May 30, 2012

Sometimes Being Honest Means Being Angry

Dear Friends, This post was sent to us. The person wants to remain anonymous. If you haven't felt this way, at least to some degree, you haven't been a minister's spouse very long. Please pray for this person and their church. Kathy

I cursed God today. I’ve been doing that a lot. I’ve cursed the Bishop and the DS. I’ve cursed the church. Part of me says I should feel bad about that. Part of me says I shouldn’t. Because I’m angry. I’m angry over a lot of things about the church these days. The church doesn’t seem like a very safe place anymore. It isn’t Jesus Loves Me and VBS crafts. It’s hurt. Loss of control. Discrimination against some of God’s children. And I’m tired of it. I tried to walk away. But I can’t. I’ve tried to say that I don’t believe anymore. But I know that isn’t true. Something deep within me is burning and won’t let go. And it isn’t a fire that consumes and destroys. It’s a fire that liberates and brings new growth. It’s the fire from a farmer burning the fields to allow new grass to grow. It’s the fire that wipes out what is old and withered. It’s a fire that makes me want to stick my head out of a window and scream “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore!!!!”

I’ve been really angry over the last few months. Ever since I found out we were being moved. I’ve cursed the church and the town. I’ve tried to make others hurt like I hurt and I’ve succeeded. And I’m sorry.

I suck as a clergy spouse.

The problem is that I feel this fire but I feel nothing for the local church. Maybe because the local church isn’t my church. For the last 14 years I’ve gone to church where I’m told. Do you know how hard that is? To not be able to choose for yourself where you will feel God’s presence in worship? To be told that not going “isn’t being supportive”? I go, when I go, because of duty, not love. And I wish it didn’t have to be that way. There are times when I’d love to sit and smell the incense and chant the Nicene Creed and believe that when I say that “God became Man” I felt it. When I could worship in a way that moves and stirs and gives air to the fire. But I can’t.

I’ve been able to hide my not going for a few years. But no more. The fishbowl calls and I don’t want to answer the phone. It is a loss and I’m angry about it.

I wish I could say that I know all will be well. Maybe, maybe not. But I’m going. I’m moving. I’m giving up what is mine and back to what doesn’t belong to me. And I’ll smile and nod and say all the right things. Because that is the mask I’m tasked to wear and wear well. Because that’s what the clergy spouse does. I never thought this life would improve my lying.

Going Public with Your Faith

While we in America take our freedom to worship God for granted. It's not the same everywhere and in many places persecution is on the rise. Take, for example, the former Soviet Union. Recent laws are making it more difficult for the Church and Christians. This is also true in Uzbekistan, where the church is under increasing attack. Please pray for Christians around the world who are offering their witness at great cost.

With Christians putting their lives on the line, why are we so reluctant to go public with our faith at all?

Recently I had an opportunity to share my faith with the person who sprays our house for bugs. But I didn't. I can think of lots of reasons, but the bottom line is that I didn't follow God's nudge. I didn't think of the fact that my invitation to him might have more edifying for me than him anyway. Like most people, I'm a little reluctant to witness. But I'm not shy about saying how great a credit union we have or how great the finale of American Idol was. Perhaps you might also pray for people like me.

Do someone a favor and invite them to your church this week.

Grace, Kathy

May 24, 2012

Be Part of the Solution

Dear Friends, I think we can all agree that we live a unique life. But like everyone else, our lives are busy and filled with expectations, demands, and joy--at least I hope you have a heavy dose of that in your life. But our lifestyle also makes supporting each other difficult. But if you need to talk, share your wisdom, vent, please feel free to email; and, if appropriate, we will post your comments. If you don't want your name attached, it's fine too.

It is annual conference time and moving, for some of us, is not far behind. Please pray for clergy families as they make transitions.

As usual, our conference will have a spouse lunch. It's a great time to reconnect with friends and make new ones. With work schedules, I realize that it's difficult for many to get away, but I've always found it worth it to attend. But even if you don't or can't, make a promise to yourself to welcome a new spouse into your town. We may expect that church people should do the welcoming, but we are part of a connectional Church. I admit, I've not done this well, but I promise to do better. How hard can it be to send a card or make a phone call? And it would be nice if DS spouses would welcome clergy spouses into their district. And let's not forget that DS spouses don't have a home church. If you have a new DS spouse, they might enjoy some of your hospitality. From what I've heard, the role of the DS spouse or even the Bishop's spouse can also be difficult. Let's be part of the solution for revitalizing our Church. Let's offer kindness, a listening ear, and warm hospitality.

Grace, Kathy

May 22, 2012

Saving Aesha

Did you see this story about this young woman yesterday? Do any of us know of a plastic surgeon who might donate efforts help her disfigurement? I wonder how it is with her soul? Who is reaching out to help her and others like her? How can we best help? What is your church doing?

Growing up I learned that being a woman was not a handicap or a hurtle to doing anything I wanted to do or be. As I grew up, however, I found out that there was some "fine print." Some of these lessons came from serving on our Tennessee Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women. I served 8 years and came off thinking that the commission's work was really not needed--at least not here. While I'm still convinced that COSROW is mired in bureaucratization and political correctness, there has to be a place for Christian advocates to stand for human rights, especially when women across the world are victimized such as this young woman. Am I just naive to think that this is part of the responsibility of General Conference?

As I read the "results" of our UMC General Conference, I don't see much that will truly make a difference. Certainly nothing that made headlines. Seems that GC only hurt and divided us more. Did we sent a delegation for peace anywhere? Did we speak out and then back up our speak with concrete actions? Who really cares about the Church structure compared to the evil and suffering that exists?

