July 17, 2014

Help Give the World Clean Water

Does your youth group, church, or Sunday School class need a worthy fund raiser? Check out http://humankindwater.org/.

Help end poverty and disease by helping to provide access to clean water--something that no one can do without.

My friend, Lucy, heard the founder T.J. Foltz speak at her church last night, so this is legitimate.

Find ways you can help.

Grace, Kathy

July 16, 2014

What Is the Spirit of Your Church?

Recently, my spouse and I have been visiting different churches. They've all been United Methodist, so they all have similar liturgy and we sing out of the same hymnal (actually the words are all on a screen as well). The people are friendly and welcoming; the music is good and at a couple of churches, great. But some seem to be filled with God's spirit and others seem lacking.

I realize that God is everywhere, even if we can't feel him. So I'm not actually sure what we are feeling. Perhaps it's the spirituality of the people there or perhaps it is the Spirit of God calling to us.

I'm not super spiritual, so the whole thing has been rather surprising. But it does remind me that all churches can reflect the presence of God. And I'm not talking about friendliness or a sense of warmth. It's much deeper.

We once had a church which always felt to me as though there was discord brewing. It was unsettling to attend, so I went as little as possible. But it was on the charge, I was the pastor's wife, so I did have to go occasionally. But even feeling a sense of darkness in that church is better than feeling nothing, which describes how both my spouse and I felt after visiting a couple of churches lately, which brings me to the question: Does God Spirit reside in your church? Can people, members and visitors, feel the sacredness of the worship service. Is there a "right spirit"? Or is there a spirit of discontent? A spirit of evil? A spirit of discord? To find out, you might ask your visitors for first impressions.

Again, this doesn't have anything to do with how friendly people are or how good the sermon and music are. But can people easily and freely spiritually connect with God at your church?

This is what people are looking for. A place where they can serve and experience the presence of the living Christ. Is doesn't matter how many programs you have, because if your church doesn't make room for God, it will be empty soon anyway.

Grace, Kathy

July 9, 2014

How Much Does It Matter That We Are United Methodists?

A couple of Sundays ago, we visited a Presbyterian church. We went to hear our friend, the pastor, preach, and he was quite good by the way. While we did feel the holiness of the sanctuary and the presence of God, it was disconcertingly different. Not just because the pastor quoted John Calvin rather than John Wesley, but because it was a different flavor of Christianity. Not bad, just different.

So what does make United Methodist churches different? It's easy to say our liturgy and the hymns, but even some of those were similar. Presbyterians also sing Charles Wesley hymns. So the difference is deeper.

The core of our Wesleyan faith holds together personal holiness and social holiness. In worship, the sermon is important, but so are the sacraments, so is the fellowship time. We tend to emphasize the experience of worship. It does help if the sermon is good, but we also want to feel God with us. This is not to say that other Christians aren't the same, but as Methodists, we still reflect our revivalist roots. Then we expect to apply our faith to our daily living. And this means acts of charity and mercy. For many, it also means social justice-- for example, working on corrupt social systems, feeding and educating those in need.

As Methodists we are connected to churches around the world in mission and ministry. Our church never stands alone as a single witness, although our local witness is necessary and important. But we act in concert and in one accord through our gifts, service, time, and witness. Just as much as we strive to let God connect with us through grace, we strive to connect in significant ways with each other in small groups. Small groups, after all, were perfected by Methodists early in our history and were mandated by John Wesley.

We carry with us the assurance that all are chosen by God and than nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Yes, our Methodist theology matters. It doesn't make us better than all the rest, but it can position us to transform the world.

Grace, Kathy

June 27, 2014

Help for Finding Our Way Forward

In a recent article from the Confessing Movement’s e-newsletter, Riley Case continues the conversation as we United Methodists try to find the way forward. In the article he notes the just released book, Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church, edited by Reuben Job and Neil Alexander. Dr. Case says that “our doctrines are being challenged; our covenants are being violated; and our unity is being shattered.” This sounds ominous and a bit scary. But this is not the first time. Our denomination has split and reunified numerous times. 

Are we a church divided, as the article states? Yes, and we have always been. Perhaps we should, instead, count it as one of our strengths. The UMC has always been multi-vocal on any host of social issues. Race is one but also Prohibition, pacifism, women’s rights, and abortion to name a few. We live under a big tent that can accommodate many views. 

In my office I have a helpful “map” of the history of Methodism. The chart was compiled in 1900 by Rev. V. P. George, D.D. and is aptly titled, “George’s Chart of Ecumenical Methodism from 1739 to 1900.”  The top of this “panorama” reads, “’Methodism is one all the world over.’ (Wesley).” Except when it’s not.

This fascinating document lists 34 separate Methodist churches and their total membership as parts of the Methodist family. Some will be familiar, for example, the United Brethren Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, Wesleyan Methodist Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South. However also listed are the Evangelist Missionary Church, Primitive Methodists, French Wesleyan Methodists, and the Wesleyan Reform Union Church. Obviously we Methodists have organized, split, divided, and then reunified many times. So yes, contrary to what the article says, there has been talk about separation before, many times. In fact, it seems that reorganization is one of the things our church does best, so it’s nothing to fear. But it is also not a reason to boast.

Grace, Kathy

June 25, 2014

Looking for Opportunities to Find and Share Grace

Where I work, we have a wonderful library with many very old books and other publications from early in our denomination's history. Yesterday, a group of us went to explore and take a peak at what all there is. We saw Bibles, commentaries, Bible dictionaries, concordances, and more from the 16th through 19th centuries. Some were still covered in the original vellum. Others were falling apart.

That was interesting enough, but even more so was how the different people noticed different things. One of us noted the detailed engravings, one pointed out the quality of the rag paper, a couple could actually read the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew text, another observed the overall design of the pages. And we all remarked on the quality and the ability of these books to stand the test of time.

The point is that it took all of us to really "see." Taking into account our different perspectives made the experience richer, more meaningful. And just because the colors on the page called out to me didn't take away from those who noticed the words on the page first. In fact, we probably could have used even more expertise in order to fill out the experience even more.

In the church, each person's viewpoint offers a different perspective. And it takes all to get a full picture, but we must remember that even a full picture is not necessarily a complete picture. Only God can offer that.

As we reflect on our UM Annual Conferences, there were many issues, some of which may seem intractable. But as complete a picture as we might think we have, none of us have the total picture. And who is looking also says a lot about what they see. I'm always going to notice the color; just like someone else will always notice the page layout.

Regarding the issues concerning homosexuality, those who think "split" will predict it. Those who want unity, will find ways to achieve it. None of us has the complete picture about homosexuality or anything else. What's why we all need to go to God together in prayer. Perhaps, like good Wesleyans, we should be looking for more opportunities to find and share grace.


June 23, 2014

Yes, the Church Is Worth It

We had a wonderful surprise this Sunday. Some members of one of our former youth groups drove 5 hours (one way) to be at our worship service, just because...

I must add that they are no longer youth but now have children of their own; although I still think of them as "the kids." My husband was their youth director and I was the (unpaid) assistant, so we really were not  much older than the high school youth, maybe 2-5 years. But we were adults, just barely.

As we told stories and reminisced about old times, I told one of mine. This urban church had a dance each Friday night for the neighborhood kids. The police thanked us because the crime rate went down during that time. The dance drew about 200 kids and had been a ministry of that church for over 15 years--so it was an institution unto itself.

At 10:00 we ushered the crowd out the door and were ready to lock-up and head home. Except locking up was always a problem. The church had an ancient alarm system which consisted of a silver magnetic tape that went over the doors and windows. Invariably, one of the kids would slit the tape with a razor blade, which made finding the break almost impossible. But we got pretty good a finding it, but it could take as long as an extra hour. So I was usually annoyed, because that meant that we wouldn't get home until midnight leaving no time for us.

