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THE

Michigan Area Reporter an Edition of the United Methodist Reporter Two Sections

Helping Liberia

Modern abolitionist

For those about to. . .

Section A

Teen makes a difference | 3A

Artist raises awareness of slavery | 6A

Christian Music tour coming to MI | 7A

Vol. 156 No. 42

079000 February 19, 2010

Bishop Keaton calls churches to get more in tune with evangelism and stewardship By RJ Walters cent of the membership from each district to Editor be trained and inspired through this mission. Sometimes making a difference requires This year’s lineup of speakers is as diverse stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and as the general church population itself. Bishop’s Day 2010 encourages people to do just Sjogren’s engagements mark the beginning that. and end of the festivities in March, as he will From the radical vision of mission work speak at Southfield: Hope UMC for the Detroit from nationally acclaimed author and church East and Detroit West districts on March 6, beleader Mike Slaughter to the basics of a confore traveling to Gladstone: Memorial UMC on cept called “servant evangelism,” which has March 27 to present to the Marquette district. been fashioned by church-expansion expert Sjogren is highly regarded for his passion Steve Sjogren, Bishop’s Day has expanded to and leadership in the area of servant evangeloffer ideas and hope the people of the United ism and he has published more than half a Methodist Church. dozen books and hundreds of articles in a vaThe 2010 theme is “Called Out—Creating riety of magazines, while maintaining a blog New Places for New Faces” and sessions will be that he says has more than 3,900 “trackers.” held in six different regions throughout the He said he hopes his message will help peostate in the month of March. ple realize how easy it can be to connect with According to Michigan Area Bishop total strangers, in the most mundane, common Jonathan D. Keaton the events are much more ways. than just speaking engagements, they are “con“As we simply get beyond our own lives, tinuing education events that should be worand look beyond ourselves and our circle, God shipful, creative and full of opens doors that are tremenideas—something that has dous. There’s a verse in Rosome sort of fellowship to it.” mans chapter 2, “The Bishop’s Day is Keaton’s kindness of God leads to a brainchild, an initiative he radical life change,” is what I created to help support and think ‘The Message’ version affirm the opportunities UMC says,” he said. “So as we show members have to make a difGod’s kindness to people we ference through discipleship, are more open to becoming evangelism and stewardship. like Christ ourselves. It’s a It started out as being a simple way of connecting with —Bishop Keaton people that’s going to make a day where the bishop would invite people from throughout difference and open up their Michigan to come to Lansing for a day of hearts and the rest of their lives really, so they teaching and enlightenment, but Keaton soon can feel more in touch with Christ.” realized God had bigger plans for Bishop’s Day. In between Sjogren’s sessions, four events “(After two years) I realized that I look over will take place on March 13. an area with about 170,000 United Methodists, Bishop Robert Schnase will deliver a presso I should have more than 300 people show entation for the Ann Arbor, Albion and Lansup to come visit me,” he said. “So the following ing districts at Goodrich Chapel at Albion year I decided that rather than being the sponCollege. sor of this event and have everybody come Schnase is the mastermind behind the idehere, I had the idea of talking to my 13 (disology of “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregatrict) superintendents and telling them we tions.” should have Bishop’s Day in every single disThe Heartland, Grand Traverse, and Sagitrict.” naw Bay districts will be graced with the presNow over 3,000 people attend sessions each ence of Slaughter at Mount Pleasant: First year and Keaton said ideally he’d like 10 perUMC.

I have to take a long view. I know that no one event is going to solve our problems. . .

Nationally lauded speakers such as Steve Sjogren (top), Mike Slaughter (bottom left) and Scott Rigsby (bottom right) are just some of what Bishop’s Day 2010 has to offer.

Slaughter is the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio and he is revered for his commitment to the Sudan Project in Darfur and his financial and missional principles. Slaughter said he hopes to encourage people to start doing more of the little things to accomplish much bigger things in the future. “My first talk is going to be about the Biblical mandate for mission and why we exist. It’s not to get people into the church to support the church, that was never the purpose of Jesus…but to get the church into the world for the sake of ministering to the needs of the least and the lost,” he said. “And you don’t have to be a big church to do that—a tiny church of under 40 people can begin to do things like food pantries, like clothing stores, like recovery ministries.” Slaughter said at the core of most human beings is a desire to be significant and he wants to open people’s eyes to the significance they can find through God in the workings of His church. Speaking at Cornerstone Church in Grand Rapids for the G.R. and Kalamazoo Districts on March 13 will be Scott Rigsby, the first dou-

ble amputee to ever compete at the Ironman World Championships. He tells his story of highs and lows, overcoming adversity and always keeping goals in sight. The Flint/Port Huron region Bishop’s Day will be held at Lapeer: Trinity UMC with Celinda Hughes of www.umcom.org as the speaker. She is the Strategic Marketing Associate at United Methodist Communications, the primary resource for news and PR in the UMC. Bishop Keaton said he is excited about the prospects of what can be accomplished through Bishop’s Day and how the program has evolved, but it is just one step in a great journey for the conferences. “I have to take a long view. I know that no one event is going to solve our problems, but it can help our continuing education and it’s just one of the things we can do,” he said. For full interviews with Steve Sjogren and Mike Slaughter check out www.detroitconference.org or www.westmichiganconference.org

The United Methodist Reporter (USPS 954-500) is published weekly by UMR Communications, 1221 Profit Drive, Dallas, TX 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, TX 75266-0275.


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MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

Q&A Timeout with the Bishop Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has been serving the Detroit Area and West Michigan Conferences as bishop since 2004. He has been actively involved in the United Methodist Church as a clergy member for 40 years and one of his primary goals is to enforce the UMC mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Editor RJ Walters recently sat down with Keaton to discuss the state of the church and the Michigan Area.

From your position as the bishop, what do you see as some of the strengths and weaknesses of the two Michigan conferences in particular?

Q: A:

There are so many different visions and dreams people have about the way they do church, so one of the challenges is always getting the conferences on the same page. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have dreams; for example, if someone has the gift of working on social justice issues or being in Christian education or one church does a lot of work with camping, (that’s good). Both annual conferences have a real strength in mission—it’s mission, mission, mission. The United Methodists in Michigan do mission right, and they have for many, many years long before I was here—I’m not responsible for that. The Michigan Area has been one of the top areas in giving in the United Methodist Church….we have folks all over the world in Jamaica and Africa and a seminary there in Russia, so just mission. But I think we’ve had the great struggle in “How do we get ministries organized on the same page?” What helps is we have two conferences and two connectional ministry leaders and they have primary responsibility for directing

program areas. So I would say the greatest strengths of the Michigan Area are mission work and worship services, and if we would say what some of the weaknesses have been, you look at how the denomination has seen membership decline over the last 40 years, and secondly stewardship, which is why we need continuing education. How do you get church members to feel like they are all part of one singular vision that they can all see tangible results in?

Q: A:

I need to learn how to make better use of the media to communicate what’s important. I think what will ultimately help us in terms of apportionments, or what we call ‘ministry shares’ on the West Michigan side, is we have to make connections to where the money is going and what benefit it has for the local church or annual conference. For example, some of the money goes to help the 13 (UMC) seminaries, places that train pastors, there is an apportionment called ‘The Black College Fund’… we need to see how that (monetary) support can come back and provide for the needs of the people and the youth. We of course have money that

Subscribe to The Michigan Area Reporter Get connected. . . to a larger community of faith The Detroit and West Michigan Conferences are pleased to offer individual subscriptions to our new newspaper. Option #1—Individuals can subscribe to receive the monthly Michigan Area Reporter delivered to their homes. This connectional publication features our area's news and features as Section 1. Section B and additional supplements will provide news about our denomination and the faith community around the world. Option #2—Bring weekly news to your home. In addition to our 12 monthly Michigan Area issues each year, you can receive the national edition of The United Methodist Reporter on the other 40 weeks. To begin your individual subscription immediately, fill in your information below: Name ______________________________________________________________________ Address _____________________________________________________________________ City_________________________________________State_______________Zip__________ Church/City __________________________________________________________________  Enclosed is my check for $ 12.00 for 1 year (12 issues) of The Michigan Area Reporter  Enclosed is my check for $ 32.00 for 1 year (52 newspapers with Michigan Area featured as Section A in

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goes to the General Board of Church and Society; sometimes people have different responses to that if the (board) takes on an issue that’s really controversial that nobody can draw one line on and they are advocating for something that gets people perturbed, upset or mad and has them asking why should the church be involved. We also have agencies like (the General Board of) Global Ministries and UMCOR—there’s virtually no emergency in the world, where if there’s not already United Methodists on the ground, there will be quickly.” One issue people are talking about at the national level, as well as here in the conference, is clergy pensions, and how there is a cry for re-structuring the current model because of the market collapse in recent years. What do you see as a viable solution at this point and how important of an issue is this for the church as a whole?

Q:

A:

don’t know what the answer is. But I know one of the means for an answer is what has been happening the last few months, as the General Board of Pensions just finished having conversations with the five Jurisdictional College of Bishops and treasurers, etc., etc. In fact we just had our conversation with the General Board of Pensions (late last month) in Chicago. We talked about the mounting costs, should there be any limit to benefits? So the right people I think are starting to talk and they say we’ll have to make some decisions if the stock market continues to go down, but in ’09 it really came back. In any case, an issue is what benefits aught the church be responsible for to those who give themselves to ministry for a lifetime? And in addition to that, if the pastor dies, what aught be the pension for the surviving spouse? I think right now the surviving spouse gets 70 percent of the pastor’s pension, so to use that as an example, maybe they’ll look at it like Social Security, and if we keep giving surviving spouses 70 percent we may run out of money, so let’s make it 65 or 60 percent. So we’re dealing with things called unfunded liability; we have past services rates

where we’d say if you serve the conference your pension is going to be (whatever) each year and add that up for 40 years. So some conferences as they bring in clergy and others go out, have not had sufficient reserves so that whenever those people retire they can in fact pay out what they owe for their service. It exists for some, but some have an unfunded liability they are looking at all the time. The bottom line is, can the Board of General Pensions plan in such a way that when everybody retires, can they have what they were promised to have, just like with Social Security? It’s the same kind of debate. Future generations are always paying the bill for us right now of course. With so many important issues circling around the global Methodist Church and in the conferences you overlook, how do you manage to succeed at your job of being the bishop? It seems like there can’t possibly be enough hours to cover it all.

Q:

A:

There is not enough time. But the thing that’s a powerful presence is A.) I’m not in this alone, I believe God is at work in this, and my gifts are offered each day.“God this is what I have, you’ll have to take the rest,” so it’s not totally in people’s hands; and B.) You’ve got to have the belief or the faith that God is a part of this and will help us in what we have to do, just as in 1929 or whenever they had the stock market crash. There were some people who believed it was the end and there were others who said no, it just feels like it, but we believe the nation can go forward. Or was 9/11 the end? No it was not. Is the earthquake in Haiti the end? No, it’s the end for some, but ultimately you know God’s people will help Haiti awaken. It may take a long time, so there’s a faith we have to have—like the woman who was underneath the rubble (in Port-Au-Prince) for 10 days and came out singing. She could’ve said on day two,“I just want to die,” but she didn’t. People wanted to give up in the business world when the market crashed, but others had faith. So I can’t give you hard facts that this will happen or that will happen, but belief is very much a part of who we are.

