Page 1 l Michigan Area of The United Methodist Church News and Information l Sept 2013

Michigan church-starts invite people to journey with God REV. KAY DEMOSS Senior Editor/Writer MIConnect No two “church starts” are the same. They happen in different places, among different people using different models. The thing that is the same is the presence of the Holy Spirit, breathing vitality into the process.

Matt Bistayi, Lead Pastor of Valley Church, says, “We are ready to take the training wheels off!” Photo courtesy of Valley Church

A church start happened in Allendale on Sept. 22 marking the chartering of the Valley Church at Allendale High School near the campus of Grand Valley State University. This congregation has been growing together since 2009.

Gary Step, Director of New Church Development and Congregational Transformation, notes that having taken the step of chartering, Valley leaves West Michigan Conference’s new church funding stream. Matt Bistayi is the Lead Pastor at valley. He climbed on a little pink bicycle on Sept. 22 and said, “We are ready to be a local church on our own! Our training wheels have been on the last few years as we’ve learned to pedal our church. Today we are ready to take the training wheels off because we’re big people now!” Matt gave those gathered the credit for helping Valley “have the joy, freedom and confidence of pedaling together on our own.” Celebrating the four year journey, he reminded those present that “Most churches have members. Here at Valley we have partners.” Those ready to make a commitment were invited to come continued on page 3 forward. With the little


Camp Boosters change lives! REV. KAY DEMOSS Senior Editor/Writer MIConnect Ron Fike and Colleen Treman are camp boosters. They offer good reasons to help children, youth and adults have a positive Christian outdoor experience . Ron says, “It is a joy to be a member of the Detroit Conference Board of Outdoor and Retreat Ministries. It’s

also a blessing to be a camp pastor each summer. Any pastor out there who has thought of doing this and hasn’t should definitely give it a go!” Colleen says the kids at Lansing Mt. Hope UMC ask her this question all year long, “WHEN do we go to camp?

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Be a Camp Booster

Photo courtesy of Wesley Woods

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Bishop Deb’s Life Achievements Honored in Boston Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey has been named a Distinguished Alumnus by Boston University School of Theology. Her achievements were celebrated during activities held on their campus September 18-19. Andy Crouch (1994), Rev. David K. Farley (1978) and Rev. Dr. Michele Shields (1981) were also recognized by the school. Those chosen were honored “not only for their celebrity but their leadership, integrity, commitment and service which are critical marks of their lives and work.”

Now’s the time to grow the church together!

Distinguished Alumni participated in Matriculation Day ceremonies as models and inspiration for the entering class of 2013. Later all were included in a panel discussion on “The three greatest challenges facing us in the next decade.”

At the Michigan Area Growing the Church in a Changing World event, more than 100 laity and clergy gathered at First UMC in Mason to hear dynamic speakers share about ways to build the church in a more multicultural world.

Bishop Deb first felt a calling to the ordained ministry while a student at Boston University Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey was one School of Theology and of three distinguished alums honored by earned her Master’s of Boston School of Theology on Sept. 18-19. Divinity degree there in 1976. Ordained Deacon in 1974 and Elder in 1977, she served churches in the Iowa Annual Conference. In 2001 she was appointed to the Waterloo District, and served there until her election to the episcopacy in 2004, at which time she began serving as the Bishop of the Dakotas Area Annual Conference. In July of 2012 she was assigned to the Michigan Area.

The event, the first in a series, featured the Rev. DJ del Rosario, pastor of Bothell UMC near Seattle, WA. He challenged participants to make the church as diverse as the local grocery story.

Other life achievements were cited by the selection committee. Bishop Deb was elected to serve as a delegate to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1988, and was the first elected clergy from the Iowa Annual Conference in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. She has received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from both Iowa Wesleyan College (in 2004) and Dakota Wesleyan University (in 2012). “Because of you the world, the church, and the community are better than we could have imagined,” noted Rev. Canon Ted Karpf, representing the School of Theology. “Your leadership has touched and changed lives.”

