Issuu on Google+

Two Sections

Changing Lives

Detroit Annual Conference Review

Section A

New free store wastes no time transitioning from a vision to a community ministry | 8A

Young woman puts a face and testimony to immigration and poverty | 4A UMC chaplain talks about providing aid to Southern states | 5A

079000

WORLD=CHaNGed Stories of Michigan Area ministry from Change the World weekend

A

group of young kids pulling up weeds outside of the VINA dental clinic at Brighton First United Methodist Church captured the spirit of the May 14–15 weekend in a candid response. resonated with the people that attend here and there were opportunities of all sizes and commitment and skill levels so everybody could find a spot.” She said the responses from people on the receiving end of the generosity were warm, but surprised. “For example, like at the Laundromat, several people said, ‘What do I have to do get this?’ and it’s like, ‘Well, you don’t have

June 3, 2011

CLERGY’S O R When two roads N diverge in the E Michigan Area R Rev. Laurie Haller Grand Rapids District Superintendent

By RJ Walters, Editor

“Somebody pulled into the parking lot Saturday to go to another mission trip and they were like, ‘What are you guys doing today?’” said Suzy Hutchison, Brighton First Christian education director. “And (the kids) yelled out, ‘We’re changing the world!’” Change the World weekend—a denominational initiative that urges people to make a difference in their communities—took on many shapes and forms in the Michigan Area as dozens of congregations put smiles on faces, clean clothes on those in need and money toward a variety of projects. At Brighton First the project was 10fold, as in 10 different projects around the community and region. More than 160 people, many wearing Change the World t-shirts, teamed up to do everything from serve at Cass Community Social Services in Detroit to planting flowers at a local nursing home to handing out free coins at a local Laundromat. “I think part of the culture of this church is to be missional and to be reaching out into the community,” Hutchison said, noting the response was so great that the church is going to consider hosting similar events more than once a year. “I think it’s a concept that

Vol. 158 No. 5

to do anything,’” she said. “It’s like this very difficult to explain concept, that we’re not doing it with any great motivation except to make a difference in your day.” Brighton First capped the evening with a multi-genre concert at their church that raised more than $500 for a mission team that is headed to Haiti in See Michigan Area. . . on page 2A

PHOTO COURTESY OF SUZY HUTCHISON

Brighton FUMC handed out quarters for laundry at a nearby Laundromat as one of a bevy of missions it participated in.

Interstate 96 from Grand Rapids to Muskegon is my good friend. I could probably drive this stretch with my eyes closed. I have the billboards memorized and know where the police hang out, deer cross the highway, traffic back-ups happen, slippery patches form, and whiteouts occur. I even know exactly how many minutes I need to allow for the trip during rush hour and on Sunday morning, when the highway is deserted. I knew only one way to get from Grand Rapids to Marne, which is halfway to Muskegon—that’s I-96. However, I’ve discovered a road less traveled from Marne to Muskegon that has made all the difference. It was a gorgeous spring day on the 26-mile Musketawa Recreation Trail. As a friend and I rode our bicycles from Marne to Muskegon and back, wild turkeys, deer, and ground hogs scurried out of the way. Cardinals, bluebirds, and robins sang God’s praises. Chokecherry trees were in full bloom, and thousands of white trillium and yellow cowslips graced this old railroad bed. Approaching the Lake Michigan shoreline, the soil became quite sandy, and I was amazed to see hundreds of prickly pear cactus dotting the landscape. Cactus in Michigan? God is full of surprises! Two roads diverged from Marne, one the fast track by car, the landscape a blur. And the other? “Perhaps having the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear,” as Robert Frost put it in his poem The Road Not Taken. The Musketawa trail weaves quiet and untouched through the heart of West Michigan: farms, woods, wetlands, and small towns; apple orchards and blueberry patches; horses, sheep, and grazing cattle. The wind at my back, the colors of spring brilliant against the backdrop of blue sky and wispy clouds, the peace of God’s created world. I am fully alive as “way leads on to way.” As I think about the West Michigan Conference, I wonder, is there a road less traveled that will make all the difference? Is there another way to do ministry that will revitalize our denomination and transform our world? After all, the Musketawa Trail didn’t start out as a bike trail. It began as the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad — the first train arriving in Muskegon in 1886. More than 100 years later, in 1989, freight and passenger rail service was discontinued between Marne and Muskegon because it was no longer profitable. Tracks were removed, and the first mile of a new bike trail was paved in 1997. I thank God for local visionaries who not only reinvented the Marne-Muskegon railroad bed as a beautiful recreation See Two roads diverge. . . on page 2A


2A

JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

Michigan Area ministry changes the world

Two roads diverge in Michigan area

Continued from front page August. In Roscommon, members of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church of the North made their mark as cookie capers on May 14. Nine teams of drivers and passengers delivered trays of cookies that had been baked or bought to local businesses such as gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants. “We packaged them and had little cards made that said, ‘All you need is love…really,’ and then on the back side there was some information about the church and our appreciation for them,” said the Rev. Eric Kieb. He said he wanted to host an event that was inclusive and people felt like they could be a part of without being a ”theologian or Bible scholar.” “I said all you have to do is go in and say, ‘Hey, we’re from Good Shepherd United Methodist Church and we want to let you know we love our community and we’re so appreciative of what you do in our community by being open and serving us, here’s some cookies.’“ Big Rapids First United Methodist church focused on the lower part of the food chain that weekend, working to get its Hope Garden community garden ready for the 2011 season. The garden sits on roughly one acre of land less than five minutes from the church and in its second season last year it produced 9,700 pounds of produce that was distributed to seven local food banks. “We have kind of a plan to get this garden in (for this season) and that weekend it just so happens it was spreading the manure,” the Rev. Dean Prentiss said. “We needed to get the soil just right and we have a farmer who donates the manure and a couple who donates a special type of fertilizer that is good for the plants.” He said the concept of the garden stemmed from a church Bible study that focused on the book of Matthew several years ago and local farmers and gardeners jumped on board to get the project started. Roughly 10 people helped out on Change the World weekend, but there are nearly 20 people who regularly cultivate the garden. Prentiss said community members from outside of the church are encouraged to be a part of the process and the goal is for everyone in the surrounding area to take ownership. “It’s amazing, but you can really get a lot closer to people when you’re digging up a row (of dirt) for carrots than just seeing them at church once in a while,” he said. “It’s been great for our community and shown that planting

Continued from front page trail but dreamed of a statewide network of rail-trails, which is coming to fruition. In the same way, I thank God for United Methodist visionaries who have the holy boldness to revive our denomination by reinventing local churches to become more effective in disciplemaking, reaching out, and transforming our world. Just as the railroad was replaced by a trail that better serves the public, so we are called to rethink the ministries of our local churches in order to reach the un-churched and dechurched with the gospel of hope and peace. The Michigan Area doesn’t the look the same as it did 40 years ago. Our world has changed dramatically, but worshipping in some of our churches on Sunday morning, I can easily imagine myself back in 1971. No wonder many of our churches are dying a slow death. The fact that so many churches are hanging on by a thread actually offers hope for the future, for United Methodists are a determined lot. We don’t give up easily. Nor do we change, grow, and evolve easily. Unfortunately, our doggedness can mask an inability to envision and execute a different reality.

Youth pull up weeds outside the VINA dental Clinic at Brighton FUMC on Change the World weekend. PHOTO COURTESY OF SUZY HUTCHISON

PHOTO COURTESY OF CINDY EDWARDS

Members of Good Shepherd UMC of the North made, bought and took cookies to all of the businesses in the Roscommon area.

seeds in fertile soil can go a long ways.” Other highlights from around the Michigan Area on Change the World weekend: ! Central United Methodist Church in Muskegon partnered with the Nelson Neighborhood Association to clean up neighborhood parks and streets before enjoying a hotdog roast together. ! Alden Community United Methodist Church joined forces with the Torch Area Artisan Guild to collect baby supplies for the local Moms and Tots program. They offered a friendly amendment to the title of the denominational initiative: “Change the World One Family at a Time.” ! The First United Methodist Church of Saline collected gently used children’s story/picture books to help start new libraries at two United Methodist primary schools in Zimbabwe. ! Big Beaver United Methodist Church in Troy organized multiple outreach opportunities. They included clean up in downtown Detroit, painting and weeding at Mariners Inn in Detroit, building a playscape, CROP Walk participation, the assembly of health kits for Japan and more. To see what the denomination was doing around the nation on Change the World weekend head to www.rethinkchurch.org.

As fellow pilgrims we cannot travel both roads, clinging to outmoded structures and methods at the same time we are forging a new way. Will the West Michigan Conference be willing to approve a major restructure in order to become more agile, alert, and adept at connecting with a new generation of potential United Methodists? Will we eagerly enter the legislative process of General Conference and annual conference petitions, convinced that holy conversation never divides but engages the very best of our United Methodist heritage of open inquiry, welcoming differences, and learning from each other? Can we covenant to leverage the power of the United Methodist connection by gathering together on Miracle Saturday to share resources, cooperate, and partner in ministry? I’ve driven I-96 between Marne and Muskegon hundreds of times. But it’s the Musketawa Trail, the road less traveled, that is transforming my life and ministry. Could this also be our United Methodist story in years to come? Two roads diverged in the Michigan Area in 2011, we took the one less traveled, determined never to go back, and it has made all the difference. And are we yet alive?

QUICKHITS Mission opportunities at God’s Country Cooperative Parish God’s Country Cooperative Parish in the Upper Peninsula is looking for one or two mission teams of 5–20 volunteers to help repair homes in Paradise, Mich. the weeks of June 19–25 and July 10–16. The Parish is seeking people who want to share God’s love with their feet and hands while enjoying the natural beauty of Whitefish Bay. The cost is $153.50 per person for the week and an additional $30 per person to stay in the local church for the week. Those interested in the project should contact Katie Peterson at ktpete@gmail.com or 906-492-3680. Conference Merit Scholarships available Do you know United Methodist students attending or planning to attend Albion or Adrian colleges? If so, refer them to the 2011 Conference Merit Scholarships available to all United Methodist students attending United Methodist related schools. Merit-based scholarships are available utilizing funds from the annual Student Day offering and applicants are required to fill out several forms, write a short personal statement and include a high school transcript. To download materials log onto the West Michigan Conference website at www.westmichiganconference.org and type in “Merit Scholarship” in the search bar. The deadline for submission of this application is June 25, 2011.

Knitting Ministry celebrates 10 years of spreading love More than 650 people in the Tri-Cities region of the state have been blessed over the course of the last decade through the loving creation and distribution of afghans, prayer shawls and scarves from a committed group of women at the United Methodist Church of the Dunes. The Grand Haven church started a leisurely “craft circle” 10 years ago and has seen it expand into a full-blown ministry for people experiencing life-changing illnesses, death and unforeseen circumstances. “What makes the prayer shawls is not the pattern or yarn that goes into them but, rather, the prayers and love that are shared,” said Mary Kay Alguire, Knitting Ministry co-founder. The group also makes pillows, hat, slippers and more and during their knitting sessions they take time to worship, share stories and provide gratitude to each other. Each gift is blessed with a prayer and a signed card is included. Recipients are selected from the church prayer list, suggestions from pastor the Rev. Dan Duncan and through special requests. “We do this because we are faithful followers, letting God work through us,” said Knitting Ministry member Helen Beers. “Again and again, we hear about the comfort the prayer shawls, afghans and other items are providing to those who receive them and it is these stories that help strengthen our faith.” Anyone interested in receiving further information about the Knitting Ministry at UMC-Dunes’ should contact Beers at the church at 616-842-7980.


JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

3A

Finding a better way to engage the mission of our churches I knew there had to be better way. Spending hours holding a belt sander to remove old stain and rough edges on a deck just didn’t seem like an option. A trip to the local BENTON HEISLER tool rental store yielded a WEST MICHIGAN walk-behind orbital sander. CONFERENCE DIRECTOR OF Two hours later all 1,200 CONNECTIONAL square feet looked like new. MINISTRIES It was now ready for whatever color the new protective covering would be. A comprehensive study across The United Methodist Church has shown a need for extensive structural change—a suggestion of better way. Neil Alexander, president of the UM Pub-

lishing House, has commented on the conclusions of The Operational Assessment, which was done by the Connectional Table: “The research accurately asserts that best practices call for smaller boards, populated by people with applicable competencies, that meet frequently enough to perform well-defined governance functions.” The assessment also called for a “lessening of the perceived distance between the local church and the district, conference and general church.” From 1985–2010 the West Michigan Conference declined in membership by 27,500 persons and in worship attendance by 14,000 persons. The Detroit Conference statistics show a similar trend. This is in deep contrast to the growing national interest in faith and spirituality. Clearly we cannot continue the same ap-

proaches to ministry and expect to see incredibly different results to which God calls every one of us. We must find a better way! I believe we can develop a more prevalent culture of evangelistic invitation to match our missional culture. People today are attracted to both meaningful mission in action & authentic life-changing faith. The Vital Church Initiative (VCI) helps move congregations from positions of maintenance to targeted transformation. The VCI uses a model of collaborative learning by lay and clergy, coaching focused on accountability and the identification of clear strategic steps a congregation may choose to take. Continue to ask Jerome DeVine and I about this ministry. We soon discover that vitality in our congregations, when they are led by healthy and

Smart Rooms making WMC more efficient and connected By RJ Walters Editor When West Michigan Conference Ministry Consultant Naomi Garcia broke her leg earlier this year it took her off the road and out of the churches she had regularly been advising. But instead of waiting for it to heal or asking pastors and other church leaders to come to her, it was “virtually” a non-issue—as in one that could be electronically solved through the use of the Smart Room at the West Michigan Conference Center. Utilizing a large high-definition screen and high-end Internet camera, Garcia has been doing several consultations per week with technology that is up and running in the Kalamazoo and Lansing Districts and should eventually be opPHOTO COURTESY OF MARK DOYAL erating in the rest of the The Smart Room at the West Michigan Conference Center is one of three rooms in conference. the conference where people can connect through online meetings that include Utilizing Adobe’s Acrobat.com audio and visual components. virtual conference application, districts have special access keys that allow clergy and conference people better in a new way.” leaders to set up an online meeting space almost anywhere there Garcia said two churches who had never used the technology is an Internet connection. before were raving about it after meeting with her earlier in the Parties call in to an assigned conference line through their month. They said they actually “preferred the Smart Room cell phones for the voice service and they can connect visually meeting and saw it as a good way to connect more often without with the online application. having to talk for hours just because Garcia had made a long “When I think about the travel time it takes to get places and haul to visit. the difficulty of getting folks to me, it’s so much more convenGarcia said “actually seeing” people instead of just talking to ient for them and I have everything I need with me and I don’t them helps her be more perceptive about their needs. have to carry it anywhere,” said Garcia, who used to use the “It helps a lot…and I can see their cues a little better,” she Smart Room sparingly, but now does several appointments a said. “(In a recent) meeting I had we just had the conference call week via it. “If I just have my act together ahead of time I can with no webcam, but we were online for the notes I was taking, (electronically) send them any handouts or documents I’ll be and it was much harder for me to read the silence and kind of using and we’ll be all set.” figure out what was going on for them.” West Michigan Conference Director of Communications Doyal said using Smart Rooms along with other conference Mark Doyal said Smart Rooms can be a “huge cost savings for amenities like the Michigan Area Resource Center is vital in mileage the conference pays” and they are “helping us reach keeping “the connection alive” among congregations. The United Methodist Reporter (USPS 954-500) is published weekly by UMR Communications, 1221 Profit Drive, Dallas, TX 752473919. Periodicals Postage Paid at Dallas, Texas and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to The United Methodist Reporter, PO Box 660275, Dallas, TX 75266-0275.

vital lay and clergy leaders will contribute to: ! Holistic Generosity ! Leadership Competency ! Accountability with Support ! Deeper Spiritual Formation and Intentional Continuing Education ! Congregational Development ! New Church Start Training and Support. These are the stepping stones to a better way. Fruitfulness and Vitality are the words that inspire and guide me as I work with others to discover the best ways to equip and connect our ministries. Additional characteristics of vitality in a congregation include: ! Passion for mission and ministry ! Inviting and inspiring worship ! Disciples engaged in mission and outreach Continued on page 6

~Special Sunday Offering~

Peace with Justice Sunday—June 19 What is it? As one of six Special Sunday Offerings of the UMC, Peace with Justice Sunday enables The United Methodist Church to have a voice in advocating for peace and justice through a broad spectrum of global programs. The history: The 1988 General Conference established the offering for the Peace with Justice program created by the UMC in 1980. More than $800,000 has been raised for the program by special offerings the Justice For Our Neighbors last three years. Southeastern Michigan has The Detroit Con- received aid from the Peace with Justice offering in the past. ference has given the following amounts during that time span: $11,335 in 2008, $17,2589 in 2009 and $12,543 in 2010. The West Michigan Conference raised $11,798 through last year’s offering. How it helps: This offering allows The United Methodist Church to have a voice in advocating for peace and justice through a broad spectrum of global programs. For example: ! The Ohio-based Faith Communities Uniting for Peace encourages Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs “to live from a vision of peace rooted in faith.” ! In Liberia, in partnership with other religious and humanitarian groups, The United Methodist Church provides a place for former child soldiers to live, recreational activities to address war trauma, and basic necessities such as fresh drinking water and medical treatment. ! In Michigan some of the funds have been used to help fund the Justice for Our Neighbors—a free legal clinic for immigrants—as well as the conference’s Boards of Church and Society. How to give: Donate during the special offering time at your church on June 19 or send donations by mail to: GCFA, P.O. Box 340029, Nashville, TN 37203. To learn more: Check out www.umcgiving.org.


4A

JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

5A

“Here’s where we saw you Lord…” A review of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference Young woman puts a face and testimony to immigration and poverty at annual conference By RJ Walters Editor Just as the Word became flesh when God became man, the theme of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference became flesh when 19year-old Jasmine Franco told her story and the church responded joyfully. With Franco standing behind a podium adorned by a sign that read, “I was a STRANGER and you took ME in,” a video by United Methodist Communications detailed her story of being a stranger in desperate need that found life and an abundance of grace in the Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church. Franco is the American-born daughter of illegal immigrants from Guatemala who decided to bring their family to America in 1991 for more educational and work-related opportunities. Franco was part of fairly normal workingclass Ypsilanti family doing whatever was need to get by prior to November 2008, when immigration agents stormed into the family’s trailer. By January 2009, Franco’s mother was deported back to Guatemala and her father and sister voluntarily headed back to their homeland to be with her. Franco decided to stay behind. She was adamant about finishing her high school diploma at Huron High School, even though it meant working 5-11 p.m. for minimum wage every day after school and fighting hunger and exhaustion at times. Then her counselor at HHS, Stephannie Ruzicka, contacted the Education Project for Homeless Youth at the Washtenaw County ISD and along with school supplies and bus tokens, Franco found a saving grace—a relationship with the Rev. Melanie Carey, lead pastor at Ypsilanti FUMC. “I did not even know the church, I did not know the pastor at the church—she just found out about (my story) through an organ-

ization and she was really interested in immigration and she got a hold of me,” Franco said. “They welcomed me with open hearts.” Eventually Carey and her husband took Franco in as part of their family and the church fully embraced the young woman whose dedication and drive inspired them. With their prayerful support and financial backing she graduated from HHS in 2010 and she is currently in her third semester of college, studying to become a physician. Ypsilanti FUMC provided her with money to visit her family “who is still living in poverty” in 2009 and Franco has aspirations of bringing her sister Jennifer—also an American citizen—back to the states to live with her. Franco now lives with a pair of empty nesters who attend Ypsilanti FUMC and she works on the weekends, sending money to her parents whenever possible. (For the complete story of Franco’s journey go to www.annarbor.com and www.detroitconference.org and type in “Jasmine Franco” for a full-length news story and the United Methodist Communications video.) Franco said she shared her story at annual conference to “say thank you to the wonderful people of the church”, but also to give people a different perspective on the volatile issue of immigration. “I know not a lot of churches are open to the topic because it’s a very difficult subject, but I believe churches can help people…families are being separated every day and we’re sitting over here right now and I feel like if we all came together as churches we have the power to change that,” she said. Franco received a standing ovation from the crowd, as many people wiped away tears and stood in awe of Franco’s courage and strength. Later that day Carey took an impromptu

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY AFRICA.

19-year old Jasmine Franco of Ypsilanti FUMC embraces Bishop Minerva Carcaño (of the Desert Southwest Conference) after sharing her story of how her church came and rescued her from a difficult time in her life.

“Ziploc bag” offering to give to Franco. More than $2,500 was raised and when Franco—who had to leave conference to go to work Saturday afternoon—learned about the generosity via a text message from Carey, her heart was filled with gratitude. “I can’t express the feelings I felt when Melanie texted me saying that all of you had taken a special offering for me,” she said in a note that was read on Sunday. “I was shocked and I felt the love from my family.” She said she plans on visiting her family again soon thanks to the offering. Franco’s story was a perfect parallel to the preaching of Desert Southwest Conference

Bishop Minerva Carcaño, who proliferated on “opening ourselves to all means of grace, including the poor and hungry” in several reflections on immigration and ministry with the homeless. The nudging of people’s hearts at annual conference did not end with the offering to Franco. Twenty-five medicine kits were collected to send to Haiti, nearly $3,900 was collected for SPLASH—a youth initiative to provide fresh water to people in Liberia, gently-used children’s books were donated for schools in Zimbabwe and food and goods were collected for a food pantry in Adrian.

Signs of vitality from JFON and UMCOM

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY AFRICA.

Paul Perez, the regional coordinator for Justice For Our Neighbors of Southeastern Michigan delivered news of progress and hope for the UMC organization that provides free legal council for immigrants.

By RJ Walters Editor Instead of talking about the decline of the United Methodist Church, tangible evidence of growth and vitality were presented by United Methodist Communications and Justice For Our Neighbors at the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference. Jennifer Rodia, the Director of Brand Engagement for United Methodist Communications, said while “an exact number cannot be agreed upon, Americans are bombarded by roughly 3,000 messages per day” and more and more of them are distinctly United Methodist. The ongoing Rethink Church campaign launched 24 events, mobilized 20,000 volunteers and impacted more than 1 million lives in 2010.

The transformation is not just nationally, but also locally, Rodia stated. She said United Methodist Communications bought and placed specific radio and electronic advertising in metro areas throughout Michigan, highlighting Change the World—the denomination’s community outreach weekend on May 14–15. The results speak for themselves. “We are still five days out from the official results, but as of right now the state of Michigan had the fourth highest number of churches registered to participate, so thanks for taking on the challenge,” she said. Paul Perez, regional coordinator for Justice For Our Neighbors of Southeastern Michigan, spoke of similar progress being made by the organization that provides immigrants free legal

council around the state. Earlier this month JFON SEMI officially opened its third Detroit Conference clinic, at Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church. Perez also celebrated the positive impact of volunteer and communications coordinator intern Joseph Bradley—who he refers to as “Mr. Cambodia—and Ellie Levine, who JFON SEMI hired as its full-time attorney in June 2010. Prior to beginning her legal career Ellie performed volunteer services in the Northern Volta Region of Ghana and interned with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Social Justice Unit in Sydney, Australia. “The World is our parish and Michigan is our mission,” Perez said. “Ellie has served people from 32 different countries, just in Metro Detroit.”

UMC chaplain talks about providing aid to ravaged Southern states

Detroit Conference will retain its name after proposal is voted down

By RJ Walters, Editor When severe storms and tornadoes ripped through the Southern states and caused death and destruction in late April, the Rev. Tim Hastings was quick to provide aid. A United Methodist chapRev. Tim lain in Saginaw, Hastings venHastings tured to Hackleburg, Ala. as part of a national Spiritual Care Response Team that partners with the Red Cross to provide victims of disaster with resources and spiritual encouragement. Wading through the damage caused by an EF5 classified tornado (which included winds of up to 200 mph; only 56 tornadoes have been classified so destructive since 1950) Hastings listened to people’s stories and led them through the valley of the shadow of death. “It just was total devastation and we were calling people up and holding hands with those that had lost loved ones,” he said. “The first thing we would do is say, ‘Tell me your story,’ and for 45 minutes usually they just told and told and talked and talked about everything

By RJ Walters, Editor The Detroit Conference will continue to be called the Detroit Conference for the foreseeable future. Roughly two-thirds of voters at the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference voted down a resolution that would have changed the conference’s name to the Great Lakes Annual Conference. It was the second time in 20-plus years that a resolution to change the name was not concurred with. Both times Rev. Margaret “Peggy” Paige championed the effort. Prior to conference she said the time seemed ripe to pass the resolution because the conference offices have moved out of Detroit and two districts passed name changes earlier this year. Andrew Wayne of the Conference Leadership Team said before Friday’s vote that he understood the intent of the resolution, but he was fearful of what the outside reaction might be to dropping the name ‘Detroit’ from the conference’s title. “This has the real potential to make it into the secular media and it will go something like this: ‘As people abandon Detroit, so does the United Methodist Church,’” he said.

that happened and we were able to give them a little bit of an economic boost from the Red Cross as well; just to have the privilege of being with these people who had lost so much.” At the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference Hastings unexpectedly ran into someone with connections to Hackleburg. Someone came up to him and mentioned their church had sent a semi-truck full of goods to the Church of God Prophecy in the small town of roughly 1,500. “The only thing (still) existing of the Church of God of Prophecy is the front of the church and the steeple—the rest is gone,” Hastings said. “But they have tents set up and they are ministering to everybody else and it’s known in the faith community that they are reaching out and they were helping long before a lot of organizations got there.” Hastings said people who want to assist with relief efforts should donate funds through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (www.umcor.org) because “every dollar goes directly to the cause” or people can get involved as “spontaneous volunteers” through the Red Cross.

To check out videos, pictures and more details of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference go online to: www.detroitconference.org/annualconference.

The Rev. Charles Boyaue of Second Grace United Methodist Church in Detroit agreed the resolution was well intentioned, but passing it at this time would do more harm than good. “We could name the conference the ‘Pluto Conference’ and it’s not going to help us make disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said. Paige said Detroit is a vital city for the conference, but so are many others. “I’ve been in the conference for 35 years and when I go to national meetings people see the ‘Detroit Conference,’ and say, ‘Oh, you live in Detroit?’” she said prior to conference. “No, I’ve never lived in Detroit, we’re much bigger than that as a conference so I think as we try to attract new pastors, including younger ones, it’s helpful to say no, it’s not just Detroit.” Conference Treasurer Anna Morford estimated the cost of a name change prior to the vote. “I do not have any sort of lists of how much it would costs…but one suggestion I’ve heard is it might be in the range of $15,000, but I have not tested it.”