Read more online! Check out full-length stories on Justice For Our Neighbors and Annual Conference themes, as well as Q & A’s with Mike Slaughter and Steve Sjogren on the Detroit Area and West Michigan Web sites.


MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

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Not your average 16-year old

Waterford teen makes difference for Liberia By RJ Walters Editor While Jessica Arnold and her classmates have been working toward the possibility of college scholarships, the 16-year-old Waterford junior has been finding ways to provide basic educational needs for deprived youth half a world away. Arnold, who attends Waterford Central UMC and Waterford Mott High School, is the founder and leader of the C.W. Duncan Mission Project, which provides money for scholarships, supplies, teachers and textbooks at the C.W. Duncan School—a school for kindergarten through ninth-grade students in Monrovia, Liberia. Liberia is a depressed West African country where more than 200,000 people were killed and one million more made into refugees due to a pair of civil wars that took place from 1989–2003. It was only through the courageous protests of groups of Christian and Muslim Liberian women that the bloody battle finally ended in the shattered country, and as Arnold opened up her mind to the possibilities of outreach it was a documentary on the women’s actions that actually enabled amazing progress. This past summer Arnold said she felt guilty because she wasn’t doing enough for others and what has transpired since can truly be considered an act of venturesome faith. Unifying ideas Originally she thought about sponsoring a child in Africa, but Wendy Lyons Chrostek, Waterford Central’s associate pastor at the time, encouraged her to think beyond her already admirable goals and put in a call to colleague Rev. Charles Boayue Jr. of Second Grace United Methodist Church. Boayue is a Liberian native whose wife Elizabeth was a member of the church that founded C.W. Duncan in 1980. And appropriately, he was going to be introducing a screening of the documentary “Pray The Devil Back to Hell”, the story of sacrifice, unity and transcendence of thousands of women that helped end civil disputes in a country originally founded as a settlement of freed American slaves in 1847. Jessica and her mother Nancy attended the screening and Jessica and Boayue both knew the movie was the perfect means to convince people to donate money to C.W. Duncan. Arnold said she has always had an affinity for African culture and loved the people, but she knew very little about Liberia. But after a little more than an hour of trying to grasp the realities of the horrific atrocities she was watching on the big screen she found plenty of room in her heart for the people of Liberia.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSICA ARNOLD

C.W. Duncan Memorial United Methodist School is located in Monrovia; Liberia and it houses students up to the 9th-grade. 16-year-old Jessica Arnold of Waterford Central UMC has dedicated time and energy to providing scholarships for students there.

“(The movie) definitely cooberated what my original plans were. I didn’t know what to expect at first, because Pray The Devil Back to Hell was the name of it. The movie is very, very graphic but I’d almost rather have it be that way than try to shelter people from seeing what happens during the 14 years of civil war,” Arnold said. “So by seeing that, it definitely motivated me even more to go along with this project, but it just hurts so badly to see the devastation and everything going on. They showed some of the hospitals, and houses people are living in, and I just can’t imagine living in a condition like that and not being able to have education or anything like that.” Arnold and Boayue decided the film was a great way to raise awareness and raise funds for a scholarship and they were dead on. Making a splash With the help of a board of directors and the aid of major press outlets like the Detroit Free Press and Oakland Press, Arnold organized three showings of the film in late November. Waterford Central covered the costs of the educational DVD, which was $295, the standard cost for organizations who want to have viewing parties. Coupled with selling African crafts at events such as the “Compassionate Christmas Fair” at her church, Arnold has raised enough money to provide 52 children year-long scholarships, including supplies and adequate instruction.

It takes just $70 to sponsor a child and with the project still in its infancy Arnold is not holding back any of her excitement regarding the future. “Our original goal was 100 students, and I think as of right now that’s still our goal, but if we get past 100 students we’ll keep raising money. But we also have to talk to the school and see how many students they can hold, and we have plans on going there and making more classrooms. We just have to talk with the school, but I don’t think we’ll be stopping any time soon,” she said. She has received personal letters of gratitude from the Liberian Bishop, Dr. John G. Innis and in the Detroit Free Press Boayue said he has been truly inspired to see an 11thgrader commit to something in a land so far away in a “society where everyone is fighting for what they can get for themselves.” But Arnold just blushes at the appreciation, saying she is just doing what we all should be doing—following God’s lead. What’s up next? What she isn’t afraid to get excited about is how the mission continues to expand. Text-book giants Houghton Mifflin and Prentice Hall are providing new classroom materials and textbooks and the Waterford School District is supporting her project by donating used textbooks to be shipped to C.W. Duncan. They are storing them for her in the

warehouse, and her high school principal plans to hold a literature book drive for the school. In the meantime Arnold hopes more churches will consider showing screenings of the documentary and donating to the school. She has created a Facebook group titled “C.W. Duncan School Mission Project” and she can be contacted at duncanschool@att.net.A list of screenings nationwide can also be found, at www.praythedevilbacktohell.com, although proceeds do not necessarily go toward funding C.W. Duncan. “I had no idea how big it would get or how much of a response people would give to the project. At first I was thinking I could just sponsor a hospital or something like that, but Wendy suggested a school because that has a longer-lasting effect than just sponsoring one child,” Arnold said. “This whole thing has just made me so happy. I don’t have that guilty feeling anymore because I know I am doing something and that guilty feeling was God telling me there was something I could do and I should be doing.”

Called to help the cause? It takes just $70 to provide a year of schooling for youth at the United Methodist C.W. Duncan School in Liberia. To donate either contact Jessica Arnold at duncanschool@att.net or for other ways to give to the cause check out www.praythedevilbacktohell.com.


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MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

A team of 17 work beginning of Janua from Port-Au-Princ

The aftershocks of seeing H By RJ Walters Editor Many of us dropped our jaws while staring at a television, some of us attended prayer services and gave abundantly, and people around the globe devoted themselves to finding ways to help. But nearly 2,000 miles away, Rev. Don Gotham and 16 other UMC brothers and sisters from Michigan simply lived through one of the most devastating earthquakes of our time—with their faith in tact and much more perspective than what can be found in The USA Today or on CNN.com. A mission trip that arrived to Haiti on New Year’s Day was scheduled to return home Jan. 14, but just 15 hours before the mission team was scheduled to get on a plane a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit in Port-AuPrince, about 120 miles east of where the crew was working in Jeremie. While all of the crewmembers were unharmed, and eventually they returned home safely on Jan. 19 through the help and persistence of many people whose names they will never know, well over 150,000 people have now been declared dead from the tragedy, and these servants’ lives will never be quite the same. Gotham wept with a Haitian paint foreman who lost his only sister in the wreckage and the entire crew consoled people who walked in and out of the guest house they called their residence, as stories of agony and fright rolled off their lips. But despite that, and the fact they experienced somewhat strained communications with family and friends for a

few days, the team chooses to focus on the “amazing spirit” of the Haitian people and all of the good that is left to do in a reeling country. The group also learned a worthwhile lesson about the value of mutual trust and friendship in the most dire of times. “I think a lot of us, actually most of us, were concerned about our families at home, but we weren’t concerned about ourselves because of that camaraderie within the group,” said Mary Solterman, a member at Lexington United Methodist Church who made the trip. Friend and fellow Lexington UMC member Genie Bank echoed those sentiments. “I think there was a sense in the group of peace and calm, knowing that we were well cared for; still worried about those folks who were going through such tragedy, but at the same time there was a calmness in the group that I would say permeated everything we did the entire time until we left,” she said. Even though they were several hours away from the heart of the earthquake they saw plenty of its ramifications first hand. “I think we started to see the human side of the effects of the earthquake as these people came to the guest house for comfort. And then seeing them, just this mass of humanity as we walked down the harbor to go to church—it made you just realize this tragedy was going to spread throughout the whole island,” Bank said. “It’s not going to be about just Port-Au-Prince, it’s about how places like Jeremie are going to handle an influx of people who need food,

comfort and clothing. That’s what’s going to perme Gotham, the pastor at St. Clair UMC, can offer a view on the situation since he has gone to Haiti nin helping develop ongoing programs that are the bas mission work for the United Methodist Church. He said he was probably more deeply affected o some of his team members because he is friends w experiencing loss and he was forced to “see someth over change their lives.” Gotham said it is important to remember place becoming refugee towns like Jeremie because the o much need for assistance as Port-Au-Prince and th provide income for people to buy necessities. Gotham said he has been encouraged by the re days following the earthquake and he has been in pastor of the Methodist Church of Haiti. “There is no interest from our friends of the Ha hoard supplies. They realize if they can get someth needs into their hands they will undertake that an “People need to understand that the people of that good for myself is good for thy neighbor. And I lea where they take that to heart —the needs of their Gotham, as well as Solterman and Bank, also h unload three planes full of medical supplies that w hospitals and clinics in Jeremie and Petit-Goâve. After having some time to reflect, the general c missionaries would like to focus not on the drama small part of, but the continual progress the effort creating.


MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

You too can be a hero

kers provided aid to a medical clinic and school in Jeremie, Haiti for more than two weeks at the ary. People who went on the mission saw refugees fleeing to the town that is more than 100 miles ce where the devastating earthquake struck.

