Page 1

Two Sections

Burning Questions with Bill Dobbs

Section A

Making a Dent in Haiti Following a West Michigan Conference mission team to a southern mountainous region of Haiti | 8A

What’s Coming the New Year? | 4A

079000 Vol. 159 No. 38 January 18, 2013

In Wake of Shootings, Work Continues on Gun-Free Zones

UMNS PHOTOS BY ARTHUR MCCLANAHAN

LEFT: A Flag of Honor provides a makeshift memorial for the 20 children and six adults who died on Dec. 14, 2012, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. RIGHT: A memorial of candles, flowers, stuffed animals and cards for the 20 children and six adults who died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14 rests beneath a Christmas tree in Newtown.

By Erik Alsgaard In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., last month, the issue of gun control is once again on the minds of many people. In Michigan, the issue of gun control took center stage with Senate Bill 59, a measure that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons in public schools, arenas, bars and taverns, day care centers, and other buildings. Including churches. The Rev. Eric Stone, pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Essexville, thought that this was wrong. “I believe that churches should be gun-free zones,” said Stone. “This is consistent with our faith and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.” Stone, who has been working on this issue for at least 12 years, said that he was “thrilled” that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder vetoed SB 59 Dec. 18. However, “I’m not so thrilled with his rationale.” According to published reports, Snyder vetoed the bill because of a loophole in the bill that didn’t allow for institutions to opt-out of the law and create their own ban on handguns.

He also said that the events of Newtown weighed on his decision. “I believe that it is important that these public institutions have clear legal authority to ban weapons from their premises,” he said in his veto letter, according to The Detroit Free Press. “Each is entrusted with the care of a vulnerable population and should have the authority to determine whether its mission would be enhanced by the addition of concealed weapons.”1 The denomination’s current position on gun violence, according to United Methodist News Service, was first adopted in 2000 and modified in 2008. The church supports federal legislation in the U.S. Congress to regulate the importation, manufacturing, sale, and possession of guns and ammunition by the general public. Previous statements of concern predate that resolution. Stone wrote the resolution adopted by both the Detroit and West Michigan conferences earlier this year, calling for United Methodist churches to be gun-free zones. “Be it resolved that the churches and ministries of the Detroit Annual Conference remain concealed weapon free zones

regardless of any changes made to the concealed weapons laws in the state of Michigan. This would not apply to on-duty qualified law enforcement officers.” “What we’re saying,” said Stone, “is that you are welcome to come to church, but not your guns.” The resolution notes that State Senator Mike Green, one of the supporters of SB 59, had called gun-free zones “criminal employment zones,” believing that the absence of guns had the effect of creating more opportunity for crime. “As a person of faith, I find his rationale severely lacking,” said Stone. “We have a trust in something higher than a gun.” Detroit Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, the Rev. Jerry DeVine, said that because SB 59 was vetoed, current Michigan law still stands. That means, he said that local churches are “concealed weapon-free zones.” This is in-line with the official United Methodist position, adopted at the 2012 General Conference, which states that all churches are to be “weapon-free zones.” (2012 Book of Resolutions, #3426, pages 490-493) Noting that what was passed at annual

conference extends that to all guns, not just concealed guns, DeVine wondered how churches would implement such zones. “If a local church wants to consider whether or not they will allow licensed concealed gun carrying, who constitutes ‘the presiding official or officials’ that would make that decision?” he asked. “Also, if the annual conference declared ‘gun free zones’ for every local church, how does that interplay with the local church as a distinct corporation?” Stone is not alone in his stance on the issue. The Rev. Jack Harnish, senior pastor a Birmingham: First UMC, in his “Monday Memo” column on Dec. 17, wrote, “We restrict the places where you can carry an open bottle of alcohol, why can’t we limit the places where you can carry a gun? We outlawed smoking in public places because it is dangerous to the health of others, why can’t we outlaw assault weapons which have no purpose except to harm other people?” Harnish said that in response to the Newtown shootings, the first thing we as Christians need to do is “simply feel the weight of these sad times.” Then, “pray…hold the Continued on page 4A

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THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

GOOD WORKS Gun buyback led by pastors in Colo. town Church pastors organized a small gun buyback in Pueblo, Colo., recently in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. The Pueblo Chieftain reports that the Dec. 30 buyback netted only seven rifles, one handgun and 30 rounds of ammunition. But the pastors who organized the event said it was meaningful and symbolic. The Rev. Kim James, pastor of Wesley UMC, told the newspaper that the tragedy has left parishioners grieving and wondering what they can do. She said the churches were trying to show a different response than flocking to gun stores to stock up on guns. The Pueblo Police Department collected the weapons for disposal.

Asbury professor wins CT honor for Miracles Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., has won the Christianity Today Award of Merit for his book, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic). The magazine received 455 submissions from 68 different publishers, and chose 10 winners and nine noteworthy books for the 2013 award. In the book, Dr. Keener argues for the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts, challenging scholars who dismiss the miracles as legends.

January 18, 2013

Gator Wesley awarded $100,000 Lilly grant BY ANNE DUKES Special Contributor

Gator Wesley Foundation at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund a Campus Ministry Theological Exploration of Vocation Initiative over the next five years, beginning in January. According to Clay Robbins, president and chief executive officer of Lilly Endowment, Gator Wesley Foundation is one of five campus ministries to be awarded such a grant. The award aims to help selected ministries strengthen their efforts to encourage students to explore potential calls to Christian leadership, Mr. Robbins said. Gator Wesley is widely known for the quality of its ministries and was highly recommended by consultants and other campus ministries. “Our hope is that these grants will help these ministries create or enhance campus models for cultivating leaders for Christian churches and that other campus ministries will learn from their efforts,” Mr. Robbins said. The Rev. David Fuquay, executive director of Higher Education and Campus Ministry at the Florida Conference and Gator Wesley’s campus pastor until last summer, said the funds will be distributed in $20,000 increments for five years. “It is a huge honor that Gator Wesley was asked to apply for the grant,

and [getting it] really enables Gator Wesley to do some innovative things,” Mr. Fuquay said. “This will make it possible to create space for young people to explore their vocations.” Mr. Fuquay cited the Upper Room staff at Gator Wesley as one existing facet of the foundation that will be helped by the grant. “This is a wonderful tradition of 40 years, and we’ll take this residential community and enhance the experience.” He praised the work done by the Rev. Narcie Jeter, who left David Fuquay Winthrop University in South Carolina and stepped in as Gator Wesley pastor and executive director July 1, with only two months to meet the Sept. 1 application deadline. “This grant will enable us to help students explore the link between faith and vocation across the campus, not just at Gator Wesley,” Ms. Jeter said. “We will be kicking off a speaker series on vocational discernment in general, helping students figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, giving all students something to think about.” Mr. Fuquay emphasized that the speaker series will highlight the idea of vocation in all different fields. “We find that with undergradu-

ates, one of their biggest questions is “I know God calls all of us, so how can we listen for God’s call on us—to be an engineer or lawyer or in business or medicine—how is God leading me?” he said. “Meeting a doctor who is living out their faith, or hearing someone speak about their vocation and their faith can help.” The Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, Connectional Ministries director at the conference, said that’s what impressed her most about the planned grant program, which she finds to be very Wesleyan in its approach to developing deeply rooted disciples. “It links personal growth with the capacity for leadership because you cannot separate those,” she said. “It’s developing principled leaders for the church and the world.” Ms. Jeter said the grant also will provide more vocational discernment opportunities for the ministry’s intentional living community known as the Upper Room staff and travel across the U.S. and abroad for encounter experiences, including the United Methodist Seminar Program, Exploration and Imagine What’s NEXT. Ms. Jeter and Mr. Fuquay said the global exploration aspect of the program will be important. “International trips, like one scheduled for Costa Rica, will enable students to discern God’s call in their lives in a more intentional way,” Mr. Fuquay said. He said the grant could lead to a

model for other higher education ministries. “On the conference level, we believe that what Narcie discovers with this grant can be transferred to other [Florida] campuses,” he said. “That is one of the most tangible benefits.” Nikki Ross is a senior on the Upper Room staff at Gator Wesley. She is excited about the prospect of what the grant will enable students to do with their ministry on campus, particularly the speaker series in particular. “The speaker series is a good Narcie Jeter way to reach out to students on campus who aren’t regulars at Gator Wesley,” she said. The other four campus ministries awarded the Lilly grants are Chesterton House at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; Pres House, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the University of Wisconsin in Madison; St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence; and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. Story used with permission from the Florida Conference Connection, where it first appeared.

GBCS offers kit for grassroots campaigns The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has prepared a grassroots communications kit for local social-justice advocates. The 24-page “Grassroots Communications Toolkit” is free and can be downloaded from the agency’s website. The material discusses media relations, explains how to approach members of Congress, provides tips for writing letters to the editor, offers spokesperson training and includes step-by-step instructions on campaigns. Visit http://alturl.com/h4n9u. —Compiled by Mary Jacobs

PHOTO COURTESY OF GATOR WESLEY FOUNDATION

Gator Wesley students enjoy fellowship, spiritual growth and leadership development at retreats such as this one at Warren Willis Camp last fall.


3A HISTORY OF HYMNS

Hymn celebrates both physical, mental healing B Y C . M I C H A E L H AW N UMR Columnist

United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez once said, “Each generation must add its stanza to the great hymn of the church.” The subject of health and healing is one that has changed over the last century. Earlier hymns, more holistic in approach, were reticent to mention mental health. This stigma has diminished somewhat, if not totally dissipated. Our hymn comes as a result of the deliberations on this topic among the members of the committee preparing the collection, British Methodist Hymns Fred Pratt Green and Songs (1969). “Life and Health are in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord,” an earlier, wellknown hymn in the United Kingdom by John Russell Darbyshire (1880-

1948)—an Anglican bishop who was appointed Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa—had also reflected more recent thinking on the topic. Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), a British Methodist minister and poet, produced a new hymn on the topic overnight. The Rev. Carlton R. Young, editor of the United Methodist Hymnal, notes, “This prayer for wholeness of body, mind, and spirit, a theme often occurring in Green’s texts, affirms the primacy of the worshipping community as the forum and agent for change.” An Englishman educated at Didsbury College in Manchester, Green was ordained in the Methodist ministry in 1928, serving circuits throughout the country between 1927 and 1969. During his ministry he wrote plays and hymns, and published three collections of his poems. But it was not until his retirement that Green’s hymn writing blossomed, creating over 300 hymns. Generally considered to be the leader of the “hymn explosion” that began in the 1960s, Green’s hymns

appear more often than those of any other 20th-century hymn writer in English language hymnals published in North America since 1975. The UM Hymnal contains 15 original hymns and two translations by Green. Stanza one asks the question, “How can we fail to be restored/when reached by love that never ends?” Restoration should not be confused with physical healing. For the Christian, restoration may not take place in this life. Stanza two places the emphasis upon “wholeness” rather than “every ailment flesh endures.” According to a member of the committee, stanza three suggests a Freudian awareness of the unconscious: “Release in us those healing truths / unconscious pride resists or shelves.” Stanza four places our individual ailments in the broader context of the “world’s disease . . . [of] our common life.” The stanza ends with the rhetorical question: “Is there no cure, O Christ, for [our ills]?” The hymn concludes with a peti-

tion that we should all be “made one in faith.” True healing and wholeness happens ultimately communally—in the restoration of “the whole of humankind.” It may be interesting to compare this hymn with one composed by Yale homiletics professor and hymn writer Thomas H. Troeger on a related topic. “Silence, Frenzied, Unclean Spirit” (UM Hymnal, No. 264) is based on the account of Jesus casting out the unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37). This hymn, written in 1984, also explores mental health: “Lord, the demons still are thriving / in the gray cells of the mind. . . .” The African American spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead” (UM Hymnal, No. 375) is commonly used during healing services. Upon closer examination, healing and sin are associated: “There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.” While sin is a sickness in theological terms, associating mental and physical infirmity with sin in a service of healing could be harmful rather than restorative. This topic is one that begs fur-

“O Christ, the Healer” Fred Pratt Green UM Hymnal, No. 265

O Christ, the healer, we have come to pray for health, to plead for friends. How can we fail to be restored when reached by love that never ends? * ther theological and hymnological exploration. As Bishop Martinez indicates, part of the stanza of our generation is to explore the realities we face with the knowledge at our disposal. In the hands of skillful poets, we are able to sing a faith that encompasses the expanding truths of our era. * © 1967 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Dr. Hawn is distinguished professor of church music at Perkins School of Theology. He is also director of the seminary’s sacred music program.

