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 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

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 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.

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