REV. KENNETHA BIGHAM-TSAI Lansing District Superintendent

The Rev. Nora Colmenares, the plenary speaker, helped participants understand the changing demographics in Michigan and strategize about ways to cross boundaries for the mission of Christ. The Rev. Dr. Grace Cajiuat of the General Commission on Religion and Race led the group in cultural competency exercises and in passionate multicultural worship. Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey challenged the group to look around and see the people who sometimes are in our paths as we make our way to church on Sunday mornings. She challenged participants to look under the bridges and behind the dumpsters and to not turn away from those in need of a word of hope.

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Journey with God/from page 1 pink bike in the foreground, they filled the stage, acknowledging their readiness to “be the church.” September 22 modeled Valley’s fundamental journeyoutlook. At the close of his remarks, Matt offered a reminder: “Jesus never said, ‘Come and sit.’ He said, ‘Go!’” Six opportunities were then given to “be the church” in the community like: Gas Station Mission; sorting clothes at Love INC; showing care at a Nursing Home; making cards for Emergency Personnel; and brainstorming ways to bless Walker Firefighters. “We’re ending worship here and continuing worship in the community,” the pastor explained. Worship later concluded with a taco picnic. Chartering day was huge for Valley Church, but it’s just the beginning. Those going to Valley’s website quickly observe that they are not in for a “traditional” religious experience: “If the idea of showing up to a church makes you whoozy, don’t let that stop you! We’re not a church that singles people out and makes you feel awkward. We just want you to be pumped up about God.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the state, a church start happened in Bay City in July. Says Marty Doring, “On July 1, Grace United Methodist Church was created out of the merging of the former Christ UMC and First UMC.” Considered a new church start, Grace is also involved in the Vital Church Initiative. “We know that our mission field is beyond the doors of Grace UMC,” Marty shares, “which is why we partnered with the Salvation Army to host Freaky Friday.” Freaky Friday was founded on a mission statement: Welcoming all on a Christ-centered journey. “We learned as much as our neighborhood friends, if not more,” program coordinator Marty, says. Their one goal going into the project was to share the love of Jesus Christ. Through the weeks 106 kids engaged in the theme Fruits of the Spirit. Fifty-some volunteers from Grace Church and the Salvation Army made the events fruitful through character building activities.

Ben Franklin paid a visit to Bay City on a Freaky Friday this summer. He helped kids learn the fruits of peace. Photo courtesy of Bay City Grace.

The team coordinated Bible theme with events in the community. “When the tall ships were in town, stories focused on the Gentleness of pirates We made costumes, so we could be gentle pirates, too,” Marty says. “Over the 4th, the theme was Peace and Patriotism; Ben Franklin paid us a visit.” Dozens of stories could be shared about how the theme share the love of Jesus Christ came alive Friday by Friday. Here are two… One young man was interested in a series of chapter books. “He asked if he could take them all home one Friday. I was amazed when he brought the books back the next Friday because he had read them all!” Marty reports. “He demonstrated our attempt to light a fire in kids so they can light a fire in themselves.” “Like Jesus, we wanted to treat our kids special, too,” Marty explains. So they held a vintage car show. “We allowed kids to touch and honk the horns of these cars that had demonstrated Faithfulness in their day. That was special as the other Cool Car Show downtown wouldn’t let children put dirty hands on their antiques!” This church start truly has the love for God’s family at its core. “Some of our women baked breakfast treats for the children,” Marty concludes, “just as our grandmas and aunts would do for us.” Homemade hospitality at its best! Two very different stories? Not really. Two stories … one from Bay City and one from Allendale … that tell the old, old story in vibrant and vital new ways.