After I told my story, one of the "boys" spoke up. He asked, "Why do you think they did it?" I just thought they were up to mischief, and I had ample reason for believing it too. But he answered, "It was because, we didn't want to go home." This floored me. I had never considered that as a reason, but knew in my heart that it had to be true. All that for an extra hour away from home.

I have many fond memories of this youth group, because it was really my first. So I experienced many "firsts" with them. It was the first time I had such responsibility and authority and they taught me a lot. It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had, but yes, it was worth it. They were worth it. My husband baptized each of the ones that visited and they still had their certificates so many years later. They turned out ok, but many of their friends did not. We just planted seeds. Some took root; others didn't. But it was still worth it.

When I see so much pettiness and ugliness in the church, I wonder if being a church professional is worth it. Sunday reminded me that, yes, it's worth it and a lot more. I hope you keep your reasons for staying in ministry ever before you.

Grace, Kathy

June 13, 2014

Helping the Next Parsonage Family Make a Smooth Transition

About one third of us move each year, at least in my conference. Here are some ways you can help make the next parsonage family transition smoothly.

1. Well before the move, meet with the new family and get to know them. Then show them the parsonage. Also be prepared if they don't like some of the things you love about the house.
2. If the family is new to town, leave a list of important phone numbers, for example, the trash pick-up people, the nearest grocery, where to get the best coffee, where to go eat after church on Sunday, etc.
3. Make sure you leave the warranty info and directions to the various appliances.
4. Say positive things about the family to the church folks. Share some of their interests and different ways they can connect with the congregation.
5. Leave the parsonage clean when you leave, but know that the church folks will probably clean, paint, etc. after you go. Some churches use the time between parsonage families to do repairs and spruce things up.

Saying good bye can be hard, but we all want the next family to make a great first impression. You can help make that happen.


June 12, 2014

Book Review: Three Simple Truths by Adolf Hansen

Adolf Hansen, former pastor, vice-president emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, theologian in residence at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, has spent time exploring his own beliefs, and selected three truths which have been formative and important to his faith. His book, Three Simple Truths: Experiencing Them in Our Lives devotes a chapter to each truth, examining each one, word by word or phrase by phrase. 

Dr. Hansen's three simple truths are: God is good, all the time; God works for good, in everything; and Trust God, no matter what. His book is appropriate for group or individual study, and is published by Inkwater Press, Portland, Oregon.

He includes numerous references to scripture, offers"'pauses for reflection" in each chapter, and concludes each truth with a personal experience, questions for discussion, practices to express each truth, a prayer, and an original short song.

I found Three Simple Truths to have great depth in meaning and a thorough exploration of the truths presented. I especially appreciated the"'pauses for reflection" and the many suggestions at the end of each chapter to expand my experience with the scriptures and each truth.  

I highly recommend exploring Three Simple Truths during this period in the church year called Ordinary Time, when I believe we are encouraged to deepen our moments with God in this church season.  

Jacquie Reed

Fishers, Indiana

June 6, 2014

What Pastor Spouses Want Their Congregations to Know

As some of us will be moving to new churches, it might be worth considering what you want your congregation to know. Here's my list. You might have a different one.

1. I don't play the piano. Might wish I did, but I don't.
2. I am not an extension of my spouse. I have my own views and convictions.
3. I don't carry messages to my spouse. For one reason, I might forget, but the other reason is that if you want to tell the pastor something, don't drag me into it.
4. You can talk to me about something other than the church.
5. Our children are our children. But please be sensitive to them, because they live in a glass house.
6. Don't come to visit me without calling in advance.
7. Criticism about the church or my spouse even if "given in love," is still criticism.
8. Christian people do not hurt their pastor by hurting me or the children. This happens more than you know.
9. I am not a co-pastor. Don't count on me to help on every committee or attend every church event.
10. I really do love the church, but I'm not married to it. Really.
11. I did not take a vow of poverty when my spouse decided to become a pastor. I appreciate and expect a fair salary as much as you do.
12. I really do appreciate all your support and have received many unexpected gifts of friendship.

I don't share all of these things immediately when going to a new place, because in time they will all come up naturally anyway. But I do stick to these principles and found the church people, not only understand, but appreciate knowing.

Blessings on you.

June 2, 2014

Is a Split Inevitable over the Homosexuality Issue in The United Methodist Church?

I do not know how many times in the past several months I have heard the phrase, "It seems like a split in our denomination is inevitable." Inevitable. This or that side is pushing their agenda too hard. To obey Christ in this area obviously means that we must disobey Christ in the area of church unity, because, of course, that is how God works. Do we really believe that?

When I was in college in 2000, General Conference had a heated debate over the homosexuality issue. I read about it in the local secular newspaper. As I sat at the kitchen table staring that newspaper article, I said to my mother, "Mom, I cannot be United Methodist anymore. It is not a decision, really. It is just a reality. THIS is not me." My mom said, "But if you leave The United Methodist Church, who will be left to give your voice?" I thought a lot about that. If I left, the denomination would still be called "church" before the world, and the world would associate it and its positions strongly with Christ, whether for good or for ill.

The reality is that, like it or not, the church as a whole bears a strong witness to the world as a body. And a body that is divided -- even if it is divided into sides that are faithful over here but unfaithful over there -- this inevitably presents a very confusing and not particularly effective witness to the world.

We believe in a God who can raise the dead. We trust that is so in the lives of the broken, in the cities that are devastated, in nations ruined by war. It is what we are called to do as Christians. And as United Methodists, through Christ's strength we have excelled! We are the first to respond to any devastation and the last to leave. But it is inevitable that we are going to give up here? We stick with people even when everyone else runs away. Will we abandon those who we each believe are stuck in the prison of false theology to provide a quicker fix? We are a part of international bodies that work for increasing ecumenical unity within Christ's body worldwide. But we can't even stick together ourselves? Wait, a church split is not who we are and it is absolutely contrary what we believe about God's resurrection power in Christ Jesus.

I am writing this for really one reason -- I want to ask you to pray. And, I know this is hard, but do not pray that The United Methodist Church as a whole will be changed to your position. Instead, whatever you believe, pray simply for our Lord to: "Break the lies regarding homosexuality in our church, in our nation, and in our world and make the truth prevail!" Then praise God that God can do this! And leave it at that in humility. Because, as James says in his rather strong words about "conflicts and disputes among you... God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Originally posted here: http://holyconversationsatstpaulsumc.blogspot.com/2014/05/is-church-split-inevitable-over_27.html

May 30, 2014

Tales of Two Churches

We recently visited our daughter in Portland, Oregon, where we attended First United Methodist Church, which posts a reconciling banner on the lawn in a rose garden. The worship leader welcomed everyone, shared a few announcements, and commented about persons in the legislatures from  the congregation who were involved in the passage of a law making same-sex marriage legal.  

The service continued with prayer joys and concerns. The pastor in his prayer included those in the congregation needing prayer as well as eloquently expressing joy that all persons can be joined in marriage.

I sat in my pew proud to be a United Methodist in those moments when a pastor and lay leader of a local church honored a law passed to legalize same-sex marriage in Oregon. I thought how I will probably never witness the same declaration in the church I attend in the Midwest, where there is talk of The United Methodist Church splitting over same-sex marriage.

Different pews, different churches, different places in the United States .......when will we be one?

Jacquie Reed,

May 23, 2014

Moral Injury in the Congregation

Moral injury is a very important topic. While most of the research is currently concerning war vets (and hence the research funding), it is recognized that moral injury can happen to anyone who is traumatized or, especially someone who traumatizes another. It’s also a new way to frame sin, guilt, and shame, and puts care for these folks squarely in the pastor’s realm.  In a sense, it’s another way of talking about soul care. 

Moral injury describes how people are changed through exposure to violence and the inflicting of
harm and death on others resulting in profound mental, emotional, and spiritual struggle.

