Michigan Area Reporter an Edition of the United Methodist Reporter Two Sections
Right theology. . .
Saving lives one at a time | 2A
2010 Opportunities abound | 6A–7A
Words to the wise by Slaughter | 12A
Vol. 156 No. 48
079000 April 2, 2010
bishop’s column Seeing Easter in Haiti by Jonathan D. Keaton, Bishop
A team of workers fix a roof on Zimmerman St. in Flint, Mich. as part of The Flint Mission Project last summer. Members from Calvary UMC started the project four years ago, to help fix houses of low-income home owners in the Flint community.
Rethinking church: A weekend of changing the world By RJ Walters Editor What if church was a verb instead of just a building? That is the question being asked by the entire United Methodist Church as part of the Change the World event that will happen April 24–25. It is a weekend of radical ideas that will make differences in communities big and small, and an opportunity to become more aware of global health issues like malaria and help with major projects. The Rethink Church initiative will take place throughout the state and churches are encouraged to create and participate in a service or fundraising event that helps effect positive and longlasting change, whether it’s revitalizing a food-pantry program or creating a new ministry to help the homeless.
“Change the World challenges the people of The United Methodist Church to see the world holistically by giving and serving beyond the four walls of sanctuaries and Sunday school classrooms,” said Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “Our hope is that not only will church members participate, they will invite neighbors in the community to work side-by-side with them to make a sustainable difference in diverse ways.” Getting involved is as simple as picking up the phone or sending an e-mail to find out what a local congregation is doing. But the event is not something that hopes to stand alone; it is an extension of new ministries the church is already involved in to reach out to more people in different ways. Below are just a few ways disciples and followers of Christ are See Weekend of changing … on page 8A
espite our economic challenges in the nation, the state of Michigan and the local church, our love for our neighbors has not been shackled, and our billfolds and pocketbooks continue to make a difference when it comes to others. Haiti is a prime example. We had Volunteer in Mission (VIM) teams in Haiti before the earthquake. Plus, United Methodists have worked alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters dating back to 1817. Methodists have joined them in the work of rebirth and/or renewal. Indeed, God has used us as one of the signs of resurrection, past and present. In the wake of the January 12th Haiti earthquake, that killed the well known and the unknown, more will be required of us. A District Superintendent in a circuit outside Port-Au-Prince said it best: “You (had) your 9/11, now we have our 1/12.” America lost three to four thousand people because of 9/11. Due to 1/12, Haiti lost over 200,000. In a Haiti supplement published by The United Methodist Reporter, how Port-Au-Prince and surrounding were crucified by an act of nature is delineated. The worst earthquake in the Western Hemisphere in the past century took an estimated 200,000 lives, left thousands of Haitians, hungry, homeless and wounded along with dashed hopes and dreams. In some towns there was no medicine, doctors or clinics; in others, there were no markets or vendors selling food. What’s more, Haiti has had the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere (670 over 100,000 live births according to the United Nations Population Fund). Before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Before the earthquake, 80 percent of the population was unemployed. Now it is close to 100 percent. However noble and logical, no theologian could provide a totally satisfactory answer as to why Haiti has repeatedly suffered hurricanes, earthquakes, political instability, and outside forces of exploitation over the years. For who can plumb the mind of God, humankind’s inhumanity to humankind or the rages of nature? I can’t. But I can point to signs of resurrection “stirred up” by the “stirred ground.” In the twinkle of an eye, where the people of Haiti lived, See Seeing Easter. . . on page 2A
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MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
Through a $75 million dollar initiative the UMC wants to put an end to malaria worldwide by 2015.
Saving lives one net at a time From staff reports Imagine No Malaria, in partnership with Rethink Church and the United Nations Foundation, is calling churches across the country to “sleepout to end malaria.” On April 24, many churches nationwide will participate in outreach that builds community locally. That night, the eve of World Malaria Day, UMC churches are being encouraged to host a mosquito net sleep-out to show a unified commitment in the fight against malaria by
sleeping under bed nets like families in Africa who rely on mosquito netting for protection against malaria. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 300–500 million cases of malaria occur, and that more than 1 million die each year. Although malaria is a global problem, about 90 percent of those affected by this preventable and treatable disease live in subSaharan Africa. One of every five children born in this region will die from malaria before they
Subscribe to The Michigan Area Reporter Get connected. . . to a larger community of faith The Detroit and West Michigan Conferences are pleased to offer individual subscriptions to our new newspaper. Option #1—Individuals can subscribe to receive the monthly Michigan Area Reporter Edition delivered to their homes. This connectional publication features our area's news and features as Section 1. Section B and additional supplements will provide news about our denomination and the faith community around the world. Option #2—Bring weekly news to your home. In addition to our 12 monthly Michigan Area issues each year, you can receive the national edition of The United Methodist Reporter on the other 40 weeks. To begin your individual subscription immediately, fill in your information below: Name ______________________________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________________________________ City_________________________________________State_______________Zip__________ Church/City __________________________________________________________________ Enclosed is my check for $ 12.00 for 1 year (12 issues) of The Michigan Area Reporter Edition Enclosed is my check for $ 32.00 for 1 year (52 newspapers with Michigan Area featured as Section A
in 12 monthly issues) Mail this completed form and your check, payable to your conference (Detroit or West Michigan), to: MICHIGAN AREA SUBSCRIPTIONS P.O. BOX 226625 DALLAS, TX 75222-6625
reach their fifth birthday. Africa is particularly hard hit because it is home to the species of mosquito that is the most efficient transmitter of the disease. Yet malaria is a disease that is both preventable and treatable. Insecticide treated bed nets, anti-malarial medications and health education can effectively control the spread of malaria and save millions of lives. On April 25, World Malaria Day, The United Methodist Church will formally launch a $75 million Imagine No Malaria campaign to eradicate deaths caused by malaria. Imagine No Malaria builds on the existing Nothing But Nets program and seeks to eradicate malaria deaths by 2015 by raising $75 million and providing training for health workers to provide community-based health solutions. To download instructions on how churches can conduct a sleep-out, visit imaginenomalaria.com. Sleep-outs can be conducted indoors or outdoors depending upon weather conditions and are a great way for your groups to raise awareness about malaria. Another resource that can be used to raise awareness of the effort to fight malaria globally is the documentary film “When the Night Comes,” developed by the United Nations Foundation. For more information, and to obtain a copy of the film, please visit http://www.whenthenightcomes.com/.
WEB INFO: www.imaginenomalaria.com www.whenthenightcomes.com
Continued from front page worked, worshipped, went to school, were hospitalized and resided in retirement villages became unsafe. So, they ran into the streets. Others were helped out of buildings threatening to entomb them. Hence, thousands of Haitians survived the 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Samuel Loomery, age 17, whose dream of becoming a diplomat is deferred, expressed hope anyhow.“I have hope in God because he gave me a second chance at life,” he said. God blessed 65-year-old Sarla Chand similarly. Sarla was alive and buried in the rubble of Hotel Montana along with Rev. James Gulley, the late Sam Dixon, Clinton Rabb and the others. Imprisoned by rubble, they looked for a light in the darkness that never seemed to come. But when it came, a word of praise spilled forth from one of their lips. “The glimpse of light is glorious,” someone exclaimed. Sarla was rescued and returned home. Beyond individual stories, the evidence of renewal and restoration surfaced in other multiple expressions. More than 100 nations and 500 humanitarian agencies have poured into Port-Au-Prince and surrounding environs. They have addressed a mountain of human need, physical and spiritual. Yes, a glimpse of their light is glorious. Why? Because the Haitian people see tangible evidence of their lives and circumstance undergoing renewal and restoration, however slow. Given all the tumult and turmoil, the supplement recorded a poignant story concerning one local church. A woman in a town called Mellier shared a telling witness. “We are continuing all our activities just as before the earthquake. We have even added a few new members,” she said. That short testimony warmed my heart. So has the one mentioned below: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used an oft-repeated phrase at points in his movement when those who retaliated against his non-violent movement used beatings, bombings, fire hoses, dogs, death threats and death itself to manacle the quest for justice. “For every Good Friday, there is an Easter,” Dr. King said. Good Friday came to Haiti January 12, 2010—and Easter came almost immediately. The Haitian people, the church universal and the nations of the world began rolling away the stone of tragedy so that new life and light might spring forth in Haiti, Chile or any place in the world. Easter is a coming April 4, 2010. In Michigan and around the world, we’ll celebrate Jesus’ coming up from the grave with all power and victory in his hands. As we celebrate the risen Christ with sermon, song, family gatherings etc. let’s sing a song of victory for the people of Haiti akin to the witness of the Apostle Paul.“O grave, where is thy victory. O death, where is thy sting.” Is there any better sign of resurrection than this? Have a blessed Easter!!
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
Why You Matter:
Remembering the West Michigan Conference Chancellor
Become The Change You Seek
By Mark Doyal West Michigan Conference Director of Communications Ministry appears in many forms. For some it means preaching from the pulpit; for others, conducting missionary work or managing the church nursery. For Thomas Cooper Shearer, serving Jesus Christ meant quietly sharing his remarkable gift for understanding law. Tom served as the West Michigan Conference Chancellor for nearly 17 years before passing away unexpectedly March 12. He was 72. “His knowledge and love of the church, combined with his legal knowledge has been a blessing to our conference,” Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton said. “Tom was our ‘go-to guy’ and he provided a crucial and unique form of ministry through his professional services.” The conference chancellor is a quiet, behind the scenes form of ministry. Nominated by the bishop and elected at annual conference, the chancellor serves as the legal advisor to the bishop and the annual conference. As legal matters develop within the conference, local churches call their district superintendents and ultimately the bishop’s office for advice and guidance. The bishop then often seeks counsel from the chancellor. Tom was credited with expanding the role of the chancellor from the original position established in the mid-1970s. “Because of Tom’s familiarity and understanding of the Discipline of the United Methodist Church, and his professional legal knowledge, he could always be counted to provide good, sound advice,” said Terry Euper, Clergy Assistant to the Bishop,
You may have seen the television ad that shows one person helping another, who then helps another, who then helps another … until the circle reminds us of a way of life that is compassionately attentive to the environment we are in. Large or small, the decision to be “incarnationally” involved in the world makes a difference. That is why YOU MATTER. JERRY DEVINE On the afternoon of Sunday, May 25, 1986, DETROIT CONFERENCE more than five million people joined hands to DIRECTOR OF CONNECTIONAL form a line that stretched 4,152 miles—from MINISTRIES New York City to Long Beach, Calif. A young couple and their three young sons joined the line, hand in hand, along Philadelphia Pike in Claymont, Delaware. They had not started the movement to raise funds and awareness for hunger relief programs; they had not signed up early, partly due to struggling to make a personal donation beyond the needs of their own family. Perhaps they were even a little skeptical about large events and the media hoopla surrounding them. Even so, as the day approached, they felt compelled to move out of their personal space into the world, linking with others for a public witness of concern and involvement. On that day participants joined hands across the United States and sang“We Are the World,” “America the Beautiful,” and the Hands Across America theme song. I would have to ask my adult sons if they remember that sunny Sunday afternoon where we had a sense of the larger world and the need to care and be involved—I still do. Large movements and moments are made up necessarily of small decisions to make a difference. Change the World is a United Methodist invitation to make a difference. April 24–25, 2010, has been identified as a day for local congregations and individuals to join in an effort to make a larger visible public difference—to make the love of Jesus Christ visible in the world. With some skepticism I decided to read Mike Slaughter’s new book, visit the Web site, and then decide whether it was worth my time and attention. As I freely decided how I would be involved, I was convicted with the awareness that people with hunger do not have that choice. People with malaria or other diseases of poverty do not have that choice. People that live without health care or housing do not have that choice. Many of us have the luxury of deciding how and when I feel like making a difference, while others are forced to make decisions in the midst of their unjust realities. I am reading a second book in parallel with Slaughter’s treatise, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. Author Mark Batterson talks of letting our “hearts be broken by the things that break God’s heart.” While I differ with some of Batterson’s approach, he has that raw feel for genuine faith that appeals to me. The premise of the book (thus far in my reading) is in what he calls the “Primal Commandment”: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He creates his own quadrilateral by interpreting the commandment this way: “The heart of Christianity is primal compassion. The soul of Christianity is primal wonder. The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity. And the strength of Christianity is primal energy.” He reminds me to “keep the main thing the main thing”, which is to be the body of Christ in the world, not the church in the building. We call and equip disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, not the survival of the church. It is in giving ourselves away that we will find ourselves. The key issue for me is not whether you and I get directly involved in an event on the specific days of April 24–25. It is an invitation to wake up and get involved with others in making a difference as a follower of Jesus Christ! I have already decided where I will change the world that week. Choose now to let God expand your heart and time to care for the things that break God’s heart—and transforms the world!
“When I was first appointed I did not know Tom Shearer, but he very quickly became my new best friend. I called him constantly for legal advice and counsel.” David Lundquist, a former conference chancellor and colleague of Tom’s, recalled him to be a worthy opponent, but always a friend. “I always cherished the times Tom and I found ourselves involved in a legal or disciplinary issue affecting the Annual Conference. Most of the time Tom Shearer we agreed with each other - but sometimes we didn’t,” recalled Lundquist. “That’s the life of lawyers who can be on differing sides of an issue and at the same time remain good friends. That was surely my experience with Tom.” Shearer’s gifts to The United Methodist Church extended well beyond his commitment to the conference. He was a Bay View Association board member and president, Clark Retirement Community Board and Foundation member, member of the Board of Trustees of Albion College and member of First United Methodist Church of Grand Rapids, where he held multiple leadership positions. “He was always warm and friendly, always available, and always helpful giving advice and counsel in lay terminology that even I could understand,” Euper said. “He has provided a wonderful service to the West Michigan Annual Conference and will be missed greatly.”
