New church bring vitality | 8A
UM Colleges shine | 4A & 5A
Let your light so shine | 6A
Vol. 157 No. 27
079000 November 5, 2010
Bishop’s Column Let Us Preach the Mission of the Church by Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton
Proud, passionate—Protestant PHOTO BY PAUL HITZELBERGER
In the same pulpit the beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke several times, Bishop Jonathan Keaton was the keynote speaker for a celebration of 200 years of Protestantism in Michigan at Central UMC in Detroit.
UMC helps celebrate 200 years of Protestantism in Michigan By RJ Walters Editor In 1804 travelling clergyman Nathan Bangs arrived in Detroit, only to abruptly leave “shaking the dust off his feet in testament against (the people),” as he wrote in his journal. Protestantism had not yet found a
home in Michigan. On Sunday Oct. 3, Central United Methodist Church in Detroit celebrated what happened just six years later, when the historic church and the FUMC of Dearborn became the first protestant churches in the state. “In 1804 circuit riders (travelling
clergy) came to this “Wild West town,” but they weren’t warmly received so they left,” Dr. James N. Bull said.“Two-hundred years ago, in 1810, Rev. William Mitchell formed the first Methodist Society of seven people and that is what we celebrate today.” See UMC celebrates . . . on page 2A
My primary goal for this quadrennium remains as follows: to help the Michigan Area and the general church realize its stated mission, namely “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” See Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8 and The 2008 Book of Discipline paragraphs 120-124 on “The Mission and Ministry of the Church.” It’s good reading for the mind, body and soul. In addition, that means using the four focus areas from General Conference as centering points—specifically global health, engaging in ministry with the poor, developing principled Christian leaders and creating new places for new people. Hence I want the Bishop, Cabinet, every pastor and local church to re-double our efforts toward this end. To drive home this expectation, I am asking the Appointive Cabinet, lay and/or clergy members of Full Cabinet, both Directors of Connectional Ministries (DCMs), and my Clergy Assistant to join me in a special emphasis I am calling “Preaching the Mission of the Church.” ! Between October 15, 2010 and February 14, 2011, I will preach four times on the Mission of the Church. Depending on the occasion, some part of the sermon if not all of it will have that emphasis. ! During the same time frame, I expect every member of Cabinet (Full and Appointive), the DCM’s, and my Clergy Assistant to preach four times on this subject as well. Do this in a regular service or worship as much as possible. ! How you might ask? Offer four dates to the people you serve. See Let Us Preach . . . on page 2A
Saginaw Bay celebrates new District Superintendent By Michael Desotell Correspondent Pastors and parishioners of the Saginaw Bay District, along with the friends and family of the Rev. Dr. Jeffery Maxwell gathered at Christ United Methodist Church in Bay City to celebrate the installation of Maxwell as District Superintendent. The worship service highlighted the creativity and passion of the district, featuring the Trash Can Band from St. Luke’s UMC and the young streamer dancers from Faith Way Church. Bishop Jonathan Keaton was on hand to offer words of encouragement to both Rev. Maxwell and the Saginaw Bay District. Keaton also explained to those in attendance how God led him to call Rev. Maxwell into this new ministry. “Every now and then in this work of responsibility I have the privilege of extending personal calls myself. I do that when I look out and hear the words of superintendents and hear the
words of laypersons and hear the words of these district committees on superintendency and what they need when I have to select a new superintendent,” he said. “And in the midst of all of that information that came to me and looking out at the universe of people in the Detroit Annual Conference, the name by word, by deed, by prayer that came to me was Dr. Jeffery Maxwell.” Keaton called attention to the many ministry areas in which Rev. Maxwell has served during his tenure and how they will enhance his service as a district superintendent. The Bishop also acknowledged the difficulty of making it through the trials of ministry alone and extended his thanks to God for the wonderful partner that Rev. Maxwell has in his wife, Jan. Keaton also offered a few words of comfort and encouragement to Rev. Maxwell for those difficult times that See Saginaw Bay DS … on page 2A
PHOTO BY MICHAEL DESOTELL
Saginaw Bay DS Jeff Maxwell greets people at his welcome service in Oct., with Bishop Jonathan Keaton to his right.
NOVEMBER 5, 2010
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
Let Us Preach the Mission of the Church Clergy from seven different Protestant denominations were part of the 200th anniversary of Protestantism celebration at Central UMC on Oct. 3. PHOTO BY PAUL HITZELBERGER
UMC helps celebrate 200 years of Protestantism Continued from front page It was fitting that a service celebrating peace and justice of the protestant church in contemporary and historical fashions was held in a sanctuary where Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on several occasions, including just two weeks before his assassination. Seven different protestant denominations were officially represented and dozens of singers from choirs around the state joined their voices to commemorate 200 years of shared history in the state. A celebratory mood was struck early on with the spirited music and rhythm of African drummers and dancers dressed in bright native clothes and on several occasions the choir, which circled the upper balcony, had the entire crowd on its feet clapping and rejoicing. It was a day of reflection as well as encouragement for moving forward. Central UMC senior pastor Rev. Edwin Rowe reminded the audience of how the protestant church has come so far. “We have a shared history that has been lifted up by many giants of the faith…each denomination has brought great gifts to our collective protestant history over the years,” he said. He talked about lifting others up to “help future generations see over the crowd” as he remembered those who have paved the way for two centuries. He also admitted the protestant church still has plenty of issues to address and a foundation that is complete only when focused on being the hands of God. “We must also confess, in each tradition separations have been caused…may God continue to hold us and help us to be all (He) intended,” he said. Michigan Area Bishop Jonathon Keaton was the keynote speaker,
coupling his usual Biblical prudence with a surprising awareness of pop culture. He illustrated Jesus’ message in Like 15:1-10, where he welcomes tax collectors and sinners to the table much to the scorn of the scribes and Pharisees. Keaton said God shows mercy, not dismay, toward sinners, and local churches need to show love to all. “To a fault Pharisees focused on their understanding of the law and ‘doing right’… they thought being with sinners might be contagious!” he said. “Don’t we bring together saints and sinners every Sunday? We do. As Paul said, we all sin and fall short of the glory of the Lord.” To emphasize his point, he shared a recent story the Orlando Sentinel printed on two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Orlando Magic forward Dwight Howard. The daughter of a 62-year-old woman battling Stage 3 Multiple Myeloma recently contacted the Magic, relaying the message that it was her mom’s dying wish to meet the 6-foot-11 superstar. Howard—who planned on just stopping by for a half-hour visit with the lady—spent nearly two hours with Kay Kellogg, discussing everything from love and life to death and divinity. Instead of just feeling like he had done his good deed for the day, Howard said he thought the meeting was more beneficial for him than the cancer patient. The article said when Kellogg stood up to say goodbye, Howard bent down, hugged her and told her something startling. He told this 4-foot-11 woman, “You are taller than me.” “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” she said. “No,” Dwight insisted, “you are taller than me because your spirit
lifts you up.” “Dwight Howard was talking about a spirit that can do anything,” Keaton said. “He reminds me we can reach out to those who we often shun.” Keaton went a step further and called people out for shunning celebrities like Mel Gibson, Chris Brown, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hiltson, for their missteps and “wrecked” public images. “What if it’s your kid, or even you who is out there and needs to be rescued?” he asked. “So we need to rescue the perishing because it’s what Jesus told us to do. For 200 long years Central UMC has been in the business of rescuing the perishing—keep up the good work.”
Continued from front page Tell them we’re preaching the Mission of the Church. Sign them up. Go preach. Prepare a brief report on each event, noting how you enhanced their knowledge or understanding of “making disciples,” and send me a report of one breakthrough you witnessed preaching the Mission of the Church. ! I will write an article on results in the March edition of the Michigan Area Reporter, just in time for Bishop’s Day. As you know, Bishop’s Day is an annual continuing education event designed to keep the Mission of the Church before each local church. We’re still challenged to slow, stop and reverse the membership worship attendance and church school slide in our area and denomination. In West Michigan, membership stands at 64,724— down 1,211 from the previous year. Worship attendance is at 37,242—down 2,365. Church school attendance is 10,531— down 1,419. Detroit faces a simi-
lar trend. Membership stands at 94,679—down 2,172 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 45,099—down 332. Church school attendance is at 12, 523—down 249. ! Last but not least, I believe God is testing me, as well as the whole church, to see if we will remain faithful to the promise of Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Or, will we run scared and put the things we need to run the institution first, instead of God’s kingdom? Quite frankly, God’s promise is to be faithful to us but only if we are faithful to God, first and foremost. Continue or determine to pray daily, engage in personal and corporate Bible Study, do justice and love mercy to undergird our efforts to be faithful. We are called to preach, teach and bear witness for Christ and his church. Join me in preaching the Mission of the Church.
Saginaw Bay celebrates Continued from front page may lie ahead, saying, “It’s going to be alright! Not because I am with you, but because God is with you!” Rev. Maxwell brought the celebration to a crescendo with a message from 1 Corinthians 12. He emphasized the diversity of the district and how important that diversity is to fulfilling their mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. Those in attendance laughed in approval as Maxwell engaged Keaton to represent the Body of Christ as represented in the scripture that was read. The congregation was privileged to witness, for the first time, Rev. Maxwell actually “bending” the ear of the Bishop. On a serious note, Rev. Maxwell included three promises to his new district. “As I stand before you I am going to make you three promises. Promise number one: I promise to strive to grow in grace and knowledge. Oh Boy! Now is not the time to stop learning. Now is not
the time to stop growing,” he said. “My understanding and experience of the ways and will of God and even of God need to deepen and expand…” His second promise was geared directly at the unique gifts possessed by each pastor. “You all have your own personality and preference and gifts package; you have your own unique experiences, and I want to know you. I want to know who you are and the uniqueness that God has invested in you,” he said. His final promise was focused on building personal relationships with all churches. “Just as each person is unique, so too is each church. Each church has a culture,” he said. “Each church has unique offerings to the kingdom. I want to know each church.” Maxwell explained that as the district holds him accountable to these promises he will be able to more effectively utilize the gifts and graces and passion that God has given him.
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 752660275.
