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Two Sections

Burning Questions with Bill Dobbs

Crossing the Finish Line Kimberly Grauer was plagued with uncertainty regarding the fate of her loved ones | 8A

‘Do I Really Have to Go to Conference?’ | 4A

Section A 079000 Vol. 160 No. 1 May 3, 2013

2013 Annual Conferences: A Preview

By Erik Alsgaard, Paul Thomas, and Mark Doyal John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, kept a profuse journal. One day he wrote: “In June 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those who heard us. After some time, I invited the lay preachers that were in the house to meet with us. We conferred together for several days and were much comforted and strengthened thereby.” In that tradition and spirit, the Detroit and West Michigan conferences will meet in the coming weeks to do much the same. There will be preaching, Bible study, prayer, reports, the setting of clergy appointments, singing—ah yes, the singing!—worship, ordination and commissioning, and abundant time to “confer together.” The Detroit Conference will meet in Adrian, Mich., from May 16–19, on the campus of United Methodist-related Adrian College. Opening worship is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on May 16 in the Herrick Memorial Chapel. The West Michigan Conference will meet May 29 through June 1, on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. Opening worship is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 29, in the Covenant Fine Arts Center (CFAC). Bishop Deborah Kiesey—who will be convening her first conferences in West Michigan and Detroit since being appointed episcopal leader of the Michigan Area in September 2012—will be preaching the opening worship service and the service of Ordination and Commissioning for both conferences. Bishop Kiesey has selected one over-arching theme for the next four years of annual conference sessions: “Disciples: Made in Michigan.” Each of the next four years, at both annual conference sessions, will highlight a sub-theme. In the West Michigan Conference, it will be “Inspire,” and in Detroit, it will be “Lead.” Bishop Kiesey has chosen 2 Timothy 1:3–7 as the biblical center of the conferences. “During these holy days of Annual Conference,” the bishop wrote, “as we worship, work, and fellowship together, let’s remember that the sincere and deep faith that brought us here—the ‘faith that lived first in your Grandmother, Lois, and your mother, Eunice, and now, I am sure, lives in you’ (2 Tim. 1:5)—is still strong.” In line with the Detroit Conference’s sub-theme of “Lead,” the Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor at Resurrection UMC in

Leawood, Kansas—a 16,000 member church—and wellknown author, speaker, and preacher at the Inaugural Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, will be leading three, 90-minute interactive sessions on leadership on May 16 and 17. Hamilton has received the Denman Award in Evangelism, and the Circuit Rider Award for excellence in church leadership. He was named Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church by the Foundation for Evangelism, and he was named one of the “Ten People to Watch in America’s Spiritual Landscape” by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. Preacher for the Detroit Conference will be the Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, pastor at CrossRoads UMC in Phoenix, Ariz., and the author of “ReStart Your Church.” Escobedo-Frank will be preaching on May 17 and 18. “We are excited to be bringing Dottie Escobedo-Frank as our conference preacher during this year when we focus on leadership in the local church,” said the Rev. Marsha Woolley, chairperson of the Detroit Conference Program Committee. Escobedo-Frank grew up on the border between Arizona and

The Rev. Adam Hamilton will lead three sessions on leadership during the Detroit Annual Conference.

The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank will be the guest preacher at the Detroit Annual Conference.

Mexico, and has worked as a social worker and pastor. Author of several books, she recently graduated with a Doctorate of Ministry from George Fox Evangelical Seminary. “Our worship services are being shaped around the themes of ‘ReMember,’ ‘ReCall,’ ‘ReKindle,’ and ‘ReClaim,’ all of which are images taken from 2 Timothy,” said Woolley. A highlight of the West Michigan Annual Conference will be a one-day event, “Inspire Saturday,” a special drive-in day on June 1 in VanNoord Arena on the Campus of Calvin College, inviting churches to bring their emerging visionary leaders to gather for worship, fellowship, and learning. About 1,500 people are expected to attend. The keynote speaker for this event will be Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr., who will provide the highlight of this year’s focus on adaptive, principled leadership. Dr. Weems is recognized as one of United Methodism’s visionary voices and is a professor of church leadership and director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. A respected pastor, educator, author and leader. The author of several books published by Abingdon Press, Weems’ recent offering, “Bearing The Rev. Lovett Weems will help the West Fruit: Ministry with Real Michigan Conference Results,” is recommended for focus on adaptive, study prior to Annual principled leadership, Conference. In it, Weems asserts, during a special drive-in “The church exists to change the day session on June 1. world. Our work matters, and we dare not engage it without an eye toward the quantifiable contribution we are making.” Books will be provided for Annual Conference members free of charge; all others are asked to purchase the book from Cokesbury or Amazon. For people attend just the special drive-in day, “Inspire Saturday,” registration is open online at Continued on back page

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GOOD WORKS Green Garden UMC helps Harvest 2020 On Sunday, April 14, Green Garden UMC, a small congregation in Manhattan, Ill., presented a check of $7,938 to the Rev. Diana Facemyer, Aurora District superintendent, and the Rev. Martin Lee, director of congregational development, for Harvest 2020, the Northern Illinois Conference’s churchplanting initiative. The church will also give nearly $4,000 a year for the next 8 years. The money came from Wilfred Belsner, who passed away in 2008, leaving 80 acres of farmland to seven churches including Green Garden and Peotone UMC.

St. Luke in Dallas marks 80th year On March 19, both houses of the Texas Legislature recognized St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas for 80 years of service to the city, state and nation. Church members along with senior pastor, the Rev. Henry Masters, traveled to Austin for St. Luke Day at the Capitol. The church was organized in April 1933 as Saint Paul Mission, to minister to the needs of the southeast Dallas community. It eventually became St. Luke Methodist Church; “Community” was later added to the name to signify the church’s civic mission. St. Luke marked its 80th anniversary with a special worship service on April 28.

UM agency names advancement director The Rev. Neil Blair has been appointed executive director of Institutional Advancement for the UMC’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, with responsibility for developing a fundraising program for the agency. Mr. Blair will also support existing programs such as Africa University and the Black College Fund. Most recently, he served as president of The Foundation for Evangelism in Lake Junaluska, N.C. Mr. Blair is an ordained elder in the Dakotas Annual Conference. —Compiled by Mary Jacobs

May 3, 2013

UMCOR makes grants for Sandy recovery B Y L I N DA B L O O M United Methodist News Service

NEW YORK—United Methodists in New York were counting on the regional shipments of 15,000 flood buckets that they distributed to Hurricane Sandy survivors last fall. But they didn’t expect the more than 11,000 blankets from a faraway source, said Bishop Martin McLee, leader of the denomination’s New York Conference. “There was this wonderful call, asking if we would receive blankets from Russia,” Bishop McLee told directors of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries on April 11 as he recounted the conference’s relief efforts. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is a part of the mission board. Both Bishop McLee and Bishop John Schol, leader of the Greater New Jersey Conference, spoke to the mission agency about the challenges and opportunities that have arisen since the hurricane turned “superstorm” made a significant impact on the Northeast coast. In New Jersey, where 253,000 households sustained damage and tens of thousands of homes were left uninhabitable, Sandy was the most destructive storm in the state’s history. In the New York area, 269,640 applications have been made to FEMA for federal assistance. To help meet these needs, UMCOR has allocated much of the $8.35 million it had received in Sandy donations by early March. On April 12, UMCOR directors approved $3 million grants to both the New York and Greater New Jersey conferences, to be delivered in six-month installments. The Peninsula-Delaware Conference received $500,000 for its Sandy recovery work in Somerset County, Md. Another $500,000, not yet approved, has been earmarked for the Methodist Church of Cuba, which is preparing its grant proposal. In addition, UMCOR allotted $825,759 to New Jersey and $42,000 to Peninsula-Delaware for repairs to church property damage from Sandy. Those grants represent 10 percent of the funds raised for Sandy relief. In a further gesture of solidarity, the mission agency’s directors took part in a Sandy workday April 13, assisting at two sites in New Jersey and in New York. Greater New Jersey has established


Directors of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) have approved $3 million in grants for Hurricane Sandy recovery in New York and New Jersey. The work will require help from thousands of volunteers through the UMC’s volunteer-in-mission networks.

a comprehensive long-term Sandy recovery plan overseen by a nonprofit organization, with a projected budget of $21.8 million. In addition to support from UMCOR, the conference has created its own fundraising appeal.

Repair, rebuild, renew During the relief phase, the conference distributed food, clothing and basic supplies, including flood buckets, to more than 10,000 people, along with daytime or overnight shelter to some 5,000 affected by Sandy. The larger task is now beginning, Bishop Schol pointed out. “The longterm recovery is where we really begin to put our efforts,” he said. Greater New Jersey’s recovery ministry focuses on three goals: to repair, rebuild and renew, in cooperation with churches, community residents and nonprofit groups as well as local, state and federal agencies. state and federal agencies. The repair of 300 to 500 Sandydamaged homes, particularly for the elderly, disabled and low-income households, is expected to require assistance from more than 20,000 trained volunteers. “We are the biggest player [for recovery work] in New Jersey,” the bishop said, noting that Habitat for Humanity has committed to 150

houses. The conference’s Sandy project would not be possible, he added, without the support of UMCOR and the church’s volunteer-in-mission networks. Rebuilding will extend beyond homes to community centers and churches. Other direct assistance to the most vulnerable will be provided in the form of materials, donations and services. “Rebuilding the social fabric of a community is essential,” the conference’s grant proposal declared. Renewal will focus on the emotional and spiritual toll that Sandy took on people’s lives. Greater New Jersey expects to provide case management and counseling for more than 500 families during the next several years.

‘Holy moment’ In the New York Conference, United Methodists and related volunteers—nearly 2,000 of them—already have prepped more than 300 houses for repairs or rebuilding by pumping out water, removing debris and mold and replacing insulation and flooring. New York’s project goal for the new grant is to help about 500 families, with “a specific target” of 175 households. Five recovery sites—in Massapequa, Freeport and Rockville Center on Long Island, on Staten Island and

in Brooklyn—have been established. The conference also wants to set up a site in Connecticut, where more than 13,000 homes were damaged. New York will use the grant to support its disaster recovery ministries and staff as it provides case management; restores, repairs and rebuilds homes with the help of volunteers-inmission and offers ongoing spiritual care to persons in the affected areas. “A case manager will engage each survivor and will sit and be like a friend,” said the Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, New York Conference disaster coordinator. UMCOR staff and consultants have worked closely with the New York Conference on its Sandy response, the report said, and “see opportunity” for program expansion if the recovery work is successful and more funds become available. The Peninsula-Delaware Conference will use its grant to help 50 to 100 families in the town of Crisfield and Somerset County, Md., rebuild their homes and their lives. United Methodists there, working through the conference’s volunteer-in-mission coordinator, they hope to support and deploy 175 teams with a total of 3,000 volunteers during a two-year period for the Sandy recovery work in Maryland.


