June 28, 2012

Appointments Guaranteed or Not?

It seems that there are some unexpected wrinkles related to the General Conference action on the guaranteed appointment. Below is from Kim Cape, General Sec. of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

"Many people have contacted GBHEM since the General Conference secretary issued a statement that security of appointment was not removed. I am urging caution in interpreting General Conference action. At the request of the General Conference, the Judicial Council has scheduled a review of the security of appointment legislation at their fall 2012 session.

While General Conference Secretary Fitzgerald Reist is correct that ¶334 was not changed to mirror changes to ¶337 which removed security of appointment, there are different interpretations of what it means to have both paragraphs in 2012 The Book of Discipline. I invite you to read the statement from the Ministry Study Committee and the survey of opinions in the UMNS news story by Heather Hahn.

It is also important to remember that the ministry legislation does not go into effect until January 2013, so there is time for these issues to be clarified. For the 2012 appointment cycle, security of appointment clearly remains in effect."

Kim Cape, General Secretary, GBHEM

Never a dull moment in the UMC. Grace, Kathy

June 27, 2012

Does Your Family Tithe?

Yes, financial giving is a spiritual discipline and I wish it were easier for me. In our family, it has always been my husband who insisted that we tithe. Giving financially to the church has always been difficult for me--although I'm growing. Over the years, our income has increased. But early on in our ministry, money was very tight--now it's just tight. There was more than once that I couldn't get what I wanted from the grocery because the money went to the church instead. Although, I must add that we never went hungry.

And of course, my spouse often spent every waking hour (so it seemed) propping up some dying churches. So I figured that what they didn't get in dollars, they were getting in sweat and time. But the churches slowly turned around and their budgets increased. However, some churches were generous with our salary, while others were less gracious. My spouse said that how the church responded shouldn't effect how we gave, because we give to God. While I know this is true, it's still hard to tell your child they can't do this or that because we don't have the money. And it's hard to watch the church people begrudge the money they pay you or the cheap way they keep up (or not) the parsonage.

But I got better. Then I learned that a vocal church member, one who insisted he was quite important and wise in all financial matters, actually gave almost nothing to the church. I'm not exactly sure how I found out, but I think one of the trustees let it slip. What that member did and how he talked was all for show. Still, I wasn't much better with my attitude, so I began to pray. What came to me was that God really wanted what was best for me and loved me. God didn't want me to be hungry or angry or resentful. And God could help me, but it would be an uphill struggle--anything worthwhile is. So I've not arrived, but I do let my spouse handle our financial commitments. Yes, we discuss it and agree, but I let him take the lead and I just keep praying.

Grace, Kathy

June 26, 2012

To Know or Not to Know (What People Give)?

Giving money, asking for money, pledging money--these are usually complicated issues for the church filled with ambivalence. But if there is one thing people really don't like to hear from the pulpit, it is the biblical truth of tithing. I do understand, because it's hard for me too. Although I have prayed about it a lot and have come a long way.

According to research, pastors and their families give a much higher percentage of income to the church than others. Most Americans give from 1 to 1.5%. In our church the percentage is higher, but my spouse has preached giving and our community has benefited from the fruit of our church's generosity. So we have a growing number of folks who tithe.

A related issue is should a pastor know what members give? Here there are legitimate concerns no matter what you think. Even in the church, people are people; and people who give more often think they are entitled to more--more of the pastor's time and attention--more leadership positions--more say in how things are done. Then there are the people who lead you to believe that they give a lot but don't. These folks often want the prestige or people to look up to them, but they don't have the spiritual fruit to pull it off without their pretense. But there are also the people who are generous with their money but remain humble and don't make a big show about what they give.

But how does the pastor know, if he or she doesn't see the financial records?

Jesus talked about money a lot, saying it is a spiritual issue. If the pastor is the spiritual leader, then shouldn't the pastor know what people give? Is what people give a spiritual barometer of the church's spiritual health? As you can tell, I have mixed feelings, but lean toward the pastor knowing.

What do you think? Do you know what people give?

Grace, Kathy

June 22, 2012

Make a Good Move with Facebook

The Indiana Annual Conference concluded two weeks ago Saturday. "Three Simple Rules for Social Media"-social media guidelines for Indiana United Methodists--was a handout given to clergy, lay delegates, and clergy spouses. The three rules are "Do No Harm," "Do Good," and "Stay in Love with God." Sound familiar? These are adapted from Wesley's rules for living. A description of each rule,as well as a set of questions to ask related to the rule,were listed.

I am aware of difficulties that Facebook can bring with pastors posting comments or opinions that are inappropriate. But I am a member of Facebook because there is a private link to Indiana clergy spouses available only through Facebook. I never post anything, but often offer comments. I have noticed over the past six weeks that clergy spouses are posting almost daily about the challenges of moving. Now appointments in Indiana begin July 1, so as you can guess, families are busy getting ready.