E-registration process begins for West Michigan Annual Conference How to make sure members are on board with the new system By Mark Doyal West Michigan Conference Director of Communications The West Michigan Conference will be hosting the 2010 Annual Conference, “New Spaces for New Faces,” June 3–6, 2010 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. In addition to dynamic speakers and exciting workshops, there is a noticeable improvement to the registration process. “In an effort to be more economically and financially responsible, registration will be done entirely online this year,” West Michigan Conference Treasurer Prospero Tumong said. “This is the same user-friendly and well-tested process our General Council on Finance and Administration utilizes for registration of General Conference. Thanks to this process we will eliminate the cost and environmental impact of printing and mailing more than 12,000 forms this year.” All members to attend annual conference will receive an email invitation to online registration in early April. By following the provided link, participants will be able to register for annual conference, select housing and meals, and make payments with credit card or check. Workshops will not need to be registered for. The key to smooth on-line registration is making sure annual conference members have updated their contact information. Members need to ask their local church office to verify and update their e-mail and mailing address information. Churches can update their information through a Web “dashboard” which links them directly to the West Michigan Conference Brick River database.
“It is critical that churches confirm their dashboard information is correct this year,” said Annual Conference Program Committee Chair Bill Johnson. “We will be sharing a lot of important information in the coming weeks and we want to make sure everyone receives this material in a timely manner” For those who are unsure how to access the church dashboard, need a user name or password, or are experiencing difficulty, they are urged to contact the conference web staff at email@example.com. For members to annual conference without e-mail or Internet access, they are encouraged to contact their pastor or church administrator this week to learn how they can connect and partner with a fellow congregant who has e-mail. Members can also visit their local library to learn how to set up an e-mail account. The Program and Legislative Item books will be mailed in midApril to those members registered in their church dashboard. The Response to Petitions book will be mailed mid-May. All other information will be posted on the West Michigan Conference website www.WestMichiganConference.org and sent via e-mail. All questions regarding online registration can be e-mailed to John Kosten firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free at 1-888-2171905 extension 343. Check out the Detroit Conference News and Notes in this issue for Detroit Conference registration information or go online to www.detroitconference.org/ annual conference.
Albion College offers guidance for teens. . . check the story out on the conference Web sites or at www.michiganareareporter.com.
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
Making space for change A surgeon recently used his team’s knowledge, skill and unique tools to remove bone growth in three of my vertebrae. The new space he created ended the pain that for four months had limited my activities, distracted my attention and disheartened my spirit. Choosing surgery wasn’t a simple decision; other treatment options were tried first. BENTON HEISLER I was told that in my situation, “it is highly WEST MICHIGAN unlikely, but complications and constant pain CONFERENCE DIRECTOR OF were possible and rarely, but nonetheless CONNECTIONAL sometimes, people die as a result of the MINISTRIES anesthesia.” I didn’t die. There has been complete relief of the pain and so far in the healing process there have been no complications. I chose the unknown pain of change and a 4” incision instead of the pain I was familiar with if I stayed the same. Similar choices and challenges face all of us. Many who are reading this are leaders in our UMC congregations and the Michigan Area conferences. You know full well the pain associated with decline and struggle. As the Director of Connectional Ministries of the West Michigan Conference, the Reporter is one of the tools our leadership team is choosing to use to bring change and renewed vitality and health to our conference and area. It will be one avenue to share stories of hope, ideas of change, provide knowledge that can instruct and inspire, create connections with people and places across the country and around the globe. We all need to learn how to make space in our homes, hearts, heads, and houses of worship for new faces.Previous —Benton Heisler tools and talents no longer seem to yield the results required in this day.It is time to change. My personal motto has always been, “I know change is hard, but build a bridge and get over it!” Fifteen months ago I changed jobs, moved from a city I had lived in for 13 of the past 18 years, learned new streets, found a new physician, moved to a new parsonage. I began to make new friends, searched for a new church to attend, learned where to get my car repaired by a trusted mechanic and the list of changes goes on and on. It put me in touch with the feelings people not in our congregations may have. “Is there somebody like me here? Does anybody here want to be my friend? Will they want to share there life story with me or be interested in mine? Are here ways we can serve together and make a difference in the world?” My new ministry responsibilities have required me to rethink some ways of connecting and communicating. Now I text frequently, my e-mail skills have improved and there are still more areas to grow. It has been a great deal of change and it is exciting, challenging and life giving. I pray for such possibilities of exciting and life-giving changes in your congregation and your personal life. I pray we are willing to trust God to lead us past our fear of change and forward into the hope healing brings. I encourage you to read this paper monthly and let us learn together. I trust you will visit the Conference Web sites frequently and stay informed and inspired. I ask that you help your church leaders maintain an accurate electronic church database so particular messages can be communicated to you. I need to close now. It is time to do the exercises that are part of the pain of new change. I know the pain of the past and I have no desire to return there again. See you on the path to new possibilities.
‘Does anybody here want to be my friend?’
APRIL 2, 2010
Fit for the challenge
Church and YMCA make dynamic partnership By RJ Walters Editor A lot of people might pray earnestly while trying to survive another grueling workout, but few have the opportunity to connect mind, body and spirit like the members of White Pines United Methodist Church in Belmont. Going to worship in a hooded sweatshirt is the norm and being an active participant at White Pines likely means being a member of Wolverine World Wide Family YMCA. Bev Thiel, the branch’s executive director, is a member of White Pines and soon after the church made the building its home she contrived the idea of a Sunday morning fitness group. To say it has been a hit would be to put it mildly. “The church was meeting to talk about how they could make an impact and I had done something similar at my past church before I moved here so I just kind of brought up that concept to (Rev.) Jeff (Williams),” she said. “It was the concept of a small group working out together and adding a spiritual kind of dimension to it.” Rockford resident Tam LeFurge-McLeod was a member at Rockford UMC for about 10 years before her family felt called to be part of this new church start-up. Lefurge-McLeod said the 70–80 member church has not only provided her family new opportunities—her husband learned how to play the flute because the praise band had a void and her college-age son developed speaking skills through participation in church services—but the idea that the church can serve another major function is exciting to her. “It has been great for building community. You know a lot of times you go to church, at least I did…and it was easy to just walk in when church started, worship and then walk out when it ended,” she said. “When we work out together it brings up so many opportunities to just talk about your week, talk about plans, talk about concerns…so we have a workout and we always pray at the end.” subhead Six years after planting a new church Williams took his congregation’s relationship with the local “Y” to new heights in September 2008, when the church moved its services from a local charter school to the workout facility. Now church members worship in the YMCA chapel, hold discipleship meetings in the building and often get spiritually and physically fit in one fell swoop. Williams said the Director of New Church Development for the UMC told him to take notice when it was announced that a new YMCA was being built in the area, and later on he conversed —Rev. Jeff Williams with a YMCA board member who just happened to be on the Rockford Public Schools Diversity Committee with him. And on Thiel’s first day on the job in 2007 she and Williams, whose family already had a gym membership, had an instant connection—one that has proven fruitful for both parties. “It just became clearer to me at the time, of just how blended the mission was between our church and their organization,” Williams said. “Our mission is we are called to grow, love and serve together and the YMCA affirms a spirit, mind, body connection, and that is a great image of wholeness for us, and it’s inspirational.” The YMCA was founded on Christian principles in the 1840s and Williams helps the organization maintain that identity as the leader of the Christian Emphasis and Diversity Committee. He leads prayer at meetings, offers support and guidance to the YMCA staff and helps the center create a positive social in-
‘Our mission is we are called to grow, love. . .’
ABOVE: White Pines UMC member Tam LeFurge-McLeod get fit at the local YMCA, also the home of her church. LEFT: Bev Thiel, executive director at Wolverine World Wide YMCA, leads parishioners in an aerobics session to the tune of Christian music.
PHOTO BY ADAM BIRD/ GRAND RAPIDS FREE PRESS.
fluence. The benefits flow both ways though. Because of his church’s unique setting there are an unusually large number of opportunities to witness to community members. “While I’ve learned that I like working with a church and the more internally recognizable congregation, the YMCA is this middle ground—it’s not a church, it’s a public space, a safe public space for gatherers—and what we’re able to do and what excites me is we’re able to sort of uncover the real spiritual foundation of what goes on here,” he said. “There is the whole body experience here and we can relate it to spiritual health as a whole and that’s what’s so unique.” subhead Williams said sometimes people stop to see him as they walk by the chapel or he will just offer kind words as patrons enter or exit the facility. Whatever the case may be, Lefurge-McLeod agrees that God has been moving in new and powerful ways at the “Y.” “It’s an ideal location and it’s just been a perfect fit for us,” she said. “We needed a location that would be comfortable for a lot of different people; we obviously have many wonderful traditional churches in the area…but we also needed to offer a worship mainly for people who weren’t as comfortable in a traditional church and this offers something different for them.” While Williams admitted the church is not growing at blazing rate, he said he is seeing people become more committed to what it means to be the body of Christ. Thiel said it has been a true joy to see the church and YMCA grow in harmony. She said the gym is still working to reach its own membership goals, but overall usage of the facility has significantly increased the last year and a half. Thiel believes Williams’ participation is a key reason why. “The most encouraging words I’ve heard are from my CEO who said, ‘I would really like Jeff to have a conversation with our corporate board at some point, to share what’s going on there,’” she said. “And I think that’s important, because I think a lot of operations could benefit from having a Christian Emphasis group and some sort of a connection with a church.”
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
Join the fight to stay clean and get green Keep Making Peace conference to focus on justice for earth By RJ Walters Editor The United Methodist Women and Boards of Church and Society of the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences have teamed up to hit a green homerun. For the Eighth Annual Keep Making Peace conference the four groups have combined to offer a diverse set of programming on taking care of the Earth and its natural resources titled “Justice For Earth Days.” “When we looked at the calendar the best time to have this event was April 17, just before Earth Day, and we decided one Earth Day a year was not enough,” said Rich Peacock, a former United Methodist pastor and chair of the planning team for Keep Making Peace. “I think that the environment appears to be a huge project for most of us, so therefore we’re not sure where to start to be effective.” The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church in Lansing. The cost for registration, including lunch, is $30 per family, $20 per individual and free for students. Childcare is available for infants through nine-year olds. Five speakers will provide the meat of the showcase, with Tyler Edgar scheduled as the featured presenter. She is the associate director of the Climate and Energy Campaign for the National Council of Churches.
Edgar has a B.A. in environmental policy, is an active Episcopalian and recently attended the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark. She will be joined by a variety of other influential environmentalists. Also speaking will be Lana Pollock, a former Michigan senator and president of the Michigan Environmental Council. Julie Lyons Bricker, the director of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, a non-profit that works on assisting congregations in reducing energy usage, is also on the docket. Michael Way, the vice president of Material Management and Facilities for Bronson Healthcare, one of the greenest hospitals in the
nation, will present, and Fred Keller, the CEO of Cascade Engineering, will talk about sustainability in the church. “We wanted to cover everything from the global to the local churches and home,” Peacock said. “And it turned out that people on the planning team knew all these presenters so it was a matter of getting in touch with them.” Peacock said a big part of the event’s effectiveness will be more than a dozen different displays that will be arranged by groups such as the United Methodist Women’s Green Team and the Sierra Club. “The displays are practical and down to earth, the displays come with people who have been working in churches and communities already,” he said. “So they will give people fresh ideas and motivation to take home and put into to practice.” Peacock said the organizations are hoping for at least 250 attendees and people can register for the event through April 7. To register, either send a check to John Boley at 400 S. Main St., Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858 or contact Boley at 989-773-6934, or email@example.com.
WEB INFO: Register by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting equipped for the mission VIM training showcases opportunities for outreach and service By RJ Walters Editor A buffet of spiritual food has been prepared with care—now it is only a question of who will come and sit at the table. The Volunteers In Mission (VIM) Festival of Opportunities will offer a wealth of ideas and training on April 10 at Brighton First UMC and there’s still time to get registered. The Detroit and West Michigan Conferences have put together a day of speakers and sessions to help equip and inspire people to serve in a myriad of different ways in places all over the globe. The festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the keynote speaker is Rev. Don Gotham, a member of the executive committee of the Michigan Area Haiti Task Force and the vice chair of the Detroit Conference Board of Global Ministries. Gotham has been heavily involved in mission outreach for 15 years and he recently returned home to St. Clair following a January trip to Haiti. “It seems like Haiti was a pretty popular topic among volunteers recently and he was stranded following the earthquake there, so we felt it was appropriate to have him,” said John Walls, a VIM coordinator for the Detroit Conference. What makes the festival so valuable is the
number of options available:
VIM Leader Training There will be a four-hour study of the VIM training manuals and basic training for people who want to become leaders. It will equip attendees with resources for selecting a project, organizing a team and leading them into either a domestic or overseas mission. The cost of this training is $35 with lunch provided.
mission work that can be done in places such as Poland, Haiti, Liberia, and Nicaragua to name a few—but there will be speakers from all over the state talking about ongoing work to be done in Michigan. There will be people speaking about projects in Flint, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and even as far away as the Upper Peninsula. There will be something for all tastes, with well over a dozen different projects to consider. It will be $10 to participate in breakout sessions and enjoy lunch.