Moral injury can occur when persons betray or are betrayed. When they find themselves in a morally comprising situation with no way out. War is an obvious cause because soldiers have to kill other soldiers but sometimes civilians are also hurt. This is especially common in guerrilla warfare.So even if soldiers comes home physically and emotionally home (no PTSD), their spirits can be seriously diminished. But moral injury also occurs when anyone hurts another. Sin chips away at the soul.

Need a little help from you. Does this topic interest you? Do you see it as important? Do you see moral injury in your congregation? Would you like to learn more and how you can help these persons?

Grace, Kathy

May 19, 2014

The Biggest Miracle of All

God coming to us in Jesus is surely the greatest gift. And as we all know, Jesus' ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing, but he also performed miracles. And perhaps his greatest miracle was that he chose to work through us.

Think about it. We are the body of Christ here and now. Yes, we are empowered and enlivened by the Spirit of God, but God has chosen to work through limited, myopic, sinful, self-interested people--us. He chooses to be present in the world through people. We are his witnesses. We may be the only Bible many people see. This isn't the only way God is present, of course, but it does help explain why the church behaves as it often does.

Sometimes we, the body of believers, are the faithful, and sometimes some of us are only halfhearted and lukewarm Christians. So there are things about the church that I truly love and things that I can't stomach. The church like its people is a mixture of good and bad, pride and humility, condemnation and forgiveness. It's made up of people trying to do the right thing; and people who believe that unless you do it their way, you can't possibly be right.

As we enter into Annual Conference season, let's remember that we don't owe our allegiance to the book of Disciple. And while we are accountable to each other, we are also accountable before God. When we stand at the Pearly Gates, God won't ask us, "Did you uphold the Disciple?" But he might ask us, "Are you at peace and live in charity with your neighbor?" He won't ask you if when you spoke at Annual Conference, did people applaud? But he might ask, "Where are the marks of your discipleship?"

It's too easy for me to get caught up in the politics of church life, so I'm also reminding us all that Annual Conference is meant to be Holy Conversation. I hope your Conference helps facilitate conversation and encourages dialogue. I hope that your Annual Conference is a faithful witness to our Risen Lord.

Grace, Kathy

May 16, 2014

What Does Success Look Like in the Church?

Several years ago, I was chair of the conference spouses' retreat committee. As we surveyed folks to find their interests, someone gave me a hand-written note. The person requested that the main speaker be someone whose spouse had failed in ministry, someone who had not successfully climbed the church corporate ladder, someone who had landed and whose ministry had remained in a small-membership church. The person felt she couldn't relate to someone who was "successful" in ministry.

As I thought about the request and the mix of wives (predominately) who attended the retreat, it began to make sense. And it wasn't a pretty picture. Some of these wives really felt that their spouses had been passed by and passed over. They felt that after sacrificing so much, they were relegated to the list of failures, those without leadership qualities or future opportunities. I almost cried and it seemed unfair.

So what counts for success in the local church? Is it the church size and salary? We may say "no,' but when our conference had a bishop who didn't pay attention to appointing clergy advance up the line to larger and larger churches, there was consternation from all sides. So our lips say "no," but our actions say "yes." Who wants their salary cut $10,000 to $20,000? And that happened to some. Then we also had some whose salary increased by the same amount.

We all know that some ministry happens best in small churches. And it better, because about 70-80% of our churches are small. But surely this can't mean that 80% of our pastors are failures if they don't move beyond a small-membership church.

While churches of all sizes have their burdens, the small church definitively does, especially if it is dying. In part, because as the church dies, so does part of the pastor's soul. And pastors and spouses tire out from doing CPR all the time, 24/7.

So what can we do? We can try to change of definition of what constitutes success, but like any platitude, that's too easy. We need our bishops and DSs be more supportive and quit shooting its wounded or perceived wounded clergy. We need to stop blaming pastors and start offering life-support, personally and professionally. We need to pay for pastors so that they can afford to take a sabbatical. A sabbatical shouldn't only be a luxury for a mega-church pastor. We need to stop wringing our hands about money and saying ad nausium that the UMC is dying. Who wants to serve a dying church? (I believe there is a book by that title.) We need to invest in Healthy Congregations. We need to invest in our clergy and stop treating them as though they are the problem.

What can we do? A lot. But it will take all of us.

Grace, Kathy

May 15, 2014

A Foretaste of Glory Divine or Something Else Altogether?

As we were singing last night at choir practice, I couldn't help but be reminded that when the church does things right and its people are right with God, it's like a foretaste of heaven. But there are also other times when the church is sick and the people are not right with God, the church is something else.

When churches are healthy fulfilling their mission with enthusiasm and zeal, the world is a better place. But when the church behaves like other dysfunctional families, it wreaks havoc. As partners in ministry, clergy spouses see a lot of both sides. We see and actually benefit from a healthy church. And most likely our spouse's health is better then too. But when there is bickering and in-fighting with people insisting on their own way, we are directly effected. And the stress for our spouse skyrockets.

So what to do? The church is people and even the people of God are still people--a mixture of good and bad, holiness and sin. And, of course, we are too. There are resources to help move your church toward health. (Healthy Congregations http://healthycongregations.com/ for example), but we need to band together and pray. We need to step back, take stock, and get things into perspective. How? Get a perspective from outside your church. Find a friend and go from there.

Each year at our Annual Conference, we have a spouse lunch. Perhaps you have one as well. It's easy to find out. Yes, it's in the middle of the work week, at least for us; but it is one place you can start looking for support. Believe me, you might be surprised to see that those spouses are pretty much like you. And if you don't need support, there'll be some who do.

Need more heaven and less of the other? It begins with us.

Grace, Kathy

May 14, 2014

More Moving Tips

When we sign up for being a pastor's spouse, many of us don't know that part of our UM system is moving. So if you've not an expert on moving, you will soon be.

Here are a few tips:
1. Weed through your stuff before you move. It's so much easier.
2. When you line up a mover, make sure you know things like how they plan to wrap your good furniture and what they do if it starts raining. (One time movers left my dining room table in the rain while they ran to the truck. They were afraid of lightening, but I think they just wanted a break. There was no lightening.)
3. If the movers damage your furniture, let them know immediately. Movers are insured and expect to pay for damages. Don't just say, "Oh, well."
4. Keep of list of what is in each box. I know this sounds like a pain, but when you start looking for your child's favorite toy, believe me, you'll be glad.
5. If people from the new church move you, that can be a mixed blessing. It's great as long as things go well, but it can be difficult if something unexpected happens.
6. While you may be ready to leave, there will always be folks who will miss you and your family. So make sure you let them say good-bye to you.
7. Then there will be folks who are happy for you leave. It just goes with the territory.
8. Be present when the movers do their work. While you might have some church folks volunteer to help, because you're at work, for example, don't be tempted to think that they will care for your stuff the way you do. (Church folks sat and watched the rain ruin my dining room table and didn't say anything. Nor did they go out and move it themselves, which was all of 10 feet to get it in.)
9. I've had to move by myself while my spouse was at a conference church event. This is no fun. Frankly, some movers will try to take advantage or slack off if a woman is supervising them. So this is the time to have some church folks, especially men, to make sure the movers do what they've agreed to do.
10. Clean the parsonage before you leave. The church folks might have their own cleaning crew to clean-up after you leave, but do your part. This is especially important if you are friends with the next family.

Grace, Kathy

May 6, 2014

Help to Find Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church

For help deciphering the UM issues related to homosexuality, check out this new book.
Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church. Please note that there is a place to respond and make your comments at www.ministrymatters.com/FindingOurWay

Hope Morgan Ward
J. Michael Lowry
John K. Yambasu
Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
Melvin G. Talbert
Neil M. Alexander
Rosemarie Wenner
Rueben P. Job

Questions and conflict about homosexual practice and the church abound. We encounter media reports of same-gender unions and clergy trials. This leads to talk in congregations and district preacher’s meetings, in the hallways at district, conference and general church gatherings, and in the deliberations of the Council of Bishops where we hear prayers, questions, and an outpouring of conviction or anguish.