Q&A: Words to recharge men’s spiritual lives Derek Maul wants to inspire more men to go “all out” for their Christian faith. That’s the topic of his recently published book, 10 Life-Charged Words: Real Faith for Real Men (Upper Room Books, 2012). Mr. Maul worships at First Presbyterian Church in Bran- Derek Maul don, Fla., where his wife, Rebekah, is senior pastor. He answered questions via email from staff writer Mary Jacobs. So, in 10 words or less, what are the 10 words? Jesus, excellence, passion, capacity, Scripture, holiness, clarity, prayer, authenticity, community. Or, for a less than 10-word sentence, “Subheadings that facilitate life in our discipleship.” What do you mean by “lifecharged”? I believe a lot of Christian men go through the motions of faith with the minimum trickle of power animating their experience. The idea of “lifecharged” came to me when I was thinking about what the average “man U N I T E DM ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

in the pew” needs to break out of the slump that has defined too much of men’s ministry in recent years. What we need, I realized, is a charge of life! The church needs more men who own a day-to-day experience of living faith that looks authentic . . . and worthy of the monumental sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. My vision is to see every church with a core group of men so animated by a life-charged faith that any ministry they’re involved with will catch fire. What were your criteria for selecting these 10 words? I started out by looking at what’s missing, and what’s missing appears to be consistent across “mainline” denominational lines. Many men have lost touch with the excitement, the passion, the thrill, the sense of joy that Jesus was referencing when we said that he offers, “Real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of ” (John 10:10, The Message). I found around 30 words, sorted them down to 10 that get to the core of the message, and tried my best to present the challenge in a way that’s both practical and encouraging. The first word is “Jesus,” who is obviously at the center of our faith

as United Methodists and Christians. What is the specific point you wanted to make about Jesus? Short answer: There is no life to our faith unless Jesus is at the center of absolutely everything we are and do. But Jesus makes a lot of Christians nervous. He’s demanding, he gets in our business, he’s not politically correct, and he wants this personal relationship. So we tend to steer around Jesus, concentrate on social issues, do good works, talk about being wholesome and family-oriented, and try to stay clear of the challenge to fall in love with Jesus and to follow him. You write: “A number of the men I talk with feel as if their spiritual life is dying on the vine.” Is this somehow experienced differently, or more acute, for men? It’s more acute for men because we are less intuitively relational and spiri-

tual than women. Unless otherwise encouraged, men tend to drift to the periphery and disengage from church. Consequently, men who have lost touch with the urgency and the passion of their Christian experience are in serious need of re-engagement, but most won’t do it unless there is something specific going on that captures their interest. However, men with a faith that has become charged with life . . . tend to find reasons to stay in the community of faith, to serve, to lead and to invite others. How does “holiness” apply in daily life for a typical layman who sits in the pews? Briefly, holiness is not about being perfect, it’s about being in the presence of God. Un-holiness, then, is anything that takes us out of fellowship with God. Pornography, for example, is something Christian men become caught up in just as much as

those outside the church. It disrespects the image of God; it takes us out of fellowship with God; it saps power and effectiveness from our discipleship; it drives a wedge between men and any significant relationship. Other examples include absolutely anything that compromises our witness. Unkindness, greed, profanity, negativity—these things all dishonor God and contradict Christ’s initiative of love. Holiness, then, is reclaiming the “made in the image of God” part of our identity as Christian men. Talk a little about the word “clarity” and what that means. Jesus used the idea all the time. “Do you not have eyes?” “Can’t you see clearly?” “Are you people even listening?” Clarity is about honing in on the message and learning to both hear and see the message of Jesus clearly. . . . Jesus, when asked what was important, essentially said that we cloud the message with layers of laws, preconceptions, politics and more. The Pharisees created something like 83,000 rules. Jesus clarified it down to two: Love God and love your neighbor. Everything else hangs on this. mjacobs@umr.org

U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3


4A

JANUARY 18, 2013

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

Looking Back and Forth I must confess—I’ve never been very good at New Year’s resolutions. It seems as though once I’ve made them I remember them for only a very short time. Then, as the excitement of a new year wears off, so does my enthusiasm for my resolutions. And, after several months into the New Year, I can’t even remember what my resolutions were. As I said, I really am not very good at New Year’s resolutions. MICHIGAN But the New Year holds some MEANDERINGS excitement for me on another level. I BISHOP have always felt as though, with the DEBORAH KIESEY coming New Year, I had a chance to start over again. The year just past is remembered, with all its joys as well as its sorrows, but I am now being given a chance to try to do better in the coming year. It’s almost as though the slate is wiped clean and I can start afresh. In fact, the month January is named after the Roman god, Janus, the guardian of portals and the patron of beginnings and endings. He is shown as having two faces: one looking to the past and the other to the future. Perhaps that is what we, too, should be doing this January—looking back and rejoicing in all the wonderful times and celebrations, as well as remembering the tears we have shed this past year. But we can’t stay there. We also need to look forward, to 2013 and beyond, and see all the possibilities and the potential God has placed before us. For, as we read in Revelations 21:1–7: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them as their God... He will wipe ever tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; Mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’” It is my prayer that this New Year be filled with joy—with peace—with hopeful anticipation—and with a renewed sense of God’s presence with us and through us. Blessings, Bishop Deb

Work Continues on Gun-Free Zones Continued from front page families…in our hearts and lift them and the nation before God.” Confronting the violence that permeates our society, Harnish added, is another step. “We can work on changing our society that wallows in violence.” “We can share the pain,” he wrote. “We can pray. We can work on the deeper issues of violence in our society. We can limit access to the most dangerous of weapons and we can restrict the places where you can carry a gun. We can’t do everything, but there are some things we can do.” The Rev. Laurie Haller, pastor at Grand Rapids Aldersgate UMC and Plainfield UMC, in her regular blog, “Leading From the Heart,” wrote that she was not only grieving, sad, and angry over the events in Connecticut, she said she was “determined.” “Enough is enough,” she wrote. “We must put an end to our love affair with guns in this country. Many churches have declared themselves gun-free zones, including the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church. If our churches are indeed sanctuaries, what place do guns have in our buildings? Are there any sacred and safe places left? We are called to bring in the kingdom of God not with violence but with shalom, grace, hope, and forgiveness.” Not everyone agrees. William Holderman, one of several

people who posted responses to Haller’s blog, noted that “Responsible gun ownership is a must, but making laws against gun ownership will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Perhaps if some person had a gun at the school they could have saved many lives. Our 2nd amendment protects the right to bear arms.” Stone—who worked hard to Michigan Governor, Rick get the governor to veto SB 59— Snyder. said that people who care about the issue of gun control need to keep in contact with their elected officials. “We have a horrible habit of electoral amnesia in this country,” he said. “Issues get off our radar screen, and if the topic is old, people forget. Keep calling, keep writing. Pay attention.” 1

http://www.freep.com/article/20121219/NEWS15/312190122/In-light-oftragedy-Michigan-Gov-Rick-Snyder-vetoes-bill-that-allowed-guns-in-schools

What’s Coming in the New Year? Since the news of the recent Judicial Council decisions, there have not been many “Burning Questions” coming across my desk. People were getting ready for the holidays and did not seem to be as concerned about what is happening in the Bishop’s office during that holy season of the year. This is a good thing, of course, but I was becoming concerned that I would have BURNING nothing to write as we came to the end of QUESTIONS another year. Just as I was preparing to beg off WITH BILL for the Christmas season, however, a clergy person wrote to ask: “As we come into this BILL season of Advent, what do you see on the DOBBS horizon for the Michigan Area? From your perspective in the Bishop’s office, what is ‘coming’ for our churches and pastors in the new year?” From where I sit, there are challenges ahead but there are also hopeful signs on the horizon. The challenges are significant and Bishop Deb will have her work cut out for her as she moves into the first full year of her leadership in Michigan. Challenges like: shrinking numbers of available clergy; reductions in the number of full-time appointments; reduced dollars available for ministry programs; and an aging membership served by aging clergy. These are all significant problems and there are no simple fixes. She cannot speak a word and make it all go away. But I can tell you that she is not unwilling to face the challenges and is already engaging those around her in conversations that are designed to shed light on the problems we are facing and begin to illuminate the way forward. And these conversations are not just with members of her cabinet – though those have been many and fruitful. Bishop Deb has met with conference leaders to discuss plans for Annual Conference sessions that will set a tone and cast a vision for our mission and ministry as we move into another quadrennium. She has traveled to the Crossroads and Albion district in the first two of a planned 12 visits to the districts of the Michigan Area to see firsthand the ministries and churches engaged in meeting the needs of the people in the communities we serve. She has met with the Conference Leadership Teams of both Annual Conferences to hear of their plans for 2013 and beyond. She has met with and listened to representative from our

Native American congregations as she has contemplated how to lead an Episcopal Area that has the second highest number of Native American churches in the nation. And she has sat with members of both Councils on Finance and Administration as they have wrestled with the challenge of doing more with less. All of which is to say that this bishop is committed to collaboration and team-building as her method and style of leadership and problem solving. Bishop Deb is a great listener and it shows! In the weeks ahead, she will begin the process of appointment-making even as we face another year with more retirements than ordinations. Bishop Deb and the members of her appointive cabinets have already been listening to clergy and congregations. Those annual meetings with the District Superintendent are an absolutely crucial part of the consultation process. In January, they will begin the process of meeting the needs of congregations for pastoral leadership by appointive clergy, elders, and licensed local pastors who have offered themselves for pastoral service. As a sign of her interest in area-wide collaboration, she has invited both the Detroit and West Michigan cabinets to meet at the same time and in the same place to begin the work of appointment-making, in the hope that we can learn from one another and draw upon each other’s strengths. This is, for me, one of the hope-filled signs upon the horizon—increased use of collaboration between conference agencies and across conference lines. As Bishop Deb meets with both Cabinets, she will be trying to discern pastoral gifts and skills that will provide the best available leadership for congregations. Your prayers are an absolutely essential part of that discernment. Please be in prayer for the Bishop and her cabinet, the churches who await word on who will be their pastor and the clergy and clergy families whose lives will be impacted by these discernments. We come to the end of 2012 with the challenge of leading the church into an unclear future in a state with economic challenges and a growing population. But we also begin the years of 2013 with the assurance that we do not need to face this future alone. As John Wesley is reported to have said on his death bed, “The best is that God is with us!”