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Facing Forward with Hope for the Future REV. KAY DEMOSS Senior Editor/Writer MIConnect Hers is the face of the March on Washington. And where is that face on Sunday mornings? At Southfield Hope United Methodist Church. There she chairs the Church and Society Committee and is active in the UMW. She holds a banner: “I was There.” Indeed she was. Edith Lee-Payne traveled from her home in Detroit twice in her life to “be there” at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Twelve-year-old Edith was in Washington D.C. with her mother in 1963. She was unaware of it at the time, but a photo was snapped of her

Sept 2013

Published Monthly

Welcome to MIConnect, a printable edition of the top news from the online MIConnect Weekly, serving the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences. MIConnect is the official news of the Michigan Area of The United Methodist Church. Bishop Deborah L. Kiesey Publisher Mark Doyal Editor M. Kay DeMoss Find the “rest of the story” online here: Direct comments and stories to Mark Doyal,

Read the Gospel … Be the Gospel.

listening to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Photographer Rowland Sherman’s photo, now in the National Archives, became an icon of that march. Edith’s cousin eventually would recognize her face in a catalog. “Learning about that picture three years ago was an affirmation for me that I was living my life’s Edith Lee Payne and friends at Ben’s Chili Bowl. purpose,” said Lee-Payne. “I have always been one to speak out and intervene when I thoughts and tell the story of that day,” Edith remarked. hear of something wrong.”

Remembering the past

Last month Edith returned to Washington to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March. “My mother brought me,” says Edith, “and it was a highlight for me to bring my two granddaughters.” Destiny (16) and Dejai (14) accompanied their grandmother to D.C. They encountered the now-famous photo on easels in hotel lobbies, on t-shirts, in a mural on the side of a restaurant, and, of course, sitting in a display case just yards away from the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. “That brought tears to my eyes,” Edith remarks. Her schedule was tireless. “I felt a commitment, an obligation to talk to people because it wasn’t about me, I just happened to be there. A lot of the people who were at the ’63 march are no longer here, like my mother. So somebody had to share their

She met Dr. Joseph Lowry, Julian Bond, and Martin Luther King III. While she did not meet President Obama, she says, “It was moving to see him stand where Dr. King stood. I never thought I would see an African American president in my lifetime.” It was especially touching for LeePayne when President Obama mentioned “maids.” “It made me think of my mother. She was a domestic in 1963. It was like he was speaking about her.” And now the next generation takes up the march. “It was a real blessing from God,” Edith said, “when the photographer took another photo, this time of me and my granddaughters.” Rowland Sherman

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Facing Forward

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Be a Camp Booster/from page 1 This year Mt. Hope sent 36 children and youth to camp, mainly Wesley Woods. Eleven of those young people were first-time campers. “Camp is HUGE for them,” Colleen notes. “They get only positive strokes and plenty of Christian values.”

Camp Changes Lives

Ron pastors Springville United Methodist Church (Ann Arbor District). Ron got to know Corey Ollie over the past three or four years that Ron has been camp pastor at Judson Collins Camp. Corey has been a lead counselor in charge of organizing things like the high ropes course, the climbing wall, and canoe trips. This year something deeper happened for Corey. With a desire to apply at a faith-affiliated college, Corey also wanted to be a member of a church and talked to Pastor Ron. “Are you baptized?” Ron asked. “No,” Corey said. “Well, then. First things first,” Ron counseled. On Sunday, June 30, Pastor Ron baptized three people in Wamplers Lake at Judson Collins. One was an infant, another a youth, and then Corey, an adult. “Almost everyone from the Springville Church came to witness the baptism,” Ron says. His mom came from Ohio. “Corey is really good with the young ones,” Ron explains. “He has a really quirky sense of humor and they look up to him. He’s a good kid.” Now away at school and considering a career in ministry, Corey is a member of Springville UMC.