We observe The United Methodist Church grappling with issues of importance that divide and confound us. We hunger for our church to engage hard questions and decisions in a spirit of generosity, gracefulness, and mutual respect.

This book could change the nature of the conversation. It encourages frank and constructive dialogue that will help us conference together and open ourselves to God’s guidance. We seek faithful, fair, just, and loving resolution to issues that challenge our faith community.
Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church is authored by several United Methodist bishops. These writers enunciate and clarify pathways that represent faithful, responsible, and constructive ways forward through the current controversies. Each bishop articulates a prescription for moving through current conflict about homosexual practice, same-gender unions, qualifications for ordination, and maintaining the “good standing” of elders. Go to www.ministrymatters.com/FindingOurWay to read the introduction and to comment.

Frame: An introduction about the guiding vision and theological framework as we seek together to be faithful to God and to our covenants. By Rueben P. Job, retired, from the Iowa Area, and by Neil M. Alexander, who is publisher for The United Methodist Church.
Part One: Options
Enforce (follow the Book of Discipline): The Discipline interprets scripture and contains the rule of law for UM congregations and elders. When sacred promises are violated, leaders must uphold the spirit and letter of the law and follow the process defined by the Discipline. By Gregory V. Palmer, who serves the Ohio West Area.
Emend (work to change the Book of Discipline): The General Conference legislative process must be engaged to emend the Book of Discipline—or not. This is the responsible and thoroughly United Methodist way of moving through disputes and reaching consensus. By Hope Morgan Ward, who serves the Raleigh Area.
Disobey (biblical obedience): Scripture and the sanctity of love are a higher authority than the Book of Discipline. Therefore, the current impasse must be broken by loving acts of conscientious fidelity to higher principles. By Melvin G. Talbert, retired, from the San Francisco Area.
Disarm (suspending conflict between personal and social holiness): In many kinds of conflicts, in marriage and in war, the conflicted parties drop their weapons or grievances, agree to a cease fire, and search for a peaceful way to resolve their disagreement. By Kenneth H. Carter Jr., who serves the Florida Area.
Part Two: Responses
Order (supporting our covenant): Our sacred trust depends on keeping our promises. By J. Michael Lowry, who serves the Forth Worth Area
Unity (dwelling in God’s church as a family of Christ followers): When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. By John K. Yambasu, who serves the Sierra Leone Area.
Diversity (coexisting with differences). By Rosemarie Wenner, who serves the Germany Area and is current president of the Council of Bishops.
Part Three: Steps
Trust God (discernment): Immerse ourselves in an intense process of prayerful discernment. This approach pleads for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and asks all to open themselves without condition or pre-judgment to the insight and inspiration that comes through deep prayer and listening. By Rueben P. Job, retired, from the Iowa Area.

Finding Our Way is available at Cokesbury for $10.39.

UM Connectional Table Proposes Legislation to Change Stance on Sexuality

We need to know about this, because our local churches are on the front lines. This is from our UM News Service.

United Methodist body considers change to sexuality stance by Heather Hahn

Editor's note: This story now includes more details about the Connectional Table's vote on the motion to reconsider.
The Connectional Table, one of The United Methodist Church’s governing bodies, has decided to draft legislation that could change church law “to fully include LGBTQ persons in the life and ministry of the church.”
The draft would be brought back to the Connectional Table at a future meeting for consideration. The April 29 decision to draft the legislation came the same day the Connectional Table began a series of three public discussions on human sexuality.
The dialogue “is an exercise of our responsibility to be a common table for the church and to confer with one another as representatives of the church,” said Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Connectional Table chair, the day before the event.
“The Connectional Table believes that we need some specific language to inform the discussion before we can seek effective feedback from the Connection and fully discern what our next steps will be," Ough said after the event, in a press release. “This decision has empowered the Table to begin developing such language, which would be open to debate, amendment, and improvement before any final decision is made on adoption.”
The 59-member Connectional Table is a United Methodist governing body of clergy and lay people that coordinates the denomination’s mission, ministry and resources. Any legislation adopted by the body would go to the denomination's top lawmaking assembly, General Conference, for action in 2016.

For full article, go to:


April 29, 2014

Second-hand Stress and Church Living

This post originally came from the blog sponsored by the Duke University Clergy Health Initiative.

In a recent blog post, Jan Bruce, founder and CEO of meQuilibrium, introduced me to the idea of second-hand stress. A distant cousin of second-hand smoke, which we’ve long known to be hazardous to our health, second-hand stress is a recognized condition that indicates you can actually “catch” stress from other people.  Who knew that stress was contagious?

Well, YOU probably knew — pastors are among the most empathetic people out there, a trait which allows you to connect with your parishioners, coworkers, friends, and family and support them in so many ways. However, Ms. Bruce suggests that “being attuned to others’ emotions means that you’re potentially leaving yourself wide open to their frantic, messy, grousing, all-around unpleasant feelings, too.”
Humans are biologically wired to mirror each others’ emotions. Stress management expert Joe Robinson says, “Even if we’re not physically imitating what we see, mirror neurons still fire off a simulated version of the activity in your head as if you actually did it. It’s all designed to help us learn, understand, empathize, and connect with what others are doing and feeling.”

Okay, so your kid slams the door on her way in after school, throws her book bag against the wall and starts pacing back and forth in your kitchen, all the while muttering (or yelling) about the injustices of middle school, teachers, fickle friends, and life in general. You, once a teenager yourself and now a caring mother/father, notice the hair on the back of your neck prickling, your heart rate speeding up, and your palms getting sweaty.  You’ve picked up a case of stress from your daughter!

meQ recommends building “an emotional buffer zone, [which] allows you the space to feel, acknowledge, and name your reactions as they are happening.” This will protect you from the harmful effects of your own stress response and help you channel your energy into a positive reaction.
Here are meQ’s 3 tips for buffering against this second-hand stress (some will work better than others in certain situations):
  1. Trap it, Map it, Zap it: Be aware of your body and emotions. Figure out where these emotions are coming from and what thoughts are behind them. Then, decide if these thoughts are based on reality, or are they just your own interpretation of the situation?
  2. Relaxation Techniques: “The more you practice simple relaxation techniques, the faster and more powerfully they come to your aid when you need them.” Check out these quick-fix relaxation techniques from meQ.
  3. Boundaries: Know what your boundaries are and make sure to stick to them. Are there topics you need to avoid with certain people? Are there times of day that should be off-limits for serious discussions with your spouse? Here are some other examples of personal boundaries.
--Katie Huffman

About Katie Huffman

Katie is a Wellness Advocate with the Clergy Health Initiative. She has an undergraduate degree in History and French and a Masters degree in Gerontology; prior to her current position, Katie worked as a social worker in a retirement community in Chapel Hill. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors, baking, and hanging out with her husband, Noah, their daughter, Ada, and two kitties, Grady and Gracie.

April 25, 2014

The Bible Does Not a Christian Make

It's probably not shocking to you, but the Bible is not the same as Christianity, and being biblically literate is not the same as being a good Christian. The Bible is, however, a gift from God, but it is meant to be a light to guide our path--a path that can lead back to God. For us Wesleyans, that path is also known as the road to perfection.

The Bible is a light that helps us find our way; it is not the final destination. So as much as we are encouraged to read and understand the Bible, we must never be fooled into thinking that knowing the Bible means that we know all about God. Knowing is a part of faith, but practicing our faith and living in love and charity with others, whether they be God, self, family, neighbors, strangers, or enemies--that is reason for our faith. We have faith so we can love God, others, and ourself more and more deeply.