Cass Community Social Services leader unveils candid truths about engaging in ministry with the poor By RJ Walters Editor “Poverty is the problem, it’s not like you’ve got to figure out how to fix the poor person.” In no uncertain terms the Rev. Faith Fowler of Cass Community United Methodist Church and Cass Community Social Services challenged attendees of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference to drop their pigeonholed concepts of why people are poor and to start figuring out how to “change their odds and change their circumstances.” Seventeen years as the executive director of one of the state’s largest charities has provided her with a shrewd sense of what works and what is fruitless in trying to make a difference in the lives of the needy and homeless. At annual conference Fowler’s messages unwrapped some of the key points behind why “poor people get a lot of attention in the Bible and the non-poor people get a lot of attention in the church.” Fowler’s “Three likely reasons the church is not full of poor people...” 1. “Poor people aren’t always the easiest to get along with.” Fowler mentioned that a lot of the generalizations about the homeless include them making poor choices or being lazy or abusing substances might be true, but everyone makes poor choices, so they are not that different from any other class of society. 2. “Maybe, sometimes we avoid poor people because we realize if circumstances were slightly different we might be them. If we had been born to different parents or lost a job or had a terrible medical condition…some of us are only a few missed paychecks away from where they are.”

3. “We really don’t know how to get a handle on poverty. It’s complex and complicated and sometimes it takes more mental horsepower than I have.” Fowler also gave insight to basic strategies that can be effective when considering ministry with the poor. Things people should do when ministering to and with the poor • Consult with people who have worked in specific settings to better understand the ramifications of decisions that are made in trying to assist them. She illustrated the point with this example: “A man came in (to Cass) before Christmas last year with some things to donate and he had met one of the homeless children on the steps, so he wanted to donate, in addition to what he had already brought to the giveaway, a bike to this particular boy. We’ve got a problem I said. He lives in a room with 30 other children who won’t be getting a bike and there’s no bike rack or lock or helmet and I could go on and on. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone who is there working about the pitfalls or how others might receive certain treatment.” • People should also take into account cultural differences and do their best to stay away from dangerous situations Things people should not do when ministering to and with the poor • “Don’t wait until you’ve figured everything out about poverty or else you’ll never do anything.” Fowler said making mistakes is par for the course and provides some of the best lessons for future consideration. • “Don’t think you should be stymied or put on hold because of a meager budget, just start small.” Fowler showed a lot of zeal when speaking about how com-

mitted United Methodist Church members who have taken the vow of membership for the denomination the church need to refocus more of their efforts on the church’s home bases. She said almost every organization that serves people in need around the country and in the state are full of good, “but so are the things are church is connected with and they need your help.” She noted there are UMC mission projects everywhere from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit and there are organizations like Children’s Village, Cass and more. “It doesn’t make any sense to always be on the road. In fact, it’s a bit obscene to always be on the road when your neighbors are hurting.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY AFRICA

The Rev. Faith Fowler shared many of her experiences of working hand in hand with the poor at Cass Community Social Services in Detroit.


4A

JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

5A

“Here’s where we saw you Lord…” A review of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference Young woman puts a face and testimony to immigration and poverty at annual conference By RJ Walters Editor Just as the Word became flesh when God became man, the theme of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference became flesh when 19year-old Jasmine Franco told her story and the church responded joyfully. With Franco standing behind a podium adorned by a sign that read, “I was a STRANGER and you took ME in,” a video by United Methodist Communications detailed her story of being a stranger in desperate need that found life and an abundance of grace in the Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church. Franco is the American-born daughter of illegal immigrants from Guatemala who decided to bring their family to America in 1991 for more educational and work-related opportunities. Franco was part of fairly normal workingclass Ypsilanti family doing whatever was need to get by prior to November 2008, when immigration agents stormed into the family’s trailer. By January 2009, Franco’s mother was deported back to Guatemala and her father and sister voluntarily headed back to their homeland to be with her. Franco decided to stay behind. She was adamant about finishing her high school diploma at Huron High School, even though it meant working 5-11 p.m. for minimum wage every day after school and fighting hunger and exhaustion at times. Then her counselor at HHS, Stephannie Ruzicka, contacted the Education Project for Homeless Youth at the Washtenaw County ISD and along with school supplies and bus tokens, Franco found a saving grace—a relationship with the Rev. Melanie Carey, lead pastor at Ypsilanti FUMC. “I did not even know the church, I did not know the pastor at the church—she just found out about (my story) through an organ-

ization and she was really interested in immigration and she got a hold of me,” Franco said. “They welcomed me with open hearts.” Eventually Carey and her husband took Franco in as part of their family and the church fully embraced the young woman whose dedication and drive inspired them. With their prayerful support and financial backing she graduated from HHS in 2010 and she is currently in her third semester of college, studying to become a physician. Ypsilanti FUMC provided her with money to visit her family “who is still living in poverty” in 2009 and Franco has aspirations of bringing her sister Jennifer—also an American citizen—back to the states to live with her. Franco now lives with a pair of empty nesters who attend Ypsilanti FUMC and she works on the weekends, sending money to her parents whenever possible. (For the complete story of Franco’s journey go to www.annarbor.com and www.detroitconference.org and type in “Jasmine Franco” for a full-length news story and the United Methodist Communications video.) Franco said she shared her story at annual conference to “say thank you to the wonderful people of the church”, but also to give people a different perspective on the volatile issue of immigration. “I know not a lot of churches are open to the topic because it’s a very difficult subject, but I believe churches can help people…families are being separated every day and we’re sitting over here right now and I feel like if we all came together as churches we have the power to change that,” she said. Franco received a standing ovation from the crowd, as many people wiped away tears and stood in awe of Franco’s courage and strength. Later that day Carey took an impromptu

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY AFRICA.

19-year old Jasmine Franco of Ypsilanti FUMC embraces Bishop Minerva Carcaño (of the Desert Southwest Conference) after sharing her story of how her church came and rescued her from a difficult time in her life.

“Ziploc bag” offering to give to Franco. More than $2,500 was raised and when Franco—who had to leave conference to go to work Saturday afternoon—learned about the generosity via a text message from Carey, her heart was filled with gratitude. “I can’t express the feelings I felt when Melanie texted me saying that all of you had taken a special offering for me,” she said in a note that was read on Sunday. “I was shocked and I felt the love from my family.” She said she plans on visiting her family again soon thanks to the offering. Franco’s story was a perfect parallel to the preaching of Desert Southwest Conference

Bishop Minerva Carcaño, who proliferated on “opening ourselves to all means of grace, including the poor and hungry” in several reflections on immigration and ministry with the homeless. The nudging of people’s hearts at annual conference did not end with the offering to Franco. Twenty-five medicine kits were collected to send to Haiti, nearly $3,900 was collected for SPLASH—a youth initiative to provide fresh water to people in Liberia, gently-used children’s books were donated for schools in Zimbabwe and food and goods were collected for a food pantry in Adrian.

Signs of vitality from JFON and UMCOM

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY AFRICA.

Paul Perez, the regional coordinator for Justice For Our Neighbors of Southeastern Michigan delivered news of progress and hope for the UMC organization that provides free legal council for immigrants.

By RJ Walters Editor Instead of talking about the decline of the United Methodist Church, tangible evidence of growth and vitality were presented by United Methodist Communications and Justice For Our Neighbors at the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference. Jennifer Rodia, the Director of Brand Engagement for United Methodist Communications, said while “an exact number cannot be agreed upon, Americans are bombarded by roughly 3,000 messages per day” and more and more of them are distinctly United Methodist. The ongoing Rethink Church campaign launched 24 events, mobilized 20,000 volunteers and impacted more than 1 million lives in 2010.

The transformation is not just nationally, but also locally, Rodia stated. She said United Methodist Communications bought and placed specific radio and electronic advertising in metro areas throughout Michigan, highlighting Change the World—the denomination’s community outreach weekend on May 14–15. The results speak for themselves. “We are still five days out from the official results, but as of right now the state of Michigan had the fourth highest number of churches registered to participate, so thanks for taking on the challenge,” she said. Paul Perez, regional coordinator for Justice For Our Neighbors of Southeastern Michigan, spoke of similar progress being made by the organization that provides immigrants free legal

council around the state. Earlier this month JFON SEMI officially opened its third Detroit Conference clinic, at Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church. Perez also celebrated the positive impact of volunteer and communications coordinator intern Joseph Bradley—who he refers to as “Mr. Cambodia—and Ellie Levine, who JFON SEMI hired as its full-time attorney in June 2010. Prior to beginning her legal career Ellie performed volunteer services in the Northern Volta Region of Ghana and interned with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Social Justice Unit in Sydney, Australia. “The World is our parish and Michigan is our mission,” Perez said. “Ellie has served people from 32 different countries, just in Metro Detroit.”

UMC chaplain talks about providing aid to ravaged Southern states

Detroit Conference will retain its name after proposal is voted down

By RJ Walters, Editor When severe storms and tornadoes ripped through the Southern states and caused death and destruction in late April, the Rev. Tim Hastings was quick to provide aid. A United Methodist chapRev. Tim lain in Saginaw, Hastings venHastings tured to Hackleburg, Ala. as part of a national Spiritual Care Response Team that partners with the Red Cross to provide victims of disaster with resources and spiritual encouragement. Wading through the damage caused by an EF5 classified tornado (which included winds of up to 200 mph; only 56 tornadoes have been classified so destructive since 1950) Hastings listened to people’s stories and led them through the valley of the shadow of death. “It just was total devastation and we were calling people up and holding hands with those that had lost loved ones,” he said. “The first thing we would do is say, ‘Tell me your story,’ and for 45 minutes usually they just told and told and talked and talked about everything

By RJ Walters, Editor The Detroit Conference will continue to be called the Detroit Conference for the foreseeable future. Roughly two-thirds of voters at the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference voted down a resolution that would have changed the conference’s name to the Great Lakes Annual Conference. It was the second time in 20-plus years that a resolution to change the name was not concurred with. Both times Rev. Margaret “Peggy” Paige championed the effort. Prior to conference she said the time seemed ripe to pass the resolution because the conference offices have moved out of Detroit and two districts passed name changes earlier this year. Andrew Wayne of the Conference Leadership Team said before Friday’s vote that he understood the intent of the resolution, but he was fearful of what the outside reaction might be to dropping the name ‘Detroit’ from the conference’s title. “This has the real potential to make it into the secular media and it will go something like this: ‘As people abandon Detroit, so does the United Methodist Church,’” he said.

that happened and we were able to give them a little bit of an economic boost from the Red Cross as well; just to have the privilege of being with these people who had lost so much.” At the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference Hastings unexpectedly ran into someone with connections to Hackleburg. Someone came up to him and mentioned their church had sent a semi-truck full of goods to the Church of God Prophecy in the small town of roughly 1,500. “The only thing (still) existing of the Church of God of Prophecy is the front of the church and the steeple—the rest is gone,” Hastings said. “But they have tents set up and they are ministering to everybody else and it’s known in the faith community that they are reaching out and they were helping long before a lot of organizations got there.” Hastings said people who want to assist with relief efforts should donate funds through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (www.umcor.org) because “every dollar goes directly to the cause” or people can get involved as “spontaneous volunteers” through the Red Cross.

To check out videos, pictures and more details of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference go online to: www.detroitconference.org/annualconference.

The Rev. Charles Boyaue of Second Grace United Methodist Church in Detroit agreed the resolution was well intentioned, but passing it at this time would do more harm than good. “We could name the conference the ‘Pluto Conference’ and it’s not going to help us make disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said. Paige said Detroit is a vital city for the conference, but so are many others. “I’ve been in the conference for 35 years and when I go to national meetings people see the ‘Detroit Conference,’ and say, ‘Oh, you live in Detroit?’” she said prior to conference. “No, I’ve never lived in Detroit, we’re much bigger than that as a conference so I think as we try to attract new pastors, including younger ones, it’s helpful to say no, it’s not just Detroit.” Conference Treasurer Anna Morford estimated the cost of a name change prior to the vote. “I do not have any sort of lists of how much it would costs…but one suggestion I’ve heard is it might be in the range of $15,000, but I have not tested it.”

Cass Community Social Services leader unveils candid truths about engaging in ministry with the poor By RJ Walters Editor “Poverty is the problem, it’s not like you’ve got to figure out how to fix the poor person.” In no uncertain terms the Rev. Faith Fowler of Cass Community United Methodist Church and Cass Community Social Services challenged attendees of the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference to drop their pigeonholed concepts of why people are poor and to start figuring out how to “change their odds and change their circumstances.” Seventeen years as the executive director of one of the state’s largest charities has provided her with a shrewd sense of what works and what is fruitless in trying to make a difference in the lives of the needy and homeless. At annual conference Fowler’s messages unwrapped some of the key points behind why “poor people get a lot of attention in the Bible and the non-poor people get a lot of attention in the church.” Fowler’s “Three likely reasons the church is not full of poor people...” 1. “Poor people aren’t always the easiest to get along with.” Fowler mentioned that a lot of the generalizations about the homeless include them making poor choices or being lazy or abusing substances might be true, but everyone makes poor choices, so they are not that different from any other class of society. 2. “Maybe, sometimes we avoid poor people because we realize if circumstances were slightly different we might be them. If we had been born to different parents or lost a job or had a terrible medical condition…some of us are only a few missed paychecks away from where they are.”