A generous church

For five years Colleen Treman has been in charge of camp recruitment at Mt. Hope. She stepped into a strong tradition of camp support. The church starts the registration process in January. This year’s online process was a particular challenge “because not all the families involved have computers at home,” Colleen notes. She says Pam Stewart, Camp Registrar, was “a wonderful help.” Any child who has been active at Mt. Hope for a year is eligible to go to a United Methodist Camp without cost to the family. Scholarships from the Conference—for first-time campers and ethnic youth—are secured. In addition to money in the Christian Education budget,

Pastor Ron Fike, Springville UMC, baptizes Corey Ollie in Wamplers Lake. Photo courtesy of Springville UMC

other sources of camp scholarship money are adult classes, mission offerings, coin collection contests, and fund raising done by the campers. A “Sew and Sowers” group makes pillowcases for all the campers “so kids would know their church family is praying for them while they are at camp.” The congregation also provides sleeping bags and bathroom kits with toiletries. The church provides transport by van or bus to all campers going to Wesley Woods. Retired missionary Bill Bauer is the coordinator of a Refugee Ministry at Mt. Hope. This ministry reaches those who have come to greater Lansing from Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Many of these children participate in children’s ministry at Mt. Hope, including church camp. Some play basketball on the Wesley Woods court. Others get on the bus with a favorite stuffed animal and a big smile and make new friends as soon as they step off the bus and onto the campground. At Judson Collins, Wesley Woods and every other United Methodist Camp in Michigan, people of all ages grow as disciples, ready to transform the world.

Bless a camper! Be a booster!

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Help by bucketsful in Colorado The United Methodist Church is preparing for a longterm effort in disaster relief in Colorado, including sending in emergency response teams to help with debris removal. Already, individuals and churches are on the case. UMCOR has moved in two shipments of supplies, providing 900 cleaning buckets and 2,000 health kits, and given a $10,000 grant for Rocky Mountain Annual Conference flood relief efforts. “The kits go out as fast as they come in,” said the Rev. Stephanie Kidwell, Longs Peak UMC. This year the Michigan Area has given significantly to relief efforts all across the United States. To date gifts to UMCOR Domestic Disaster Relief total: Detroit Conference $213,629; West Michigan Conference $105,119. The Rocky Mountain Annual Conference has created what it is calling an Ambassadors of Love program, pairing United Methodist churches in badly affected areas with those in areas that came through relatively unscathed.

Facing Forward/ from page 4

joked with them, “Let’s do this every 50 years!” Edith and Rowland will likely not make that date but her granddaughters could. “In the evenings we talked together about using your voice with a loving Spirit and taking a stand.” Edith had opportunities to put today’s issues into perspective for Destiny and Dejai. “When my mother brought me to Washington, I understood that there were children who couldn’t take the bus and sit where they wanted,” she explained. “When I recited the Pledge of Allegiance, I knew what I was saying was not true for everyone. That bothered me then and it bothers me know.”

“It’s a buddy system,” said Youngsook Kang, conference director of mission and ministry.

How can you be a buddy? • Donate through your local church to UMCOR Advance #901670; • Organize a group to assemble Cleaning Buckets. Call the Midwest Distribution Center at 217-483-7911 for details.

Dream lives on Edith Lee-Payne returns to Detroit from Washington with a mission to educate people. “I come back with my sleeves rolled up!” she says. “I live in the only state in the union that doesn’t have democracy.” Edith claims the gift of “speaking truth to power.” Once involved in fights for busing she now is one of 28 plaintiffs in a suit challenging Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law. Edith dreams of her granddaughters living in a country where the Constitution is fully honored. “I want to see injustice end. It’s not just Dr. King’s dream but God’s dream that all people should have life abundantly.” She continues, “The issues we face today are just as bad and in some cases worse because

they reverse the strides made 50 years ago. Like the Supreme Court’s decision on voting rights, a major step backwards.” Yes, Edith Lee-Payne has “been there” … twice. She considers herself doubly blessed. There’s one note of disappointment in her voice concerning her return to Washington. “On August 28, 1963 we were there for a purpose; it was a mission to bring attention to what was going on in the ’60s of the South.” Then she adds this about August 28, 2013: “It could have been for the same thing considering the issues that our country is facing now. But instead it was only a celebration, it was only a commemoration, and I felt it should have been both,” she concludes.