Wesley hymn invites all to ‘the Gospel Feast’ B Y B E N JA M I N H E N S L E Y Special Contributor

Food is a big deal in our society, but even more important are the spiritual “meals” that we share. One often hears phrases such as, “They are hungry for the gospel,” and as Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man cannot live on bread alone.’” (Matt. 4:4) We are reminded that truth, as well as sustenance, is found in the gospel. Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast” is an invitation to that table and a reiteration of that truth. The younger brother of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, Charles (1707-1788) wrote 6,500 hymns, and preached as an itinerant minister of the Church of England. To put this in perspective, if we assume that he wrote hymns from the time he started school up to his death, it averages out to 97 per year, or one hymn every

three to four days. Wesley wrote many of the most important Methodist hymns, 41 of which remain in the latest edition of the UM Hymnal (1989). His hymns were examples of fine poetry married to a rich, biblically based theology. Wesley scholar Ernest Rattenbury once observed that “a skillful man, if the Bible were lost, might extract much of it from Charles Wesley’s hymns.” Our hymn first appeared in Charles 24 stanzas in Wesley Hymns for Those That Seek and Those That Have Redemption in the Blood of Jesus Christ (1747). Nine stanzas were later chosen for the Wesleys’ famous Collection of Hymns for the People Called Methodists (1780). In the 1980s the

Wesley Consultation of the Hymnal Revision Committee decided to make two hymns out of the original one; the other hymn is found at No. 616 in the UM Hymnal. “Come, Sinner, to the Gospel Feast” makes an important theological statement. Our participation in church is more than a weekly obligation or chore. Perhaps we can view church as a family meal where all are welcome. The first stanza bids us to “let every soul be Jesus’ guest,” and adds, “Ye need not one be left behind.” It is this joyful message of welcome that as parishioners we should seek and embrace, and as ministers we should promote and foster in our churches. The gospel feast is also a feast of salvation: “Come and partake the gospel feast, / be saved from sin, in Jesus rest.” When we participate in the Eucharist, we are reminded of the sacrifice our Savior made for us. The

Eucharist should be as inclusive as the gospel demands that the ministries of the church be. Just as we tell others of the good news, we should be eager to share both the food we eat and the truth we cherish. Another interesting aspect of this hymn is its urgency, as Wesley sounds an eschatological note: “This is the time, no more delay! This is the Lord’s accepted day.” However, there is another way to see this—perhaps even simultaneously—as a call of eagerness: “Come to the feast, be saved from sin.” Why should we not be excited and a little emphatic to share the gospel? There is a sense of urgency and excitement in this hymn that can influence how we live and share the gospel in our lives. Wesley also likens the gospel feast to a place where one finds relief: “Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed, / ye restless wanderers after rest.” What catharsis can be found in the joyful

“Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast” Charles Wesley UM Hymnal, No. 339 & No. 616

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast; let every soul be Jesus’ guest. Ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bid all humankind. sharing of food and conversation with others! We are social creatures who love sharing our lives over a meal with those we care about. We should be able to pass on the gospel to those who are hungry for it, as easily as we pass the sweet potatoes to our neighbor at the table. Mr. Hensley, a Master of Sacred Music student at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, studies hymnology with Dr. C. Michael Hawn.

Shea remembered as voice of Graham crusades B Y A D E L L E M. B A N K S Religion News Service

George Beverly Shea, whose signature baritone voice was a standard feature of Billy Graham crusades for more than half a century, died April 16 at age 104. He died after a brief illness, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced. Shea, who was 10 years older than Mr. Graham, met the famous evangelist seven decades ago when he was working at Chicago’s WMBI, a Moody Bible Institute radio station. The evangelist heard him singing on the program Hymns from the Chapel, and asked Shea to sing on his new radio program. “I’ve been listening to Bev Shea sing for more than 70 years, and I would still rather hear him sing than anyone else I know,” the ailing Mr. Graham said in a statement. “I have lost one of the best friends I have ever had, but he and I look forward to seeing each other in Heaven relatively soon.” Shea, who lived about a mile from Mr. Graham in Montreat, N.C., sang before the evangelist preached as they traveled the globe, often “I’d Rather Have Jesus” or “Victory in Jesus.” “I have sometimes said that I would feel lost getting up to preach if Bev were not there to prepare the way through an appropriate song,” Mr. U N I T E DM ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG


George Beverly Shea in the mid-1940s.

Graham said in his autobiography, Just As I Am. In 1955, Shea made a couple of wording adjustments to the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art”—one of Mr. Graham’s favorites—that have endured. He changed “consider all the works thy hands have made” to “consider all the worlds thy hands have made” and modified “I hear the mighty thunder” to “I hear the rolling thunder.” “I got a bang when I used to hear Elvis Presley sing my two words,” he told Religion News Service in a 2004 interview.

Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross said Shea—who was the oldest living recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award—sang “How Great Thou Art” during each crusade, accompanied by a choir. “He had his albums but he was primarily known for singing one song at each Billy Graham service,” said Graham biographer William Martin. “That endeared him to everybody who went to his services or who saw them on the broadcasts for all those years.” Shea, who won his first Grammy in 1965 and was a 10-time nominee, recorded more than 70 albums of hymns. He was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1996, and the “Hall of Faith” of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists in 2008. Shea’s love for music shone through in the RNS interview, with his deep voice sometimes drifting into song as he discussed the range of hymns featured in his book How Sweet the Sound: Amazing Stories and Grace-filled Reflections on Beloved Hymns and Gospel Songs. He also put down the phone and played a few notes for a listening reporter on his 800-pipe, three-manual organ in his home. In the same book, he recalled the Graham crusades’ unofficial anthem, “Just As I Am,” and a harrowing flight out of Newark, N.J., in 2000 when he

wasn’t sure if he would ever touch the ground again. Clutching his wife’s hand, he started to pray the text of the hymn. “If this was our time to meet the Savior,” Shea wrote, “that’s the song I wanted to be singing.” Born in Winchester, Ontario, Shea was raised on church music, with his

mother singing it as he awoke on school days. He took the bass line around the dinner table when his family sang the Doxology—beginning with the words “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”—in harmony. As his father, a Wesleyan Methodist minister, preached in their Houghton, N.Y., church, he would flip through the pages of the church hymnal. “The rustle of the pages might have been a little distracting, but I know he forgave me,” Shea wrote in

his book. At age 23, he wrote the song “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” which became another staple of Graham crusades. A few years later, the song’s message inspired him to decline an offer to sing with a secular singing group. Franklin Graham, who succeeded his father as the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, recalled how “unassuming” the musician was. “Even though Bev was 10 years older than my father, he never acted his age,” said Franklin Graham. “He was absolute fun to be with.” In 2004, when he was sidelined by a heart attack, Shea had to miss Graham’s evangelistic event in Kansas City, Mo. It was the first time in 57 years that he had missed a crusade. One of his last public appearances with Graham was in 2010, when the ministry celebrated its 60th anniversary, Mr. Ross said. Even in his later years, Shea awed listeners with his continuing ability to sing his signature songs. Dr. Martin heard him sing in Dallas in 2002, when he would have been 93. “I commented on how remarkable it was,” Dr. Martin recalled, “and he said, ‘I think I sounded better when I was 90.’” Kevin Eckstrom, editor in chief of Religion News Service, contributed to this report.

U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | M AY 3 , 2 0 1 3


MAY 3, 2013


A Faith for Hard Times These have been difficult days—for our country, for our state, and even for the world. It seems as though sometimes no matter where we turn, we encounter tragedy: the Boston Marathon attack; the explosion in West, Texas; the earthquake in China; an avalanche in Colorado; even flooding in our own state of Michigan and surrounding states, to name just a few. I felt my heart break as I saw the picMICHIGAN ture of the little boy killed in the MEANDERINGS marathon bombing holding up a sign he BISHOP had made a year ago that read, “No more DEBORAH KIESEY hurting people. Peace.” As I said, these have been difficult days—days when our tears have mingled with those around the country and the world. Times such as these shake us to the very core and cause us to search deep within ourselves, not just for answers, but also for strength and faith to help us through. As hard as these days are for us, we are not the first to experience such times. The disciples that gathered around the cross must have felt some of the same emotions we have been feeling this week. As they watched Jesus suffer, surely they, too, must have wept—not only for the agony and loss of their friend, but also for what they feared would be the loss of the dreams they had shared together—the hope of a better future. And yet…something happened to those disciples that turned them away from their anguish and changed them into messengers of hope to the rest of the world. What happened? What made the difference between hopelessness and hopefulness? The difference came when the disciples were touched by the presence of the Risen Christ.

When they truly believed Christ had defeated even death, then they could no longer remain in despair. They could no longer keep that message to themselves, and they were transformed—and through them, the world was transformed as well. Christ had turned the Cross—the instrument of death—into a symbol of life over death. He had turned the darkness of tragedy into a message of hope in life eternal. That is the message and the strength of Christ we need to remember today. As we experience loss and fear— let us remember that the Risen Christ walks with us. As we share tears of grief and frustration— let us remember that the Risen Christ weeps with us. As we live in a world where acts of terrorism bring calls for revenge and retribution—

let us remember that the Risen Christ—the Prince of Peace—speaks to us words of peace and healing: “Love your enemies;” “Do unto others.” Friends, may the presence of the Risen Christ be with us during these uncertain days. May we, like those disciples of old, carry that message to all who need to hear it. And may our lives reflect the power and hope of a faith that is greater than anything of this world. “I will not leave you orphaned. ... Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:18a, 27 Peace to you all. Bishop Deb

Statement From Bishop Kiesey on Area Flooding “Across the Midwest, rivers, lakes and streams are times of natural disaster, God is always at our side: “Fear overflowing their banks, the result of record rainfall in our not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I region. As the waters rise, thousands are being displaced will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with and millions of dollars in damage will my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah be left behind. Flooding has destroyed 41:10). homes, businesses, farms, and even “Please join me in praying for all of some houses of worship. those suffering from this flooding and “Right now, members of our for the protection of the tireless Michigan Area United Methodist volunteers and first responders, Committee On Relief Early Response working together to keep waters at Teams are formulating a plan to bay. We especially pray for the waters respond to this natural disaster and to recede so that recovery and healing we have received a grant from can begin. For those affected by this UMCOR for clean-up efforts. An aerial view of the flooding in Lowell, tragedy, may God keep you, watch over “Scripture reminds us that even in Mich. you and protect you.”

‘Do I Really Have to Go to Conference?’ It has been awhile since we met in this place. Janice and I took some time to be away and allow God to refresh and restore us for this work which we love, and to which we have been called. I highly recommend the practice of Sabbath keeping. Rest and renewal is a good and Godly thing and, when I was younger and fresher in ministry, I didn’t do nearly enough BURNING of it. I pray that is not the case for younger QUESTIONS clergy now, but I’m not sure we are all that WITH BILL much different today from generations past. When last I wrote, I mentioned that there BILL was another burning question which I wanted DOBBS to address. Since then, a second question has come my way. First: “How do I get a chance to be a part of the Annual Conference leadership? It seems like it is always the same people doing the work.” And second: “As a clergy person with a very busy local church and a young family, do I really have to attend Annual Conference? What does the Bishop expect of me?” I know that the Annual Conference can seem like a mystery to those who attend but do not have contact with the conference leadership in any other way. How does one get to be in a leadership role? From my perspective in this office, it looks very much like the leadership of the local church. To those whose only contact with the church is the occasional Sunday morning worship service, the leadership team may seem like a closed opportunity—something that “others” do, but “not me.” If your only contact with Annual Conference is in Grand Rapids or Adrian,

I’m sure it seems like there is no place for you to be a part. If you want to be part of the team, you begin by learning what your spiritual gifts are. You want to know what God has given you for the good of the whole church. We all have something we are called and equipped to do. We don’t always know what that is. (By the way, the Detroit Conference Nominations Team has developed a wonderful tool which is available to anyone and everyone at This Passions & Skills Survey can be taken online and is a good first step toward helping individuals and local churches match passions and skills with ministry opportunities.) Once you know what your gifts are, then you can identify, in your Conference Journal or at your local church, the places where you can plug in which will be the biggest blessing to both you and the church at the local or conference level. And, if you are not sure who to call, contact your pastor or your district superintendent. They will know the name of the person you should contact. The thing you need to remember is that you are welcome and needed. You have a gift from God which your church or your annual conference needs to be as fruitful as God intends in making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And yes, Bishop Deb knows how busy you are and how hard it can be to balance all the priorities in your life. But she expects all the clergy of the Michigan Area to attend their annual conference session. The expectation makes itself known on a couple of levels. First, it is part of the covenant we make with one another to attend and take part in our gatherings as community and conference. The 2012 Book of Discipline says that “it is the duty of

every member and all provisional members and local pastors of the annual conference to attend it sessions and furnish such reports in such form as the Discipline may require. Any such person unable to attend shall report by letter to the conference secretary, setting forth the reason for the absence.” (¶602.8) But it is not just a matter of law and discipline. The conference is not the same without you! We are composed of many different people with many different gifts, and when one part of that whole is not present, it is not whole. If you are a clergy person, your congregation is missing one important part of its voice on the floor of the conference. If you are a lay person, your church and our connection are missing a very important part of what makes us unique. On behalf of Bishop Kiesey, clergy: please make every effort to attend and participate in your annual conference session in its entirety. Please don’t schedule conflicting engagements in your local church for those few days and, if your conference is in session on Sunday, please make arrangement for someone to cover your pulpit for that day. It really is that important! Until next time, please know that you are in our prayers as, together, we prepare to gather in Adrian and Grand Rapids for what we are planning to be a very high point in our lives together as The United Methodist Church in the Michigan Area. However, they won’t be what they can be without your prayerful support. Please pray for those who gather and for the work we do in Jesus’ name, that we might truly be the Body of Christ together. Please pray for those who will not be able to attend, and for all those whose lives will be affected by the decisions we make. And don’t forget that I always want to hear about your Burning Questions.


