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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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A United Methodist theologian and retired elder is facing formal charges under church law and a potential trial for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son.
The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a retired seminary dean noted for his work on Christian ethics, presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20. The service took place at the Yale Club in New York City.
Ogletree, 79, is a Yale Divinity School professor emeritus, veteran of the civil rights movement and lifelong member of the Methodist tradition. He told United Methodist News Service that as a professor, he rarely has been asked to perform weddings. When his son asked him to officiate, he said he felt “deeply moved.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
Beloved New York Annual Conference:
Many of you may have read the recently published article in The New York Times that centered on same sex marriage and The United Methodist Church. The confidentiality requirements of the complaint process prevent me from discussing the case in detail. However, as is the case on many issues confronting the church today, there are multiple perspectives associated with human sexuality.
There is also a multiplicity of other concerns that we are confronted with as a body of Christian believers. Immigration reform, gun violence, poverty and the challenges within our criminal justice system are but a few of the significant issues on the local and national landscape.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
It started out as a deeply personal act, that of a father officiating at the wedding of his son.
But it was soon condemned as a public display of ecclesiastical disobedience, because the father, the Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, is a minister in the United Methodist Church, which does not allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings.
Dr. Ogletree, 79, is now facing a possible canonical trial for his action, accused by several New York United Methodist ministers of violating church rules. While he would not be the first United Methodist minister to face discipline for performing a same-sex wedding, he could well be the one with the highest profile. He is a retired dean of Yale Divinity School, a veteran of the nation’s civil rights struggles and a scholar of the very type of ethical issues he is now confronting.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Small wonder, given the harrowing times recently, that news about a long-running property fight over a picturesque church in northern Virginia escaped most people’s notice. But the story of the struggle over the historic Falls Church is nonetheless worth a closer look. It’s one more telling example of a little-acknowledged truth: though religious traditionalism may be losing today’s political and legal battles, it remains poised to win the wider war over what Christianity will look like tomorrow.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Virginia Global South Churches & Primates Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
At first, Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., could see itself as exempt from the economic forces shaking seminaries and theological schools nationwide. Luther is the biggest seminary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. Among its peers, it had a reputation for being innovative. Individual donors continued to give, and its local area -- in one of the country’s most Lutheran states -- was supportive.
Last fall, though, it all came crashing down. Enrollments were dropping. The seminary found it was running multimillion-dollar deficits, spending down its endowment and relying on loans. In December, its president, the Rev. Dr. Richard Bliese, resigned, as the seminary’s board began to look at options to trim at least $4 million from the seminary’s $27 million annual budget.
The results were announced...[not long ago]: layoffs for 18 of its 125 staff members, many effective within a few weeks; the voluntary departure of 8 of 44 faculty members at the end of the academic year, who will not be replaced; the termination of a master’s program in sacred music; and the decision to no longer admit Ph.D students for at least three years.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Stewardship * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Margaret Thatcher was forever the thrifty Methodist grocer’s daughter of Grantham. Her father was both lay preacher and Conservative Party stalwart. They attended the Methodist church several times every Sabbath and heeded many then Methodist strictures against theater-going and dancing. Her family’s social life was enmeshed in the church’s sewing meetings, youth guilds, and missions work, as she recalled to the Catholic Herald 35 years ago.
“Methodism is the most marvelous evangelical faith and there is the most marvelous love and feeling for music in the Methodist Church which I think is greater than in the Anglican Church,” she then remembered. “But you sometimes feel the need for a slightly more formal service and perhaps a little bit more formality in the underlying theology too.”
Although married in John Wesley’s London Chapel, Thatcher later converted to her husband’s Anglicanism.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist
The possibility of dividing the United Methodist Church as a way out of persistent conflicts over homosexuality has been raised enough times in recent years to warrant serious reflection on what it would entail. The fact that Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans have all seen either formal divisions or significant withdrawals of congregations from their denominations over these issues does not bode well for the UMC.
But as tempting as the idea might be as a way out of our conflicts, we would have to think about realities like the following....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
“The National Prayer Service is an important tradition in the United States,” Hamilton said in a statement released Friday by the Presidential Inauguration Committee. “I am honored and humbled to have been asked to deliver the message for this service as President Obama and Vice President Biden begin their second term.”
Raised around Kansas City, Hamilton was baptized Catholic, converted to Pentecostalism as a teenager and attended Oral Roberts University, according to The United Methodist Reporter.
He later tired of Pentecostalism’s “black-and-white, very conservative theology,” and joined the United Methodist Church after reading its Book of Discipline - perhaps the most unlikely conversion story since Saint Paul.
Read it all.
It’s Friday night, I’m on vacation, and I’m trying to decide where to attend church on Sunday morning. I ask Siri on my iPhone, “Find Grace United Methodist Church, Any City, U.S.A.” Before I can even blink, I’m on the website and know that Grace UMC has worship services at 8:00, 9:15 and 10:45 a.m.
Then I click the “I’m New” button where I read a welcome from Pastor Mike Adams and have my most important questions answered before I choose to walk through the door for the first time: “Who are you guys? What’s really important to you? When do you get together? Is there anything for my kids? How do I find you guys? How do I get ahold of you?”
I’m feeling comfortable about what to expect when I arrive, a map is right there on the home page, I like what I read about the church’s ministries, and I already feel connected with the pastor. I’m sold. I’m heading to Grace UMC on Sunday morning.