JANUARY 18, 2013

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

Michigan Early Response Team Helps During Holidays Edited by Erik Alsgaard Nine United Methodists from around Michigan—three from the West Michigan Conference and six from the Detroit Conference—specially trained as disaster Early Responders, spent time over the Christmas holiday helping residents of Long Island clean up after Superstorm Sandy. This was the first time that an Early Response Team (ERT) from Michigan had done such a ministry. The ERT was led by the Rev. Bob Freysinger, pastor of Millville and Stockbridge UMCs. They left for Long Island, New York, on Christmas Day, not pulling a sleigh but a Disaster Response Trailer behind them. Trip participants were: Wanda Adams, Don Buege, Bob Freysinger, Dennis Irish, Nate Rev. Bob Freysinger Irish, Bob Kunna, Jr., Bob McCormick, Lisa McCormick, and Eric Miller. Freysinger kept a daily log on his Facebook page, detailing the team’s trip and work: “Day 1 Recap (Dec. 26): The Detroit Conference Team, that didn’t have to wait for one of their members to emerge from their home, got on the road at 5 a.m., the designated hour. They arrived safely at Rockville Centre, Long Island, around 7:30 p.m. “The West Michigan side of the ERT pulled out of Millville UMC at 5:40 a.m. We hit the blizzard about 40 miles into Pennsylvania. We made it to the Punxsutawney exit when it became white out. It seemed like the next three hours went on for ever and ever. Finally, the police were letting people back on the expressway. We ended up in Milesburg at the Quality Inn for there was no room at the inn in Punxsutawney. “Day 2 Recap (Dec. 27): We’re up and preparing for the rest of the story. By 10 a.m. we had traveled 115 miles; about 100 more to go. GPS says we’ll be there about 12:30. Thank you for your prayers! After making it in and unloading personal belongings we joined the team for lunch. Wanda went with the other team and worked with them for a few hours. Bob McCormick from the Detroit Team, Don and I went to assess the site for today. Mold remediation in a walk-out main floor. The apartment has been stripped down to the stud walls. “Day 3 (Dec. 28): We are staying at St. Mark’s UMC in Rockville Centre, Long Island, NY. We have worked on three homes in Oceana and Island Park. “Day 5 (Dec. 30): Sunday afternoon, 4:40 p.m., we are on the way home. Left Long Island, New York, shortly after 9:00 this morning. We had a great time serving these last three days. The team, with the help and hard work of the “Tigers Go” Clemson students, completed eight jobs. They were primarily mold remediation so that the families could continue the process for getting gas and electric turned back on. “January 1: The inaugural Michigan Area Early Response Team has returned home safe and sound. We returned home without any trouble with the weather or cars. We were able to address the needs in eight families’ homes so that they can continue to move forward in receiving electricity and gas. The trip took some interesting turns and was nothing like we thought we were going to be doing. But God’s grace was shared in powerful ways. Thank you for all of your prayers and support.” While Michigan UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteer in

Mission) teams have been going out by the hundreds over the years, this group was the first fully trained Early Response Team to deploy. The Rev. Jeremy Wicks, West Michigan’s Disaster Response Coordinator, explained the difference, saying “Early Response Teams specialize in action immediately following a disaster. Their primary task is to make homes and property safe, sane and secure.” Wicks added that ERTs are required to not rebuild. “UMVIM teams then come in after the response phase of a disaster has passed,” he said. “They work on recovery and rebuilding.” This was also the first time on the road for the Disaster Response Trailer. It was the Rev. Ward Pierce who some years ago “pushed for the trailer,” according to Wicks. Funds were raised to buy it and equip it. Rev. Jeremy Wicks “Laymen Don Tippin and Terry Arsenau were responsible for installing the shelving systems,” he said. The trailer is full of tools for demolition, tarping, and mucking out. There’s also personal safety equipment on board. “The trailer is designed to be used in a variety of situations,” Wicks explained. “There’s a ramp on the back and two fold-out bunks, in case we must sleep in the trailer.” The bunks in the unit can convert to work space which “would allow the trailer to be used as a mini-mobile command center, if needed.” The ERT is truly a Michigan Area effort. Freysinger did much of the advance work in collaboration with three key leaders: Bob McCormick, Detroit Conference ERT Trainer, Wicks, and his Detroit Conference counterpart, Eric Miller. “The ERT is only allowed to be on site three days because we go in where people are most vulnerable,” Freysinger said. “They are still mucking out homes and tearing out floors and dry wall. We may be helping them sort through belongings pulled out of the mud.” ERT members must be trained and certified before performing such service. “The training is generally eight hours long,” Wicks said, “and includes a wide variety of topics and information, like spiritual and emotional care, the why and how of disaster response, team roles and responsibilities.” Freysinger added that “the stated mission of an ERT is to provide a caring Christian presence in the aftermath of a disaster.” “This was an amazing opportunity for our teams to truly live the gospel of Christ,” Wicks said. “The trip is a testament to the Advent message of Christ being the light and hope of the world.” He added that ERTs don’t preach to those they serve. “Our witness is our testimony ... even in the midst of life-changing disaster, God is still with them.” Freysinger echoed those thoughts. “Giving of ourselves to those who cannot repay is what being a servant of Christ is all about,” he said. Why did he offer to lead the group, leaving family and friends during a holy time? “It is my hope,” he said, “that the people we meet will experience grace as we act as the hands and feet of Christ this Christmas.” “These folks are leaving Michigan well prepared to truly be light and hope,” said Wicks. “What better gift could you possibly ask for at Christmas?”

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Calendar of Events Clergywomen’s Retreat with Bishop Kiesey All female elders, deacons, and local pastors in the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences are invited to a time away with Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Kiesey at the Lake Louise Retreat Center on Monday–Tuesday, Feb. 4–5, 2013. The retreat will begin with lunch on Monday and end with lunch on Tuesday. Worship, a time to get to know Bishop Deb, and sharing of dreams for women in ministry in the area will take place during the retreat. The following housing options are available for the retreat. Please note that all of these options have shared bathroom facilities, bedding provided, and four meals included.  Retreat Center Rooms (double occupancy)— $71 per person  Retreat Center Rooms (single occupancy)— $106.50 per person  Bunkhouse Lodge Room—$64 per person Register for the event by visiting http://lakelouisecommunity.org/registration.asp. For more information, contact the Rev. Deb Johnson, pastor at Sturgis UMC, and president of the Lake Louise Board of Trustees, at debjohn386@aol.com.

2013 Hunger Games: Entertaining Violence? Keep Making Peace will deal with “The 2013 Hunger Games: Entertaining Violence?” on Saturday, April 13, at University United Methodist Church in East Lansing. The Hunger Games trilogy is drawing many readers and moviegoers, especially from the younger generations who resonate with the same issues: hunger, violence, video games, and reality TV. Author, the Rev. Ann Duncan is coming from North Carolina to present “The Hunger Games Trilogy: Was Christ Present in Panem?” The Rev. Faith Fowler is coming from the Cass United Methodist Church in Detroit to talk about the reality of hunger in Detroit and Michigan in 2013. Chaplains, the Rev. Bob Roth of the University of Michigan Wesley Foundation, and the Rev. Bill Chu of the Michigan State University Wesley Foundation will present Christian ways of evaluating media, promoting peace, eliminating poverty, and salvaging planet earth. The United Methodist Women of West Michigan and Detroit are sponsors of the 11th annual peacemaking Saturday, along with the Boards of Church and Society, the Lansing Shalom Center, and MSU Wesley—1118 South Harrison Road. Registration is open on the MSU Wesley website—msuwesley.org.

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 ealsgaard@gmail.com 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 www.westmichiganconference.org, and www.detroitconference.org.


6A COMMENTARY

Inspiring hope: Top picks in 2012 pop culture BY GREG GARRETT Special Contributor

From the comeback of a beloved quarterback to the completion of a beloved movie trilogy, here are my top picks for some of the most hopeful and uplifting stories of the year.

The Dark Knight Rises Christopher Nolan is, without doubt, the great popular filmmaker of our age. In blockbusters like the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, he asks hard questions about life and how we’re supposed to live it. In this final film of his Batman trilogy he simultaneously rivets us to our chairs and makes us consider how we are to respond to a world full of violence, economic inequity, and everyone-forone’s-self selfishness. In the world of The Dark Knight Rises, unlikely heroes emerge, and everyone can be a Greg Garrett hero—the point of the costume— Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) says toward the end of the film. Take two: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s police officer who becomes so much more, and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a former prostitute and jewel thief who has rightfully thought she has to look out for herself. Throughout the film Wayne/Batman constantly challenges her to do better, to be better, and he offers himself as an example of self-sacrifice. She tells him he’s given Gotham City everything; he responds, “Not yet.” As “media nun” Sister Helena Burns points out on her blog (hellburns.blogspot.com), the film is perhaps overlong, but it may need to be to hold all its thematic material: “Hope! Despair! Failure! Moving on! Sacrifice! Torture! Justice! Darkness! Light!” This Dark Knight inspires us to hope, to toil, to rise to the best within us.

was some romantic tension between Amy and the Doctor—she had waited her whole life for him, and ignored the loving Rory. But in this season, especially, the married couple had grown strong in their love, and ultimately, they choose that love together over a life of adventure, even though it devastates the Doctor—and us. Amy’s story, The Guardian’s Dan Martin wrote, has always been about growing up. Like Luke Skywalker, always her mind was somewhere else, never on the pedestrian elements of life. And yet, we know, life takes place here and now. Sometimes that is adventurous; sometimes it is a long life full of day after day. The latter is what Amy consciously chooses at the end of “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the episode that ends this half season of Doctor Who. Doing the work, showing up for life, even when it’s not glamorous or particularly exciting, is what the spiritual life is all about. Thankfully, we’ll also have the memories of our adventures with the Ponds to keep us company.

that’s what science fiction can do for us—go a little overboard so maybe we can see in its hyberbole the direction we’re headed. Not only is this story wrestling with recession and our great military adventures in the Middle East, I think it also foregrounds our cultural penchant for voyeurism. As I told the Los Angeles Times, the Hunger Games may seem impossible, but they’re simply our reality TV shows pushed to a lethal point. Would people actually watch other people killing and dying? Well, I fear, yes. We gravitate to train wrecks already on Jersey Shore and Hoarders and what have you, and there’s a spiritual cost to that.