Christians in Middle East endangered, priest warns B Y L I N DA B LO O M United Methodist News Service


LEFT: Gary Crooks of Belfast has served 30 years with the East Belfast Mission, which is affiliated with the Methodist Church in Ireland. RIGHT: The Rev. Gary Mason, superintendent minister of the mission, reads Scripture during a worship service.

Mission in Northern Ireland stands as example for others B Y L I N DA B LO O M United Methodist News Service

NEW YORK—Signing a peace accord is just the first step in reuniting a country where conflict has divided the population. The Methodists of the East Belfast Mission in Northern Ireland have been living into that reality ever since the 1998 Good Friday agreement declared peace between Catholics and Protestants there. The Methodist mission can offer those in other countries a template for the daily work needed to reintegrate a society, said the Rev. Gary Mason, whose leadership on the mission’s behalf was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II when he was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2007. With the opening of its Skainos community center last November, the mission has continued to work on issues of employment, homelessness and community and family support, along with “social enterprise” projects. The mission’s programs allow it to connect with several thousand people a week and provide further support to those who need it. A missionary couple, Allison and Britt Gilmore, is assigned to East Belfast by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. “The model we have, worldwide, has a lot to offer,” Dr. Mason said. During an April 11 visit to the New York offices of the Board of Global Ministries, Dr. Mason, mission superintendent, and Gary Crooks, the mission’s lay leader, explained that a successful peace process demands three key steps—demilitarization, decommissioning of weapons and reintegration of combatants and society. U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O RT E R . O RG

But in many places, they pointed out, the process stops after the first two steps. The biggest issue in reuniting a society is handling the legacy of the dispute and the danger of passing along grievances to the next generation. “How do you take people from being prisoners of history to being prisoners of hope?” Dr. Mason asked. The story of the past must be told, he added, but the framework of how it is told is important.

‘Never an empty bed’ Mr. Crooks, a part of the mission for 30 years, said he has “had the great privilege of watching it grow.” The homeless ministry started with one man from Scotland who stayed in the choir room and a second man from Bosnia who slept in the office. It soon became clear that this was an acute need in the community. The temporary accommodations provided through Hosford House at Skainos average 30 people at any one time and address social needs and drug and alcohol strategies. “From Day One, we’ve never had an empty bed,” Mr. Crooks said. Through a relationship with the Belfast City Council, a focus on rubbish removal has led to a project refurbishing and selling discarded furniture and bicycles. “It’s now a very big part of our income,” he noted. Forty meals a day are delivered to shut-ins through a meals-on-wheels program. Living out Wesleyan theology is

not just about proclamation of the word, Dr. Mason declared. “It’s also about presence.” Skainos Center has a worship space, and the congregation serves as the “spiritual heartbeat” of all that happens there. That heartbeat has been felt by others. A woman named Sandy, for example, who had no previous religious affiliation, first came to their church “because no one else would baptize her baby,” Mr. Crooks recalled. She now is a valued member of the staff. Both men agree the violent protests that grew out of the Belfast City Council’s decision late last year regarding a flag were a wake-up call. Legacy issues or symbols, like a flag, “can actually derail a peace process,” Dr. Mason noted. On Jan. 17, church, community and paramilitary leaders joined in issuing a statement supporting peaceful legal protests, but also calling for an end to the “pointless —Gary Mason violence, fear and wanton destruction being caused by a few.” The protests have dwindled. Dr. Mason hopes, in the future, that people will register and use the power of a vote. “There’s a democratic framework that allows them to have a say,” he said, but does not promote violence or destroy the economy. The larger lesson learned from the flag protests: “You have to take the temperature on a daily basis after the peace process,” Dr. Mason said. “There must be constant check-ins.” Dr. Mason and Mr. Crooks can be reached by email at

‘The model we have, worldwide, has a lot to offer.’

INDIANAPOLIS—Religious freedom has become “a luxury” in the Middle East and western Christians need to be concerned about what is happening to Christians living in the region. That was both the message and a plea from Father Nabil Haddad, a priest in the Melkite Catholic Church, to members of the Religion Communicators Council and Associated Church Press who were meeting jointly. Fr. Haddad was part of an April 4 discussion on “Faith-based Peacebuilding in the Social Media Age.” He was joined by A. Rashied Omar, research scholar of Islamic Studies at the Kroc Institute at University of Notre Dame; Lindsey Mintz, executive director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council; and, as moderator, Verity Jones, executive director for the Christian Theological Seminary Center for Pastoral Excellence. Christian populations in Iraq, Syria and other countries, often able to quietly co-exist in the past, are now endangered, noted Fr. Haddad, who is founder and executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center in Amman, Jordan. Being set aside from other groups is a problem, he explained. “The minute we talk about Christians in my region as a community, we isolate them and put them in a ghetto.” In Iraq, for example, 75 percent of the Chaldean Christians have left. “They did not do anything to the Sunnis, they did not harm the Shiites, but nobody was able to help them,” Fr. Haddad said. In Egypt, a clash between Christians and Muslims escalated into an attack on the main Coptic Christian Cathedral April 7, the New York Times reported. Acts of intolerance against Muslims elsewhere can mean retribution against Christians in the Middle East. “Every time we see [that] minarets”—towers on a mosque— “are banned in one country . . . Christians in some countries, they pay a price,” he explained. Fr. Haddad said he is part of a “spoiled minority” in Jordan, where he understands, studies and lives with Islam and where his center has sponsored three initiatives of what he calls “interfaith diplomacy.” That ability to live peacefully together needs to be protected, he added, and religious minorities must reach out and not be

Father Nabil Haddad isolated. Fostering peace also means fighting against stereotypes, said Dr. Omar, who also serves as imam at the Claremont Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and continuing war on terror have reinforced widespread perceptions that the Islamic faith and Muslims “have an inherent predilection for violence and terrorism, more than any other faith,” he noted. The Quran considers justice to be a value—“Be just, that is the closest thing to pious faith” (Chapter 5, Verse 8)—but the concept of compassion is the most important value, Dr. Omar said, equivalent to the Christian understanding that “God is love.” Without compassion, struggles for justice in a particular country, for example, “invariably end up mimicking the repressive regime,” he explained. While painfully acknowledging that there are some “extremists in our ranks,” Muslims “must not become weary” of stating that acts of terrorism and barbarism are not part of the Islamic faith, Dr. Omar said. The news media must help get that message across as well, he said.

Holding to hope Ms. Mintz, who spent a year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1996 and returned to Israel in 2000, acknowledged that her optimism about achieving peace in the Middle East has faded over the years. But, she said, participating in the panel made her more hopeful, especially after learning about “promising initiatives [by interfaith groups] around the world.” Peace-building efforts often are missing the religious voice, she noted. “We have to make sure we are at the table.” To foster understanding, Fr. Haddad encouraged his audience to come and visit Jordan. “Your brothers and sisters in that region need your voice and your support,” he said.

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Malick’s concept of love still shrouded in mystery

Jackie Robinson’s faith missing from 42 movie B Y E R I C M E TA X A S


Religion News Service

Special Contributor

To the Wonder Rated R for some sexuality/nudity

In the New Testament there is a letter from the Apostle Paul to a church he founded in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. It contains a passage that is cause for much debate and angst in the church, a passage that compares a husband to Christ and the wife to the church. Paul writes, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will be one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:21-32) This “profound mystery” lies at the heart of writer-director Terrence Malick’s exposition of love and marriage, To the Wonder. Or, at least, I think it does. With Malick films, one feels shy about making absolute statements. Mr. Malick, reportedly a Catholic, poured his faith out in the profound The Tree of Life, a movie that moved me so much, it inspired a tattoo on my arm.

Tale of two marriages In To the Wonder, he weaves together the story of two marriages that inform each other, both of them flowing from and to the love of God, the ultimate bridegroom. Parisian Marina (Olga Kurylenko) marries American Neil (Ben Affleck) after a weighty and confusing courtship, made more complex by an unresolved love between Neil and Jane (Rachel McAdams). The second marriage is of Marina’s priest, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), to God. The two marriages run in roughly the same course. First, there is an undeniable, life-altering love—a love that changes everything, recasts the universe and reshapes the people on which it falls. Before the love, life was Marina’s own, Father Quintana’s own. After the love, they must rework their lives to be with the beloved, to reflect the new reality. Although the love changes everything, the euphoria fades. Marina is left with a man who seems distant and unreachable. Father Quintana is left with a God that seems distant and unreachable. And that is when love is tested,


Writer-director Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) explores romantic and spiritual love in his new film To the Wonder, starring Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck.

when the reality of love is either believed and held or lost. The two types of love flow from the same source, “the Love that loves us,” as Marina puts it. Mr. Malick tells his stories in unique ways. He cares much more about the cries of the heart and the whispers of the mind than everyday dialogue. So the prayers and unspoken longings of the characters are told in whispered voiceovers while the details of their lives are hard to know. This makes the movie almost unbearably quiet, still, nearly silent, like a cathedral in the middle of the day, holy but ineffable. Sometimes this approach works and his style delivers profound truths, but other times it just leaves the viewer feeling quietly lost. It doesn’t help that many of the voiceovers here are in French and Spanish.

Lack of resolution Still, you get the sense that love is a real thing, more real than we often believe. And that is, paradoxically in our sex-crazed world, a message the world needs. But you don’t know what that means for life, for love, for a soul, by the end of the movie, because part of the conflict is left unresolved. And a little unresolved for a Terrence Malick film is, let’s just say, way unresolved for a normal film. The scenes of the priest made me weep at times, for a man who so loved his God as to dedicate his life to Him, but then loses all sense of his lover. It is beautiful, his tired faithfulness, his desperation for the God he knows is there somewhere. Father Quintana knows God is there because of the love

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that changed everything and remains undeniable, even in the past. And yet, I ended the film wishing there was more. This juxtaposition of marriage and relationship with Christ fascinates me. I want to see, to feel, to know how Mr. Malick’s theology reflects his ideas of love and marriage. I suspect he may be one of the few filmmakers who actually has something profound to say about it. And yet, I felt he teed up the ball but didn’t swing. In his other films, you have to dig for truths but they’re waiting to be discovered. I felt like there was less here. Also less was the cinematographic wonder. Mr. Malick chooses beautiful shots of water, nature, rocks, streams and beaches, and lingers on them. Yet, in The Tree of Life, many of his frames had theological implications in themselves. They meant something, the imagery was alive. They were dreamlike, creative, alternate realities that expressed his truth. This film doesn’t have the same level of forethought or theology in the very images. Sometimes a stream is just a stream, I guess. On one level, I love that Mr. Malick had the courage to address love as a profound mystery rather than a greeting card comedy—which is what we get every month or so at the theater. But in this case, I wish he’d been a tad less profound and a tad more approachable. Ms. Cusey is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. This review first appeared on Reprinted by permission.

