.

Paraphrasing a popular bus company’s slogan, the bishop said it is up to Christians to love people "and leave the judging to God." (Greyhound bus lines used for years the slogan "take the bus and leave the driving to us.")

The church can use all the languages of the world as a means of proclaiming the gospel, the bishop asserted. Too often, he said, diversity is used to define "who is in and who is out."

Arichea stressed repeatedly the need to include women in the church’s proclamations. "There is diversity in the Council of Bishops -- a little," he said, noting the council has seven women. "There is diversity in the message, but there is one thing we are sure of — we love the church."

Citing the theme of the General Conference, "We who are many are one body," the bishop said he wished "all this unity could be found in the church, but as you Americans say, ‘It ain’t so.’"

The church, he said, must never let differences stand in the way of its message and ministry.

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-- Robert Lear

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