By Jeff Finley
As General Conference 2023 approaches, Bishop Linda Adams sees new signs of Spirit aliveness in the denomination.
“What excites me is the chance to see the FMCUSA become a movement again. The Lord has given us a passion for igniting a Spirit-fueled movement, and I’d love to serve for a second term to see that become a reality,” Adams said on a new episode of “The Light + Life Podcast” in response to a question from host Brett Heintzman about what excites her about potentially being re-elected as a bishop. “Several of the annual conferences in my region have been in a period of slow decline for a long time but are finally seeing glimpses of new life and greater vision for reaching out, incorporating new people — even people who are different from themselves, serving their communities, and partnering strong with the global church. My hope is that our churches would all get further along the road that starts with ideas and blossoms into actions. It takes time. Giving myself to this work for another term excites me.”
“Together we are living out New Testament values and strategies, and that’s exciting.”
Adams currently serves conferences in the North and North Central United States and also oversees Free Methodist ministry in Latin America. Regarding her international role, she said, “continuing with the church in Latin America also excites me. It takes a few years to establish relationships, and since we only see each other in person once in a great while — not even once a year — I’d love the chance to come alongside them as they work with a laser focus on the united vision of partnering with God for the transformation of Latin America. Together we are living out New Testament values and strategies, and that’s exciting.”
When asked about the greatest challenge facing the denomination, Adams said the FMCUSA, “like most other denominations, has been gradually assimilated into our wider culture, which at this point is toxically divided and hostile. I believe the Lord is calling us back to Himself, to our first love, to worship authentically, to become the beloved community of oneness, to rise above the culture wars so we regain sight of the mission of God for the salvation of the world. The salvation is not just getting people to pray the sinner’s prayer but to live kingdom values, to be transformed by the Spirit so we are agents and heralds of the good news — the whole good news.”
“I want to be so aligned with Him, abiding in Him and bearing fruit, that I can be a part of a wonderful new Spirit-fueled movement in the FMC.”
Adams said she often reads the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation and asks herself, “How have we become like this church? Are we dead like Sardis or lukewarm like Laodicea? Have we lost our first love like Ephesus? How would I lead through it — by preaching, writing, influencing the influencers, serving alongside our national leaders to call us to repentance and faith and holiness? Jesus has promised to build His church. I want to be so aligned with Him, abiding in Him and bearing fruit, that I can be a part of a wonderful new Spirit-fueled movement in the FMC.”
When asked about a personal leadership challenge and asked about how she led through it, she discussed how she began her 11 years as ICCM director when “technology was giving us new opportunities to communicate more readily around the world.” Communication, however, was still a challenge with 33 country leaders overseeing child care ministries.
“It became pretty clear that the organization needed a whole kind of middle layer of regional coordinators. There was just one, and she was called a facilitator,” Adams said. “You have people on several continents with multiple cultures, and you really want them to be to be led in a culturally appropriate way, and also there has to be accountability for the money we send and the requirements of the program. These are sponsored children, and we have to hear from them with letters. We have to see photo updates.”
The challenge was to establish a council of regional coordinators on a limited budget. With shifts in the financial model and new connections over the years, “the Lord was able to bring to me seven different people — most of them from the citizens of the countries where we were serving — and take advantage of their unique gifting and cultural knowledge for their region of the world,” said Adams, who noted the model continues to expand under current ICCM Director Alma Thompson.
Love, Truth and Gospel
Heintzman commented, “One of our greatest societal challenges is that of sexual orientation and identity.” He asked Adams, “Do you fully align with our traditional sexual ethic, believing that marriage and sexual union are reserved for one man and one woman, and, then secondly, how do we learn to love our neighbor better regardless of sexual orientation and yet minister the truth of the gospel?”
Adams replied, “To your first question, the answer is just yes, full stop. I do. I align with our position because I believe it’s the biblical one. It’s required by the Bible, and I’ve done a lot of study on it, and I’m convinced.”
“Ministering in our churches should have the same tone of genuine love that we experience with our own loved ones.”
She said the second question on sexuality addresses “a huge part of how we need to face our own cultural moment. Probably every one of us now has family members and friends who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. Ministering in our churches should have the same tone of genuine love that we experience with our own loved ones. We esteem them as persons. We recognize their gifts and God-given abilities. We delight in them as created in the image of God, yet, when the conversation allows, we don’t hide from them our confidence that the God who made us, who knows us best and loves us most, only requires what is good for us when it comes to sexual expression.”
She noted that “every situation is unique because every person is at a unique place in their journey. Pastoral care means listening well, doing our best to understand things that are outside our experience, and pointing each and every person to the grace of God that is sufficient for everything. We minister the truth of the gospel by living into God’s call to holiness for ourselves and helping others to embrace and follow that call and live obedient lives.”
Free Methodist Future
When asked about her preferred future for the denomination, Adams said she sees “a church united around following Jesus, the Lord of the church. In our denominational family, that includes aligning with the values of The Free Methodist Way. I can imagine recovering our passion and experience of life-giving holiness. I can imagine finding 21st century embodiments of love-driven justice that are just as important as our founders’ embodiments of that value. I can imagine — and I’m already starting to get glimpses of it — seeing exponential supernatural growth in ministries and new churches being planted through Christ compelled-multiplication. The Great Commission is still in effect.”
“I can imagine finding 21st century embodiments of love-driven justice that are just as important as our founders’ embodiments of that value.”
She also expressed the desire for Free Methodists to be “loving one another across racial and ethnic walls as a powerful expression of cross-cultural collaboration” along with “deepening our commitment to knowing and loving and teaching the Bible — precious and eternal God-given revelation. I also have to include a much greater sense of interdependency with the global Free Methodist family.”
As a larger Methodist denomination divides, some of the departing congregations have discovered they share the values of the FMCUSA.
“The Lord has bought us several wonderful evangelistic United Methodist churches that have joined our family,” Adams said. “We don’t want a flood, but a steady trickle is a beautiful thing, and we’ve gotten to know some people for whom the cause of Christ is very much common cause.”
When asked whether God has given her any visions, dreams or words about being re-elected as a bishop or for the church, she said, “At several really key decisive points along my journey, the Lord has spoken to me in that sort of way — visions and dreams and words. This time, it’s been more of a prayerful, reflective, deliberative process.”
Adams referenced the book “The Burdensome Joy of Preaching” by James Earl Massey and reflected on “the burdensome joy of being a bishop. On the one hand, I have to admit that four years of a demanding travel pace and a heavy weight of responsibility have been challenging. There is an undeniable burden. On the other hand, even so, it’s a joy. I love the Lord. I love His church. I love the Free Methodist Church especially and my brothers and sisters at every level of the organization. When I’ve brought my concerns to the Lord, He has reassured me that He can help me to live as a bishop at a healthy pace, guard my Sabbath, discover better margins, and play and model healthy leadership to others.”