September 28, 2012

Hero Speaks Out Where Girls Don't Count

How does someone become a hero? Consider Razia Jan, a woman fighting to educate girls in rural Afghanistan and standing up for what is right. She is a hero in a difficult and life-threatening situation, serving her community.

We look at our own daughters and consider them as precious, as smart, as worthy as sons. But we all know that it isn't the case everywhere. In some parts of the world, girls don't count as people. While tragic for both the girls and their communities, in parts of the world educating them is criminal. It takes courage and deep conviction to stand up and speak up for those who would have no chance otherwise. In rural Afghanistan, the person, that woman, is Razia Jan.

While we may not suffer that kind prejudice, there are even places in our country where some people count for less than others. There might be some church members worth less than others in your own church.

Please pray for the girls and women in Afghanistan. And please pray that we might be more like Razia Jan and have the God-given courage to stand and speak out for our convictions. But more than that, help us engage those with contrary convictions so that we can find common cause for justice.

If you know of a hero in your church or community that you'd like us to honor, please send the name and a brief statement why.

Grace, Kathy

September 24, 2012

A Delicate Issue of Inclusion

The annual clergy spouse weekend retreat for the Indiana Conference concluded today. The event went smoothly except for one thing--a young clergy spouse brought her six month-old baby, whom she was still nursing and was promptly asked to return home, because of the baby.

Fortunately, a retired member of the event offered to care for the infant, so that this mother could attend the lectures, discussions, and participate in meals.

Many clergy spouses were upset that this young woman was asked to leave.

Other comments included, "The baby is a distraction." "Even if she takes the baby into the hall, the noise he makes is still a distraction to the program."

The conference wants to encourage all spouses to come, but an infant appearing, the first time in many years, took everyone off guard.

The retreat planning committee meets in a few weeks to discuss this year's event, and to get ideas for next year. I wonder, how do other conferences handle mothers who need to bring infants? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you!!!!

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

September 21, 2012

ReThink Open Doors
by Pastor Eric Helms

The United Methodist Church has had as its slogan in recent years, "Open Doors. Open Hearts. Open Minds." The idea has been to project the church as a welcoming place that will not exclude anyone and will love everyone. It is an image of hospitality.

But the truth is, I'm not sure that the core of our Christian calling is hospitality. Hospitality is great--creating a warm welcoming environment in the church is important, and thriving churches certainly do this well. But the new buzzword in Methodism is "ReThink Church," so lets Rethink our open doors. What if we use the same slogan and simply adjust the metaphor?

We have long assumed that when we say, "Open Doors," we mean the doors of the church--something through which an outsider could walk through and come inside. A bit more sophisticated might be to think of "Open Doors" as the doorway into a relationship with God--and so the church is a doorway into spiritual connection.

But I have come to believe that the most scriptural way to think of "Open Doors" as a slogan for Christians is to think of the doors not as beautiful wooden doors like what you might find on a fancy house or church building, but as the metal barred doors on a prison cell.

In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus spoke about why God sent him, he said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me... to proclaim release to the captives." This is the mission of the church. In fact--when we remember the true nature of the church--it isn't a building at all, is it? As a faithful church, we need not be so concerned with how we open our doors to let people in. We do not even have doors to open--we are not a building. There is nothing separating insiders from outsiders when we speak of the church most faithfully. Rather the doors in need of being opened are the doors to prison cells--doors that have made all of us captives in one way or another. The church is the body of Christ, and if the Spirit of the Lord was on Jesus to proclaim release to the captives, so also the Spirit of the Lord is on us to proclaim release to the captives.

Notice what happens. When we say that we are the church of open doors (meaning we let everyone in) there is hospitality, but no clear message of renewal or growing righteousness. We accept everyone as they are, we have open hearts and minds and so do not challenge anyone (including ourselves) as perhaps needing God's word of redemption. There is no redemption in this model. Assuming that Jesus actually meant that people were living in captivity to something, all we did was invite fellow captives to come and be captives with us. There is no release--only fellowship among captives. This does not look like God's Reign breaking in, it looks rather like hell.