3. “We really don’t know how to get a handle on poverty. It’s complex and complicated and sometimes it takes more mental horsepower than I have.” Fowler also gave insight to basic strategies that can be effective when considering ministry with the poor. Things people should do when ministering to and with the poor • Consult with people who have worked in specific settings to better understand the ramifications of decisions that are made in trying to assist them. She illustrated the point with this example: “A man came in (to Cass) before Christmas last year with some things to donate and he had met one of the homeless children on the steps, so he wanted to donate, in addition to what he had already brought to the giveaway, a bike to this particular boy. We’ve got a problem I said. He lives in a room with 30 other children who won’t be getting a bike and there’s no bike rack or lock or helmet and I could go on and on. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone who is there working about the pitfalls or how others might receive certain treatment.” • People should also take into account cultural differences and do their best to stay away from dangerous situations Things people should not do when ministering to and with the poor • “Don’t wait until you’ve figured everything out about poverty or else you’ll never do anything.” Fowler said making mistakes is par for the course and provides some of the best lessons for future consideration. • “Don’t think you should be stymied or put on hold because of a meager budget, just start small.” Fowler showed a lot of zeal when speaking about how com-

mitted United Methodist Church members who have taken the vow of membership for the denomination the church need to refocus more of their efforts on the church’s home bases. She said almost every organization that serves people in need around the country and in the state are full of good, “but so are the things are church is connected with and they need your help.” She noted there are UMC mission projects everywhere from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit and there are organizations like Children’s Village, Cass and more. “It doesn’t make any sense to always be on the road. In fact, it’s a bit obscene to always be on the road when your neighbors are hurting.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY AFRICA

The Rev. Faith Fowler shared many of her experiences of working hand in hand with the poor at Cass Community Social Services in Detroit.


6A

JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

Pastor who overcame the odds of a rough childhood honored with the Harry Denman Evangelism Award By RJ Walters Editor One committed United Methodist woman’s love for her young nephew more than 40 years ago made all the difference in his life and so many other lives that God has touched since then. At the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference that little boy she took in from a home of alcoholism and drug addiction was honored for his 43 years of bringing people to Christ, as the Rev. Harold “Hal” Phillips of Halsey and South Mundy UMCs was awarded the Harry Denman Evangelism Award. On the closing day of conference, the Foundation for Evangelism presented Philips with the 30th annual award that “celebrates and honors those who do outstanding works in evangelism.” ”Somebody sent me a ‘brief’ list of his accomplishments over the years,” a spokesman from the foundation said.“The ‘brief’ list from 1966-present is eight pages long typed, so I don’t think I’ll be able to do it.” Philips spent 17 years as a Free Methodist Church pastor and since 1993 he has served the United Methodist Church. The spokesman said “every church Hal has pastored has seen a growth in membership and attendance.” In between serving the two denominations he spent the late 1980s and early 90s as a traveling evangelist, visiting up to 50 camps and organizations per year. Since 2006 he has served the Halsey and South Mundy congregations and from 2006-10 he has received 71 total professions of faith. Considering his upbringing, Phillip’s tale is truly one of God’s grace and overcoming the odds. His father died of an overdose of alcohol and drugs when he was 2 years old and on his 13th birthday he decided to leave his mother—also an addict—after suffering through years of living in “dire poverty” where he often begged for food and rarely had new or clean clothes to wear. “I took my younger brother Eddie and I left my mother never to live with her again and I went to my grandmother’s where she kept my brother and I for five months,” he said.“And then an aunt, a Godly aunt—a member of the Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Flint—felt God call her to bring my brother and I to Michigan and raise us for the Lord.”

The Rev. Harold ‘Hal’ Phillips of the Halsey and South Mundy UMCs is honored with the Harry Denman Evangelism Award and a handshake from Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Africa.

Prior to moving in with his aunt he had only been in a church twice—for his grandfather’s funeral and in a Baptist congregation where the preacher fervently spoke about hell—but that quickly changed. In February of 1966 he knelt at an alter and committed his life to Jesus at Bethlehem UMC and two years later he devoted himself to the full-time ministry. “It has been the most wonderful experience I could be privileged, to teach the gospel and share the Good News with others,” he said. Phillips said his inspiring journey is not his own, as other family members have come to Christ as well. His brother Eddie has been in ministry for 35 years, his sister married a minister in Arkansas and has been involved in ministry for 38 years and his grandmother gave her life to Christ several weeks before she passed away. Phillips also helped lead his mother to faith when he was in college and he performed her funeral service with joy, believing she had gone to heaven. “I stand before you blessed beyond words and grateful to God for his grace in my life,” he said.

Perspectives on being ‘old fashioned’ During a recent presentation at a national conference, I was approached by a young adult who was interested in additional information about generosity trends among different generations. She provided me with a few DAVID S. BELL ways to deliver the informaVICE PRESIDENT OF tion to her, one of which was STEWARDSHIP OF THE UNITED METHODIST “old fashioned e-mail.” FOUNDATION For me, postal mail, often OF MICHIGAN termed “snail mail,” is bordering on old fashioned. She did not even mention this option. I spend hours each day communicating through e-mail to pastors and church leaders. While I know that younger generations consider e-mail passé, I was quite struck during this conversation with a young adult when she implied that e-mail was rather archaic. The conversation was so fitting for the moment—a workshop on differences in generational giving. I had talked about the various differences, but this brief post workshop conversation and my startled response were clear indicators to me that I, too, am from a different generation than Generation X or Y. A natural sense of discomfort exists between some generational practices. Thus, it is not surprising that the perspective of one generation may be viewed with an anxious, or perhaps even critical, eye by another generation. Do you notice some of these differences in your church? They may appear in conversations over worship, music, facility usage, communication, evangelism—in fact, just about any area of ministry. And, yes, giving! I admire those persons who can at least understand and maybe practice the trends of other generations. In the area of giving, younger generations have strong preference for electronic giving. We are experiencing a great transition from a cash society to a cash-less society. More and more financial transactions are being completed electronically. Electronic banking and purchasing are the vastly preferred methods for adults among the youngest of baby boomers and younger. It is only natural that their preferred method of giving is also electronic. Electronic fund transfer (EFT,) giving kiosks and online giving all meet the needs of these younger gen-

erations. Interestingly, as churches have launched these electronic methods of giving, another generation has been among the early adopters—the 62–70 year-olds. Why might these people sign-up? Answer: Social Security. Social Security payments are deposited electronically. These newly retired adults are learning to trust electronic banking more than those sandwiched between them and the younger generations. One common objection to electronic giving is the lack of involvement with the worshipful act of placing a gift in the offering plate and presenting it to God. I completely concur that giving is an act of worship. A logical solution might be to create a giving card that indicates a gift has been made through another means. A worshipper may place this reusable card in the offering plate. Several people may be able to place this card in the plate—not just those people signed-up for EFT. For instance, the monthly check writer or the annual stock transferee may also benefit from using this card as a means to participate in the offering. Here are some practical suggestions for material to be included on a giving card: 1. “I/We generously support the ministry of [name] Church. [OR] I/We practice the spiritual discipline of giving. [OR] I/We believe that all we have is a gift from God. We are called to give proportionately to God through this ministry. [OR] We practice tithing or are working toward tithing. [AND INCLUDE] Our financial gift for this ministry is given electronically [You could also include: “by a monthly check or another means”] 2. Include a scripture about giving 3. Include the basics, like church name, etc. For more information about electronic giving, I encourage you to visit www.GCFA.org. The General Council on Finance and Administration has partnered with Vanco Services to provide UMCs a very user-friendly and valuepriced method for all types of electronic giving. If you would like to have a post-article reading conversation with me about generations and generosity, feel free to use any “old fashioned” method of communication that you prefer. I’ll respond accordingly.

Finding a better way to engage the mission of our churches Continued from page 3 ! Gifted, equipped and empowered lay leadership ! Effective, equipped and inspired clergy leadership ! Outreaching small group ministries ! Strong children’s programs and youth ministry It has been identified that measurable goals and recognizable fruit are essential for the health of congregations, conferences, and our denomination. What we measure, receives our attention. Across the denomination, we desire to give attention to, and

therefore we seek to measure, the five following areas: ! Worship attendance ! Number of professions of faith ! Number of small groups ! Number of disciples doing outreach in the community and the world ! Money given to missions Vital Congregations also benefit from having an extensive knowledge of the communities they serve. Nearly half of West Michigan congregations have access to a free demographics tool (MissionInsite.com). The Confer-

ence is currently providing this resource through October of 2012. This easy-to-use tool can help churches identify potential ministry opportunities. It is available on the West Michigan Conference web site. The issue of poverty is far too common in our midst. The April 2011 edition of the AARP Magazine reported that Michigan was sixth in the nation in the percentage of persons receiving food stamps at 19.3 percent. Congregations are working on a better way: New in the past 12 months is a “Free Store” in Evart, done in partnership with Cornerstone UMC, a “Free Store” in Boyne City” and a “Free

Store” in Concord. These ministries are fruit from the seeds of hope planted by presenters at last year’s Annual Conference. You know what is the best part of a wellmaintained deck/a vital congregation? People! When the space is welcoming, the time for meaningful conversations is abundant, and the Spirit of God moves among us there are better ways. I pray the inspiration we have all received from our respective Annual Conference session will guide us into a fruitful year of witness, service and growth.


JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

7A

The World is our Parish, Michigan is our Mission “When, Lord, did we see you …?” For lay and clergy members that were present at our 2011 Detroit Annual Conference session, it would have been hard to remain unaware of the theme of annual conference. From the laity session on Thursday morning to the final holy conferencing on Sunday morning, we were stirred and invited to examine how to live out this gospel command from Matthew 25:37. “Where did it first truly impact or compel you to awaken to the call to reach into our communities to discover Christ in hands on ministry with others?” I have attended more than 30 annual conference sessions in three conferences thus far in my ministry. If I were to have journaled those experiences I likely would have reflected that following each session someone would suggest how we might have better used the time. Some prefer a shorter business meeting in the style of a governing board, making decisions on ministry direction. Others rejoice

more in the worship, sharing and reflection, the spiritual formation of the community of faith. Still others see it as an opportunity JERRY DEVINE to wrestle with the DETROIT CONFERENCE complex issues of DIRECTOR OF CONNECTIONAL faith and life, MINISTRIES largely through our legislative process. While sometimes difficult and tense, this is also a shaping of the body of Christ. At the end of the day, I still ask, what difference did it make that we gathered? How will the world be different and better because the people called United Methodist came together? And this year especially we asked, when and how did we see Christ in one another and in our work? I can only give witness to my own experience at Detroit Annual Conference—and so I will. I do not recall any other session I have been involved in where we focused so in-

tently on our responsibility and impact in the communities around our local churches. We do not exist so our communities can support us; rather we exist to bring the healing gift of God’s justice and grace into communities and lives of the people in them. When we do this, we not only offer Jesus Christ to others, we discover him in those places of relationship and hope. How then do the seemingly disparate components of annual conference come together? We heard Bishop Keaton paint a poignant picture of “Bethlehem Revisited”, which requires us then to address issues of social justice in Palestine/Israel. Yes, the church does need to have conversation around political issues, much to the chagrin of some of its members. Healing will not come to communities unless the gospel is both personal and social. We heard Bishop Carcano share stories of pain and hope of people seeking new life in a new land, only to be torn apart by an inadequate immigration policy. Once again we see the intersection

and tension between church theology and public policy. Then it was brought home to our conference as the Rev. Faith Fowler gave us “eyes to see” the gifts and needs of people all around us. However, simply preaching about grace and transformation and passing legislation will not meet the demands of Jesus expressed in Matthew 25. It is the practice of faith that is the full expression of our resolve to be transformed by annual conference. Perhaps this was most visible to many of us when we heard the powerful story of one among us, Jasmine Franco. When she spoke we were moved beyond rhetoric and debate, beyond sermon and hymn. Did you see Christ in her? I believe so. Did she see Christ in us? I believe so. The often-controversial issue of immigration was no longer an abstract politicized policy issue. It was an incarnational concern of the body of Christ gathered. Did it matter that we passed a budget that supports ministries like

JFON [Justice For Our Neighbors] that reach out to the strangers in our midst? Did it matter that we changed organizational structures that allow people to focus on ministries that impact local communities through both evangelism and justice issues? Did it matter that we took showcased multiple types of ministries, ministries that you and your local church make possible? Did it matter that we held legislative sections to give people time to wrestle with issues of justice and faith? Did it matter that we elected leaders, commissioned and/or licensed others, and ordained others to be in ministries across our connection? Did it matter that we took up offerings that will bring new possibilities of life? When, Lord, did we see you? I believe we saw you clearly at the 2011 Detroit Annual Conference. May others now see you in us as we live out the decisions that we made. May the world be our parish, and Michigan be our mission in the year ahead. So be it. Amen.

