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In his sermon during the Opening Worship service of the 2013 session of the Iowa Annual Conference, Bishop J. Michael Lowry, of the Central Texas Annual Conference, called on the Iowa Conference to courageous and to be “a faithful church to help bring about a healthy world.” He said, “the task is to revitalize the church of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Lowry noted, “we live today in a time of massive change.” He added that some may not be comfortable with that transition, but quoting the former Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less.” Speaking of his experience in Texas, Bishop Lowry recalled, “Though this the dawn of a post-Christian era often the behavior of pastors and laity has not substantially changed.” He added, “We can do everything right to revitalize existing congregations and yet the denomination will not grow.”
Bishop Lowry called the conference to “be different.” He said that there’s a need to “follow Christ’s call and challenge…Today is a time for courage – lay and clergy leaders and congregations need to step up wit courage.”
He offered a criticism of the denomination’s openness to progressive theology over the past fifty years and called for a fundamentalism and evangelicalism based on the “convictions that are at the heart of our Wesleyan tradition.” “We need,” he added,” an evangelical witness to reach out.” Acknowledging an understanding that “we must live out Matthew 25” he also suggested “we must share the new life of faith and offer a taste of eternity.”
Earlier in the service Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble invited the Conference to a baptismal renewal. He prayed, “Dear God, we rejoice in your grace, given and received. We thank you that you have claimed us, that you wash us, that you empower us to live a life worthy of our calling…Fill us with your fullness that our lives may overflow in service and love. People of God, remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen.”
A liturgical drama portrayed the struggles of a faithful life and the nurture and nourishment found in Christ.
An offering was received for Africa University, introduced by Rev. Okitakoyi Lundula and Rev. Emmanuel Noweji, graduates of the University.
Ankeny First United Methodist Church’s Christian Life Center Praise Band provided the music for the service.