This light the Bible gives is also meant to reinforce and encourage our inner light, that place inside of us where God dwells. It seems that too many people believe "in the Bible." No, we believe in God who can, but who doesn't have to, speak to us from the Bible. The Bible is not a rule book or a book of laws. As Paul says in Romans and elsewhere, Christ has freed us from the law, which only brings death. In Christ, we are freed for joyful obedience not servitude. We abound in grace not law or even works.

Paul also wrote that Scripture was only one part of our armor. It is the sword of faith. The sword of faith, the Bible, is meant only to protect and defend us. It is not meant to be used as a weapon against others. And we are certainly never required to fall on our sword, that is, use the Bible in self-defeating or self-injuring ways. Although I have to confess that I do like to brandish and duel with my sword a little much too often.

A person once asked me if I believed in the Bible. It was a kind of "do you beat your spouse" sort of question --no good answer. I muttered something and changed the subject. But later I thought how I should have answered her and what I'd do next time someone asks. No, I don't believe in the Bible, I believe in God. There is a difference.

Grace, Kathy

April 21, 2014

The Color of Prayer

This comes from the leaders of our Adult Education at our local church. Thought you'd enjoy it as well.

"We have been using a video during our class time to teach us more about prayer and yesterday one of the topics on the video was The Color of Prayer. I thought this was so fascinating because I had never thought about prayer having a color. Think about that for a minute. What color would you assign to prayer? Some responses of people on the video were white, rainbow, and blue. But the response that I loved was a man that is a hospice counselor. He said that the color of prayer for him was water. He explained that he knew that wasn't a particular color, but when he thought about prayer he always compares it to water. Water is fluid just as our prayer life should be. A constant flow of communication between us and God. He said sometimes the water is clear and sometimes the water is muddy. Sometimes the answers from God are crystal clear and sometimes the answers are not so clear and we have to spend more time in meditation and discernment. Sometimes water flows gently and calmly and sometimes the water is rough with huge waves. Our prayers can be loving words of praise and gratitude exchanged between us and God or our prayers can express our anger, frustration, or impatience for why we are going through particular trials and tribulations."

Happy Easter Monday,

April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

If you're looking to understand Maunday Thursday better, see Will Willimon's book, Thank God It's Thursday. You can get it for under $5 at Cokesbury.com.


And here's a good book about Good Friday also by Will Willimon. You can get either a print or ebook for about $10.


Have a great Holy Week. We continue at our church tonight with a Maunday Thursday service.


April 15, 2014

God's Plan for You

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and next Sunday is Easter. Many Christians are all to happy to celebrate the triumphal entry and the glorious Resurrection, but not so keen on what happened between.

The New Testament  is very clear that Jesus did not simply get swept up into events when they got out of control. He had a plan. He had a plan then; he had a plan for his followers; and he has a plan for each of us now.

Even before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, he had things planned out. He directed his disciples to go get the donkey. He could do this because he had made arrangements ahead of time. Before the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples to prepare the meal in a place that's he's already "booked." While the disciples might be clueless and stumble, Jesus never does. He prayerfully planned and stuck to it, even when tempted to go a different way in the Garden.

Jesus was a planner, but his planning do not conflict with his dependence on God. The Gospel of Matthew quotes the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. The messiah would come riding humbly on a donkey. He's not humble because of the donkey. He's humble because of his total reliance on God. This was his refuge when he suffered and wrestled with his will in Gethsemane . He gave himself over the God's will, which always intends only the good for us.

But if you're like me, sometimes we have difficulty understanding the line between our plan and totally relying on God. Depending on God does not mean that we just let happen what's going to happen or that we just fling ourselves headlong down a particular path. It means consulting with God as we make our plans, so that they reflect God's desires in the first place. So when things get dicey or we want to chicken out, we can fall back and depend on the steadfast loving kindness of God to move us forward and along that road to perfection.

Hope you find ways to reflect Christ in your life this week.

Nashville, TN

April 14, 2014

Cosmos Rewrites History

The FOX series, Cosmos, is truly wonderful. But it also shows that even something that advertises itself as strictly factual can stoop to rewriting history or presenting history as they wish it had been--as their version of the story.

Take, for example, the cartoon scene where the series talks about first buds of democracy in the Greek city states. Here the show plays fast and loose with history. When the Greeks talked about "the people," they had a highly selective group of people in mind: no women, no slaves, no children, no foreigners, no one who was not a citizen. Perhaps the show should have said, democracy was it was understood in the 19th century, not as we understand it today.

Next, Neil DeGrasse Tyson mentions Democritus as the "father of science" and he was indeed an important thinker, but he was also student of Leucippus. These are both shadowy figures at best, and it is difficult to attribute what ideas originated with whom. If the show wants accuracy, some things have to be nuanced.

Then there is the wildly inaccurate cartoon scene of ancient Greek men and women sitting together informally discussing philosophy. Very appealing but highly unlikely that women were allowed to mix with men on an equal basis and be allowed to speak with authority in the public sphere. This is just wishful thinking.

All this to say, that viewers need to be careful when watching even a great show. With the limitations the producers have to work with, they do a fine job. But not all of what it shown and said is reliable. You can't bank on all of it. The show exhibits its own degree of prejudice. They should leave the history to real historians and let the scientists do science.

Grace, Kathy

When Is the Church not the Body of Christ?

We are all familiar with Paul's letter, First Corinthians, which tells us that "You (you plural) are the body of Christ." And sometimes the Church does act like the Body of Christ. But like Israel went astray, chasing after false gods, so can the Church. The Church is meant to be active in the world, helping reconcile its people to God. But all to often, it becomes self-preoccupied and not only forgets its mission, but forgets whose mission it is anyway. It's not our mission but God's. The Church is only a means God can use to offer people salvation--healing and wholeness.

Too often, the Church gets caught up in its own organization and committees. When that happens, the Church takes its eyes off God and thus opens itself up for temptation to follow something or someone else, whether it is a self-proclaimed guru who promises success or the shiny god of a particular political ideology.

In our conference appointments are finished. And there is nothing that speaks to the human character of the Church like this process of sending pastors, despite the fact that Cabinets often fret and stew over them. Sometimes bishops and Cabinets have to make painful decisions that they know will hurt the pastor and/or the pastor's family--for the "good" of the Church.

As we approach Holy Week, let's remember what the Church is called to be and what we as individual Christians are called to do. Let us, at least for this week, keep our eyes on Jesus.

Grace, Kathy

April 7, 2014

The TV series Cosmos, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, inspires awe, as viewers enjoy learning about the wonders of the universe. And it is a good reminder of our place in it.

We are infinitesimal. And watching the series has given me new depth of meaning to the Psalms--"Oh, LORD, my Lord, how majestic is your name." Yes, our God is beyond all imagining. And we are so small in comparison. This fact alone can go a long to remedy human pride and concupiscence. Earth is only one planet in one galaxy in one star system in the visible universe.

Cosmos, as a voice from science, can serve to remind us that, in the grand scheme of things, even all together, we really don't matter very much. But as the series also points out, individuals bear the weight of discovery. And without these people, we would still be living in caves with lifespans half of what we now enjoy. And God loves us individually.

The fact that God cares for us blows my mind. The fact that God came to us is beyond belief.

As Paul says, "we see in a glass darkly, but then face-to-face." Consider that we can never experience the broad spectrum of sound and/or light waves. We know in part and we understand even less. What really matters is faith, hope, and love.

Surely, seeing how small we are and how contingent our planet is when compared to the vastness of the universe will encourage us to seek even greater dependence on God. For God is the ground of our hope and a ready source of help in time of trouble.

Grace, Kathy

April 3, 2014

Request for Help and Information about UMC Spilt

Friends, sometimes it is hard to really know what is going on in our United Methodist Church. Where I sit, I'm hearing rumors about a UMC split over the issues related to homosexuality. But in my local church, no one is talking about this at all. So I'm trying to find out just how prevalent conversations about a split actually are in local congregations. Do local churches really care? Is this just a general church issue, a clergy issue, a lay issue, a regional issue, or what?