McClaren, Callahan to shepherd the School for Pastoral Ministry By RJ Walters Editor Summer break is just a few weeks away, but it’s already time for clergy to start talking about going back to school again—as in heading to the annual Michigan Area School for Pastoral Ministry. Michigan Area pastors (and their friends and colleagues of any denomination) will have an opportunity to learn, laugh and reflect on their ministries when renowned Christian leaders and authors Brian McLaren and Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan convene at the Kellogg Center at Michigan State University on Aug. 16–18. McLaren and Callahan will explore the theme “Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land” through an in-depth look at theology, best church practices and the realities of the 21st century church worldwide. McLaren was named one of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by Time Magazine in 2005 and his latest book Naked Spirituality offers new biblical models for how people understand the central ideas of a faith that provides hope for restoring and reinvigorating people and communities through the gospels. McLaren said he “absolutely loves” the theme of the School for Pastoral

Ministry and his teachings will lean heavily on work he’s done in his books Naked Spirituality, Finding Our Way Again and A New Kind of Christianity. “Although I haven’t firmed up plans for the talks yet, the theme stimulates my creativity in directions like these: Christian faith as song, Christian ministry as singing (and) today’s world as a strange land,” McLaren said in an e-mail during a recent trip to Europe. McLaren is often referred to as a leader of “emergent church” movement, which is attempting to reinvigorate Christianity in a “postmodern” world. He said the biggest problems the Methodist Church faces are not unique to the denomination: the issues of clarifying the church’s message and mission and recalibrating its methods appropriately in light of a rapidly changing spiritual landscape. “(John) Wesley’s example is downright inspiring for us at this moment — developing innovative parallel structures to promote spiritual formation, the dissemination of ‘methods’ via easily scalable networks, seeing ministry happen ‘in open air’ and not just in church buildings, and so on,” he said. “Some of the structures Wesley set up to solve problems in his day are now somewhat prob-

lematic…new problems and conditions have arisen as well.” “So I think we need to ask, not WDWD (what did Wesley do?), but WWWD (what would Wesley do?).” Dr. Callahan is a respected New Testament scholar, professor, preacher and a writer for Religion and Ethics Weekly. He is a featured scholar on the television documentaries From Jesus to Christ, The Roman Empire in the First Century, and Portrait of a Radical: The Jesus Movement , and is a commentator in two documentaries on contemporary politics and spirituality, A Crisis of Faith and State of the Union. He also authored The Talking Book: African Americans and the Bible, a text McLaren said has some “powerful conclusions” that he would have loved to have stumbled upon before writing his book A New Kind of Christianity. While the School for Pastoral Ministry is focused on providing a form of continuing education for pastors, it is also intentionally set in a natural setting conducive to renewal and restoration. School for Pastoral Ministry planners hope participants will find the walking trail, screened porches, babbling brook and outdoor patios superb for meaningful devotion and

Renowned author and speaker Brian McClaren will be one of two keynote speakers at the Michigan Area School for Pastoral Ministry at Michigan State University on Aug. 16–18.

collegial fellowship. To make a reservation online go to www.kelloggcenter.com, select “Accommodations”, and then select “Reservations”. Enter an arrival and departure date and select “click here for special rates”. “Enter MAS081511” into Group Code and then select “check availability.” Check out www.detroit conference.org for more information. 2011 Michigan Area School for Pastoral Ministry • Aug. 16–18 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing • Costs and registration information available at www.detroitconference.org


8A

JUNE 3, 2011

THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

Burning Questions with Bill How to stoke the fires of enthusiasm after a surge of personal inspirational By Bill Dobbs Clergy Assistant to the Bishop Question: This month’s question came from a younger pastor at Annual Conference who came up to me right after the ordination service, face still full of the emotion we all were feeling, and said, “What now? What do I do with all this passion and enthusiasm for ministry with the poor in my local church?”

BILL DOBBS

Dobbs: I recognize the question. It’s the same question I’ve heard from youth over the years when I was counseling at one of our summer camps. (Shameless plug: Christian camp counseling is an outstanding opportunity to share with, and learn from, children and youth, and I highly recommend it, pastors!) More than one teenager, full of a week of faith-changing time, has been disillusioned when they arrive home only to find that people at home don’t share their newfound enthusiasm for the faith. Even worse: they find a kind of patronizing tolerance which knows, from experience, that if you just wait a while, the “camp fires of enthusiasm” will pass and things will go back to normal! Will that be our experience of annual conference this year? Will we go home, full of enthusiasm for what we have heard and experienced, and find a congregation that does not share our passion for ministry with the poor? Will we find a congregation that has come to expect these annual surges of enthusiasm on our part, but which knows, from experience, that they only have to be patient for a time and the enthusiasm will pass. “How can this year be different?” the pastor asked. Please let me share, briefly, something of what I’ve learned over the years: First, do everything you can to help those who were not at annual conference share your experience. It is much easier today that it used to be, but the principle still holds true. Get together with your lay or clergy partner at annual conference and develop a strategy for reporting back on annual conference. Don’t let that report just be about the ‘business’ of conference, even if that was part of what excited you. Share the messages you heard and the things you saw. If your people were following the ‘live-stream’ of the conference, that will be even better, but there are recordings and videos of the conference which are available for you to use as a way to tell the story of annual conference. Just don’t wait too long. Your excitement will be contagious. Second, don’t get discouraged. Your people were not there. They didn’t have your experience, so they don’t share your excitement. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get excited or don’t care about the poor. They have been called by Christ, just like you. The Holy Spirit will change them just like you have been changed, if you keep the door open to God. Share the stories you heard and how they impacted you. Your personal witness is powerful testimony that God can use to reach others, so keep sharing. Finally, don’t try to do this alone. Partner with the other person or persons from your congregation who attended annual conference with you. Form a small group. Invite people with like minds and passions to join you. Become an “Acts Two” church within a church. Devote yourselves “to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper) and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NLT). And then hang on! God did “signs and wonders” in that first century church. People were changed—transformed by the Holy Spirit—so that they shared their money and meals, joyfully and generously, with those in need. And I’m here to tell you that God will do “signs and wonders” in your church as well! Thanks be to God! It all begins with you. You must be willing to share what God has given you in these few days of annual conference! Don’t go back to business as usual or that is, most assuredly, what you will find.

New free store wastes no time transitioning from a vision to a community ministry could be purchased for a drastically reduced By RJ Walters, Editor price. The new Blue Water Free Store in the Port A donation covered the costs, so Chapman Huron District may only have ‘X’ dollars to pay and some of his colleague’s moved on to finding rent in its first months, but it’s already changa storefront. ing ‘X’ number of lives. “We were looking for a place that we could Opened the first weekend in May, the Rev. rent and one of my parishioners from WashingRobert Chapman of Washington Ave. and Graton Avenue Church happened to be driving tiot Park UMCs said the store that is operated down Lapeer Road outside Port Huron and they by members of nine local United Methodist saw a small strip mall and outside it said, ‘Free Churches served more than 175 families in its Rent,’” he said. “So he called me and I said, ‘Well, first two weeks by providing clothing and basic I know it’s not free, but we’ll check it out.” necessities. It turned out the storeowner and his wife “I got a call the first week we opened from a were interested in helping the community out. lady who said, ‘I need a washer, do you have a Chapman said they could only offer the man washer?’ I told her we didn’t at that time but “roughly 20 percent” of what the location could that she should come in often,” Chapman said. probably rent for, but a few days before all of the “That afternoon I went into the free store to PHOTO REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION goods had to be carted away from the closed rework and a couple came in and said, ‘We have a FROM MARK R. RUMMEL OF THE PORT sale shop, he got a phone call: “You’ve got the washer.’” HURON TIMES HERALD building.” He said that story is par for the course early The Rev. Carol Floyd sorts After renting a 26-foot trailer to haul everyon in the life of the store as volunteers have through clothes before thing to Kimball and spending most of a week served a homeless veteran, disparaged and dis- organizing them on racks in placed people from broken families and young the new Blue Water Free Store getting the storefront ready, the store opened on that is being staffed by May 7. people just looking for a leg up during tough volunteers from nine United Now it’s just about getting a regular rotation times. Methodist churches. of volunteers set for the store’s Friday and Sat“We’re so busy with our everyday lives it’s urday business hours and pulling in more donations to fortify hard to open our eyes to see the need that’s out there, but there is the store’s financial footing. a need,” Chapman said. “The people that come in—it’s kind of “I liken it to Moses when he led the Israelites through the funny in some way because they are often more generous than wilderness. They got manna only one day at a time,” Chapman those that have things. We have people who come in needing said. “We have enough money for this months rent, donations things and will actually come in and offer things for trade.” have come in, some churches have taken collections, but we don’t The unselfishness is a recurring theme in the early developknow where next month’s rent is coming from.” ment of the store that is located at 4819 Lapeer Road just outside of Port Huron. Blue Water Free Store Much of the store’s inspiration came from Port Huron District 4819 Lapeer Rd., Kimball Superintendent the Rev. Joanne Bartelt, who attended the disHours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday and Saturday trict’s Bishop’s Day event which hosted the Rev. John Edgar of the To get involved or donate items, call the Rev. Robert United Methodist Free Store in Columbus, Ohio. Chapman at (810) 982-2049 or send a check to the Chapman said a woman approached Bartelt following Edgar’s Port Huron District office made out to the “Blue Water presentation, informing her that a resale shop in Dryden was United Methodist Free Store.” going out of business and all of the goods, racks and shelving

Adrian College Chaplain’s new book on social holiness in the Wesleyan tradition hits the shelves By RJ Walters, Editor In an era of 10-step guides and church management policies that seem to change as often as the Michigan weather, the Rev. Christopher P. Momany, chaplain at Adrian College, believes new movements of the United Methodist Church have a lot to gain from a little “old-school” Wesleyan theology His new book Doing Good: A Grace-Filled Approach to Holitness, released May 1 by Abingdon Press, is a short (80 pages) four-session teaching guide written to help shepherd individuals and small groups in their understanding of John Wesley’s approach to holiness. “We have holiness churches, holiness traditions, and often holiness is thought of as separation or being separate or set aside or of a pure realm,” he said. “I don’t deny that, but if you look at Jesus as the expression of God’s love, it’s radically participatory, so what I do is I argue for a holiness that is not removed and separate, but involved and affirming.” Momany said the book will focus on four key areas: an ex-

ploration of the Wesleyan approach to law and grace, a look at how people can match faith with action, tools for Christian educators to use in teaching important Wesleyan doctrine and strategies to express Christianity in ways that attract others to God and the life of the church. Momany is a strong proponent of getting people to understand their intrinsic worth in God’s kingdom and he said his book is designed to link the Wesleyan tradition of holy love to social justice. “If I were to come at college students with a lot of management theory and magic keys to growing the church and congregational tips for measuring success and failure and all that stuff, all the people I work with who are already burned out by Christianity would, would either roll their eyes or yawn,” Momany said. “But if I come out and say, ‘This guy Jesus is terrific and look at this ethic and this way of living love because of the way God lived love for us,’ we’re getting a lot of second looks.” The book is available for purchase through Cokesbury, as well as other online vendors such as Amazon.com. To order through Cokesbury, visit one of their 60 retail locations, call their customer service center at 800.672.1789, or visit www.cokesbury.com. There is also an e-book edition available for the Kindle, Nook and other e-readers.


umportal org On dying well

‘Upper Room Family’

Church bullies

A theologian’s perspective | 6B

Ministry unites readers worldwide | 6B

Why they shouldn’t be ignored | 7B

numbers

B Y F R E D KO E N I G Special Contributor

© 2011 DESIGN PICS

Will “dashboards,” online systems for tracking church attendance, membership and giving, help the United Methodist Church better navigate the road ahead?

United Methodists debate use of church ‘dashboards’ Staff Writer

At a meeting of the board of trustees at Emory University a few years ago, trustees pored over the college’s “dashboard”—a detailed view of 30 different numerical measures of the university’s vitality. For Bishop William H. Willimon (North Alabama), a member of the board, it was an epiphany: Why not track vitality in the same way in the United Methodist Church? By 2009, North Alabama had implemented an online Conference Dashboard. Every Monday, churches log in their numbers for attendance, baptisms, giving and other measures.

Pastors—and anyone else—can see how their numbers stack up against other churches. Now, Bishop Willimon logs in every Tuesday to see which churches reported the greatest increases—and which had the biggest drops. Dials and charts on the dashboard give a quick glimpse of how the numbers are trending. Bishop Willimon’s experiment may soon become standard practice at annual conferences across the U.S. Similar “dashboards” cropped up around the same time at a handful other annual conferences—including Florida and Illinois Great Rivers—and now the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) is rolling out

VitalSigns, a tool modeled after the North Alabama dashboard—and encouraging every annual conference to adopt it. Detractors say that dashboards are a mistake—a worldly tool that will turn pastors’ focus from ministry to “making the numbers.” But advocates assert that dashboards offer a desperately-needed tool, in the face of steep declines in the denomination’s membership, to create accountability for pastors, mobilize laity and boost congregational vitality. “We’re hoping to begin to change the culture that says ‘Numbers aren’t important,’” said Bishop John Schol (Baltimore-Washington), who’s work-

June 3, 2011

Methodists share in Joplin’s pain

by the

B Y M A RY J AC O B S

Section B

ing on the VitalSigns rollout. “Numbers are about souls.”