Peyton Manning/ Robert Griffin III

In my piece for The Huffington Post, I read the fine film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel as a parable for the Great Recession, and argued, “a narrative that shows young people competing to the death against each

It entered the charts at Number One in the States, Britain and Canada, and while it didn’t chart a new musical direction for the popular folkies from London, it didn’t need to. By turns rousing and musing, Babel explores love, life and faith; and while it’s hard to tease out a coherent theological vision—Rolling Stone’s Will Hermes writes that “Babel is full of all manner of religious shoptalk, with biblical metaphors swirling like detritus in a Christopher Nolan film”—the individual moments and the whole offer powerful lessons. Lead singer

break up, the Mumfords offer us haunting lines about loss and hope: But I’ll still believe, though there’s cracks you’ll see, When I’m on my knees, I’ll still believe, And when I’ve hit the ground, neither lost nor found, If you’ll believe in me, I’ll still believe. In the first single, “I Will Wait,” we don’t know whether it is a girl or God referenced in the line “Well you forgave and I won’t forget,” but in a sense, it doesn’t matter. As has been said of U2, you can hear these as love songs to a human being, or to a Supreme Being. The band invites us to spiritual encounter, whether in the title track

other so that those they love can have enough to eat is just a more-violent version of the Ayn Randian laissezfaire capitalism shaping our economic life now. . . . If we’re fast enough, tough enough, work hard enough—and don’t befall some accident in the woods—we should be just fine.” Over the top? Maybe a bit. But

Marcus Mumford, the son of prominent British evangelical Christians, has written another set of songs informed by the language of spirit, songs about sin, repentance, forgiveness and redemption, and whether we hear them as secular or spiritual songs, they offer us wisdom. In “Holland Road,” perhaps a story about a

(“Cause I know my weakness, know my voice/I’ll believe in grace and choice”) or in songs like “Ghosts That We Knew,” which asks “Give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light.” Hope in the darkness is a huge thing to proffer; this band does so in music that engages and uplifts, and I am grateful.

The Hunger Games

Mumford and Sons, Babel

Doctor Who It’s rare that a TV show affects me so powerfully as the recent run of the BBC’s Doctor Who has, but, as always, it’s about character. When an appealing character such as the Doctor (Matt Smith) interacts with such lovely and spunky people as Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) and together they save worlds and each other, you get to care about them. A lot. Of course, at first, there

J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

Pro football is the most popular sport in America, and despite a year littered with debris—a tragic murder/suicide, a scandal centered on a bounty program run by the New Orleans Saints targeting opposing quarterbacks, and a continuing stream of bad news about concussions and their long-term health effects—two of the most compelling storylines in the NFL are Peyton Manning’s Denver comeback from neck surgery and the ascendancy of the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III. Mr. Manning, long an iconic figure in the game, missed the entire 2011 season and was released by the Colts, who feared he might never return or might be substantially diminished if he did. All Mr. Manning has done with his new team, the BronPeyton cos, is to lead them to dramatic Manning victories, a division title, and to what The Sporting News calls “the best season of his illustrious Hall of Fame career.” Meanwhile, as of this writing, Mr. Griffin’s jersey is the most-purchased in America, and the press coverage is never-ending, both within and outside the Beltway. A few games ago, when it looked as though the Redskins were completely out of the playoff picture, Mr. Griffin urged his teammates to believe that they could achieve Robert something memorable to- Griffin III gether—and despite the odds, by New Year’s they had ridden Mr. Griffin and a newlytenacious defense into playoff contention. When weighed against all the storylines of greed, violence and dysfunction in our culture in particular and in sports in particular, these two players offer inspiration through their embodiment of hard work and hope. Dr. Garrett is a novelist and author of several nonfiction books on religion and pop culture. This article first appeared on Patheos.com. Reprinted with permission. U N I T E DM ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG


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PHOTOS BY SUE WINKLEY

LEFT: Rex Winkley touches up paint in a newly-remodeled room of Kynette United Methodist Church in Forrest City, Ark. The space will house a new after-school program to reach out to elementary-aged students and their parents. RIGHT: The Rev. Kennis Key and his wife, Marvellia, developed the vision for the new program.

Mission awareness leads to after-school program BY AMY FORBUS Special Contributor

In a small building tucked away on a side street in Forrest City, Ark., Kynette United Methodist Church gathers each week. With an average worship attendance of 15 to 20 people, it certainly fits the definition of “small church.” But its size won’t stop it from reaching out into its mission field in a new way this year: through Key’s Afterschool Homework Club, housed in a newly-remodeled room of the building.

Dreaming Marvellia Key and her husband, the Rev. Kennis Key, who serves as part-time local pastor of the congregation, began last summer to dream of new ways the church could have an impact on the surrounding community. Their time at the 2012 Arkansas Annual Conference served as a catalyst. “My husband and I were thinking the word ‘mission’ came up so much [at Annual Conference] . . . being in mission with the community,” said Ms. Key, who once pursued training toward becoming a United Methodist deaconess. “We sat there and we began to think. . . . We know we do things for the community, and in the community, and what have you. But it came to me to say, ‘Why don’t we begin something to really get out there to help the children . . . and in turn, help the parents?’” U N I T E DM ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

A retired teacher with 31 years of experience in the classroom, Ms. Key knew that local elementary schools had students in need of extra help with their schoolwork, and that such help can make a long-term difference in a child’s life. She also knew that the church building would need a lot of work to be certified as a child care center, a necessary step for any afterschool program. She began her research by calling the Department of Human Services (DHS)—and learned that the pre-training session for certification would begin the following Wednesday. It was the beginning of things falling into place to help make Key’s Afterschool Homework Club a reality.

Connections and help The Keys both attended the initial training session with DHS, and a helpful connection emerged: A fellow student in the session learned about their goals and offered free use of a van to pick up the children from school. They hope to eventually purchase the van. DHS outlined various zoning concerns and building requirements. Ms. Key went to the local fire department for help assessing changes needed for the building to meet the standards. “They were very helpful in looking at the building,” she said. Some of the required changes would take significant work. The Keys shared their vision with the Rev. Kirk Doering, the circuit elder for Kynette UMC. He, in turn, shared with the Rev. Susan Ledbetter, superintendent of

the Southeast District; and she and the Rev. Phil Hathcock, director of connectional ministries for the conference, helped Kynette UMC secure $1,500 in grant funding from the Arkansas Conference Global Ministries, and New and Refocusing Ministries. Ms. Key also contacted Dr. Lyle Heim from Lakewood UMC in North Little Rock, who had taken an interest in the Kynette congregation in years past. He shared the need for volunteer labor with others in his congregation, which is how Hank Godwin learned of the need. Mr. Godwin, freshly retired and with many summers of experience in the leadership of Ozark Mission Project, had been seeking a way to use his newfound free time in service to Christ. Kynette UMC’s need for a mission-driven renovation provided an answer. Kynette UMC became Mr. Godwin’s temporary home; he worked, ate and slept there for several days. Along with Mr. Godwin’s labor and that of several others, Lakewood UMC provided materials that cost about $1,500. “They have bent over backwards,” Ms. Key said. Mr. Godwin gave thanks that fellow Lakewood UMC members Patt Greenlee and Rex and Sue Winkley made several trips to Forrest City to help. “I hate to paint, and they were very willing,” he said. “Everything just fell into place. There were no gaps,” Ms. Key added, noting that Kynette has received addi-

tional help from other congregations, including First UMC in Conway and Pulaski Heights UMC in Little Rock.

Looking toward launch Key’s Afterschool Homework Club will begin by serving about a dozen students from two local elementary schools, between ages 5 and 12, who are performing below their grade level. DHS keeps a waiting list of such students who need extra help. Ms. Key hopes to be able to accommodate some students who are not referred by DHS, as well. “We want it to be open to everyone,” she said. The program, which will operate Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., will aim to build a foundation of learning to not only raise students’ test scores, but also help shape them

into the leaders of tomorrow by stimulating curiosity, enhancing critical thinking and eventually going beyond academics by incorporating ballet and music into the curriculum. Key’s Afterschool Homework Club will hold an open house and dedication on Jan. 20. The program is scheduled to launch on Feb. 1. “We’re so excited, we don’t know what to do,” Ms. Key said. “This is God-given. . . . It’s built in the light of Christ.” Ms. Forbus is editor of the Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the Arkansas Conference, where this article first appeared. Joe Roitz, director of communication ministries for Lakewood UMC in North Little Rock, contributed to this report.

PHOTO BY HANK GODWIN

Sue Winkley, Patt Greenlee and Rex Winkley are among the helpers who traveled from Lakewood UMC in North Little Rock to help with the project. U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3


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JANUARY 18, 2013

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

Making a Dent in Haiti By Mark Doyal On the east coast, Americans continue to dig out from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Like most major news events, the images and stories of this natural disaster fed the media cycle for weeks and now have begun to fade away. Unfortunately, the suffering will not fade any time soon. This is even-more true in other parts of the world. As the storm passed over Haiti, Hurricane Sandy dumped 27 inches of rain in just a few hours. Sandy took 74 lives and created yet another round of homelessness for 100,000+ Haitian people. As the storm moved on and began to bore down on the United States, Haiti provided the world media with a preview of what was to come to American television screens and newspaper front pages. Once Sandy hit U.S. soil, Haiti was forgotten. The images of water-soaked New York and New Jersey will fade from our memories over time. But the storm images of Haiti reinforce a perception Americans have of our Caribbean neighbors. For many if not most Americans, Haiti is the never-ending story of suffering and hardship. It is a country to pity, or dismiss as untenable. Haiti is viewed as a bottomless pit for charitable donations. For eight days this past September, I followed a West Michigan Conference mission team as they traveled to a southern mountainous region of Haiti. Since returning, I have been asked many times to share my story and photographs. “Are we making a dent in Haiti?” people want to know. “Is The United Methodist Church making a difference there?” Many attending my presentations, I suspect, expected to see familiar television and newspapers images of tent cities, starvation, and suffering. Those images do exist in Haiti; however my trip left me with a completely different view of this country. I witnessed images of a deeply faithful people and of hope. Mizak, Haiti is located about 4 hours south of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Like most of Haiti, this area is almost completely void of infrastructure. There is only sporadic Internet, electricity, clean water, sewers, paved roads or other systems that we, as Americans,

PHOTOS BY MARK DOYAL

ABOVE: A young child near Mizak, Haiti, smiles as he peeks around the corner. LEFT: Children dance on their way to HAPI, or the Haitian Artisans for Peace International center, in Mizak, Haiti. HAPI is a Haitian led and operated organization created to encourage creativity, promote gender equality, create economic opportunity, nurture spirituality, and begin to grow Mizak into a healthy community.

take for granted. The area has a population of approximately 35,000 people. Just five years ago, Mizak had no medical care facilities or doctors, massive unemployment and most residents (75%) lived on less than $1 U.S. dollar per day. For as long as anyone can remember, aid has arrived in this region in the form of charity. The problem with charity becomes crystal clear once you experience it up close. When the good-meaning rice sacks are emptied of their contents, the kind-hearted donated clothes are dispersed, and the loving volunteers head back to their American homes, the Haitian people are left with nothing but the hope that more charity will show one day. Charity, as a development model, is unsustainable. Thankfully, two people saw a different path for Mizak. A member (now Deaconess) of The United Methodist Church, Valerie MossmanCelestin, joined with the mayor of Mizak, Paul Prevost, to form HAPI, or Haitian Artisans for Peace International. Together, they found a way to build a community center and compound on the mountain. They named it The Shalom Zone, in solidarity with other cities around the world that had formed Communities of Shalom through The United Methodist Church.