I have read the full range of emotions related to relocation. Many express anxiety and fear. The logistics of packing, especially with young children, is a popular topic. Sadness about leaving a beloved congregation, reluctance to start over, making new friends--all of the concerns that were prevalent thirty-seven years ago when my husband started ministry, are still relevant today.

However, one of the opportunities that Facebook allows, is to give others a chance to respond. I have read words of love and encouragement, prayers offered, shared experiences with positive results, and many others. Facebook postings allow others to share in the experience that others are having. I have also noted spouses offering to connect with other spouses who are moving into the same district even before the move occurs. Facebook can break-down some of the isolation and anxiety that has characterized moving. I read animated and loving comments--sometimes eight or nine or ten responses of encouragement or comments to one posting.

I am thankful for the way Facebook is allowing clergy spouses in the Indiana Conference--and perhaps others too--to feel connected and supported by other spouses who may or may not be moving in ways not possible years ago.

Prayer: Thank you God for advances in communication that enable your people in ministry to express feelings, joys and concerns, as moving approaches; and for the opportunity these advances also offer for those of us who read their postings to respond with prayer and other means of support. We are connected in many ways, and social media opens new ways to be united in service.

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

June 19, 2012

Surviving Church Life

Leading a church is a strenuous undertaking. It is not uncommon, for example, for the pastor to have physical symptoms that correspond to the ills of the church. In our case, my spouse suffered from neck and shoulder pain at one church. (He was literally carrying the church or so his body thought.) At another church he suffered from lower back pain. (That was the church where he was stabbed in the back by staff persons.) At another church he suffered from headaches. (Guess what caused those?)

The church where we currently serve is actually pretty healthy, so what ails him is pretty much normal aches and pains, but he did start having a few heart issues. This church has a real heart for mission and those who are hurting in the community. So perhaps there is a connection.

Serving a church is risky to your health. Pastors and us as families, see the very best people can be but also see the worst. We live in a sin-sick world and serve in a hospital for sinners; i.e., the church. Sickness spreads and a church can sap the pastor dry--leading to depression, which is rampant among clergy. But it can also lead to outbreaks of violence. Pastors and their families are not immune to emotional and physical abuse.

So what do we do? First, be aware. Second, make sure your spouse takes care of themselves with healthy eating, exercise, some down time, and some family fun. But often even those things will not be enough. The sicker the church, the more hours a pastor works and the more draining it in on the soul. So, encourage your spouse (and yourself) to seek out friends (email and Facebook are great for this) but also an area of their life where they can feel successful and appreciated. This may be a hobby or something else. Prayer is helpful too, but I promise God will direct you to take care of yourself. God loves pastors and their families too.

Grace, Kathy

June 15, 2012

Making a Good Move

It is that time again--time when many of us will be moving to a new church. For me, moving has always been difficult. Perhaps because I never did it as a child. I lived in the same house all my growing-up years. Even though it's hard for me to believe, some spouses really like moving to a new place. Whatever your feelings about moving, we all do it and have to make the best of it.

So here are a few things to keep in mind as you meet your new church folks.

1. Remember that grieving for your old church and old friends is OK. We are a connectional church so leaving is going to be sad.

2. Likewise remember that there are folks in your new church who are grieving the loss of your predecessors. Be kind to them and don't say anything negative about the last family, even if they left the house in a mess.

3. Be gracious and smile. This sounds easy, but we all know it may not be.

4. Be your best self and pray for your new home, new church, and new friends. God is in that new place too.

5. If there are any retired or other clergy spouses in your congregation, reach out to them especially. Likewise do something nice for the church administrative staff. They can be your best allies or worst nightmare.

6. Take advantage of this new start, talk to your spouse, and see how you all can do things better at this new church.

7. Make sure that you get your spouse's vacation and days off on the church calendar quickly.

8. Know that we are praying for you as well.

Grace, Kathy

June 14, 2012

Same Church--Different Experiences

Just back from Annual Conference. Even our spouse lunch was well attended. As several of us talked after the lunch, one spouse reflected how great her church was. The church had been supportive during some difficult times for, both, the church and the pastor. As my friend gushed, a couple of us exchanged glances. All three of us had served that same church in years past, but we had different experiences. For my family, that church was literally hell on earth--back stabbing, hostility, and hatred were rampant. All I could think was that some of those folks were receiving their eternal rewards elsewhere.

Same church but different times, circumstances, and pastors. While I like to think that our spouses helped pave the way for the current health of this church, it may also be that this pastor is a better fit.

No pastor fits all churches. No DSs fit all districts. And no bishop fits all conferences. We all have different gifts and some contexts call for things we may not have.

Still, in the case of this church, my friend is lucky. My hope is that the loving folks in that church finally stepped up.

