Bishop Alsted re-elected for 4 more years

By: Karl Anders Elleingsen

28.10.2016 14:32
Category: General

Bishop Christian Alsted has been re-elected as a United Methodist episcopal leader by delegates at the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference.

Alsted, 54, was re-elected Oct. 21 at the central conference’s quadrennial meeting in Fredrikstad. There were no other candidates. On the first ballot, he received 62 of 64 votes cast.

To UMNS bishop Christian Alsted said that there’s been a process he had to go through when he was asked to stand for re-election last spring. He carefully reflected and prayed about whether this was the right thing for him, the family and the church, before he accepted.

- After eight years the people in the Nordic and Baltic area know me. They know who I am and what I stand for. My priorities are the same, said bishop Christian Alsted to the Central Conference.

- The big difference from eight years ago is that I now have a much deeper knowledge of the area. I know what I go in to. I know the challenges and the opportunities inherent in us, and where the Holy Spirit is at work in the church.

There are two things that have changed significantly since I was elected bishop eight years ago, the increased migration in Europe and the intensified division over human sexuality that ultimately could threaten the unity of The United Methodist Church.

The migration has given us far more multicultural congregations in our area, and I see that as a good thing. Some of our congregations are really good at reaching out to their communities and include different cultures. A few congregations have also managed to reach the roma population, which is probably the most marginalized part of our societies. More of our congregations must manage to transition from an inward to an outward focus to increase their vitality.

Migration in Europe has changed both the society and the church. We are seeing growth in xenophobia, Islamophobia and outright racism. Today we have politicians and social debaters that speaks in ways that not long ago would have been perceived as racist, which today is becoming an normal part of public discourse. I fear this has infected all parts of society, including our church. We must oppose this with preaching and teaching. We must repeatedly lift up, how Jesus related to the marginalized and the poor. These attitudes must characterize us as Methodists, it must be our mark!

We have managed to plant quite a few new churches. This is very important and we must continue to start new faith communities. Efforts to revitalize the old congregations must also continue and become stronger.

Church Unity
We have entered a quadrennium, which may become the most challenging in the history of the global UMC. We are divided in our view on human sexuality, and it threatens our unity. While the tension is growing, and leaders particularly in the United States openly discuss what the future of the United Methodist Church will look like, if we are not united anymore, let us be mindful of the fact that even with the majority of the membership of our denomination in the United States, we are still a World Wide connection, and decisions are still made by the General Conference. Even if some sort of division becomes a reality in the United States, we are still here, and we can make the decision to remain united in Northern Europe and Eurasia.

In 1786 John Wesley preached a sermon “On Schism” where he distinguishes between “separation” and “schism,” with separation referring to a break from a church to form another church, and schism referring to divisions within a church. According to Wesley schism in a scriptural context is the same as heresy, and separation can be just as heretical, if it is causeless.

How can we even consider to separate from those we have called brothers and sisters for decades? What message would a division convey to the world around us? Is the word “United” in United Methodist only a reference to organization and history, or does it say something significant about who we are.

It may be tempting to consider some sort of separation to be the better or easier way to release tension, rather than continuing the struggle to find a common ground to remaining united. For the United Methodist Church in Northern Europe and Eurasia, even with the diversity of positions on human sexuality present in some annual conferences and between annual conferences, I believe a separation would be devastating not only organizationally but even more spiritually. I believe this to be true for the whole denomination.

Jesus points us to an inseparable unity modeled by His own unity with the Father, a unity that will cause the world to believe. “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.” (CEB John 17:20-23)

The unity of the church is an integral part of the ministry as a bishop, and not one out of several options. I will do my utmost to work to serve for the unity of the Church through my ministry and in the positions that the church assigns me - in Northern Europe and on a general church level.

Let me conclude by saying who I am. First and foremost, I am a follower of Jesus. I am a husband and a father. I received a call to serve Jesus Christ as a pastor in the Methodist Church. I love the church and the people in it, especially the part that has its home here in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
This is who I am, and in that order, say bishop Christian Alsted.

Bishop Patrick Streiff of Switzerland, is bishop of the United Methodist Church in Central and Southern Europe, and presided the election. To UMNS he says he is happy that bishop Alsted was re-elected and he is looking forward to having him as a colleague in the next four years. In addition to bishop Alsted’s service in the area, he has been very active in strengthening the awareness about being a global church. He has consistently held forth our central mission as a church, forming disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God works in the world and we have a calling to participate in this work.

Another aspect is that bishop Alsted has always had the courage to address difficult issues and he is not afraid to work to solve the difficult challenges, and work for unity and to build the church, says bishop Streiff.

Karl Anders Ellingsen