Every congregation in the United Methodist Church has a new front door. It’s the Internet. People don’t use the Yellow Pages to find a church anymore, nor do they glance at the church ads in Saturday’s newspaper....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Media Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
I am sometimes amazed at how patient the Church has been toward liberalism and its subsequent offspring....Of late, however, we seem to have become theological pacifists, no longer shocked or offended by theological distortions regardless of how bizarre they might be. We calmly, benevolently discuss liberalism or its latter-day derivatives as we would the Sermon on the Mount, not realizing that in liberalism, historic Christianity has been gutted.
And while they mean well, those who reduce the faith to make it more acceptable to the modern mind do the Church no service. Liberalism in its various shades is still a shrunken Christianity—the pathetic result of sinful men and women who, in their quests for intellectual autonomy, would make man the measure of all things. It is a halfway house from faith to unbelief, from Christianity to secularism.
One hears Dorothy Sayers imploring, “You do Christ no honor ‘by watering down his personality’ so he will not offend. If the mystery of the ‘divine drama’ of God enfleshed in Christ shocks and offends believers, ‘let them be offended.’”
As long as our society is free, we will have those who wish to improve upon Christianity by restructuring it. But let’s be sure we know when this is happening.
In the meantime, let us boldly and unapologetically commend God’s revealed Word to our unbelieving world.
Read it all.
The Lambeth Mission & St Mary's building in Lambeth Road was full on Sunday morning for a service marking the 40th anniversary of Lambeth's Anglican-Methodist ecumenical partnership.
Roderick Wells, the last priest to be attached to the ancient St Mary-at-Lambeth church next to Lambeth Palace, was the preacher. He had first arrived as curate in 1966 but when the rector, Oliver Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, left in 1968 to be dean of Lincoln it was decided to make Roderick priest-in-charge.
Read it all and enjoy the pictures.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Methodist
What will be the role of the United States on the global stage in 2062?
India and China will be thriving super nations and leading the world in arts and sciences. People in the United States are already being operated on by Chinese and Indian surgeons. Another nation that is emerging as a surprising international power is Canada. That nation is now exploring its vast natural resources in the north and is in the midst of a renaissance. Some of the best novelists, musicians, poets, artists, now live in Canada. It already has been awarded “best cheese in the world” (“Cinderella cheese”) and the number one place to do business. The role and place of the United States is uncertain. Our future in 2062 may be similar to the position of France and England in 2012 if we continue on the present trajectory.....
Daniel Pink has observed that the well curve has replaced the bell curve....The middle class is declining and the United Methodist Church is a church of the middle. All middles are in trouble. The challenge for the church is to tribalize (particularize) in order to globalize (universalize). We need to “make my parish my world” before we can follow John Wesley in saying, “The world is my parish.” We need churches to love their zip codes and their heritage—I don’t mean love their bishop and polity. I mean churches must know and love people in their community and their “campfire” heritage.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Apologetics Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology
Bishop Sally Dyck, recently installed as head of the church's Northern Illinois Conference, met face to face with [Michael] Overman regarding his decision to leave. She insisted that the church does not take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach.
"We are saddened to lose a gifted person going toward ministry," she said. "'Don't ask, don't tell' is not the approach taken when referring to the church law, which bars the ordination or appointment of 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals.' The district committee appreciated and respected Michael's honesty about his personal relationship and in turn had to be honest with Michael about the reality that the Board of Ordained Ministry is bound by the current laws in the Book of Discipline.
"This is the tension our denomination continues to struggle with and discerns as the United Methodist Church also acknowledges in the Book of Discipline that all persons are of sacred worth," she added.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
[Lamin] Sanneh acknowledges a debt to the missionary schools that unintentionally introduced him to a desiccated version of Christian faith, and he tells how as an earnest young man he wandered from pastor to pastor, desperately seeking baptism, only to be deflected by missionaries who had compromised mission in their uneasy accommodation to Islamic culture. The story would almost be humorous if it were not so sad. Yet even the account of the missionaries’ rebuff is less painful to read than the account of what he received at the hands of liberal, mainline North American pastors who had long before enmeshed themselves in their culture by reducing their ministry to caregiving rather than conversion. As for many frustrated would-be converts in our age, it was easier for Sanneh to find Christ than for him to find Christian community. Eventually he became a Catholic while at Yale.--Will Willimon in a review of Lamin Sanneh's new Summoned From the Margin (Eerdmans, 2012), Christian Century, the October 17th, 2012 issue, page 53 (emphasis mine)
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Disciples of Christ Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
The agreement between the Ripon and Leeds Anglican Diocese, which covers a large part of the region, and the Leeds Methodist District will mean more sharing of clergy and services and both churches working together to support their “ministry and mission”.
The Covenant Area Partnership is the first of its kind in the UK and will see greater consultation and co-operation between 85 Anglican parishes and 65 Methodist churches.
Read it all.
(Pr) The Most Reverend Robert Wm. Duncan, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, will visit the Kentucky campus of Asbury Theological Seminary on September 25, 2012. Duncan will speak in chapel and participate in lunch and a talk-back session with students, faculty and administration immediately following chapel.
The Anglican Church in North America unites approximately 100,000 Anglicans in almost 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada into one Church. Asbury Seminary’s President, Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, said, “We are honored to host Archbishop Duncan on our Kentucky campus. He is an extraordinary Church leader, and his devotion to mission and church planting inspires us.”
In 1972 Duncan was ordained a deacon and then a priest. Early in his ministry, he served the Chapel of the Intercession in New York City, Christ Church in Edinburgh, Scotland and Grace Church in Merchantville, N.J. He was also assistant dean of The General Theological Seminary in New York City, Episcopal chaplain of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and rector of Saint Thomas’s Episcopal Parish in Newark, Del. In 1992, Duncan became canon to the ordinary for Bishop Alden Hathaway in Pittsburgh. In 1995 he was nominated from the floor and elected bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In 2009, he was elected Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and immediately made a call to plant one thousand churches (Anglican 1000) in five years. Duncan was a driving force in the creation of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, a multi-million dollar enterprise for which he continues to serve as president.
