Tag Archives: United Methodist Church

Vote for Me!

A few weeks ago I threw my name into the hat to be elected to be a delegate for General Conference. At the time, I figured it was worth a shot. All it took was a 100-word essay and a picture. It was simple enough. All I thought was, why not? But now it is almost time to start voting, and I’m thinking that I’d better put a little more thought into it.

Why do I want to be a General Conference delegate?

This comes down a simple statement – I love the United Methodist Church.  I want to be a part of the largest and most important body of United Methodist Christians.  I want to enjoy that kind of fellowship of kindred spirits.  I want to be a part of the legacy that started at the Christmas Conference over 200 years ago.

I know the United Methodist Church is not perfect.  I have seen it at its ugliest.  I have seen it fail to live up to the calling of Jesus Christ.  Yet the United Methodist Church is the place where I have found grace.  It is the Church that has nurtured me from birth.  It is the Church that has shown me what it means to be a Christian, a servant, and a disciple. 

How will I vote?

I probably sound like a politician here, but I honestly do not know how I would vote for controversial issues at General Conference.  there are many issues that face the Church I love, and I want to do what is right for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I can say this: I believe that the slogan of the United Methodist Church: “Open minds, open hearts, open doors,” resonates with me.  I also believe that the word “open” that is repeated in that slogan needs to be understood as a verb, not as an adjective.  

It is my sincerest hope and prayer that none of the controversies that the church faces will create widespread schism.  I believe that the things that hold us together – the mission of Jesus Christ and the loving grace that is offered to all – are stronger than any of the controversies that would tear us apart.

What will you get if you vote for me?

You will get a pastor that is dedicated to doing what is best for the United Methodist Church.  I was ordained in 2010, and am still considered “young clergy.”  This is my first chance to be a delegate, and I believe that General Conference needs as many new people involved as possible to continue to breath life into the church.

I will go with great joy.  I will worship with great passion.  I will vote with my whole heart, mind and spirit.  I will bathe myself in prayer, always seeking the Holy Spirit to guide my decisions.  I will seek to be guided by Scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

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Partners in Hope

This is a video I put together with pictures I found on the internet plus my pictures and videos from my recent trip to Liberia.

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Top 5 questions for #6qumc

One mission

Three simple rules

Four areas of focus

Five practices.  And now… Six questions.

An intriguing new social-network based campaign by the United Methodist Church is 6 Questions.  I am not sure exactly what this is going to look like in the long-run, but this looks like a strong effort at reaching people through social networking groups such as facebook and twitter.  If you go to the link above, you will be able to watch a 40 second intro to the idea.  Then you have to register to get into the meat of the “6 Questions.”

What you will find is actually about 500 questions – all user submitted.  They are divided into many different categories.  At this point, there are no answers.  You can submit your own question, or go through the questions that are there and vote whether or not you like them.

I think the idea is that these questions will be whittled down to six at some point.  I don’t know what will happen once the six questions are asked, but if this can get people to start thinking about the place and role of the United Methodist Church, then it could be a very good thing.

So, for my new Top Five list, I submit to you, my six questions.  If you want to vote on my questions, I included the group you can find them in parenthesis:

  1. Is the candidacy process about discernment and development, or is it about gatekeepers setting up hurdles to clear? (Board of Ordained Minstry)
  2. Do guaranteed appointments help or hinder the mission of the UMC? (Developing principled Christian leaders)
  3. Why do men make up a majority of our pastoral leadership, but a minority of our active lay people? (United Methodist Men)
  4. How do the annual conference budgets allign with our four areas of focus, especially in regards to how we support campus ministry? (2010 Annual conference)
  5. How do clergy protect themselves from violating boundaries while maintaining friendships? (Pastor of a local church)
  6. How can a church foster economic diversity to gather in worship? (Engaging in ministry with the poor)

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Thinking about Chicken and Church

The United Methodist Church has come out with a new marketing campaign.  You may have seen one of the commercials.  “RETHINK CHURCH” they declare.  The idea is to think of church as a verb instead of a noun – a thing we do instead of a place we go.  It is a compelling idea, and it was clearly put together by a slick marketing team.  A team so slick, that I think KFC probably hired them to.

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between RETHINK CHURCH and UNTHINK CHICKEN? Besides the fact that, short of a Men in Black mind sweeping gadget or a lobotomy, I’m not sure how to unthink or rethink something (I mean, I know how to think, and I know how to change my mind, but isn’t changing one’s mind actually just another new thought?), couldn’t they have at least come up with different fonts – maybe something in a seriff. 

think

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Hii does. Do Wii?