NOVEMBER 5, 2010
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
Don’t sweat a little review— Brighton FUMC developing ‘social missionaries’ to expand the life of the church it’s actually good for you “Good Morning Class! Today we will be having a test.” Heads drop and a collective moan moves throughout the BENTON HEISLER room. Very few WEST MICHIGAN persons respond CONFERENCE DIRECTOR OF to a time of evaluCONNECTIONAL ation with cheer, MINISTRIES excitement and exuberant enthusiasm. However, if we fail to evaluate our process or do not look critically at our character, competence and the net contribution being made, we may be destined to repeat negative patterns of behavior or ineffective models of ministry. The church conference season is a time to reflect upon the progress a congregation has made toward its stated goals. Staff Parish Relations Committees reflect with the pastor on her or his key strengths along with noting the areas that would benefit from improvement. The West Michigan Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM) has done some evaluation of itself the past two years. One result of that process has been putting a task force in motion to review the CCOM structure and develop a new model to propose to the Annual Conference. Here is my point. Self-evaluation is better than none at all, but you must admit, it is a bit biased. We must engage others to acquire a more accurate assessment. One evaluative tool specifically designed for clergy is the Lewis Pastoral Leadership Inventory (LPLI). The questions asked of yourself, and 10 others who know your work, are designed to assess the areas I mentioned above: character, competency and contribution. I encourage you to read more about this instrument at their website: www.LPLI.org or contact the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at LPLI@wesleyseminary.edu or 1877-LPLI-360. There are other various resources that congregations can use to assess their effectiveness in ministry. Vital Signs by Dan Dick and The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Bishop Robert Schnase have both provided useful insights to congre-
gations willing to look critically at themselves. We have done some assessment at the conference level and are making some changes we feel will help us better serve local congregations. Next month there will be a detailed article here in the Michigan Area Reporter about a demographics information program that is available to West Michigan Conference congregations—at no cost to them. The conference has contracted with www.MissionInsight.org to provide this service to our churches. You will have access to an extensive array of material about the region your congregation serves. We feel this will help you better assess your congregation’s ministry to determine who you might more effectively invite. A second area of change is in the installment of “smart rooms” in each of the districts. By this time next month the computers, monitors and software will have been installed in six locations. The “smart rooms” will allow persons to connect electronically and visually in a manner not fully available to us before. For some meetings or gatherings this will save significant amounts of time and travel resources. A third change taking place as a result of our assessment is the altering of the meeting days of the session of the West Michigan Annual Conference at Calvin College. We will begin on Wednesday June 1 and end on Saturday June 4 in 2011. Saturday will be a day particularly designed with the hope of having 10 persons from each congregation experience the worship, community and inspiration of Annual Conference. Our evaluative review has revealed that nearly one-half to two-thirds of persons were not remaining for the Sunday session of Conference.We will continue to monitor this change so we can improve the value of Annual Conference. Doing evaluations and receiving feedback really isn’t that bad after all when it helps us better serve one another and God who calls us to such service. “As soon as the test is finished it will be time for recess.” Now go enjoy the rest of the day God has given you!
‘We must engage others to acquire a more accurate assessment.’
By RJ Walters come three small groups that meet Sharing personal experiences, Editor at houses once a week. one man admitted he “realized he Instead of being afraid that alInstead of just bringing a Bible was human 40 some years ago” lowing some free-flowing philoand smile, the requirements have when he made a major blunder dursophical dialogue might take a dive more to do with foods to snack on, ing a public speech and another into the oblivion, Brighton FUMC beverages to consume—not excludtalked about the power of “realizing has created nurturing organic ing a little alcohol—and an open you can’t carry all of your baggage church groups conducive to buildmind. with you everywhere,” which he ing real relationships with the “It is very Wesleyan and I think drew from a video by Mars Hill paschurched and un-churched. it is so important to give people a tor Rob Bell. Utilizing $90,000 in grant space, acknowledging people have The groups are curmoney from the Ofrently reading the book fice of New Church The Orthodox Heretic Development spread and Other Impossible out over the course Tales by Peter Rollins, a of three years, collection of modern Brighton FUMC Asday parables that seems sociate Pastor John to be a great conversaBall is helping create tion starter. spaces for people to “It’s not as intimiexplore their spiritudating, it’s contempoality, while disrary, it’s written in a cussing the language people can supernatural as well understand and relate as the mundane. to,” Ball said. “They get When he joined these parables when the church’s staff in they read them and 2009, Rev. Sherry they understand them Parker was attempting and it is so provocative to bridge the gap bethat there’s no questween the relationship tion about it creating of the local church and dialogue.” community and the Currently the church considered groups consist of everything from new Brighton FUMC mem“emerging worship bers and Ball said styles” to the possibilSanctus is certainly ity of having a second molding disciples, but venue to even purchasit hopes to become ing a coffee shop. more effective at After researching inviting others and local demographics and serving the world. considering how the “What we’re rch” chu new organic group choosing to do as a anic some “org Brighton FUMC has been utilizing ctus San ed call ups could be invitational, model is develop gro ll concepts of Neil Cole, starting sma create and develop dis- over the last six months. leaders inside the life ciples, and serve people, of Brighton First who will then serve social systems they are a part of Ball said a small-group gathering as “social missionaries”—a misevery single day—whether it’s called Sanctus was born. sionary to our culture, who are then “happy hour” on Friday with the ”What we then narrowed in on developed and empowered to start guys after work and watching was this organic asking people to join in on the diaESPN; we’re saying that’s not necesmodel that was logues that are happening,” he said. sarily wrong, but we want to promore transient in For Ball, it is a welcome retreat vide an experience that has nature, that from the rest of his week and he spiritual depth and a place where matched and said it’s therapeutic for him “bepeople can receive healthy systems mimicked the cause it’s not just spiritual converof support,” Ball said. personality of the sations that take place, but we A normal gathering will involve culture,” he said. discuss our relationships…it’s a some political talk, philosophical After Ball and John Ball place where people are able to share debates, jokes and plenty of comChristian Educathe stuff in their life in an intimate rades willing to listen. tion Director Suzy Hutchison atsetting, knowing that people care At one session last, month the tended a four-day conference led by about them and they’re valued.” talking points even included the church start and organic church exHe said being missional minded concept of “losing your faith” to inpert Neil Cole, the initial Sanctus and creative with new outlooks for advertently find it — addressing gathering took place in an Irish pub growth in and out of the church the importance of salvation and forin town. Ball said it was a little bit building are what local pastors giveness as opposed to religious rittoo loud to clearly engage in dianeed to look for, instead of being so uals and doctrines Christians often logue though, and he has been open focused on potential membership become so consumed with. to letting it evolve into what has bedecline.
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
CAMPUS CONFIDENTIAL U Intellectually proud, doctrinally sound Adrian College weaves together academics and By RJ Walters Editor If a bridge was ever constructed in Southeast Michigan with the purpose of bringing together scholars and theologians, Adrian College would seem to be a fitting home for such a landmark. Campus Chaplain Chris Momany is not only an ordained deacon and elder of the United Methodist Church, he is a history buff, social justice advocate, author, teacher and firm believer that sometimes simpler is better for the church. And if you’ve never heard of Asa Mahan— spend five minutes in a room with Momany and you’ll quickly realize that one of the founding fathers of Adrian College in the late 1850s is alive and relevant on campus today thanks to Momany’s affection for his theoretic and principles. Mahan was a vigorous proponent of emancipation—not surprising considering Adrian College was part of the Underground Railroad and still today is a major proponent of ending human trafficking—and Momany especially likes his writing’s about Christian perfection and holiness. “It’s a joke around here that I’m always going to work his name into something, the students say,” Momany said. “He was just a phenomenal guy around the Wesleyan tradition of Christian perfection. He was big on radical perfection, or holiness…” Posters and fliers litter campus denoting a new “Intrinsic Worth” campaign that students have spearheaded and Momany believes Mahan’s interpretations of what it means to be a socially active Christian are germane for the 21st century. The worship team seems to agree, often donning T-shirts with Mahan’s likeness on them, affirming their desire to be involved in people’s lives through Christian love. “The real core value is that he is interpreted holiness as love, which is a Wesleyan idea,” Momany said. “Mahan did that and then you say, OK, how do you interpret love? And he basically said love is an affirmation of the intrinsic worth of people.” Marrying his in-depth “church knowledge” with his more academic side, Momany has written a book titled “Doing Good: A Gracefilled Approach to Holiness,” set to come out through the Abingdon Press sometime between March and May 2011. He said it is a relatively short four-session study guide for churches and leaders to use as they explore what the true definition of holiness is and what it should look like in the church. “We have holiness churches, holiness traditions, and often holiness is thought of as separation or being separate or set aside or of a pure realm,” he said. “I don’t deny that, but if you look at Jesus as the expression of God’s
LEGE ADRIAN COL
LEFT: The chapel at Adrian College is the place where students lead Wednesday services and numerous spiritual life events take place. RIGHT: Adrian College students and Chaplain Chris Momany (front, center) come together on a number of social issues, such as Not For Sale, an international anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking organization.
love, it’s radically participatory, so what I do is I argue for a holiness that is not removed and separate, but involved and affirming. And I actually use this language of intrinsic worth.” Freshman Lee Schriver, who grew up at Millington UMC, said what he appreciates abut his chaplain is he takes his knowledge and perspective and uses it to empower and educate the students. “Chris is really a great guy,” he said. “He has said he’ll do whatever it takes to meet the student’s needs and I’ve seen nothing to suggest otherwise.” One major need Momany has helped address is the pre-seminary program he played a big role in getting off the ground. He teaches Christian Social Ethics and Philosophy of Religion among other offerings and he said 15-25 students annually weave pre-seminary classes into the rest of their curriculum. Three Adrian College graduates are currently enrolled at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and another is attending Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. Momany said the reason he’s a chaplain is simply because he loves the students and enjoys watching them grow spiritually and academically. “We have a (pre-seminary) student who wrote a paper on the ‘Jesus Movement’ of the 1970s and then she went to the Jesus People USA (Covenant Church) in uptown Chicago with the Grand Ledge United Methodist Church. So she was able to do an upper-level religion class that studied this movement, write a research paper…and then go there,” he said. “She did the whole soup kitchen thing,
housing advocacy and Jesus Movement worship thing.” The gusto Momany sees in some of the young adults around campus is inspiring to him—but as a long-time United Methodist he thinks the church could take some notes from a generation focused more on acceptance and love. “My concern is that some of the trendy stuff about growing the church and transformational management, leadership and stuff
like that…I think it has a tendency to worship power a lot more than to express love and borrowing imagery from the corporate world is not the way to go,” he said. “Businesses operate on conditional models, ‘if you are this way, than that,’ because they’re about making money—and the church has the greatest message in the universe and that’s God’s unconditional love is offered to you through the cross and resurrection. Why are we afraid to share that message?”
Liberation through exploration at Adrian College More than 250 students are involved in regular spiritual activities at Adrian College—some with traditional United Methodist backgrounds and others far from that. Take junior literature major Meela Zecevic for example. Her father was “like Muslim and Catholic” when she was growing up, while her mother was “like Muslim and Christian” before they moved to Germany and became Jehova’s Witnesses. Now she said she guesses the family considers themselves “some form of Christian” living in the United States and Zecevic said Adrian College has been the perfect place to explore her spirituality and purpose in life. Recently she was honored to give a speech relating to the Biblical story of Daniel and the
lion’s den at a Wednesday chapel service. Chaplain Chris Momany said students have been leading chapel for about a year now and it gives them a chance to relate with fellow students on a whole new level. “At first I had to re-read it and then for a little while I was kind of irritated at Daniel,” Zecevic said. “So I didn’t want to bad-mouth Daniel or whatever, so I put it aside for a while and like a week before I started writing about it and I decided to talk to everybody about how the story relates to us all when times are tough and that pretty much if you believe in yourself enough you’ll get a lot of things done that you need to get done.” She said “being on the other side” was empowering and she’d love to do more public speaking.