Always counting Take a look at the North Alabama Conference Dashboard, and you’ll see that it names names and publishes the numbers—good, bad and ugly—for all to see. For the week of May 22, for example, Canterbury UMC in Birmingham reported two baptisms, topping the list for year-to-date baptisms at 39, while First UMC in Huntsville topped the list of “churches with biggest loss in worship” with 228 in attendance. Keeping track of these numbers is nothing new for Methodists. John ! See ‘Dashboard’ page 3B

JOPLIN, Mo.—Within a few minutes of the May 22 tornado that ripped through Joplin, the Rev. Aaron Brown was at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. He saw that the 9-year-old sanctuary was obliterated, but his attention quickly turned to what had been a peaceful neighborhood across the street, now turned to acre upon acre of rubble. “I just went out into the community and did what I could to help find people,” said Mr. Brown, St. Paul’s pastor. Others came to the church, and with Mr. Brown they opened up the moderately damaged children’s wing of St. Paul’s as a triage unit, since nearby St. John’s Hospital had been destroyed. Volunteers cared for the wounded until ambulances could transport them to medical facilities elsewhere. More members of St. Paul’s arrived at the church on May 23, a Monday, despite stormy weather and blocked roads. “As they came in, I just sent them out into the streets of the community and told them to help our neighbors wherever they could,” Mr. Brown said. In a horrific tornado season across the South and Midwest, Joplin— named for 19th-century Methodist minister Harris Joplin—will be remembered as one of the most unfortunate locations. More than 120 people were killed by the May 22 tornado there, including, according to Missouri Conference Bishop Robert Schnase, several United Methodists. St. Paul’s lost its sanctuary, and St. James UMC of Joplin was destroyed. The denomination’s nearby district office was damaged extensively. Bishop Schnase posted a statement to the conference website, detailing losses, but also offering encouragement. “United Methodists will rebuild in Joplin,” he said. “Within the first ! See ‘Joplin’ page 2B


2B FAITH focus FAITH WATCH RNS receives grant, launches partnership Religion News Service announced plans to become a nonprofit in partnership with Religion Newswriters Association and its affiliate, Religion Newswriters Foundation. RNS, long a source of news for the United Methodist Reporter, received a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the Lilly Foundation to help with the transition. RNS will keep its headquarters in Washington, D.C., but promises to expand coverage, particularly to markets where religion coverage has dwindled with shrinking newspaper staffs.

John Paul II statue debuts to bad reviews A new statue of Pope John Paul II is getting lousy notices. The Vatican complained that the 16-ft. statue designed by Oliviero Rainaldi, and placed outside Rome’s Termini Train Station, doesn’t look much like the late pontiff. Some observers told the Associated Press that the statue looks more like Italy’s World War II dictator Benito Mussolini.

Many atheist scientists identify as ‘spiritual’ A Rice University study of atheist scientists found that more than 20 percent consider themselves “spiritual,” Religion News Service reported. Elaine Howard Ecklund, who led the research team and is an assistant professor of sociology at Rice, said, “This challenges the idea that scientists, and other groups we typically deem as secular, are devoid of those big ‘Why am I here?’ questions.”

! TORNADO Continued from page 1B hours, United Methodist congregations were at work locally to help and United Methodist Volunteers were lining up. Within the first day, the Missouri Conference Disaster Response Teams were coordinating with other agencies to help and representatives from the United Methodist Committee on Relief were on the ground in Joplin. “Bishops from other conferences have called me to offer support, and several have generously offered large financial gifts to help rebuild. The responses have been humbling.”

Church turned rubble On Tuesday, May 24, Southwest District Superintendent Sandra Nenadal made it to her Joplin office to retrieve confidential files. She had been there the night before, but hadn’t seen the full extent of the damage in the dark. “This back wall is just perforated,” she said. A small group was helping her retrieve sensitive items. When a computer was picked up, cups of water poured out of it. The glass door and windows were broken out, the roof was damaged, and everything in the office was soaked. Across the parking lot, a young man walked up to a large nondescript pile of rubble with two walls partially standing. “This is my church,” Trey Tripp said. The spot he referred to was St. James UMC. The church had been growing, from fewer than 30 people in worship to averaging more than 50 last year. Every year the church raises thousands of dollars for a designated mission, such as Heifer Project International. Mr. Tripp lives in nearby Webb City, and his home is fine. His father lives in Joplin, and his house is undamaged also. But the church is a total loss. “This is a shame,” Mr. Tripp said as

Burger King ex-boss aids C.S. Lewis college The former CEO of Burger King will lead development efforts for C.S. Lewis College, to be in Northfield, Mass. Charles Olcott will serve as executive vice president for the Christian college’s foundation. The school is named for the famed British author and Christian apologist. Mr. Olcott has held other top posts and in recent years has been administrator of Bethany Church in New Hampshire.

www.umportal.org news@umr.org

Sam Hodges, Managing Editor Bill Fentum, Associate Editor Mary Jacobs, Staff Writer Cherrie Graham, Advertising Manager Dale Bryant, Senior Designer

—Compiled by Sam Hodges J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R

PHOTO COURTESY MISSOURI CONFERENCE

The May 22 tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., destroyed the sanctuary of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, leaving volunteers to scavenge for anything salvageable.

he looked over the ruins. “We’ve done a lot of work on this place.”

Sadness and gratitude On the same Tuesday, at St. Paul’s, people had arrived to begin cleanup. The tower of the steeple was a hollowed-out shell, but it still stood, and could be seen from the epicenter of the destruction at the hospital, where national media set up camp all week. The family life center was missing a section of roof, but was salvageable. The children’s wing appeared undamaged at first, but a closer look showed pieces of lumber had pierced the walls. Flo Dahms was picking up pieces of the church building from the yard and putting them in the trash pile. She THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER (USPS954-500) is published weekly by UMR Communications Inc., 1221 Profit Drive, Dallas, Texas 75247-3919. Periodicals postage paid at Dallas, Texas and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER. PO Box 660275, Dallas Texas 75266-0275. THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER has provided denominational news coverage since its beginning as the Texas Methodist newspaper in 1847. The Reporter has no official ties to the United Methodist General Conference or to any of the denomination’s general boards or agencies. This newspaper aims to provide readers with a broad spectrum of information and viewpoints consistent with the diversity of Christians. All material published in this newspaper is copyrighted by UMR Communications Inc. unless otherwise noted. Reprint of material from this newspaper must be authorized in advance by the Editor, and fees are assessed in some cases. To request reprints, e-mail news@umr.org, or fax a request to (214) 630-0079. Telephone requests are not accepted. Send Correspondence and Address Changes (include mailing label) To: P.O. Box 660275, Dallas, TX 75266-0275 Telephone: (214) 630-6495. Subscriptions are $26 for 52 issues per year. Click on “subscriptions” at www.umportal.org, e-mail circulation@umr.org or send a check to UMR Communications, Attn: Circulation, 1221 Profit Dr., Dallas, TX 75247.

Please recycle. We do!

lives about four miles away, and came on the back roads to avoid road blocks. She hadn’t ventured any further into town. “They don’t need people down there looking around,” she said. She was saddened by the news that two people from the church had lost their lives and that others had lost their homes. She was worried about those the church hadn’t been able to contact. But she was also grateful that she was able to help, and that the church would be there for people in need. “We’re doing fine, and we will do fine,” Ms. Dahms said.

‘Call after call’ The Rev. Ben Bainbridge was at the Salvage Yard on Main Street when the tornado came. This ministry of St. Paul’s UMC is a no-alcohol bar/night club that operates from 6 p.m. until midnight Thursday through Saturday, and has worship services on Sunday at 6 p.m. The tornado came at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and there were about 20 people at the Salvage Yard. “By the time we knew something bad was coming, it wasn’t safe to send people home,” Mr. Bainbridge said. Instead they pulled people in off the street as the tornado approached. Then they gathered in a small interior room without windows, lit candles and prayed. The Salvage Yard is about five blocks from the massive destruction. After the tornado passed, Mr. Bain-

bridge’s phone started ringing. “It was call after call of people screaming and crying,” he said. Mr. Bainbridge then took the young people from the Salvage Yard over to the center of destruction, which is a neighborhood of St. Paul’s UMC, to try to find their parents. “I was up all night, checking on people I know to see if they were alive and safe,” he said.

A church home On Tuesday morning, May 24, Gary Parker could be found at Christ Community UMC, one of the churches in Joplin that wasn’t damaged. Mr. Parker cheerfully unloaded a large truckload of bottled water that showed up at the church as an unexpected donation. A member of the church for 10 years, Mr. Parker, like several others, said he was just doing anything he could to help. But Mr. Parker’s situation was different from that of most of the volunteers. The church was his new address. “I’ve lost everything,” Mr. Parker said of his home on Wisconsin Street. “I’m staying here now. I gave the insurance company the church phone number, and I’m having my mail forwarded here. “Where else is there to go?” Mr. Koenig is editor of publications for the Missouri Conference. The Associated Press and United Methodist News Service contributed.


FAITH focus 3B ! DASHBOARD Continued from page 1B Wesley tracked membership numbers assiduously and cited numerical growth as an indicator of spiritual vitality. Many church members will recall the old wooden register boards that were once posted at the front of church sanctuaries, with movable numbers that tallied attendance and giving from week to week. And most of the data posted on the dashboards has been tracked in the past—but generally ended up buried, and largely unheeded, in conference journals. Before the dashboard, “We had three full-time people who did nothing but compile the numbers in the conference,” Bishop Willimon said. “But by the time we got them, they were 1-2 years out of date. It was very hard to make decisions based on those dated numbers.” What’s changed, with the implementation of dashboards, is that now the numbers are published widely and in “real time.” “One of my beefs with the general church is that we’ve had this fairly disturbing data for years, but you’d be hard pressed to think of any major change we’ve made in response to the numbers,” Bishop Willimon said. “Now I can honestly say that these numbers have become part of how we work.” Bishop Willimon says he mostly focuses on the positive numbers— writing or calling pastors of churches with significant upticks, some of whom he might not otherwise know about. But he also moved a pastor, after just one year, in an appointment where attendance dropped 20 percent in the pastor’s first seven months.

Pushback Not surprisingly, the dashboards are generating pushback from pastors and seminarians. The idea of dashboards “is both exhilarating and terrifying,” said Jason Byassee, a research fellow at Duke Divinity School who’s beginning a pastoral appointment in the Western North Carolina Conference. “It’s creating anxiety, a worry that the dashboards are designed to shame people they think are lazy pastors.” As the Detroit Conference begins implementing GCFA’s VitalSigns dashboard, the Rev. Jerry DeVine, director of Connectional Ministries, said that some pastors have complained about the addition of yet another administrative task. Some worry that dashboards will make ministry “all about the numbers.” In his experience as a former district superintendent, Dr. DeVine said, “When there were positive numbers, the clergy in my district would love telling me about them. When they were not so good, they’d say, ‘I’m not a

numbers person.’” Others wonder whether numbers can really measure what matters most. “Lately I’ve been preaching a lot about friendship with the poor,” writes the Rev. Tom Arthur, pastor of Sycamore Creek UMC in Lansing, Mich., in a recent blog post on dashboards. “How do you measure that?”

The right measures? The first time someone showed the North Alabama dashboard to Amy Laura Hall, she burst into tears. The associate professor of Christian ethics at Duke Divinity School has been a sharp critic ever since. She calls dashboards a “union busting” tactic—targeting clergy and their guaranteed appointments, and compares them to the metrics enacted in public schools by the No Child Left Behind Act that, she says, similarly target teachers with tenure. “Pastors won’t be able to preach what their congregations need to hear without thinking about the numbers,” she said. Bishop Willimon isn’t buying that argument. “That’s an old-fashioned Methodist alibi—‘We’re dying because we’re so prophetic and truthful,’” he said. “The words you’re looking for there are actually ‘boring’ and ‘old.’” “The question is what can the numbers really tell us?” Dr. Byassee said. “It’s easy to get people in the building. Put up a sign that says ‘Free Beer’ and they will come. Attendance figures don’t tell us to what degree the church is loving Jesus.” Still, Dr. Byassee agrees that ignoring numbers completely is naïve too. No church would lose track of its bank account balance, he noted—that’s ‘baseline stewardship.’ “More data doesn’t make more wisdom,” he said. “But it is harder to get wisdom without data.” Advocates note, too, that laypeople are less likely than clergy to dislike the dashboard concept. “Lay members are accustomed to accountability in their work,” said Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Florida). “They’re not threatened by it. They know they perform better when there’s a system of accountability.”

Metric madness? Dr. Hall also claims that dashboards use the same kind of metrics that businesses use to sell products, and in doing so, “routinize ministry in ways that are antithetical to Christian teaching,” she said. “Metrics distort the way we are called to see one another in Jesus Christ.” She also accused church leaders of using dashboards to bring in muchneeded money and new people.

Bishop Will Willimon uses the North Alabama Conference website for weekly “dashboard” updates on conference statistics. Individual church stats, at times unflattering, are posted too.

“This is public shaming of pastors who don’t bring in new members,” she said. The Rev. Robert “Bob” Phillips, directing pastor of First UMC in Peoria, Ill., doesn’t see it that way, even though his church showed up poorly in one metric—the highest net loss of membership in the conference—for one week in May. Membership in his church is down, in part, because the church is working to remove outdated names from its rolls—and his bishop and DS know that, he said. And FUMC Peoria also turned up near the top of another list, as one of the highest payers of apportionment dollars in the conference. “The key here is the level of trust that pastors have in their bishop,” he said. “With trust, the dashboard is a genuinely helpful metric to measure where we’re headed and where we need to go. Without trust, a dashboard could become a game of ‘gotcha.’”