Early Response Team This is a four-hour introduction on how people can get certified to help provide relief to local communities when there is a clear need for aid in the aftermath of an emergency. ERT’s clear debris, rebuild structures, prepare food and counsel people, among other things. It is a United Methodist organization looking to grow and make a difference. The cost of ERT training is $25 with lunch provided.
Break Out Groups People more interested in the wide-range of mission possibilities available to them and their churches will have plenty to chew on here. These will be melting pots of culture and experience as those who have started mission projects and volunteered in the past will present new challenges people may want to take on. Not only will there be speakers chronicling
“Really there are a lot of people who want to help out and serve but they just don’t know what’s available,” Walls said. “This gives people who have been on trips a chance to share what they’ve learned and guide the rest of us.” Walls said the registration deadline is April 6 for those who want a lunch, but the festival will accept latecomers who simply want to learn. To register for the event contact Suzanne Walls at email@example.com or 248-4596851. There are also registration forms available at the Detroit Area and West Michigan Conference Web sites.
WEB INFO: Register for this event on-line at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ PFH3TPL
News and Notes Annual Conference Registration Deadline is April 8 The registration deadline for the 2010 Annual Conference is Thursday, April 8. To download a registration form, please visit www.detroitconference.org/ annualconference. The 2010 annual conference will take place May 20–23 on the campus of Adrian College. Please note that pre-conference materials will not be mailed to annual conference members and are only available in electronic format.
“Other Voices” blog makes debut on conference Web site The “Other Voices” blog is an opportunity for Detroit Conference leaders, both clergy and lay, that “have something to say” to engage the conference in discussion around topics that lead to creating and nurturing dynamic and fruitful congregations. Entries to the “Other Voices” blog can be viewed by visiting www.detroitconference.org/othervoices. To submit a blog posting to be featured in “Other Voices,” please e-mail Paul Thomas, Conference Director of Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voting Items for Annual Conference Available April 1 The voting items for the 2010 annual conference, including resolutions, proposed budget, and historical reports, will be available on the conference Web site on Thursday, April 1. To download these materials, please visit www.detroit conference.org/annualconference.
The Parish Paper now available to Detroit Conference churches The Parish Paper—Ideas and Insights for Active Congregations is a monthly resource for clergy and lay leaders to use to help their local churches engage in dynamic and fruitful ministry. This resource is now being provided to the churches of the conference free of charge by the Conference Commission on Communications. Each monthly issue of The Parish Paper provides ideas, insights, research-findings, and practical methods that strengthen the effectiveness of congregations in accomplishing God’s purposes through their various ministries. To download issues of The Parish Paper, please visit www.detroitconference.org/ parishpaper. To receive monthly e-mails alerting you to a new issue of The Parish Paper, please visit www.detroitconference.org/ site/stayconnected. —COMPILED BY PAUL THOMAS
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
Campers at Camp Kinawind explore the wild and an adventuresome faith in Boyne Falls last summer.
OUT OF THE
SLEEPING BAG INTO THE WORLD Rethinking UMC camping in the 21st century By RJ Walters Editor Through thickets of poison ivy and swarms of obnoxious mosquitoes comes the opportunity to relate, equip and inspire in ways the mortar and brick of a church can’t offer. But the United Methodist tradition of camping is changing and so are many of the people in leadership positions at camps around the state. It’s about more than just families sending their kids to camp to learn songs and Bible verses and it’s becoming a whole lot more diverse than just church bodies gathering for a good time. As congregations gather this month to “Rethink Church” it is apparent that many dedicated directors and volunteers around the state are rethinking camping. With reservations filling up around the state and deadlines nearing for camp scholarships, the church has more options than ever for recreation, discipleship, and bonding. What some of the progressive thinkers in the UMC camping arena are doing could be looked at as sound business models, or as simply new means of expanding the church’s reach to make disciples for the transformation of the world. What’s good for some can be good for all When Mike Symons took over Lakeview Campground and Al-
bright Park Camp several years ago he was not going to accept the status quo. A couple of hundred campers here and there coupled with some well-run youth camps was fine, but not up to par with his standards. “If you do any kind of a marketing study the children camps alone are not doing that well, the adult camps alone are not doing that well. But if you are servicing both the children and adults in a family then you are doing OK,” he said. “For example, if you were to take the other camps in our system, most of them are doing around 700–800 kids a summer at what are exclusively kids camps….we did 1,600 children last year, and we’re not a children’s camp (anymore)—the kids came along with their families, parents and grandparents.” His theory that “as pocketbooks have tightened in recent years people are cutting back on recreation, but still finding ways to spend quality time together as a family,” is paying dividends. In 2007 Lakeview Camp had 1,850 camper reservations. In 2009 that number had ballooned to 6,211. So what exactly is Symons doing? Simply put he is giving people what he thinks they want instead of just what the campgrounds already offered. Both Lakeview and Albright Park have added Amish horsedrawn hay rides on Fridays and Saturdays and there are fresh-
baked Amish good available Friday through Sunday every week. A little love and labor has also paid dividends. Some of the first things Symons did at Lakeview was take down the 30-plus “No Trespassing” signs that littered the campground and his staff also cleared some old trails that hadn’t been tended to for quite some time. Another project was the old chapel, which received new benches, speakers and a communion table. Prior to 2009 they would get about 200 people to services in the summer—a far cry from the 1,600 they were getting last year. At Albright Park they also did heavy renovation on the chapel and they have quietly become a hotspot for weddings, something they didn’t even offer before. They have also teamed up with Ferris State University to bring in an improv group once a month, and Albright Park is offering indoor and outdoor church services with a brunch buffet following the gathering. Albright has gone from having 800 total camper nights last year to over 7,500 reservations for the upcoming season. Symons is the first to admit it’s not a “him thing” though, it’s a “God thing.” He said more volunteers than ever have jumped on board to help with projects, and the word-of-mouth has been a powerful tool in bringing in new faces.
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
Check Out Facebook and type in camp names to see what campgrounds have groups and pages to join Online registration for West Michigan Conference camps http://www.westmichiganconference.org/ camping_reg1.asp Online registration for Detroit Conference camps http://main.umc-detconf.org/camping/
West Michigan Conference Camp Sites Albright Park (Reed City) www.albrightcamp.org 231-832-9094 Crystal Springs (Dowagiac) www.crystalspringscamp.com 269-683-8918 Vacation Bible School at campgrounds is always a big hit with the younger crowd, as evident in this picture from Myers Lake Campground in Byron.
“I would like to point out that Bill Dobbs, the District Superintendent for the Heartland District, has spent a great deal of time out promoting camps, and that has helped to no end,” Symons said. “Also, using the Web site, we’ve been sending out information to churches in the area and we’ve been spending a lot of time out visiting the churches, saying we’re here and here’s the beauty of what we have.” He said the Web is a great tool and he’s borrowed and researched successful ideas from campgrounds around the nation, as far away as Oregon and Florida. Bringing the city to the country Carter Grimmett, the pastor of People’s Church in Detroit, and a native “Detroiter,” said the camp atmosphere has been sorely in need of a revolution to relate to 21st century adolescents—and with the help of dozens of motivated volunteers and the guidance of Cliff Stallings he has taken rural and made it suburban. “Before it was all about marshmallows and hot dogs and identifying leaves and looking at birds. We recognized that being in a rural environment was good for them to be able to focus on things, but not necessarily those things; you have to make camp relevant to their environment,” he said. Last year Judson Collins Center in Onsted was host to an urban youth camp for middle school and high school youth. It was so successful that they actually had to turn some people away—so this year they are dividing the middle school and high school crowds up and doing two separate week-long sessions. Grimmett said it has been a hit for a number of reasons, one being the activities offered. There is team building on the high ropes course, and sports like golf and soccer to master and compete in. The camps also teach youth how to stay fit and live an active lifestyle. Beyond the glitz, these camps are focused around building relationships. Grimmett said attendees join small-group discussions based on different themes and the youth come up with team names and cheers—bonding experiences they may lack in their everyday lives. There are also conflict/resolution exercises and open discussion about abstinence, as well as physical and verbal abuse. “What makes this really galvanizing is we’ve got a diverse group of kids coming together to experience and explore their faith. Some kids (at these camps) have never had a religious experience before,” he said.
Grimmett said the camp focuses on de-mystifying Christ and helping kids and teens realize how simple it is to allow God into their lives, no matter where they come from and what they’ve been through. Most of the participants come from the metropolitan Detroit area, but Grimmett said it is really a huge melting pot of ideas and backgrounds. “It’s about bringing kids together to discover and explore their faith and bringing kids together to build relationships — racial relationships, cultural relationships,” he said. “We want to continue to let people know that this is not a ‘black camp,’ this is a camp for urban children who are black, white, Hispanic and Asian and others.” The goal is still discipleship No matter how camp is carried out at different camps, the overwhelming fact is it has an impact on the younger generation. A recent study from the Christian Camp and Conference Association stated that 85 percent of all Christians make “personal faith commitments” before they turn 19, and half of those commitments are made at Christian camps. Jan Thomas, who recently retired after 14 years as the Director of Outdoor and Retreat Ministries for the Detroit Conference, said United Methodist camping is a great complimentary component of continuing Christian education for young people. “In Sunday School you learn that you should love your neighbor, but what does that mean in real life when you put your wet bathing suit on my bed, or when I want to go to bed and everyone else wants to talk all night?” she said. Thomas said she will never forget being a camper, especially her first year at Judson Collins. “I was having some difficult times at home and my mother was sick and the counselors said some things to me that really had an impact and helped me after I got,” she said. “I think it helped me see the power of the experiences.” This year camps for elementary through high school students are in full-force in the Detroit Area and West Michigan Conferences beyond just what Grimmett or Symons are doing. There is everything from the Laura Ingles Wilder Camp for sixth- through eighth-graders at Crystal Springs which includes horseback trail rides and making homemade soaps and candles to the Water Games Camp at Camp Kinawind where swimming, boating and aqua activities are the norm for third- through sixthgraders.
Lake Louise (Boyne Falls) www.lakelouisecommunity.org 231-549-2728 Lake Michigan (Pentwater) www.lakemichigancamp.org 231-869-5317 Lakeview (Lakeview) www.lakeviewcamp.org 800-985-2267 Wesley Woods (Dowling) www.wesleywoodscamp.com 888-992-2267
Detroit Conference Camp Sites Bay Shore (Sebewaing) www.bayshorecamp.org 989-883-2501 Judson Collins (Onsted) www.judsoncollinscenter.org 517-467-7711 Kinawind (Boyne Falls) www.kinawind.org 231-631-0405 Lake Huron (Burtchville) www.lakehuronretreat.org 810-327-6272 Lake Louise (Boyne Falls) www.lakelouisecommunity.org 231-549-2728 Michigamme (Michigamme) www.campmuichigamme.org (906) 458-3310 Myers Lake (Byron) www.myerslake.com 810-266-45111
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
A weekend of changing Continued from front page making unique impacts across the state—on Change the World weekend and all year long— through the United Methodist Church and its resources.
The campus of Albion College was recently the site for a special weekend titled “Faith In Transition: Being a Christian in College.”
Faith in transition
Albion College offers guidance for teens By Rev. Daniel McQuown Albion College Chaplain On Feb. 20–21, 65 high school youth from 16 United Methodist churches around Michigan participated in an overnight retreat at Albion College. The guests stayed with Christian student and got a taste of college life from a Christian perspective. There was plenty of crazy fun associated with the typical image of colleges and universities—Ultimate Frisbee, a video game tournament, staying up insanely late with hosts, and even a “fourth meal trip.” A highlight of the fun was Deacons Carl and Anna Stroud Gladstone (both Albion alums), who offered a jam session at the campus Coffeehouse, featuring some of Carl’s original music. The retreat did not attempt to hide the negative behavior that happens on college campuses. Instead, the retreat leaders were focused on helping youth discover that living a Christian life at college/university is possible and a blast. The spiritual meat of the retreat was Bible study and worship. Led by college students, the Bible study was focused on exploring texts relevant to life calling, and helping the youths envision who they wanted to be—not just academically, but also in terms of their faith commitment. The youth wrote individual visions and during worship the following day, they brought their visions forward to be prayed over and blessed. The worship featured a personal message from current students Ben Bower and Elise Gotham, explaining the lessons they learned from making their own choices about college. They are part of Albion College’s ecumenical Wednesday Night Chapel team, the group that led worship, and provided leadership for the retreat. What made this event possible was the profound unity among Christians on Albion’s
campus. Fifty current Albion College students from a wide range of backgrounds volunteered and hosted. While a number of Albion’s United Methodist students were involved, they were in the minority.
‘Retreat leaders were focused on helping youth discover that living a Christian life at college/university is possible and a blast.’ —Daniel McQuown The vast majority of College volunteers and hosts came from other traditions, such as mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical, and Catholic roots. The unity was the fruit of years of labor from Christian student leaders and the College Chaplain, all of whom have seen it as a fulfillment of prayer and the will of the Holy Spirit. While the retreat was designed for youth, Albion students also grew in their faith. Many commented on how important it was for them to witness the strength and diversity of the body of Christ at work together. Many shared how moving it was to support the next generation. And for the leaders it was a major step in their Christian leadership. For the 10 adult leaders who travelled with the youth from various parts of the state, there was also some spiritual “meat.” Deacon Gladstone, in his new capacity with the North-Central Jurisdiction (through the Young People’s Initiative of the national church), led a dialogue about engaging youth and young adults in the life of the church.