R 5, 2010
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
UNITED METHODIST STYLE Harmony perpetuates itself on inclusive Albion College campus
By RJ Walters Editor Albion College has one of the richest Methodist traditions of any college in America and if John Wesley was still around in 2010 he would surely be proud of the experiential faith transpiring on campus. Wesley strongly believed that Christians would be better fortified in their faith through personal experiences that re-affirmed it and Albion College Chaplain Dan McQuown contends Wesley was on to something. In 2003 McQuown was part of initial discussions trying to bring religious groups on campus together and by 2005 an interfaith life team was born, thanks in part to a meeting held between the student president of Albion’s Campus Crusade for Christ chapter and leaders of the Secular Humanist group at the college. Every year since, the interfaith group has included leaders from 7-12 different religious backgrounds who come together to discuss different aspects of spiritual life on campus. While McQuown is a Christian, his background is certainly diverse in its own right. He grew up Presbyterian, he married a United Methodist and started the ordination process, and he and his wife are now members of the United Church of Christ. On campus a “normal” day isn’t so normal and that’s precisely what McQuown loves about his job. “(One day) we have a student speaking on human trafficking, sponsored by the chaplain’s office and our interfaith group,” he said. “Then we’re launching our Pakistani flood relief,
starting with a reading of the Muslim call to prayer and then we have campus Shabbat here in our student center—and all three are open to all people.” He said he does infinitely more Christian evangelism and spiritual counsel by engaging diversity and doesn’t see much benefit to labeling people or rejecting them because “diversity can be a terrifying encounter a lot of people hide from.” “If I put up a sign outside this window that said, ‘Christians Only,” I would lose 70 percent of the student body. Then if I put up a sign that said, ‘United Methodists Only,” or “Protestants Only,” I’d lose 20 or 25 percent more. Then if I said liberals or conservatives only I’d lose even more,” he said. McQuown said Jesus spent most of his time out-reaching to strangers in need, regardless of their faith and his “strangers” are new students in his case. Through young adult-led chapel services, Bible studies, interfaith dialogue, prayer groups and lots of peer-to-peer activities it appears McQuown is achieving his goals. “With chapel, even though we’re affiliated with the United Methodist Church, it’s an interdenominational chapel service. In a couple of weeks somebody is preaching about their experiences in Japan and she’s actually going to be teaching us a song in Japanese,” senior David Keyworth said. “And we’ve sung in an African language before and through other people’s experiences being able to hear how it has affected their lives helps you think about what ways God is trying to reach you through
A L B IO N C O L L E G E
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN MCQUOWN
Wednesday night chapel services allow students of different religious backgrounds to worship under one roof at Albion College.
your experiences.” Keyworth will be attending Asbury Theological Seminary next fall to become an ordained United Methodist. Junior Josiah Fallot said having a concerned, caring chaplain like McQuown—who said his job is to empower people and create leaders—is awesome as he navigates his journey of faith.
“He’s a very selfless guy. I don’t remember the first time I met him, but I was not prepared to speak with him face-to-face just because I was taken aback by his very personal nature; he tends to stand square shoulder-to-shoulder to you and look right at you and it’s kind of intimidating at first, but you come to realize he just wants to develop relationships and he’s a good guy.”
Year: Junior Major: English education Home church: Morenci UMC At age 12 Fallot attended Albion College as part of his process of being confirmed in the United Methodist Church and eight years later he is more than half way through his education there. He is a co-president of the Student Volunteer Bureau, where he’s helped set up community service trips to places like Cass Corridor in Detroit and he’s active in Karate Club and the college’s Peace Action Club. But what has helped define his experience more than anything he says, is the personal introspection he’s experienced through shared experiences with people of so many different faith backgrounds. “I really enjoy a group called Bridge, which is essentially a meeting of any students willing to talk about their progress and spiritual growth. We meet once a week over lunch and usually one person will give kind of the evolution of their spiritual beliefs and their historical backgrounds to help us understand their perspectives on life,” he said. “A lot of my friends were already in this group and others were not. The leader of the group is from Nepal and he has a very interesting spiritual background in that there were Buddhist temples as well as Hindu temples next to each other and it kind of just debunked some of the beliefs I had prior to speaking with someone like him.” Fallot said his home church, Morenci UMC, still holds a special place in his heart because the congregation is like family to him and he learned a lot about interconnectedness growing up.
Year: Senior Major: History Home church: Midland UMC Keyworth was the son of a United Methodist pastor growing up, but he didn’t have a clue one day his children might be called “PKs” until Albion College helped him discern his call. He said he was ready to get involved with on campus ministries right away, but it wasn’t until a friend invited him to a Wednesday night chapel service that everything started clicking. Keyworth joined the chapel band as a singer, and he now plays keyboard for the group. He said students are empowered by leading the entire chapel service, including giving the message, and he has been shaped by his interactions with other faithful Christians the last three-plus years. He said people always told him to consider ordained ministry, but he just shrugged it off — until one Wednesday evening he heard God calling. “The people here and Chaplain Dan (McQuown) helped me move forward and one night in chapel we were having a quiet time, with music softly playing and people praying — and at that time I heard God tell me I needed to go to seminary,” he said. “The powerful experiences we have in chapel, the powerful experiences being able to interact with other Christians on campus helps shape who you are, helps shape the person you’re going to be.” He will head to Asbury Theological Seminary next fall, but before that he hopes to have a greater impact at Albion. He graduates in December and McQuown hired him as an advisor to all of the Christian groups on campus for the spring semester. “A major goal of mine next semester is bringing all the chairs of the different Christian groups on campus together so we all know what each other are doing,” Keyworth said.
NOVEMBER 5, 2010
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
The Baldwin Center What is it? The Baldwin Center is a human services agency in Pontiac, whose mission is to feed, clothe, educate, and empower disadvantaged adults and children through more than 25 programs. Merged with Grace and Peace Community Church of Pontiac, the Baldwin Avenue UMC become known as The Baldwin Center in 2006, It is now a major asset of the Alliance for Urban Ministry, and the Detroit Conference’s Ministry Jubilee has a goal of $80,000 in annual donations allocated for the center. The Center is a soup kitchen and food and clothing distribution center, it offers English as a Second Language classes and G.E.D, courses and it is a haven for children’s camps, educational programs and afterschool activities.
has gone up quite a bit,” Machesky said. “And we’ve also invested in our youth programs because we know that’s our future.” Though Machesky said the staff is relatively small, just 14 paid employees (10 full-time), the center has made huge strides, especially in helping children. At one time the center had a daycare, but they decided to close that and focus on more educational, spiritual programming for youth. Now they are a state licensed childcare facility that offers an eight-week summer camp, afterschool reading comprehension tutoring, and meals and basic needs. “We develop relationships with people, we continue on a journey with them; we don’t just give them one-time things,” she said. “We really
How did it start? Baldwin Avenue UMC was founded in 1917 and in 1981 Rev. Dr. Patricia Meyers suggested the church open its doors to children and families on a daily basis. The Family Kitchen opened a year later, in 1983 an emergency shelter program was initiated and in the 1990s a plethora of youth-related centers and The Baldwin Center in Pontiac has everything from summer programs were installed. camps to after-school programs for youth of all ages, in an attempt to give the next generation a brighter future. Since 2002 the center develop relationships and we know the people has housed a full-time licensed counselor and and we know their struggles.” community organizations have stepped up support. What can churches/people do to help? Executive Director Lisa Machesky said she Machesky said they receive very little federal and her staff are always opening for finding out money, counting mainly on individual donors, what else the Lord might have in the works. local churches, and special sponsorships. “One of the things we talk about around The FUMC of Birmingham, for instance, here…we know everything’s here, all the consponsored four college-age staff members for nections are here, we just have to find them,” summer programming this year and a church she said.“When we come up with something from North Carolina did a work camp and and say, ‘Oh, I need this,’ somehow the next day helped out around Pontiac too. it comes around, or maybe it’s not the next day, Machesky said the center has a dedicated but it’s around here somewhere, we just have to staff member for coordinating volunteer work figure out where.” and there’s an abundance of avenues they seek help from. What type of progress has been made? “It really varies,” she said. “The other day The first time the soup kitchen opened, 15 we had a group of 30 putting our hoophouse in people stopped by for a meal—in September (for year-round gardening) and we had analone a total of 5,244 meals were prepared. other 13 AmeriCorps students and probably That month the Clothes Closet had over about 20 helping out with a barbecue we did.” 1,000 clients, 26 mothers receive diapers and There is also a continuous need for cloth147 low-income senior citizens had commoding, school supplies and basic essentials, which ity food packages delivered to their home. can be seen on the center’s website at “We definitely have seen a huge increase in www.baldwincenter.org. the need for services as far as our Clothing The website has a link for online donations Closet and the need for rental assistance beand the center’s Ministry Jubilee number is MJ cause of evictions and utility shut-off notices 1150. and the number coming into our soup kitchen
Let your light so shine… The Grand Rapids UM Community House What is it? The Grand Rapids United Methodist Community House is a major provider of family services, educational programs and basic needs for the residents of inner city Grand Rapids. The Community House has an accredited Child Development Center for infants through pre-kindergarten children, they offer a wide range of parenting services and programs and the Shalom Senior Center offers senior citizens help with transportation, meals, advocacy, healthcare and more. A lot of the programming the non-profit provides focuses around literacy within entire family units, to provide an essential skill needed in social settings and the workforce. In 2009, the house served almost 3,000 participants, according to Director of Development Bev Crandall-Rice. She said “more than 60 percent of the people in the inner city are living in poverty” and 90 percent of their clients fit that description. How did it start? In September 1902, a group of women from the Methodist Churches of the Grand Rapids District organized a club to do settlement work and initially the program included classes for kindergarten and early elementary girls. Eventually classes were offered for boys as well, covering a breadth of different topics. In the 1950s, summer camps became the norm and by the early 1980s the Community House was focused heavily on advocacy of child development issues and concerns, to the point they received a United Way Humanitarian Award. In 1989 the project was given a jolt with a $2.6 million capital campaign that helped it become what it is today. Crandall-Rice said UMW founded it on the principles of helping a diverse set of people in staying true to the specific needs of the community, something that hasn’t changed in 108 years. “We’ve had tremendous success with those who have been a part of our services. We see children from our Child Development Center ready to succeed, ready for pre-school or ready for kindergarten. We see the literacy skills that come out of our program because all of our programs are literacy based and that’s just a
foundation for success and so valuable and important.” What type of progress has been made? Progress has occurred time and again with the Community House—through economic depression, through changes in leadership, and by adapting to the needs of those they serve. In 2010 the challenge of progress is no less daunting. Crandall-Rice said the Community House has an annual operating budget of roughly $2.2 million, but recent state budget cuts have had a major impact on them. “It’s challenging, especially when we did get about a $300,000 cut from the state of Michigan when we had secured contracts and grants for up to three years,” she said. “After the first year, because of state budget cuts, some programs were let go. So for us that amounted to about $300,000.” Reductions included some specialty summer programming, as well as primary parenting classes that were aimed at fathers and recent parolees. Nonetheless, the Community House continues to provide top-notch before and after-school programs, ESL classes are in place to assist the large Hispanic population and the organization continues to provide daily support and guidance to people of all ages. What can churches/people do to help? When looking to fill the gaps following $300,000 a year cuts from the state, donors are essential. People can donate directly, on the house’s website, www.umchousegr.org, or they can provide assistance through the Six Lanes of the Advance. The organization is also looking for longterm corporate or business sponsorships and/or available grants to help with future sustainability. Crandall-Rice said volunteers truly fuel the Community House’s fire though. “Volunteers just allow for us to do some capacity building within our services and programs,” she said. Volunteers are required to have criminal background checks processed and tuberculosis tests done annually if they work directly with people. Crandall-Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let the Reporter shine the light: Each month the Reporter wants to highlight ministries that are working hard to live out the mission of the United Methodist Church. The publication would like to focus dedicated space to the missions and missionaries of The Advance and Ministry Jubilee projects. If you are part of or know of a specific ministry that is making a difference and fits the bill, please contact the Reporter via e-mail at email@example.com.