Equipping clergy Dr. DeVine says that the Detroit Conference embraced the dashboard concept as part of another program, the Vital Church Initiative, that trains pastors and lay leaders on building church vitality. “We also felt we can’t ask pastors to raise the bar if we’re not there to equip them to do that,” he said. “If we are asking them to start measuring themselves, we are ready and willing to support and equip them through training that goes beyond what they learned in seminary.” Dr. DeVine compares dashboards to the pedometers that some people wear to track their daily physical activity and to motivate themselves to move more. The dashboard “is an invitation to a wellness program,” he said. “It’s not

intended to be punitive or oppressive.” Like pedometers, he admits, dashboards won’t solve problems—only provide a tracking measure. But they do encourage church leaders to focus on areas that need attention, says the Rev. Jeff Stiggins, executive director of the Center for Congregational Excellence in the Florida Conference. While comparisons among churches and pastors are inevitable, Dr. Stiggins says, the dashboards’ main purpose is to allow congregations to focus on their own progress. He said he’s seen “story after story”

of congregations that turned their focus on ministry to people outside of the church, spurred by the metrics they report. Before the conference instituted its dashboard, no statistics were collected that related to that type of outreach, allowing churches that had become “self-absorbed” to go unchallenged. “If you ask the right question long enough, it becomes the way people pay attention,” Dr. Stiggins said. “Otherwise, it’s like playing basketball without keeping score.” mjacobs@umr.org

CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING • CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING EMPLOYMENT YOUTH MINISTRY DIRECTOR Belin UMC, Murrells Inlet, SC. Full-time, salaried position. Focus on relationships with middle and high school youth that will enable them to grow into disciples of Jesus Christ. Duties include planning, promotion, outreach, mentoring, spiritual growth, Sunday evening fellowship, recreation supervision, retreats, missions and fundraising. Send resume, by June 6, to: dianaq@belinumc.org DIRECTOR OF CONGREGATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND REVITALIZATION Full-time position with benefits at Western PA Conference, Cranberry Twp, PA. Master’s Degree with experience desired. DDR responsible for developing new communities of faith in WPA and offering leadership in congregational revitalization. Resumé and cover letter, by June 6, to: DCM@wpaumc.org DIRECTOR OF MUSIC MINISTRIES First UMC, Little Rock is an urban, 1200-member congregation seeking to employ a director for a bustling congregation in the heart of Arkansas’ capital city. Three Sunday morning services (one contemporary, two traditional); monthly Taizé services; two adult choirs, children’s choirs, youth choir, hand-bells. Exciting possibilities in the heart of the city’s entertainment and business district. Salary is negotiable, based on experience. For information regarding congregation see: www.fumclr.org Contact the Senior Pastor, Dr. Michael Mattox, at 723 Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201, 501372-2256, or mmattox@fumclr.org

MUSIC DIRECTOR Forsyth UMC seeks part-time Music Director. For a complete job description go to: www.forsythumc.org Submit resumes to: FUMC; PO Box 108; Forsyth, GA 31029 ASSOCIATE PASTOR FOR PASTORAL CARE & DISCIPLESHIP Associate Pastor needed (due to retirement) for interdenominational Bella Vista Community Church in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Master of Divinity from accredited seminary and minimum two years experience in pastoral care desired. Primary responsibility requires hospital/home visitations. Other responsibilities include working with Stephen Ministry, ChristCare small group ministry, parish nurses and conducting some worship services, funerals and weddings. Find more information at: www.bvcommunitychurch.org. Send resumes to: lori@bvcommunitychurch.org. MISCELLANEOUS CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Readership is appromately 225,000 readers each week Rates are per word or group of figures or initials (20 word minimum) Newspaper Only— $3.00 per word, two consecutive weeks. Newspaper/Internet Bundle—$4.00 per word includes two consecutive weeks in print and one month on Internet (www.umportal.org). Internet Only—$1.25 per word run for one month on www.umportal.org. E-mail your classified ad to: cgraham@umr.org or enter it online on the Classifieds page at: www.umportal.org.

U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1


RUSH OF RELIEF

Student volunteers aid in Alabama response B Y M A RY J AC O B S Staff Writer

TOP: Removing uprooted trees has occupied many of the students who come to Tuscaloosa to help. ABOVE: Volunteers eat their meals at First United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa. RIGHT: The Rev. Creighton Alexander, director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Alabama, sent Facebook and text updates using his smartphone while the power was out in the days following the storm.

4 B | J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R

If there’s a “silver lining” in the terrible storms that struck the Southeast on April 27, it’s the story of how the United Methodist connectional system quickly mobilized churches and volunteers to provide disaster relief. One powerful example comes from the Wesley Foundation at the University of Alabama. Heeding an invitation issued by “Bama Wesley” just days after the storm, dozens of student volunteers from Wesley Foundations at colleges and universities around the U.S. have already traveled to Alabama to help with cleanup and relief. Although it’s located in Tuscaloosa—one of the areas hardest hit by the swath of tornadoes—the Wesley Foundation’s building escaped major damage. So the Rev. Creighton Alexander, the foundation’s director, put out a call via Facebook and email inviting students at other Wesley Foundations to come, help with the relief and cleanup work in Tuscaloosa and stay at the Wesley facility. (The Foundation was without power for days, but he was able to get the word out by way of his cellphone.)

Students answered the call. Mr. Alexander says the Foundation has already hosted eight groups, and he expected a total of at least 20 groups will visit over the summer. Students are coming in from the campus ministries at the University of Oklahoma, Purdue University, Mercer University in Macon, Ga., LaGrange College, Winthrop University, Texas Tech, Ole Miss and others. Andrew Ferdon, 21, a civil engineering major at Purdue University, joined a group if 17 young people, 14 of them students from Purdue’s Wesley Foundation, that traveled to Tuscaloosa in early May. “When we heard about the storms, we decided we’d like to go to help, but most of the agencies we called needed trained individuals,” he said. “But Creighton said he’d love to have us.” Mr. Ferdon said there was a week between final exams and the time when most students would start summer school or summer jobs. They gathered chain saws and other tools and headed to Alabama. The Purdue students brought more than just willing hands and strong backs. Churches in the Lafayette, Ind., area—Asbury UMC, First UMC-West Lafayette and Trinity UMC—donated

$3,000 to cover expenses and to help with relief work. “I feel like I’ve been blessed in my life,” Mr. Ferdon said. “That blessing gives me a challenge to help others, and this was just an opportunity to help.”

Connections in place For the past few years, Mr. Alexander has participated in Refresh, an annual gathering of United Methodist campus ministers sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism. Connections made at those gatherings, he said, made it easy for him to extend an invitation to other Wesley Foundations to come to Tuscaloosa. Many adult United Methodist volunteers are pouring into Tuscaloosa; many of them staying at FUMC Tuscaloosa. The Wesley Foundation was not only able to utilize student volunteers—most of whom did not have prior emergency response training— but also provided those students with a faith-inspiring experience. “I know it’s a little weird to say this, but we’re having a blast,” Mr. Alexander said. “The students are doing a great job of taking care of people, and they’re having fun doing it.” Volunteers are sleeping in a


PHOTOS COURTESY WESLEY FOUNDATION, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

LEFT: The first group of students to arrive to help at the University of Alabama’s Wesley Foundation. RIGHT: Volunteers coming from other Wesley Foundations around the U.S. were shocked at the level of devastation they found in Tuscaloosa.

makeshift dorm, on cots, sleeping bags and inflatable mattresses. They eat their meals at FUMC Tuscaloosa, and worship together on Tuesday evenings. Gabriela Law, 21, a biochemistry and molecular biology major at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., traveled to Tuscaloosa in mid-May along with eight other Mercer students. “At first, it was overwhelming,� she said. “I had no idea that there was this kind of destruction.� Still, she left Tuscaloosa uplifted. “The way the community is coming together is really impressive,� she said. “To see God bringing people together through a horrible situation is amazing, and it’s something you want to be a

part of.� Wesley hosts the students in its facility, and the Southwest District of the North Alabama conference puts them to work on projects around the area. Some students helped staff a supply distribution center at nearby Hargrove Memorial United Methodist Church; others have spent their days clearing away trees. Mr. Ferdon says he’s mastered the chain saw in Tuscaloosa, noting the area seemed to have a lot of trees—and most of them were felled wherever the tornadoes ripped through. Zac Head, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, lives in Tuscaloosa. His home escaped major damage. After

the storm, he and a friend carried sandwiches, chips and bottles of water to people in the areas most affected. He says the influx of fellow Wesley Foundation students was encouraging, and for those Alabama students, like him, who were not displaced, the opportunity to help has proved to be healing as well. “The best word for the situation here, in the first few days, was chaos,� he said. “But as long as we’re helping others, I know that God will help me through this situation.�

Plenty left to do There’s room for more groups of students, Mr. Alexander said, who’d

like to come to Tuscaloosa later this summer. (To inquire, email him at creightonalexander@gmail.com.) He says volunteers can expect to do hard, physical work—they’re still focused on removing trees and sorting debris—and promises there will be plenty of work to do throughout the summer. “The Southwest District is doing an incredible job of coordinating volunteers,� he said. “No one is going to be idle.� The work is hard, but the fellowship among students has been memorable. “We connected with kids from several different schools,� Mr. Ferdon said. “It was cool meeting kids from

other parts of the country who have the same willingness to do God’s work.� “This generation, they really want to help,� Mr. Alexander said. “Their compassion and passion to help is inspiring.� mjacobs@umr.org

How to help: Those who can’t come but would like to pitch in for resources to help the students in their relief work may donate at www.bamawesley.org.

;OYV\NOH*V]LUHU[9LSH[PVUZOPW`V\HYLUV[VUS` Z\WWVY[PUN65,TPZZPVUHY``V\HYLZ\WWVY[PUNH NSVIHSJVTT\UP[` @V\HYLHWHY[VM[OL<UP[LK4L[OVKPZ[JVUULJ[PVU @V\HYLHWHY[VM.VKÂťZTPZZPVU ;OL+=+IYV\NO[[V`V\I`[OL.LULYHS)VHYKVM .SVIHS4PUPZ[YPLZHUK;OL(K]HUJLZOHYLZZ[VYPLZ VM TPZZPVUHYPLZ ^VYRPUN PU KPMMLYLU[ YLNPVUZ HUK ZLY]PUNPU[OL-V\Y(YLHZVM-VJ\ZVM[OL*O\YJO =PZP[^^^HK]HUJPUNOVWLVYNMVYPUMVYTH[PVUHIV\[LU[LY PUNPU[VH*V]LUHU[9LSH[PVUZOPWHUK[VVYKLYVYKV^USVHK [OPZ\ZLM\S+=+YPJO^P[OZ[VYPLZVMTPZZPVUHYPLZZLY]PUN [OYV\NOV\[[OL^VYSK ;L_[ÂşTPZZPVUHY`Âť[V[VYLJLP]L[OPZMYLL+=+

U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1 | 5 B


6B FAITH forum

Q&A: Reviving art of dying well Worldwide community: Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School. In 2001, he was named by Time magazine “America’s Best Theologian,” and the same year he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Dr. Hauerwas has written prolifically across disciplinary lines: from political theory to medical ethics, always in search of reflection on the character of a Christian life. His books dealing with medical ethics include Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church and Naming the Silence: God, Medicine and the Problem of Suffering. He has also coedited a compilation of theological reflections on what it means to grow old in modern society, entitled Growing Old in Christ. He recently spoke with Sarah Stoneking of Church Health Reader on death and dying well. Very generally, what is a good death? I’m 70 and I think about death everyday. I think it’s a great gift that God gives some of us—to grow old in a way that our deaths are unavoidably present. That’s a gift: that you get to live into your dying. That is part of what we would like to have possible for everyone. In America death has unfortunately become associated with: You’re dead when your doctor can no longer do anything for you. I want to think that our deaths can be claimed as part of a community of friends that are able to be present to us as we die. That means that you don’t have to do everything necessary to keep your body alive. What would that look like in a congregation? Presence, first and foremost. Presence and prayer. Too often we substitute technology for presence. Death scares us. We don’t want to be around it. But one of the gifts we give to one another is to be present to one another as we die. Learning to die is like everything else: It’s learning. You Stanley need to see people Hauerwas do it. There was a whole tradition of ars moriendi, the art of dying. I think that we have to recover something like that. As I was saying, you have to be taught how to die. And somehow it got lost. I don’t know why. It’s always been at the heart of Christianity that we are taught to

Upper Room launches regional family reunions BY SARAH WILKE Special Contributor

“Friendship with God is the good that should form both how we live and how we die,” says Stanley Hauerwas.

die in a way that we can be happily remembered. It’s a lovely thing to be happily remembered. I hope I’m going to die in a way that my friends can happily remember me. How would that preach? Well, it needs to be preached. People never hear sermons about dying. Learning how to make that not a forbidden topic would be a very important thing for the contemporary church. When I lecture to lay audiences, I ask them how they want to die. For people in our society the response is fairly consistent: They want to die quickly, painlessly, in their sleep and without being a burden. They want to die painlessly, in their sleep, and quickly because when they die they don’t want to have to know they’re dying. So now they ask physicians to keep them alive to the point that when they die they don’t have to know they’re dying—and then they blame physicians for keeping them alive to no point. In The Book of Common Prayer in the Great Litany, there’s the prayer, “save me from all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared.” In the Middle Ages, what people feared was not death, they feared God. They prayed to be saved from a sudden death because they wanted to have time to repent and have their lives appropriately positioned to face God. Now we just fear death. Could you trace the history of how Western society has approached viewing medicine and its relationship to death? I think medicine had offered up until the last hundred years or so, basically, care. You probably were not going to get much better but we could teach you how to live with your illness. Now medicine, allegedly because of scientific breakthroughs, is about cure. That puts an extraordinary pres-

J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R

sure on physicians to do more than they can. The fact of the matter is, you’re not going to get out of life alive, but people want to ask of physicians more than they can deliver and it’s very tempting to try to deliver that. The idea of creating a dialogue on what patients should expect and should not expect in medicine is very interesting. Many current writings and commentaries on medicine tend to deal with the ethics of care for physicians, they don’t approach the ethics of being a patient. Right, I think so-called medical ethics has put far too much emphasis upon the physician and not the patient. I think patients need to be trained to know what to ask for. And just like we need to learn how to die, we need to learn how to be sick. Currently people, I think, ask far too much out of physicians. You co-wrote a book, Growing Old in Christ. Do you think you’re growing old in Christ? I’m trying to grow old among Christians who are helping me to grow old in Christ. I praise God for making that possible. The essay Laura Yordy and I wrote in that book on friendship and what it means to grow old within friendship is crucial for me. Friendship not only with other elderly people but across generations—it’s very important to have friends across generations. Christians, like anyone, do not want to die. Life is a wonderful gift that we are obligated to live out in service to our fellow brothers and sisters. But it’s not the overriding good. Friendship with God is the good that should form both how we live and how we die. When we learn how to be friends with God we learn something about what it means to die well. Reprinted by permission of Church Health Reader (www.chreader.org).