Coming together to deliver a heavy dose of help The Change the World Web site on UMCOM.org demonstrates that dozens of churches are already locked in to the programming initiatives around the country. Michigan is no exception. The weekend before, April 17, the Concord United Methodist Church is hosting a basketball exhibition called Buzzkill Basketball to Fight Malaria, at Spring Arbor University. The funds raised will be used to purchase nets to help combat malaria internationally. At Traverse Bay a group is getting green for Jesus. Traverse Bay UMC is hosting an Earth Day focused event, which includes stream clean up and the creation of an outdoor area for a neighborhood to enjoy. Changing the world doesn’t have to be a lonesome activity and six churches in the St. Johns’ area are taking that to heart. The mid-Michigan congregations are gathering on April 24 to do local mission work in and around their churches and communities. On Sunday the churches will join forces for a large worship service to celebrate the work God is doing. Churches can go to www.umcom.org and add their event to the Web site and easily send an event notification to a digital mailing list. There is also a list of ongoing events related to Change The World at www.10thousanddoors.org. The mission field is close to home The concept of rethinking church is not to be confined to one weekend, it is to jumpstart new programs of outreach that can touch lives in new and inspiring ways—in ways similar to one church in Flint. Five years ago the members of Calvary United Methodist Church started making missional outreach a top priority of their congregation. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast they started sending work groups down there as often as possible, to the point that the church of less than 200 sent aid down for relief work three times in six months.
As Rev. Ray McGee saw people’s lives being transformed through helping others, a simple question by the missions chair of his church started a domino effect that continues to fall today. “(He said) I don’t think we need to drive 2,200 miles roundtrip, we can just go down the block. We have the same types of damaged houses in Flint as they do on the Gulf Coast, they just didn’t happen because of hurricanes,” McGee said. “So I said, well Jeff that’s pretty simple—if you want to make it happen, pray about it and I’ll help you. And now it will be the fourth summer of rebuilding houses in the area.” What started out as 11 people wearing nail aprons and safety goggles with the goal of sharing Christ’s love in the community has grown leaps and bounds. “We had as many as 97 people last June working on houses for a week here. We work on about a half dozen and do some painting, re-roofing and replacing things like porches and just try to bless them,” McGee said. “Now we’ve got many from the district and we’ve begun to get a few youth groups from around the state, including outside of the Methodist church, coming to help and we’ll put them up and host them here.” The program is for people who are low-income homeowners who have paid their taxes and live in close proximity to the church. The project not only provides free house repairs to more than a half dozen homes each year, it has also helped the church become more active in the community. McGee and other leaders of faith-based groups and congregations meet with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling once a month, and Flint Calvary United Methodist has ramped up its youth ministries, including an evening for basketball and devotions, thanks to the increased participation in outreach. McGee said churches need to think outside the box and take risks that may eventually bring more people to the Gospel message. “Let’s not be afraid to try new things. I am willing to say as the pastor of this church that you have my permission to screw up,” he said. “Are we going to try something new to make a difference or just let the patient die because we’re scared? As a leader I am willing to let people explore ideas and if it fails I’m willing to take the blame and if it works all the credit should go to them.”
Change The World What is it? Change the World is a movement to connect United Methodists across the world in service on one weekend—locally and globally.
How to get involved? 1. Plan a work project in your community on April 24. 2. Focus your April 25th worship message on helping those in need to fight malaria 3. Add your event to the Change the World Web site at www.umcom.org
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
Committed to fighting for social justice
Justice For Our Neighbors steps up to provide immigrants help By RJ Walters Editor Imagine not knowing when you will see a family member next just because the government has the final say in a case that is nothing less than exceedingly complex. Imagine being able to speak hardly any English, yet yearning for one final plea to be reunited with a loved one while living in a primarily English-speaking community. For many immigrants living in the state the proposition is not a “what-if ”, it’s a harsh reality of life that the United Methodist Church is trying to make a little more manageable. On January 23 the organization Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) hosted its first monthly legal intake clinic for people dealing with immigration issues in Southeastern Michigan, as 35 volunteers came together to help provide services at Dearborn: First United Methodist Church. Since then JFON Southeastern Michigan has hosted two more intake clinics in Dearborn and another one is set for April 17. It might be exactly the kind of “social justice” TV megastar Glen Beck fears is brainwashing churchgoers, but the United Methodist Church believes it’s precisely the kind of work God has called his disciples to. JFON operates two clinics in West Michigan, at sites in Grand Rapids and Holland where they have been serving since 2004, and through the funding of local churches and support from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR its operations continue to expand. Treading through deep water It is a national ministry dedicated to providing free, high-quality immigration legal services. JFON-SEMI is one of 28 regional clinics around the country that operate with the support of denominational staff members and it is a ministry close to the hearts of many —particularly Southeastern Michigan Regional Director Paul Perez, who also serves as a Deacon at Newburg UMC in Livonia. Perez said he has spoken with a number of attorneys in Metro Detroit who agree the need for legal counseling for immigrants is enormous, especially since the Immigration Reform and Immigration Act of 1996 and the Patriot Act following 9/11.
It’s more than just creating a supply for the demand to Perez though—it’s personal. Perez is the beneficiary of a successful immigrant story in his own heritage, so he takes the dire needs of some immigrants right to heart. “For me it kind of all connects to my own immigrant story. On my dad’s side my grandfather was an immigrant from Mexico, on my mom’s side (there were) immigrants from Germany and Ireland. So that’s just sort of my personal history and many people’s personal history,” he said. “And it’s also hearing stories of folks in immigrant communities who are United Methodists in Metro Detroit, and the stories of having to wait decades in order to pass through the immigration process. Stories of families being split apart, parents who have been deported and no longer have contact with their husbands and children who are U.S. citizens.” Expanding a vision JFON focuses most of its efforts on family immigration law, as well as victims of domestic violence and abuse as covered in the Violence Against Women Act. Perez said it is a basic missionary service to help people understand their legal status and figure out if and how they can be reunited with their nearest and dearest. “Due to the current U.S. legal and immigration system many times family members who are citizens or legal residents can petition for other family members to enter the country or get legal status,” he said. “So we do a lot of helping families stay together. And because it’s a complex process, often times people may have entered the country unlawfully…and that may cause some issues for them.” The Dearborn clinic is just the first tangible step of the new ministry, and Perez said the goal is to have clinics set up in the Ann Arbor and Detroit East districts and a fulltime attorney hired for the trio of centers by this summer. Perez said JFON-SEMI has already started raising funds for a full-time attorney, but those efforts could be expedited if people contributed to the Ministry Jubilee Project of the Detroit Conference Board of Church and Society (MJ#1303) through their church. Danny Upton is a travelling national program attorney for JFON who will provide services for Southeastern Michigan until that point.
ABOVE: Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Justice For Our Neighbors model and there are plenty of needs to fill as the ministry expands. BELOW: Danny Upton is a travelling national program attorney for JFON.
‘It’s an opportunity for us to translate our faith and our moral and religious convictions into actions— into service.’ —Danny Upton Upton says the program exists primarily for the most vulnerable immigrants, who have fled their countries seeking refuge from domestic abuse or religious or political persecution “It’s an opportunity for us to translate our faith and our moral and religious convictions into actions—into service,” he said in a 2009 article by United Methodist News Services. As JFON makes waves in the lower half of the state, Perez said it is essential to build a solid volunteer base as a backbone. Driven by the people Help is always needed at the monthly clinics, as well as through advocacy groups and fundraising teams. JFON holds single-evening training sessions for people working intake clinics, teaching them how to perform basic first-step interviews
with potential clients and create welcoming environments. “The JFON model is localchurch based and volunteer driven. We make sure as much as can be done by volunteers is done because JFON is understood as a ministry and mission in the United Methodist Church,” Perez said. “It’s helping someone move through the immigration process and it’s also great for our volunteers to be able to hear the stories and build relationships 1-on-1.” After the initial interview process is completed an attorney will determine whether they will take a case or if all they can offer is some sound, free advice—even if it’s not what a client was hoping to hear. “If our clients meet our income requirements they will receive highquality, free legal aid. It’s as simple as that,” Perez said. The clinics are held the third Sat-
urday of every month, in Holland and Grand Rapids on a rotating bimonthly basis, and strictly in Dearborn for Southeastern Michigan clients until further notice according to Perez. Potential clients can schedule appointments by calling the Southeast Michigan JFON hotline at (734) 7091151 and clinics open at 9 a.m. on their scheduled weekends. Perez said while the ministry is starting to take off, it isn’t without its share of challenges. “One practical challenge is the language barrier. We work really hard to make sure we have folks who can provide translation for the different language groups,” he said. “Part of it too is really working to build relationships of trust where folks in these communities feel safe and welcome.” And through building trust Perez said the goal of the ministry is to share the gospel and the true meaning of love with people all across the nation. “For me, this kind of work is what the church is called to do,” he said. “It is a calling of mission, to share the Good News in both word and action, and in ways that offer God’s love and hospitality in very concrete and some ways, risky ways.”
WEB INFO: http://jfonsemi.org E-mail: email@example.com
MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
‘Ride for Haiti’ set for June The Michigan Area Haiti Task Force is sponsoring “The District Challenge: Ride for Haiti,” June 7-12. This 400-plus mile, six-day journey will go from the Michigan-Indiana border to Mackinaw City. The cyclists, representing each district, will participate in a “Blessing of the Bikes” service at the West Michigan Annual Conference at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. A cyclist from each district will be recruited. Churches will be asked to sponsor their district rider in per-mile pledges to raise funds for supplies, equipment and materials to be used for reconstruction projects in Haiti by the Michigan Area VIM teams in the coming months. If every church across the conference supported their cyclist at $1 per mile, they would raise over $160,000 for the Haiti Project. We can do this together! Contact Project Director, Rev. Rob Nystrom, at Battle Creek Birchwood UMC, 269-963-2084.
More news and notes online In between editions of the Reporter remember to check out www.westmichiganconference.org for conference happenings and information. The Web site stays up to date on appointments, events, death notices and more.
APRIL 2, 2010
Giving slipping, but goals still in sight
A look at 2009 apportionment giving in Michigan From staff reports The recession continues to affect giving to The United Methodist Church at a time when the denomination is experiencing its largest percentage decline in membership since 1974. United Methodist churches in the 63 annual conferences of the U.S. contributed 84 percent of what the denomination budgeted to support ministries around the world in 2009. Overall membership dropped 1.01 percent to 7,774,420 in 2008, according to the latest data from the United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration. Worship attendance dropped approximately 1.8 percent. The total apportioned for the year was $150.3 million and $126.3 million was collected. Michigan’s two conferences were prime examples of the statistical imbalances seen around the country. The West Michigan Conference was able to pay 92 percent of its apportionments and the Detroit Conference received 79 percent of its apportionments, up one percent from 2008. Pros Tumonong, treasurer of the West Michigan Conference, reported the conference was able to reach 100 percent of its World Service donation in 2009, despite a 2.3 percent decline in membership and a 2 percent decline in worship attendance. Sixty-one percent of the Detroit Conference’s 450 churches paid their conference apportionments at 100 percent or greater in 2009, the conference treasurer’s office reported recently. Included in those 273 churches are 36 congregations that were not able to contribute the full amount in 2008. The Detroit Conference contributed 100 percent to the Episcopal Fund and $1 million to the World Service Fund. The other general church funds—Africa University, General Church Administration Fund, Black College Fund, Interdenominational Cooperation Fund, and the Ministerial Education Fund—were paid at 79 percent by the Detroit Conference. Information about the apportioned funds of The United Methodist Church can be found by visiting www.umcgiving.org. Despite not being able to pay its general church apportionments at 100 percent, the churches of the Detroit Conference contributed over $981,000 in benevolent giving to the
Advance. Sixty-nine percent of churches in the conference participated in giving to the Advance, marking the fourth-highest percentage in the denomination and the third-highest percentage in the North Central Jurisdiction. The Advance (www.gbgmumc.org/advance) is the designatedgiving arm of The United Methodist Church that ensures 100 percent of each gift reaches its intended mission or ministry. Local churches decide which program or ministry to support through The Advance. The Detroit Conference also contributed the highest total amount of missionary support gifts in the North Central Jurisdiction for 2009, and will be honored by the General Board of Global Ministries at the 2010 annual conference session. “In the midst of serious economic challenges, and with high unemployment across the conference, our local churches continue to give sacrificially, and for that we are thankful,” said the Rev. Dr. Jerome (Jerry) DeVine, Director of Connectional Ministries. “Obviously we would have liked to pay our general church apportionments at 100 percent, but that is a goal we will continue to strive towards as we work to live out our conference vision and provide quality programs that equip and connect the churches of the conference for effective and fruitful ministry.” Churches in the Saginaw Bay District paid the highest percentage of apportionments, with the 73 congregations combining to pay 91 percent. Oscoda UMC, which is served by the Rev. Briony Peters Desotell, paid 100 percent of its apportionments for the first time since at least 1995, according to the treasurer’s office. In addition to having the highest percentage of apportionments paid, 81 percent of the churches (59
of 73) in the Saginaw Bay District paid their full apportionments to lead all districts. The Port Huron District churches combined to pay 85 percent of conference apportionments. Decker UMC, under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Robert Srock, paid its apportionments at 100 percent for the first time since 1997, while Marine City UMC, which is served by the Rev. Dennis Irish, contributed the full amount for the first time in at least 15 years. Irish also serves Algonac: Trinity UMC, which paid 100 percent for the seventh straight year. The Ann Arbor District churches also paid at 85 percent, while the churches of the Flint District contributed 84 percent of its apportionments. Atherton and Phoenix UMCs, a two-point charge that is served by the Rev. Bruce Billing, paid 100 percent of their apportionments for the first time in at least 15 years. Marquette District churches paid 69 percent of its apportionments, while the churches of the Detroit East and Detroit West Districts contributed an average of 67 and 62 percent, respectively. Churches in the Detroit Conference are apportioned a total budget that supports clergy pensions, general church ministries and conference ministries. The total budget for 2009 was $10.6 million. What continued, amid sacrifices, was the work of the church, officials said. “With the economic ups and downs of 2009, church leaders are reporting that ministry happened on tighter budgets, and the people of The United Methodist Church are still supporting the mission of the church,” said Moses Kumar, top executive of the council, and Bishop Lindsey Davis, president of the council.