NOVEMBER 5, 2010
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
Do your measurements make or miss the mark set for the future? Valley church infusing Grand Rapids They must have labeled it improperly. Or, perhaps they did not have appropriate or accurate measurement instruments available as they organized and designed the product. Either way, the suit I was purchasing was obviously for someone of larger girth and stature than mine! It was not the same tag as those items JERRY DEVINE hanging in my closet. After all, I am still wear- DETROIT CONFERENCE ing them, or at least some of them. DIRECTOR OF CONNECTIONAL I get by. They are not too uncomfortable. It MINISTRIES does not matter if someone else does not like them. Then again, perhaps I need to do some honest assessment. Perhaps you first thought I was talking about evaluation and assessment in your local church. That comes eventually. I can recall the story of a major bridge being built from two sides of a wide canal, one that I had travelled over for a period of years. That which was sufficient for the past was quickly becoming a dangerous option for reaching the other side. A great deal of work went into designing a bridge for the future. As construction progressed, thankfully someone was paying close attention to whether or not things were being developed in the right direction. They were willing to assess the progress, measuring changes so that they could stay on target as well as make adjustments along the way. As spans developed from both sides of the canal, they discovered if they continued in the current pattern of behavior they would miss the mark. They would only be a few inches off, but that amount would mean irrelevancy for the primary purpose. They would waste vital resources and not accomplish the necessary connection to the future. The mission would have been thwarted and vision lost. It took courage and humility to admit that some adjustment was necessary.
The bridge had a compelling picture of their vision for the future. They had a clear mission for the project; they had a strategic plan with full details. They also had the willingness to allow for a culture of correcting the course rather than covering up mistakes or miscalculations. Because of that, they did not have to scrap the whole vision. They acknowledged that some adjustments, i.e. “change”, would be necessary as they continued their movement forward. Most of our clergy, staff and congregations are nearly through the annual process known as “Pastor/Charge Assessment” and the charge conferences. Interestingly we have forms and processes, and in many cases, attitudes, that do such evaluations or “measuring” processes from two different sides of the canal. One form is a congregational profile and the other is a pastoral assessment. The two are integrally connected if we ever wish to build a bridge to the future. Both sides of that assessment have the potential of connecting in the middle, or missing the mark. Evaluation should never be a process of devaluation or destruction. Nor should it be a superficial pretence that suggests everything is on target for a connected future. If our shared vision is clear, and our commitment to a common mission is compelling, then we can all be willing to allow for course correction as we build the foundation for movement into the future. Alright, now I have to own the measuring of the suit. Shortly before I purchased a new suit recently, it was revealed on the television news that clothing manufacturers want us to feel better about purchasing new garments, so they have been playing a game of mis-measurement. After all, we do not want to know the reality we are in do we. They routinely measure waistlines or garment sizes lower than they actually are so that customers will continue to purchase items rather than coming to terms with expanding size and declining health patterns. Sounds like the church to me! Pay attention to your assessment for your own good.
The Question of Childhood Curiosity When I was a young child, I would often ask “Why?” Even before my parents could answer this question, I was ready to ask my second question. Do you know the second question? If you have raised children or spent much time with them, then I am certain that you do know it. The second question was: “Why?” WhatDAVID S. BELL ever my parents’ answer, my follow-up quesVICE PRESIDENT OF tion was always, “Why?” STEWARDSHIP OF THE My own children have blessed me with this UNITED METHODIST FOUNDATION same level of curiosity. OF MICHIGAN “Daddy, I have a question for you. Why are there clouds in the sky?” “Clouds are in the sky because today is a partly cloudy day,” I respond. “Why?” says the young child. “Today is partly cloudy because of the changing weather. This changing weather is called a ‘weather front.’” “Why?” says the child routinely. “When the winds blow, water molecules form together and make clouds. There are different types of cloud formations. . .” “Why?” This sequence continues until eventually the adult ends exasperated with frustration exclaiming, “Because that’s the way it is!” or pronouncing with theological delight, “Because God made the Heavens and the Earth!” Jim Collins, author of Built to Last, has taken this basic childhood question of curiosity and leveraged it as a powerful method for achieving the essence of an organization’s purpose. The method can be practiced at its elemental level. Start with the descriptive statement of what your church does. Perhaps your descriptive statement would be the mission statement of The United Methodist Church. We “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Why is that important? Ask leaders the why question five times. As one repeats the question and digs deeper into the reasoning for doing what the church does, one approaches the fundamental purpose of a particular local church. The ‘five whys’ can enable the church to frame its tasks and activities in a more meaningful way. I was privileged to spend time recently with a few of the current great thinkers and strong leaders of The United Methodist Church—Bishop Robert Schnase, Bishop Scott Jones, Gil Rendle, and Dr. Lovett Weems Jr. While others would certainly need to be added to this group to be representative of our denomination, they have all contributed significantly to the movement of today’s United Methodist Church. Their books are widely acclaimed. They represent multiple generations of the Church. They hold different roles within the Church. Yet, as I listened and talked with each of them, each one began at the same place. They started with the mission of the Church. In order to have a meaningful conversation about the Church, we needed to be clear about its purpose, core values, and mission. They encouraged persons, like me, who consult regularly with local church leaders, like you, to ask you again and again, “Why do you exist? What is the purpose of your local church? Who would miss your local church if it closed? Who is excited that your church is open? How does your local church connect to the mission of The United Methodist Church?” Your answers to these questions and to the five whys have more to do with the stewardship of our prayers, presence, gifts, witness, and service than we may first think. It may seem cliché—but it is true—money follows mission. May God be with you as you reengage your childhood
area with energy at official opening
Continued from back page packed, there’s nowhere for students to go and we’re hearing a lot of need around that area.” Smashin’ with passion Bistayi has said in the past that one of his biggest hurdles was cleared in the church-building process when he hired Darin VanderMolen as his worship leader. He called the veteran musician a “rock star because he is a genuine spiritual person” and it seems as if people are picking up on his good vibes. Bistayi said the church has a diverse age group currently, but a lot of the newcomers are young families and 20-30somethings and VanderMolen’s energy has been a big hit. “People say that Darin is the most encouraging and enthusiastic person they’ve ever met and that just oozes into the community,” Bistayi said. “That helps others to live encouraged and enthusiastic lives if that makes sense.” Meticulous Methodists Just because the words “United Methodist” are absent from the church’s name, don’t assume Bistayi is navigating away from authentic Welseyan ideas and principals. His father was a United Methodist pastor for 35 years and he believes wholeheartedly that “loving God means loving all people.” “I think (traditionalists) would recognize we’re a Methodist church in the sense of our commitment to reaching out before ourselves. We’re big on that at Valley and I think that would be the first recognition factor,” he said. “We are committed to making a difference in the communities around us and that is something that is distinctly United Methodist. In this area here in Grand Rapids so many people are shocked, surprised and pleased to see there’s a church in this area that’s taking it so personally.”
Subscribe to The Michigan Area Reporter Get connected. . . to a larger community of faith The Detroit and West Michigan Conferences are pleased to offer individual subscriptions to our new newspaper. Option #1—Individuals can subscribe to receive the monthly Michigan Area Reporter Edition delivered to their homes. This connectional publication features our area's news and features as Section 1. Section B and additional supplements will provide news about our denomination and the faith community around the world. Option #2—Bring weekly news to your home. In addition to our 12 monthly Michigan Area issues each year, you can receive the national edition of The United Methodist Reporter on the other 40 weeks. To begin your individual subscription immediately, fill in your information below: Name ___________________________________________ Address __________________________________________ City ____________________State ________Zip __________ Church/City _______________________________________ " Enclosed is my check for $ 12.00 for 1 year (12 issues) of The Michigan Area Reporter Edition " Enclosed is my check for $ 32.00 for 1 year (52 newspapers with Michigan Area featured as Section A in 12 monthly issues) Mail this completed form and your check, payable to your conference (Detroit or West Michigan), to: MICHIGAN AREA SUBSCRIPTIONS P.O. BOX 226625 DALLAS, TX 75222-6625
NOVEMBER 5, 2010
THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER
Audacious love is the theme at rapidly evolving Free Store Concord UMC making partnerships to fill void in Jackson County By RJ Walters Editor If it’s clean, in working order and will bless somebody then it’s probably going to be available. And if it’s available, it’s free. It’s really that simple. Empowered by stories of successful “free stores” nationwide, including the Church For All People Free Store in Columbus, Ohio which was highlighted at West Michigan Annual Conference, Rev. Melany Chalker knew it was time to play her hand and so far it looks like she is holding a royal flush. The pastor at Concord UMC had been dreaming about such a boutique at other appointments in her 11-year ministry career, but nothing had every fully materialized. But when a layperson in her congregation came back equally as charged up about the free store idea following annual conference, it was only a matter of time. A month after pitching the idea to her church’s leadership council, Chalker found several buildings in homey downtown Concord to rent and they just happened to be owned by another pastor. She really wanted the building formerly occupied by a trendy coffee shop, but she was a day late; the owner said someone rented it the night before she called. “I thought, ‘No way,’ it was already finished, we don’t have money to rehab somebody else’s building and it’s on the corner, it’s got windows,” she said “He said, ‘You know, that not handicap accessible,’” and I said, ‘Hmm, you know, a free store would have to be handicap accessible’. He said there’s only one in town that is and I own it.” Located between a bar and grocery store and with the owner offering it to the church for
just $295 a month—around 60 percent of its rental value—Chalker asked the leadership council for permission to rent immediately and finalize the details later. What a good choice that turned out to be. Fresh coats of paint are currently being put on the walls, volunteers are being lined up and money and sponsorships are already flowing in. The store, which will officially be called the Open Door Free Store has already secured three “charter partners,” which will provide volunteers, financial backing and leadership for decision-making. The local Catholic Church, as well as nearby Presbyterian and Free Methodist churches have joined forces and in one week alone Chalker took in over $3,100 in monetary support, including one donor who wrote a check for $1,200. The store is also looking for formal “friends of the store”, who will donate $10 a week for the entire year, an amount Chalker compares to what “people often contribute to help children in third-world countries.” With money slowly coming down the pipeline and the store being updated with Chalker’s special touch—which comes with her 16 years of experience as a professional artist before jumping into ministry—the services the free store wants to offer continues to expand. Inside the front door, a community table will be located, with cards, puzzles, and coffee for people to sit down and enjoy, whether or not they are coming in to shop. There will also be a supervised play area for kids, so parents can shop undisturbed, and there will be a prayer basket for people to submit requests. Beyond the clothes, toys and home furnishings, the store hopes to offer a health station for the under- or un-insured.
Concord UMC pastor Rev. Melany Chalker has a precise vision of what she sees the Open Door Free Store looking like prior to it opening in the near future.
Three parish nurses from Allegiance Health in Jackson have already showed substantial interest in volunteering their time to do basic check-ups, blood tests, referrals, etc. “If somebody comes in and they haven’t seen a doctor in forever and their diabetes is out of whack, the parish nurse might say,‘You know, St. Luke’s clinic up in Jackson might be able to help,’” Chalker said, noting the store is hoping to secure some medical supplies from Allegiance. Concord UMC already has an active relationship with the North Parma UMC Food Pantry and Chalker is hopeful the store can become sort of a local distribution center for the community.