What do Charles and John Wesley have to teach Catholics in the United States about the New Evangelization? With the release of Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization (USCCB, 2012) and the Catholic Church’s upcoming synod on the “New Evangelization,” these two ministers seem as relevant as ever to how we think about evangelization in the modern world.
Charles and John Wesley were ordained in eighteenth century England, a time when the sacrament of Holy Communion was often regarded with indifference or neglect. Church historian John Bowmer remarks that the sacraments and Christian life were widely disparaged in this “new age of reason,” and most people in the Church of England aimed for the minimums of religious practice—receiving the Eucharist three times a year and treating it as an historic custom, rather than encounter with the living God. Unsurprisingly, most in the Church of England were not looking outward to form disciples or share the Gospel. In fact, many clergy and laity in the Church of England believed that England’s growing urban masses were beyond influence and simply had “no taste” for Christian liturgy and sacraments. Christianity was on its way to becoming a fruitless cultural niche.
This creeping indifference characterizes many U.S. Catholics today....
Read it all.
[The Rev. Eric] Greenwood, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, says his denomination has its troubles. But it is still a force for good in the world.
“Everybody gets all excited about sex in the church,” he said. “But the good work that gets done in the name of God and our lord Jesus Christ, it will take your breath away.”
Nationwide, the numbers don’t look good for the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant denominations, most of which tend to hold more liberal beliefs. From 2000 to 2010, most suffered double-digit percentage declines in membership, leading some to wonder if those denominations can be saved in the future.
But in Nashville, those mainline churches have showed surprising strength and have grown in membership over the past decade.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology
We’ve become so accustomed to the narrative of “mainline decline” that it is difficult to get our minds around a more nuanced version of this story. How do you tell this story?
The ecumenical leaders achieved much more than they and their successors give them credit for. They led millions of American Protestants in directions demanded by the changing circumstances of the times and by their own theological tradition. These ecumenical leaders took a series of risks, asking their constituency to follow them in antiracist, anti-imperialist, feminist and multicultural directions that were understandably resisted by large segments of the white public, especially in the Protestant-intensive southern states.Read it all.
It is true that the so-called mainstream lost numbers to churches that stood apart from or even opposed these initiatives, and ecumenical leaders simultaneously failed to persuade many of their own progeny that churches remained essential institutions in the advancement of these values.
But the fact remains that the public life of the United States moved farther in the directions advocated in 1960 by the Christian Century than in the directions then advocated by Christianity Today. It might be hyperbolic to say that ecumenists experienced a cultural victory and an organizational defeat, but there is something to that view. Ecumenists yielded much of the symbolic capital of Christianity to evangelicals, which is a significant loss. But ecumenists won much of the U.S. There are trade-offs.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
The Rt. Rev. Mark Joseph Lawrence, the Episcopal bishop of South Carolina, fears for the future of his church.
One week after the U.S. Episcopal Church overwhelmingly voted to approve a provisional rite for blessing gay unions and the ordination of transgender people, Bishop Lawrence said in an interview with NBC News that his denomination is moving too far out of the mainstream.
"Do I think that these two decisions will cause further decline? I believe they will," Bishop Lawrence said. "I think we've entered into a time of sexual and gender anarchy."
Lawrence's comments come amid a growing debate over the future of so-called mainline Christian churches: Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Lutherans and more. These denominations, which are generally more liberal than their evangelical counterparts, have been in decline for decades, a trend some observers attribute to their supposed leftward drift.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention --Gen. Con. 2012 TEC Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sexuality * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Presbyterian * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Most of all we have seen a Council of Bishops who have spent their careers as the consummate systemic insiders. For all of the rhetoric of creative leadership, many (if not most of you) have spent years serving on the very committees and boards that have failed to embrace change. The current boards and agencies, which have been largely groups that rubber stamped staff initiatives and General Secretary priorities, have not been held accountable even though it is Council of Bishop members who are, by and large, the presidents of those governing boards. The bishop, more often than not, are a body who are invested in the same political process that got them elected in the first place, a network of relationships that seems unable to truly embrace change.
And we’re supposed to trust you now?
Trust, as I understand it, rarely comes through authority imposed from above, but rather through the experience of one over time. Yes, we respect the office and place ourselves under your authority . . . but trust can only be given when it’s earned, and in far too many cases the expectation of blind obedience to power has ruled the day at the expense of building trust.
Read it all.
General Conference in Tampa made history as the most expensive ($1,500 per minute!), least productive, most fatuous assemblage in the history of Methodism. Sunday evening’s “A Celebration of Ministry” fiasco was a metaphor for our nearly two weeks at church expense: four hours of belabored supplication by the General Commission on Status and Role of Women, five Ethnic National Plans, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, United Methodist Men, Girl Scouts, Africa University and a number of other agencies I can’t remember. A subtheme of that long night: even though we can’t cite specific fruit, please don’t force us to change or to expend less on ourselves.
Even after suffering this abuse, General Conference succumbed to the agencies’ pleadings. In a post-GC blog, Mike Slaughter (who with Adam Hamilton eloquently—and futilely—warned GC that we must change or face certain death) told the truth: “Our denominational systems continue to resist change by protecting archaic structures. From our seminaries to boards and agencies, institutional preservation was a strong resistant influence throughout GC. Entrenched organizational bureaucracies resist accountability …”
Read it all.