Is Jewish wedding set for Chelsea Clinton? B Y R AC H E L Z O L L The Associated Press
PHOTO COURTESY OF TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Families enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs and clowns after a soccer tournament in Crescent City, Fla. Four teams of children from Trinity United Methodist Church and a nearby Pentecostal church participated among a total of 12 teams. Many of the children practice on Trinity’s soccer fields.
Taking church to the soccer fields B Y J E N NA D E M A R C O Special Contributor
SEVILLE, Fla.—Changing a seldom-used church baseball field into a community park transformed the community around Trinity United Methodist Church in Seville. It also changed the way church members see themselves in their community. The Rev. Nelson Bonilla, pastor of the ethnically diverse church, says construction of the park and its three soccer fields helped meet the evolving needs of the church’s membership and surrounding community. It was a change brought about by several years of prayer by lay members on how to handle dwindling church membership, while serving local people, he said. “If we don’t change, the church may die,” Mr. Bonilla said, expressing his appreciation for the church leadership’s vision. “My church is a little church with a big commitment,” he said. Appointed to Trinity in December 2008, Mr. Bonilla is the church’s first pastor who speaks English as a second language. His skills help him serve both the Caucasian congregants who worship at Trinity on Sunday morning and the Hispanic members who worship there Sunday afternoons. For about 125 years of the church’s history, it was a mainly Caucasian congregation, but the influx of people from such countries as Mexico, Colombia and El Salvador has changed the ethnic landscape of Seville, Mr. Bonilla said. Many who live in this west Volusia County com-
munity work in the fernery or citrus industries. During the six years that leaders prayed for guidance about the church’s mission, they noticed that Hispanic neighbors were often playing soccer on the church’s baseball field. While the leaders were “trying to fill the sanctuary on Sunday morning,” the crowd was filling up the field, said Kathy Jones, an 18-year member of the church. With this realization, the group decided to “minister to the need at the place and the time,” Ms. Jones said. Members converted the space into three soccer fields and began providing a number of other amenities. “God was working out on those soccer fields, and that’s where we joined him,” Ms. Jones said. The park area, which covers about four acres of church property, includes the soccer fields, a volleyball pit, butterfly garden, pavilion/chapel, picnic facilities and walking trails. The space is open to the public. Architect and church member Jim Hanis designed the plans and applied for a local county grant, which helped fund the project. Such grants are given for improvement of facilities used for environmental, cultural, historical or outdoor recreation. “So far we have invested about $15,000, but it’s an ongoing project,” Mr. Bonilla said. The church’s board of trustees and United Methodist Men worked with members of the community to perform the manual labor on the space, said Jim Register, a member of the
church since the late ’70s. The project made many people “look outside the church walls to see what you can do to help your community,” Mr. Register said. Another potential addition to the park is a vegetable garden. Until then, remaining needs include bleachers for seating, field lights, new sod and soccer goals in three sizes. The variety of sizes will accommodate the numerous age groups—children to adults—who practice on the fields. “Every day of the week except Wednesday . . . there’s people over there playing soccer and volleyball, too,” said Mr. Bonilla, who coaches a group of preteen players. With so much interest, church leaders hope to form a local soccer league, partnering with another area Hispanic church that already plays with Trinity on the fields. Still, many of the children and parents involved do not have a church connection. “The idea is to invite them to church,” Mr. Bonilla said. In the meantime, the church ministers to the needs they already see in a community affected by the slow economy, Mr. Bonilla said. One way is by distributing leftover loaves of bread from a local grocery store to the Tuesday and Thursday soccer crowds. The church also continues its internally funded food bank once a month, feeding more than 30 families. “We are an incredible outreach church, and the people in the community know where to come,” Ms. Jones said. Reprinted from the e-Review, the Florida Conference’s publication.
NEW YORK—Her mother is a United Methodist. Her father is a Southern Baptist. Yet could Chelsea Clinton be planning one of the biggest Jewish weddings of the year? The 30-year-old graduate student and her Jewish fiance, Marc Mezvinsky, 32, announced their engagement in November and told friends they were looking to a possible summer ceremony. The families have revealed no specifics about the wedding. Representatives for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton declined to answer questions about it, noting the family’s wish for privacy. In a Feb. 7 interview on CNN, Hillary Clinton would go no further than to say her daughter hadn’t yet found a dress. That hasn’t stopped the speculation. The bride and groom have a range of choices, including conversion or a melding their two traditions into one ceremony. The talk has been strongest in the Jewish community. There has been more rejoicing than lamenting about this interfaith union that brings a former first daughter a step closer to the fold. Still, they wonder: Has Chelsea been searching for a rabbi along with her gown? “If they had a Jewish wedding officiated by a rabbi, I think that would be something really positive,” said Ed Case, president of InterfaithFamily.com, which supports Jewish outreach to interfaith couples. “It’s so important for the Jewish community to have interfaith couples engaging in Jewish life.” A Methodist wedding would be far less complex. The United Methodist Church allows local congregations and pastors to decide whether they should allow weddings involving one partner who is not a baptized Christian. The denomination’s Book of Worship allows ministers to adapt the wedding ceremony within limits, according to the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards of the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship. Chelsea Clinton grew up attending a United Methodist church with her mother. Bill Clinton has been close to his pastor in Arkansas, but the Southern Baptist Convention rebuked him years ago over his support for gay relationships and abortion rights. Last year, Chelsea, a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, was seen attending
Yom Kippur services with Marc at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the flagship for Conservative Judaism, according to news reports. Marc is a son of former Pennsylvania Rep. Marjorie MargoliesMezvinsky and former Iowa Rep. Ed Mezvinsky, longtime friends of the Clintons. His parents, who are divorced, had attended a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton has ties of her own to the Jewish community from serving as a senator from New York. “She has probably been in more temples by far than either you or I,” said Rabbi Jerome Davidson, rabbi emeritus at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, which Hillary Clinton has visited. No one is saying, though, what route Marc and Chelsea will take. Conversion was the choice in one recent high-society mixed-faith romance. Ivanka Trump became Jewish to marry New York real estate executive Jared Kushner last year. But Chelsea does have other options if she would like to embrace Jewish traditions while remaining Christian. Some rabbis will officiate at interfaith marriages even though major Jewish movements bar or discourage them from presiding. Interfaithfamily.com links interfaith couples with rabbis and cantors. Only a small number will co-officiate with clergy of another faith. One of those is Rabbi Harold White, senior Jewish chaplain at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school, who performed the 2002 marriage of Ari Fleischer, press secretary under President George W. Bush, and Mr. Fleischer’s wife, Rebecca, who is Catholic. The ceremony was co-led by a priest and included a chuppah, or canopy, which is customary for Jewish weddings, a traditional glass-breaking, and a marriage contract, or ketubah. The high rate of intermarriage has been an obsession in the Jewish community, which has struggled with how welcoming it should be to mixed-faith couples. Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillath Israel, a Reconstructionist congregation in Pacific Palasades, Calif., said even if Chelsea doesn’t have a Jewish wedding or convert, she should still be considered part of the community. “There are Jews by birth and Jews by choice and Jews by association,” said Rabbi Reuben, who has officiated at interfaith weddings for years. “She’s marrying into the Jewish family.”
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MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
APRIL 2, 2010
RETHINK CHURCH: LESSONS FROM Bishop’s Day 2010
‘The right theology, the wrong methodology’ Words of the Wise Just a sample of some of the powerful points Slaughter had to make on Bishop’s Day 2010. Check out his new book Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus
“Our job is not about getting numbers at a church, it’s about empowering people through Christ. We have a numbers neurosis in the United Methodist Church. We are worried about losing 80,000 members a year, not the people already in the pews.” “We need to quit whining ‘We’re just a little tiny church, but can’t do anything.’ You’re right you can’t— God can.”
PHOTOS BY JIM BIRCH
Ginghamsburg Church pastor and author Mike Slaughter delivered a message of mission to almost 600 people on March 13.
By RJ Walters Editor There are those who talk the talk, there are those who walk the walk and then, there’s Mike Slaughter. One of the pre-eminent minds of mission in the United Methodist Church, and lead pastor at Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio, Slaughter shared his vision for mission outlined in his new book, at Bishop’s Day 2010. He was on hand at Mt. Pleasant First UMC for an audience of over 580 people on March 13. It is his belief that God has called us all to the mission field as disciples, whether it be at neighborhood schools, in local food pantries or on the battlefield for human justice in the Sudan.
“Would you rather die with your boots on or watching Grey’s Anatomy?” he asked the crowd. While dozens of successful outreach projects can be researched and studied at his church’s Web site, www.ginghamsburg.org, his leadership of The Sudan Project is a true testament to faith in action. Slaughter said he felt God calling him to service in a region where 500,000 people have died in civil disputes and wars between rebel groups since 2004. A quick look at what Ginghamsburg has been able to do in the wake of this tragedy is the kind of change Slaughter is urging churches of all sizes and types to go after. One of the first successful calls for help in this outreach was Slaughter convincing his people
that “Christmas is not your birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday.” He encouraged members to match whatever funds they spent on Christmas presents and activities with a donation to the project. While some may have shown resistance to the idea at first, blue-collar “Ohioans” answered the call—and continue to. Ginghamsburg has raised over $4.4 million for safe water, schools, agriculture and more since 2004, just from the special Christmas offerings. With that money and other funds 159 schools have been built in south Darfur, including 88 in displacement camps and one school for deaf children that opened in 2007. Over 19,000 students have been enrolled in these new schools and 200 new teachers trained.
Enlightened and instructed at other Bishop’s Day events around the state
More than 600 people from the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo districts gathered at Cornerstone Church in Caledonia on March 13 to listen to Scott Rigsby, an Ironman triathlete and a double amputee. People were inspired and challenged, according to Mara Marsman, Cornerstone’s Director of Care and Prayer. “I think people learned that even though things may not work out as planned, God can use anything for His benefit,” she said. Bishop Robert Schnase spoke and led workshops on The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations for the Albion, Ann Arbor and Lansing districts on March 13. 381 people attended the
event at Albion College.
On March 6 servant-evangelist coach/ speaker Steve Sjogren spoke at Southfield: Hope UMC, with 607 people in attendance. On March 13 Celinda Hughes from UMCOM was the keynote speaker at Bishop’s Day 2010 at Lapeer: Trinity UMC, but final numbers were unavailable before deadline.
At the events special offerings were taken for a pair of new churches: FaithWay Church in Saginaw and Valley Church in Grand Rapids.
“(To make a difference) you don’t need 400 people, you just need four people dressed in gasoline suits to storm the gates of hell.” “People aren’t looking for meetings at church, they’re looking for meaning.” “If you are experiencing resistance you might be where God is ready to do something big.” “It’s not what you achieve or accomplish in this life, it’s who you develop.” “If it’s not good news for the poor it’s not the Gospel. Here’s what we’ll be judged for according to the Bible. ‘Did you help the least of my brothers and sisters?’” “Maybe sometimes it’s time to close a building because that’s not the church. We’re in the disciple-making business and the people-building business.” — in reference to the statistic that 74 percent of our churches are where 16 percent of the American population lives
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After the 2008 deluge
Speaker hails UM agency | 3B
Iowa neighbors rebuilding block by block | 4B
History lesson shows its richness | 7B
April 2, 2010
Phoenix church battles in court to feed homeless BY BILL FENTUM Associate Editor
Mission in conflict UNITED METHODIST NEWS SERVICE PHOTO COURTESY OF THE REV. DOTTIE ESCOBEDO-FRANK
CrossRoads United Methodist Church serves breakfast on its grounds each Saturday to 150 homeless and poor people in Phoenix, Ariz. The ministry has led to a zoning dispute with neighbors who say the area is no longer safe for their families.