But if as the church we cease to have doors--and we find ourselves among all kinds of captives, and we do not simply accept them or, for that matter ourselves as we all are. Rather, with the Spirit of the Lord upon us, we proclaim release: release to those captivated by alcohol and drugs, release to those captivated by poverty, release to those captivated by the love of money, release to those captivated by all kinds of sexual immorality, release to those captivated by gossip, release to those captivated by depression, release to those captivated by pride, and release to those who would rather lock the doors in a fortress and never engage with the other captives...

How can we move beyond the ministry of hospitality and embrace the ministry of proclaiming release to captive hearts and minds? How can we stop viewing people as "church people" or "unchurched people" and begin simply seeing us all for what we are: captives who are in varied degrees of being set free by the God who sent us Jesus for precisely that purpose.

Don't open your doors, there should be no door to open. Rather proclaim the gospel of Christ that will open the door not only to your own heart and mind, but also the door to the hearts and minds of all who have been held captive by all kinds of sin, all kinds of brokenness, all kinds of disease.

May the Spirit of God set us all free.

September 20, 2012

Need a Lift on Fridays?

Dear a good word on Fridays? Check out Faith's radio program. She is a person of deep faith and commitment. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

This week Faith's guest is Andrea Sneed. Andrea is owner and director of
BREAST THERMOGRAPHY of Middle Tennessee.

Andrea will share about the importance of healthy breasts. She will answer our questions about ways we can protect our breasts... explain the differences between mammogram and breast thermography. If you have questions or comments, call them at (805)292-0349.

We all have either experienced breast cancer or know someone who has. My mom was a survivor, as was my sister. I just can't say how important this is.


September 14, 2012

Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

In a book that will hit the shelves in early November, four experts representing Judaism (Jack Neusner and Baruch Levine), Christianity (Bruce Chilton), and Islam (Vincent Cornell) tackle this deceptively simple question.

Baruch Levine says the question is not: Is God on our side? but Are we on God's side?
And God is on the side of those who keep God’s covenant. This means that for the redemption of humanity and lasting peace, we all must recognize that the modern state of Israel must hold an honored place in the family of nations, free, sovereign, and rejoicing in Jerusalem, God’s holy city. But for the state of Israel to continue under God’s covenant, Jews must negotiate peace with the Palestinians and neighboring nations, most of whom are Muslim, and hence monotheist.

Jack Neuser looks at the question from the vantage point of Classical Judaism.
Accordingly, only Classical Judaism affirms authentic monotheism and only when we all accept this can we have true interfaith dialogue. Because Christianity and Islam are not monotheist, they can lay no claim to unique possession of the truth and there can be no common ground for discussion. Judaism stands in judgment of Christianity and Islam because it alone sets the standard for true monotheism.

Bruce Chilton answers this way: Being able to make comparisons about how we believe God acts does not mean that we actually believe in the same God. Likewise, comparing the theologies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can give us common ground, but it does not mean that we start or conclude with belief in the same God.

Vincent Cornell says that Islam stands in a medial position between Judaism and Christianity. Do they worship the same God? In the case of Judaism, yes. In the case of Christianity, it depends on who Christians worship. If they worship Jesus, the answer is no; but if they worship God, the answer is that there is more room for conversation. Even so, it is still not possible to bridge the differences between Islam and Christianity enough to create some kind of Abrahamic world theology, but at least a strictly Trinitarian Theology of worship can provide some common ground. Interreligious conversation derives its greatest benefits from counterpoint rather than comparison.

Then Martin Marty writes in his epilogue that the conversation surrounding the question of whether Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God can and must proceed. And amazingly through this difficult and complex discussion, we can all learn and reap unexpected benefits.

This book will be worth your time and energy to digest. The title is, Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God? Here is the ISBN: 9781426752377.

