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2021 Episcopal Address: Did Jesus Just Call That Woman a Dog?

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

24 Jesus left that place and went into the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had entered a house, but he couldn’t hide. 25 In fact, a woman whose young daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard about him right away. She came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was Greek, Syrophoenician by birth. She begged Jesus to throw the demon out of her daughter. 27 He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 “Good answer!” he said. “Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.” 30 When she returned to her house, she found the child lying on the bed and the demon gone.  Mark 7:24-30 (CEB)  

Bishop Haller Episc Addr 2021

Bishop Laurie Haller, interim bishop for the Dakotas Conference, delivers the 2021 Episcopal Address at Opening Worship of the 28th session of the Dakotas Annual Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on June 11, 2021. Photo by jlynn studios.

“Where is Christ’s compassion? Didn’t Jesus call that woman (begging for help) a dog? A woman whose young daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit finds out about Jesus and falls at his feet,” Bishop Laurie Haller stated in her first sermon, the 2021 Episcopal Address, to the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Bishop Haller praised the innovative spirit and passion of leaders throughout the Dakotas that has carried God’s word to believers and nonbelievers during the past 15 months.  

“I have seen a massive outpouring of creativity and imagination in our local churches. People are helping people. Congregations are discovering new ways to reach out into their communities. Clergy are reinventing themselves. Innovation is flourishing. Differences have been set aside. We are seeing our common humanity before God and are responding with compassion,” she said.

Throughout the Episcopal Address, delivered during opening worship on Friday, June 11, she called for the innovative spirit and passion for Christ to lead a vision of hope for the future of the Conference. Haller invited members of the twenty-eighth session of the Dakotas Annual Conference to lean on deep relationships.

“One thing I have learned in the short time that I have been your episcopal leader is that there are deep relationships that span theological lines in this Conference,” said Bishop Laurie. “Although there is an understanding that some churches and pastors will feel called to align with other expressions of Methodism in the future, there is also a value and desire to create a vision for the continuing UMC in the Dakotas - one that is inclusive of traditionalists, centrists, and progressives, believing that our diversity enhances our movement and our witness to the world.”

She praised the work of the Dakotas Conference Strategy Team and will form a special task force that will function in tandem with the Strategy Team. 

Strategy Team Breakthrough Prayer

The Dakotas Strategy Team offered a Breakthrough Prayer for all to pray. It was presented in video format (opening image seen here), and in prayer cards for conference attendees to take with them.

“The purpose of the Strategy Team has been, and will continue to be, focused on how we might imagine new ways of shared mission and ministry across denominational lines as well as how we can support and equip churches and leaders in navigating future changes in our denomination. This new task force will focus on beginning to clarify and articulate the vision and values for those who feel called to remain in the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church,” she said.

Haller invited all those listening to transform their hearts and minds, continuing to share the good news of Jesus, the Waymaker. “Keep on innovating. Keep on sharing the good news. And keep on discerning in humility and wisdom how God invites each of us to transform hearts and minds. Wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus just call you “beloved child of God?”

Download a text copy of the 2021 Episcopal Address here
Watch the 2021 Episcopal Address here


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