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May 9, 2000 GC-042

God’s gifts carry responsibilities for church, Bishop Looney says

CLEVELAND (UMNS) -- If the church is careless with God’s resources, it not only robs God and its neighbors, but also "corrupts its very soul," Bishop Richard C. Looney told delegates to the 2000 General Conference during the May 9 morning worship service.

Using text from 1 Peter 4:7-11, Looney, who serves the denomination’s South Georgia Area, said God’s blessings and gifts carry with them certain responsibilities.

"We are stewards of God’s manifold grace, accountable to share with the world what we have received. We are channels of the magnificent grace of God," he said. "We are responsible for the way we nurture and use or misuse our gifts from God. We have been given so much that we have a responsibility to God and to one another."

Looney called on delegates not to think the call from Methodism founder John Wesley to "save all you can" is referring to personal bank accounts. Instead, the bishop said, Wesley’s comments were directed at being good stewards of God’s gifts.

"We have no right to squander God’s gifts. We have no right to abuse God’s gifts," Looney said. "It is very easy to become inhuman and become mad in the accumulation of things for ourselves. Everything you have and everything you are is a gift from God, and we are responsible for that."

As recipients of God’s gifts, churches are called to serve as "channels" through which these gifts are to be funneled to others. To fail to share these blessings with others is to "corrupt our own souls," Looney said.

"We have allowed our desires to gain things for ourselves to corrupt our very souls," he said. "We need to restore what we have been given to God through the needy."

Looney left delegates with a challenge. "Will you say to God, ‘Show me, show me the joy of generosity’?"

During a time of reflection and discernment following the sermon, delegates were presented with the questions: "What gift did you bring to General Conference?" and "What is the gift God has given us to give to the world?"

The service opened with a presentation by a Mass Liturgical Dance Choir under the direction of Angela Norris Johnson of Dallas, Texas. The choir was made up of dancers from Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta; the Kesheth Dancers of Dallas; Grace United Methodist Church, Arlington, Texas; Cascade United Methodist Church, Atlanta; Bethany United Methodist Church, New Orleans; Duffy Liturgical Dance Co., Shaker Heights, Ohio; Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tenn.; Central United Methodist Church, Rogers, Ark.; and Rachel Chapple, Los Angeles.

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— Andy Ellis

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