A new film about Jackie Robinson, titled 42—the number he wore during his historic career—tells the triumphant story of how the civil rights icon integrated professional baseball by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But there’s a mysterious hole at the center of this otherwise worthy film. The man who chose Robinson Eric Metaxas for his role, and masterminded the whole affair, was Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford. In their initial meeting, the cigar-chomping Rickey makes it clear that whoever will be the first African American in major league baseball will be viciously attacked, verbally and physically. So Rickey famously says he’s looking for a man “with guts enough not to fight back.” Where did Rickey get that crazy idea and why did Robinson go along with it? The film doesn’t tell us, but the answers to these questions lie in the devout Christian faith of both men. For starters, Rickey himself was a “Bible-thumping Methodist” who refused to attend games on Sunday. He sincerely believed it was God’s will that he integrate baseball and saw it as an opportunity to intervene in the moral history of the nation. And Rickey chose Robinson because of the young man’s faith and moral character. There were numerous other Negro Leagues players to consider, but Rickey knew integrating the racist world of professional sports would take more than athletic ability. The attacks would be ugly, and the press would fuel the fire. If the player chosen were goaded into retaliating, the grand experiment would be set back a decade or more. Rickey knew he must find someone whose behavior on and off the field would be exemplary, and who believed “turning the other cheek” was not just the practical thing to do but the right thing. We know that Robinson’s passionate sense of justice had gotten him into trouble earlier in life. But the patient mentoring of pastor

Karl Downs convinced him that Christ’s command to “resist not evil” wasn’t a cowardly way out but a profoundly heroic stance. When he met Rickey, Robinson was prepared for what lay ahead and agreed. But it was a brutally difficult undertaking. Robinson got down on his knees many nights during those first two years, asking God for the strength to continue resisting the temptation to fight back, or to say something he would regret. But the filmmakers of 42 were evidently uncomfortable with all this and, to put it in baseball terms, they decided to pitch around it. Of course, Hollywood has been skittish about faith and religion since at least the late 1960s. Even when it’s almost impossible to avoid, filmmakers find a way. The Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line omitted the central role Christian faith played in how Cash overcame drug addiction. Even in 2007’s Amazing Grace, about British abolitionist William Wilberforce, the story of his conversion and the huge role faith played in his political efforts is essentially left out. And now in 42, Hollywood’s done it again. Omitting the role of faith in this story does a serious disservice to history—and to the memories of Robinson and Rickey. But it’s also financially foolish. The recent megasuccess of The Bible miniseries and the cool $600 million earned by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004 are just two reasons why. The audience for faith-friendly films is huge and growing. Which brings us back to another reason Rickey did what he did. He believed bringing African Americans onto the baseball field would bring them into the stands, too, and ticket sales would increase. Which is precisely what happened. So isn’t it time Hollywood integrated faith into stories where it rightfully belongs? Why should such stories be excluded from the mainstream in a nation that’s filled with people of faith? If filmmakers do the right thing—and break the “God line”— they’ll find there are countless millions who’d cheer stories like that. And who’d pay to see them too. Mr. Metaxas writes about Jackie Robinson in his new book Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness. This column appeared first in USA Today.



Georgia couple finds calling in Scout leadership B Y K A R A W I T H E R OW Special Contributor

The Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” But Cathy and Travis Shepherd of Whigham, Ga., weren’t quite prepared for the new path God took them down nearly 20 years ago. When their son Bobby, then a first grader, brought home a slip of paper inviting him to join a new Cub Scout pack, Travis accompanied him to an informational meeting. Of the adults in attendance, only two had ever been involved in scouting. Travis was one. He volunteered to help and ended up becoming the new group’s leader, or Cubmaster. Nearly 20 years later, scouting has become an integral part of the Shepherd family’s life. “I was a Scout when I was a kid and had a great time and a lot of good memories,” Travis said. “So we were asked if we would be willing to help start it, and I said yes.” Back then, the Shepherds had just one son, Bobby, now 26. In the years since, they’ve had Kevin, 21, and Thomas, 16. All three have earned the Eagle Scout rank. “Travis was a Scout in Thomasville when he was a kid,” Cathy said. “It was a very big part of his life. I was in Girl Scouts when I was young, and when we got married and ended up having all boys it was really a no-brainer for us.”

Sponsored by Whigham United Methodist Church, Whigham’s Cub Scout troop was started by Travis and a group of dedicated parents. But a few years later, Travis was disappointed to learn that the older boys didn’t have a Boy Scout troop to move up to. That’s when Cathy, an obstetrics nurse, stepped in to lead the Cub Scout pack so Travis could start a new Boy Scout troop in Grady County. “I started as the Cubmaster with a 5-months-old on my hip,” said Cathy, who completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while working full time, leading the Cub Scout pack and raising three boys. Scouting has given the Shepherd family time together and the opportunity to go places and do things they might not otherwise have gone and done. They camp, hike and serve together, and most of Travis and Cathy’s vacation time is spent travelling with the Scouts. “Scouting has allowed me to be really close with my boys,” Travis said. It’s also strengthened their faith and deepened their relationship with Jesus Christ. Before volunteering to work with the Scouts, the Shepherds weren’t attending church. As a child and teenager, Travis was active in a Baptist church, but had drifted away. A few months after volunteering to be Cubmaster, though, Travis told Cathy that Whigham UMC was host-

ing their annual Scout Sunday the next weekend. “I said, ‘What are we going to do?’ And she said, ‘Well, I guess we’ll go to church there!’” That Sunday they attended Whigham UMC for the first time. They wore their scout uniforms and sat on the back pew. “We went to church that Sunday and the next,” Travis said. “From that day forward we have gone. My family and I have been going to church there ever since. “Scouting brought me back in to where I should have been all along. I was raised in church and knew that my kids needed to be.” In addition to teaching boys and young men about first aid, fire safety, leadership, responsibility and countless other life skills, scouting goes hand-in-hand with faith, Cathy said. “This isn’t an organization that skirts faith,” she said. “It’s added another dimension to our walk with Christ, and this is just another facet to our Christian walk; it’s that rooted in the values of our faith and the church.” Not only has the Shepherd family deepened their faith and found a church home through their involvement with Whigham UMC’s scouting ministry, so have several young men. One 8-year-old boy calls Whigham UMC “his church” even though he and his family don’t attend worship services there.


Travis, Thomas and Cathy Shepherd celebrated earlier this year after Thomas, 16, earned his Eagle Scout rank.

“One year we had Scout Sunday coming up, and I was reminding the boys to wear their Scout shirt to their church on Sunday,” Cathy said. “We always invite them to our church, and I asked one boy which church he went to. He looked at me and said, ‘Miss Cathy, this is my church!’ He had never been to church on Sunday—our Cub Scout program was his only exposure to church.” Even though two of their sons are adults and their youngest will soon graduate from high school, the Shepherds say they have no plans to step away from scouting. “I keep going even without a kid in Cub Scouts because it’s that impor-

tant,” Cathy said. “It’s that vital to our church and to our community to have a place for these boys.” Travis says he can’t just walk away from the 70 or so young men who are a part of their Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops. “I just can’t walk away from these kids,” he said. “When God wants me to do something else, He’ll make it known. “A lot of people go through life wondering what God wants them to do. I know that this is exactly what He wants me to do.” Ms. Witherow is editor of the Advocate, the newspaper of the South Georgia Conference.

Fire destroys church’s building, but not its spirit B Y B A R B A R A D U N L A P -B E R G United Methodist News Service

Sally Curtis AsKew was in Seattle, getting ready for a United Methodist Judicial Council meeting, when she learned about the fire that consumed her beloved church—Oconee Street United Methodist in Athens, Ga. The fire, detected around 10 p.m. April 15, gutted the 111-year-old structure. The cause has not been determined. The blaze apparently started in the basement of the wood structure, Ms. AsKew said. “I am sitting in a hotel room in Seattle, still crying so hard I have to stop to wipe my eyes often,” the Judicial Council clerk said. Gathering on the church lawn the evening after the tragedy, the congregation joined for a prayer vigil. “The building is so visible,” Ms. AsKew said, “up on Carr’s Hill. When you come across the river from downtown, you see the lighted cross.” That cross has beckoned a diverse, “very welcoming” congregation—uniU N I T E DM ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

versity professors with Ph.D.s, uneducated people and everyone in between—to worship and to witness. Oconee Street, Ms. AsKew said, is “a perfect example of a church that ‘reimagined itself ’ many years ago and continues to press forward today.” About 30 years ago, the membership had shrunk to the point that the congregation could no longer support a full-time pastor. So when a new nonprofit, Action Ministries, was getting off the ground, Oconee Street became a partner with the group. Today, the congregation of 125 is flourishing, and Action Ministries— an independent, faith-based corporation affiliated with the United Methodist Church—furnishes food, legal assistance, educational services and nursing care. The Our Daily Bread soup kitchen is housed in the former parsonage, adjacent to the historic church. According to the Athens Patch, Our Daily Bread provides more than 60,000 meals a year and collaborates with more than 70 volunteer groups,


The 111-year-old main sanctuary at Oconee Street United Methodist Church in Athens, Ga., lies in ruins following an April 15 fire.

both church-related and secular. The program serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week. Because it receives no federal funds, Ms. AsKew said, it “serves not only people below the poverty level but also the working

poor.” She said that since the fire, the outpouring of love and offers of help has been overwhelming. “Local groups have stepped up to provide breakfasts all week. Another

small-membership church—Temple United Methodist, out in the country east of Athens—stepped right up and is bringing breakfast today.” Oconee Street’s pastor of 13 years, the Rev. Lisa Caine, said the Athens community and the UMC’s North Georgia Conference have reached out to the congregation, donating space for worship and various ministries. “Although the church building is gone, and some planned projects are on hold for now, the church will rebuild and move forward with the help of God and many humans,” Ms. AsKew said. Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church in downtown Athens already has opened its facility to its Oconee Street sisters and brothers. The congregation will worship in the Young Harris gym. Ms. Caine’s outlook is positive. “We’ve been so blessed by so many people in so many ways,” she said. “This isn’t what we had planned, but we are going forward with faith and trust in God.”

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MAY 3, 2013


Love Crosses the Finish Line By Kay DeMoss Where does Kimberly Grauer plan to be on April 21, 2014? In Boston. At the finish line. Kimberly and her running mates reached Mile 25 in this year’s race when they were intercepted by a row of police. “They told us the entire finish line has been blown up,” she said. “We heard that and we all screamed. I didn’t care about the marathon any more. My family was to meet me at the finish line at 2:30.” Kimberly’s family—her mother, Pat Grauer, and brother, Jordan— were standing between the two bombs when they went off.Another friend, Jennifer, was on the other side of the street, directly across from the first bomb blast. “We were separated,” Pat said. “We were in front of a small alley and we walked away as fast as we could and tried to establish communication.” They knew that Kimberly was at a safe distance thanks to the electronic marking of the runners. “Jordan and I were fortunate because we were together,” Pat continued. They then established phone contact with Jen and learned she was alive. “We couldn’t get to each other but we agreed to all get away from the site and figure it out later,” Pat said. Meanwhile, Kimberly was plagued with uncertainty regarding the fate of her loved ones. “The police took all the runners under escort to a temple,” Kimberly said. Ten days earlier, Kimberly had been in church attending the memorial service of her father, the Rev. Charles Grauer. Now, with her cell phone making no connection, her first thought was, “Oh, my God! I just lost more of my family!” Kimberly was among 60 runners given sanctuary. “The temple just opened their doors,” Kimberly said. “They brought us water and granola and made their phones available to us.” Chilled in her running shorts, a doctor made Kimberly a skirt out of a blanket. Remembering the trauma, she said, “This had to be a little what 9/11 must have felt like.” It was an hour-and-a-half before she would know, through connections made via Facebook, that her family was safe

I’m United Methodist.