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This Month’s

Do pastors have a vote Burning Question on church committees? REV. DR. WILLIAM DOBBS, Administrative Assistant to the Bishop Can pastors vote at church meetings in their charge? The interesting thing about the answer to this Burning Question is that it depends on how we interpret the meaning of the term “ex officio.” Paragraph 244 of the 2012 Book of Discipline states: “All persons with vote shall be members of the local church, except where central conference legislation provides otherwise.” Since pastors are not members of the local church (they are members of the Annual Conference) it would seem clear that pastors may not vote at church meetings. And that has been my personal practice over the years. I have not voted at church conferences and I have not voted at any meeting in the local church where church business was conducted. However, a few years ago I read the above quoted disciplinary paragraph again and the very next sentence reads: “The pastor shall be the administrative officer and, as such, shall be an ex officio member of all conferences, boards, councils, commissions, committees, and task forces, unless otherwise restricted by the Discipline. ¶244. (footnote reads: See Judicial Council Decisions 469, 500). Those footnotes are important reading. In Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary “ex officio” is defined as “by virtue of their office.” Pastors are members of “all conferences, boards, councils, commissions, committees, and task forces…” by virtue of their being the administrative officer of the church. As ex officio members, the case can be made that they should be able to vote at business meetings in the church. The only exception to this would be the Staff Parish Relations Committee and the Trustees since this is specifically prohibited by the Discipline. (See Judicial Council decision 500) And it is possible to read the Judicial Council decision in such a way that it appears to assume the fact of pastors voting in their

role as administrative officer of the church. So, if I were following this logic, I would be a voting member of the Church Council if I were the pastor, but not of the Staff Parish Relations committee or the Trustees. The problem comes in when a church has been instructed by pastors over the years who believe that, since they are not members of the local church, pastors cannot vote. These churches have followed this practice for many years and with many pastoral leaders. So, when a pastor comes who believes that their role as administrative officer not only gives them permission but expects them to participate with both voice and vote in the life of the church, there is often difficulty. People sometimes think the pastor is trying to push his or her way into “their” church and there is friction between pastor and people. It does little good for pastors to demand their “right” under the Discipline if the people do not believe they should be voting. This is one of those issues that need to be discussed before there is too much heat to allow a clear-headed conversation. So the answer comes in two parts: Can they vote? Yes. Should they vote? It depends on the situation. A second Burning Question came from a Chairperson of a Staff Parish Relations Committee: Do we have to let the pastor be present for discussions about their salary? In fact, I often excused myself from the room when the SPRC was going to discuss their recommendation for my salary for the next year. I’m not sure that this was a good idea. It may have been easier for them and more comfortable for me, but it also suggested that I didn’t have an opinion or information to add to their discussion. Consider the language of the Discipline: “The committee shall meet only with the knowledge of the pastor and/or the district superintendent. The pastor shall (no exceptions) be present at each meeting of the committee on pastorparish relations or staff-parish relations except where he or she voluntarily excuses himself or herself.” ¶250.2e

continued on page 12/ Question

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A Prayer for Help BISHOP MIKE COYNER Indiana Conference Driving home from Iowa I got tired of listening to the radio, so I pulled out some old CD’s. One was the sound track to the movie “Evita” which tells the story of the rise to power in Argentina of Juan Perón, engineered in part by his wife, Eva. One song has this line: “we get the government we deserve.” I think of that song as I read all of the complaints about Congress and the President in our current government “shut-down.” I tend to agree with most of those complaints (what a mess we have in Washington, created by our elected leaders), but if we look a little deeper we have to admit that “we get the government we deserve.” Our U.S. government is designed to create such stalemates. Our founders did not trust government, so they created a government with so many “checks and balances” that it is hard for any political party to take charge and rule (or simply govern). We Americans also tend to elect different political parties to control the White House and Congress. We have done that now. We have elected one party in the White House and Senate and another party in the House. We get the government we elect, and we get the government we deserve. But it goes deeper. All of the traits in Washington that we decry are actually an outgrowth of the messed-up values in our whole culture. We complain about over-spending by Congress, but the average American household is spending 103% of their income. We complain about the rising debt level, but the typical American is increasingly in debt (and that is even mirrored in our churches which are increasingly in debt). We complain about the culture of entitlement, but the typical American has an “entitlement” attitude (just watch the way people drive over the speed limit, cut off others in lanes, and ignore simple traffic rules – all of that reflects an attitude which says “I am entitled to break the rules that I don’t like.”).