Haiti up close

eate the island.” a bit more introspective ne times in nine years, sis of present and future

on a personal level than with many people who are hing they have no control

es that are essentially outlying areas are in as here are very few jobs to

sponse of the church in the regular contact with a

aitian Methodist Church to hing that someone else nd make it happen,” he said. t church know that what is arned that early on in Haiti, brothers and sisters.” ad the opportunity to were distributed to public

consensus is the atic events they were a s of Gotham and others are

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“Sharing the work done by the Haitians…I worked at the health clinic…the programs that they have are more than just a Band-Aid approach, more than just fixing the injury right now; let’s instead do things that in the long run change the environment and make it safer and more healthy for the people who live in that area,” Solterman said, noting the clinics were doing wonderful work with tuberculosis, eye cataracts and many different surgeries. “The trip was about more than just building. Sure we had tasks to do, but the bigger part is building relationships with the Haitians in this area that allows us to develop programs that are long lasting, much longer that the two-week trip we take.” Bank said it is all about the people in her opinion. “The experience that I believe will stay with me is the loving kindness of the people there,” she said. “The children especially, who were all around us; everywhere we went they showed up and gave us unconditional love. And working side by side the Haitians and seeing how proud they were of the things they accomplished, that will also stick with me.” And Solterman likely speaks for the majority of the group when she explains how the experience has changed her everyday routine. “I think it makes you look at things differently, a little more simply,” she said. “Sometimes I just want to sit and read, and it’s OK, rather than jumping right back into our normal busy schedules.” UMCOR—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is mobilizing resources and working with its partners in direct relief operations in Haiti. UMCOR has a four star rating from Charity Navigator and is one of the only organizations working in Haiti to have an A-Plus rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy. UMCOR is a financially responsible and accountable relief organization. 100% of all gifts will support relief efforts in Haiti. www.umcorhaiti.org

By RJ Walters Editor With the recent devastation in Haiti that has been felt around the globe more people than ever are asking “What Can I Do?” to help. While groups like UMCOR and Red Cross are phenomenal outlets to provide assistance on an international level, the United Methodist Church has its own answer for local, state and national disasters, called Early Response Teams (ERT). ERTs fill a specific need in the early days after a disaster to establish the presence of the church, and the West Michigan Conference currently has 37 trained ERT members. A disaster is considered by the church as any specific event that results in overwhelming physical, economic and/or emotional damage to a community. Early Response Teams are flexible so that they can respond to any disaster that may occur. In the near future dates, places and times will be released for the latest session of ERT training around the state as congregations and church groups request them. Jeremy Wicks is a certified ERT trainer for the West Michigan Conference and he said it is the conference’s goal to have 150 volunteers trained by 2011 and he is willing to go anywhere in the conference to host training sessions. “Once a church contacts me about doing training I will send them bulletin inserts and advertising materials free of charge and we will get something set up,” he said. “It is of no cost to the church other than a fee for the materials that are part of the training process and the ‘West Michigan Early Response Team’ shirts that every participant will get.” The only requirements to join an ERT are that a volunteer must be at least 18 years old, in good physical health and pass a background test. Wicks said the biggest problem in reaching the 150-person goal is simply getting the word out there to churches in a time where congregations and members are flooded and overwhelmed with messages and promotional material. Wicks is the first to admit it took a tor-

nado in the town he calls home to alert him to the ministry. In 2007 Williamston was leveled by a severe tornado that killed three people and left parts of the area devastated. Williamston United Methodist Church’s downtown building was out of commission for a while, with plenty of damage to assess, and Wicks said it was a group of locals from the church who helped make a difference throughout the entire community for 4–6 weeks after the tragedy. “Our church was totally caught unprepared, and if not for our pastor who was already heavily involved in the community we may not have known where to turn,” Wicks said. “But without formal training we were able to manage and we came together and made a difference. That’s why it is now my passion to let people know that within the United Methodist Church there are the means to respond to disasters and all it takes is a little bit of training and planning.” Volunteers are asked only to complete a 6-8 hour training course and if a response is requested for a disaster, those logistics are taken care by people like Wicks, or Don Tippin, the West Michigan Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. There are a bevy of different positions on ERTs, for every type of person—from the heavy lifter to well-organized logistics leader to the do-it-all cook. Wicks said it is not only about cleanup duty and repairing damage, it is also about listening to people to help them heal and to share the love of Christ in a very tangible way. And while it might not be quite as glamorous of a challenge as something people see on “Man Versus Wild” in their living room, there are plenty of basic survival skills that need to be taken into account. “Each team must be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. As a team is making preparations, they need to keep in mind the need for basic necessities, such as food, fuel, water and sleeping gear, as well as debris removal equipment,” according to the ERT mission statement. For further information or to register for training Wicks can be reached at (517) 9806855 or jeremy_wicks@yahoo.com.

Left to right, Jeremy Wicks, Barbara Tripp (UMCOR) and Don Tippin all play a big role in Emergency Response Teams.


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MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

Modern Day Abolitionist

Detroit artist wants to reclaim awareness of slavery By RJ Walters Editor While slavery might seem like a term from a bygone era, the truth is there are more than 27 million victims of it worldwide in the forms of labor/debt bondage, forced laborers and sex and drug trafficking. And utilizing classic hymns with a newschool feel, Carl Thomas Gladstone is trying to bring the issue back to the forefront of people’s minds. Gladstone is a Deacon of the United Methodist Church and the director of the Young Leaders Initiative, a United Methodist ministry focused on youth and young adults in the heart of Detroit. And in his free time he showcases his skills as a perceptive musician with an innate desire to reclaim old songs and find contemporary meaning in them. The nationally distributed artist says his music explores the deepest human experiences and it “exposes moments when the divine seems distant, and ultimately (it) revels in the moments when hope and love seem close at hand.” His latest undertaking, The Abolitionist Hymnal, strives to take his personal experiences and newfangled understanding of

the modern day slave trade to bring a sense of awareness to the Christian community. “The abolitionists of the 19th century were fighting laws on books that said slavery was okay, which brought it to the surface a little bit,” Gladstone said. “Nowadays it is very underground and so how would Christian congregations claim the identity of abolitionists today with that reality? We don’t even associate with people who might work in the slave trade.” Gladstone admits that he was as ignorant as anybody about the facts of modern slavery, such as somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 children in America are victims of sex trafficking each year according to a recent study by the University of Michigan Law School, but once he started to educate himself he couldn’t pull himself away from the gruesome realities. Caught by surprise The movie Human Trafficking starring Mira Sorvino caught his eye on TV one day, and soon after he picked up the book Not For Sale by David Batstone. “That book does an amazing job of laying out the three main ways that people are still enslaved today. But he writes the book so all of the stories he tells are of people who are enslaved, but he also tells the story the other way—from the perspective of people who by the end of the book will come rescue them from slavery,” Gladstone said. “It’s a very tragic book because it details how people are enslaved, but it also explains how to fight it today.” After visiting the National Underground Railroad Center in Cincinnati he knew he had to help bring some insight on that fight to his fellow brothers and sisters. “There’s this moment where you’re standing on the northern bank of the river (at the

Carl Thomas Gladstone, a UMC Deacon down in Detroit, has made it his mission to bring awareness to modern day slavery through music and interaction.

museum)—and you know when they sang ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, ‘…a band of angels to carry me home…’—the tour guide stops and says ‘This is where they are talking about.’ People would come over to this side of the river and a band of angels would come and take them to a safe house, and it all just became very real at that moment.” So real that Gladstone has officially kicked off his Abolitionist Hymnal project and the wheels are turning faster than ever. In order to fund his vision he was hoping to raise $3,000 by March 14, and he had already hit $3,050 from 23 supporters by Feb. 9. Getting the church on board Donating to the project also has benefits for those investing their money. Every person who donates at least $5 will have his/her name included on the album’s cover art, and gifts up to $100 will include gifts such as buttons, hymnal chord charts and lead sheets of the music and advance copies of the album. Pledges of $100 or more will qualify a group or person who pledges as the “Church of God Waking” and that community can claim their place as one of the stops on The Abolitionist Hymnal debut concert tour and even have Gladstone come to a church or home to teach the songs. There are plenty of ways to donate to the cause via www.carlthomasgladstone.com. As for the music itself, most of it is from the 1800s and Gladstone has tried to create a collection that can still speak to people today. He said it is been easy to find abolitionist hymns thanks to a lot of online text repositories, but the fun part has been creating modern day melodies that make the music even more accessible. The first matter of business will be releasing acoustic versions of the songs on his Web site in a few months, but in the next year

Gladstone plans on creating a re-mix album of abolitionist hymns involving a plethora of melodies and sounds. He has already lined up the Lake Louise Camp Choir to record a song and he has friends who play everything from “electronica to a more hippie kind of rock” who he’s hoping will contribute. The music that will define it He even has a connection with Caedmon’s Call front man and solo star Derek Webb, a nice asset to have in his back pocket as things move forward. Gladstone said other than creating suitable melodies, he is trying to find songs that require little editing of the original texts in order to whip up a little euphonic charm. “There are definitely choices to be made and some editing to do,” he said. “In some of the old hymnals there is a lot of choice language about the evils of the Southern United States…stuff about the devil is from Georgia and people being sold down the river and stuff like that. So I just kind of tried to work around some of that, but I try to be fairly true to the text.” Some of the changes he has made help relate the music to the current horrors of brothels and child labor. Gladstone said his goal is to engage faith communities and open up the discussion so they can be aware and aid in the dismantling of slavery around the globe “There’s all these stories of (Dr. Sirirat) Pusurinkham going into rescue orphans in brothels in Thailand and saving them by her own will, that kind of thing—and while I might not be doing that I can help raise awareness in Christian congregations, like it happened in the 19th century,” he said. “I think we need to reclaim our identity as abolitionists and if this is a helpful tool in doing that, I’m eager to do it.”


FEBRUARY 19, 2010

MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK Largest Christian tour coming to Michigan in March By RJ Walters situation I tend to mess them up,” he said. “If I can just remember that every time I’ve let Editor Him take control things have turned out great…every time I try to take control I just From humble begins has come an abundance of hope, and some of the premier have to remember not to put myself in a dumb situation and I’ll better for it all.” Christian bands in America are in the process of pleasing ears and changing hearts Goodwin said he hopes the tour continues to break down barriers between Christians during the 2010 Winter Jam Tour. and non-Christians and advance the idea that there’s nothing boring about a relationship The largest Christian music tour in the country showcases a handful of talented with God. artists from a variety of genres and several insightful speakers, hoping to transform “I think one of the biggest misconceptions is people think you have to give up all the youth and young adults across the country. things in your life that are fun because they think it’s a ‘don’t do this, don’t that’ kind of As of Feb. 9 Winter Jam had already put on 16 shows in front of 112,336 people, and attitude and Christians don’t have fun. It’s truly a misconception because if you listen to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids and the EMU Convocation Center in Ypsilanti are tour most of the things the world requires you to do to have fun, they are things that hurt you stops for Newsong, Fireflight, Third Day and more on March 25 and 26 respectively. What and don’t help you in the long haul,” he said. “As a Christian you can have fun and makes Winter Jam more than “just another rock tour” is that 15,230 people have made remember what you did the next day…and there’s a joy and a peace and light that’s way the decision to follow Christ in their lives along the way. above what the world can offer and that begins with a relationship with Jesus. A lot of Billy Goodwin, the lead singer of Newsong, who has been nominated for eight Dove people think Christianity is a religion of ‘don’t’, but I think it’s a religion of ‘dos’ because Awards the past three decades (the Christian music industry equivalent of a Grammy), you can do all things through Christ.” said 15 years ago his band saw the need for camaraderie and love during the winter Goodwin said it is awe-inspiring to be on the road with a group of bands and workers months and the rest has been the hand of God at work. who are all committed to one fundamental promise. They set up a free concert in Greensville, S.C. to entertain what they thought would be And while on the road there are plenty of challenges to face, from the spiritual to the a few thousand people at a one-band gig and their lives have never been the same. laughably mundane. ”That night when we went to open the doors the hall filled up completely and we “I’m a little better equipped for this trip, I have a winter coat and a few warm things,” turned about 2,000 people away and we were totally taken aback by it. It was like ‘Woah, said Cox, who moved to Farmington Hills about a year and a half ago. “It’s kind of funny, what is going on here,’” he said. “It became a thing of prayer after that. ‘God what are you our drummer actually left his coat in his car in Florida and he’s been struggling the last doing, what do you want from us here?’” few days. He’ll be fine, it’s his fault.” What that night provoked has been nothing short of magical. On the tour’s Michigan stops Newsong will be joined by Fireflight, Third Day, the Newsboys, Tenth Avenue North, MIKESCHAIR, Robert Pierre, Revive and guest speaker Tony Nolan—all for $10. Sponsors like HearItFirst.com and love offerings help the tour’s cause, which is about so much more than music. Fireflight guitarist and background vocalist Justin Cox said his favorite part of travelling the country to play in front of huge crowds is interacting with the fans. “It’s always interesting when (people) talk to us, to see what songs made an impact to them; people will tell us songs that were never released to radio or songs we’ve never even played live have ministered to them,” he said. “And a lot of people who we see on this tour are just learning about us and what we’re about and they’re saying ‘Man, those songs are incredibly powerful and this one touched my life tonight.’” Fireflight is a band that prides itself on tackling difficult issues in its music, and its latest release For Those Who Wait demonstrates that, something Cox said he hopes brings people a step closer to redemption. Although he’s a rock star who makes a living playing concerts, doing radio shows and signing autographs, he isn’t afraid to share his personal experiences relating to God. Cox recently suffered through the final stages of a long-term relationship and he admits God has been changing his heart in radical ways. “I think just in general basically, what He’s done is allowed me to t tour lineup. Winter Jam concer 10 20 relinquish the control I thought I had on my life, and allow Him to e th to ion ss ir and pa Fireflight brings fla currently own me. I learned that every time I take control of a