Are these rumors like the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus talks about in Matthew 16:8-13?

Frankly, if we split, it will be like us shooting ourselves in the foot. How will we support our missionaries and UMCOR? We will dilute our witness and weaken our effectiveness. As United Methodists we should be experienced at reconciling divisions rather than promoting them. All congregations have disagreements, but they remain one church. We are a body of believers who, in my experience, represent a range of beliefs on most everything. We may want to agree on the essentials, but sometimes even that is impossible. There was a much-loved Sunday school teacher in one of our former congregations. In her heart of hearts, she believed in double predestination. In this, she was a Calvinist through and through, but she was a member of The United Methodist Church. Because beside her belief about God’s sovereignty, resided another—God’s gracious and extravagant love for us and God’s intent that we love and serve unselfishly. But given a UM theology litmus test, most likely she would fail. Does your congregation have people like this?

The real question is whether or not we, as a church, will succumb to letting our own human sin and frailties divide us. How sad would it be if we split only because of what we believe about ourselves and human nature. But first, it this even on the radar in your local church?

Grace, Kathy 

April 1, 2014

Wisdom for Appointment Time

Let's be in prayer for all involved in the appointment process. But as I thought about the difficult and all-too-painful results, this story from Judges came to mind. It was comforting somehow.

Judges 9:10-15
Once the trees went out to anoint a king over themselves, so they said to the olive tree, "Be our king." But the olive tree replied to them, "Should I stop producing my oil, which is how gods and humans are honored, so that I can go to sway over the trees?"

So the tree said to the fig tree, "You come and be king over us!" The fig tree replied to them, "Should I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, so that I can go to sway over the trees?"

Then the trees said to the vine, "You come and be king over us!" But the vine replied to them, "Should I stop providing my wine that makes gods and humans happy, so that I can go to away over the trees?"

Finally, all the trees said to the thornbush, "You come and be king over us.!" And the thornbush replied to the trees. "If you're acting faithfully in anointing me king over you, come and take shelter in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the thornbush and burn up the cedars of Lebanon.

Grace, Kathy

March 24, 2014

Lay Leadership in Our Church

This post is from the chairs of our education committee, sent out each Monday morning.

Lord, we pray for those who need you the most, and we pray for those who think they need you the least.

Good morning everyone,

The above prayer is part of the morning meditation on one of the mornings on the Walk to Emmaus. It has always stuck with me and I have been thinking about it a lot recently. On Saturday morning, I brought my kids to the church to once again help with the water ministry. If you have not had a chance to help with this ministry yet, I encourage you to give it a try! With 90% of our community expressing that faith is not an important part of their lives, it is more important than ever to spread the good news! These are the people who need God the most, but feel they need God the least. 

I was reminded of the above prayer again yesterday when the pastor spoke about fellow Christians who through their own judgmental ways, persecute other believers. I think we have probably all been guilty of this at some point in our faith journeys when we feel someone is not following Christ as we think they should. At that moment, WE are the ones who need God the most, but may be calling on Him the least. 

I personally have a person in each category in my life right now. I have one who is a non-believer and I have one who feels their spiritual journey is far above my own. So what do you do? PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY some more. We simply have to lift these people to God and allow Him to work in their lives. We also have to listen for God because He may call on us to be the one to make a difference in their lives. So today Lord, we pray for those who need you the most and we pray for those who think they need you the least. Bless our lives so we can be a blessing to those you put in our path. Amen. 

March 19, 2014

Some Thoughts on Homosexuality and The United Methodist Church

                It is difficult to be a United Methodist and not know that the issue of homosexuality is controversial for our Church. I’m even aware that there is continued and sustained talk about a denominational split, as some of our sister denominations have done already. But I am convinced that the one thing we cannot do is abandon the conversation to extremists on either side, because they are happy to take aim and shot their opponents using us as their cover and then turn around and express their regret to us, their collateral damage.
                What is at stake? The unity of the UMC, but more important what our unity means  ̶  effective Christian witness  and mission throughout the world. There is no doubt, that together as one Church, we are more effective. Many of you are fond of C.S. Lewis. He says that after he became a Christian he was amazed how much time Christians spent arguing about their differences. He was much more interested with what we have in common. I invite you to be of like mind.
                What do we risk? Aside from the obvious practicalities of who gets the Pension Board and who gets the Publishing House, for example, we risk losing the talent and commitment of some of our most gifted and Spirit-led members. Because there are gifted and Spirit-led people on both sides.
                How can this be? How can it be that there are Spirit-led people on both sides? Because that is the way it always happens. The Church has always been fond of labeling people it disagrees with as heretics. Sometimes the Church officials excommunicated, sometimes it elected to burn people at the stake. Perhaps we would all benefit from re-reading Church history. Who were some of those who left their Church? Martin Luther, John Calvin, and, oh yes, John Wesley. These left a Church that was too enamored of its doctrine and polity—their church law, their tradition.
                But what about Scripture? Didn't these reformers take up the banner and follow Scripture? Yes, but more important, they followed the living Christ into their world. Didn't they care about order and adherence to discipline? Yes, of course, but they also saw that legalism spelled death.

                So what do we do? What should we do as a denomination? The way forward is difficult, but Christians throughout history have not hesitated to walk through fire if their faith and trust in God was strong enough. Should we quit or shake hands and turn our backs on our friends and colleagues who disagree on this one thing alone? Are we so arrogant to think that we know enough to divide Christ’s Church over sexuality? We are not talking about grand debates about the nature of the Trinity or the divinity of Christ. We are not even talking about the Real Presence in Communion. People shed blood and died over these issues. We are talking about something that is quintessentially human. So will we divide Christ’s Church because of our own limitations? 
               I invite you to think through these issues and become more informed as we seek to embody the love and grace of God for each other as we move forward. The world is watching.


March 18, 2014

Our Prayer for the Ukraine

From Bishop Eduard Khegay, Eurasia Area of The United Methodist Church

My prayer is for Ukraine, for peace and unity. My prayer is for Ukraine – this is a song of our brothers and sisters from UMC in Kiev who created this video.   


During our meeting of pastors and leaders of United Methodist Church in Ukraine this week we lifted up our prayers for the people and the country, for peace and unity. Brothers and sisters shared their worries and concerns for the country’s future. Many could not come from the east to Zakarpatie where we have had our meeting. As I was preaching in our churches in Zakarpatie, my heart was filled with grace and faith, when brothers and sisters with tears in their eyes lifted up their prayers to God for their country. In this politically conflicting time, the church continues to share the gospel way – the way of active ministry to people, preaching of hope and faith, proclamation of God’s power and providence in the history of humankind. According to testimonies of brothers and sisters from different cities, Christian churches never prayed so fervently for their country and for their people as in this difficult time. Also, people were never so open for the gospel and for prayer as in this time.

I thank God for United Methodist churches in Ukraine, who bring hope and reconciliation to people in this difficult time, encourage people and serve those in need. Let us all stand in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, for all people and country. My prayer is for Ukraine.

Bishop Khegay, we join you and commit to pray for the people of the Ukraine. We will not abandon them.