I’m getting ready to go to a family reunion and I can’t wait. The packing and planning, the anticipation, the emails and text messages flying back and forth as travel arrangements are made. What makes the gathering later this month so special is that I will be joining brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of the Upper Room family in Sarah Latin America and the Caribbean. These Wilke are the faithful servant leaders who are translating, printing, and distributing the Spanish and Portuguese editions of The Upper Room daily devotional guide, as well as sustaining Emmaus and Chrysalis communities in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina and the Dominican Republic, among other countries. I’ve never met this branch of our family before, but we have been planning this time together in Brazil since I joined the staff as publisher in July 2009. For five days we will pray and worship in community, work to improve our business and ministry models, and plan for the future. This will be the first of five regional family reunions The Upper Room will host during the next two years. Other gatherings are planned in South Africa, Greece, Australia and India. The Upper Room daily devotional guide is available in 40 languages and in over 100 countries. Just think: Millions of people— more than we can measure—are reading the same meditation, studying the same Scripture text, and praying the same prayer every single day. This little book serves as a place where the world meets to pray, and this powerful “take a moment to spend with God” movement has formed a worldwide family. In trying to grasp the scope of this movement, I cannot help but think of the original upper room, the place where the resurrected Christ appeared, behind locked doors, and showed the disciples his hands and pierced side (John 20:19-29). Thomas was not with the disciples for Jesus’ first visit. He did not believe until Jesus came again and said, “Put your fingers here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.

Stop doubting and believe.” I understand Thomas’s doubt. It’s hard to imagine that millions of people around the world are connected to a ministry in Nashville, Tenn. I doubted a fledging French edition could be published and distributed during the recent civil strife in Côte d’Ivoire, but it was. I was uncertain that funds would become available to provide copies to spiritually hungry persons in Cuba, or folks struggling for hope in Louisiana or Haiti, but they were. My hard-to-believe list goes on. Gratefully, living with doubt leads us to prayer and community. Like Thomas who needed to see Christ for himself, I need to see and be with this worldwide family. The personal connections will banish the doubts and bolster my belief. I want to hear, firsthand, their stories of struggle and great joy. I want to see how they participate in God’s work in the world. I want to experience their passion and strength, knowing that this will better equip me for my own role. By praying with this family, I know I will learn more about prayer. The global family of Upper Room Ministries, Emmaus and Chrysalis ministries bears witness to the risen Christ’s awesome presence in the world today. You, too, can be a part of this powerful international movement through your own prayers, and I invite you to connect to these gatherings as we file ongoing updates at www.upperroom.org. Ms. Wilke is publisher of The Upper Room and associate general secretary of the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn.

COURTESY PHOTO

Each day, the Upper Room devotional guide is read by more than 2.5 million people.


FAITH forum 7B REFLECTIONS How to recognize, respond to bullying in local churches A long-term marriage offers joy, takes work

B Y L AU R I E H A L L E R Special Contributor

It was 6 a.m. in Chobe National Park in the southern African nation of Botswana. We had just entered the park when we came face to face with a most extraordinary sight. A wild dog streaked by us in the bush in hot pursuit of an impala. Following along in a Jeep, we watched the impala change direction and the dog slowing down. Yes! The impala won, I rejoiced. After rounding a corner, it all became clear. The impala ran straight into a waiting pack of wild dogs, which dragged the impala right in front of our Jeep. With methodical precision, they literally ripped the impala apart and ate it alive. Watching five wild dogs attack a poor impala turned my stomach, yet it is a natural and necessary part of nature. What causes my Laurie stomach to churn Haller even more is encountering human bullies who intimidate, manipulate and shred other people to pieces for no reason other than to flaunt power and satisfy damaged egos. This kind of behavior is a consequence of our separation from God and our best selves: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:10) Bullies can be found everywhere people are. Yes, there are even bullies in the church. In fact, the power that bullies hold over good and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ is one of the prime reasons that many of our churches are unhealthy and dis-eased. • Ted, the church treasurer, intentionally delays paying the pastors and staff, withholds ministry shares, and diverts special giving to the general fund. Why? Because it’s a way for him to exert power when he has little control over the rest of his life. No one has ever confronted Ted. • Jim has been the chair of the staff parish relations committee for 20 years precisely because he can control the pastor, which he delights in doing. Ever wonder why no pastor has stayed more than four years in Jim’s church? When the pastor becomes trusted and beloved, Jim becomes jealous and “arranges” for a crisis that results in a pastoral move. No one has the courage to break the pattern. • Amanda, the church council

chair, has a way of intimidating people by her demeanor, words and actions. Other church council members are fed up with her childish behavior, but no one will stand up to her. They simply stop coming, and nothing is accomplished. • Holly has unilaterally decided to be in charge of the sanctuary. No matter how the worship design committee sets up the chancel with banners and other visuals for worship, they arrive on Sunday morning to discover that Holly has rearranged everything to suit her. The committee would rather tiptoe around Holly than confront her. One of the biggest misconceptions Christians have is that when people ask Jesus Christ into their life and become a disciple, they will automatically give up their bullying ways. In reality, bullies may have a deep faith but still be emotionally immature and unhealthy. Do you know any church bullies? Church bullies misuse power in order to silence, abuse or hurt others. They relate to people through coercion, sarcasm, ridicule, blaming, fear, harassment, over-reacting and manipulation. This can happen in many ways, including dominating conversation at meetings, sabotaging church council votes, wielding Scripture as a weapon, verbally attacking others, withholding their pledge, and destructive gossip in the church parking lot.

All shapes and sizes We cannot deal with bullies until we first understand them. Bullies often slander others because they are jealous of and/or feel threatened by the competence of their victims. Bullies hurt people because they are hurting themselves. They often lack self-awareness and self-integration, carry baggage from their past, have low self-esteem, thrive on conflict, demonstrate a lack of inclusivity and sensitivity, and take authority which is not theirs. Bullies target those who are vulnerable because they have often been bullied themselves and that’s the only way they know to relate to other people. They crave acceptance but only know how to get it by intimidating others. Bullies are obsessed with power and authority but are not selfdifferentiated enough to trust their insecurities to God and recognize that true authority comes from servanthood. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes: men and women, young and old, clergy and laity.

How do we break the cycle of bullying in the church and restore emotional health to our congregations? • Provide training for clergy and church members to name bad behavior in gracious but firm ways. • Ensure that the nominations committee does its work well. Every committee needs a strong, capable chairperson who uses established processes such as a written agenda and decision-making procedures. This prevents bullies from hijacking meetings.

‘In reality, bullies may have a deep faith but still be emotionally immature and unhealthy.’ • Establish a church-wide conflict resolution policy that is widely circulated and followed (i.e., the Rule of Christ in Matthew 18) so that victims of bullying know where to go with their concerns and bullies are prevented from having their way. • Do not elect bullies to positions of leadership. • Offer classes on emotional intelligence, communication skills and reconciliation so that all church members can grow in emotional as well as spiritual maturity. Should church leaders ever ask a bully to leave the church? I don’t usually encourage a pastor or lay leaders to ask anyone to leave the church because I believe that, through God’s grace, all people can change, even bullies. However, when bullies know that their behavior will no longer tolerated, they often choose to find another church where they can wreak havoc. I’ve seen five wild dogs tear apart an impala: a gruesome sight but a necessary expression of nature’s survival of the fittest. I’ve also witnessed a bully viciously attack a fellow church member: far more ugly because it runs counter to the image of God which is in each of our hearts. And, praise God, I’ve observed church leaders break the power of bullies by their calm and direct response. The Rev. Haller is the Grand Rapids District Superintendent of the West Michigan Conference. Reprinted from her blog, Leading From the Heart.

B Y B I S H O P W O O D I E W. W H I T E UMR Columnist

A recent newspaper article caught my attention and proved to be most interesting. The headline indicated that more long-term marriages are ending in divorce. The article went on to illustrate by pointing to some prominent public figures whose marriages ended in separation and divorce after more than 20 years of what appeared to be strong and unbreakable bonds of matrimony. The article did not offer statistics, only these high profile examples. But it did cause me to pause and reflect, especially since I read it as we approached June, still a popular month for weddings. I wondered how many couples preparing Bishop for their wedding Woodie day saw the same White article. The common thinking used to be that if a marriage endured the first seven years, it was on its way to survival. Of course, such a conclusion proved to be without foundation. However, observing couples end a marriage after 25 or more years is quite unsettling. Whatever else marriage requires, it does require hard work. The result is well worth the investment. No relationship demands so much of individuals as does the lifetime covenant and commitment of marriage. For some couples, the relationship develops with ease and few challenges along the way. For many others, it is filled with pitfalls, including the vagaries of time, and requires constant tending, review and assessment. Two people vowing to live together “till death do us part” is pretty risky, especially when they are still growing and developing in so many ways. Add the overwhelming power of physical and sexual attraction to the dynamic, and the importance of love in the relationship might get less weight than it deserves, causing problems spiritually and relationally. Couples, as they mature into the marriage relationship, discover the hard work required to shape a lasting and mutually supportive and satisfying life together. Since each person changes with time, so does

the relationship. Thus, the work of marriage does not stop after seven years or 27. Neither does its joy and sense of fulfillment. A marriage should never be taken for granted, nor should one’s spouse! I am certain I could and should have been a better spouse. My wife recently said to me quite matter-offactly, “Woodie, you know you have a lot of quirks!” I was stunned. She had never said that before. In fact, over the years she has kept her personal criticisms of me to a minimum. Yet, she was absolutely correct. As I reflect on our years of marriage, my wife has been remarkably patient, understanding, and most especially forgiving. We brought to our relationship incredible flexibility, which helped. We have 15 siblings between us! This taught us something about adjusting to diverse personalities. She had three older brothers, which prepared her well to navigate the male ego! Two people coming into a marriage bring distinct personalities, unique histories, often competing values and expectations. Without Christ at the center, the relationship can be a daunting task indeed. A lasting marriage requires listening to one another, being willing to compromise, and working at understanding another point of view. And, at least on my part, it has often required saying, “I’m sorry.” Thankfully, my wife has been willing to say, “I forgive you.” I suppose there is no automatic number of years after which a marriage is “safe,” so that it is no longer necessary to be sensitive to a spouse’s needs, concerns or feelings. Each day provides an opportunity for enhancing or damaging the relationship. For all those couples about to begin a life together, as well as those already well into one, marriage is a blessed gift of God. But it requires a commitment to living together faithfully, and that means doing the work necessary to keep the marriage strong. Oh, yes, on June 3 we celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. And I am still working at it! Retired Bishop White is the denomination’s Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishopin-residence at Candler School of Theology.

U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1


8B FAITH focus

A f re s h t ra n s la t i o n t o t o uc h t h e h eart an d min d Relevant. Readable. Reliable.

Pre-order a complete Common English Bible and

SAVE 40%!

*

Offer valid on Thinline and Compact Thin Editions now through July 31, 2011.

14sale

$

97

Compact Thin Reg. $24.95

Compact Thin Editions

Complete Bible with a topical index and 8 pages of color maps—yet measuring only 41⁄ 4" x 61⁄ 2". 7-point type. Bonded EcoLeather Black. 9781609260132. DecoTone Espresso Henley. 9781609260125. DecoTone Pomegranate Flourish. 9781609260149.

Pre-Publication Offer! Thinline Editions

Measuring less than one inch thick, this highly portable Bible is available in multiple cover choices, with a topical index and 8 pages of color maps—yet conveniently sized at only 53⁄ 8" x 83⁄ 8". 9-point type. DecoTone with Apocrypha Black 9781609261085. Reg. $34.95; Sale $20.97 Bonded EcoLeather Burgundy 9781609260118. Reg. $36.95; Sale $22.17 DecoTone Tan/Brick Red 9781609260163. Reg. $29.95; Sale $17.97

* Common English Bible pre-order prices end July 31, 2011. This offer valid through Cokesbury Stores only. Discount not available on previous purchases. No other discounts apply.

Discover for yourself Visit C o m m o n E n g l i s h B i b le . c o m for free downloads, comparisons with other translations, FAQs, and more.

J U N E 3 , 2 0 1 1 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R

Cokesbury.com

|

800.672.1789

|

Fax 800.445.8189

UMR116950001 PACP01016470-01

Paperback 9781609260156. Reg. $14.95; Sale $8.97


June 2011 edition of the Michigan Area Reporter