No matter what the free store offers though, one of Chalker’s goals is to make customers feel valued and loved like never before. “It’s all about audacious generosity. I’ve had people say, ‘You’re going to give (people) a number on items, right? They can’t just have anything.’” She said. “It’s audacious generosity, yes they can.” She said when she closes her eyes she sees the store as aesthetically pleasing, “more like a Kohl’s or Pier 1 then it does a second-hand store” and she will gladly store items in the church basement or ask people to hold off donations, instead of just stacking everything in piles.
Valley church infusing Grand Rapids area with energy at official opening By RJ Walters Editor Matt Bistayi is the first to admit “you’re never there yet” in his “God dream”—he creation and evolution of Valley Church in Allendale—but the pieces are coming together and he and his congregation are finding beauty in journey. October 10 marked the official grand open-
ing of the church located in the same building as Byron Bank, just minutes from the Grand Valley State University campus, and more than 230 people were on hand for the celebration service, nearly double the attendance Valley was seeing in April. Bistayi said the process of moving from initial ground-level visioning when he moved in
The Valley Church worship team had people on their feet at the church’s grand opening on Oct. 10.
July 2009 to learning how to meet the needs of people all over the Grand Rapids area has been “humbling and exciting” and he loves to share what God is doing in His people through the church. While some of the ministry strategies of the church include 10-12 person “house churches” that meet each week to join together in good food and conversation, as well as plenty of weekend outreach activities, there have been a number of opportunities Bistayi has pounced on as he’s tried to rally people together. Action in advance With the built-in advantage of having a grand opening set for 10/10/10, the Valley Church leadership team did something called “The Countdown to 10/10/10.” “We opened up the church every night from 7 o’clock to 8 o’clock for the 10 days leading up to 10/10/10,” Bistayi said. “We had prayer stations set up, specifically helping people pray for and get pumped up for the launch.” He also encouraged churchgoers through a three-week sermon series called “Ignite,” which focused on changing the world through
service and inviting others to be part of this faith adventure. When the library is full… When the home base for an institution that serves over 24,000 students (according to the university’s latest figures) is just down the road, accommodations for young adults are obvious. Bistayi said the church is seeing a lot of new college students who are making valley their home and in his mind it’s because they are trying to be relevant, practical and real. “We’re real and transparent and I think that’s the biggest draw,” he said. “We’re also starting a couple of house churches here, just for college-age students so we’re excited about that.” The staff is also considering opening doors one night a week to give students a quiet haven to come study and congregate. “Something, from like 7 (p.m.)-midnight so Valley can be a place for students to come and just study and use the wi-fi and get some coffee and munchies,” he said. “On campus it’s Continued on page 7A
umportal org Church reform
Call to Action team releases report | 3B
Seeing an eagle in the wild restores wonder, joy | 6B
Methodists strengthen disaster response | 8B
November 5, 2010
High commitment—a key to growth Churches find new members, step up to great expectations B Y M A RY J AC O B S Staff Writer
Just showing up at the altar one Sunday morning isn’t enough to join City on a Hill, a United Methodist congregation in Woodstock, Ga. Prospective members must participate in an all-day Saturday class to learn about the Christian faith and United Methodist beliefs, then sign a covenant committing to regular prayer, worship attendance, small group participation, service, witnessing and tithing. It’s not easy. And nobody’s apologizing about that. “We’re a high-commitment church,” says lead pastor, the Rev. Chris Bryant. With a booming laugh, he adds, “And we’re looking for ways to raise the bar even higher.” City on a Hill started as a church plant five years ago, and today averages around 335 in weekly attendance. Many would argue that’s no coincidence—that “high commitment” churches tend to grow, and more importantly, stay vital. “High demand organizations make themselves attractive,” agrees
Dan Hotchkiss, senior consultant for The Alban Institute, a Herndon, Va.based nonprofit leadership development organization for congregations.
High growth Indeed, some of United Methodism’s largest and most successful churches would describe themselves as “high commitment.” At Ginghamsburg Church, a United Methodist megachurch in Tipp City, Ohio, prospective members are required to undergo a 12-week class, “A Follower’s Life,” which clearly outlines membership expectations. At the end of the class, class leaders interview soon-to-be members individually, querying each about his or her personal spiritual practices (such as prayer and Bible study), involvement with a small group and plans for serving others and contributing financially to the church. “We’re nosy,” says Carolyn Slaughter, Ginghamsburg’s director of membership. “We feel you need to know what and who you’re committed to, rather than just popping up and saying, ‘Yeah, I’m in.’” ! See ‘Members’ page 4B
PHOTO BY DAN EVANS
Leslie Brown enjoys fulfilling her commitment to regular outreach, one of the expectations of all members of City on A Hill, a United Methodist congregation in Woodstock, Ga. Here, she’s helping at the church’s annual Single Mom Gas Giveaway.
Churches urged to help break silence on AIDS B Y M A L L O RY M C C A L L Staff Writer
UMR PHOTO BY MALLORY MCCALL
Molly McEntire, a Florida State University student and member of the General Board of Discipleship’s division on ministries with young people, greets participants at the Lighten the Burden III conference in Dallas.
DALLAS—When it comes to talking about HIV/AIDS, most churches aren’t. And that silence speaks loudly, according to speakers at the third international Lighten the Burden Conference. Nearly 200 participants, including United Methodists and other denominations across the U.S. and Africa, gathered Oct. 14-16 in Dallas to work toward an AIDS-free world. “Things are happening, but not
enough is happening,” said Musa Dube, a professor of humanities at the University of Botswana and a speaker at the conference. “The people present are the ‘active’ ones, yet still little is happening.” The conference focused on supporting persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS; combating HIV stigmatization and discrimination in church and society; training laity and clergy to be engaged in HIV education, prevention, care and treatment; increasing awareness of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic; equipping laity and clergy
to provide leadership in churches and the global community; and nurturing a global health initiative through the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Since 2005, the fund has raised more than $3 million to support 175 AIDSrelated projects in 37 countries throughout Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. There are more than 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and 2.5 million new people are infected each year. Women living in sub-Saharan Africa represent about ! See ‘Conference’ page 3B
2B FAITH focus FAITH WATCH Agency urges support for Chinese Christians The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) released a statement Oct. 14 urging all church members to pray for Christians in China and to raise awareness of religious persecution around the world. In October, church leaders were forbidden to travel to an evangelical gathering in South Africa after Chinese officials claimed their attendance would threaten national security. The GBCS also called for United Methodists to contact the State Department and urge pressure on China to lift restrictions on faith practice.
Fed warns county to uphold Islamic rights The U.S. Department of Justice filed a court brief Oct. 18 in Rutherford County, Tenn., warning county officials that denying religious land-use rights to prevent construction of a mosque and Muslim community center would violate civil rights laws. A group of landowners in Murfreesboro had sued to stop the construction, questioning Islam’s validity as a religion entitled to First Amendment protection.
Donations increase for religious charities Several of the nation’s largest religious charities saw an increase in private donations in 2009 despite the economic recession, according to rankings published in the October Chronicle of Philanthropy. Support for Feed the Children, which ranked fifth in the Philanthropy 400, totaled $1.19 billion—a 1.2 percent increase over 2008. Catholic Charities USA was ranked third with a 66 percent increase to $1.28 billion, but the group has questioned the accuracy of the figure.
Crystal Cathedral files for Chapter 11 The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., filed Oct. 18 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors. The decision came after some creditors filed lawsuits against the church, known for its Hour of Power TV broadcast. —Compiled by Bill Fentum
Call to Action urges church reform B Y H E AT H E R H A H N United Methodist News Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The United Methodist Church needs to institute widespread reforms—from consolidating general church agencies to holding bishops and clergy accountable for church growth—to revitalize the denomination, a churchwide advisory group says. The Call to Action Steering Team’s final report, says the status quo of a shrinking and aging U.S. church is “toxic” and unsustainable. The report will be presented and discussed Nov. 3-4 at the Council of Bishops’ meeting in Panama City. “We must reduce the perceived distance between the general Church (including the general agencies), the annual conferences, and local congregations,” the report said. “We must refashion and strengthen our approaches in leadership development, deployment, and supervision. . . . In short, we must change our mindset so that our primary focus and commitment are on fostering and sustaining congregational vitality.”
denomination to measure attendance, growth and engagement. “We should passionately care about results,” the group said. • Reform the Council of Bishops, with the active bishops assuming responsibility for promoting congregational vitality and for establishing a new culture of accountability throughout the church. • Consolidate general church agencies and align their work and resources with the priorities of the church and the decade-long commitment to build vital congregations. Also, the agencies should be reconstituted with smaller, competency-based boards. Illinois Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, steering team co-chair, said he hopes his fellow bishops will receive the report as “the faithful, thoughtful and diligent work of other United Methodists who are yearning with hope for the church.”
Based on survey Some of the recommendations also may require the approval of General Conference, the church’s top leg-
‘The need for accountability by the church’s leadership . . . for results in the life of the church is absolutely crucial.’ —Neil Alexander Among the group’s recommendations: • Starting in January 2011, make congregational vitality the church’s “true first priority” for at least a decade. • Dramatically reform clergy leadership development, deployment, evaluation and accountability. This would include dismissing ineffective clergy and sanctioning under-performing bishops. • Collect statistical information in consistent and uniform ways for the
Bob Mathews, CEO Robin Russell, Managing Editor Bill Fentum, Associate Editor Mary Jacobs, Staff Writer Mallory McCall, Staff Writer Cherrie Graham, Advertising Manager Dale Bryant, Senior Designer
NOV E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R
islative body. In the wake of decades-long membership declines, the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table created the 16-member Call to Action Steering Team, which includes clergy and laity, to reorder the life of the church for greater effectiveness in the church’s mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The team based its recommendations on two studies it commissioned from independent researchers. One THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER (USPS954-500) is published weekly by UMR Communications Inc., 1221 Profit Drive, Dallas, Texas 75247-3919. Periodicals postage paid at Dallas, Texas and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER. PO Box 660275, Dallas Texas 75266-0275. THE UNITED METHODIST REPORTER has provided denominational news coverage since its beginning as the Texas Methodist newspaper in 1847. The Reporter has no official ties to the United Methodist General Conference or to any of the denomination’s general boards or agencies. This newspaper aims to provide readers with a broad spectrum of information and viewpoints consistent with the diversity of Christians. All material published in this newspaper is copyrighted by UMR Communications Inc. unless otherwise noted. Reprint of material from this newspaper must be authorized in advance by the Editor, and fees are assessed in some cases. To request reprints, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com or send a check to UMR Communications, Attn: Circulation, 1221 Profit Dr., Dallas, TX 75247.
Please recycle. We do!