We complain about the rising cost of healthcare, but most Americans are over-weight, out of shape, and in poor health by virtue of lifestyle choices. We complain that the politicians are not able to work together, but Americans seem to be more and more disagreeable and unruly (If you don’t believe that, just go to a Little League baseball game and watch the behavior of the parents. Or watch a local school board meeting and listen to the inability of people to listen politely to those with whom they disagree). We complain that our government too quickly resorts to the use of violence and unauthorized force, but our whole culture is becoming more violent as witnessed by the violent video games we allow our children to play and as witnessed by the shootings and crime in both our cities and our rural areas. My point is this: we can complain about the government, but we get the government we deserve. We get the government we elect. We get the government that reflects the unhealthy trends in our whole American society. What is the answer? I believe it is to be honest about the nature of human sin (a word which we seldom use, even in church). We have to confess that we all are the root of the problems we see in Washington. We have to elect persons who reflect the “higher” American values. And we have to pray that God will forgive us for choosing the government we deserve. God bless America is more than a bumper sticker or a political slogan. It is a prayer for help. And we need God’s help in the midst of this mess in Washington and in every town and village in the U.S.

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Table Talk: Online Communion HEATHER HAHN United Methodist News Service On Oct. 1 the Area Full Cabinets and staff met together with Bishop Deb … all except Elbert Dulworth, D.S. from Marquette. He was brought in via Adobe Connect so he could participate. During worship Melanie Carey offered him her first digital communion. Says Area Communications Director, Mark Doyal, “I think it was a very meaningful moment for both of them. God was present at that moment.” At the same time, an unofficial group of United Methodist theologians, bishops, church agency executives and pastors was meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Participants ranged from those who opposed the very idea of online communion to a pastor who already had offered the sacrament through his web ministry. Their wide-ranging and prayerful conversation touched on the nature of worship, community, sacrifice, online engagement, baptism and the Eucharist. The conversation also encompassed objections raised by both United Methodists and ecumenical partners. Now the group of 27 United Methodist leaders is urging the denomination’s bishops to call a halt on the practice of Holy Communion online and do further study.

Photo courtesy of UMNS/Mike DuBose

The majority of the group agreed with the statement: “Participation in the Lord’s Supper entails the actual tactile sharing of bread and wine in a service that involves people corporeally together in the same place.” However, participants differed on whether communion truly requires all celebrants to be in the same place. One thing, participants in Nashville agreed, the discussion is likely just getting started as digital media become increasingly interactive and more people have computers in their pockets and purses. “It’s a necessary thing to talk about because this is an evolving part of our world,” said the Rev. L. Edward Phillips, an elder and facilitator of the group.

Lansing welcomes new superintendent History was made on Sept. 22 when Kennetha BighamTsai “came home” to the sanctuary of University United Methodist Church. “Home” because her first appointment as an elder was to University Church back in 2006. “Historic” because Kennetha was present for a Celebration of Covenant and Call as newly appointed Superintendent of the Lansing District. She is the first African American woman to become a District Superintendent in the West Michigan Conference. Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey greeted those gathered. “What I look for when I ask someone to come on the Cabinet is this. A person of integrity; a person with

leadership skills; a person who is a collaborator; a person who knows how to work on a team; a person with wells of depth, not only of spirit but of discipleship. Kennetha has such gifts in abundance.” In her message the new D.S. focused on liberation ... in the days of the Exodus and today. Kennetha encouraged the church to continue to go outside its doors to dance with the oppressed.