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MICHIGAN AREA EDITION OF THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

A vision of diversity

Hispanic/Latino Ministry has wide-ranging hopes By RJ Walters Editor Living in a state where more than 81 percent of the residents were white people as of 2008, it would be easy to shove aside racial and ethnic minorities because the word “minority” loans itself to notions of people “on the fringe” and sometimes it is easier to ignore what people aren’t even willing to think about. But the United Methodist Church is making valiant efforts to be at the forefront of acknowledging Hispanics and Latinos are currently the fastest growing population in America, with close to 50 million people. Through in-depth discussions and planning, and the allocation of 3.8 million dollars from 2009–2012, the UMC is committed to opening its doors and arms to the largest ethnic minority in the United States. The vision of the National Plan for Hispanic/ Latino Ministry, put out by the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) at the 2008 General Conference, is “based on the experience of the Holy Spirit’s power on the day of Pentecost, to be a ‘Church for all the Nations,’” according to the Communications Unit of the General Board of Global Ministries. With well over 400,000 people of Hispanic or Latino descent in the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences, according to the 2008 American Community Survey, the Michigan Area has been expanding the reach of its ministries. There are certainly challenges in dealing with a sector of the population that is statistically less educated (just over 58 percent of Hispanics have high school degrees, according to the 2008 American Community Survey) and less wealthy than average citizens, and one that includes people facing immigration challenges and generational setbacks. But as the GBGM insists, “we can only reap what we sow as a church,” and the Hispanic/Latino people should no longer be forced to stand in the shadows. The current reality Currently every single annual conference has a growing Hispanic/Latino population and according to the US Census Bureau’s projections, by 2011 there will be 25 conferences with 100,000 to 499,999 Hispanics/Latinos, and 19 with over 500,000. Taking a proactive approach to that data, the Hispanic/Latino Ministry of the Detroit Conference finalized a strategic plan in December for growth through a series of three visioning sessions. “The (Detroit Conference) has, like many other conferences, recognized the need to focus on Hispanic/Latino Ministries,” said Sonya Luna, a Hispanic/ Latino Missionary for the UMC, and former Latino Ministry

same and they don’t all come from Mexico,” she said. “Here now in Michigan it is more migrant workers; my grandparents were migrant workers from Texas who came to Michigan. Most of the immigrants at that time probably were Mexican, but now there’s an influx from all over Latin America and even Central and South America.” Studies show the largest age group of the Hispanic population is the 25–40 sector and Luna said a lot of those people went to English-speaking schools and are bilingual.

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY SONYA LUNA

Members of the Detroit Conference Committee for Hispanic/Latino Ministry pray together at a Visioning Session late last year.

Coordinator at Ypsilanti FUMC. “In the past two years alone the committee has hired a Hispanic/Latino Missionary, has trained 10 lay missioners through National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries module workshops, has held annual worship services to celebrate the ministries, has completed a visioning/strategic plan process, and has held a workshop on developing Hispanic/Latino Ministry.” The Detroit Conference Committee has brought into focus a three-year plan for the conference that is more than just an idealistic vision—there are a variety of tangible goals the ministry wants to accomplish. The Hispanic/Latino Ministry wants to see one or two Hispanic or Latino pastoral appointments in the conference, as well as 50 new lay missionaries in the ministry. In the long-term future they also hope to develop 150 new faith communities in the state and 30 new congregations throughout Michigan. Luna said faith communities will play a major role in new developments. “They are like small groups, but they are more than small groups because it’s not just about Bible study—that’s part of it—but it’s about forming a community, forming a support system and network,” she said. “A lot of people in the Latino communities are not familiar with the Methodist Church, so one way to reach people who might be skeptical or afraid of going to a church is to have people who are trained open up their house to people to start a faith community. Then you talk about issues going on in people’s lives and you relate that to what God has to say in the Bible and how to deal with those issues.” Ypsilanti FUMC has held Spanish-English services since 2004 and Luna said that would have never happened without starting at a much smaller level. While those statistics represent future prospects, the conference currently has just five bilingual pastors and one Hispanic

missionary. A lot of the ministry’s focus will be on getting Hispanic/Latino and non-Hispanic/ Latino youth and young adults involved in the Methodist Church, thus creating a bridge to the next generation. Numbers are only part of the story though, as the ministry essentially wants the Latin American presence recognized in the conferences, with an increased responsibility in decision-making processes. The following sections highlight the three strategic areas the committee has outlined as essential to their three-year plan. Strengthen community empowerment For participation to take place the ministry is searching for people to train local congregations around the topic of community development and guide them through the process. “We’re working to put together a survey to see what leaders we already have in the conference who could be good for the ministry, and some of the qualities are just people who are self-starters that like to initiate things and aren’t afraid to try things and stay committed for the long run,” Luna said. It is also important in the eyes of the ministry to “find and connect immigration services/agencies to keep local congregations informed about immigration laws.” Through raising awareness and training, the conference hopes to start pilot groups on implementing life skills, youth leadership and understanding immigration laws within the three-year window. Luna said a major part of breaking down some of the barriers will be simply teaching people the truths about the many misconceptions about Hispanics and Latinos. “I guess some of the misconceptions are that all Latinos look the same and come from Mexico, and they all speak Spanish. Some Latinos speak Spanish, they don’t all look the

Strengthen leaders and congregations The bottom line right now is there is some leadership and awareness in regards to the future of Hispanic/Latino ministries in the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences, but more help is needed. “Some people might not be sure if they can work with people who might have a certain legal status, and sometimes people are nervous about that. And people are nervous about language and culture and we’re trying to break down barriers by having workshops on developing Hispanic/Latino ministries,” Luna said. Those barriers are found nationwide and statewide, including in the West Michigan Conference. “There is a big population in the Grand Rapids area because there are migrant workers. We’ve been talking with lay leaders there and some pastors, the district superintendent…to see what the possibilities are for them to start up a task force or committee in their conference,” Luna said. The Hispanic/Latino ministries are also utilizing the virtual world as best they can, with a Facebook Fan Group titled “Detroit Annual Conference Hispanic/Latino Ministry” and other resources such as the General Board of Global Ministry Web site. For Luna and others committed to this vision it is not about just a group of people though, it is about the church as a whole. “Our communities are changing and sometimes the church doesn’t necessary reflect our communities and we just want our churches to represent what the kingdom of God is,” she said. Strengthen cultural connectional relationships The final strategic direction can basically be summed up as the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences forming a solid cooperative bond through this ministry to make progress more substantial, and to use the conference’s media resources to make the Hispanic/Latino Ministry more relevant and part of day-to-day operations. Instead of being treated as an “outside operation” Luna said the ministry should be a natural addition to what the conferences are already doing to help people of all ages, races and background.


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Two Sections Section A 066000 Vol. 156 No. 42 February 19, 2010

Relief groups walk fine line on offering aid, sharing gospel B Y RO B I N RU S S E L L Managing Editor

Scholars argue for ‘cosmic optimism’ B Y M A RY J AC O B S Staff Writer

S

cience says that human beings evolved from more primitive life forms and that what was once called the “soul” might simply amount to brain chemistry. Is there any room left for God in this picture? Yes, according to speakers at Ministers

Week, Feb. 1-3 at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. Not only can theology co-exist with science, they argued, but theologians can offer key insights as leading thinkers grapple with questions of meaning, purpose and what it means to be human. Seeming challenges to faith posed by evolution, cosmology and neurochemistry, they added, may point to avenues for deeper theological understanding. About 150 participants from 10 states, most of them United Methodist pastors, attended the three-day event billed as “The Pew and the Petri Dish: Contemporary Issues in Religion and Science.” The conference was part of SMU’s yearlong observance of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

While the “new atheists” writing popular books often cite evolution to argue that the universe is without meaning or purpose, John Haught, a senior fellow in Science and Religion at Georgetown University and a former professor of theology, countered with a case for a “cosmic optimism” in his three Fondren Lectures. Dr. Haught received a 2008 “Friend of Darwin Award” from the National Center for Science Education, and is author of the forthcoming Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God and the Drama of Life (Westminster John Knox Press).

Cosmic purpose Religion and faith, he said, assert that the  See ‘Cosmic,’ page 8A

Most faith-based relief workers helping out in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake are being careful to give aid without proselytizing in the process. It can be a delicate balance: The reason they’re there in the first place, after all, is because their Christian beliefs compel them to show compassion to the least, the last and the lost. So how does one offer a cup of cold water—in Jesus’ name? What is the appropriate Christian witness within a disaster setting? United Methodist experts on evangelism and relief work say Christian groups must be especially careful to give aid according to need—and without strings attached. “We believe we are called by Christ to respond to the humanitarian imperative, which guides us to serve and care for the most vulnerable in their time of greatest need,” says Melissa Crutchfield, who heads disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “UMCOR does not evangelize or proselytize,” she adds, “but responds in the form of leading by His example, with the understanding that the greatest witness will be seen through our deeds.” Because UMCOR partners with local churches, it often has greater access to people in remote areas than other faith-based relief organizations, Ms. Crutchfield said. So UMCOR staff and volunteers are particularly mindful, she added, to “respect and embrace cultural and religious differences,” and also to allow local communities to identify their needs and to be involved in their own recovery. The Rev. Kwasi Kena, director of Evangelism Ministries for the denomination’s General Board of Disciple See ‘Relief,’ page 2A


2A FAITH focus FAITH WATCH Dakotas, Minnesota to have one bishop The North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church decided Jan. 26 to drop an episcopal area in 2012, when one bishop will be appointed to lead both the Dakotas and Minnesota conferences. Conference boundaries will not change. The decision is part of a plan to reduce the number of bishops by one in four of the five U.S. jurisdictions.