While appealing to some, this “compromise” is ultimately unhelpful. When a matter is pragmatic and little more, compromise can be the right option to take. Part of growing up is realizing that you can’t and don’t need to get your way all the time.
But when the issue is one of principle and when it involves the clear teaching of Scripture, we cannot take the easy way out and claim that we do not know what we believe without injuring our personal integrity and our corporate witness. And to be honest, everyone knows that removing the clear statement we currently have in the Discipline would not resolve the issue. It is only a first step by those whose ultimate intention is to change the church’s position. And that’s hardly a true compromise.
When the “agree-to-disagree compromise” was defeated in Fort Worth and the historic position of the church was reaffirmed, the charge against those who supported the church’s stance was, “You’re dishonest. We are of divided mind. Why won’t you even allow us to state that we differ?”
It’s a good question. And there’s a very good answer. We United Methodists are divided on practically every issue. But in none of our other statements on matters theological, moral, or cultural do we state that we have agreed to disagree.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
The structures and processes of the United Methodist Church are self-preserving. The size and frequency of our meetings encourage passivity; our current Book of Discipline and its structures favor institutional stagnation; and, as some discovered in Tampa, our Constitution prohibits most forms of restructuring. The systems that we have created for ministry protect the status quo against revision, and our denomination cannot effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ without the ability to adapt.
This procedural and systemic self-preservation is natural, but it does not differentiate between gratuitous and essential change. Our connection’s ability to protect itself from unnecessary change is valuable, but sometimes adaptation is necessary. In the past five years, the membership in the United States has declined by 4.5 percent; worship attendance has declined by 7.9 percent; and the number of young people being confirmed in the UMC in the United States has declined by 18.44 percent. The need for adaptation is well-established, yet General Conference yielded little change.
Read it all.
United Methodists concluded their General Conference last Friday (May 4) without voting on gay clergy or same-sex marriage, a surprising end to a disappointing week for gay activists.
On Thursday, the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., soundly rejected two motions that would have amended the United Methodist Church's book of doctrine and rules, which calls the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." After those votes, protesters flooded the convention floor, briefly shutting down the conference....
Read it all.
General Conference 2012 approved a budget of $603.1 million for seven general church funds during the 2013-2016 period; that total is 6.03 percent less than the amount apportioned for the previous four-year period –– the first time the assembly has accepted a lower budget than the amount set for the preceding period.
That sounds like a whopping amount, but local churches should not count on huge savings, since only 2 cents out of every dollar in the collection plates goes to support general church ministries. Also, costs of annual conference operations, clergy pension benefits and inflationary costs are likely to increase local church costs.
Read it all.
God’s revelation of himself and the deeds he performed are narrated in the Bible, which is the single source of our Christian faith. The so-called Wesleyan quadrilateral is not Wesleyan at all. It ought to be named the Albert Outler quadrilateral, naming as it does the source of our religion as the Bible, reason, tradition, and experience. The latter three are really interpretive tools to help us understand the contents of the Bible. They supply no revelatory material themselves. John Wesley, in the preface to his sermons, said that God gave us a book which provides us with his plan for our salvation. The Bible tells us all we need to know, indeed, can possibly know about how to be saved and win a place in heaven. He, therefore, called himself a man of one book.
The Bible then is God’s gift to us, not a book humans have composed for themselves and given to themselves for their own edification. It is his chart for their happiness and satisfaction here, and their blessedness in heaven. Therefore, to change one jot or one tittle of it, to try to make it conform to some human interest, concern, or cause is to risk damnation. We are to receive it as it is written, with open hearts and eager minds, and through it to be instructed in the ways of God. To attempt to rewrite it or in any way modify it from a racist, feminist, liberationist, liberal, conservative, or any other perspective not its own is the most dangerous of all heresies and an abomination of desolation too awful to conceive.
It is time we heed Saint Augustine’s warning against the juggling and misuse of Scripture to suit our own predisposition. “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you dislike, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourselves.”
–Bishop William R. Cannon served from 1968 to 1984 as a UM Bishop of the Raleigh, Richmond (Virginia) and Atlanta Areas.
Read them all.
The delegates defeated another compromise proposal by an even wider margin: 61 to 39 percent. The resolution would have acknowledged a "limited understanding" of human sexuality and called on the church to "refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices until the Spirit leads us to new insight."
The Rev. Steve Wendy of Texas argued that the compromise would cause confusion and lead the church to "stumble in our witness."
"If you look at our largest congregations, and crunch the numbers, they are all reaching young adults successfully," Wendy said. "And, overwhelmingly, they teach and proclaim God's truth without compromise."
Read it all.
After an emotional debate, Methodists at a national legislative meeting Thursday upheld the denomination's policy that same-sex relationships are "incompatible with Christian teaching."
Delegates at the General Conference voted by about 60% to 40% against softening the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline, which contains church laws and doctrine. The meeting is held once every four years, which means the policy won't come up for a conference vote again until 2016.
Advocates for gay and lesbian Methodists gathered in the convention hall wearing rainbow stoles and protested the vote by singing and interrupting the meeting. Some cried when the vote tally was announced. Methodist leaders briefly shut down business in response to the protest.
Read it all.
The United Methodist Church cannot agree that it disagrees over the issue of homosexuality.
After more than an hour of passionate debate and clear disagreement, two items stating Christians have different opinions about homosexuality were not approved by the 2012 General Conference, leaving the original language in the Book of Discipline intact.
The Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161F states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Read it all.
The titles are:
Holy conversations have unintended effectRead them all.
Attempt at ‘Holy Conversation’ also brings pain
Stop living in denial
The Theology of Glee: A General Conference “Gleetup”
Teresa MacBain has a secret, one she's terrified to reveal.