Grace, Kathy

September 11, 2012


Even if you did not see the Twin Towers fall as it was played and replayed on television, surely you recall the empty skies for days afterward. A friend of mine who works in New York City said that for weeks there was a dusty haze that blanketed
everything. Another friend said it was months before he saw a child at any airport. And now it has been years.

During that time my daughter's high school band had accepted an invitation to march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. They were supposed to fly to NYC, but we parents made them hire buses instead. Several kids didn't get to go because of parental worries. But nothing would keep my child home, so our family fretted but proudly watched the band on TV.

We probably all have a story. Many of us know someone who was killed. We have all been effected. As we go about our daily routine today, let us remember what it means to be an American. Let us pray for those who still grieve, but let us also pray for our enemies.


September 6, 2012

How Spouses Became Who They Are in the Church

In the next month or so, Abingdon Press will publish American Methodism: A Compact History by Russ Richey, Ken Rowe, and Jean Miller Schmidt. Thought you might be interested in this, so I'll quote it at length. Think you'll be surprised about how we spouses became defined as we often still are.

"Stationed preachers and preachers' wives usurped roles ascribed by the Discipline to the class leaders. While class leaders struggled to find time for their duties, preachers and wives dedicated their entire lives to the cause. Preachers' wives discouraged by precept and practice in the early 19th century, became in the decades before the Civil War regular, indeed esteemed, resource persons for local church leadership. In station appointments, the preacher's wife evolved into a vital helpmate in ministry, increasingly an essential congregational leaders, and a vacation on its ow. Communities came to expect the preacher's wife to exercise a ministry, especially among other women and with the children--in teaching, in visiting, in comforting the ill and bereaved, in witnessing, in heading missionary societies, in modeling family piety, in interpreting her husband (to women and other preachers), in supporting the ministry, in negotiation the frequent moves, in short, in functioning as a sub-minister." (p. 54)

I would add that in some places these things are still expected of the wife, which confuses things if the spouse is male; because these expectations historically were prescribed only for women. Having a male clergy spouse, in and of itself, has redefined the role as have working and career-minded women.

Grace, Kathy

September 4, 2012

Does Clergy Moral Failing Point to a Sick Church?

Recently in our conference, a pastor took a grave misstep that resulted in a dramatic moral failure. While this is tragic for the clergy person and the parsonage family, it is also difficult for that local church. What makes the situation worse is that this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened to that church. In fact, the last three pastors have had a difficult time. This is not to say that all three pastors had moral failings, but 2 of the 3 did, and the third was basically asked to leave because of conflict.

Putting aside the role of pastoral leadership for a moment, let's look at the church itself. What do three short-term disastrous pastorates in a row say about that church? Could the church itself play a role in its tragedy? While no one wants to "blame the victim," the question really is, "Is the church an innocent victim or is the church somehow complicit in its leaders' failures?"

No one wants to say that any group of church people are sabotaging ministry, but clearly something is not right at the church. This church is not fostering health in its leadership. It is a known fact that church people as individuals project their fear, anger, and disappointment with God onto the pastor. What has not been studied as much is how the church as a whole or as a system)projects its corporate fear, anger, and disappointment on the pastor and the pastor's family. (Do not be surprised that the role of pastor extends beyond the pastor to the family.)What exactly is going on that this particular church is for the next pastor and DS to figure out.

So what can the pastor and the pastor's family do? First, diagnose the illness the church may be suffering. This involves learning the story of the church from key leaders (both acknowledged and unacknowledged leaders). Then talk to colleagues who have served there. If the church is not healthy, there are resources. See: And here is a great book that can help, How to Lead in Church Conflict by K. Brynolf Lyon and Dan P. Moseley

We all have weaknesses, but as clergy and clergy spouses, we cannot inflict our own toxicity onto the church. We also bear responsibility for keeping ourselves healthy. Do the basic physical, emotional, relational, spiritual care. It is not rocket science. But if you find yourself getting sicker and not healthier, your unhealthy church may be part of the problem. Ignore it at your peril.

Grace, Kathy