Air Force Academy opens Wiccan space The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., has set aside a worship space for followers of “Earth-centered” religions including Wicca and Druidism, school officials said in a Feb. 1 news release. The base already has worship spaces for Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists. The Air Force pledged in 2005 to accommodate free exercise of religion, after accusations that evangelical officers had been allowed to proselytize and pressure cadets of other faiths.

 RELIEF Continued from page 1A ship, says the way relief workers extend aid depends on their motivation. For United Methodists, he said, the motivation is more about extending “aid and relief to hurting people” than trying to get people in the midst of a crisis to make a decision for Christ. “Our motivation is to be salt and light,” Dr. Kena said, “so that people will ask, ‘What are these people called Christian like?’ “We are motivated by a divine mandate: ‘How can I love somebody? How can I help somebody? How can I bring relief to somebody?’ And along the way, should someone ask you, ‘Why did you come? Why are you here? Why did you travel all the way from the United States to Haiti, for instance?’ “That’s the time that you can open up a conversation about being motivated to help people because of the God I serve. That’s when you can tell your story.” Though the process of helping someone enter a relationship with Jesus Christ is usually through relationship-building, Dr. Kena said, a crisis situation is a completely different context that requires care and assistance rather than a gospel presentation. Some Christian outreach efforts in Haiti have already sparked controversy.

Gallup survey shows bias against Muslims Nearly half of Americans admit to prejudice against Muslims and negative feelings about Islam, according to a Gallup study released Jan. 21. In 1,002 phone interviews conducted last fall, 43 percent said they felt at least “a little” anti-Muslim prejudice, more than twice the level toward Buddhists, Christians and Jews. Fiftythree percent said their view of Islam was “not too favorable” or “not favorable at all.”

UMCOR’s Melissa Crutchfield visits a temporary camp in Mellier, Haiti, to assess needs following the earthquake.

College internship founder dies at 86 Lina McCord, a former executive at the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry who started the denomination’s Black College Fund intern program, died Jan. 29 at age 86. The program is named the Lina H. McCord Internship in honor of her 26 years of service at the agency. —Compiled by Bill Fentum

www.umportal.org news@umr.org Bob Mathews, CEO Robin Russell, Managing Editor Bill Fentum, Staff Writer Mary Jacobs, Staff Writer Ken Lowery, Copy Editor Cherrie Graham, Advertising Manager Kristin Del Mul, Senior Designer

F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

UNITED METHODIST NEWS SERVICE PHOTOS BY MIKE DUBOSE

Recipients leave an aid distribution sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief with their food package in Mellier, Haiti. Relief workers across denominations have to distribute aid to the needy without strings attached.

Haitian officials arrested members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, for allegedly trying to leave the country with 33 children, some of whom may not be orphans. News reports later showed that parents had willingly given their children to the missionaries to take to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic in hopes that they would have a better life. But Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Russell Moore expressed concern on a radio program that the arrests could put a damper on a movement of evangelicals who view adoption as a means of spreading the gospel. Dr. Moore published a 2009 book, Adopted for Life, calling on Christians to adopt children as a “Great Commission priority,” and the seminary is sponsoring a conference this month aimed at creating “a culture of adoption” in families and churches. Some Voodoo practitioners in Haiti fear Christian relief groups are pursuing ulterior motives. Max BeauTHE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER (USPS954-500) is published weekly by UMR Communications Inc., 1221 Profit Drive, Dallas, Texas 752473919. 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.

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voir, Haiti’s chief Voodoo priest, accused foreign Christian groups of “trying to buy souls,” and said Haitian Christians “grab” scarce resources and receive preferential treatment. And Scientologists recently came under fire for sending not just medics, military rations and relief supplies to Haiti, but also volunteer ministers who used Scientology techniques of “touch therapy” to assist the injured, according to news reports. Elaine Heath, professor of evangelism at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, says relief groups—whether religious, secular or governmental—see situations like Haiti not only as a chance to do good, but to look good, too. Positive PR isn’t inherently bad, she added, so long as meeting basic human needs remains the first priority. She called it a “lack of dignity” when ministries require aid recipients to sit through sermons or other religious appeals. “Anytime any group or government agency goes and brings help to people who’ve been hit by something, there is a philosophy behind it,” Dr. Heath said. “They all have their own agendas. Does that mean nobody should help people unless they suggest to others that they have a good agenda? No, I think that’s just nutty thinking.” Relief ministries tend to follow strict protocols in disaster zones to ensure the vulnerable aren’t being exploited. But protocols vary according to each group’s understanding of the risks at hand. Last September, more than 20 religious institutions, from Buddhists to

Catholics, agreed to a set of guidelines that urged relief groups to refrain from imposing moral values or engaging in inappropriate evangelism. Catholic Relief Services, for instance, concentrates primarily on distributing food and does not proselytize, according to spokesman Tom Price. On the other hand, Samaritan’s Purse, the North Carolina-based relief organization headed by evangelist Franklin Graham, represents a different approach to witnessing. While no one who receives aid is required to listen to a message or make any sort of faith profession, chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association attend to victims’ spiritual or emotional trauma. And weatherproof plastic sheets distributed to the homeless for shelter are emblazoned with the Samaritan’s Purse logo: a tangible way to demonstrate God’s love for people regardless of their beliefs, said Barry Hall, director of program support for the organization. Those giving out aid nevertheless do their best to win converts when they can. Mr. Hall said his volunteers seek to accomplish two things: “We’re going to meet their physical need . . . but we’re also going to take the opportunity to share the gospel. “What I have found is, no matter what that person’s background is, when I look them in the eye and say, ‘Can I pray for you?,’ I’ve never had anybody say no.” G. Jeffrey MacDonald of Religion News Service contributed to this report.


FAITH focus 3A UM CONNECTIONS

UMC freezes funds for two seminaries

Church historian workshop slated The Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum, Library and Archives on the campus of Epworth By the Sea on St. Simons Island, Ga., will host a Church Historian workshop March 24-26. Presenters include Dr. Dale Patterson, archivist for the General Commission on Archives and History; the Rev. Harold Lawrence, historical researcher; and Marie Amerson, church historian. For information, call (912) 638-4050 or e-mail methmuse@bellsouth.net. For lodging at Epworth, call (912) 638-8688 or email epworth@epworth bythesea.org.

UMCOR liaison to Haiti named The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, a Houston mission leader with extensive experience in disaster relief, will serve as liaison between the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the denomination’s conferences and congregations for the church’s relief efforts in Haiti following the Jan.12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Ms. Harvey worked with Texas Conference disaster relief responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike last year. She also helped coordinate the 2008 distribution of almost 1 million mosquito nets in Côte d’Ivoire.

Former mission center director Kirton dies The Rev. F. Allan Kirton, 70, a pastor in Brooklyn, N.Y., died Jan. 29, a day before his retirement and birthday were to be celebrated. A native of Trinidad, he was pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church at the time of his death and was associated with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries from late 1991 through 2001, much of that time as director of what was then the Mission Resource Center in Atlanta. —Compiled by Mary Jacobs

BY BILL FENTUM Staff Writer

PHOTO COURTESY OF DANIEL TURNER

The choir loft and the rest of the sanctuary of Russell Memorial UMC in Wills Point, Texas, were destroyed in an early morning fire on Feb. 4. Investigators blame the fire on arson.

UM congregation among string of church fires B Y RO B I N RU S S E L L Managing Editor

WILLS POINT, Texas—A United Methodist church became the seventh church this year in East Texas to suffer a fire when an early morning blaze Feb. 4 destroyed the building. No injuries were reported, but the fire destroyed the sanctuary of Russell Memorial United Methodist Church in Wills Point, some 50 miles east of Dallas, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen told The Associated Press. By Feb. 8, investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had declared the cause to be arson. Six earlier church fires this year in East Texas have also been blamed on arson. Authorities said a 911 call was placed about 5:23 a.m. from someone on their way to work. Word of the early morning fire quickly spread to residents of this small East Texas town of about 3,800 people, many of whom gathered as the church building was consumed by the fire. The 37-year-old Mr. Allen, who was baptized in the Wills Point church, said the fire continued burning nearly three hours after it was reported and “this building’s a total loss.” Daniel Turner, 30, a resident of Wills Point and a lifelong member of Russell Memorial, said he headed over to the building after his uncle called at 6:45 a.m., telling him, “The sanctuary’s gone.” “There’s so many memories,” Mr. Turner said of the building where his siblings got married and his mother’s funeral was held. But he added that

church members’ attitudes in general were positive. “It’s just going to make the congregation stronger—the church is not the building,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve heard several people here say that.” Interim pastor the Rev. Darrell Coats was scheduled to take the pulpit for the first time the Sunday after the fire. The Rev. Ray Reed, pastor of Russell Memorial, had just begun a sabbatical to work on his doctorate the week before the fire. “It’s quite a shock as you can imagine,” Dr. Coats said in an interview. “But the congregation is very resilient—very healthy and strong.” Even as the building was still smoldering, he said, some of the church’s 350 or so active members were setting up chairs for Sunday worship in a fellowship hall built two years ago across the street from the sanctuary. District Superintendent Sandra Smith was to attend the Sunday service as well. “It will be a time of celebrating God’s grace in a time of challenge and tragedy, which is what United Methodists do,” Dr. Coats said. Other East Texas churches affected by fires this year include Little Hope Baptist Church in Van Zandt County on New Years Day; Grace Community Church and Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens on Jan. 11; Tyland Baptist Church in Tyler on Jan. 16; the First Church of Christ Scientist in Tyler, on Jan. 17; and a lesser fire Jan. 20 at Fellowship of Prairie Creek Church in Lindale, where authorities were able to gather evidence.