March 17, 2014

UM Clergy and Same-Sex Weddings


The Rev. Dr. Thomas Warren Ogletree presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20, 2012. The service took place at the Yale Club in New York City. Subsequently, The Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and the Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, a retired pastor in the New York Annual Conference, filed a complaint against Rev. Ogletree after his son’s wedding announcement appeared on Oct. 21, 2012, in The New York Times. The complaint triggered a supervisory process conducted by Bishop Martin McLee of the New York Annual Conference and an attempt to find a just resolution among the parties.  When this process failed to yield such a resolution in the time period specified by the The Discipline of the United Methodist Church, Bishop McLee announced that he would refer the matter to a Counsel for The Church for further investigation.
Bishop McLee appointed the Rev. Timothy J. Riss, pastor of The Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church and an elder in the New York Annual Conference, to represent the Church’s interests in all further proceedings.  Rev. Riss reviewed the facts in the case and eventually determined that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a charge being filed against Rev. Ogletree for violating ¶2702.1b of the Discipline, which prohibits United Methodist pastors from officiating at same gender marriage ceremonies.  He drew up a bill of charges, consisting of a single charge that Rev. Ogletree had violated the provisions of ¶2702.1b and presented his findings to Bishop McLee.  Bishop McLee accepted Rev. Riss’s recommendation to proceed to a trial and then appointed retired United Methodist Bishop S. Clifton Ives to preside over the trial.  He also scheduled the trial for March 10, 2014 at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, CT.
On January 29, 2014, at the first meeting among the counsels and Presiding Officer, Bishop Ives, in keeping with Disciplinary guidelines, made the decision to return the matter to Bishop McLee for a further attempt at just resolution.  This was done with the concurrence of Rev. Riss and the Counsel for Rev. Ogletree, the Rev. Scott Campbell, pastor of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, MA, and with the agreement of Bishop McLee.  A meeting was fixed with Bishop McLee and the other parties for the morning of February 6.  At that time a verbal agreement on the general terms of a just resolution was achieved.  The details of the agreement were subsequently communicated, refined and agreed upon by the Church and the respondent via email and conference calls.  The terms of this agreement follow.

Agreement for a Just Resolution

After a process of dialogue spanning nearly two months, the persons signing this document have entered into a Just Resolution Agreement in the matter of the Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree and the New York Annual Conference.  The comments of the Rev. Randall C. Paige and the Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, the original complainants, were received and considered as part of the just resolution negotiations.  They are entered as a part of the record of this process.  The terms of the agreement are:
1.  Dr. Ogletree agrees to forego his constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial by his peers.
2.  Dr. Ogletree agrees to make himself available, health permitting, for at least one public forum to be convened by the office of Bishop Martin McLee to reflect theologically, spiritually and ecclesiastically on the nature of the covenant that binds us together in the United Methodist Church.
3.  Bishop McLee calls for and commits to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies and instead will offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.  His statement is attached to this document. [below]
4.  Bishop McLee will convene within six months a public forum dealing with matters of human sexuality and the United Methodist Church.
a. The purpose of this forum will be to contribute to healing within the body and greater understanding among those who are affiliated with the New York Annual Conference.  The Bishop intends that persons would listen deeply to one another in an atmosphere of Christian respect.
b. This forum shall reflect a variety of different opinions and understandings.
c. Dr. Ogletree, representatives from MIND (Methodists in New Directions), the Wesley Fellowship, and other such parties as the Bishop shall determine shall be invited to participate in this forum.
d. The Bishop shall report on his plans for this forum and the results of this forum to the Committee on the Episcopacy of the New York Annual Conference.  This Committee shall have the authority to modify the timeline for this forum if necessary.
5.  The Parties recognize that certain limited third parties involved in legal consultation may be privy to the circumstances and terms of the Just Resolution proceedings.  Notwithstanding those limited disclosures, the Just Resolution negotiations themselves are to be considered confidential.  It is understood that the parties with whom such limited disclosure is shared are bound by the same confidentiality as the signatories to this agreement.

Statement by Bishop Martin McLee of the
New York Annual Conference

I am grateful to report that the matter concerning the Reverend Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree will not result in a church trial as a just resolution has been achieved. The just resolution provisions of the Book of Discipline are clear in voicing just resolution as the preferred response in Judicial Administration. Church trials produce no winners. While many insist on the trial procedure for many reasons, I offer that trials are not the way forward. Church trials disrupt annual conference life, they drain dedicated Episcopal and staff time. Church trials result in harmful polarization and continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The burdensome cost of trials combine to negate any benefit in the ongoing debate on matters relating to human sexuality.
As the Bishop of the New York Annual Conference, in consideration of my responsibility to provide spiritual, pastoral and temporal oversight for those committed to my care, I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation. I understand that nothing in this agreement deprives any clergyperson of his or her constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial.
In the next few months I will invite the Reverend Dr. Ogletree to join others from varying perspectives to a public forum on the true nature of the covenant that binds us together. Clearly there continues to be multiple perspectives on matters of human sexuality and the response of the church. While this forum may not resolve this ongoing challenge, it will provide an opportunity for healing and a chance for open and honest dialogue.
God bless us all as we seek to be light and life in a time of theological challenge.
All my prayers,
Bishop Martin McLee

Statement by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree

In recognition of Bishop Martin McLee’s publicly stated intention to approach the matter of marriage equality in a non-juridical manner, but instead to offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical reflection, I hereby relinquish my right to a trial on the charge that has been brought against me for officiating at a same gender wedding ceremony. I further agree to make myself available, health permitting, to participate in the above-mentioned Forum that Bishop McLee will convene.
Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree
End of Just Resolution Agreement

March 14, 2014

Hidden Messages

If you think you're observant, take a look at what's "hidden" in these familiar logos.


Funny thing is, at least for me, once you've seen it, you can't "unsee." Every time I go past that ice cream place, I'll forever see the "31."

Being a Christian is much the same. Once someone knows you're a Christian, they will never look at you the same way. That's because people have preconceived ideas of what Christians are supposed to be like. Sometimes that's a good thing, but many times people suppose we vote a particular way or hold certain opinions, which we may or may not.

No one likes to be prejudged, despite our mistakes, gaffs, and lapses in judgement. So let's just be kind and gracious to each other, even in the church. And extend the grace that God so freely gives us.

Blessings on your ministry.

March 12, 2014

What Would Jesus Do?

This from the February issue of Christian Century. (Yes, I'm behind on my reading.)

The 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population or 3.5 billion people, according to Oxfam.

Think about it.

March 4, 2014

Rekindling Your Flame

Every Monday, our Sunday School leadership sends out an email to all teachers. The thoughts below are from last Monday's email. The phrase that really caught my attention was "I'm not sure if it has been this brutally cold winter or just time in the valley..." With so much winter this year and with so many sick, who doesn't need a rekindled flame. Thought you'd enjoy her words of encouragement.

"John 15:5-8
The Message (MSG)
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Good morning everyone,
Have you seen those Charter commercials that start with, "When your cable goes out...."? And then it follows a downward progression to some absurd, but funny ending.  Have you ever thought that the same example could be used for our spiritual life? I think it would go something like this: When our flame goes out, we get stressed and depressed. And when we get stressed and depressed we try to take things into our own hands.  And when we take things into our own hands, we make bad choices.  And when we make bad choices, we think we are failures.  And when we think we are failures, we get in a rut. Don't get in a rut.  Ask God back into your life and get in the groove!

I'm not sure if it has been this brutally cold winter or just time in the valley,  but I have noticed a lot of people who seem to have lost their flame.  God tells us we will have highs and lows, but no matter the season, we must draw near to Him.  I pray that we reconnect to the life-sustaining Vine so we can produce much fruit for the Kingdom!"

Grace, Kath

February 27, 2014

A Little Child Will Lead Us (Again)

Last Saturday our church gave away free bottles of water as people stopped at the light in front of our church. Perhaps your church has done this too. But this was our first time, so we are in a learning mode.

Our church has a great location and is visible from a major road in our town, and we wanted to reach out to the more than 90% of our community that does not go to church anywhere. If your church is exploring its demographics, they are quite revealing. It's not that United Methodist are a minority, it's all Christian churches. And we, like many places, have a church on most every corner. Most of these unchurched folks will not come to us, so we figured that passing out free water would be a nonthreatening way to help people to at least notice. And who doesn't drink bottled water or like free?

As you might expect, many people were wary of (especially) men. Getting people to open their car windows and accept our gift was not easy. That is until a couple of small kids joined the group. It helps that they are cute. One is 6 and the other is 8, but their presence made all the difference. They stood with their mom and the boom began. People not only stopped but asked questions and thanked us. All the bottles were gone quickly.