United Methodist News Service, a ministry of United Methodist Communications

September 2013





he Vital Merger strategy that created DownRiver United Methodist Church in the Detroit area launched a new church from four existing churches — a healthy, growing, new church start with a fresh focus on the mission field and new ways of doing ministry. The church has rented a suburban middle school that was closed at the end of the 2013 school year as a seven-day-a-week facility for the next year. Across the connection, churches are finding new ways to fulfill their mission of making “disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” as they energize their worships and missions.

New Day, New Call

Global village

Until recently, Kazembe Balagun was not much for reading the Bible or attending worship regularly. It’s not that he didn’t believe in God or long for a spiritual home. It was just that the native New Yorker and community activist had never experienced a church where the Word of God and his calling to effect social justice were seamlessly combined. Three years ago, a friend invited Balagun and his partner, Claudia Copeland, to a worship service held in a school building. This was New Day United Methodist Church.

On the opposite coast of the United States, a white, middleclass, residential area in the 1960s, South Sacramento is now at the crossroads of a residential neighborhood and a growing industrial section. It is also a global village including multiple generations from Pacific Island, African, African-American, Latino and European-American heritages. Centennial United Methodist Church is celebrating the change. Associate pastor, the Rev. Jae-Haeng Choi, says a growing number of the area’s homeless population are now dropping in for the fellowship.

Volunteer Paula Peck cares for a child served by The Children’s Jail Ministry, which provides care for young children while their parents or caregivers visit with inmates by video screen at the Sumner County Jail in Gallatin, Tenn. The program is a ministry of First United Methodist Church in Gallatin. Photos by Mike DuBose /


Common ground The Rev. Sonnye. Dixon at

Hobson United Methodist Church in Nashville leads his congregation in a temporary space but toward a permanent vision. “Most of us tend to hang out with people who look like us and talk like us, but that doesn’t empower us to understand each others’ circumstances and expand our understanding beyond our comfort zones,” he said. “The church of Jesus Christ should bring strangers together and then invite them to seek common ground, and grow into a community of love and justice.”

Hunger-free ZIP St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensington, Md., has set out to make the ZIP Code in which it resides—20895—the nation’s first “Hunger-Free Zone.” In the ZIP code, said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Adam Snell, there is a population of immigrants, transients and people who are hungry. “The need is great,” he said. “The reality is, it will always be great here. For whatever reasons, there are people who run short of food. When people call, and we’re able to respond and people get fed, it’s hungerfree.”

Coloradoans strong in faith as they CoMe to grips with epiC floods

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UMNS Update

Online communion sparks questions for digital age LARRY HOLLON General Secretary, UMCom Online communion stirs passions, so much so that a conversation by United Methodists became a trending topic on Twitter. The conversation explored whether the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper could be administered on the Internet. The proposal is generating thoughtful, critical thinking about the sacrament, the gathered community, the difference between virtual and physical space, the meaning of incarnational theology and the holy mystery, among a host of other considerations, such as: • What is essential for community, online or face-to-face, to be authentic? • Can we worship online? • Does even speaking of these questions damage ecumenical relationships, and would serious consideration of online communion precipitate a global crisis between United Methodists and faith partners? • If the church is not present in the media, which are influential in people’s lives and shaping culture today, is it relevant to them?