The University Senate of the United Methodist Church placed two of the denomination’s seminaries on “public warning” Jan. 21, freezing church funding to the schools until at least this summer. Claremont School of Theology in southern California had failed “to consult fully” with church authorities on a new mission statement that includes plans to convert the campus into a multifaith university, the University Senate said in a news release. In addition, both Claremont and United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, were cited for not submitting recent financial audits to the Senate, a 25-member group that determines whether institutions meet criteria to be affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The schools were cut off Feb. 1 from the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF)—an apportioned fund that supports scholarships and budgets at the 13 United Methodist seminaries. Review panels will visit the seminaries this spring to evaluate their mission, management and budgets. The Senate will then consider both cases at its meeting June 23-24. If the Senate decides the schools can remain affiliated, the denomination’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) will release the funds. Meanwhile, both schools must submit monthly fiscal reports and five-year business plans. “We expected to receive roughly $800,000 from the MEF this year, though we budgeted 10 percent less to be conservative,” said Jon Hooten, Claremont’s communications director, in an e-mail response. “Like most schools in this economy, this is a tight budget year for us, so the impact will be significant.” Founded in 1885, Claremont has struggled financially through much of its history. The seminary lost and regained its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 2007, when it had operated under a deficit for three years. Then trustees launched the Claremont University Project, a 10-year plan to add new schools on the campus that will train Jewish and Muslim clerics. An interfaith center—the School of Ethics, Politics and Soci-

ety—will open there this fall with classes on social justice, grassroots organizing and global sustainability. “I think the thing that has disturbed some people is the worry that we’re turning a United Methodist-related seminary into something very different, but the seminary will stay intact,” Claremont President Jerry Campbell said in an interview. “Eventually, I suspect we will have a cluster of seminaries,” he said, “each with its own specialty, but in an environment that Jerry emphasizes muCampbell tual understanding and makes religion the parent of peace rather than the parent of conflict.” Dr. Campbell said he has consulted with leaders in the denomination’s California-Nevada and California-Pacific conferences about the University Project and has made reports on the seminary’s progress to the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools and a team that represented both the GBHEM and the University Senate. “So the caveat is, what does anyone mean by ‘consult fully’? That isn’t spelled out,” he said. A $5 million anonymous gift to the University Project has helped pull Claremont out of debt. Duane Dyer, the school’s executive vice president for development, has set a goal of raising $125 million by 2012. “Fundraising is still a challenge,” Dr. Campbell said, “but we ended the last three years in the black and we’re still guardedly optimistic.” Claremont submitted its audit and management letter for the 2007-08 fiscal year, he said, adding he expected the audit for 2008-09 to be finished by mid-February. “We will present it as soon as it’s done,” Dr. Campbell said. In an open letter to University Senate President Marianne Inman, the Rev. Wendy Deichmann Edwards, president at United Theological Seminary, said that the school plans to appeal the action against it. “There’s always an option for reconsideration,” Dr. Inman said in an interview.“The process for that is very clearly laid out in the guidelines.” bfentum@umr.org

rrussell@umr.org

U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0


4A FAITH focus

FAITH focus 5A

Powered up! Mission team brings reliable electricity to Liberia hospital Mission volunteer Wes Wilson (right) supervised a Liberian crew that helped install the new electrical system.

COURTESY PHOTOS

U.N. peacekeeping troops in Liberia loaned equipment to cut a road between the Ganta hospital and mission school.

BY BILL FENTUM

Then a mission team sent from First United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas, installed underground cables to replace old wiring damaged in the 1989-2003 civil war. Now the hospital and a nearby mission school

U

Staff Writer

ntil last summer, Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia was often thrown into darkness. Power blackouts in the operating room forced surgeons to work under flashlights while patients’ lives hung in the balance.

have the region’s most modern electrical system. Team leader Steve Vincent hopes the project is only the start for Power from the Son (powerfromtheson. com), a non-profit he founded in

Liberian workers were hired to dig trenches for pipes and cables. F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

2008 after a 32-year career in the utility industry. “Countries need reliable electricity to emerge from the Third World,” he said in an interview. “Without it, it doesn’t matter how hard-working or

Mission team member Harrell Burr met children at the mission school and hospital.

Students at the Ganta United Methodist Mission School were taught safety tips for new wiring at the campus.

innovative someone is. They almost have to leave the country to improve their situation.” Mr. Vincent at first wanted to power up one small village and grow from there. The Rev. Sam Dixon—the

Wires were run from transformers to the United Methodist hospital and mission school in Ganta, Liberia.

top executive for the United Methodist Committee on Relief who recently died of injuries from the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti—had another idea. “Sam said ‘I’ll support you with the villages, but help me with the hospital first,’” Mr. Vincent recalls. “So I said sure, and we did this instead. “Sam was one of the most optimistic, sacrificial and practical people I have known,” he added. “He was always there when I needed an answer or cheering up.” Before the two-week trip in June 2009, Mr. Vincent spent a year raising funds and recruiting his team from friends at the church and former business colleagues. “We needed a design engineer, we needed people experienced in laying cable and connecting transformers, and others to hook up the hospital and school,” he said. “I looked for people who could do those things, and had a heart for mission.” Two large transformers, connectors and 54,000 feet of cable were donated or sold at cost by companies in the U.S., then sent on a ship to Liberia to be ready when the crew got there.

Or at least that was the plan. Arriving June 7, the team learned customs had not yet cleared the supply shipment. Mr. Vincent and team member Chris Olson spent the next three days negotiating with port officials in Monrovia, the capital city. “We must have had angels watching out for us,” Mr. Olson said. “Ultimately a head at the port realized we weren’t in it for personal gain and released the containers.” Other crew and local workers dug trenches on the 750-acre mission complex, then laid and buried the cable. Backs and feet were a little sore when the team returned each night to the mission’s guesthouse. “That was an experience,” said Mr. Olson. “There was no running water, and we poured cups of water over our heads to take baths.” The team slept under nets to avoid malaria, but rarely saw mosquitoes in the house—a blessing Mr. Olson credits to a 12-inch iguana living between a screen and window in their sleeping quarters.“It probably ate almost anything that came around,” he said, laughing. “One thing we hadn’t nailed down

before coming,” Mr. Vincent said, “we couldn’t find tractors and backhoes for rent to dig the ditches and cut through roads.” U.N. peacekeepers from Bangladesh had the equipment, however, so the team visited a battalion leader to plead their case. “Once the lieutenant colonel understood we were all there as volunteers for a charitable group,” Mr. Vincent said,“he told his officers, ‘As long as it doesn’t interfere with your

Mission leader Steve Vincent trained Liberian crews to prepare cables that carry 7,200 volts of electricity.

normal duties, you’ll do anything you can to help these people get their work accomplished.’ “We built such a friendship with them that three months later, one of the officers I worked with, a Muslim, wrote a letter asking me to pray for him and his family. Relationships like that really got to me.” While in Ganta, Mr. Vincent taught safety classes for students at the mission school, showing them how to be

careful around the new wiring. He also trained electrical superintendents at the hospital and school, and made sure they took part in installing the system. “We had everyone involved, pulling cable, making connections, moving the transformers,” he said. “We knew that if we did all the work ourselves, they wouldn’t be able to keep the system up and running after we left.” Staff at the mission complex passed their first test only a few hours after the team started its journey back to Texas. One of the two generators wasn’t connecting properly to the grid, so a Liberian electrician worked to solve the problem and finish the project. “As we boarded our plane in Monrovia,” said Mr. Vincent, “we got an email saying they had fixed the wiring, and the unit was now operating. Their can-do attitude and determination brought tears to our eyes.” United Methodist Bishop John Innis of Liberia had been out of the country when the work took place. But he was delighted with the result, and thanked the team in person a few

months later while in the U.S. for the 2009 Council of Bishops meeting. “I’m thrilled,” Bishop Innis said after a news conference at First UMC in Arlington. “I just can’t find words to express appreciation to Steve and his crew. Out of love, they risked their lives to travel to Liberia and give hope to the community.” Since then, Mr. Vincent has kept in touch with the bishop, working on a plan to distribute solar lighting in Liberia as a replacement for more expensive kerosene lamps. In addition they could run lines to businesses in Ganta, selling electricity to support the mission station. Mr. Vincent has also talked to First Baptist Church in Arlington about bringing electrical power to a village in Sierra Leone. “Power from the Son will work on any project that brings a higher quality of life to the emerging world,” he said. “I’d like to turn this into almost a Habitat for Humanity model, with teams of utility engineers ready to go anywhere they’re needed. That’s my dream. I’m just getting started.” bfentum@umr.org

U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0


4A FAITH focus

FAITH focus 5A

Powered up! Mission team brings reliable electricity to Liberia hospital Mission volunteer Wes Wilson (right) supervised a Liberian crew that helped install the new electrical system.

COURTESY PHOTOS

U.N. peacekeeping troops in Liberia loaned equipment to cut a road between the Ganta hospital and mission school.

BY BILL FENTUM

Then a mission team sent from First United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas, installed underground cables to replace old wiring damaged in the 1989-2003 civil war. Now the hospital and a nearby mission school

U

Staff Writer

ntil last summer, Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia was often thrown into darkness. Power blackouts in the operating room forced surgeons to work under flashlights while patients’ lives hung in the balance.

have the region’s most modern electrical system. Team leader Steve Vincent hopes the project is only the start for Power from the Son (powerfromtheson. com), a non-profit he founded in

Liberian workers were hired to dig trenches for pipes and cables. F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

2008 after a 32-year career in the utility industry. “Countries need reliable electricity to emerge from the Third World,” he said in an interview. “Without it, it doesn’t matter how hard-working or

Mission team member Harrell Burr met children at the mission school and hospital.

Students at the Ganta United Methodist Mission School were taught safety tips for new wiring at the campus.

innovative someone is. They almost have to leave the country to improve their situation.” Mr. Vincent at first wanted to power up one small village and grow from there. The Rev. Sam Dixon—the

Wires were run from transformers to the United Methodist hospital and mission school in Ganta, Liberia.

top executive for the United Methodist Committee on Relief who recently died of injuries from the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti—had another idea. “Sam said ‘I’ll support you with the villages, but help me with the hospital first,’” Mr. Vincent recalls. “So I said sure, and we did this instead. “Sam was one of the most optimistic, sacrificial and practical people I have known,” he added. “He was always there when I needed an answer or cheering up.” Before the two-week trip in June 2009, Mr. Vincent spent a year raising funds and recruiting his team from friends at the church and former business colleagues. “We needed a design engineer, we needed people experienced in laying cable and connecting transformers, and others to hook up the hospital and school,” he said. “I looked for people who could do those things, and had a heart for mission.” Two large transformers, connectors and 54,000 feet of cable were donated or sold at cost by companies in the U.S., then sent on a ship to Liberia to be ready when the crew got there.