Each Saturday morning, a bus pulls up to a church in an upscale neighborhood of Phoenix, Ariz., bringing a few dozen homeless persons to a free breakfast on the lawn. The pancakes, eggs and sausage meal at CrossRoads United Methodist Church could be the only hot food some of them will eat for days. At least 100 low-income workers from across the city join the homeless for the breakfast. Once the meal is finished and tables are cleared, all are invited to join for a worship service. The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, pastor at CrossRoads, describes it as “a community where we build relationships and lives are transformed.” But some nearby homeowners tell a different story. Not all of the homeless leave when the bus departs after the service, neighbors complain. Reports of trespassing, vandalism and burglary have increased since CrossRoads began hosting the meals in early 2009. Phoenix officials answered a for-
See ‘Conflict,’ page 8B
Q&A: Learning ‘disciplines of goodness’ Few people have witnessed the kinds of horrors that the Rev. Mpho Tutu’s father has, yet the Archbishop Desmond Tutu is known for his famously sunny personality. What’s behind it? Ms. Tutu helped her father articulate the source of his strength and optimism in a new book, Made For Goodness (HarperOne). Ms. Tutu, an Episcopal priest, is executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., and chair emeritus of the board of the Global AIDS Alliance. She spoke recently with staff writer Mary Jacobs. In the book, your father says: “We are tuned to the key of goodness.
‘The exercise of transcribing the conversation was like being on retreat with my dad.’ That is not to deny evil; it is to face evil squarely. We can face evil squarely because we know that evil will not have the last word.” Aren’t some people evil? How can we believe that we are all good when we see the horror that humans inflict upon one another? He would say that no one is inherently evil. He would say that we are not born as sinners in need of saving; instead we are saints in need of see-
ing. We need to see who we really are and live into the truth of who we are. Not born sinners? Aren’t you contradicting a key statement of Christian faith? I would say that we are not so much contradicting it as seeing it differently. [Laughs.] I’m laughing because we had a lot of back and forth
See ‘Goodness,’ page 2B
PHOTO BY CAMERON DAVIDSON
Mpho Tutu has co-authored a new book with her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
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2B FAITH focus FAITH WATCH Former mission leader won’t face church trial United Methodist Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of Denver, Colo., ended on March 9 the complaint process against the Rev. Edward Paup, who had faced an allegation that he “violated the sacred trust of ordination.” Mr. Paup, a former bishop and a clergy member of the Rocky Mountain Conference, resigned last year as top executive of the General Board of Global Ministries, citing medical reasons. In a letter to the conference, Bishop Stanovsky said “intervening events have mitigated many of the concerns raised.”
Federal court upholds ‘under God’ in Pledge A federal appeals court ruled March 11 that inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional, reversing an earlier decision. The 2-1 decision answered a challenge by atheist Michael Newdow, who had said the use of the pledge violated the First Amendment’s clause prohibiting the establishment of religion.
Filipino court refuses to free health workers A court in the Philippines on March 11 refused to release 43 health workers who were arrested in early February on suspicion of supporting Communist rebels. Dr. Alexis Montes, a physician, received grants from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries from 2007–2009 for his community-based health programs. The decision is being appealed to the Philippines Supreme Court.
GOODNESS Continued from page 1B on that conversation. The book talks about the “disciplines of goodness, the practices that are key to finding meaning and fulfillment in life.” People don’t think about goodness as a practice. Can you explain? And what are those practices? It’s a way of framing. It’s how you choose to look at the world and what you choose to look at in the world. In most modern cultures, the constant invitation is to speed through life on autopilot: Do things the way you always do them and don’t pay attention. And yet paying attention is what makes all of the difference. It’s the small attentions that are the most loving kinds of attention. A few years ago my father and I went out for a walk one morning. There was a piece of paper on the ground and he bent down to pick it up, then looked for a trash can. It’s a tiny insignificant little thing that doesn’t matter. But it’s those tiny things that in the grand scheme of things actually do matter: one person caring enough to pick up a piece of paper from the ground. It’s also a matter of holding another person in the present moment in a deep way. I just saw the movie Avatar, which wasn’t designed as such but was an excellent work of theology. One of the greetings that the blue people have is “I see you.” That’s a very African greeting. It’s the literal translation of how Swazi people will greet each other. “I see you” is a literal recognition of the importance of holding a person in the present moment and honoring that person. So part of the discipline of goodness is a habit of attention? Yes, one that doesn’t let you flip into the habit of inattentive convenience. Why did you write the book with your father? What did you see coming out of the collaboration
Fewer than half link Easter, Resurrection While seven in 10 Americans describe Easter as a religious holiday, only 42 percent link it to the Resurrection of Jesus, according to a new Barna Group study. Others in a random sample of 1,005 adults described Easter as a Christian holiday, a celebration of Passover, or a special day to go to church. “(T)he specifics of it are really fading in a lot of people’s minds,” said David Kinnamon, Barna Group president.
Bob Mathews, CEO Robin Russell, Managing Editor Bill Fentum, Associate Editor Mary Jacobs, Staff Writer Mallory McCall, Staff Writer Cherrie Graham, Advertising Manager Kristin Del Mul, Senior Designer
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that you couldn’t offer separately? We decided in writing the book that it was easier to write it in a single voice rather than going back and forth between the two voices. That allows me to put words in his mouth. [Laughs]. The way we collaborated, we spent a lot of time talking together. We had a couple of long weekends in which we spent several hours talking, with me recording the conversations, then a lot of telephone conversations and e-mails back and forth. My dad tends to speak very lucidly and in complete sentences and thoughts. A lot of the writing was just editing out the “ums” and “ers” rather than rewriting. Then I’d send him what I had, he’d edit and we’d have another chance to talk and
Were you a ghostwriter, or does it have some of both of you in it? It’s in his voice, but it was collaboration. I certainly feel as if some of my thoughts got in there. The nice thing about having the collaboration was that we got to talk back to each other. Sometimes the gift is being able to refine each other’s thoughts and being able to push each other. As it happens, I’ve been transcribing some of my father’s memories, and I was struck by some new insights into his life. Did you have a similar “revelation”? One thing was how complicated his relationship with his own father was, and also how formative his mother’s personality was. Not so
‘We are not born as sinners in need of saving; instead we are saints in need of seeing. We need to see who we really are and live into the truth of who we are.’ argue and decide whether we really wanted to say that. The exercise of transcribing the conversation was like being on retreat with my dad, having a chance to ponder his thoughts. We started out with each chapter with a very personal story. I enjoyed having the opportunities to hear some of the stories from his growing up.
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much anything in particular that she said, but just her way of being that was really formative for him. I think she’s why he has this combination of gentleness and strength. I don’t think anyone would describe my father as a wimp, but also I think I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d describe him as unkind or cruel. He has this way of being able to be strong in a way that is not combative. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Interfaith group cites Reporter for excellence S TA F F R E P O RT S The United Methodist Reporter has received five DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards from the Religion Communicators Council for work done in 2009. The Reporter earned four awards of excellence for best national newspaper and for several writing categories, as well as one certificate of merit for its Oct. 16 issue: “Geographic Lesson,” about reducing the number of bishops in each jurisdiction. That issue focused on the Dakotas Conference and the North Central Jurisdiction. Managing Editor Robin Russell earned top honors for a news story on United Methodist response to the Nov. 5 shootings at the Fort Hood military post; an April 10 feature on what scholars and theologians think heaven will be like; and a May feature series on a successful new church start in Kansas that pulled out of the denomination. Awards will be presented during the RCC’s annual convention April 7–10 in Chicago. The DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards are named for the late Victor DeRose and the late Paul M. Hinkhouse, leading lithographers in New York City. The RCC is the oldest association of religion communicators in the U.S. Established in 1929, the interfaith organization recognizes religion communicators who work in print and electronic communication, marketing and public relations. Other United Methodist winners in the DeRose-Hinkhouse competition included: Tim Tanton of the United Methodist News Service for his series on Cote d’Ivoire; Roberta Cox of Perkins School of Theology, SMU, for public relations writing and audio-visual narrative; and the Texas Methodist Foundation’s staff for Internet communication and audiovisual narrative. Certificates of merit in writing went to General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) staff Christie House of New World Outlook magazine and Barbara Wheeler of Response magazine. Certificates of merit for graphic design went to Emily Miller of United Methodist Women and the GBGM’s Chris Heckert, Hal Sadler and Ron Underberg.
FAITH focus 3B
Church agency hailed on health reform W I R E R E P O RT S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has hailed the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) as a key contributor to the March 21 landmark vote on health care reform. In her closing remarks before legislators approved legislation to provide medical coverage to uninsured Americans, Ms. Pelosi referred to the United Methodist Church as one of many organizations “sending a clear message to members of Congress: Say yes to health care reform.” The House passed the U.S. Senate version of health insurance reform legislation by a vote of 219 to 212.
‘This vote brings us closer to that reality.’ —Jim WInkler Jim Winkler, chief executive of the GBCS, said the House action affirms the United Methodist Social Principles that declares health care is “a
basic human right.” “For decades, the General Board of Church and Society has worked alongside thousands of United Methodists to achieve health care for all in the U.S.,” Mr. Winkler said. “This vote brings us closer to that reality.” With the bill now signed into law, Mr. Winkler said, important protections for every person will be enacted. These include banning health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and more Americans will have access to health insurance. The denomination’s law-making body, the General Conference, has been a strong advocate for universal health care. The Book of Discipline states: “We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.” The United Methodist Book of Resolutions charges the GBCS with advocating for health care for all in the U.S. Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops, along with the social action agency, had endorsed a letter to President Obama and members of Congress before the public health care summit held on Feb. 25 urging them “to take heart and move meaningful health care re-
PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the UMC’s efforts.
form forward.” But United Methodists, like most Americans, have taken different positions on the basic legislation approved by the House. Opponents of the legislation cited its cost, its expansion of federal power and concerns that it would reverse past policy by al-
lowing federal funding of abortions. “There are parts of this bill that are good, including much-needed health insurance reforms and making health insurance affordable for the uninsured,” said Rep. Mike Ross, a United Methodist from Arizona who opposed the legislation. “On the
other hand, many parts of this bill cause me great concern, like telling people they must buy health insurance or be fined, cutting Medicare by more than a half-trillion dollars, increasing taxes and forcing businesses to provide health insurance to their employees.” During her remarks prior to the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DCalif., thanked the 350 organizations, including the United Methodist Church, that worked to achieve historic health-insurance reform. The United Methodist Church was not alone among faith communities in working for health-care reform. More than 150 other faith organizations also sought change, working through coalitions such as Faithful Reform in Health Care. Signers of the letter urging action on health care reform included the Albany Area United Methodist Church, New York, Arkansas Methodist Federation for Social Action, Oregon-Idaho Methodist Federation for Social Action, PeninsulaDelaware Conference of the United Methodist Church Advocacy Resource Team and the Western North Carolina Conference Methodist Federation for Social Action.
Conferences struggle to pay their full apportionments B Y K AT H Y L. G I L B E RT United Methodist News Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—At the end of 2009, only 14 of the 63 annual conferences in the United States paid 100 percent of the money asked of them by the United Methodist Church to support ministries around the world. The total collected was $24 million short of the $150.3 million budgeted and agreed to at the 2008 General Conference. The recession, declining membership and a lack of commitment to or
understanding of apportionments are some of the reasons that add up to a collection plate that keeps coming back only partially full. The Rev. Tom Seay, pastor of Colonial Heights United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., might speak for many pastors when he says, “We budget to pay full apportionments, but we do so realizing we probably won’t make it. We have to pay the mortgage and the electric bill first.” Apportionments are the fuel that makes it possible for the church to make a difference in the world. No
UNITED METHODIST NEWS SERVICE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY KATHLEEN BARRY
United Methodist churches are struggling to pay their apportioned giving in full.
one local church is responsible for establishing a university in Africa, supporting the work of the denomination’s boards and agencies, supporting historically black colleges or providing financial support for the education of ordained ministers. But every local church does contribute to all those missions and many others when they pay their apportioned amount. In the average local church, 12.4 cents of every dollar given support annual conference ministries, 3.3 cents support ministries beyond the conference, and 84.3 cents of the donated dollar support ministries of the local congregation. None of the U.S. church’s five jurisdictions paid apportionments 100 percent. Jurisdictional percentages were: Northeastern, 92.1; South Central, 91; North Central, 81.5; Southeastern, 78.7; and Western, 74.7. The California-Nevada Conference in the Western Jurisdiction was at the bottom of the list, paying 49.6 percent of its general church apportionment. Bishop Warner Brown, episcopal leader of the conference, said a number of churches in his area pride themselves on paying 100 percent, but the effect is diluted by many who do not.
The economic downturn has had a “dramatic impact on our churches,” Bishop Brown said. Many people have lost jobs or homes and have had to relocate. However, the conference has a 30-plus year pattern of not paying all their apportionments, he added. Mr. Seay’s church, Colonial Heights, is in the Holston conference, part of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Seventy-five percent of the churches in Holston contributed 100 percent. Bishop James E. Swanson, episcopal leader for the conference, sent a letter to churches that failed to con-
tribute all their apportionments, pointing out the accomplishments of their “sister” churches who gave their “fair share.” Two other conferences that struggled with their apportionments were South Indiana (50.1 percent) and North Indiana (53.5 percent). The conferences merged in 2009 and this is the last year Indiana will report as two conferences. Since the merger, there has been “substantial progress” made on connectional giving, said Jennifer Gallagher, conference treasurer.