UMNS PHOTO BY KATHY L. GILBERT
Tia Tucker, left, and Robin Pearce are among the many young people active at First Grace UMC, New Orleans. A new report urges that congregational vitality be a denominational priority.
was an “Operational Assessment of the Connectional Church” that found the church was undergoing a “creeping crisis of relevance” and rated general agencies below average in fulfilling the church’s mission. Another study, “The Vital Congregations Research Project,” analyzed data from 32,228 United Methodist churches in North America and classified 4,961 congregations, or 15 percent, as “high-vital” local churches. The study found that four key drivers of congregational vitality in the United States are effective pastoral leadership, multiple small groups, diverse worship styles and a high percentage of spiritually engaged laity in leadership roles. What is not acceptable, Call to Action members emphasized throughout their report, is the status quo. “Leaders, beginning with the bishops and including lay and clergy across the Connection, must lead and immediately, repeatedly, and energetically make it plain that our current culture and practices are resulting in overall decline that is toxic and constricts our missional effectiveness,” the report said. “Business as usual is unsustainable. Instead, dramatically different new behaviors, not incremental changes, are required.” Local churches don’t have to wait for action from the Council of Bishops or General Conference to get started.
10-year emphasis Neil Alexander, co-chair of the steering team and president of the United Methodist Publishing House, said the proposed 10-year emphasis to congregational vitality is in keeping with the already-established goals of the denomination. His hope is that the 10-year emphasis will lead the
church in its strategic planning at all levels of administration to make vitality “job one.” A big part of that emphasis is holding church leaders accountable for church vitality. The report recommends the denomination create “prompt and humane ways” for under-performing clergy to exit or be declined entry into the professional ministry in the first place. The report also recommends sanctions for under-performing bishops. “The need for accountability by the church’s leadership—especially the bishops—for results in the life of the church is absolutely crucial for the challenges as we go forward,” Mr. Alexander said. The Call to Action team is still unsure which recommendations will require the passage of legislation at General Conference to implement, Mr. Alexander said. The team recommends that the Council of Bishops establish an “Interim Operations Team” to determine what legislation is required. The team would also work with the Council of Bishops, Connectional Table and the general agencies to plan the denominational funding and budget that will be considered at the 2012 General Conference. Ultimately, the message and ministry of the United Methodist Church is one worth saving, Mr. Alexander said. “The gospel and our Wesleyan view of the way God’s grace goes before us and beckons us to God is of such critical importance that it must not be ignored,” he said. “The integration of personal and social holiness is a way of being in the world that can redeem a broken and hurting world. That is no less true today than when the circuit riders set out to spread scriptural holiness across the land.”
FAITH focus 3B UM CONNECTIONS UMA names new president, CEO The Rev. Stephen L. Vinson has been named president and CEO of the United Methodist Association (UMA), a nationwide association of more than 380 health and human service organizations and professionals headquartered near Dayton, Ohio. Active in the UMA since 1992, Mr. Vinson has held senior management positions in United Methodist-related children’s homes and retirement communities. He was previously the vice president for development at Methodist Senior Services in Tupelo, Miss., a network of 12 campuses providing a range of care for older adults. For information about UMA, visit umassociation.org.
Perkins prof presents baseball, culture paper Mark W. Stamm, associate professor of Christian worship at Perkins School of Theology, SMU, presented an academic paper “Pray Ball? Reflections on the Serious Liturgical Challenge of Giving Thanks for Baseball” at the 22nd Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture in June. Dr. Stamm, an elder in the North Texas Conference and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, discussed a theology of play and playing in relation to baseball, and included a thanksgiving prayer that he composed for the occasion, “A Baseball Berakah.” The paper has been submitted for publication in the biennial volume of the Symposium.
! CONFERENCE Continued from page 1B half of those affected globally. In 2007 more than 2 million people died from HIV/AIDS. Nearly 30 years after the first cases of HIV garnered the world’s attention, people are still contracting the disease, mainly due to the lack of preventive education, experts say. And still, people remain hesitant to publicly discuss the issue. Less than 50 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 have accurate knowledge about HIV/AIDS prevention and transmission, according to the UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Pandemic. And although more United Methodist clergy and lay members are advocating for HIV/AIDS education, ministries and funding, the disease still carries a heavy stigma for some church members, said the Rev. Donald Messer, committee chairperson and executive director of the Center for the Church and Global AIDS. In a workshop called “Why We Care: Our Faith and AIDS,” Dr. Dube provided a questionnaire, asking participants whether the topic of HIV/AIDS is addressed in their churches through sermons, small groups, songs, prayers and outreach ministries. Overall, the tallies showed that HIV/AIDS was rarely included in the teaching, programming and ministry of churches. When discussing the results of the self-analysis, one participant quoted the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, and asked, “Why should the Church be involved in HIV/AIDS? The question should be reversed. Why shouldn’t the Church be involved in this issue?” “The question we need to ask is where do we start,” said Bishop William Muriuki Mwongo of the Methodist Church of Kenya. Dr. Dube’s response was, “We start where we are.” “It won’t be easy, it never is. Some
Lake Junaluska to host ‘Caring for Creation’ Caring for Creation 2011 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in Lake Junaluska, N.C., will be March 31-April 3. The conference will feature nearly 40 speakers, including John Hill, director of economic and environmental justice from the General Board of Church & Society, and will address topics such as how to involve young people in creation care and how to advocate for environmental sustainability. To register, visit www.lakejunaluska.com/cari ng-for-creation.
Sponsored by the UMC Global AIDS Fund Committee, the Lighten the Burden Conference aimed to lift up the struggle against HIV/AIDS.
days we’ll feel as if even the church is against us,” said United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference. “But Jesus’ heart takes everyone in. All are welcomed into the covenant community of God’s reign—the sick, the blind, the lepers, the immigrant, those in prison and those who have HIV/AIDS,” she said. “No matter how the world sees them, Jesus always sees them as beloved and so should we.”
Fighting stigma Brryan Jackson was 11 months old when his father, a phlebotomist, injected him with a syringe of HIVtainted blood with the intention of killing an unwanted child. Brryan was given 5 months to live with the disease, but he beat the odds. Now at 19, Mr. Jackson is speaking out on behalf of young people who are infected with AIDS, sharing his faith and changing the way people perceive those living with the disease. “The stigma grows every day,” he said. “When we ignore it, it only gets worse.” “For the longest time, HIV controlled my life,” he said. People continually pinned him as just another statistic. He came from a low-income, single-mom household, was a victim of a hate crime and had HIV/AIDS. Always hearing the odds stacked against you can be depressing, Mr. Jackson said. “But then I asked myself, why not me? God chose me to serve this purpose.” “Having HIV is a lot like being a Christian,” he said. “We live in a dirty, perverted society. Are we going to be part of the problem or are we going to be part of the solution?” Mr. Jackson has started a nonprofit organization called Hope is Vital, and continues to speak at schools and conferences across the nation while attending college. He has been a longtime volunteer at Camp Kindle, a weeklong camp based in Valencia, Calif., for children and young people affected by HIV and AIDS. Mr. Jackson was among the young people who gathered at the conference to brainstorm ways to urge friends, families, schools, congregations and communities to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS and talk about transmission, prevention and the reality of living with the disease. There was also a seminary colloquium, which included 22 representatives from nine seminaries who discussed the need for a training curriculum in HIV/AIDS ministries. Retired United Methodist Bishop Albert “Fritz” Mutti and his wife, Etta Mae, led the session. The Muttis lost two sons to HIV/AIDS and are advocates for AIDS education. Garlinda Burton, top executive of the United Methodist General Com-
UMR PHOTOS BY MALLORY MCCALL
Lighten the Burden III participants gauge how well their churches include HIV/AIDS in sermons, prayers, songs, small groups, fundraisers and mission work.
mission on the Status and Role of Women, encouraged young people to step up in their congregations and ask for HIV/AIDS educational programs and service projects. “Sometimes us old folk won’t move until we are asked—or sometimes pushed,” she said. “Silence sends a message, especially in the pews.”
Sharing the passion Ronald Silas, a lay member from Park Avenue St. John’s United Methodist Church in East Orange, N.J., said the conference was his first international AIDS awareness event. “There are scholars, theologians, bishops, doctors and preachers here,” Mr. Silas said. “But I’m just a lay church member.” But with the support of his pastor, he voluntarily and single-handedly organizes health fairs and HIV/AIDS educational seminars for his congregation and community. “I only have a 12th-grade educa-
tion,” Mr. Silas said. “I’m retired from the United States Army, yet I’m here because I have the same passion for [HIV/AIDS] education and prevention as everyone else here. It’s amazing.” During the conference, several recipients were honored with the inaugural United Methodist Global AIDS Leadership Awards for their global leadership and involvement in the fight against AIDS. Among those honored were the Muttis, Dr. Messer, Dr. Dube, the United Methodist Louisiana Conference and former President George W. and Laura Bush. A new HIV/AIDS fundraising campaign, “20/20: Visioning an AIDSFree World,” was unveiled at the conference. The campaign encourages every United Methodist to give $20 a year until the year 2020 to support global HIV/AIDS projects and to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS. For information, visit www.umglobal aidsfund.org. firstname.lastname@example.org
UMNS PHOTO COURTESY OF DON MESSER
The Rev. Donald Messer (second from left), shown with his wife, Bonnie, and retired United Methodist Bishop “Fritz” Mutti and his wife, Etta Mae, were among the recipients of the inaugural United Methodist Global AIDS Leadership Awards. U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | NOV E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 0
! MEMBERS Continued from page 1B Joining the church, she added, represents a level of deeper commitment, rather than simply a formalizing step. So it’s no mistake that while weekly average attendance is 4,500 at Gingshamsburg, there are only 1,300 people on the membership rolls. (By contrast, membership numbers typically exceed average attendance at most United Methodist churches.) “People will rise to the level of expectation,” she said. “If you expect much, they will give much.” Ginghamsburg’s approach explains how many “seeker-friendly” megachurches can still set high expectations, according to an August 2010 study by Marc von der Ruhr of St. Norbert College and Joseph P. Daniels of Marquette University. Initially, the study reports, megachurches expect little in regard to financial or time commitment of new attendees, but “once attendees perceive a good fit with the church, the megachurch increases its expectation of commitment.”
Clear expectations The Rev. David Walters, lead pastor of The Vine, a United Methodist congregation in Braselton, Ga., says his church “set the bar high” when starting as a church plant three years ago. Today, the church is thriving and weekly attendance averages around 460. “I think part of it is our generational demographic,” said Mr. Walters, 33. “People in my generation have a desire to be more involved and to participate at a higher level of commitment. And human experience teaches us that, if there’s anything of value, it’s going to require something of us.” The link between high-commitment and vitality, says Mr. Hotchkiss, is not necessarily a matter of formal requirements; clarity is more important. Prospective members respond to a clear mission and a challenge, and clear expectations convey the congregation’s sense of significance and seriousness about its work. “If the church thinks it’s a matter of indifference as to whether you attend church or not, for example, people are apt to follow your lead,” he said. Mr. Hotchkiss is quick to add that “high demand” churches are often mistakenly associated with conservative theology and “low demand” with more liberal theology. “There’s an increasing number of liberal churches that are getting very clear about what their own church covenant is,” he said. “For ex-
PHOTOS BY DAN EVANS
Members of City on A Hill church, a United Methodist congregation in Woodstock, Ga., are expected to volunteer regularly for outreach. This year at the church’s Single Mom Gas Giveaway, members checked the oil and tire pressure, washed windows, added washer fluid, and offered beverages and a kind word. Some $7,800 in gasoline and oil was given away as part of the Mother’s Day event.
ample, they may not say that a literal tithe is a biblical command for everyone, but they make it an opportunity for some and recognize and honor it as such.”