"I'm currently an active pastor and I'm also an atheist," she says. "I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday's right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that's totally false."
MacBain glances nervously around the room. It's a Sunday, and normally she would be preaching at her church in Tallahassee, Fla. But here she is, sneaking away to the American Atheists' convention in Bethesda, Md.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Other Faiths Atheism * Theology Pastoral Theology
New life exists for the idea of restructuring agencies of the United Methodist Church, with members of various camps having engaged in lengthy, intense negotiations that led to a compromise called “Plan UMC.”
“We were committed to finding a plan that can unify the church,” said the Rev. Don Underwood, among those who helped work out the new proposal.
Plan UMC abandons the idea of a single board for all program agencies, but creates a strong 45-member General Council for Strategy and Oversight with a focus on supporting vital congregations.
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Thus, when we ask candidates for ordination, “Have you studied our doctrines? Will you preach and maintain them?” These are the beliefs we are referring to. It is General Conference that has the authority to establish our doctrine. In fact, for most of our history our book was called not the BOD, but “The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Church”. It is a chargeable offense for clergy to disseminate teachings that are contrary to our doctrinal standards.
I hope that we will talk about doctrinal matters more and get a better understanding of what we believe. Many of the conversations about our church have doctrinal implications and the General Conference is engaged in those conversations in many different legislative committees.
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Delegates and visitors gathered under the brilliant Tampa sun for a noon rally against the privatization of prisons, led by the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration.
Participants in the April 28 rally sang “We Shall Overcome” while carrying signs saying, “Profit from Pain is Inhumane.”
The rally celebrated the establishment of a new investment screen adopted by the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits. That screen, adopted in January, forbids board investments in companies that derive more than 10 percent of their revenue from the operation of prison facilities.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Prison/Prison Ministry Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
As nearly 1,000 delegates from across the world gather in Tampa, Fla., for the United Methodist Church's General Conference, gay and lesbian activists have printed pamphlets promoting their cause in five languages, including Portuguese and Swahili.
The UMC's global reach, stretching from the Philippines to Philadelphia, compels the multilingual lobbying. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates, who meet through May 4, live outside the United States, according to church leaders.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology) Theology: Scripture
Prelate of the Methodist Church, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde, has described as ‘careless and unguarded statement’ the comment made by American government that years of neglect and poverty led to the insurgence of Boko Haram sect in Nigeria.
Speaking at the weekend during the launch of a book titled “Women as Teachers and Character Moulders” written by Mrs. Ezinne Elizabeth Abimbola Makinde at Hoare’s Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Yaba, Lagos, the prelate declared the premises on which such a statement was based as poor research that lacks every credibility.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Poverty Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
Since 1955, April 15 has signified Tax Day in the United States — a pretty tragic date in our minds. But prior to that, April 15 always marked an even larger tragedy: the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The famous shipwreck claimed almost 1,500 lives.
Of note to United Methodists is the fact that two of the members of the famed Titanic band were Methodists themselves.
A book by music journalist Steve Turner detailing the lives of the bandmembers cites the Methodist heritage of bandleader and violinist Wallace Hartley and cellist John Wesley Woodward, and speculates how their faith influenced their decision to play till the last.
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As a giant tornado bore down on his southwest Arlington church Tuesday, the Rev. Will Cotton led 82 children in day care singing Jesus Loves Me.
Windows broke, rainwater covered the floors, and winds ripped up trees and tore the roof off the St. Barnabas United Methodist Church early education center.
Later, even as Cotton sorted through his own wrecked home nearby, the tune didn't change.
"Even in the midst of this, we see the hope of Easter in the faces of all the people coming together, the neighbors rallying around each other," said Cotton, in his second year in Arlington after moving from blustery Lubbock.
"We take hope in the risen Christ. That is the very message of Holy Week."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Children Music * General Interest Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
[Many of the frequent quotes on hears among Methodists these days] ...in some way, [are] responses to the question, “Can young people save the Church?”
Whether vocalized or not, this question permeates United Methodist dialogue about membership decline, denominational vitality and the state of young people in an ever-changing world. Many of our conversations about these topics are well-intentioned attempts to answer this question.
But the question of whether or not young people can save the Church is not effective, because it is based on inaccurate assumptions about young people and membership decline.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Lent Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Roman Catholic
Methodist and Latter-day Saint historians, theologians, preachers and congregants gathered Friday in Washington, D.C., like long-lost family members becoming reacquainted.
The common roots and differences between Methodists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were explored at an interfaith conference titled "At the Crossroads, Again," hosted by the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy and the Wesley Theological Center.
The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy exists to build trust and friendship between religious traditions which are often suspicious of each other, foundation president Randall Paul said.
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An Ohio church is offering a drive-thru Ash Wednesday blessing for parishioners pressed for time or reluctant to come inside the church for the Lenten observance.
The Rev. Patricia Anderson Cook of Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church in suburban Cincinnati offered the ashes Wednesday evening for people of all faiths beginning around 5 p.m. in the church parking lot. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, which concludes after 40 days with the celebration of Easter, and the faithful traditionally have a smudged cross drawn on their forehead.
Bridget Spitler, the church's secretary and building manager, said the church had received a lot of positive feedback for offering the drive-thru ashes.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Lent Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist
The Commission continues to take careful note of bilateral conversations between Anglicans and Methodists in a variety of places around the world. In listening to these reports the Commission was able to further its understanding of the various and diverse challenges posed by ecumenical dialogue.