 

Do we really?

Do we really?

Last week at annual conference I bought a shirt that read, “Hii welcomes all of His children.”  Next to those words was a picture of Jesus that looked like a Nintendo Wii character (or Mii).  Underneath, in smaller letters were the words, “Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church.”

 

Annual Conferences of the UMC have been gathering over the last few weeks.  All of the conferences will be voting on a set of amendments to the UMC’s constitution.  These were amendments that were passed by the General Conference last summer, and now have to be ratified by a 2/3 majority of all the annual conference members.  Last week our conference voted on these amendments, and the results of one in particular really saddened me.  This is the amendment:

 

On May 1, 2008, at a session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church held in Fort Worth, Texas, the following Constitutional Amendment was made by a recorded vote of 558 Yes, 276 No. It is now presented to the Annual Conferences for vote.
In the 2004 Book of Discipline, Division One, ¶ 4, Article IV, (2008 Book of Discipline, Division One, ¶ 4, Article IV)) amend by deletion and addition as follows:
After “worth” add “and that we are in ministry to all” and after “persons” delete “without regard to race, color, national origin, status or economic condition” and after “sacraments,” add “and” and after “members” delete “, and” and insert a period and add “All persons,” and after “faith” add “and relationship in Jesus Christ, shall be eligible to” and after “body” delete “of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition”.
If voted and so declared by the Council of Bishops, ¶ 4 (¶ 4) would read:
Inclusiveness of the Church — The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth and that we are in ministry to all. All persons shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, and upon baptism be admitted as baptized members. All persons, upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith and relationship in Jesus Christ, shall be eligible to become professing members in any local church in the connection. In the United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body.

On May 1, 2008, at a session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church held in Fort Worth, Texas, the following Constitutional Amendment was made by a recorded vote of 558 Yes, 276 No. It is now presented to the Annual Conferences for vote.

In the 2004 Book of Discipline, Division One, ¶ 4, Article IV, (2008 Book of Discipline, Division One, ¶ 4, Article IV)) amend by deletion and addition as follows:

After “worth” add “and that we are in ministry to all” and after “persons” delete “without regard to race, color, national origin, status or economic condition” and after “sacraments,” add “and” and after “members” delete “, and” and insert a period and add “All persons,” and after “faith” add “and relationship in Jesus Christ, shall be eligible to” and after “body” delete “of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition”.

If voted and so declared by the Council of Bishops, ¶ 4 (¶ 4) would read:

Inclusiveness of the Church — The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth and that we are in ministry to all. All persons shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, and upon baptism be admitted as baptized members. All persons, upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith and relationship in Jesus Christ, shall be eligible to become professing members in any local church in the connection. In the United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body.

The amendment, put briefly would make it clear that all persons are welcomed into membership of the United Methodist Church.  There were many arguments against this amendment.  The one that made the least sense was the argument that this amendment would force Pastors into allowing anyone into membership without any standards.  At first, I was torn on this amendment because of this issue, but after re-reading I saw the word “eligible.”  This is not a mandate compelling churches to include anyone that wants to join. 

There are a lot of smoke-screen arguments against this amendment, but the only viable reason anyone would vote against it is that they don’t want a gay person sitting next to them in church.   

I thought that this would be the line that people wouldn’t cross.  I thought this was the dividing point between the moderate majority and the extremes.  I understand that people are divided on issues of pastoral authority and marriage.  But I also thought that keeping people out of churches was going to be too far.  

I believed that the moderate majority would rise and say, “we are a welcoming church.”  I thought that people could get beyond the fear-mongering and the politics and the polarization and say, “We have open hearts, open doors, and open minds.”  This amendment wasn’t about homosexual marriage.  It was not about homosexuals in the pulpit.  Really, it wasn’t about homosexuality at all.  It was about a church standing up and saying simply, “We welcome ALL.”  I really thought that the conference I love was going to vote to approve this amendment.

By a vote of 51%-46%, I was proven wrong.

Hii welcomes all of His children.  Apparently Wii don’t.

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Fixing the Skandal

A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Will Deuel had a series of posts on his blog, “A Man Called Preach.”  His series of posts about the Skand-lous mission of the Board of Ordained Minstry created quite a whirlwind, including dozens of responses from well-wishers, sympathizers, and fellow probationary Elders rumbling along the ordination track.

As I think about our current Board of Ordained Ministry in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, I concur with much of what Will had to say, especially in suggesting that it needs to be re-thought.  So I kept on thinking…

What if the Board of Ordained Ministry was perceived not so much as a board of gatekeepers, but as a team of mentors?