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when they learned of the flooding threat, believing that water would seep into their basements but no higher. In fact, the floodwaters engulfed much of the first story of every surrounding house. Days after the water receded, neighbors returned to find a mud-coated, tangled mess of furniture and appliances. “I sobbed when I saw it,” Katie Sandquist said of pulling up to her home for the first time. “My life was in piles on the curb. It was devastating.” Months after the flood, progress was achingly slow. Many homeowners waited for government assistance to help them rebuild. They languished on waiting lists for overwhelmed plumbers and electricians. Others, who could not return, waited for government buyouts. “Time went by and so much was still broken,” Katie Sandquist said. “People in my neighborhood were feeling hopeless.”
Iowa Methodists help rebuild neighborhoods, block by block B Y M A D E L A I N E J E R O U S E K -S M I T H Special Contributor
On a frigid winter day, there are new signs of life in the 1300 block of Eighth Street on the northwest side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sidewalks are cleared of snow, smoke rises from chimneys and kitchen lights glow behind new curtains. A block away, for-sale signs dot lawns of freshly painted houses, electricians’ trailers rest on curbs and power tools buzz in the distance. Many in this working-class neighborhood thought they’d never return after the Cedar River overflowed its banks and saturated about 10 square miles, or 14 percent, of the city in June 2008. Almost a year later, many people still waited while their homes sat empty. But the dedication of two brothers, an innovative church-community partnership, and a common faith in neighborly love brought them home
again. Known as Block by Block, the neighborhood revitalization project has been hailed as one of the most successful efforts in Cedar Rapids. Instead of helping homeowners one at a time, Block by Block works to bring back entire neighborhoods. Though it melds a unique array of religious and secular groups, the heart of the project is ultimately Christian: building communities of people who take care of one another. “The early church evolved through a neighbor talking to a neighbor, saying, ‘We’re building this community. When you get hurt, when you are suffering, this community of believers will help you heal,’” said the Rev. Clint Twedt-Ball, a United Methodist pastor who came up with the idea. “When disasters happen, we as Christians will come together to help neighbors get whole again.” The Cedar River flows through downtown
Cedar Rapids, a city of about 124,000 people. When the river crested at more than 31 feet in June 2008, floodwaters swept through downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, soaking more than 7,000 properties, including about 5,000 homes, according to Corridor Recovery, a flood resource clearinghouse.
A river’s devastation Eleven blocks from the river, Katie and Andrew Sandquist had just finished their basement and redone the hardwood floors on the first level of their early-20th-century home in spring 2008. The neighborhood, where elderly residents gathered on porches and children called out on the way to school each morning, was a mix of single-family homes and rental properties. While most residents took pride in their homes, some of the properties were in disrepair. Like many of their neighbors, they moved everything from the basement to the first floor
For many homeowners, frustration with bureaucracy was also fueling anger, said Mr. TwedtBall’s brother, the Rev. Courtney Ball, whose home was among those flooded. “People in my neighborhood needed a chance to sit down and talk to each other,” said Mr. Ball, who began to organize informal neighborhood get-togethers. The brothers, who come from a long line of Methodist pastors, know something about community organizing. When they were young, their father left his church and became the first fulltime director of Habitat for Humanity in Des Moines. Their mother worked with immigrants, helping them get acclimated to the community. After seminary, the brothers settled into traditional congregations in eastern Iowa. But something was missing in their suburban churches; they felt called to minister to those on the margins. An urban Cedar Rapids Methodist church gave the brothers space to start their communitybuilding ministry in 2006. Named for Matthew 25:34-40, a passage about helping the less fortunate, Matthew 25 Ministry Hub offered services like free meals and tutoring to those in Cedar Rapids’ neediest neighborhoods. Their approach was based in part on the ideals of asset-based community development, which builds upon a community’s strengths. A consultant urged them: Learn to love the neighborhood around you, build relationships, and then give people the tools they need to succeed. The brothers were still getting to know the neighborhoods when the 2008 flood struck the
UNITED METHODIST NEWS SERVICE FILE PHOTOS BY MARTA W. ALDRICH
LEFT: Then-Iowa Bishop Gregory Palmer and UMCOR representative Sandra Kennedy-Owes talk with flood survivor Phyllis Meyer, 81, in Charles City, Iowa. Following massive flooding in June 2008, UMCOR issued an emergency grant to the Iowa Conference and shipped more than 5,000 flood buckets. CENTER: A hand-made sign was posted in a flood-damaged neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where some 4,000 homes in mostly blue-collar neighborhoods were submerged after days of heavy rain swelled the Cedar River. RIGHT: Newly sown fields lie underwater in Iowa in this 2008 file photo. Damage was estimated at $3 billion for the nation’s top corn producer. 4 B | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | A PR I L 2 , 2 0 1 0
Homeowners, neighbors and volunteers participate in the Block by Block program to rebuild their flood-damaged neighborhood in the 1300 block of Eighth Street in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GREG HENSHALL/FEMA
Bonnie Cleveland carries damaged furniture from a friend’s home in Cedar Rapids.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PATSY LYNCH/FEMA
Volunteers in Cedar Falls, Iowa, stack sandbags June 10, 2008, as the Cedar River rises to a record-high 102 feet and forces residents to evacuate.
area. In the early months after the flood, Matthew 25 helped homeowners gut and clean their homes. Working closely with neighbors helped them see the problems with flood recovery—and offer solutions. “The floods ended up presenting an enormous opportunity to bring about change in the community,” Mr. Ball said.
Offering a solution Almost a year after the flood, much of the city was rebuilding. But many west-side neighborhoods were still filled with abandoned homes. Mr. Twedt-Ball approached the Affordable Housing Network Inc. with his vision for a new initiative, Block by Block: give people the resources to improve their homes and neighborhoods; make quick, visible progress; empower people to shape the future of their communities. Jim Ernst, executive director of the nonprofit low-income-housing group, thought the idea had the potential to revitalize a variety of neighborhoods, not just those affected by the flood. He spoke with John Smith, CEO of CRST International. Smith, a lifelong Cedar Rapids resident, was also frustrated by the lack of post-flood progress on the west side of town and looking to put money toward a solution. “When I heard about this idea, it was like a light went on,” Mr. Smith said. “I thought, ‘How simple—and wow, what a difference it could make.’” He and wife, Dyan, pledged $1 million.
Other backers included the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, which offered $700,000. This rebuilding program was different, said Dan Baldwin, past president of the foundation, because it offered what government couldn’t: a promise to get work done quickly, customized solutions and an approach that would have a long-term impact on neighborhoods. “What Block by Block presented was a nimble, streamlined attempt to actually bring people within a neighborhood together and have everyone participate in its renewal,” Mr. Baldwin said. “This was a chance to create real, critical mass in rebuilding neighborhoods, which are the fabric of every community.”
Signs of recovery Launched in summer 2009, Block by Block works with neighborhoods that request the program’s help. Once at least 60 percent of property owners on a block agree to participate, those homeowners meet with Block by Block staff members to discuss the desired outcomes for their homes. About 80 percent of them fix up their homes and stay. The rest choose to sell their property. Block by Block commits to finding solutions for most properties within 120 days. Those who decide to repair their homes receive volunteer labor and donated supplies. If a homeowner decides to sell, Block by Block may purchase the home at pre-flood assessed value and rehabilitate it for sale at an affordable price.
Because the program is supported largely by private funds, renovations or buyouts can happen faster than those programs sponsored solely by government. And thanks in part to a partnership with the United Methodist Church, more than 10,000 volunteers from across the country have traveled to Cedar Rapids to help renovate homes. Their work was quickly visible. By Christmas 2009, Block by Block had completed most of eight blocks and 103 properties. “When we walk away from a block, people there know each other,” Mr. Ball said. “They’re really comfortable calling each other up, having barbecues and potlucks. Not only are we repairing homes, but we’re building up neighborly relationships.” Though they sometimes disagree about how to accomplish goals, the partnership works because everyone shares a common purpose to rebuild the community, Mr. Twedt-Ball said. “While we aren’t all faith-based, I do think there is a common faith in humanity and in love of neighbor that we all share even if we don’t talk about it in terms of the same God,” Mr. TwedtBall said. “There’s a commitment to something bigger than ourselves and our organization.” By the end of 2010, Block by Block hopes to work with another 12 to 16 blocks, or about 300 property owners. In all, about 20 percent of properties in the hardest-hit area of Cedar Rapids will have been touched by Block by Block. “Seeing this actually work, seeing the mo-
mentum grow, has been uplifting,” Katie Sandquist said. “Now we feel like we can effect change in our neighborhoods. I think it’s been an incredibly healthy process to make our community stronger. “This project is healing a community, not just a house,” she said. “This is going to be something that makes our neighborhood stronger forever.” Ms. Jerousek-Smith is a freelance writer and editor in Des Moines, Iowa. The full story was first published in Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com.
UMNS FILE PHOTO BY BECKY JOHNSON
Floodwaters surround Salem UMC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A PR I L 2 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | 5 B
6B FAITH forum
Living in ‘Gotham’ helps reduce carbon footprint; others can take steps, too BY TOM EHRICH Religion News Service
NEW YORK—I, for one, believe that global climate change and its threat to humanity are real phenomena. I also believe that our political systems are paralyzed—for now at least—by any challenge that can’t be resolved by blustery words. The days of grand projects like railroads, bridges and dams are on hiatus until partisan rancor subsides. Dealing with climate change, then, comes down to individual Tom Ehrich choices. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. But for now, it’s all we have: the willingness of individuals to live differently. My family’s move to New York City gives me hope. When we moved here three years ago, it wasn’t to make an environmental statement. We moved here for the energy of the city and for business opportunities. And yet we did make some decisions that substantially reduced our contributions to environmental distress. One was to declare our freedom from the automobile. Another was to leave behind a four-bedroom house and large lawn, whose maintenance took more time and money than I thought they deserved. As it turns out, residents of New York City have a “carbon footprint” that is less than one-third of the national average. And it’s not just the
PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
Taking the subway in New York City helps residents reduce their carbon footprint, says Tom Ehrich.
case in the U.S. London’s per-person contribution to greenhouse gases is just over one-half the U.K. average. Barcelona’s is less than one-half of the average for all of Spain. Dense, compact housing and public transportation make the difference. We live in an apartment that is onethird the size of our former house. We rarely need to turn on the heat. We never drive cars. We walk one to three miles a day and rely on subways for longer trips. The environmental benefits are an unintended consequence of something we did for other reasons. I don’t
‘If anything, walking is a great joy.’ feel particularly noble, as if I had embraced a cause. If anything, walking is a great joy, freedom from lawn maintenance is a relief and occupying onethird as much space is relaxing. I am finding that urban living makes sense in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I can see why life expectancy of New York City residents is 1 percent longer than the national average, and is increasing more rapidly. I know full well that most people can’t easily change where they live, nor do they want to. I also know that Gotham isn’t for everyone. Other cities, smaller cities, suburbs, small towns and farms all have their claims on our hearts. Our jobs constrain mobility. But I am emboldened by this move to believe that individual choices can make a difference. A decision to recycle, for example, matters. A decision to take public transportation wherever possible matters. While dense, compact housing hasn’t seemed necessary in cities capable of sprawling, it is a decision worth considering today. Just as averting environmental catastrophe comes down to individual decisions, our own choices matter when we enter the arena of faith: a single life is worth saving, a single act of goodness is worth taking, a single sin is worth confessing and a single person of faith can make a difference. It does happen that way. My move to New York City is testimony—unintended to be sure, but encouraging nonetheless. Fr. Ehrich is a writer and Episcopal priest.
A PR I L 2 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R
Lord, teach us to pray BY BISHOP DEB KIESEY Special Contributor
The other Sunday I sat in church directly in front of a boy of about 8 or 9 years old. He was sitting with what I assumed were his parents and grandparents. He was a typical little boy, as he wiggled and squirmed and banged the pew in front of him with his feet—full of life, full of energy and full of questions. Lots of questions. He asked why we did this, and why we did that, and what the guy up front was doing now. Question after question, asked in his little boy whisper that wasn’t really a whisper at all—and I was pleased his grandfather tried to answer his questions quietly but honestly. The truth was, I actually enjoyed listening in on this private teaching time. But what really moved me was during the time for prayer. As the sanctuary stilled, and the pastor began to pray, this little guy quieted down—the questions finally coming to an end. And when we were Bishop Deb invited to pray The Kiesey Lord’s Prayer, a little, clear voice rang out behind me, “OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME . . .” On he went, proudly proclaiming every word of that familiar prayer. I found myself no longer saying the words, but just listening—moved by a small child’s prayer. “He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray say . . . ’ ” (Luke 11:1–2).
‘Each time you pray it, listen for God’s word to you.’ How many times in our lives have we said that most familiar of all prayers? And yet, as Anne of Green Gables has said, “Saying one’s prayers is not the same as praying.” She is correct. It is far too easy to just simply say the words without really digesting them—without really thinking of the power of those holy words. “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
© 2010 DESIGN PICS PHOTO
Hearing a child pray in church reminded Bishop Deb Kiesey to focus on the meaning of The Lord’s Prayer, especially during Lent.
These aren’t just words; they are a declaration of faith. They are a statement that proclaims the power, the presence and the magnificence of the God we worship. And yet they also remind us that our relationship with God is a personal one—a relationship so deep that the only way to describe it is through the image of a parent whose love for a child is beyond words. That is where prayer begins—with an acknowledgment of who this God is, and our relationship as God’s beloved child. In this holy journey through Lent, I invite you to make this Disciple’s Prayer our prayer, and to make it a part of our daily spiritual journey. There are many ways to pray it: Pray it slowly, pausing after each phrase. Or sing it. Or read it, with the words in front of you. Or say a phrase slowly, over and over again. Or pray a different version of it. But don’t just say it . . . pray it. And each time you pray it, listen for God’s word to you.