Considerable benefit was gained from meeting with some of those in the dialogue taking place in the United States of America between The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church. This gave the Commission an opportunity to learn more about the way that that dialogue is seeking Full Communion between the two churches....
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What’s your biggest concern about things as they stand?
We should have a sense of urgency over the decline in our church in the US. The clock is ticking, and we will not be able to fund the general church structure, as we know it, much longer. And the only way in which we can avoid that is local church growth in the United States, because that’s where most funds originate to support the operations.
If you don’t find a way in which you can turn this around and spur local church growth, all of this debating about structure will become a side conversation that’s not terribly important.
Over the past 20 years, local church growth has not been our central focus. For a time, perhaps ten or 15 years, local church growth must be the central focus, even at the expense of other ministries. With sufficient growth, we can more fully attend to these other ministries that we so deeply care about. But unless we get this ship moving, and in the right direction, these other ministries will be going down through budget cuts—not from a lack of passion.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist
Together, the leaders of these Christian, Jewish and Muslim national organizations affirmed:
“We stand with President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in their decision to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential preventive care for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and to assure access under the law to American women, regardless of religious affiliation. We respect individuals’ moral agency to make decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health without governmental interference or legal restrictions. We do not believe that specific religious doctrine belongs in health care reform – as we value our nation’s commitment to church-state separation. We believe that women and men have the right to decide whether or not to apply the principles of their faith to family planning decisions, and to do so they must have access to services. The Administration was correct in requiring institutions that do not have purely sectarian goals to offer comprehensive preventive health care. Our leaders have the responsibility to safeguard individual religious liberty and to help improve the health of women, their children, and families. Hospitals and universities across are respected and that their students and employees have access to this basic health care service. We invite other religious leaders to speak out with us for universal coverage of contraception.Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, along with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which includes the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ, have stunningly endorsed Obamacare's mandate that all religious hospitals and charities must provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization, despite religious objections.
In contrast, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, National Association of Evangelicals, Southern Baptist and Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod leaders and others have condemned the mandate as an assault on religious liberty. Megachurch pastor Rick Warren has declared: "I'd go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
They may not be as large as Catholics or as active as evangelicals, but white mainline Protestants have a big thing going for them this election cycle: they are divided, and possibly persuadable.
That's according to a new poll released Thursday (Feb. 2) that found white mainline Protestants are more evenly split between President Obama and his Republican challengers than other religious groups.
"They're the most important ignored religious group in the country," said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Religion News Service.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Disciples of Christ Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian
A month after Anabella and Matteus Potter were born in 2009, their parents, Adriana and Robert, agreed to disagree on what to do with two other embryos created in the same petri dish as their twins.
Grateful for the in vitro fertilization that enabled the Elmhurst, Ill., couple to become parents, Adriana Potter, 38, believed donating the embryos to advance reproductive technology or treat debilitating diseases would be the most life-affirming choice. Robert Potter, 44, imagined having more children or donating the embryos for another couple to do the same.
Anabella and Matteus made up their parents' minds. Watching the brother and sister blossom into beautiful toddlers compelled them to have both embryos implanted last November.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Life Ethics Marriage & Family Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Seven influential megachurch pastors took part in live unscripted discussions on different approaches to ministry in the second round of The Elephant Room – an event billed as "conversations you never thought you'd hear" from pastors.
Held in Aurora, Ill., and broadcast to over 70 locations around the U.S., the discussions were mediated by James MacDonald of Chicago's Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hill Church.
With nondenominational churches growing across the county, the role of denominations and church networks was the first topic discussed.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Reformed * Theology Ecclesiology
It’s a story so strange we could not have dreamed it up by ourselves, this story of how God was incarnate in Jesus the Christ. An embarrassing pregnancy, a poor peasant couple forced to become undocumented immigrants in Egypt soon after the birth of their baby, King Herod’s slaughter of the Jewish boy babies in a vain attempt to put an end to this new “King,” From the beginning the story of Jesus is the strangest story of all. A Messiah who avoids the powerful and the prestigious and goes to the poor and dispossessed? A Savior who is rejected by many of those whom he sought to save? A King who reigns from a bloody cross? Can this one with us be God?
And yet Christians believe that this story, for all its strangeness, is true. Here we have a truthful account of how our God read us back into the story of God. This is a truthful depiction not only of who God really is but also of how we who were lost got found, redeemed, restored, and saved by a God who refused to let our rejection and rebellion (our notorious “God problem”) be the final word in the story.
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It’s tough to be on the receiving end of love, God’s or anybody else’s. It requires that we see our lives not as our possessions, but as gifts. "Nothing is more repugnant to capable, reasonable people than grace," wrote John Wesley a long time ago.
Among the most familiar Christmas texts is the one in Isaiah: "The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (7:14) Less familiar is its context: Isaiah has been pleading with King Ahaz to put his trust in God’s promise to Israel rather than in alliances with strong military powers like Syria. "If you will not believe, you shall not be established," Isaiah warns Ahaz (7:9). Then the prophet tells the fearful king that God is going to give him a baby as a sign. A baby. Isn’t that just like God, Ahaz must have thought. What Ahaz needed, with Assyria breathing down his neck, was a good army, not a baby.
This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. With our advanced degrees, armies, government programs, material comforts and self-fulfillment techniques, we assume that religion is about giving a little, of our power in order to confirm to ourselves that we are indeed as self-sufficient as we claim.
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Founded in 1977, AFTE is the creation of two regal figures within United Methodism who could hardly have been more different—Dr. Albert Outler, the erudite seminary professor who at the time was the world’s foremost authority on all things Wesleyan, and Dr. Ed Robb Jr., traveling evangelist and the day’s best known critic and reformer of the UM Church.