HAPI is a Haitian led and operated organization created to encourage creativity, promote gender equality, create economic opportunity, nurture spirituality and begin to grow Mizak into a healthy community. Funded in part by The People of The United Methodist Church and run by local people, HAPI provides local artisans a means to sell goods in the United States and the community with access to clean water, basic health care, micro lending, community empowerment programs, plus spiritual and educational growth. In five short years, HAPI has provided families that used to survive on what they could grow on their small plots of land, access to business training and micro-loans. These self-sustaining programs have permanently changed countless lives. HAPI has given the people of Mizak the tools to create small businesses on the mountain. The extra income generated allows families to provide education for their children, food, medicine and literally, a steel roof over their heads. But the greatest gift HAPI has provided is empowerment. HAPI is using Haitian people to find solutions for Haitian issues. The knowledge gained here stays in the community. This is a sustainable solution to

poverty. This year, with funds from your United Methodist Church, HAPI employed local workers to build the Merlet Center. This 7,000 square foot earthquake resistant building has electricity, running water, and a space for a future Internet café so budding Mizak entrepreneurs can receive education and develop small businesses. This building was such a game changer for the mountain that the community celebrated for two days when it opened. There were parades, speeches, and praise to God for a building that change lives for countless families. Let me make perfectly clear: I am not an expert on Haiti. This was my very first trip and I saw just a small portion of the country. But what I did see was breathtaking. Haiti is a beautiful country with remarkably kind and faithful people. The community I lived in for eight days provided me with enormous hope that Haiti can overcome its massive challenges. The United Methodist Church is playing an important part in that transformation. Together, with the people of Haiti, we are making a dent in Haiti’s poverty and making a difference for its people. Mark Doyal is Director of Communications for the West Michigan Conference.

I’m United Methodist.

I’M CURING MALARIA. www.imaginenomalaria.org


Chaplain to the hikers He’ll be UM presence on Appalachian Trail | 3B

Letter to Martin Bishop sees MLK’s dream becoming new reality | 6B

Errant response ‘Put God back in schools’ is bad answer to shootings | 6B

THE

January 18, 2013

Section B

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

Churches plan ministries with military families B Y B A R B A R A D U N L A P -B E R G United Methodist News Service

Here to

help

UMNS FILE PHOTO BY GWEN KISKER

Children at First United Methodist Church, Lancaster, Pa., write thank-you notes to wounded veterans and active troops in the military. It’s among a number of UM churches that have made outreach to military families a ministry priority.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn.—If your congregation is seeking ways to reach out to military families, New Providence United Methodist Church, on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, might inspire you. Just six miles from the Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky, New Providence is home to many retired soldiers and their families. They know what it is like to have a spouse or parent absent for a year or more. They know how it is to celebrate birthdays with Mom or Dad deployed thousands of miles from home. They resonate with the frustration of a car that won’t budge and the pressure of caring for children 24/7. They understand because they’ve been there. Through the Eagle’s Wings min See ‘Military’ page 2B

Q&A: Growing a UM college into a university Marianne Inman will retire as president of Central Methodist University in June, after 18 years in the job. Under her leadership, the Fayette, Mo.-based school has seen a five-fold increase in students (to 5,616), tripled its endowment (to $31 million) and completed three capital campaigns. It’s also gone from “Central Methodist College” to “Central Methodist University.” Dr. Inman has emphasized the school’s ties to the UMC, and served as president of the denomination’s University Senate. She answered questions from managing editor Sam Hodges. How did a French professor end up as a college president? Language is the core of everything that humans think and do, and I’ve often felt that people who were interested in language and communication

could move into pretty much any field they wanted to move in. We have among our alums, for example, English majors who are lawyers and bankers. A discipline having to do with language and communication is very versatile and can prepare one for interests as they proceed in life. Can you summarize the challenges you faced when you took over Central Methodist, and what were your first moves? Anyone who knew the institution at that time would say there certainly were financial challenges. We had been operating in a deficit mode for several years. And I knew we had to get out of that mode, because one can’t operate like that. We did, in that first year. We were very fortunate to be the recipients of a sizeable bequest, something approximating $1 million.

We could have, I suppose, spent it on something that would be immediately visible, and yet our chief financial officer and I felt that getting us into a stable financial position was the most important priority. So we applied that to the debt and we worked very hard to prepare a reasonable budget. And so we got out of debt the first year and we haven’t seen any debt like that since. Another area that needed immediate attention was strategic planning. So we put together a large team: faculty, staff, students. The articulation of our mission in the past was rather lengthy. I didn’t feel it was as crisp or understandable as it might be, so we crafted a statement of mission. We have a statement of institutional values. We have an educational purposes statement, highlighting the  See ‘Inman’ page 4B

Marianne Inman stands in front of Classic Hall, the subject of her last capital campaign as president of Central Methodist University. The building, shuttered for more than 30 years, reopened last fall after a $5.5 million drive. PHOTO COURTESY CENTRAL METHODIST UNIVERSITY


2B FAITH focus FAITH WATCH Conference faces clergy abuse suit The UMC’s Oregon-Idaho Conference faces a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. William Walker when he was pastor of First Eugene United Methodist Church. Walker served the church from 1982 to 1992 when he died of AIDS. The suit filed by “Jack Doe” alleges that he was sexually abused as a youth in 1984. Bishop Grant Hagiya said he was “deeply grieved” by the situation and praying for all affected by clergy abuse.

Pope meets goal of bishop visits Pope Benedict XVI needed seven years to get the job done, but he has hosted formal visits by bishops from every country in the world. The Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law calls for the heads of dioceses to make a formal visit to the Vatican every five years, but the church now has almost 2,900 dioceses, slowing the process.

SC group sues Episcopal Church A South Carolina group that has broken with the Episcopal Church has filed suit, seeking to retain what it says is about $500 million in church buildings and other property. The Episcopal Church, which has seen other defections over its acceptance of gay priests and its positions on other social issues, maintains that breakaway congregations cannot, under decades-old legislation passed by the church’s General Convention, take property with them.

No ping-pong on Sabbath Eleven-year-old Estee Ackerman was disqualified at the 2012 U.S. national Table Tennis Championships because she refused to play on the Jewish Sabbath. “I advanced in my round robin and then we looked at my schedule and saw the next match would be during Friday night, which is our Sabbath, so of course I’m disappointed,” she told the New York Post. —Compiled by Sam Hodges

 MILITARY Continued from page 1B istry, New Providence matches military families with “sponsors”—members of the congregation who act as friends, confidants and, often, surrogate grandparents, aunts and uncles. This ministry is just one example of how United Methodists reach out to troops and their families. Honoring veterans is the focus of America’s Sunday Supper, slated for Jan. 20, 2013. Inspired by the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., America’s Sunday Supper invites people from diverse backgrounds to come together to share a meal, discuss issues that affect their community and highlight the power each one of us has to make a difference. Over the past two years, tens of thousands of soldiers have come home from war . . . to heal from wounds both visible and invisible, to face unemployment, a lack of housing and other domestic challenges. “Now is the time to give back,” the Rethink Church website says. “Raise awareness in your community, and do something to address the needs of veterans and military families.” Rethink Church, part of United Methodist Communications, is lining up 250 volunteer leaders to coordinate events and 6,500 volunteers to participate in a variety of outreach opportunities on or around Jan. 20. New Providence’s event, planned for Jan. 11, set as its goal to equip and offer resources to train additional volunteers to work with members of the military and their families. Workshops at the event: • Exposed area ministry representatives to the agencies and resources available on post. • Provided training and information about children and family issues surrounding deployment, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. • Offered networking opportunities for agencies and ministries. • Invited participants to continue

the conversation by sharing obstacles they encounter when trying to minister with this demographic. Along with New Providence Church, United Methodist congregations in Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin have registered events with Rethink Church.

Easing the transition In Hawaii, the Aiea United Methodist Church community will host a fellowship barbecue to honor those who have served and continue to serve. Two Indiana congregations—Redkey and Mount Tabor, Dunkirk—will present $5 McDonald’s meal cards to the first 300 veterans or active soldiers who attend their Jan. 19 event. Throughout the new year, Aldersgate UMC in Worcester, Mass., will reconnect veterans with their community through outreach and support. The goal is to help troops make the transition back into everyday living. A training event is on the agenda for St. Paul UMC, Hattiesburg, Miss. The activity will nurture communication skills and encourage respect for all people. In Cameron, N.C., the congregation of Solid Rock UMC will gather for a Sunday meal to share ways members can make a difference through economic empowerment, support for families of active-duty military, emergency aid and improving community well-being. New Washington UMC in Ohio will hold a series of events on Jan. 27 to affirm and support returning troops and their families and to raise awareness of the challenges they face. Three congregations—Waverly and Willow Grove in Pennsylvania and Columbus in Wisconsin—plan special meals open to the community. Freewill offerings will assist veterans and military families. Preparing for future service projects with military

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THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER has provided denominational news coverage since its beginning as the Texas Methodist newspaper in 1847. The Reporter has no official ties to the United Methodist General Conference or to any of the denomination’s general boards or agencies. This newspaper aims to provide readers with a broad spectrum of information and viewpoints consistent with the diversity of Christians. All material published in this newspaper is copyrighted by UMR Communications Inc. unless otherwise noted. Reprint of material from this newspaper must be authorized in advance by the Editor, and fees are assessed in some cases. To request reprints, e-mail news@umr.org, or fax a request to (214) 630-0079. Telephone requests Please recycle. We do! are not accepted.

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PHOTO COURTESY NEW PROVIDENCE UMC

New Providence United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., held a Christmas event Dec. 11 for families from nearby Fort Campbell who had a parent just back from deployment. The families and volunteers worked on various activities, including helping kids build birdhouses. Eagle’s Wings is a support ministry for military families, based at the church.

families is on the docket for St. George’s United Methodist Church, Fairfax, Va. Reaching out to the military is “as easy as loving your own family,” said Donna Markel, who chairs the Eagle’s Wings project at New Providence Church. “It’s hard enough for a soldier not to be there, but to know that someone’s wrapped their arms around their family back home and is with them is just a tremendous thing.”

Answering the call Bill Wheeler, an Eagle’s Wings sponsor and the congregation’s lay leader, entered the Army in 1953 during the Korean conflict. He retired in 1974. “We sponsor those families to

show our love and appreciation to the soldiers that serve our country,” he explained. Catherine Leigh Harwell is married to a military police officer. She believes something as simple as cooking a meal for a military family so the spouse doesn’t have to make another McDonald’s run is a true gift. “Just something as small as that,” she said, “will drag more people in the [church] door than you can even imagine.” The Rev. Billy Joe “B.J.” Brack, who serves the Clarksville congregation, added, “I think it’s what God calls us to do. We’re supposed to be opening our doors to whoever’s out there. And if you’re around a military base, these people . . . have hurts and pains. “We’re all in this together.”

Ways for your church to support military families 







 

Celebrate birthdays of soldiers and their family members. Have a birthday party for a child whose parent is deployed. Have a church-wide holiday meal. It’s a great way to build a sense of family, especially for those whose loved ones are miles away and for newly returned soldiers. Open church activities to military families. Bible studies, Sunday school classes and youth groups acquaint newcomers with longtime members and give military families a safe place to share their stories. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon—Ministering to Returning Combat Veterans, a Bible study available from Cokesbury, is a great place to start. Provide free babysitting for children in military families, both during and after deployment. Give a sole caregiver a break or a reunited couple a night out. Remember simple things such as a weekly phone call to ask how things are going and to offer a listening ear. Send care packages to active troops. Letters, drawings and photos from the church family are fun and easy to do. It’s a wonderful way to involve children. U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG


FAITH focus 3B UM CONNECTIONS Lecture on sexuality at Huston-Tillotson Albert Mosley, president of Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, will give a lecture titled “Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby: Human Sexuality and the Black Church Experience,” at UM-affiliated Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. The event is set for Jan. 31, beginning at 2 p.m. It’s the sixth annual Bishop E.T. Dixon Lecture. Dr. Mosley was raised in rural Mississippi, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UMaffiliated Millsaps College. He also earned degrees from Duke University and Yale University. A press release said Dr. Mosley will “address the faith community’s response to human sexuality, especially sexual pluralism and non-hetero expressions of sexuality.”