Or at least that was the plan. Arriving June 7, the team learned customs had not yet cleared the supply shipment. Mr. Vincent and team member Chris Olson spent the next three days negotiating with port officials in Monrovia, the capital city. “We must have had angels watching out for us,” Mr. Olson said. “Ultimately a head at the port realized we weren’t in it for personal gain and released the containers.” Other crew and local workers dug trenches on the 750-acre mission complex, then laid and buried the cable. Backs and feet were a little sore when the team returned each night to the mission’s guesthouse. “That was an experience,” said Mr. Olson. “There was no running water, and we poured cups of water over our heads to take baths.” The team slept under nets to avoid malaria, but rarely saw mosquitoes in the house—a blessing Mr. Olson credits to a 12-inch iguana living between a screen and window in their sleeping quarters.“It probably ate almost anything that came around,” he said, laughing. “One thing we hadn’t nailed down

before coming,” Mr. Vincent said, “we couldn’t find tractors and backhoes for rent to dig the ditches and cut through roads.” U.N. peacekeepers from Bangladesh had the equipment, however, so the team visited a battalion leader to plead their case. “Once the lieutenant colonel understood we were all there as volunteers for a charitable group,” Mr. Vincent said,“he told his officers, ‘As long as it doesn’t interfere with your

Mission leader Steve Vincent trained Liberian crews to prepare cables that carry 7,200 volts of electricity.

normal duties, you’ll do anything you can to help these people get their work accomplished.’ “We built such a friendship with them that three months later, one of the officers I worked with, a Muslim, wrote a letter asking me to pray for him and his family. Relationships like that really got to me.” While in Ganta, Mr. Vincent taught safety classes for students at the mission school, showing them how to be

careful around the new wiring. He also trained electrical superintendents at the hospital and school, and made sure they took part in installing the system. “We had everyone involved, pulling cable, making connections, moving the transformers,” he said. “We knew that if we did all the work ourselves, they wouldn’t be able to keep the system up and running after we left.” Staff at the mission complex passed their first test only a few hours after the team started its journey back to Texas. One of the two generators wasn’t connecting properly to the grid, so a Liberian electrician worked to solve the problem and finish the project. “As we boarded our plane in Monrovia,” said Mr. Vincent, “we got an email saying they had fixed the wiring, and the unit was now operating. Their can-do attitude and determination brought tears to our eyes.” United Methodist Bishop John Innis of Liberia had been out of the country when the work took place. But he was delighted with the result, and thanked the team in person a few

months later while in the U.S. for the 2009 Council of Bishops meeting. “I’m thrilled,” Bishop Innis said after a news conference at First UMC in Arlington. “I just can’t find words to express appreciation to Steve and his crew. Out of love, they risked their lives to travel to Liberia and give hope to the community.” Since then, Mr. Vincent has kept in touch with the bishop, working on a plan to distribute solar lighting in Liberia as a replacement for more expensive kerosene lamps. In addition they could run lines to businesses in Ganta, selling electricity to support the mission station. Mr. Vincent has also talked to First Baptist Church in Arlington about bringing electrical power to a village in Sierra Leone. “Power from the Son will work on any project that brings a higher quality of life to the emerging world,” he said. “I’d like to turn this into almost a Habitat for Humanity model, with teams of utility engineers ready to go anywhere they’re needed. That’s my dream. I’m just getting started.” bfentum@umr.org

U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R | F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0


6A FAITH forum AGING WELL

Sins of ‘nomission’ afflict many churches

What to tell grown children about aging grandparents B Y M I S S Y B U C H A NA N Special Contributor

A 27-year-old man recently wrote to me about a difficult situation with his middle-aged mother and his elderly grandparents. His mother is a single woman whose only sibling lives abroad. She is also a caregiver for both her parents, including a mother who has progressive dementia. The young man, an only Missy child who lives Buchanan several states away from his family, said he feels mixed emotions every time his mother calls to tell him about her latest woes. He confesses he gets irritated when his mother interrupts his workday with a barrage of phone calls or text messages. He knows she is venting frustration, but he feels helpless. He also struggles with the guilt of feeling impatient with his mother and living so far away. They are a family of three generations who love God and each other, but something in the relationship is not working. He asks what his role should be in the situation. I can empathize with the mother’s dilemma. As my own parents grew frail, there were tough issues to face. Unlike the mother in this story, I have a brother and sister who helped shoulder those decisions. Still, it was up to me to decide what to tell my young-adult children about their grandparents’ decline. Two of my three children live on different coasts, in opposite time zones. All are busy professionals with lives of their own. Yet they loved my parents deeply and wanted very much to be kept in the loop. For me, the tough issue was how much to say and when to say it. It is not always an easy call. When my 92-year-old mother was in the hospital, I alerted my grown children that the end was edging closer. Moments later, my son-in-law from California called. Even though my daughter knew her grandmother had been hospitalized and was not doing well, my message hit her like an emotional brick.

She was over a thousand miles away, feeling helpless. She was so upset that she had her husband call while she tried to pull herself together again. Then came the questions. Should she fly home right then? Should she wait? Anyone who has had a loved one in a near-death situation understands that those are difficult answers to give. None of us knows God’s precise timetable. It turned out that my mother’s diminished state was partly due to medication. She lived for a while longer and my daughter was able to get home to see her. The point is, end-of-life situations are fluid. There’s no rulebook. Parents of young-adult children should be careful not to expect them to take on the role of an equal. Think carefully about what to say and when to say it. Yet on the other hand, young adults should not be shielded from the difficulties of aging. These are opportunities for them to mature spiritually as they embrace the reality of their loved ones’ condition. In the young man’s situation, his mother desperately needs a support system of friends or fellow caregivers who will allow her to vent without overburdening her son. She needs to weigh the urgency of each situation, especially if it means constantly interrupting her son’s work environment. Perhaps she can update him at a predetermined time—and without saturating him with every detail. It’s vital for the mother and son to have honest dialogue. Even grown children who live far away may need to be prepared for the physical and mental changes that they will see in their older loved ones. Bottom line, it’s a matter of grace. Young adults need to extend grace to their parents, knowing they won’t get it right all the time. Parents should extend grace to their young-adult children, understanding they need to establish their own identity while staying connected to the family. It’s really nothing we don’t already know. Sometimes life is messy, but in its messiness, God works to make us strong. Ms. Buchanan, a member of FUMC Rockwall, Texas, is the author of the new release Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms (Upper Room Books).

F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

B Y DA N D I C K Special Contributor

A large number of United Methodist congregations are struggling with money, members, commitment and leadership. Many of these churches aren’t doing anything wrong—in fact, they aren’t doing much at all. And that’s the trouble. For years, I have been curious about the large number of United Methodist congregations that do essentially nothing beyond their walls. This is not in any way to ignore the incredible mission work the United Methodist Church does at all levels. Missional outreach and Christian service is in our DNA and helps define us as “United Methodist.” But that’s the point. About one-infive (20 percent) of our churches do nothing, or next to nothing, for those outside the church. Another 20-30 percent limit their missional focus to whatever is done through apportionments. And a significant number support mission work passively— giving money so that other people might do it. Our healthiest congregations, however, are those with active and committed engagement from a large number of people in a large number of good works. The outward and visible signs of our inward and spiritual graces is not merely a nice poetic turn—it is evidence that we are truly engaged in Dan Dick the will of God and the work of Christ. Yet for years, I have received resistance to the idea. When I wrote the Bible study FaithQuest in 1996, based on Luke, Acts, Ephesians, the teachings of John Wesley and the United Methodist theological task and Social Principles, I received angry e-mails challenging my reading of Scripture.

Equipped to serve The thesis of FaithQuest is that we are formed in the faith, equipped to be disciples of Jesus Christ, that we become through the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit the body of Christ, and then continue to serve and function as Christ for the whole world. This is the sweep from Jesus’ invitation to “Follow me,” through the formation of the “church” to Wesley’s vision of the world as our parish. To this day, I don’t believe I imposed much of an interpretation on the biblical and theological materials

(beyond selecting books that illustrate the servant/service nature of the church), yet many were angry. One pastor from Michigan wrote: “How dare you imply that it is not enough that we take care of one another in the church. Our world is a hostile and dangerous place. There is a reason we call our places of worship ‘sanctuaries.’ It is all we can do to cope with the sin and corruption of our modern age. We welcome people to come in out of the darkness and trouble for comfort and security. It is unfair of you to place a burden of guilt on us because we don’t share your liberal agenda.”

‘We all need reminders that the church isn’t ours, it’s God’s. And it exists to fulfill God’s will and purpose, not our own.’ It always breaks my heart when I hear people link the notions of kindness, healing and helping to a political agenda. I feel this woman’s pain. Life is indeed difficult and the world can be a scary place. We do need a faith that protects and defends, but that alone is an incomplete faith. We’re not the only ones hurting, and we do not have the luxury of receiving the blessings of Christ and holding onto them for ourselves. What we have received, we are expected to share with others—whether we think they are deserving or not. Churches that do for others tend to be healthier churches. Giving is higher. Levels of participation and engagement tend to be higher. Morale and spirit tend to be higher. A few years ago, I visited one of the poorest congregations I have ever seen. They lacked funds for paying a full-time pastor or paying their apportionments in full, but just about every member served in some mission-focused capacity in the community. The spirit and energy in that congregation was infectious: a congregation with constant money worries, yet every person was smiling and singing and sharing stories of the power of Christ to touch and change lives. It was refreshing. I often liken congregational life to

breathing and ask, “Which is most important—breathing out or breathing in?” (Answer: depends on which you did last). Health depends on balance—inhaling (inward practices that develop us in our faith and abilities to serve) and exhaling (applying what we learn in service to others). Evangelism isn’t just about the words we say to get others to come to us. True evangelism is the integral message of our entire lives—what we say and do (faith without works is dead).

One church's example A number of years ago, I met with a church that was considering closing its doors. The once-thriving congregation of more than 400 had dwindled to fewer than 50. They could no longer afford a full-time pastor and struggled to pay bills month-to-month. In all their discussions, not once did church leaders talk about the mission of the church or the work they could do. They had no vision of the present, let alone the future. Yet they were located in a community struggling with high unemployment, lowincome families, a high percentage of older adults and a large, poor Native American population within just a few miles. The leaders decided that they would work to close the church—but in three years’ time. During that period, they would select one ministry at a time to focus on: They would offer help to the Native Americans; they would open the fellowship hall to mothers with young children; they would work to help the elderly and the homebound. They began this plan in 1995— and the church still functions today. Though still small, they are strong, stable and making a difference in the lives of hundreds of people. We all need reminders that the church isn’t ours, it’s God’s. And it exists to fulfill God’s will and purpose, not our own. When the church really takes off, it’s because what we do is a clean match for what God wants done. We often talk about sin as an individual act, but throughout the history of the Hebrew people and the earliest Christian history, “sin” was the “missing the mark” of the whole community. When we are not engaged beyond our own needs and desires, we are missing the mark. But when our life together bears fruit that feeds a starving and struggling world, we are right on target. The Rev. Dick is director of connectional ministries for the Wisconsin Conference. Excerpted from his blog, doroteos2.wordpress.com.


FAITH forum 7A WESLEYAN WISDOM

Finding our way into a new UMC future B Y D O NA L D W. H AY N E S UMR Columnist

The challenge of United Methodism today is to make a paradigm shift and redefine some of the attitudes and structures entrenched in our 20thcentury ethos. We have arrived at a “perfect storm” of the reality about the relationship between the local church and the larger connection. John Wenrich is a denominational consultant in the Evangelical Covenant Church, who leads local church seminars Donald called “Veritas,” the Haynes Latin word for “truth.” His philosophy is one that we United Methodists might find helpful—“There is no vitality without reality.” His seminar fleshes out the statement: “Blessed are the churches who admit reality, and confront it with honesty, hope, and faith.” As we sometimes say in seminary courses on biblical exegesis, “That will preach!” What is the reality among our own connection? We are finally admitting that numbers are important, a reality factor long denied in seminary faculties, General Board staffs and the Council of Bishops.