Grace, Kathy

June 7, 2012

What Do Say When a Child Starts Asking Big God Questions?

Yes, kids ask the big questions about God. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there suffering in the world? Who made God? How do you answer?

I can remember having very long conversations with my own daughters, usually at bedtime when I was so tired. Part of why they ask reflects the partial or superficial answers we typically give children. But these questions have been written about since the dawn of time. There are thousands of pages devoted to seeking answers. Even in the Bible, you can see Job, for example, asking these questions. Kids ask as they begin to put aside their childish faith and assume a more mature faith, one where there are no easy answers. Believe me, all kids wonder to some extent, but some quit asking--and that is not a good thing. Better to ask even though it may be difficult for for them to understand how there can be more than one right or true answer. They struggle to understand how you can have a relationship with someone you can’t see and what it means to have a relationship with God at all. But these questions are critical and how they are answered can have life-lasting consequences.

Faith is like love; we can’t see it; we only know where it is there and when it’s not.

To learn about such things as "predestination" and other Church doctrines go, it might be helpful to understand where those concepts came from and how they changed over the centuries. Take, for example, predestination, that concept was articulated by Augustine (400 years or so after Jesus). Augustine was responding to the issues of his time about such things as free will (another thing he helped define), but also the Church should deal with the barbarian hordes who sacked Rome. He is also responsible for other things we may take for granted like original sin. But John Calvin (during the Reformation)picked predestination up, primarily from Augustine but also others, in response to the needs of the people of his time. He really meant to give people comfort and assurance of their salvation as opposed to the Catholic Church, where you never knew where you stood with God as far as heaven goes. All this to say that by studying history and biographies of the great theologians (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc.), kids (and adults)can come to understand that these folks were not living in a vacuum, but responding to specific anxieties of their time. As far as predestination, Calvin’s followers further developed the term. This also changed it into something Calvin never meant but that we see today.

It also helps kids to know that they are not alone in asking but that finding answers will put them on a path of discovery and faith with some of the greatest minds the world has known, perhaps propelling them into further study. But finding God also means finding ways to serve; that is, practice being Jesus to others. Some answers only come through doing mission, while some will come through books, and others will come through in-depth relationships.

These questions will not just go away; they will continue to find new ways to ask them. Sorry, I don’t have quick or easy answers; as you already know, there aren’t any—but that is the point.

In times like this, I recall a wise saying from Bernard of Clairvaux: “First we love ourselves for our sake, then we love God for our sake, then we love ourselves for God’s sake, then we love God for God’s sake.”

Grace, Kathy

June 4, 2012

Free E-Bible June 6-7

On Wednesday and Thursday, June 6-7, the publishing house is offering the full Common English Bible as a free ebook via Kindle, Nook, and Christianbook.com. There are more details on this eblast, which will launch Tuesday: https://app.e2ma.net/app/view:CampaignPublic/id:1358123.7841383134/rid:1e309e804f56a815f2756de31c39aa4d

The Common English Bible is a new and very readable translation of the Bible. If you'd like to see more information, go to: http://www.commonenglishbible.com

What is the CEB?

The Common English Bible is not simply a revision or update of an existing translation. It is a bold new translation designed to meet the needs of Christians as they work to build a strong and meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

A key goal of the translation team was to make the Bible accessible to a broad range of people; it’s written at a comfortable level for over half of all English readers. As the translators did their work, reading specialists working with seventy-seven reading groups from more than a dozen denominations review the texts to ensure a smooth and natural reading experience. Easy readability can enhance church worship and participation, and personal Bible study. It also encourages children and youth to discover the Bible for themselves, perhaps for the very first time.

Who Is It For?

The Common English Bible is committed to the whole church of Jesus Christ. To achieve this, the CEB represents the work of a diverse team with broad scholarship, including the work of over one hundred and twenty scholars—men and women from twenty-four faith traditions in American, African, Asian, European and Latino communities. As a result, the English translation of ancient words has an uncommon relevance for a broad audience of Bible readers—from children to scholars.

Who Sponsored the Common English Bible?

The Common English Bible is a distinct new imprint and brand for Bibles and reference products about the Bible. The translators and editors that worked on the Bible are from various denominations and locations around the world. Publishing and marketing offices are located in Nashville, Tennessee. The CEB translation was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials. The Common English Bible Committee meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press); Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Westminster John Knox Press); Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc); United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press); and United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press). Abingdon Press is the sales distribution partner for the CEB.


June 1, 2012

Syrian Massacres

Our hearts go out for the people of Syria who are experiencing civil war. We pray especially for healing of the grief and anger associated with the massacres of children. While our U.S. newspapers only refer to Muslim sectarian violence, there are also Syrian Christians suffering.

Tonight as we tuck our own children into bed and pray for their well being, let us also pray for the children of Syria and that God's justice and mercy will soon prevail.

Grace, Kathy