New Baltimore-Wash. superintendents named Bishop Marcus Matthews has announced new district superintendents for the Baltimore-Washington Conference, which he began to oversee last September. The Rev. Rebecca Iannicelli is the new superintendent in the Washington East District. The Rev. Edgardo Rivera was picked for the Frederick District. The Rev. Jongwoo (J.W.) Park will be superintendent of the Central Maryland District, and the Rev. Laura Easto will lead the Baltimore Suburban District. The Rev. Joseph W. Daniels will serve as superintendent of the Greater Washington District and continue in his ministry as pastor of Emory Fellowship in Washington, D.C.

Candler professor much honored in 2012 Rex Matthews, associate professor of historical theology at Candler School of Theology, had an award-winning year in 2012. He earned the UM seminary’s Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award, the most prestigious award for teaching given by Emory University, of which Candler is part. Dr. Matthews also was recognized with an Exemplary Teaching Award by the UMC. In 2010, Candler students gave him an award for excellence in teaching. —Compiled by Sam Hodges

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UM chaplain to serve Appalachian Trail BY ANNETTE SPENCE Special Contributor

For the past 10 springs, three tiny churches offered free home-cooked breakfasts and other friendly services to Appalachian Trail “thru hikers” passing their portion of Southwest Virginia. This year, the ministry moves out on the legendary trail with the introduction of a roving United Methodist chaplain. Josh Lindamood, a 26-yearold preacher’s son, is scheduled to take the life-changing hike himself, beginning April 4 at Springer Josh Mountain in Georgia Lindamood and finishing some six months later at Mount Katahdin in Maine. The goal is to provide an encouraging spiritual presence to trekkers tendered by nature and physical challenge during the 2,200-mile, springto-fall quest, said the Rev. Alan Ashworth, pastor of the three hospitable churches that began Appalachian Trail Outreach Ministry in Bastian, Va. “I know we’ve touched lives because of the letters we’ve received, but the relationship ends right there,” Mr. Ashworth says of the 1,000 or so hikers who have received a hot breakfast or a ride into town for supplies over the past decade. “The idea behind the chaplain is to put somebody on the trail an amount of time to build real trust.” The chaplaincy venture is backed by the Holston Conference, the parent regional body for 897 United Methodist churches. Mr. Lindamood, a landscaper from Lynchburg, Va., has already received chaplaincy training and will soon receive “wilderness medical training” before shouldering his backpack through 14 states and a variety of weather conditions. “Everybody hikes the ‘AT’ for different reasons and at different points in their lives,” Mr. Lindamood said. “I just love nature and the outdoors and the way God speaks to you when you’re in it.” Mr. Ashworth believes that Mr. Lindamood will be the first chaplain to represent a mainstream denomination while hiking the entire route (as a thru hiker), although he knows of evangelists and religious fundraisers who have done so or who hike part of the trail (“section hikers”). A former church camp director, Mr. Ashworth’s been talking to hikers about their particular needs since he first convinced his congregations to

provide a trash can and picnic table on the trail in 2001. Later, church members realized that weary travelers could benefit from a hot meal as they passed through. So breakfast was served at New Hope Union United Methodist Church, located 1½ miles from where the trail crosses state Route 615 in Bastian, Va. Mr. Ashworth also pastors Green Valley UMC and Pine Grove UMC, each with fewer than 20 worshippers on Sunday. The three congregations worked together to provide a unique ministry, including placing a cooler with drinks, weather reports and New Testaments on the trail. Over the years their nature-loving pastor began to dream of the next step. “We started with an idea to intercept hikers and minister to their needs,” Mr. Ashworth said. “But we had a desire for lasting relationships and long-term contact.” The Rev. Bob Hayes, a retired pastor and avid hiker in Maryville, Tenn., was one of the first people approached by Mr. Ashworth in pursuing the chaplain mission. Like others, Mr. Hayes immediately recognized the opportunity for faith-sharing within a life experience well-known for drawing or driving spiritual seekers. However, the AT chaplain is not on a mission to cultivate new church members. “Josh is not ordained and he

PHOTO BY BUZZ TREXLER

Appalachian Trail “thru hikers” set up camp at Tricorner Knob in the Great Smoky Mountains in April 2012.

doesn’t have theological training,” Mr. Hayes said, “but he has faith in his heart and he’s an authentic thru hiker. We wanted somebody who could enter into dialogue with people without having all the answers.” Mr. Lindamood said he’s long had his own dream to conquer the trail, although he couldn’t afford the expense. (“He was somebody, I think, who was waiting for a call,” says Mr. Ashworth.) Organizers are raising $11,500 to support the chaplain with training, gear, food, insurance and other expenses. “I’m definitely looking forward to growing myself spiritually, to being

one-on-one with God and hashing some things out,” Mr. Lindamood said. “But I’m also looking forward to connecting with people, to witnessing for the presence of God, without forcing it on anybody.” A group of United Methodist pastors, including Mr. Ashworth and Mr. Hayes, will provide spiritual direction and support by telephone or Internet on the long and difficult path from Georgia to Maine. At least one pastor will accompany the chaplain during his first week on the trail. Ms. Spence edits The Call, a publication of the Holston Conference.

LETTERS

Skin color is not a disability From time to time statements surface that illuminate how far the United Methodist Church is from truly living out its tenets of concern for equality, and racial and social justice. The Dec. 14 Reporter article on Speaking Out, a book by UM clergy with disabilities, disclosed an alarming reality. One of the contributors to the book shared a “light bulb” moment. His seemingly sincere comparison of a black person’s skin to a physical disability is just short of unbelievable. Does this suggest that any skin color other than that of the majority United Methodist member is also a disability, or is this just an assessment of black people? I shudder to think what it would be like to be a member of such a pastor’s congregation, though I am certain throughout my many years and experiences as a United Methodist that his light bulb revelation is not his alone. I still hope that we can come to

an understanding and acceptance of our differences without categorizing an entire race of people as disabled because of their skin color. Without disparaging the physical or mental disabilities of anyone, as an African American woman, I have never wished to be any race other than my own and am thankful that I am without disabilities. Lynda R. Byrd Lay member, Northwest Hills UMC San Antonio, Texas Editor’s note: Ms. Byrd refers to the Rev. Robert L. Walker, a retired UM pastor who edited Speaking Out and is one of its contributors. Shown Ms. Byrd’s letter, he said that he by no means meant to suggest that skin color is a disability. He notes that his “light bulb” moment occurred in conversation with a Black Panther member. Mr. Walker said: “In the course of our one or more hours of

conversation the leader reminded us that far too many Caucasians saw their blackness as a problem, to which the leader rightly told us that it is not a problem to them, but a problem to us white people who do not challenge the heinous prejudices that inevitably lead to discriminations against them due to their color. . . . In some of my former parishes I lost members because of my stance against prejudices and discriminations against people of color; add to the list women, other ethnic groups, homosexual persons, and people coping with disabilities.” The United Methodist Reporter welcomes brief, civil letters, and reserves the right to edit for space and clarity. Please send to news@umr.org or The United Methodist Reporter, 1221 Profit Drive, Dallas, TX 75247. Include contact information and, if, applicable, the name of one’s UM church affiliation.

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4B FAITH focus

LEFT: Dr. Marianne Inman’s tenure as president of Central Methodist University will end this summer, after 18 years. She is seen here with students in front of Brannock Hall, the main administration building. RIGHT: CMU’s Elliott Black scored on a slam dunk. The men’s basketball team coach, Jeff Sherman, recently got his 500th collegiate head coaching victory.

 INMAN Continued from page 1B importance of our church relationship. Those constitute, still today, our core documents. We’ve altered the language of our mission statement a little as we’ve become a university. But basically those continue to be what guide the institution and what has led us to accomplish some rather dramatic results.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY CENTRAL METHODIST UNIVERSITY

Choral singing at CMU boasts a strong tradition, and groups tour Missouri, performing at UM churches. J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

When you look back at your tenure, what do you see as the key accomplishments? Would it be becoming a university? Well, that’s a major piece. The reason that we recommended, in 2004, that the board approve the change of name was that we had moved into graduate education. We have become, I like to say, the CMU System around Missouri because we now have a degree completion partnership with every one of the state’s 13 two-year public colleges. We were the pioneers in that. In 1989 we had the first one, and just this past fall we signed the last two. We have grown tremendously in enrollment in this almost 18 years. We have transformed the main Fayette campus. My vision when I came was to bring the quality of the living and learning environments up to the quality of the academic and

co-curricular programs, which always had been strong. It’s very hard to sell a concept of excellence if people come to campus and do not see what they perceive to be excellence. So we’ve done this through renovation, through new construction, through constant working at different maintenance issues. Most people, especially alums who haven’t been here for a while, are just quite amazed and thrilled at the appearance of the campus. How did Central Methodist form partnerships with the public two-year schools of Missouri? I have to give credit to my predecessor, Joe Howell, who in 1989 started the first one. Mineral Area College was looking for a four-year partner and had investigated one or two other possibilities. Those were not proceeding. Dr. Howell looked at that as a remarkable opportunity and pursued it. The second program started, under him, with East Central College. The rationale, of course, is that one is extending educational opportunities to learners who might not otherwise have an opportunity to pursue the bachelor’s degree, and also master’s, because we offer those at each of our locations. We saw it

certainly as a way to extend Central Methodist’s influence around the state. Certainly from a business perspective, this has been highly productive for everybody who’s involved. Private colleges seem to face so much competition, from lessexpensive state schools to forprofit schools that don’t have a lot of the infrastructure costs associated with traditional education. We’ve had one UMaffiliated school close and another go into bankruptcy in the last two years. What must private colleges do to survive? From a purely business perspective, one has got to have diversified revenue streams, especially for small colleges that might be in rural areas where the population base is not large. One has to take education to where learners are. Central Methodist, whose main campus is in Fayette, Mo., a town of 2,688 people, faced that exact challenge. One way we have diversified is by moving into these partnerships with these other colleges. Another way is online. A lot of schools are doing that. Our online programs have just absolutely exploded in popularity. One must just always be looking U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG


FAITH focus 5B for ways to serve additional students. Given the way things work, when one serves additional students, there normally are additional revenues attached to that. You were quoted recently as saying you wanted to be president of a UMC-related university, adding “that’s what I know, believe in and feel.” Would you elaborate on that? I spent 11 years at Alaska Pacific University, which is a United Methodist-related school in Anchorage. And I am a United Methodist. Actually, I had taught quite briefly before Alaska at (UM-affiliated) Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. So I was certainly familiar with the United Methodist system of education, the fundamental values and beliefs. These accord with my own personal faith and beliefs. The college where I was immediately before this—Northland College—is related to the United Church of Christ. That’s fine. It’s a wonderful college, and I certainly grew there and appreciated my experience there. But there’s a different denominational relationship in the more-orless congregational system. Did you move pretty early to strengthen Central Methodist’s ties to the UMC, and if so, how did you do that? When I arrived, there was a person in the position—director of church relations. We don’t have that position currently but we have more people involved in various relationships with the church. So that has just gotten stronger. But the person who was in that position told me right off, probably the first day I was here, “You know, you really need to work on relationships with the church.”