Typical commitments At Snellville (Ga.) United Methodist Church, new members sign a covenant in which they agree to a host of activities: pray daily for the church, attend worship and participate in a small group regularly, tithe, serve others, welcome newcomers and “be positive and upbeat about my church and voice my concerns and suggestions to the staff and leaders.” Those who want to serve as
church leaders must sign an even more demanding covenant, agreeing to attend meetings and training and to maintain confidentiality. “People want a church with a strong mission and clear expectations,” said the Rev. Richard Hunter, Snellville’s senior pastor. “If you become inactive, we help you off the rolls. We feel that membership is a privilege and a statement of faith.” Pruning outdated and overstated membership rolls is a good place to start for churches that want to strengthen the level of commitment in their congregations, says Jim Griffith, founder of Griffith Coaching Network in Denver, Colo.
“When a church is in denial or not in good shape, they are typically clinging to their old membership rolls,” he said. “Cleaning up membership rolls is the first place we start.” But Mr. Griffith, who has coached United Methodist churches in 51 annual conferences, doesn’t equate basic expectations of worship attendance, service and tithing with “high commitment.” Instead, he points to Methodism founder John Wesley’s more direct model of accountability. When Wesley visited class meetings, he would ask questions about members’ spiritual practices. “It’s not like we’re making up new rules here,” he says. “This is right out of John Wesley’s
There’s nothing “churchy” about the atmosphere at Grace Church in Fort Myers, Fla., but those who wish to join know there’s a high expectation to commit to follow Jesus in their daily lives. 4 B | NOV E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R
RIGHT: Visitors receive a friendly greeting at The Vine, a United Methodist congregation in Braselton, Ga., but those who wish to join must commit to regular attendance, outreach, small group participation and financial contributions. BELOW: Worship is casual and contemporary at The Vine, but expectations are high for those who commit to join the church, according to lead pastor, the Rev. David Walters.
playbook.” Asking for a regular commitment to give financially should be a basic expectation for church members, Mr. Griffith said. “It’s very unsettling when you’re working with a church that’s trying to reach new people, and you have board members who aren’t committed to the church themselves, who aren’t giving a dime to the church,” he said. Mr. Griffith also cautions against measuring commitment on the basis of worship attendance. “Attendance is no longer the primary way to express commitment,” he said. Instead, he asks members, “Are you involved in a ministry? Are you in a small group? Are you contributing financially to the church?” Susan Beaumont, a senior consultant with The Alban Institute, says that the key is whether members are participating more deeply, rather than just more often. “It doesn’t accomplish much if people attend more church suppers or take more yoga classes at the church,” she said. “Congregations that focus just on participation as an end in itself tend to fail.”
Seeking transformation A better way to think about high-commitment, Mr. Hotchkiss says, is in terms of “the kind of life transformation the congregation tries to produce.” He cites management guru Peter Drucker, who once said that the “product” of non-profit organizations is “changed human beings.” Get clear on that, Mr. Hotchkiss says, and the rest will follow. As an example, he worked with a United Church of Christ congregation that put a strong
emphasis on outreach. “I told them, ‘You’re a factory, turning affluent suburbanites into citizens of greater Indianapolis,’” he recalled. “That became like a slogan for them.” While that congregation didn’t have formal requirements, Mr. Hotchkiss said “you’d be uncomfortable there if you were able to serve and didn’t. It wasn’t a matter of institutional strictness, it was a clear vision of what the Christian life is all about.” Grace Church in Fort Myers, Fla., with 2,700 in average weekly attendance and 1,700 members, doesn’t have the strict requirements of places like Ginghamsburg. But lead pastor, the Rev. Jorge Acevedo, says he’d consider his church “relatively high commitment” because of its emphasis on following Jesus. “I think that people are attracted to the way they see that Jesus took the servant’s towel, put it over his arm and served the world,” said Mr. Acevedo. “We don’t do it as well as we should or could, but we do try to order our lives after the life of Jesus, and I think that’s attractive to people.” In churches where he’s worked, Mr. Hotchkiss has asked leaders, “How has belonging to this church changed your life?” In low-vitality churches, he said, respondents are often puzzled by the question. But in growing, vital churches, leaders typically have “intense stories”—about quitting jobs to do something more congruent with their Christian commitment, or a moving experience in working with the poor. “When I ask, ‘What would you have done if someone had warned you about how belonging to this church would’ve changed your life?’ the answer inevitably is, ‘I would’ve run the other
A friendly greeting (above) and a coffee bar (below) make visitors feel welcome at The Vine. Volunteer greeters aren’t hard to find, because members commit to serve regularly.
way.’ They’re thinking of all the sacrifices that came from learning to care about things they hadn’t cared about before. It’s not about keeping the customer satisfied or meeting their needs.” “Following Christ has inherently high expectations,” said Mr. Walters. “If you want to live, you’ve got to die.” “People want to be part of something that will
actually make a difference,” agreed Mr. Bryant. “We have a saying in our church: It doesn’t matter if I know CPR. If I never practice, I’m not saving anybody’s life. “So we say, if you want your faith to make a difference, join us. We don’t ‘play’ at church.” email@example.com
U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | NOV E M B E R 5 2 0 1 0 | 5 B
6B FAITH forum
Recapturing awe When worship style is our idol B Y B I S H O P R O B E RT S C H NA S E
B Y D AV I D G A RV I N
PHOTO BY BISHOP ROBERT SCHNASE
Seeing a bald eagle in the wild adds joy and wonder to our lives, says Bishop Schnase.
then they tell me about the owl that lived near their grandmotherâ€™s house, or that flew across the road near their home the week before or that they sometimes hear in the night. There is a contagious and connecting quality to wonder. An unexpected encounter with awe interrupts the mundane and routine, breaks through suspicions and irritations, adds joy and depth, and draws us toward each other.
â€˜There is a contagious and connecting quality to wonder.â€™ I think this partially explains the appeal of the early church, and also helps us understand the provocative and enchanting quality of congregations that offer worship or serving ministries that are alive, authentic, profound and connect people to God. We feel drawn in by the mystery of grace and the majesty of God, and we canâ€™t help but tell our own stories and share what we have experienced with others. The second chapter of Acts describes the early church like this: â€œEveryone around was in aweâ€”all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. . . . People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.â€? (Acts 2:43-47 from The Message) Awe, wonder, mystery, exuberance, joy, surprise, delightâ€”these we see in Christâ€™s life and experience in the love of God. May others see them in us and with us, through our witness in Christâ€™s name. Missouri Bishop Schnase blogs at fivepractices.org.
NOV E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R
I admit it. I am guilty of worship snobbery. I am a selective worshipper. A worship elitist. A liturgical snob. Give me a well-put-together service, a theologically sound and intellectually challenging sermon, and a choir second only to the heavenly chorus. I am a worshipper who dines on what fancies me the most, often leaving the remainder of the worship palate untouched. Each week I examine the Duke Divinity School worship schedule to see who is preaching, what choir is singing and what worship tradition is David being celebrated at Garvin each service. My favorite professor is preaching on Tuesday, I notice. I will be sure to be there. Oh, the contemporary praise and worship team is leading the Wednesday service. Iâ€™ll plan to watch Glee on Tuesday night, and skip worship on Wednesday to catch up on reading.
Predictable services Itâ€™s an Anglican service on Thursday. I donâ€™t have the time to spare. But Iâ€™ve always wanted to hear the preacher. Perhaps I can eavesdrop when the preacher steps into the pulpit.
Pleasing ourselves Of course, we have our preferences for worship, but why do we prioritize? Idolize might be more accurate. It seems we lift up one style of worship above the One who is to be worshipped. We enter into churches, sanctuaries, chapels or other holy places seeking something that pleases us. We use worship as a means to satisfy our own desires. When this happens, worship becomes a commodity no different than the millions of other products we consume throughout our lives. We shop for a worship service that is comfortable and accommodating to our pref-
erences like we hunt down a pair of blue jeans that fits just right. We profess allegiance to a worship style the same way we commit ourselves to a certain auto manufacturer. We say, â€œI am a contemporary worshipperâ€? as confidently and trivially as we say, â€œIâ€™m a Ford or Chevy person.â€? When our allegiance to a particular worship style overshadows our allegiance to the One worshipped weâ€™ve missed the point. Worship becomes our idol; we bow down to the presentation of the mortal over the immortal. Our emotional and psychological needsâ€”not our need to praise and glorify Godâ€”take center stage. Jesusâ€™ counsel to Mary and Martha may help: â€œOnly one thing is needed (Luke 10:38-42). That one thing, says the Psalmist, is â€œTo dwell in the house of the Lord . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the Lordâ€? (Psalm 27:4). We donâ€™t need worship to be many selfish and pleasing things; only one thing is needed. Worship is not bowing down to our own preferences and losing ourselves in our own worshipful delights. Rather, true worship is getting lost in wonder, love and praise of the God who calls and invites us to enter Godâ€™s holy and mysterious presence always, everywhere and in any manner. The Rev. Garvin serves as pastor of Shiloh UMC in Liberty, N.C., and an M.Div student at Duke Divinity School. Adapted from his blog, Kentucky Fried Methodist, at http://davidgarvin.net.
â€œI plead with you to read this book and act on it.â€?
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As I was walking along the Katy Trail near my home, I looked up to notice a bald eagle perched near the top of a tree that overhangs the path. Majestic, regal, awesome. . . . Words canâ€™t capture the impression of seeing an eagle in the wild less than 60 feet away. Bicyclists and runners and walkers were moving along the path, but none of them had noticed the bird. But the experience was so rare and wonderful that I couldnâ€™t help but want to share it. So I signaled to a couple of bicyclists racing by. They slowed to a resting position, eyeing me with a mixture of suspicion and irritation. I pointed up at the eagle, and they immediately caught the magic of the moment. â€œCool! Awesome!â€? And then each spontaneously began to tell me their own eagle stories. â€œWhen I was a kid and I was canoeing in Minnesota with my dad, and we saw a nest. . . . â€? â€œI remember in college when we went on a biology field trip. . . . â€? After a few minutes of sharing stories, they thanked me and moved on, but I stayed to watch. A few minutes later, a runner came by. I dared to interrupt the music playing through her earphones, and she, like the others, showed extreme caution when I tried to get her attention. I pointed to the eagle, and she melted into the moment. She began to talk about her motherâ€™s love of eagles and how they had driven into the mountains to see one when she was a teenager. She called a friend on her cell phone to tell her that she was looking at a live, wild bald eagle right there in front of her! During the next 20 minutes, I interrupted eight more people. The pattern repeated itself: suspicion and irritation, unexpected awe and joy, immediate and spontaneous sharing of a powerful memory and expressions of gratitude for sharing the moment. This is not a new experience for me in the world of birding. There are several places on the trails I regularly run and walk where Bishop I have identified the Robert Schnase roosts of barred owls. They usually sit hidden deeply in thick brush and I donâ€™t give up their secret hiding places to passersby. But some evenings, one of the owls will be sitting in plain view, and Iâ€™ll stop runners, walkers and even bicyclists to look. They are always amazed and delighted, and
I fear that I am not alone. When I go into different churches the demographics and homogeneity of various worship services are predictable. Young people congregate with other young folks at â€œcontemporaryâ€? praiseand-worship services. Those who have always worshipped in a traditional manner gather to worship â€œtraditionally.â€? Different styles of worship and worshippers rarely mix. In the name of being â€œselectiveâ€? or â€œefficientâ€? we prioritize one worship style over another. We believe one preacher (the one we like) is more likely to speak Godâ€™s Word than the less well-known preacher weâ€™re not willing to give a chance. We cling to old hymns and dismiss the new choruses because surely goodness comes with age. Why do we do this?