Counting heads We repeated these denials as truisms in so many important settings: “We do not play the numbers game” or “Authentic ministry must not be quantified.” Somehow in that denial we forgot to admit that every “number” is a child of God and a member of some pastor’s flock. Certainly the dropout and transfer of some persistently “nattering nabobs of negativism” makes for congregational peace. Yet we should remember the philological origin of that alliteration: former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who refused to admit the importance of political dissent and civil disobedience in the 1960s. We would be better served if we heeded the advice of the late Joe Harding, who helped develop the “Vision 2000” local church renewal effort. Joe loved to gig people by asking those who wanted to “purge the rolls and get rid of the deadwood” to consider instead, “Why did the deadwood die?”

This is a piece of “humble pie” we all need to eat. In every jurisdiction, conference and local church where membership decline has weakened the church, we must ask, “Where have all our children gone?” Likewise we must ask why our appeal after the mid-20th century became more and more limited to white suburbia. When Gibson Winter of Garrett Biblical Institute wrote The Suburban Captivity of the Churches in the 1950s, his thesis got no traction. If we had really “walked the walk,” would clergy pensions have become the highest fiscal priority of the late20th century? In making appointments, did we stop factoring numerical growth into the equation of clergy effectiveness? Bottom line: There is no vitality without reality. We must once again evangelize all socio-economic, racial and ethnic strata or we are destined for the slippery slope from “mainline to sideline to offline.” Secondly, how long can a church remain viable when its membership base develops a wider and wider spread between the age of those on the church roll and the age of those living in that zip code? Medical science has been the best friend of United Methodism for over half a century, camouflaging the reality that the strongest component of service and giving in many congregations has been those over 65 years of age. Look at your church next Sunday. If present trends continue, who will be singing in the choir, sitting in the congregation and keeping the church solvent? Quaker Elton Trueblood once wrote that every church must define its base and its field. Then it must recognize that if the base can no longer support and supply the field, the field will die a slow death. In other words, if a church is having more funerals than professions of faith, it is being weighed in the balances and found wanting as a missional outpost of the Kingdom. Bottom line: There is no vitality without reality. We must evangelize younger people or grow weaker with every death. Thirdly, we have developed a kneejerk reaction to the emerging church insistence that the denominational sign on the lawn is not necessarily a draw to your church. Most megachurches of all heritages are playing down their denominational identity. Often it’s only mentioned in parentheses! This development has probably hurt

no church as much as it has United Methodism. As United Methodist Bishop Bevel Jones used to say of many situations,“Our strength has become our weakness.” We cherish our “catholic spirit” and encourage our youth to see the validity and value in other religious traditions. Yet we have lost more than we have gained, as our children married persons of other denominations or moved from small towns to urban areas. We also developed in the entire 20th century what William Abraham of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology calls “doctrinal amnesia.” On campuses, in boardrooms and around bridge tables, United Methodists were embarrassed when asked what we believe. The merger of the Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren in 1968 proved to be doctrinally disastrous for the EUBs. The EUB Confession of Faith was hammered out after World War II; the Methodist Articles of Religion came from Elizabethan England. There is a cultural aphorism that applies here: If you don’t know where you are going, you will not know if or when you get there.

Serious disconnect Fourthly, even e-mails I receive in response to this column show there is a serious disconnect between laity and pastors, and between local churches and the connectional church. In horse-and-buggy days, the linchpin of connectionalism was the Quarterly Conference. Four times a year, the Presiding Elder came to the charge, preached and interpreted the

connectional ministries of the church. By the early 1950s, the Quarterly Conference became the Charge Conference and was held semi-annually. A decade later, the spring conference was abandoned, leaving only an annual Charge Conference in the fall. With the 21st century, some bishops allowed the superintendents to abandon their annual visit to each charge and to hold “cluster conferences.” Now only a handful of laity attend, and the dialogue between the District Superintendent and the local laity is often confined to confrontational issues. The only recognized connectional group often is defined as the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and they have to see the D.S. on her or his turf—the District Office. Along this journey we have lost valuable personal rapport—and the conversations and sermons that build trust. Now we see “apportionments” defined as a “franchise tax.” How sad. Bottom line: There is no vitality without reality. District Superintendents should do what corporate district managers do—ride with their sales people, accompany them on calls; know what they are reading; learn their priorities between time spent in the office and time spent “burning shoe leather.” Our honesty must reflect the same reality of passengers on a plane that has lost some of its engines—we must jettison some dead weight that is too costly to maintain. We cannot afford the general, jurisdictional or annual conference overhead that we could when we were younger, more

generous in stewardship and more familial in connectional relationships. The last page of Russell Richey’s important volume Methodist Connectionalism lists some factors that can lead to new vitality. The key word is trust. I’m paraphrasing them as challenges for us all:  trusting enough in the gospel to embrace a new future;  trusting our ministry enough to give up “salary-ladder” appointment careers;  trusting our bishops and trusting them to lead us;  trusting connectional leadership when we disagree with them;  trusting ourselves to experiment, to dare, to start afresh, to create anew;  trusting our Methodist heritage in a world of pluralism and divisiveness;  moving beyond suspicion, not to naiveté or caucusing or exiting, but to trust. Jesus once said of Simon Peter’s great affirmation of faith in him as Son of the living God,“On this rock I will build my Church.” Each of these itemizations of trust are merely broken reeds unless they are rooted and grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ. You and I must ask ourselves, “Have I faith? Have I fruits?” Our answers will determine the answer to the larger issue, “Have we a future featuring a vitality founded on veritas? Dr. Haynes is an instructor in United Methodist studies at Hood Theological Seminary. e-mail: dhaynes11@triad.rr.com.

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8A FAITH focus  COSMIC Continued from page 1A universe is here for a reason; Darwin’s description of evolution—with its randomness, blind natural selection and struggle for survival—seems to rule out a cosmic purpose. And many scientists tend to reject alternative theories such as intelligent design as scientifically unsound, he said. “To scientists, giving students the option of studying evolution or intelligent design is like giving them the choice of studying chemistry or alchemy,” Dr. Haught said. “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution,” he said, quoting a scientist. Another apparent challenge to theology is scientific evidence of “deep time.” Dr. Haught presented an illustration: If the universe’s 13.7-billion year “cosmic story” was symbolized in a series of 30 books, with each volume containing John 450 pages, and each Haught page representing one million years, life doesn’t begin until the 27th volume. At page 385 of the last volume, dinosaurs become extinct. Human beings don’t show up until page 450. “All of which raises the question: Why would God take so long?” Dr. Haught said. “Is there any divine providence in all of this? Is there a coherent story that connects page one, volume one, with the current page and the pages yet to be written?” Because of this, Dr. Haught said, atheists conclude that the universe is fundamentally impersonal. He cited the words of author Richard Dawkins, who concludes that the universe has “no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” That leads atheists to a kind of “cosmic pessimism,” Dr. Haught said. But faith, he countered, might rep-

resent a choice of “cosmic optimism,” one that recognizes human beings made in God’s image as actors in the unfolding evolution of the universe. “The main motif in the Bible is the theme of promise,” Dr. Haught said. “Promise has the characteristic of being open-ended. The nature of promise is that you don’t expect perfection here and now. Instead, God opens up a future for the whole universe.” He said that Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Jesuit paleontologist who theorized that human beings live in an unfinished universe, might help people of faith understand why suffering and even randomness exist. De Chardin theorized that, “an originally perfect creation would not be distinct from God. An originally perfect universe would be a world without a future, without freedom and without life. Life requires the indefiniteness of the future in which to unfold.” “What would the world be like if perfectly designed?” Dr. Haught said. “It would have no future.” In that sense, he said, the God of promise characterized in the Bible “is the ultimate explanation of evolution.” And faith could represent the way in which humans participate and propel the evolving universe toward a more hopeful future.

Search for soul In another lecture, “Brain Battles: Theology, Neuroscience and the Search for the Soul,” Perkins professor William “Billy” Abraham described a theological response to recent discoveries in neuroscience suggesting human nature is rooted in physical reality. Those discoveries don’t necessarily contradict religious belief, Dr. Abraham said. “What it tells us is that dualism is false,” he said, adding that the Bible is anti-dualist. The notion that human beings have two separate parts— souls and bodies—was a “late devel-

UMR PHOTO BY MARY JACOBS

The concept of evolution doesn’t contradict Christian faith, according to John Haught, featured speaker at Ministers Week at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

opment in the tradition, and now Christians can dispense with that.” But where science claims that human beings are fundamentally limited to matter, theologians need to propose another view, Dr. Abraham said. He described a research project he’s helping design along with a computer scientist that would test the idea that focused attention—measurable with precise psychological metrics—can alter brain states as measurable through MRIs. “Quantum physics reveals a world open to human agency,” he said. Evidence suggests, for instance, that solely materialist and deterministic views of humans are harmful to people, and theologians can offer a more positive and constructive view of human nature. “We theologians must not lose our nerve,” he said, urging that theologians work to develop “an alternative research agenda.”

Taking it home

UMR PHOTO BY MARY JACOBS

William “Billy” Abraham spoke Feb. 3 on “Brain Battles: Theology, Neuroscience and the Search for the Soul” at Ministers Week at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. F E B R UA RY 1 9 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M E T H O D I S T R E P O R T E R

So what will all these ideas mean to ministers who returned to their congregations at the end of Ministers Week? The Rev. Daniel Echols, associate pastor of St. John’s UMC in Lubbock, Texas, said the material will be relevant to his ministry. “We’re right across the street from Texas Tech, so we always have a lot of discussion and interaction with the scientific community,” he said. Many members of his congregation are professors, students or employees at Texas Tech. Mr. Echols says he plans to use what he learned at Ministers Week as part of upcoming adult Sunday school programs and discussions. “I liked Dr. Haught’s analogy of water boiling on a stove,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of molecules heating;

there’s also some meaning behind it, such as, ‘I want to make coffee.’ In the midst of physical reality, there is an element of human intentionality, too.” The Rev. Shelli Williams, associate pastor of St. Paul’s UMC in Houston, said the Ministers Week program “presented an understanding of God that’s

much bigger than we often allow it to be.” She added that she appreciated the Perkins program because it “shows an openness to talk about something that is a hard issue to talk about in our culture, and to talk about it with integrity.” mjacobs@umr.org

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February 2010 edition of the Michigan Area Reporter  

This is the initial publication of the Michigan Area Reporter: An Edition of the United Methodist Reporter. It covers UMC news, events and p...

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