Were our efforts successful? Yes, but with our children present and helping, the message was significantly different and more easier accepted. Jesus was right. Little children do lead us.

If your church is looking to find ways to reach out to the 90% who are unchurched, giving away bottled water is a good way to start. But  including children will not only help your efforts, but they will inspire the rest of your congregation.

How are things going in your church? In what ways is your church serving and helping to usher in the Kingdom?

Grace, Kathy

February 24, 2014

Attract Families to Your Church and Keep Them Coming Back

Every church needs this new book by Linda Ranson Jacobs! This book comes out May 1 and is for every pastor, every children's and family minister, and every Sunday School teacher.

Make your church family friendly. Navigate through the changing tides in ministry and become a church that families want to attend.  Reach out to all kinds of families: two-parent families with children, blended families, boomerang families, adult children of divorce and their families or lack of families, single adults whose family is the church, grandparents parenting again, childless families, co-habitation families, and children with three legal parents. 

This book gives practical helps and suggestions for ministries, worship, small groups, and even facilities. Author and family expert Linda Ranson Jacobs will help you to create a welcoming place for everyone.

Buy it here:

Here is what churches have to provide to attract today's families:
1. A strong children's ministry that caters to the individual needs of their child.
2. A safe place for their children.
3. A place that meets the adult's need for spiritual growth.
4. A place where adults and children feel loved and accepted.

1. The Church That Might Have Been
2. What Parents Want
3. Taking a Page out of the Book of Nehemiah
4. Creating a Family-Friendly Church for Single-Parent Families
5. Nontraditional Families Are the New Normal
6. Other Common Family Structures
7. Looks Count and So Do Church Attitudes
8. Keeping the Family in Family Ministry
9. Electronic Steeples: Social Media and the Digital World
10. Making Worship Family Friendly
11. What to Do with Those Challenging Kids
12. More Help Attracting Families to Your Church

Linda Ranson Jacobs is a popular church consultant, author, trainer, program developer, and a family expert who regularly writes and speaks to church leaders throughout the United States. Linda is the developer of HLP4 (Healthy, Loving, Partnerships For), a website for single parents and those working with single parents, the creator of DC4K, (DivorceCare for Kids), and a contributing developer of the H.E.R.O.E.S. CARE Project, (Homefront Enabling Relationships, Opportunities, and Empowerment through Support).

I kid you not, your church will benefit from this book. Costs under $12.

February 14, 2014

What Does Love Look Like

The meaning of love deepens over the years. It still means warm and near when you are together or in separate rooms or even distant cities. As the movie reminds us, "Love means never having to say that you're sorry." (Although saying "sorry" doesn't hurt either.)

But here are some other acts of love.

Picking up crumbs off the floor that your spouse dropped when he was sneaking a cookie before dinner.
Sharing the box of chocolates your spouse got you for Valentine's Day.
Being ok when your pastor spouse has to leave the dinner table and rush off to a congregational emergency again.
Listening to your spouse share about his day even though you have other things you need to do.
Taking time to always kiss your spouse good bye and tell him that you love him.
Being happy that he was happy with the banana pudding you fixed him for his Valentine's gift.

How much more, then, does God love us? You can connect the dots.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day. I hope you can be with those you love the most.

Grace, Kathy

February 13, 2014

What Is the Anxiety Level at Your Church?

Last night at choir practice, we prayed for so many people. It seems that everyone knows someone who is struggling with illness or other trauma. It gives great comfort to pray with others and have the assurance that all is in God's hands.

But I'm not sure why we don't have that same confidence when it comes to dealing with money in the church. Like many churches, our church wishes it had more money for mission and ministry. Giving is down but that is because some major givers have moved. Membership has increased, but many young families don't have the resources to give. While I am grateful that our church is growing and that there are new faces in the congregation, money issues seem to be the only issues that matter to some folks.

Now if people really tithed, that would be another story. Perhaps God will prompt them to be more generous. Research shows that pastors give a much higher percentage of their income to the church than other people in the congregation, and many more pastors tithe. Maybe our family has more of a vested interest. I certainly hope that is not the case, but sadly  (and frankly this annoys me) I've seen too many people just leave the church instead of helping make it better.

Our church and community have suffered some tough blows this last year, but Jesus is the Lord of the future and our friend. There is no reason to be anxious.


February 7, 2014

Extravagant Generosity

Last night a large group of us went to a local restaurant to eat and meet. At the meeting was a new person who had never attended before. Because our church's budget is very tight this year, the pastor asked if our group could donate to a particular church project--he was asking for second-mile giving. And while it is true that most of us go the second and third mile in giving, there was some hesitation and further discussion about the normal things like how much are we really talking about, how many other times will we be asked, why is the budget so tight, do we really need this, didn't the pastor know that we were short on funds too?

You get the picture and the direction of the conversation. The glass was not only half empty, but losing its contents with every passing moment. You won't be surprised to learn that the upshot of the discussion was to wait and see how much money are group had later. How much later was not considered.

While you might think that we were just being responsible and thoughtful in considering this request that actually came from the trustees and not the pastor (I asked him when I got home.), we were really being negative and, in my opinion, petty. We were not talking about thousands of dollars but maybe $200. And looking at most of the people seated with me (there were more than 20 of us), we all had the ability to write out a check then and there. But no one offered.

When we finished the meal, the new person ducked out. Nobody thought anything about it, but when she came back she whispered to me that she had paid for the dinner. At first I thought she meant that she meant just her's. But no, she really did mean dinner, all of it, everyone's dinner. She didn't want to announce it and asked me to. Actually she did it because with so many of us, it would take forever to get out of the restaurant and get home. It was already late. She didn't do it to be generous or make a statement. She just did it because she could. She did it for joy.

When I made the announcement, you can believe that everyone was surprised, to put it mildly. What a gift. It was unearned, unmerited, freely given, no strings attached. It was grace pure and simple from a guest at our table. The irony could not have been more profound. It made me reflect on what Jesus probably was thinking about our "responsible" behavior. It was not a proud moment for me but it was, nonetheless, a grace-filled experience of extravagant generosity.


February 6, 2014

"Someone" Is Unhappy!

You might think that after being in ministry for a while, a spouse would be able to handle this situation. Sorry to say that the learning curve for me is just too steep.

Last night at a prayer meeting, a person voiced the concern that "someone" (She didn't name them.) was upset and feeling pushed out. She didn't not want to mention names and she didn't. She really did want us to pray for our church. Naturally, we don't want anyone to feel unwelcome or alienated.

But even with her good intentions, the bomb had been thrown. Everyone reacted. Some just wanted to help. Some were curious. But we all were confused. Who could it be? And more seriously, what should we do?

I supposed that it may point to our lack of faith that we didn't think praying about it was enough. So we pressed her. Who are these people anyway and why are they upset? Then she replied and this is what shocked all of us. She said that we should just know. Couldn't we look around and see who wasn't there?

Really? We have over 800 members in our church. Three services. And lots of new people.

But yes, she said we should know already. Maybe she is right. If the church is our family, we'd notice who didn't show up for dinner. But there are so many and the vast majority attend twice a month. I'm still learning names and I've been there for seven years.

Then it hit me, she  expected that the pastor should also know. It was then that I started feeling annoyed. How many times have I heard (here and elsewhere) that people aren't happy and that was the pastor's fault. Why is the pastor responsible for the personal happiness of the members of the congregation? The pastor's job is not to make people happy or keep them from being upset. If people are upset it is their responsibility to speak out. Maybe they had, but who could know?

I care a lot about our prayer group, but it is times like these that I feel the special weight of being the pastor's spouse. There are so many unspoken expectations--some fair, others not.

Perhaps you have an opinion. What would you do?

Grace, Kathy