â€”from the foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World and a leading advocate for ending world hunger. He was recently named the 2010 World Food Prize Laureate. 0APER s s HTTPWWWEXODUSFROMHUNGERORG 2ETAIL TheThoughtfulChristian.com $9.72
â€œThis is the primer on immigration Iâ€™ve been waiting for.â€? Âˆ2ICK 5FFORD #HASE #OFOUNDER "ORDER,INKS
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FAITH F A AITH
FAITH forum 7B
Have we devalued membership? B Y DA N D I C K Special Contributor
We’ll take anybody. We don’t even require membership classes anymore. Nobody has the time, and most of the people who join our church are coming from other churches anyway. We ask at the end of every service if there is anyone who wishes to join, they come forward, and we ask if they believe in God and in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If they say “yes,” they’re in. Our Dan Dick numbers are way up because of it. The above paraphrase from a recent conversation I had with one pastor reflects the “low-cost/high-benefit” mentality of American consumer culture, but is it appropriate in the church? I say “no,” but there are an awful lot who say “yes.” It isn’t about rules and regulations and keeping people out. It is about making it as simple as possible for people to enter the family of God. I don’t disagree that we should be an open gate—but a gate still implies a boundary: something that distinguishes those who say “yes” from those who have no interest. There is a huge difference between making something simple, and making it meaningless. I believe that many of our attempts to make Christianity simple have done little more than devalue the Christian life, resulting in an insipid, passive and unproductive faith.
Life of substance The Christian life has substance. It makes demands. It requires action and practice. It must be learned and honed and perfected. It is a partnership agreement with God, the Holy Spirit and faith community. It isn’t a hobby. There are very clear requirements and expectations. A person seeking to embark on the lifelong journey of Christian formation needs to know what this means, and then the choice is whether or not the person really wants to pay the costs to reap the benefits. It costs very little to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God—you don’t even need a church for that. But to grow in the faith, become a Christian disciple, pursue transformation in the Spirit to lead and teach and serve—these require true church. The person seeking doesn’t get to make the “rules.” This would be like hiring someone and telling them their job is to do whatever the heck they want to.
We make a muddled attempt at offering expectations in the United Methodist Church, but we have little accountability so it all falls flat. We ask newbies if they will “uphold the church by their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness,” but offer virtually no guidance as to what we are really asking. We make assumptions that new members know how to pray, that they have a disciplined prayer life and that they will now include the church in said prayer life. When asked, “What does it mean to ‘uphold the church by your presence?’” nine out of 10 United Methodists answer, “Attend worship services.” Most United Methodists limit gifts to a financial contribution, service to “helping out at the church” and witness as “going to church.” The percentage of “new members”
ness to Christ in the world. As we have welcomed Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ and a host of other denominations, we have become more stew than salad—a blending of flavors that over time lose their distinctiveness and become something “other”—and I would say less than the sum of our parts. A significant number of people enter the United Methodist Church dragging their plunder from Egypt— carrying all their history of the way their old church worked into their new church. A lay leader in a United Methodist Church told me recently: “In my last church the priests did everything. I get so angry at our pastor every time he talks about ‘the ministry of the
‘Being a Christian disciple comes with some demands. It is up to each individual to decide whether they want to meet those demands, but this is their choice.’ who become “inactive members” within the first six months of joining a United Methodist Church crept above the 50-percent line in 2006 and has kept going up. New members aren’t even being held to the minimum standards. Zero accountability. A person can “join” a church, never pray, never attend, never give, never serve, never share their faith and remain a member in good standing. What message does this send to the world about the value of membership vows in the United Methodist Church? I agree that membership isn’t the point. Membership has always been a means to an end rather than an end in itself. A membership process at its very best is an integration of a newcomer into the very DNA of the local congregation and the church universal. It widens the circle we label “us.” All this changed when the driving value of Methodism shifted from service to size. Once numbers ascended the throne, all bets were off. Getting bodies in the pews trumped getting new members into the body of Christ.
Diluted purpose The influx of other faith communions also has an impact. The Evangelical Association, The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren were primarily mission societies that prized personal holiness and evangelism above all else. We existed for one purpose—to be a wit-
laity.’ If he would spend less time trying to get us to do his work for him, he would get a lot more done!” Accountability to vows before God and a Christian community are not intended to weed out anyone, but to facilitate the emergence of those who desire a life in Christ. Accountability is not by definition punitive. Actions must have consequences. When people perform well and follow through on their word, this should be recognized and celebrated. When people perform poorly and fail to keep their vows, there should be consequences. And when people hear what is required and say “no thank you,” then we should honor that, but we should not keep lowering our expectations until they are willing to say “yes.” Being a Christian disciple comes with some demands. It is up to each individual to decide whether they want to meet those demands, but this is their choice. The body of Christ needs to be clear that membership in the body means something, and that all are welcome—as long as they are willing to take seriously the promises they make to God and the community of faith. The Rev. Dick is director of connectional ministries for the Wisconsin Conference. Reprinted from his blog, United Methodeviations, doroteos2.wordpress.com.
Recruiting church nursery volunteers should begin with an assumption of grace, not obligation, says Kim Mitchel.
Nursery lessons: Finding a better way to recruit your church volunteers BY KIM MITCHEL Special Contributor
Recently we have been focused on revitalizing the nursery at our church. We put in rigorous safety measures. We organized a committee to support the nursery’s vision. We assigned a greeter position to the front door of the nursery and tried like crazy to recruit people to help rock babies. Every step was successful except for one—recruiting volunteers. We tried everything. We asked. We begged. We set out sign-up lists. We made bulletin announcements. We used our new projection screens and the monthly newsletter. Nothing worked. Then I took a leadership class and learned about valuing the history of the church and using it as a bridge toward change. I also learned about beginning with a presumption of grace instead of judgment. I took this to heart, and the next Sunday I asked the pastor if I could do an announcement for the congregation. That day I wore overalls and a plaid shirt since I was to do a lesson with the Kim Mitchel children on the parable of the sower. What better way to talk about this parable than to dress the part of the farmer! When I stood in front of the congregation, my clothing caught them off guard. I told them that thinking about the seeds in the lesson had me thinking about seeds in general. I then said how proud I was to be serving in a congregation that 50 years ago planted seeds of faith in our children and had always placed children
first in the life of the congregation. I reported to them that despite the recession, our church was still keeping up with the expanding needs of a growing children’s ministry. Then I rehearsed all the new things we had accomplished related to the nursery, knowing that they surely would want to know because of their long-standing love for and commitment to children. And I reminded them that all this happened because of the seeds many of them had planted so long ago. I asked them a question. “For young families, what is the first entry point into the church?” They all said, “The nursery.” Well, aren’t we proud to have such a tradition of caring for our babies! They were then invited to stop by and see what wonderful things were happening in the nursery. They could even hold a baby or two. That afternoon the nursery was buzzing with people! They crowded in to get a glimpse of their new nursery that continued their longstanding love of children. Instead of judging them for not volunteering, I assumed instead that they really cared about the history and the nursery. Funny thing. They did. Recruiting volunteers still requires work, but the context has changed. Now there is awareness and pride where before was obligation. And that makes all the difference both for those who recruit and those who say “yes” to this opportunity for ministry. Ms. Mitchel is director of Christian education at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church in Gaithersburg, Md. Reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, the online newsletter of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary at churchleadership.com.
U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R | NOV E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 0
8B FAITH focus
Chilean Methodists, UMCOR sign agreement B Y L I N DA B L O O M United Methodist News Service
STAMFORD, Conn.—When a massive earthquake struck Chile on Feb. 27, Juan Salazar and his fellow Methodists were ready to respond. Four months earlier, a group from the Methodist Church of Chile had received disaster preparedness training from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). That fledgling partnership was strengthened Oct. 11 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Chilean Methodists and UMCOR officials during the annual meeting of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), the relief organization’s parent agency. For the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR’s top executive, the agreement signifies “a wonderful example of a model of mission” for two denominations with a history of cooperation. In October 2009, two agency staff members—Melissa Crutchfield and the Rev. Tom Hazelwood—conducted disaster preparedness workshops in Chile. At the same time, a new entity for the church, the Methodist Humanitarian Aid Team (EMAH), was created. So when the strongest earthquake in 25 years caused destruction
across Chile, “their skills and training were put into quick, practical action,” Ms. Crutchfield said. Chilean Methodist Bishop Mario Martínez—who signed the memorandum of understanding along with United Methodist Bishop Janice Huie, UMCOR’s president—expressed thanks for the new opportunities for cooperation.
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Paths to relief
Missionary spirit Bishop Martínez invoked the missionary spirit of William Taylor, a Methodist who first went to Chile in 1877. “His task was not only to evangelize and form congregations, but also to contribute to Chilean culture through education,” he said. Today, the Methodist Church of Chile has more than 8,000 members, with 66 pastors serving more than 100 congregations. The church owns 23 educational institutions with more than 10,000 students, runs a series of clinics that see more than 500 patients daily and provides social services. The GBGM also works with the Chilean church on other mission and evangelism projects, said the Rev. Edgar Avitia, staff executive. A roundtable meeting with various partners, including British, European and other Latin American Methodist representatives, is planned in November in Coro-
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rectors. “We were not going to be building bridges.” Instead, their efforts placed an immediate focus on earthquake survivors. “We needed to hug people, to console them and to pray with them,” he said. “We hugged thousands of people.”
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NOV E M B E R 5 , 2 0 1 0 | U N I T E D M ET HODI ST R E P ORT E R
PHOTO BY CASSANDRA ZAMPINI, GBGM
Bishops Mario Martínez (right) of the Methodist Church of Chile and Janice Huie, president of UMCOR, sign a cooperative agreement on disaster response.
nel, Chile. In February, the 8.8 magnitude earthquake and accompanying tsunami, centered in south-central Chile, killed more than 500 people, destroyed infrastructure and affected hundreds of thousands of families. In addition, 16 Methodist churches in the regions of Maule, Bio Bio and Metropolitan sustained damages, and a few already have been demolished
by municipal order. Four parsonages and 11 other church-related buildings were also damaged. After the earthquake, the Methodists first had to determine their role in the emergency response. “We discovered that some things you can do and some things you just can’t do,” Mr. Salazar, who leads the church’s social ministry and humanitarian response team, explained to UMCOR di-
Then, they followed two paths to provide emergency relief services— one through a larger group, the InterChurch Emergency Committee Chile 2010, and the other through a Methodist team for humanitarian aid. The interchurch committee, in consultation with survivors, dealt with the immediate crisis—providing food, water, hygiene kits and blankets—and then tackled the emotional aftershocks through psychosocial assistance and conflict management. Current efforts include the repair of homes, promotion of small incomegenerating projects and a focus on community health.
How to help: Donations for the work in Chile can be made to Chile Emergency, UMCOR Advance #3021178.
Published on Oct 31, 2010
The November edition is all about diversity. The diversity of the Protestant denomination in the state is feature on the front and the back...