The Michigan Area Reporter is the official newspaper of the Michigan Area of The United Methodist Church, serving the Detroit and West Michigan Annual Conferences. Bishop: Deborah L. Kiesey Editor: Rev. Erik J. Alsgaard

Directors of Communication Detroit—Paul Thomas West Michigan—Mark Doyal The Michigan Area Reporter is printed by UMR Communications, Dallas, Texas. We’re online at, and

downtown. Eventually, busses delivered the runners to reunions with others around 6 p.m., about three hours after the tragedy began. Pat stood within 250 feet of the both explosions and “saw, heard and smelled” the aftermath. Yet she asserted, “The bombing is significant but that’s not the note we want to ring.” She told how her son’s instincts provided proper motivation. “Jordan is a 747 pilot and he just said, ‘Go! Go! Go!’” Pat said.And down an alley, away from the “awful surge,” they went as fast as they could on the cobblestones. “We did a half-marathon ourselves going back and forth, up and down,” Pat remarked. They received assistance from “one of the amazing people of Boston,” who offered his phone and private bathroom. He even offered them a place to spend the night if their room was not available and called them to make sure they were all right once they reached the hotel. “For someone to have your back in a city with no transport, communication, and public toilets was great peace of mind.” Kimberly was “adopted” by a kind couple just minutes before she reached her family that evening. “They saw me waiting and asked if I was all right,” she remembered. “When I told them I just talked to my brother, they said, ‘If it’s OK, we will just stand here with you until they come.’” The Grauer’s had planned to fly out of the city Monday evening, but that was not to be. After her reunion with her family, Kimberly continued to experience the support of her running community. Awake at 1 a.m. and unable to sleep, Kimberly received messages from other runners. Many said, “Your dad is so proud of you! Don’t ever forget that!” It was wonderful encouragement from persons who had been strangers just hours before and transformed the “sad ending to what was to be a very happy day.” Kimberly was in Boston running to honor her father, who died April 3 after suffering immensely from liver disease. “Chuck was a model for how you deal with the worst pain,” said Pat. “He was always positive and did what he needed to do.” A veteran of 42 previous marathons, Kimberly signed on months ago to run the Boston Marathon on the American Liver

Foundation Team to raise money for research. While “shaken up” by his death, Kimberly was determined to keep her promise to her dad. Kimberly felt his presence even before she took her first step on the Boston pavement. Kimberly had been asked to do the blessing of the race for the 200-member team. So she told Chuck’s story just prior to the start of the race. “I told them that it was hard to be in Boston right now. PHOTO COURTESY WEST I have to be very brave but I MICHIGAN CONFERENCE promised to do this for liver disease Kimberly Grauer ran the morning Dad died. Then the in the Boston Super Bowl of all races started Marathon last perfectly.” month, and she and Throughout the race her her family, though teammates stopped her to thank her not hurt, experienced for her words. There were photo opps the trauma of the at each check-point. All of which bombings, and the amazing hospitality slowed Kimberly down. Soon she said to herself, “Oh, my gosh, I’m 45 that followed. minutes behind!” Still, she felt her dad running with her, especially when she had to stop for an additional two minutes to attend to her necklace. “He had given me the cross that he wore every day. It is very dear to me. It broke as I ran and I pulled out to fix it.” Kimberly is convinced that her father “did things to stall me” throughout the race. She was one mile from the finish line when the explosions occurred. Kimberly admits to a lot of guilt for having placed her family in harm’s way but refuses to give the bomber control of her life. “After an hour-and-a-half of terror, that my family was safe was better than any photo finish,” she admits. “I got three medals in the moment I saw their faces.” Reported by Kay DeMoss, West Michigan Weekly News Senior Writer

2013 Annual Conferences: A Preview Continued from front page Four amendments to the church’s Constitution will also be up for approval. The United Methodist Church and its predecessor bodies have only amended the Constitution 32 times in the past 200+ years. To go into effect, the amendments must be ratified by two-thirds of the aggregate number of voting annual conference members. Proposed Amendment I would change Division One, Article VI of the constitution to add the word “pray” to the list of actions the denomination will take in relationship to other Methodist and non-Methodist denominations in its ecumenical efforts. Proposed Amendment II would change Division Two, Section II, Article II to remove April and May as the specific months when the General Conference will be convened. An additional sentence was added making the change effective at the close of the 2016 General Conference. Proposed Amendment III would change Division Two, Section VI, Article I. The amendment removes references to the director of Lay Speaking Ministries and changes it to the director of Lay Servant Ministries. Proposed Amendment IV would change Division Two,

In addition to the Constitutional Amendments, many other items, including budgets for both Conferences, will be voted upon during both Annual Conference sessions. For a full listing, visit pages/detail/2779, or http://www.detroit Section VII, Article I in the constitution. The amendment deals with the authority of the jurisdictional and central conferences to establish the number, names and boundaries of the annual conferences and episcopal areas and the authority of the College of Bishops to arrange a plan of episcopal supervision. (The full text of the Constitutional Amendments may be seen online at Erik Alsgaard is editor of the Michigan Area Reporter. Paul Thomas and Mark Doyal are Directors of Communications for the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences, respectively. Kay DeMoss also contributed to this report.

Bob Edgar

Mixed verdict

UM clergyman led Claremont, NCC and Common Cause | 2B

Judicial Council rules on East Africa Conf. complaint | 2B

Collective grief Tragedies merit honesty about feelings and reliance on faith | 7B


May 3, 2013

Section B

UNITED METHODIST REPORTER The independent source for news, features and commentary about the United Methodist Church

Bush Center dedication big for SMU BY SAM HODGES Managing Editor


The April 25 dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University made for a historic gathering of U.S. presidents and First Ladies.

DALLAS—Southern Methodist University played happy backdrop to the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on April 25, an occasion that brought together all four living former U.S. presidents, their First Ladies, and President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. A crowd estimated at 10,000, including Bush administration alumni, family members of former presidents and numerous foreign dignitaries, gathered outside in mild weather by the $250 million facility, a new anchor for the east side of the SMU campus in Dallas. “Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation’s best days lie ahead,” a choked-up former President George W. Bush said in finishing his eight-minute-long  See ‘Bush’ page 4B

Bishop’s book draws on faith, leadership theory, martial arts Greater Northwest Area Bishop Grant Hagiya earned a third-degree black belt in karate, as well as a master of divinity and a doctorate in organizational leadership. His new book Spiritual Kaizen: How to Become a Better Church Leader (Abingdon Press) draws on this varied background. Bishop Hagiya answered questions by email from managing editor Sam Hodges. Here’s an edited version of the exchange. Can you sum up, in a sentence each, how your faith, leadership training and martial arts experience are guiding you as you serve the UMC in a difficult time? My core belief is that God is in charge of all of life, and, like Job, my response is reduced to humbleness

in awe. In leadership training, as Jim Collins reminds us with his “Stockdale Paradox” [concept], we must always confront the brutal facts, but never lose hope. My martial arts training has been instrumental when a crisis situation arises in slowing down all that swirls around me, and enabling me to focus on the most efficient course. Explain “spiritual kaizen,” and why you think it’s a key idea for clergy and committed laity. The Japanese word “kaizen” comes from the root words “kai” meaning “change,” and “zen” translated as “good” or “better.” In business management it is often translated as “continuous improvement.” I would add the description of “slow, steady,

continuous improvement.” When you add the adjective of “spiritual,” it reinforces John Wesley’s personal discipleship movement from prevenient grace to justification and on to sanctification. As United Methodists, we must recover this lifelong spiritual journey, and enter into a continuous growth in love of God and neighbor. Steady improvement in our leadership skills and abilities is also a lifelong process, as I believe leadership is not an innate quality, but rather learned. How much trouble is the UMC— all mainline Christianity—in? And of the causes of the trouble, what stands out as most important, in your view? We are in huge trouble and we have been in trouble for decades, but

out of hubris we have believed like some secular organizations that we were “too big to fail.” Now reality is coming home to roost in the form of our secular Western society moving to a “post-religious institutional society,” where one in five Americans have absolutely no religious preference whatsoever. There is a complex set of causes and challenges, but to mention just one: The systems, structures and processes of our United Methodist Church worked well for the American culture 40 years ago, but are out of touch with our contemporary American culture. In order to be relevant, we must adapt and change. PHOTO COURTESY ABINGDON PRESS

You write that the UM seminaries and UM churches and conferences aren’t serving one another well.  See ‘Hagiya’ page 8B

Bishop Grant Hagiya, author of Spiritual Kaizen: How to Become a Better Church Leader.

2B FAITH focus FAITH WATCH Vatican workers don’t get bonus Pope Francis has decided against giving Vatican employees the raise that is typical upon the death of one pope and election of his successor, the Associated Press reported. The new pope is known to be frugal, and the Vatican posted a large deficit in 2011. “It didn’t seem possible or appropriate to burden the Vatican’s budget with a considerable, unforeseen extra expense,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

Man charged with Christmas bombing A man has been charged by Nigerian authorities with organizing the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church at the edge of the country’s capital city, Abuja. Reuters reported that Nigerian security forces captured Kabiru Sokoto, and he has pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism. The attacked killed 37 people. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

Edgar recalled as progressive Christian leader B Y A D E L L E M. B A N K S Religion News Service

The Rev. Bob Edgar, a Democratic congressman and United Methodist minister who went on to lead the National Council of Churches through a painful series of restructuring cuts, died suddenly on April 23 at age 69. The man religious leaders remembered as a “bridge builder,” suffered a heart attack and had been exercising on a treadmill in his home in Burke, Va., said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for Common Cause. Edgar became president of the Washington-based nonpartisan advocacy group in 2007 after serving two terms as the general secretary of the NCC. “He was a man of great capacity who understood the importance of cross-cultural and religious dynamics,” said the Rev. Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, who recalled traveling in a Common Cause interfaith delegation Edgar led to Vietnam in 2010 to learn about continuing effects

of Agent Orange. Dr. Baltimore said Edgar brought together Christians, Buddhists, Confucians and political leaders. “He was able to link all of those pieces together and just remind us that we’re all made from the same cloth,” he said. Elected to Congress from southeastern Pennsylvania in 1974, Edgar was one of the reform-minded wave of Democratic “Watergate babies” who swept Capitol Hill in the wake of the Watergate scandal. After losing a Senate race in 1986, he was president of Claremont School of Theology for 10 years before he started leading the NCC in 2000. At the NCC, his tenure began with intense news media attention during the Elian Gonzalez case as he helped ferry the boy’s grandmothers to and from Cuba. He soon turned to dealing with the NCC’s growing multimillion-dollar deficit. “This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Edgar told Religion News Service

Still in pulpit at age 105 Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minneapolis often has in its pulpit a true voice of experience—105-year-old Noah Smith. The Rev. Smith didn’t begin preaching until age 49, after working in various occupations, including shining shoes and playing music. “I said, ‘Minister?’ I’m 49 years old. God wanted me to be a minister. Why didn’t he tell me before now? He said, ‘He did tell you, you was too dumb to listen,’” said Mr. Smith. —Compiled by Sam Hodges

CORRECTION In the April 12 “Faith Watch,” we misspelled the last name of an influential Washington, D.C., pastor who died March 20, at age 95. He was Gordon Cosby, credited with inspiring churches to become more mission-focused.


The Rev. Bob Edgar spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 1, 2003, at a prayer service for a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. The UM clergyman then was top staff executive of the National Council of Churches.