I can imagine a new kind of process, one that does not exist to weed out those that are deemed unworthy, but one that lifts up, empowers, and molds responsible Christian leaders.  I can imagine a team of mentors, prayerfully discerning the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, shaping a process that meets them where they are.

Instead of treating us as “classes” that have set list of hurdles that must be leapt in order to reach the goal, the ordination process could be a time of spiritual guidance, discernment and empowerment.   Picture this:

A probationary elder, upon being comissioned, sits with a small group of pastors and lay people to examine the material that was presented.  They talk about the Bible study, the sermon, the written work, and Wesley’s historical questions.  They consider the work experience of the candidate, the education, and seminary evaluations.  Together, they create working goals related to different parts of ministry.  If a candidate has a gift of teaching and preaching, she is given resources to develop those gifts.  She is supported in going to preaching conferences (like the annual Festival of Homiletics, which I am dying to go, but have no means), and continuing education seminars.  She is not required to do redundant work that was taught in seminary and examined during the comissioning process.

The candidate struggles with administrative duties, so she is given a mentor – one not based solely on age and gender, but one that is suited to teach her the skills she needs.  During the first round of annual conference forms, she meets with her mentor a couple of times.  They meet again shortly after the annual report forms are filled out.  Throughout the year, the mentor and candidate meet several times to talk about administrative tasks.

The group decides that Clinical Pastoral Education is required of the candidate, but not necessarily for all.  She has some gifts of pastoral care, but could certainly refine her skills.  She is given financial support to enroll in a CPE program.  Her mentor and DS make sure that during the CPE internship, certified lay speakers relieve her from the pulpit two or three times so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by the duties of congregational leadership and her CPE internship.

There are Residence in Ministry Retreats.  They are intentionally about building the connection and meeting learning goals.  The residents meet the bishop, members of the cabinet, and some local pastors and lay leaders from around the conference.  At the retreats, practical ministry techniques and issures are mixed with things like spiritual gifts inventories and personality tests.  The candidates discuss their path toward ordination, about their struggles and their fears.  They are given time for their own prayer, study and reflection.

Each candidate is treated as an individual –  a whole person.  Ordination is a process of discernment and growth – not a series of hoops. 

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  The question I have is, what’s keeping this from being a reality?

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The Social Creed, 100 years later

100 years ago, the Methodist Episcopal Church put forth a Social Creed.  It was a statement of solidarity with the millions of victims of the industrial revolution.  During a time of unchecked capitalism, the industrial revolution had created a system of enormous oppression.  Workers were forced into labor conditions that were dangerous, grueling, oftentimes cruel, and usually for little pay.

In the face of this injustice, the Church found its prophetic voice, and ushered in the era of the Social Gospel.  Reading the creed of 1908 is like reading a summary of modern labor laws.  Among the items covered by the creed was the abolition of child labor, the six-day work week and the right of workers to have a safe working environment. 

Some decried the creed as Socialist, and many thought that the Church was overstepping its bounds.  Critics wanted the Church to stay out of politics and policy.  They felt that the Church should just have worship on Sunday, a few Bible studies on Wednesday night, and a pot-luck from time to time.  If the Church wanted to get involved, these critics felt, then open up a food pantry or give money to a missionary in Africa.

I like a good green bean caserole or deviled egg as much as the next guy, and I love sitting around a table to talk about Scripture, but the Church is about more than pot-lucks and Bible studies.  Read Isaiah 58, and you will find these words:

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
   and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
   and to strike with a wicked fist.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah demands that we do more.  Isaiah demands that the Church act when it sees injustice.  In the New Testament, James agrees:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

I, for one, am proud that the Social Creed of 1908 is a part of the legacy and history of the Church I love.  In this, the one hundredth anniversary of the Social Creed, the United Methodist Church has created a new creed.  It is more universal and timeless.  Instead of being directed at specific injustice, it speaks of the nature of God in hope that believing in a God of justice will lead people to act for justice.  It is more liturgical in nature, and is written to be read responsively with a beautiful musical response.

There are many injustices in this world.  There is economic turmoil, a growing disparity between the rich and the poor; there are preventable epidemics, growing extremism, environmental disasters, and wars being fought that could have been avoided.  The writing of creeds and social principles will not solve the problems of our world.  The idea of a creed though, is to set a standard – to give people a place to fall back on when the work of justice becomes difficult.  It is a reminder of the God to whom we belong, and it holds out hope that in time the world in which we live can reflect God’s goodness more perfectly.

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