• Is the subject of online communion a first-world affectation, a sign of our media-rich affluence? • Is it crazy to discuss conducting this most historic act of faithfulness through a mediated form that is foreign to our historic understanding? • Can a local church institute a practice that affects the entire denomination? The group agreed to request the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church take up the subject and provide guidance for excellent practices for online ministry. They also called on the bishops to declare a moratorium on all online sacramental practices. The group affirmed the church’s exploration and use of interactive digital media in the fulfillment of its mission. I would characterize the conversation as neither Luddite nor innovation-atany cost, but rather, as a constructive conversation that began to grapple with what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus in the 21st century. Such conversation is essential today if

we are to carry out relevant ministry and effectively engage with people immersed in the digital culture. Equally important was the willingness of the leaders of the conversation to conduct it in an open forum on Twitter. It was a first step toward an important dialogue about how a mainline communion adapts, evolves and engages people in a new cultural context, not unlike the challenge that faced Paul as he sought to carry the new faith into places far from its birthplace and Wesley as he sought to reach people in the teeming changes of the Industrial Revolution. _____________ Disclaimer: I was a participant in the conversation and participated in writing one of the papers used in the discussion.

ABOUT UMNS United Methodist News Service, a unit of United Methodist Communications, is the official news agency of The United Methodist Church.

For more about the United Methodist conversation on this topic, go to page 9. UMNS photo/Mike DuBose

Contact us at newsdesk@ or (615)7425470. Check us out at United Methodist News Service and at UMCConnections or on Facebook and on Twitter.

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UMNS Update

Two bishops differ on same-sex union KATHY GILBERT United Methodist News Service Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert announced he will officiate at a wedding for two men on Oct. 26 in Birmingham, Ala. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, episcopal leader for the North Alabama Annual Conference issued a statement Sept. 30 asking Talbert not to officiate at the wedding for the men, who are United Methodist. “The anticipated media coverage of this event will test our capacity to remain focused on our vision, mission and priorities that have emerged over the past year,” Wallace-Padgett said. “For a bishop or any ordained or licensed minister to disregard a law of the church creates a breach of the covenant they made at their consecration, ordination or licensing,” she said in her statement. Talbert said he talked to Wallace-Padgett before agreeing to do the ceremony. Talbert said. “I talked to her, she listened, and called me back requesting that I not do it. I had to tell her respectfully I could not agree to her request. I am really grateful for the graceful way she has handled this.” “I do appreciate Bishop Talbert giving me a courtesy call in advance of this being made public notifying me of his plan of action,” Wallace-Padgett said. Talbert has been outspoken in his support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He adheres to “Gospel Obedience,” which calls on clergy and church members to act as if the statements forbidding same-sex unions in the denomination’s law book did not exist. The United Methodist Book of Discipline since 1972 has stated that all people are of sacred worth but “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Church law says that marriage is to be between a man and a woman and bans United Methodist clergy from performing and churches from hosting “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.” Talbert offered a special blessing for the union of same-sex couples on Sept. 1. Talbert acknowledged

some people may have complaints about his actions, however, the College of Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction had unanimously supported his position for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church. The denomination has had several trials for pastors accused of officiating at same sex unions. This is the first time a retired bishop publicly has pledged to officiate. “As bishop of The United Methodist Church, I took a vow to abide by and uphold the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church,” Wallace-Padgett said. “I am also committed to continuing to focus those I lead on our mission, which is broader than any one issue. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I appreciate prayers for all involved in this difficult and painful situation.”

Question/ from page 7 If I were to counsel a pastor today, I would suggest that they build the kind of relationship with their staff-parish relations committee members where they could talk about anything and everything – including the annual job evaluation and their salary recommendation. The pastor may want to give them some time, after they have talked as a committee of the whole, to talk among themselves before the final recommendation is given. But even those discussions need to be reported to the pastor if the pastor is to grow in their performance of their ministry. If there are things which committee members believe can’t be said in front of the pastor, then the question becomes: “Why not?” And the even better question might well be: “What can we do to improve the relationship between pastor and people so that we can have this open dialogue about pastoral compensation?” My prayers for the pastors, the parsonage families, the Pastor/Staff-Parish Relations Committees and the local church members of the Michigan Area, during this season, is for the peace of Christ and the grace of God to be present in such a way that love abounds in every place where people seek to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Till next time… Bill

Sept 2013 final sm  
Sept 2013 final sm  

MI Connect Monthly 913