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early in his NCC tenure. “About every other day it’s the most fun I’ve ever had, but it’s the hardest job.” Early on, Edgar sensed that the venerable ecumenical agency was losing its public voice, and was one of the early supporters of Christian Churches Together in the USA, which brought the NCC’s mainline Protestant, Orthodox and black churches together with evangelicals and Catholics for the first time. The conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy often criticized the NCC and issued a 2006 report that claimed Edgar tried to help save the still-troubled NCC with donations from liberal philanthropists. IRD President Mark Tooley said he was saddened to learn of Edgar’s death. “Although IRD was frequently critical of the NCC’s policies under his rule, he was always cordial in our personal interactions,” Mr. Tooley said. “Edgar did temporarily revive the NCC, but, as the NCC has recently further shrunk and still struggles, it appears that revival could not be sustained after Edgar’s departure.” Former NCC co-workers and colleagues, who remembered Edgar’s fondness for running, noted his sense of humor and penchant for bad puns, his support of the “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign and his boundless energy. “I thought that should be every aging person’s goal—to be as physically fit as Bob Edgar,” said Philip Jenks, retired communications officer for the NCC, who was four years younger than his supervisor. “Sometimes God’s sense of humor catches up with us.” The Rev. Leslie Copeland-Tune, former assistant director of justice and advocacy at the NCC, added: “He just really was a true believer and a believer in making sure that people who were the least of these did not suffer because of our selfishness.” Edgar, who wrote the 2007 book Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right, was known for activities ranging from protesting the Iraq war to a coordinated arrest inside the U.S. Capitol in 2011 for praying to stop Republican budget cuts. “That was the strength of the man,” said the Rev. Barbara WilliamsSkinner, president of the Skinner Leadership Institute. “He was a bridge builder in the truest, most powerful sense of the word. He took the gospel seriously, the gospel of peace and the gospel of love.” Edgar became top executive of Common Cause, a national advocacy group with more than 400,000 mem-

Rev. Bob Edgar bers and 35 state organizations, in 2007. While there he “oversaw the relaunching of at least seven state chapters, traveled tirelessly to meet with and recruit Common Cause supporters, and raised the organization’s national profile and its critical mission to strengthen our democracy,” Common Cause said in a news release announcing Edgar’s passing. “We are deeply saddened and shaken today by the passing of Bob Edgar,” said Common Cause board chair Robert Reich. “Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families.” Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, was a close friend and colleague. “Bob Edgar was a close personal friend of mine. I cannot believe we have lost him,” Mr. Winkler said. “He was a great servant of Christ, possessor of a magnanimous and positive personality and a faithful United Methodist. Those of us who knew him have been sharing our sadness and our fond memories of him all day.” The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications, was another saddened by the news of Edgar’s passing. “Bob was a valued friend, social progressive and committed Christian leader,” he said. “He brought a wonderful sense of humor to any gathering in which he was present. He was a tireless defender of the poor and an advocate for justice.” United Methodist News Service contributed. U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

FAITH focus 3B UM CONNECTIONS Council rules on WPA/East Africa dispute Northwestern prez to speak at Garrett Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, will give the commencement address at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Garrett, a UMC-affiliated school, is located on the Evanston, Ill., campus of Northwestern. Graduation events begin with Senior Chapel on May 16 at 7:30 p.m., at the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at GarrettEvangelical. Commencement will be on May 17 at 10 a.m., at First United Methodist Church in Evanston.

Virginia Conf. pushes Older Adult Sunday At General Conference 2008, delegates adopted legislation encouraging congregations to observe Older Adult Recognition Day any Sunday in May. The Virginia Conference has chosen May 5 for its churches to have the day, and issued this statement to them: “As you celebrate this special Sunday, let it be an opportunity for the congregation to focus on the needs of older adults. Use it as a time to address the accessibility of the church buildings, to look more closely at programs and ministries, and to listen . . . to listen to the voices of the older adults as they share their dreams and visions for the church.”

Lugar to address Indiana Conference The Indiana Conference and Community Prayer Breakfast will be held on June 8, from 8-9 a.m., at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. The keynote speaker will be former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. He will speak on how United Methodists can be in prayer for the world. Richard Sen. Lugar, a Lugar fifth-generation United Methodist from Indiana, was the longest serving member of Congress in Indiana history before losing his seat last year. —Compiled by Sam Hodges


B Y N E I L L C A L DW E L L Special Contributor

SEATTLE—A 10-year financial dispute between the United Methodist Western Pennsylvania Conference and the East Africa Conference that wound up before the denomination’s top court has ended with a split decision that likely will not please everyone. The Judicial Council agreed with only one of Western Pennsylvania’s three questions—an item concerning $3,000 owed to a pastor in South Sudan, a fraction of the more than $100,000 involved in the overall dispute. In Decision 1238, the council said that a question about the outcome of a complaint filed against East Africa Bishop Daniel Wandabula still was hypothetical “because there is no evidence in the record that the complaint process has concluded.” Bishop Wandabula told the council in October that the complaint has been dismissed and promised to provide documentation to prove his contention. But the council said no documentation has been received nor was provided during a second oral hearing April 17. “The Judicial Council, therefore, understands that the complaint process is continuing,” the ruling says. In the larger question—whether designated funds donated to the East Africa Conference have been used as intended—the decision offered a message of donor beware. “The projects were not managed through the connectional system in the General Board of Global Ministries or authorized as an ‘Advance’ of the denomination,” the decision states. “Members of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference raised the funds, transmitted the funds to the East Africa Annual Conference, visited locations in Uganda, and negotiated the terms with church leaders in East Africa. . . . [It is not clear] from the record whether any specific officers within the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference had the authority to adjust expenditure plans in cases where the property had become too expensive or too cumbersome, where construction proved to be too inferior, or where the water well was to be bored. “The record indicates that the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference now seeks supervisory action by the General Board of Global Ministries to help remedy errors that the annual conference finds in the management of this mission,” the Judicial Council added. The ruling did direct that the $3,000 in funds intended as compen-

sation for Pastor Isaac Sebit should be paid to him by Jan. 1, 2014, or returned to the Western Pennsylvania Conference. An oral hearing on the matter was held April 17, primarily so that Nancy Denardo of the Pittsburgh East District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference could speak to the Judicial Council. Ms. Denardo, who supervised the mission project and filed the original complaint against Bishop Wandabula, was ill during the October meeting and could not attend.

‘Plans never realized’ Ms. Denardo spoke of her shock in going to Uganda expecting to see a new church and seeing only a foundation constructed. “Our plans have never been realized,” she said. “No receipts were ever made available and no explanation given by Bishop Wandabula. . . . Because of the consistent corruption in Uganda and South Sudan, I felt compelled to write a complaint against the bishop.” In his own comments, Bishop Wandabula said that it was “important to note that my office did not misuse any ‘designated’ funds offered for particular ministries, nor have I mismanaged any funds given for mission and ministry. Believe it or not, we have many Christians both within and without the East Africa Annual Conference praying for accountability with a ‘human face’ balanced with transparency. “Terrible mistakes are being made in dealing with East Africa,” he added. “Please note that both the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference and GBGM were told about their mistakes even as the mistakes were being made. It is so enraging that they refused to listen! . . . GBGM is misguided, and I have been framed for whatever reason.” The Rev. Robert Zilhaver, a clergy member of the Western Pennsylvania Conference, also spoke at the oral hearing. “This dispute has crippled our work in Uganda and our work fighting malaria,” Mr. Zilhaver said.

Case of former bishop In another case, the council upheld a 2012 decision of law by Bishop Thomas Bickerton that rejected arguments by the Rev. Hae-Jong Kim that sought to reverse his 2005 resignation as a bishop. Mr. Kim resigned Sept. 1, 2005, in the midst of a complaint against him. In January 2007, he wrote to the Council of Bishops asking that his resignation be rescinded. The Council of Bishops, citing no provisions in the Book of Discipline to deal with such a situation, decided they had no jurisdiction to consider his request. Mr.


Nancy Denardo of the Western Pennsylvania Conference addressed the UMC’s Judicial Council on April 17, elaborating her complaint against East Africa Bishop Daniel Wandabula over alleged misuse of mission funds.

Kim then appealed to the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on the Episcopacy for help, but the committee did not act on his request. During the 2012 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, a clergy delegate offered a five-point appeal for a decision of law based on whether Mr. Kim had received fair process. Bishop Bickerton was presiding when the request was made. The Judicial Council affirmed Bishop Bickerton’s responses to all five points. The council said that its ruling was only in regard to the fair process question and would not be drawn into other areas “where the Judicial Council has no disciplinary authority.” That included Mr. Kim’s appeal to the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race for an investigation into his treatment, a request that was made 10 weeks after his resignation. After his resignation, Mr. Kim was returned to status as a retired elder in good standing in his home Greater New Jersey Conference. “The Judicial Council acknowledges that this matter has caused much pain and suffering among those involved, the community and the entire church,” Decision 1239 read. An oral hearing on this matter also was held April 17. Mr. Kim, making a brief comment before the Judicial Council, remembered that he was first ordained 50 years ago this year and asked “that the church I love, and gave my life for, treat me fairly.”

More decisions In other rulings the Judicial Council: • Remanded a question of law made during the Western Jurisdictional Conference back to the presiding bishop for a decision after the bishop had rejected the question as

moot because it had a typographical error. The Judicial Council has ruled several times in previous decisions that such an error in a question does “not necessarily negate the legitimacy of the questions.” • Deferred a decision on a question from the Congo Central Conference until it receives the minutes of the relevant session of the election process. • Refused jurisdiction in an episcopal election dispute between annual conferences in Nigeria because the group submitting the request was without the proper disciplinary standing to do so. • Said it lacked jurisdiction in a question of an inclusiveness resolution in the Desert Southwest Conference because the request for a bishop’s decision of law was not properly presented during the business session of annual conference. • Denied a request to reconsider Decision 1230, the decision on reinstating Bishop Earl Bledsoe, along with Memorandums 1213 (Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals) and 1217 (North Alabama and the Coalition for Reproductive Choice). The Judicial Council is next scheduled to meet Oct. 23-26 in Boston. Mr. Caldwell is the editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate and is a correspondent for United Methodist News Service.

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4B FAITH focus


ABOVE: The 15-acre park setting of the Bush Center features native Texas plants and landscape. RIGHT: President and Mrs. Bush in front of the Bush Center.

 BUSH Continued from page 1B remarks. The Bush Center includes a museum and library, housing official records and artifacts of the 43rd president. It also is home to the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy center. The dedication was, to no small degree, a United Methodist event, given that Mr. Bush and his wife Laura are active United Methodists; that they chose to put the facility at a United Methodist school (Mrs. Bush’s alma mater); and that their pastor, the Rev. Mark Craig of Highland Park UMC (right by the campus) gave the invocation. “We have gathered today, O God, to give thanks for the life and legacy of President and Mrs. George Bush,” Mr. Craig prayed. “We are thankful for their distinguished leadership to our nation.” Earlier this week, Mr. Craig said in an interview: “The Bushes are very strong church members. Every Sunday I look over to my left, and they’re sitting there. . . . They love their church and they love the Methodist Church.” SMU President Gerald Turner said the Bush Center will raise the school’s profile and strengthen it academically, through collaborations involving students and professors. “The most obvious thing is it’ll bring 400,000 to 500,000 people a year here, and many of them wouldn’t have been on campus otherwise,” he said. “But the [academic] programs are what we’re most interested in.”

In his remarks at the dedication, Mr. Bush said: “President Gerald Turner runs a fantastic university.” He added that SMU has “a student body that is awesome,” prompting a roar from students gathered for the event. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both lauded Mr. Bush for his work on global health, particularly providing drugs to Africans battling HIV/AIDS. Mr. Carter said Mr. Bush, more than anyone, deserved credit for ending civil war in Sudan. President Obama too praised Mr. Bush for his work in Africa, as well as for backing immigration reform. “Mr. President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor and most of all for your love of country, thank you very much,” President Obama said at the dedication. Mr. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, merely thanked the crowd, but moved many by rising from his wheelchair briefly.

SMU also had to win approval from the UMC’s South Central Jurisdiction. Some within the SMU community and the denomination lamented the school’s aggressive bid, particularly since the arrangement required a public policy center that they predicted would reflexively defend Mr. Bush’s legacy and promote his philosophy of government. Critics remain, including the Rev. Bill McElvaney, a retired United Methodist pastor and professor emeritus of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. He joined in an interfaith service of lamentation on April 22 in Dallas, one of a number of protest events timed to the Bush Center dedication.

“My view has not shifted about the war in Iraq,” Dr. McElvaney said in a recent interview. “This was an illegal war. It was unnecessary. It was taken on false premises. Our president lived above the law on that.” But Dr. McElvaney volunteered that the Bush Institute, already in operation, has had some worthy initiatives, including building leadership skills among women in the Middle East—a Laura Bush priority. “Those are things we can be grateful for, as far as we know,” said Dr. McElvaney, an SMU alum. “We’ll see how this plays out.” United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones, an SMU board member, said it’s

Strong resource George W. Bush’s presidency was, as he acknowledged at the dedication, controversial, including his decision to go to war in Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, and his handling of Hurricane Katrina and the economy, which went into a deep recession late in his second term. Though the Bushes made clear they would return to Dallas after his presidency, SMU had to compete to become home to the Bush Center.