LEFT: Construction of the Student and Community Center at CMU was a signature project of Marianne Inman’s tenure as president, and the building’s plaza is named for her. RIGHT: Central Methodist University cross country runner Elise Schreiber (r) is seen competing in a meet. The team she’s on won a second consecutive Heart of America Athletic Conference Title.

There had been some controversy over conference-level funding in the apportionment system. The conference was wrestling with its own priorities, with where United Methodist-related higher education fit into all of that. There had apparently developed some disconnect or even disharmony between some folks within the conference level and local churches and Central. I thought, my goodness, we certainly don’t want to perpetuate anything that looks as if we’re not all together on this. We certainly want to strengthen the relationship. I thought, “Well, I want to meet a lot of people. I enjoy speaking and preaching. It’s part of what I do and who I am and what I believe.” And so I set our director of church relations on to the task of scheduling me into as many local churches as possible. I think there have been some couple of hundred at least. That’s only 20 percent of the local churches in Missouri, but that’s a fair proportion. . . .

I thought if I can just go out to the local churches, meet the folks, thank them for all they’re doing financially and in other ways—such as sending us students—then that’s what I can do immediately. Now at the [Missouri] Conference, the budget has shifted. There is some level of support financially from the conference for Central Methodist. It’s much lower than it was. I understand all the reasons for that. We’re not unique in that regard. And yet at the same time Central Methodist has gotten stronger itself. I believe that our relationship with the annual conference is probably as strong as it has ever been, if I can judge from what staff people tell me and the response I get when I speak to Annual Conference. And mainly the response of churches is in referring their wonderful students to us. We do have a special scholarship for United Methodist students, which is a 50 percent reduction in published tuition. It applies to the main

fore something that’s just a relic of the past, to many of us who see it as central to how we understand ourselves, how we know ourselves. My wish would be that every institution that’s listed by the University Senate is very proud of the United Methodist connection and would make that well known. Clearly, given the autonomy of institutions and the different missions and histories of them, that’s probably a very tall order.

campus, undergraduates. We’ve been very pleased by the response to that. You have “Central Methodist Days,” too, where faculty and staff do some of that visiting of churches as well, correct? Yes, last October, we started the first one, and we’re going to be doing another one this spring. We had people in 28 or 30 local churches. Many schools that are officially UM-affiliated don’t seem to do much to publicize that fact. Central Methodist has “Methodist” in the name and in general seems more conspicuous in its affiliation. Do you think you’re in a special situation or do you wish that other schools would highlight their Methodist connections more than they do? There’s a whole continuum of connectedness to the denomination, ranging from those who consider their connection “historic,” and there-

Is it true, as has been reported, that you and your husband are retiring to Georgetown, Texas? Yes, we are. We lived in Georgetown 30 plus years ago and liked it very much. My doctorate is from the University of Texas, Austin, which is just 28 miles down the road. When we left there to go to Alaska, we said, “Well, someday we’ll be back.” Now we find that someday is right around the corner. shodges@umr.org

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Dr. Inman as president of CMU has advanced its partnerships with public two-year schools. She’s seen here signing an agreement with Mark James, chancellor of Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City. U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

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6B FAITH forum

Fifty years on, the Dream is becoming the new reality B Y B I S H O P W O O D I E W. W H I T E UMR Columnist

Editor’s note: Bishop White, the first chief executive of the General Commission on Religion and Race, writes a “birthday letter” each year to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about the progress of racial equality in the U.S. Dear Martin: I write this year as we will observe the 50th anniversary of your “I Have a Dream” speech given at the historic March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. It is hard to believe it was 50 years ago. I remember being on one of the many buses that left Detroit for the allnight ride to our na- Bishop tion’s capital. Woodie Sharing a seat was a White fellow Methodist minister and Boston University schoolmate, who sadly died only a few days ago. He was committed to the cause of racial justice, like so many of the thousands of whites, from every walk of life, who were a part of the March. We arrived as dawn was breaking. The streets were deserted and quiet, but for the line of buses like ours filled with people coming from every part of the nation. Our bus and several others were directed to a local church, where

we were served breakfast. The air was filled with expectation. As the day moved on, the National Mall began to fill with thousands of people. I recall it being one of the most multiracial and interfaith gatherings I have ever witnessed. A multiplicity of organizations was represented, with members carrying signs of their group and particular concern. Many clergy were easily identified, as Protestants and Roman Catholics alike wore clerical collars. But there were those of other faith groups as well. Among the crowd could be heard many accents and languages. It was a modern day Pentecost! The scene became a festive occasion with complete strangers quickly developing easy friendships. It seemed clear to us that this was no ordinary public demonstration; in fact, it was soon recorded as the largest such gathering ever assembled in Washington, D.C. Yet at first, none of us had any idea how historic an event it would turn out to be. And of course, no one anticipated hearing a speech that would be considered one of the most important in the 20th century! Martin, I remember that it was mid-afternoon when you stepped to the podium to address us. We had already heard mini-sermons and speeches of every description. We had been entertained, inspired, encouraged and challenged. But when you began to speak, something happened. You took that mass of humanity to an-

PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington.

other level. It was Church! And yet, it was even more. Somehow your words concretized the vision of a movement for racial justice and equality, and made more real the ideal of a nation and the hope of a people. You painted a picture of your dream for America—and the more than 200,000 of us there realized that it was our dream as well! Martin, on that day, you began to melt a nation’s heart. You made clearer a moral imperative that was not just your own, but as you said, was “deeply rooted in the American dream.” It was a dream of hope. It was a call to action. It was a recognition that racial segregation and discrimination as a way of life was antithetical to American democracy.

What a day. What a speech. What a dream. Fifty years ago! And this year we recall that historic moment. Martin, this past year has been on the one hand a time of accomplishment, as we watch the nation moving closer to a full realization of “The Dream.” On the other hand, we have also heard ugly, mean-spirited, racist rhetoric that harkens back to days that many had believed were long since gone. Racial prejudice dies hard. Martin, you were fond of saying, “No lie can live forever.” But what I have observed is that a lie can live a long, long, long time! The black/white narrative in North American history and life is more than 400 years old, older than the nation itself. Black people have been variously defined as subhuman, property, three-fifths of a person, and more recently, as “other.” That is, not “real Americans.” This narrative is born of the assumption that black people and other people of color are innately inferior, that their very being is not equal to that of a white person. It is the old American narrative that has been proved to be what it has always been: a lie. However, a new American narrative is emerging. Millions of Americans of all races, ethnicities and religions are writing this new narrative. Martin, your “dream” in many ways has become a reality. There are those who live this reality every day; indeed, some are young enough that they have never known anything else. But not everywhere, and not every-

one. Sadly, there are those who refuse to accept the new American narrative. They are stuck in the old one, heart and mind! Some make attempts to take us back—though they can never return us to a place that is no more. So there is still much work to do. We must find a way to love them into the new American narrative. Your dream continues to be a fitting vision of an American future. This year we will be reminded, as we remember your words thundered out across a sea of humanity 50 years ago. A dream not only “deeply rooted in the American dream,” but in the will of God at creation. Happy birthday, Martin. Woodie PS, I almost forgot. President Barack Obama was elected to a second term! Time named him Person of the Year, noting, “In 2012, he found and forged a new majority, turned weakness into opportunity and sought, amid great adversity, to create a more perfect union.” Coincidentally, President Obama’s inauguration will be on Monday, Jan. 21—the same day as this year’s observance of the federal holiday marking your birthday. And finally, in 2013, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, ending slavery in the United States of America, January 1, 1863! Retired Bishop White is bishopin-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, in Atlanta.

God has never been a stranger in our public schools B Y A DA M H A M I LTO N Special Contributor

One reaction to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been a call to “put God back in the schools.” I even heard one person suggest that the violence that happened in the school was because “we took God out of public Adam schools.” Hamilton As a pastor, I have a deep desire to lead people to God and encourage people to pray, read the Bible, and carry their faith into every part of their lives. But I’ve got a few questions about “putting God back in the schools.” In America our public schools are intended to be religiously neutral. Our teachers and schools are neither to endorse nor to inhibit religion. I

believe this is a very good thing. When my kids were growing up I wanted their teachers to teach them science, reading, math and history. I also wanted them to care about my kids. But I did not want my children’s public school teachers teaching them religion. That was my job as a parent, and the job of our church, Sunday school and youth group. If we’re going to put God back in schools, which God are we talking about? Within the Christian family alone there are often dramatically different ways of talking about God: fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, moderates, progressives, liberals, Calvinists and Arminians, highchurch and low-church—and these are just the Protestants! Add in Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and a host of groups that are often said to be outside the mainstream, and you can begin to see the dilemma. And while 78 percent of all Ameri-

J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

cans claim to be Christians, 22 percent claim another faith or no faith. If these numbers are applied to teachers, this would mean that one in five teachers may be Hindu or Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist, atheist or agnostic. Few of the folks calling for “putting God back in schools” seem to be OK with people outside of the Christian faith teaching their children about God. The religious neutrality in our schools is, I would argue, one of our strengths. Teachers cannot inhibit or deride religion. But this does not mean that we’ve taken God out of public schools. I’m reminded of the book of Esther in the Bible. God is not explicitly mentioned in the book, but that did not mean that God was not at work in the story. Christians believe that God is everywhere and is involved in our lives at every moment, whether we publicly acknowledge God or not. Most of the teachers I’ve met in public schools are people of faith. For

many, their faith shapes how they approach their work as teachers. It strengthens, informs and inspires them to love their students and to pursue their work with excellence. As in the book of Esther, they may not explicitly mention God, but God works through them nonetheless. Students also bring their faith into the schools. They are free to pray any time, provided they are not disruptive. They are free to talk about their faith, provided they are not belligerent or hurtful to other students. Finally, there are many ways that churches and other religious groups may partner with public schools, provided that they are not seeking to evangelize. In the Kansas City area, the church I serve has partnered with six elementary schools in which a majority of the students live near the poverty line. We build playgrounds for these schools, and paint and rehab their buildings. We fund literacy efforts and provide free books. We ensure that each child has a winter coat,

gloves and hat, and school supplies, and we provide funds for special programs the schools otherwise could not afford. We also have tutoring programs with hundreds of volunteers who read to children and otherwise help the teachers and support their work. Our people are motivated by their faith to do these things. They don’t talk about their faith, but it is clearly seen in their actions. We don’t need mandatory, nonsectarian prayers read over the loudspeaker to “put God back in schools.” God never left the schools. God is still at work through the hundreds of thousands of gifted teachers and administrators, committed parents and passionate volunteers who seek to help give our children “a future with hope.” The Rev. Hamilton is pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and author of When Christians Get It Wrong, among other books. U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG


FAITH forum 7B WESLEYAN WISDOM

Bad news can be good, if it stirs faithful courage B Y D O NA L D W. H AY N E S UMR Columnist