Ironically, this oddest of couples discovered that they had much in common. They both loved the church, treasured our Wesleyan heritage, and were greatly concerned about the state of theological education within the denomination. And they both felt that true renewal would never be possible or lasting if UM pastors were not trained in the great tradition of classical Wesleyan theology....
Albert Outler and Ed Robb were vexed over the theological trends in the seminaries preparing United Methodist preachers and professors. They wanted something substantial and transformative that would provide long-term change. What they agreed upon was AFTE, a program designed to raise up a new generation of leaders.
Much food for thought here; read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Education * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Since I’ve been chairing a national Presbyterian Church (USA) committee on the Nature of the Church for the 21st century, I’ve been gaining a different perspective on many of the larger trends of our denomination. One thing that has been difficult to realize (and equally difficult to communicate to the larger church) is the young clergy crisis.
Why would I call it a crisis? We’ve known for a long time about the startling decline of young clergy. The drop-out rates don't help (I can't find hard and fast stats on this... but some claim that about 70% of young clergy drop out within the first five years of ministry, usually because of lack of support or financial reasons). The average age of a pastor in the PCUSA is 53. And I’ve realized that the age of our leadership might be much higher.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Middle Age Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world's biggest Christian communities in surprising places.
Europe was the clear center of world Christianity one hundred years ago, but today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. In fact, the United States has the world's largest Christian population, of more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Methodist Orthodox Church Roman Catholic
As members of The Gathering began to hear of the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments after Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols had signed a $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, they decided to act.
"We heard people were burning their Pujols jerseys, and someone said, 'Why don't we ask them to donate the jerseys, and we'll give them away?'" said the Rev. Matt Miofsky, the pastor of the United Methodist church.
The 5-year-old church christened the effort, the "Recycle the Five Drive," a play on Pujols' jersey number. It began Facebook and Twitter campaigns to let disappointed Cardinals fans turn their anger into a positive.
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A list of the Episcopal Church’s 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards spilled over eight PowerPoint slides during a recent presentation by its new chief operating officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls.
By his count, there are also nearly 50 departments and offices in the church’s New York headquarters, and 46 committees in its legislative body, the General Convention.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ * Theology Pastoral Theology
The statement was the direct result of a letter sent by 59 leading pastors to all active bishops, asking the Council to address the then 900 pastors who had pledged to perform gay marriages, contrary to the Discipline....
Since the letter was sent, more than 2,500 pastors have added their names to the letter and more than 12,000 laypersons have signed an even more pointed statement at the website
http://www.faithfulumc.com. As reticent as the Council has been in the past to address the topic of homosexuality in any sort of unified way—even as it was tearing the church apart—it is obvious that the letter and the 14,500 signatures were effective in motivating the Bishops to do what they should have done long ago.
We are grateful to the Council for issuing a statement and to the thousands of United Methodists who asked them to do so.
So we have a statement. That’s the good news. The statement itself—well, that’s another story. In a 21-sentence document, two sentences deal with upholding the Discipline.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
While acknowledging the denomination’s “deep disagreements” over homosexuality, the United Methodist Council of Bishops promised to uphold church law banning same-sex unions in a letter released Nov. 11.
“As bishops chosen, consecrated and assigned by the Church, we declare once again our commitment to be faithful to this covenant we have made,” the letter said. “As the Council of Bishops we will uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference.”
The bishops’ statement marked the first time the council as a body has addressed the pledges to bless same-sex unions signed this year by more than 1,000 United Methodist clergy across the United States. In the New York Annual (regional) Conference, 732 lay people also have signed “a covenant of conscience” in support of such unions.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
I share these two experiences alongside a comment I came across years ago: every church and every member of the clergy, over a span of time, needs to belong to a denomination. I serve as a district superintendent, and I am aware of the church's imperfections, and my own. I watch over 69 local churches and a few assorted institutions within our geographical boundaries, and we are at work on the development of a new church plant and the development of a missional church network. At any given time about 3-5 of these churches are in real crisis: they are in need of outside intervention, mediation, conflict resolution and spiritual guidance. A denomination, at its best, provides a framework for the protection of the clergy in a workplace and supervision of even the most powerful clergy leaders. In addition, a denomination works out the implications of a missional strategy in an area that is more nuanced than simply whatever the market can bear.
I share these experiences at a time when there is much rhetoric around moving energy, resources and attention to the local church. I love the local church. It is the basic context for the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. At the same time, the local church will, on occasion, be stronger as it accomplishes mission that is beyond its own capacity, and as it is accountable to a wisdom that is outside its own day to day movements.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Lutheran Methodist Pentecostal Presbyterian Reformed Roman Catholic United Church of Christ * Theology Ecclesiology Pastoral Theology
Moms who are ministers face the same challenges as working moms everywhere, with a couple of twists. Time demands can be extraordinary -- on call 24 hours a day, and no Sundays off -- and raising kids in a church can be akin to parenting on center stage.
Hudson-Jacoby and her husband, Mike, have two sons, ages 8 and 5, and a 3-year-old daughter. She said most of that pressure is self-imposed.
"It's pressure I put on myself," said the 37-year-old University of South Carolina graduate and native of Lancaster. "But I've rarely felt it from the people in the congregation. I have to be really intentional not to have different expectations of my own children than I do from other children."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Women * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * South Carolina
New York--After same-sex marriage becomes legal here on July 24, gay priests with partners in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island will head to the altar. They have to. Their bishop set a nine-month deadline for them to marry or stop living together.