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understandable that there would be opposition to the Bush Center within the UMC, given the size and “big tent” character of the denomination. But he praised the Center, including the Institute, as a strong new resource for SMU. “The predictions of great harm and polarized political activity raised by critics in 2007 and 2008 have not come true,” Bishop Jones said. “The Institute has conducted itself with academic integrity and been a strong contributor to the university’s mission.” The Rev. Stephen Rankin, a UM elder and chaplain of SMU, also called the Bush Center an asset for the school and said the Institute can be a place for rigorous, fair-minded policy debate. “I’m not suggesting some mushy middle-of-the-road default,” he said. “We United Methodists go there almost unthinkingly. I long for honest, pointed discussions with charitable judgments about each other’s motives, rather than the political tit-for-tat that happens too often.”

Twisted beam


The Rev. William McElvaney, a UM pastor and professor emeritus of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, spoke at a service of lamentation, one of a number of protest events tied to the Bush Center dedication.

The Center opens to the public May 1, and visitors will encounter a 226,000 square foot structure whose exterior complements SMU’s Georgian architecture, while including modern touches. The interior walls integrate Texas pecan paneling with Texas limestone. The solar panel-equipped building U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

FAITH focus 5B


Laura Bush has led the Bush Institute to a focus on building leadership skills among women. The Institute sponsored a group of Middle East women on a U.S. tour, including this stop at Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

earned LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and the 15-acre urban park that surrounds it, which Mrs. Bush consulted on closely, features native, droughttolerant plants landscaped to maximize water conservation. Freedom Hall provides the “wow” of the Center, with its elevated ceiling and a 360-degree video screen of amazingly high definition. The Museum begins with exhibits depicting Mr. Bush’s early policy initiatives, such as tax cuts, the No Child Left Behind education program and faith-based initiatives. But around the corner, the unexpected events dominate, namely the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the recession. “You can see the way our lives changed, and the way the lives of everyone in our country changed,” said Mrs. Bush at a media preview on April 24. The Museum includes a twisted beam from the World Trade Center towers, flanked by panels offering the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks. Visitors can use interactive technology to hear the recorded advice Mr. Bush was given about whether to go to war in Iraq, and can register their own calls on what should have been done. “You get to decide how you would handle the crisis, and you’re invited to disagree with him,” said Mark Langdale, president of the Bush Center. There are many lighter touches, including gowns worn by Mrs. Bush, displays of gifts given to the Bushes by foreign countries and bronze statues of the Bush’s pet dogs. The Museum offers a replica of the Oval Office, decorated as it was in Mr. Bush’s time. U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

There’s even a Rose Garden, albeit it with Texas plants, and a view of the Dallas skyline. The Bush Library, formally handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration on April 24, offers scholars 70 million pages of paper records, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs. The building also houses the Bush Institute, whose policy areas include economic growth, global health, education reform and human rights. Mrs. Bush noted the Institute’s work on improving treatment for cervical cancer in Africa. She also praised the Center’s collaboration with SMU. “It’s fun to be here,” she said during the media preview. “I went to college here. I’m back on my old

campus.” At the dedication, the former presidents and First Ladies—Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter— sat together on the raised platform. Dignitaries in the front rows included former Vice President Dick Cheney. The strict security measures accompanying the dedication prompted Highland Park UMC to shut down for much of this week. But Mr. Craig said the church will see visitors and other benefits from the Bush Center. He plans to spend time there in his retirement, which he’s beginning this spring. “I wouldn’t mind being a docent,” he said.


ABOVE: Freedom Hall at the George W. Bush Presidential Center features a 360-degree high-definition video wall. BELOW: Twisted beams from the World Trade Center are a centerpiece of the 9/11 exhibit in the Bush Center Museum.




The George W. Bush Presidential Center is on 23 acres near the entrance of SMU. The 226,000 square foot building houses George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, George W. Bush Institute, a museum store and Café 43. Grounds cover 15 acres, featuring native trees, shrubs and grasses, and a Texas Rose Garden. “Green” building features include solar hot water and photovoltaic systems. Library/Museum is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, and holds 70 million pages of paper, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and 4 million digital photos. Library/Museum includes exhibits, an Oval Office replica and a piece of steel from World Trade Center. Freedom Hall encases a 20 foot tall, 360-degree high-definition video wall. Building designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Landscape designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Total cost: $250 million. Opening: May 1. Admission: $16 for adults. Discounts for seniors, students, children. Free for SMU students, faculty, staff.


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6B FAITH forum

How will United Methodists respond to Gosnell horror? B Y M AT T O’R E I L LY Special Contributor

United Methodists have an impressive record for faithfully responding to tragedy. In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, Methodist congregations responded with an outpouring of love and intercession. We have preached, prayed and worked to transform Matt the systems that not O’Reilly only allow but sometimes even enable such terrible acts. The trial of Kermit Gosnell presents us with a new national horror involving the violent deaths of children. Charged with the murder of one woman and seven newborns, his crimes likely far exceed the formal accusations against him. The horror of the allegations has been compounded by the initial hesitancy of mainstream media to cover the story. As details continue to emerge, the question for United Methodists is this: How will we respond to the Gosnell horror? We must begin by recognizing that this tragic situation follows from the widespread efforts to normalize abortion in the United States. Not all will agree with that conclusion, but a variety of factors suggest its accuracy. Since

abortion was declared a constitutional right in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement has worked hard to undermine the full personhood of the preborn. We have been told again and again that the child in the womb is a fetus, not a baby. We are told that abortion is not the ending of a life; it is the termination of a pregnancy. This cold and detached terminology is intended to downplay any emotional reaction to abortion. The problem is that if a preborn child in the eighth or ninth month of gestation does not have the moral status of a person, why should we think a change of geography from inside the womb to outside the womb suddenly establishes personhood? There is no substantive difference between the preborn and the newly born. If we are desensitized to the death of the former, it will lead us to be decreasingly sensitive to the latter. The road from Roe to Gosnell is a downhill slope. This connection can clearly be seen in a variety of recent arguments made by abortion advocates. In 2012, bioethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argued in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics for what they called “post-birth abortion.” They claimed that newborns, like fetuses, do not have the moral status of a person and, therefore, the killing of a newborn should be permissible even when the new-

Editor’s Note: The Rev. Matt O’Reilley submitted this commentary. Since it references the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, we asked that group for a response. The Rev. Steve Copley wrote the essay below on behalf of RCRC. born has no disability or defect. Upon the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a piece for titled, “So what if abortion ends life?” in which she argued that the child inside the womb is as much a life as the one outside. She did not go as far as Dr. Giubilini and Dr. Minerva by arguing for infanticide, but when you agree that the preborn and the newly born are alive in the same sense, it is a short and logical step from pre-birth abortion to infanticide. More recently, a representative of Planned Parenthood argued to Florida lawmakers that the decision to offer life-saving care to a child born alive after a botched abortion should be left to the mother and her physicians rather than guaranteed by law. When the principles that gave us abortion-on-demand are being applied to infanticide in such a broad range of arenas, from academic journals to popular websites and congressional hearings, it is difficult to sustain the view that there is no con-

nection between Roe and Gosnell. United Methodists need to recognize that we are where we are because the Roe decision started us on a path of devaluing the sacred worth of human life. That path has led us to the trial of Kermit Gosnell. In light of the connection between abortion and infanticide, United Methodists should respond to the Gosnell horror in two ways. First, we should break ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). As many readers already know, our General Board of Church & Society and United Methodist Women are member organizations of RCRC. Readers may not know that in a published volume of worship aids entitled Prayerfully ProChoice, RCRC has written that abortion is a “God-given right,” a “sacred choice,” and that human life is not to be attributed to the preborn. This language goes strongly against our Social Principles which declare that, “Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion” (2012 Book of Discipline, ¶161.J). Claiming abortion as a divinely endowed holy right is hardly consonant with reluctance to approve it. RCRC has worked tirelessly to devalue and destroy preborn human life, which, as I have argued, has played a significant part in bringing about the current situation in which Kermit Gosnell stands accused

of infanticide. United Methodists must respond by holding our denominational agencies accountable for their role in advancing abortion. We must insist they break with RCRC. Second, we should call upon General Conference to make a stronger statement in our Social Principles in favor of preborn and newly born human life. Our United Methodist Church must speak against the increasing application of pro-abortion arguments to the practice of infanticide, and we need our Social Principles to guide us. We already state our reluctance to approve abortion. We need a statement that declares our unambiguous and unqualified support for human life at every stage. United Methodists are supposed to be the people who speak up for those who have no voice, who take up the case of the marginalized, the abused and the victimized. If we want to be faithful to that heritage today and in the days to come, we must be the voice both of the preborn and the newly born, and so must our denominational agencies and Social Principles. We should be able to count on them to defend the defenseless and care for the destitute. This is our opportunity to stand for righteousness and against injustice. We must not miss it. The Rev. O’Reilly is pastor of First UMC of Union Springs, Ala. Connect at

Case is a horror, but no reason to leave RCRC BY STEVE COPLEY Special Contributor

The Kermit Gosnell case is as horrible as you think it is. And it illustrates precisely why it should not be used to argue for further restriction of access. Women living in poverty in Philadelphia felt that Gosnell was their only option when they needed Steve an abortion, in part because of the cur- Copley rent restrictions on Medicaid funding and the dearth of accessible and affordable abortion providers. Using Gosnell as an excuse to further restrict abortion care just creates more unprincipled, back alley charlatans like him who are willing to take advantage of women in desperate circumstances. Gosnell’s case does not show a slippery slope to infanticide; rather, it is a window into a not-toodistant past where women were permanently injured or—too often—died from illegal abortions.

As a pastor in the South Central Jurisdiction, I’m glad our denomination is involved in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice because the mission and work of RCRC so clearly fits United Methodists’ position on women’s health, and specifically abortion care, as outlined in the Book of Discipline. Like many of you, I believe that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. One way to accomplish the “rare” part of that belief is comprehensive sexual education. The Book of Discipline says “(T)he Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth and adults.” (¶161.F) RCRC has done faithful work around sex-ed that is both age and denominationally appropriate so that young women and men aren’t faced with having to make a decision about abortion in the first place. I know of no other organization inside or outside the denomination that helps us meet that mandate. The Book of Discipline makes several references to concepts such as self-determination, informed Chris-

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tian conscience, and thoughtful and prayerful consideration regarding abortion. Those actions are difficult to effect without access to a full range of reproductive health care services. As a coalition, RCRC believes that access to reproductive health care services should be readily available to all people so that we can all experience God’s good gift of sexuality with joy and responsibility, health and wholeness. One passage from the Book of Discipline that is particularly meaningful to me as someone who pastors those living in poverty is also in the section on abortion: “We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion. The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth.” (¶161.J) For decades, RCRC has been conducting trainings for clergy in helping women deal with these difficult decisions, as well as in times of reproductive loss.

Being “reluctant to approve abortion,” as our Book of Discipline says, is an indication of the careful thought that a woman undertakes when considering the ending of a pregnancy. But we agree that “. . . we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.” (¶161.J) Indeed, this particular passage models the behavior of recognizing the gravity of the situation, and then thoughtfully and prayerfully proceeding in partnership with loved ones, clergy and medical professionals. It’s important to note here that Gosnell’s actions were not proper and accepted medical procedures, and he in fact is not certified as an OB/GYN. As United Methodists, we are not called to the easy answers, but rather called to bring our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness to our Church specifically, and by extension, to God’s vast and complex world. The reasons a woman would choose an

abortion are rarely simple or easy, and are made in an environment colored by many factors, including poverty, race, education and class, as well as access to reproductive health care. RCRC’s recent expansion into a frame of reproductive justice includes not only the moral agency of people to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives, but also now a commitment to change the environment in which people make those very decisions. Given the UMC’s long history of social justice and working to help people at the margins, this is a good fit for us—and a good fit to bring our unique voice as a member of the coalition that makes up RCRC. We’re also called to witness to Christ’s love. We live the gospel best when we do so with action—action that creates an environment where people are able to exercise their conscience with as few barriers as possible. The Rev. Copley is an ordained elder in the Arkansas Conference, and serves as executive director of the Arkansas Interfaith Conference. U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

FAITH forum 7B

Faith is balm for ‘collective grief’ after tragedy B Y J U L I E YA R B R O U G H Special Contributor

“We know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4, CEB) When an entire community is stunned and shocked by largescale loss, most recently the explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, a kind of collective Julie grief envelops every- Yarbrough one touched by the tragedy. Usually this grief is exponentially more intense in small communities where there are far fewer than six degrees of separation between neighbors, friends and family. People know each other personally and intimately, many related by birth and a shared geographic heritage.