Something about a recent editorial by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. To me, it suggested a parallel between the state of the Republican Party and the state of our denomination. Ms. Noonan began: “Viewed a Donald certain way, the 2012 Haynes election can be seen as a gift to Republicans wrapped in ugly paper. The wrapping looked like a hostage note with a message scrawled in crayon: ‘We hate you.’ But inside was a gift, and the gift was time. The party was given the opportunity, when it is still strong, to hold [a] fresh, open-thewindows debate. . . . Everyone, from the establishment to the base, just took a serious shock to the system. . . . Right now everyone’s open to the idea of change. The party can either go the way of the Whigs or they can straighten up and fly right, get serious, make their philosophy feel new again. . . .” Much of that language could also apply to the United Methodist Church. Consider what we leave for posterity as we look back at 2012. Is this not a wake-up call? • The 2012 General Conference’s rejection of some key proposals arising from the Call to Action initiative. • The 2012 South Central Jurisdictional Conference’s support of involuntary retirement for a bishop, and the subsequent rejection by the Judicial Council of the SCJ Conference action. • The advice of Western Jurisdiction bishops to disobey the law of the church—law that they vowed to support when they were consecrated. • The Judicial Council striking down General Conference’s decision to withdraw from “guaranteed appointment” because we cannot afford it. • The closing of all Cokesbury stores. • The move of Saint Paul School of Theology from its campus to a local church. • The close of another UMC-affiliated college. • Delayed maintenance on thousands of our church buildings. • Downsized staffs, unfunded budget items in a majority of our local churches, and an increasing loss of money church-wide, forcing some U N I T E DM E T HODI ST R E P ORT E R . ORG

very hard decisions about the “cost of doing business.” • The alarming average age and Anglo complexion in UM congregations, and continuing drops in membership and attendance. Those traumatizing developments should force United Methodists to do what Ms. Noonan says the Republicans must do—“hold a fresh, openthe-windows debate,” or go the way of the Whigs. Do you remember the Whigs? Divided by their position on slavery, they abandoned incumbent U.S. President Millard Fillmore of New York in favor of another Whig, General Winfield Scott of Virginia, and lost the 1852 election so overwhelmingly that the party disintegrated, the southern Whigs moving over to the northern Democrats, while in the north the Republican Party was created by 1856. The Whigs were defeated by their own myopia and cultural compromise. Could the UMC be headed down the same path? There is an adage that old generals send young men to fight with antiquated war manuals. Remember learning as schoolchildren how the regimented British redcoats in the 1770s fought “European style,” lining up their soldiers in rows with orders to “fire and fall back”? Meanwhile the American frontiersmen were firing long rifles from behind trees. We won, they lost. Similarly, are we holding on to old denominational structures and paradigms while independent “upstart churches” reach more young people and build more racially diverse congregations? Ms. Noonan says, “Organisms that survive a shock are often able to see their surroundings more acutely [and adapt to them].” OK! We can do this! But will we? Or will our long cherished methodological legalism and revered Book of Discipline be twisted into the noose that hangs us? Can we have an “open-the-windows” debate without resorting to name calling, stereotyping and caricaturing? We must “get real,” or we could indeed go the way that New England Congregationalists and Southern Episcopalians went in the face of the Second Great Awakening (c. 1800-1850). Methodism had 3 percent of American church members at the time the Republic was founded; by 1840, we had 34 percent plus the numbers of the Evangelical, United and Brethren churches. America today is not in a tranquil frame of mind. There is no spirit of compromise or mood for listening in any dimension of our culture. Likewise, the Wesleyan “catholic spirit”

which was the watchword of theological liberalism for generations has eroded. Historic fundamentalism was unbending on issues of doctrine and biblical literalism; now there is a liberal fundamentalist-type posture that is unbending on social justice issues. There is also a group of “structural fundamentalists” who insist on “protecting our heritage” in areas such as guaranteed appointment, even if we close the churches that those clergy would serve! We now seem to relish in-your-face, finger-pointing arguments. Cooler heads must prevail. Surely there are those who cherish Methodism more than they revel in a win/lose approach to issues that threaten to divide us. Or are there? Surely, no wag can say of us what is often said by British Methodists: “Come weal or come woe, our status is quo.” Or can they? Surely our episcopal leaders and Judicial Council members will listen to the legislative branch. Or will they? Surely annual conferences will rise above caucus politics and the old “boys/girls club” membership in electing General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates. Or will they? Surely, the connection will not strangle, close and sell off small membership churches that have so loyally supported the connection in both apportionment payments and appointment of pastors. Or will they?

Can we be bold? For a century or more, scholars from the “philosophy of religion” school insisted that John Wesley was not a theologian. Albert Outler rescued our founder from the coal bin by creating the term “folk theologian” to describe him. Robert Cushman unearthed the term “experimental divinity” in Wesley’s own writings, and Thomas Langford unearthed another helpful term: “practical divinity.” Wesley, the Oxford don, preached to miners, factory workers and people living from hand to mouth. He exchanged the grandeur of Gothic chapels for open sewers, pubs, mine

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shafts and factory gates. His was a theology fired in the furnace of 18thcentury reality. Indeed, this is why he did the previously unthinkable in Anglican polity—ordaining Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as deacons, “setting aside” Thomas Coke, and instructing them to ordain Francis Asbury when they arrived in America. On the day Wesley said, in effect, “I turn you loose on the continent of America,” Methodism was no longer just a reform movement in the Church of England, and became the most prominent shaping influence on American religious culture. Can we be bold at the beginning of a new year? Let’s ask some bold questions: • Local churches, even small ones, have been faithful stakeholders who pay the bills and support clergy who are sent to them with no consultation. Can we give them a stronger voice in who their next pastor will be? • Can the annual apportionment be a contract that is negotiated between two Christian bodies (annual conference and local church), rather than a “franchise tax” that is imposed without negotiation? • Can we honor the upcoming 275th anniversary of Aldersgate by requiring every church that has a fiveyear record of declining attendance to adopt a thorough revitalization process, with “everything on the table”? This would not be a one-sizefits-all bag of tricks. Funds spent by the church to pay outside coaches for on-site work would be “apportionment credits,” deducted from the annual conference benevolences. If the result is to add generations to the life

of that church, it is a good investment! • If a conference plans to close a local church, sell the property and transfer the money to the District Mission Society or some other connectional fund . . . STOP! Those faithful United Methodists have paid for the deed and deserve it. Can we develop a whole new paradigm by which they are given their property and responsibility to provide their own pastor, in exchange for remaining a UMC affiliate and retaining the essentials of Methodist grace theology? (It is to be hoped they would secure their pastors from the ranks of retired Methodist clergy, lay speakers and local pastors who increasingly may not have appointments.) • If bishops wish to continue in the episcopacy after two quadrennia, are they willing to adopt a new paradigm of term episcopacy—running for eight more years after having been elected “on faith” to serve their first two quadrennia? United Methodism must not wallow in the slough of despair. As an “organism,” we received our shocks in 2012. Let us recognize our new surroundings more clearly and adapt to them. Let’s flesh out anew Wesley’s exciting term, “experimental and practical divinity.” Let us—by God’s grace—renew the movement, or our last funds will only buy monuments to mark the place where United Methodism once stood. Dr. Haynes is a retired member of the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of On the Threshold of Grace: Methodist Fundamentals. Email: dhaynes11@triad.rr.com.

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U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3


8B FAITH focus

Caregivers need care after traumatic events B Y K AT H Y L. G I L B E RT V I C K I B R OW N

AND

United Methodist News Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The world can break your heart on the most ordinary day of your life. It happened to the Rev. Gregory S. Clapper on a hot July day in 1989 as he was driving his family to a mall in Sioux City, Iowa, to see the movie Peter Pan. As he was parking the car, he noticed a large plane flying low, heading for a local airport. A few moments later, a thick black line of smoke rose from the direction of the airport. Dr. Clapper got back in his car, turned on the radio and heard the first reports that United Airlines Flight 232 had crashed. Dr. Clapper, recently commissioned as a chaplain for the Air National Guard, was a “baby” chaplain—he had not attended chaplain school yet—but he knew where God wanted him to be. He was on the tragic scene moments after it happened. He walked among the bodies, comforted the injured and tried to help survivors come

ers at the first United Methodist convocation for police, fire and crisis-responder chaplains sponsored by the denomination’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The event, held Dec. 3-5 in Nashville, focused on clergy who volunteer as crisis-care responders. The purpose of the event was to care for the caregivers, said the Rev. Bruce Fenner, director of the division that endorses United Methodist chaplains. Many times the chaplains are volunteering their service in addition to the ministry in which they are assigned and appointed. The event was attended by 40 chaplains; speakers included professionals who have experience in crisis ministry. “Every day traumatic events [large and small] transpire in communities across our country. Amongst the emergency responders and often unnoticed, are police, fire and crisis responder chaplains who volunteer to serve and minister in the midst of chaos and brokenness,” Mr. Fenner said. “Their presence and compassion is not only invaluable to the profes-

‘Amongst the emergency responders and often unnoticed, are police, fire and crisis responder chaplains who volunteer to serve and minister in the midst of chaos and brokenness.’ —Bruce Fenner to terms with what had just happened. Today, Dr. Clapper is professor of philosophy and religion at the United Methodist-affiliated University of Indianapolis and the author of When the World Breaks Your Heart: Spiritual Ways of Living with Tragedy. He was one of the featured speak-

sionals they serve, but [also to] the men, women and children who are the beneficiaries of their service.”

‘Why, God?’ Dr. Clapper and other speakers talked about the mystery of tragedy, the lingering question of “Why?”

The Rev. Gregory Clapper relates his experience as a new Air National Guard chaplain responding to the 1989 crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa. Dr. Clapper was a presenter during the recent United Methodist Convocation for Police, Fire and Crisis Responder Chaplains at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn.

The Rev. Michael Comer, an endorsed chaplain and psychologist, coordinates stress management with people such as police and fire agencies involved in traumatic incidents. He told the story of a police officer he worked with who was called to the scene of a teenager with a gun. He arrived just as the young man shot himself. Dr. Comer had also been called to the scene and saw the officer put his finger in the bullet hole in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The officer finished his shift, worked the next night, then called his supervisor to say he was feeling sick. “That was the last shift he ever worked as a police officer,” Dr. Comer said. Dr. Comer said there were probably many reasons the officer reacted the way he did, but often times people feel there was something they could have done that would have prevented the tragedy. Dr. Clapper said the pilot of United Airways Flight 232 did a remarkable job in bringing the plane into the airport yet he heard him questioning, wondering, if he could have done something different.

Conduit for the Spirit

UMNS PHOTOS BY MIKE DUBOSE

The Rev. Jim DuFriend (left) and fellow chaplains listen to a speaker during the convocation. J A N UA RY 1 8 , 2 0 1 3 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

Dr. Comer told the chaplains that as clergy responding to terrible events, they “become Christ to someone else . . . a conduit for the Holy Spirit.” But he warned that the cost of caring can be high, saying that he has changed a great deal because of his work as a chaplain. “I used to believe the world was basically fair and people were good. Now I believe fate is fickle and don’t trust anyone.” He urged the chaplains to find something good, something kind, to balance the difficult situations they face. The Rev. Gretchen Hulse, a police chaplain in Pittsburgh, said she copes

by talking with friends who are chaplains and understand what she faces, as well as engaging in a lot of physical activity and meditation. The Rev. Anna Bell of Coolidge, Ariz., a volunteer chaplain with the Arizona Highway Patrol, agreed that gatherings of other chaplains are crucial. “Part of what’s really good about this meeting is that we’re together to

hold one another up,” Ms. Bell said. Dr. Clapper wrote in his book one of the lessons he learned after the plane crash was “our personal histories are the lenses that bring the present into focus. “We worship a God who gives us freedom to do things that maybe God doesn’t approve of,” Dr. Clapper said. But in final reflection he has learned, “even in tragedy, God is here.”

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