Being a Christian means to bring good news to the captives, liberate the oppressed, and serve to help bring in the Kingdom. Pray for Aesha. Pray for healing for our world. Then go do something to make it happen.

Grace, Kathy

May 10, 2012

Plan on a Good Move

With General Conference over, it's time to focus on reality. For about a third of us, it's time to move. And because moving is just a part of our lives, we might as well focus on doing it well.

Making a good move begins--no surprise-with planning. The first step of planning, in my experience, is getting out the family calendar to map out who has to be where when. You can also do yourself a favor by talking up the family who is
following you. You might consider leaving the new spouse a list of names, locations, and phone numbers of the local schools, drug stores, groceries, etc. Consider leaving the area phone book where the new spouse is sure to find it. And you might send the new spouse a card to wish them well.

If you are excited about leaving, try not to show it. There are always people in the congregation who really love you and will be sad to see you go. Remember that the UMC is really like a family; you never know who will move into the new church neighborhood or whose mother attends your new church or which kid will grow up and want your spouse to do the wedding--all these things have happened to us.

If you are sad about leaving, that's ok, but don't overdo it; and try not to ruin it for the next family. The Church isn't very good about transition from one clergy family to another. Some take steps to help the clergy person, but most don't help the spouse or family. While most people will say, "Just be yourself" when leaving, I'd say, "Be your best self."

The same holds for the kids. But in our experience, kids handle change pretty well. But you may have to have a conversation about staying in contact with friends from the previous church. With Facebook and other social networking, it will be hard for kids not to stay in touch. But you might want to talk through some of the issues, so that the next family has a chance to bond and make new friends.

If you have experiences or wisdom you'd like to share, please take this opportunity to help.

Grace, Kathy

May 7, 2012

General Conference is over.

For the life of me, I can't really tell what they did, except do away with the guaranteed appointment and the Judicial Counsel will weigh in on that. So they cut the general agencies budget but also added a couple of line items. How does all this effect the local church? Since only about 2 cents on the dollar go to the agencies, not much.

So was this a lot of smoke and no fire? Did we advance the kingdom of God or only make it harder to serve in full-time ministry?

On Sunday, I tried to explain the importance of General Conference to my Sunday School class, but after giving the context of the UMC structure, there wasn't a lot more to say. Did the groups that proposed restructuring not do their homework or is the system so cumbersome that well-intentioned people can't effect change through restructuring?

The future of the Church in the end rests not on General Conference, but on faithful witness of each of us in our local churches, schools, hospitals, retirement homes, missions.

Grace, Kathy

May 1, 2012

"If they won't send, maybe we won't go!" More on the Guaranteed Appointment.

So what does the loss of the guaranteed appointment really mean? Only time will tell. If we really think that eliminating the guaranteed appointment will help local churches, we are deluding ourselves. But it certainly won't help clergy be more prophetic in the pulpit, especially if they disagree with the DS and Bishop, let alone the church laity.

It does look that General Conference did try to keep some protection for clergy. There is a process, but who is really going to want to go to a dying church now and risk being labeled "ineffective"? And who is going to want to go into the hinterlands where we risk being labeled a "failure"? Frankly, if success in ministry looks like some of our leadership, we are in trouble, no matter how well meaning they are.

In our own ministry, we've been lied to and stabbed in the back by the DS (more than one DS). We've had some good bishops, but some ineffective ones as well. I would like to see a plan to deal with ineffective bishops and DSs. Would you?

Yet, the Church belongs to God and we are servants. But not servants only but brothers and sisters of Christ in the eyes of God. Sadly, not in the eyes of each other.

Risky discipleship? Yes. Risky ministry? Always. Stress-free service? Never.

Clarksville, TN

No More "Guaranteed" Appointment

This post was copied from the site 5.1.12

Many delegates were surprised and even shocked by how quickly a far-reaching proposal that takes away the security of guaranteed appointments for ordained elders breezed by The United Methodist 2012 General Conference.

The item was approved as part of a large numbers of proposals in the assembly’s April 30 consent calendar. The consent calendar is a tool used by General Conference to expedite legislation wherein recommendations from legislative committees with no more than 10 votes are grouped and passed together.

There was a motion to reconsider the item but it also failed by a vote of 564 to 373.
Under this new legislation, bishops and cabinets will be allowed to give elders less than full-time appointment. The legislation also would permit bishops and their cabinets, with the approval of their boards of ordained ministry and annual (regional) conference’s executive session, to put elders on unpaid transitional leave for up to 24 months. Clergy on transitional leave would be able to participate in their conference health program through their own contributions.

Under the legislation, each annual conference is asked to name a task force to develop a list of criteria to guide the cabinets and bishops as they make missional appointments.

The cabinets shall report to the executive committees of Board of Ordained Ministry the number of clergy without fulltime appointments and their age, gender, and ethnicity. Cabinets will also be asked to report their learnings as appointment-making is conducted in a new way.

Earlier the assembly voted down a proposal that would have allowed elders and deacons to be eligible for ordination as soon as they complete their educational requirements after serving a minimum of two years as a provisional elder or deacon.

The commission stated security of appointments for elders has been a major stumbling block for missional appointments.

“We have clergy who have proved ineffective and the ways of dealing with them are cumbersome,” said the Rev. David Dodge, a member of the study commission. “Removing the security of employment allows bishops to deploy clergy more appropriately to do missional ministry,” Dodge said