Each week in Lent, we are focusing on a particular phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, but I encourage you to pray the entire prayer every day until the words are no longer just words, but until we can proudly proclaim—and claim— this prayer as did that little boy in the pew behind me: with excitement and with awe. So, pray with me now. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever. Amen. And amen. Bishop Kiesey leads the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Reprinted from her “Dakotas Diary” at dakotasumc.org.
FAITH forum 7B WESLEYAN WISDOM
Connectionalism: What does cherished word mean? B Y D O NA L D W. H AY N E S UMR Columnist
The 2008 membership decline for the United Methodist Church was the largest single-year drop since 1974. Our worship attendance decline was even larger. What’s more, only 84 percent of apportioned funds were paid to the connectional ministries of the church. That is reality. Ours is a time for faithful courage. The Connectional Table has appointed the Call to Action steering committee to urge major changes in the church as an agenda for the 2012 General Conference. Across the connection at every level, we seem to be awakening to a significant re-directing of the church’s membership and an openness of our leadership to rediscover our brand in Donald both identity and Haynes mission. One word that deserves some reconsideration is a favorite among Methodists—“connectionalism.” We usually associate the word with apportionments and appointments! It is a much richer word.
Robbed of substance In 1792 James O’Kelly challenged Bishop Asbury’s authoritarian manner of making appointments, led a threeday debate in our first official General Conference, which he lost, and then formed “The Christian Church.” As historian Russell Richey aptly points out, O’Kelly’s loss pushed The Methodist Episcopal Church into “making connectionalism less communal bonds of affection and the dynamism of conferencing and more governance structures. The church would spend the next century and a half determining who had voice and membership in these structures . . . ” O’Kelly’s defeat pushed Asbury and his successors into robbing us of what Dr. Richey calls connectionalism’s incredible theological and spiritual substance, relegating it to legislation and conference actions. Connectionalism once had a nearly universal meaning of social holiness. The first fracture came with the Southern conferences’ insistence that to hold the line on the abolition of slavery would reduce the effectiveness of evangelism. The refusal of the 1840 General Conference to entertain a debate on abolition prompted the cre-
ation of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1843, and the division of the church in 1844 according to north and south. Following the Civil War, connectionalism regained its voice in the causes of Temperance and Women’s Suffrage. Church Extension and the Missionary Movement were marks of connectionalism in the late 19th century. Sadly, connectional leadership against the holiness movement at the General Conference of 1894 pushed out thousands and prompted the formation of the Nazarene Church. Hymnody was a connectional force—from the 6,000 hymns of Charles Wesley to the days of camp meeting songs to the 8,000 hymns of Methodist Fanny Crosby to the missionary hymns to the hymns with a social justice theme. By 1905 the three branches of Methodism published a common hymnal, stripping it of most of the gospel hymns. (One reaction was the 1923 publication of the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal which is still in print!) The Sunday school Graded Lessons were a strong expression of connectionalism. Almost every child in the denomination had the same “picture card” of a Bible story and almost every adult class studied the same International Bible Lesson. The overwhelming focus on Christian education resulted in similar teacher training, professional educators’ certification and youth ministry in the older Epworth League and the post1939 Methodist Youth Fellowship. In the 20th century, the two-fold thrust of connectionalism was ecumenism and the mimicking of corporate culture. The Methodist connection provided the major portion of money and muscle in the creation of the Federal Council of Churches and 20th-century ecu-
menism, almost to the detriment of its own theological identity. By Unification in 1939, a corporation-like bureaucracy was put in place, wresting much power from the bishops. Connectionalism came to mean uniformity: a Methodist could drop in on worship anywhere and find a similar order of worship! The same was true of local church structure.
Common ethos Ordination requirements were a major expression of connectional uniformity. The geographic dispersion of theological schools and the similarity of disciplines—such as homiletics, systematic theology, biblical criticism, and an emphasis on pastoral care and counseling—developed a common ethos of pastoral ministry. A different dimension of connectionalism is more appropriate to instruct us. While it might be melodramatic to compare the early 21st century to the aftermath of the Civil War, which created a clear-cut seismic shift in culture, today’s mentality of “everything must change” could threaten the very existence of denominations as we know them. Let us see, therefore, what the connection did in the face of cultural and political changes in 1865. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South of the post-Civil War era can never be justified for its failure to embrace the post-war, “anti-caste radicalism” articulated by the Methodist Episcopal Church (i.e. “north”). However, both regional churches are to be commended for recognizing that their worlds had undergone seismic shifts and would never be the same again. Perhaps their nerve to embrace a new reality will be helpful for our own challenges. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South met in 1866 in New Orleans and
rose from the ashes of military defeat with bold new proposals. One historian’s account was that, “Men’s minds had become used to great changes, and the session at New Orleans as therefore favorable for measures upon which the usual conservatism might have hesitated long in ordinary times.” That is a fitting analysis of the state of the church in 2010! Subsequent actions by the General Conference included the recognition that attendance at the time-honored class meetings “ought no longer to be enforced with greater penalties than attendance upon other means of grace,” that six months’ probation for church membership be abolished, that a pastor’s service at one congregation be extended from two years to four, that lay representation equal to clergy delegates be introduced in Annual and General Conferences, and “that, at their request, the 78,742 colored members who clave to the Church be, at their request, re-constituted as an independent body they chose, ‘The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, and that all church property used for Methodist Negroes in the past be turned over to them.” By 1880 the CME Church had over 80,000 members. Meanwhile in the north, The Christian Advocate editor described the 1864 General Conference actions as “significant of the strange times in which we live.” Two years later, the Methodists of Ohio and Illinois did not wait for another General Conference before organizing the Freedmen’s Aid Society in August 1866. That organization was endorsed by the Board of Bishops and the General Conference of 1868; its accomplishments are miraculous. In short order, 240 teachers brought the light of literacy to over 6,500 pupils. Twenty-five colleges and
institutes were established throughout the old Confederacy by 1882, and a virtual “army” of teachers and other professionals integrated the 4,500,000 former slaves into aspects of freedom.
Polity is a tool Emory Stevens Bucke’s History of American Methodism proudly proclaimed that “no other church in America gave so unstingily of her sons and her substance to free the Negro from ignorance, poverty, and environmental debasement as did the Methodist Episcopal Church.” My point is not to re-open regional wounds. Rather I submit that our connection, North and South, realized the truth in Lowell’s words, “new occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth.” We must be done with sacred cows. Mr. Wesley searched the Scriptures and found there no divinely inspired form of church polity. I do not reflect on history to claim that the church lived out God’s will in each era or circumstance. We made our connection and we have cherished it. But let us not make of it an idol. We must use our polity as a tool of missional ministry, not as a weapon to whip local churches in line, or to force married clergy into geographic separation, or to sustain career-advancement ladders with benefits we can no longer afford. My intent is to write in the spirit of George Santyana: “Columbus found a world, and had no chart, save one that faith deciphered in the skies.” We have no chart, but we can discern by faith the will of God for us in our time. Dr. Haynes is a retired member of the Western North Carolina Conference, an adjunct professor at Hood Theological Seminary and current interim pastor of Kallam Grove Christian Church.
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U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | A PR I L 2 , 2 0 1 0
8B FAITH focus CONFLICT Continued from page 1B mal complaint by ruling the church had violated zoning laws that forbid a “charity dining hall” in a residential district. Since then CrossRoads has continued the breakfasts, but lost its appeals to a district court and local board of adjustment. Now the case goes to a federal court where the church will argue the breakfast ministry is protected under First Amendment rights as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)—which bars any government action that “imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise.” Retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Corcoran rejected the second defense last fall. A charity group in a commercial zone had offered to let CrossRoads use their building for the breakfast, he noted, and the church already takes food to a United Methodist mission on the city’s east side. CrossRoads “has numerous alternatives that allow it to fulfill its religious mission,” Mr. Corcoran said in his decision. But Ms. Escobedo-Frank says the area where most of the breakfast guests live, just north of CrossRoads, has its own needs. “We have a great location to do ministry because we are at the crossroads of an extremely poverty-driven neighborhood and a neighborhood of great wealth,” she said in a phone interview. “The practice of faith is not just worshipping in our heads. It’s our hands and feet actually doing the work of Christ. To say to a church, ‘You can do it this way, but not that way,’ is pushing back on our freedom to be religious in the way that we believe we need to be religious.”
Called to action That’s also the feeling of CrossRoads staffer Mike Ricker, who helped start the breakfast through his nonprofit ministry, Prodigal’s Home.
of a Mexican restaurant that sold burritos to him at a discount. When the crowds swelled to more than 200 people and outgrew the lot, CrossRoads offered to host them on Saturdays. Early on the Rickers met Smoky Brazelton, a homeless man who helped them set up each week. One morning he arrived with his head bleeding severely from a fight, so the couple rushed him to a hospital for treatment and put him up in a motel while he recovered. At the time, Mr. Brazelton had spent 40 years addicted to drugs, haunted by memories of parental abuse.
Newfound faith “I was raised a Baptist but had left the church,” Mr. Brazelton said. “Mike let me ask questions, gave me honest answers and quietly helped me see that maybe it was time I came to Christ. Then because of my newfound faith, I was no longer comfortable with the way I was living and decided I needed to straighten my life out.” After relapses and several stays in rehab, he has kept “clean and sober” for 16 months and now works fulltime for Prodigal’s Home. “I still have issues with the church,” he said, “and because of the way my father was, I’m just now learning to be able to say ‘Our Father’ and not get all weirded out. I still can’t pray with people and have them touch me. But with God’s help I’ll get through all this.” Mr. Brazelton went to the first public hearings over the breakfasts, but stopped going when the debate took a personal toll. “It upset me so much,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want us there, and they’re willing to do anything they can to drive us out. I would hate to see that happen, but now I’m trying to leave it all in God’s hands.” Some point to dangers that could outweigh the good of the mission. CrossRoads houses a preschool,
'The whole purpose of being a Christian is to serve others.' —Mary Jo West Mr. Ricker became a Christian in his 30s but recalls an “angry period . . . when I didn’t see a lot of us living out our potential to help people in the world. When Jesus said, ‘Take care of the widows and the orphans,’ I don’t think he was trying to make a big theological statement. He meant just what he said, and we weren’t doing it.” So in 2006 Mr. Ricker and his wife, Kim, founded Prodigal’s Home, which distributes meals to the poor and homeless three days a week. He started the breakfast on Sundays at a city park, then moved it to the parking lot
managed separately from the church. In the district court decision, Mr. Corcoran said that children at the school had often encountered transients in halls and bathrooms at the school. Last summer police reported that a homeless man was found camping in an alley behind one home, keeping child pornography in an electrical box. Police were later called when two men attending the breakfast got into a fight, and one stabbed the other in the thigh with an icepick. The injured man was treated and released from a hospital. Whether the homeless remain
A PR I L 2 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R
Breakfasts for the homeless at CrossRoads UMC in Phoenix, Ariz., include a worship service and sermon.
after the breakfast or come into the neighborhood on other days, Mr. Corcoran determined they pose a risk to security. He cited a 2008 estimate by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: 26 percent of homeless persons have severe mental illnesses, while 37 percent are chronic substance abusers. “People have been fearful, confronted with situations you wouldn’t normally see here,” said Scott Crozier, a retired attorney who lives near the church. “It causes them to do things differently and not let their children out as they might have done before.” Ms. Escobedo-Frank responded to concerns at the school, installing additional locks, cameras and doorbells at all entrances. She moved the church office out of the preschool wing, so homeless people who visit her won’t be near the school. CrossRoads has also begun counting how many people come and go on the bus on Saturdays, though the pastor said no one is forced out of the neighborhood. “The church has gone way above and beyond to provide safety for the preschool,” she said. “The school staff has basically told us, ‘We’ve never felt safer than now. We’ve done things we should have done 10 years ago.’” Debbie Prenovost, director of the preschool, declined to comment for this article. Mary Jo West, a former television anchorwoman whose father died homeless in 1982, lived in a condominium across the street from CrossRoads for several months last year. She supports the breakfasts, and serves as an advisor to the church in dealing with local media coverage. Ms. West has visited during the breakfasts, donated clothes to the guests and spent time with them. “I’ve felt comfortable with the homeless
and I’ve never felt afraid,” she said. “The whole purpose of being a Christian is to serve others,” Ms. West added, “and it’s just a smack in the face to those of us who want to serve, to be told we can’t. . . . I’m praying that this can be resolved.” More congregations than ever are prevailing in religious land use cases, according to Lori Windham, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The nonprofit law firm based in Washington, D.C., represents clients in all religious traditions,
though is not involved in the Phoenix case. “Serving meals to people in need is certainly a religious exercise, and you can’t treat religious exercises unfairly,” said Ms. Windham. So if you’ve got a situation where people would be allowed to hold a big picnic and give out food to their neighbors, then a church should be able to hold a meal for the homeless on those same grounds.” email@example.com
Published on Mar 29, 2010
Published on Mar 29, 2010
The long-coming second edition of The Michigan Area Reporter is now out — and it is coupled with the latest issue of the national United Met...