It was inspiring to see a news report from West on Sunday, April 21, about members of a large church there worshipping outside together in the bright sunshine of a spring day. There were tears. There was sadness. There was determination. There was hope: “And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5 NRSV) Life’s extremes collided in the lives and hearts of those gathered in a field to share their collective and individual grief. And there was joy—joy to be alive and connected, safe amid the public and private outpouring of love and care that is God’s inspired response of the human heart. The nature of collective grief is that sometimes it lifts rather quickly, such as when a suspect is apprehended. All of Boston, indeed the entire country, was relieved and jubilant when the manhunt for those responsible for a senseless act of violent terrorism ended after four days of searching. Yet in Newtown there will


The Rev. Jimmy Sansom led a service at West UMC in West, Texas, on the Sunday after the April 17 explosion devastated much of the town.

always be a collective grief that lingers in the hearts of those who sustained unimaginable loss and suffer deep heartache. It could not be otherwise. There will always be

grief—always—for the children and adults slain that December day. Grief for their tender age, their innocence, their self-sacrifice. Those who survived live daily with circular projections of the mind about a future that will never be—the “what if ” and “if only” at the core of the great, unanswered, “Why?” The rites and rituals of collective grief can bring us, eventually, to a sense of comfort and reassurance. Yet the work of grief that ultimately leads to healing demands that we first acknowledge our pain and loss, and engage with ourselves at a deep spiritual place where we encounter what it is we’re feeling and what it is we believe. In 1 Peter 5:10 we’re promised that our grief will not last forever: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.” (NRSV) God promises to restore us, to support us, to strengthen us, and to establish us—and the best part is

that God promises to do it himself. God does not delegate God’s intentional care for you or for me. God is a hands-on God who uses many of our earthly resources and opportunities to comfort and encourage us through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, especially at times of great sorrow, loss, and human tragedy. On the last occasion my beloved husband was in the pulpit, he offered this pastoral prayer: “We have come this far by faith, and we will continue to walk with our hand in yours wherever you lead us.” I cherish this spiritual affirmation, the promise of our faith that in life, in death, in life beyond death, and in our grief, God is with us. We are not alone. Ms. Yarbrough is a member of Highland Park UMC in Dallas, where her late husband, the Rev. Leighton K. Farrell, was longtime pastor. She’s the author of a series of grief resources, Beyond the Broken Heart, published by Abingdon Press (

Why the UM bishops should keep their meetings open B Y B I S H O P J O E E. P E N N E L J R . Special Contributor

As one of the retired bishops I join those who are concerned about the active bishops meeting as a closed “forum” in San Diego from May 5-8. The word “forum” is a public word. Its derivation comes from the open space or market place in an ancient Bishop Joe Roman city. It is also E. Pennel used by organizaJr. tions that hold public meetings for reflections and discussions around themes of common interest. It should be noted that the active bishops are scheduled to meet as a forum in 2013, 2014 and 2015. “Forum” does not mean closed meeting. It means just the opposite. I want to suggest several reasons why the United Methodist Church would be more vital if this did not happen. First, it is advantageous for believers to experience the theological and geographical diversity of the bishops. In many ways the meetings are like the entire church reduced to one room. If we look carefully we experience the Christ who transcends our differences to make us one. Second, the global nature of the church is experienced in these meetU N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

ings. It does no harm for us to be open to this experience. Third, it is restoring to witness how active bishops reflect theologically on issues such as sexuality, ordination, evangelism and the mission of the church in the world. Having complete transparency on these and other opportunities will strengthen the witness of the United Methodist Church. Fourth, others can learn how to share and work with best practices by watching how the bishops go about this important task. Why not have these best practices published by our religious press so that all could benefit? The presence of retired bishops could also contribute to best practices since experience is one of our great teachers. Practices that strengthened our witness in the past might also be employed today. Fifth, we are living in a time when there is a growing interest in spiritual retreats. More and more Christians are interested in prayer, meditation, searching the Scriptures and keeping the spiritual disciplines. Others could be helped and informed by how the bishops engage the inner life. Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, president of the council, described such meetings as “mainly spiritual retreats.” If this is true, why should anyone be excluded from such opportunities to grow in grace? Modeling spirituality for the church is a genuine need. Mr. Wesley taught us that social concern

grows out of vital piety. Sixth, it could be beneficial if the whole church could witness how the bishops labor to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I know from my experience that the bishops are committed to this mission. Why close the meeting so that others cannot experience the

residential but we are active. Retired bishops serve as professors, chaplains, writers, consultants, interim pastors, handlers of complaints and spiritual directors. Our experiences could contribute to the conversation in ways that might be helpful to all concerned. In a word, some of us would gladly serve as a resource to both the active

‘We want persons to be fully engaged in the community of faith. The communal nature of Methodism is compromised by not having open minds, open hearts and open doors.’ fervor around this mandate? Making disciples is one of the ways that we practice the ministry of reconciliation. Seventh, I doubt that the bishops would suggest closed meetings for local congregations. I say this because the Christian religion is by its very nature a communal religion. We want persons to be fully engaged in the community of faith. The communal nature of Methodism is compromised by not having open minds, open hearts and open doors. Eighth, it is worth noting that the retired bishops are also excluded from the meetings of the forum. We are not

and retired bishops. Ninth, the forum does not carry out the intention of Paragraph 4 of our constitution. It states: “In the United Methodist Church, no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.” In my opinion, the word “structured” is the key word as it relates to closed meetings. Tenth, the high purpose of the Church is to reconcile people to God and to each other after the example of Christ. All that we do should be done

in the spirit of reconciliation. I believe that we can better practice reconciliation by being open in all of our practices. I have been in Council of Bishops meetings when there have been serious theological differences between bishops, aired at the microphone with great passion. After the adjournment I have seen the very same bishops hug each other as an expression of love for God and neighbor.

Deep commitment I want to conclude this piece by saying two things. First, the Council is made up of persons of deep commitment to the mission of the United Methodist Church. These persons, as a group, want to lead the Church to be an instrument through which Christ can work. Secondly, there are times when the meetings do need to be closed because of delicate needs and issues that affect the soul of the church. There should be a place and a time to adjourn into closed session but having closed meetings contradicts the spirit of Wesley when he said, “Do all the good you can, by all of the means you can, in all of the ways you can, in all of the places you can, at all of the times you can, to all of the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Retired UM Bishop Pennel is a professor of the practice of leadership at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

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8B FAITH focus  HAGIYA Continued from page 1B Briefly, what needs to happen on both ends? The church and academy are separate institutions with different histories, audiences and systems. One does not serve the other, but rather there should be a synergy arising out of a shared partnership in mission and purpose. I have a lot of ideas on how the two institutions can work together, but the one that I would suggest immediately is to find a way for the church and academy to talk with each other in a constructive and mutually transforming way. Often, the communication is single, channeled with one institution demanding something from the other. A carefully constructed two-way conversation where both institutions are attempting to understand where the other is coming from and seeking to serve one another would go a long way. Having been on both sides of this fence, there are great strengths in each institution, but instead of working for the best in both, oftentimes we draw out the worst in each. You did your doctoral study on highly effective UM pastors. How did you define “highly effective”? As an academic research dissertation, I had to have a carefully defined and quantitative definition of “highly effective clergy.” My dissertation definition was those clergy who were able to increase their average worship attendance over a sustained five-year period or longer throughout their ministerial careers. Conversely, “lower effective clergy” were not able to in-

crease their average worship attendance over the same five-year criterion. You write about a “culture of entitlement” within UM ministry, including bishops, that sometimes trumps service to God. How does that relate to “security of appointment”—and is security of appointment hurting the UMC? From a management perspective, I do believe that security of appointment is harming the United Methodist Church. I understand its historical roots in the primary protection of women clergy, and I applaud that. However, the church has come a long way in this one area, and although there is still a great deal of sexism in our church, security of appointment is no longer needed in the same historical context from its origin. Personally, I believe that security of appointment fosters a sense of clergy entitlement, and I would include bishops. If security of appointment would someday go away, I believe bishops should also be subject to term limits, and that would push all of us away from mediocrity and into a lifelong sense of growth and improvement. “Empowerment of laity” is something you stress over and over. Why? Because of its biblical and theological grounding, and the fact that in our baptism, we have been endowed with all the powers of Jesus to heal and transform a broken world. Our



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current church culture has fostered a clericalism that is miles away from our biblical heritage, and it is truly harming our denomination. We are in a consumerism church model, where the laity come as passive recipients of a gospel truth that is dispensed by the pastor who is supposed to be a theological expert. The biblical mandate is that we all are ministers of that gospel in our baptism! The Pacific Northwest is known as the least churched part of the country. How tough is it to get people engaged in Christian faith there? As one in the original “None Zone,” I am always reminding our people of the great advantage we have in the Pacific Northwest: We have way more people to evangelize and transform! Instead of lamenting the secularization of our part of the country, we should be challenged by it, and work that much harder to be the church of Jesus Christ! It is definitely tougher to get secularized people interested in the gospel message, but nobody, especially Jesus, promised us it would be easy. We are working as hard as we can to turn things around, and I pay special attention to our yearly metrics, especially average worship attendance, professions of faith and baptisms, and mission events and projects. On page 130 of your book, you lay out the “metrics” you’ve posed to the churches in your area, including a 10 percent net increase in worship attendance. Yet you also stress the “missional” as opposed to “attractional” model of church. What do you say to the pastor who says to you, “In order to boost attendance, I need to focus on programs that bring in individuals and families, more than on mission work?” As I have mentioned earlier, we are now in a “post-organized religious culture” here in the West and Europe, and people will not necessarily seek out our churches from a felt need. Thus, the “attractional” model that worked for previous generations will not work in our contemporary society. We need to move to a “missional” model that engages people where they are. However, as I also previously mentioned, all of our systems, structures and processes are still fixed in the old attractional model. Therefore, I believe we find ourselves in the transitional zone between attractional and missional. Gil Rendle calls this the “wilderness.” We are sojourners, looking for home. I tell anyone who will listen that God will ultimately lead us by pillar and fire to our final home, and the key is for us to journey in faith. Our home


Bishop Grant Hagiya (front) helps deliver a report on the UMC’s Four Areas of Focus during the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Fla. He is flanked (from left) by Bishops Joel Martinez, Thomas Bickerton and Mike Lowry.

is not in a church building or church property, but our home is the mission itself. To bring more people into the church building, without sending them out in mission to the world, is bankrupt and biblically wrong. Mission is our very reason for existence as the people of God. How has your work changed and grown, now that you’re leading three conferences? And how much traveling are you doing? In my opinion, the reduction of one bishop in each jurisdiction at the 2004 General Conference was more motivated by political rather than financial reasons. As such, the church did not realize the unintended consequences, and we are now living through the problems that this decision has produced. In my case, I must now oversee a huge geographical territory that includes Alaska, Idaho,

Oregon and Washington. My personal testimony is that if I could focus and concentrate on any one of those areas and annual conferences alone, I could effect change and growth to a greater degree. You write in Spiritual Kaizen, as an aside, that you can teach most people how to break a board. Do you still practice the martial arts, and what’s the most boards you’ve ever broken at one time? I do still practice. Board and brick breaking is not an integral part of the art, and the only time we did it was for show . . . to promote our dojo (studio) or art. It was also expensive, as in one power break we would break 5-6 boards at one time. At my age, I don’t have the time or money to waste on such activities!

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Michigan Area Reporter - May 2013 edition  

The May 2013 edition of the Michigan Area Reporter, the official newspaper of the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences

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