Next door, meanwhile, the Episcopal bishop of New York says he also expects gay clergy in committed relationships to wed "in due course." Still, this longtime supporter of gay rights says churches in his diocese are off limits for gay weddings until he receives clearer liturgical guidance from the national denomination.
As more states legalize same-sex marriage, religious groups with ambiguous policies on homosexuality are divided over whether they should allow the ceremonies in local congregations. The decision is especially complex in the mainline Protestant denominations that have yet to fully resolve their disagreements over the Bible and homosexuality. Many have taken steps toward acceptance of gay ordination and same-gender couples without changing the official definition of marriage in church constitutions and canons. With the exception of the United Church of Christ, which approved gay marriage six years ago, none of the larger mainline churches has a national liturgy for same-sex weddings or even blessing ceremonies.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Parishes Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
With [Will] Willimon set to retire as bishop in 2012 (he plans to return to teaching at Duke Divinity School), it is appropriate to consider how the Willimon experiment in the episcopacy has turned out. As one might expect, it has not been business as usual.
Willimon has used his authority to "decimate the career ladder," as one pastor told me. In the process he has alienated many pastors in the North Alabama Conference. He has promoted younger clergy deemed to be more talented over those with more seniority. He has streamlined some meetings and eliminated others. "I got annual conference down to two days," he boasts (it had previously lasted four and a half days). And he has made accountability a hallmark term.
Accountability, in this case, mainly means that every congregation's weekly numbers for giving, attendance, hours of service, and professions of faith are posted online for all the world—and the rest of the conference—to see. They appear on a page on the conference website called the North Alabama Dashboard. These statistics become one source of input for decisions on pastoral appointments. What looks to some like a call for public accountability looks to others like an act of public shaming. For critics, the Dashboard seems to treat the dynamics of church life like so many hamburgers sold.
-- Jason Byassee, "The bishop’s dashboard," in a recent Christian Century
A jury of United Methodist Church ministers voted 9-4 Thursday to suspend Reverend Amy DeLong for 20 days, effective July 1st.
DeLong is from Osceola, in western Wisconsin. The church trial was held in Kaukauna.
Wednesday the same jury found Rev. DeLong guilty of performing a same-sex holy union ceremony -- a violation of the church's Book of Discipline -- after three hours of deliberations.
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Methodist pastors who have increasingly defied a church ban on marrying gays were dealt a setback Wednesday when a colleague was found guilty in a church trial of marrying a lesbian couple in 2009.
A 13-person jury of clergy peers unanimously convicted The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola. The jury found the 44-year-old not guilty of a second charge of being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual." That vote was 12-1.
After the verdicts were announced Wednesday afternoon, church officials began hearing a second round of testimony to help jurors recommend a penalty that could range from suspension to defrocking. At least five DeLong supporters were scheduled to testify.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
For the seventh time in 20 years, The United Methodist Church will wrestle with the issue of homosexuality in a public church trial.
The Rev. Amy DeLong, a lesbian clergy member of the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference, faces two charges of violating church law and the possibility of losing her ministerial credentials this week. Her trial begins June 21 at Peace United Methodist Church in Kaukauna, Wis.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
United Methodists will begin a trial Tuesday (June 21) against a Wisconsin minister who’s accused of breaking church rules by celebrating a same-sex marriage and being in a lesbian relationship.
The Rev. Amy DeLong, 44, of Osceola, Wis., could be defrocked if the 13-member jury composed of local clergy finds her guilty of either charge.
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Also in 2009, Arcus gave the communications firm of Douglas Gould and Company a grant of $194,200 to provide communications support to both the UM Reconciling Ministries Network and Lutherans Concerned to assist their efforts “to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
Here are several other Arcus grants from last year:
Church Divinity School of the Pacific: $404,351 “to develop official rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships within the Episcopal Church....”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths) * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Seminary / Theological Education
When Ronnie writes of prisoners who “have given up,” who “are waiting to die” or who “just want to die,” he knows well of whom he is speaking. With equal confidence, the inmate of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution writes, “The good news is that Jesus doesn’t give up on any of these people. Nor should we.”
Ronnie’s brief reflection on John 17, including his personal journey of more than 40 years to discover “Jesus is love; Jesus is real,” is part of the 2011 Lenten Devotional published by Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tenn. Fifteen current and former inmates of the maximum-security prison wrote more than half of the entries in the booklet. The rest came from church staff members and other sources.
Karen Vander Molen, a church member active in prison ministry, and the Rev. Mark Price, minister of spiritual formation, coordinated the project. It began as Price was considering who might write the Lenten devotional.
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When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.
The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.
Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow's Chapel in Henderson.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Methodist * Theology Eschatology
This year, the United Methodist Church is recommending that persons conduct an alcohol-free Lent.
This practice would bring about spiritual benefits as persons think about the sacrifice of Jesus in his crucifixion, consider how much importance the use of beverage alcohol has in their lives, and free up money that would have been spent on beverage alcohol to be used for the relief of human suffering. This is in keeping with the historic stance of the Methodist movement, and offers to people an opportunity to consider how the way they live their lives impacts the world around them in positive or negative ways.
In our local congregation in Bath, we support the church’s position in several ways. We support and affirm several of our members in recovery from alcohol addiction, both in our congregational gatherings as well as in small groups; our facilities are always available at no cost for recovery groups to meet; and like all other Methodist churches, our communion services are conducted using unfermented grape juice, so that all persons can participate.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Lent Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist
“It isn’t that alcohol in and of itself is bad; Jesus drank wine..." [the Rev. James Howell] said. “We emphasize the role it plays in our lives.”
Part of that discussion, Howell and others have found, involves acknowledging a fact that some Methodists prefer not to talk about: some Methodists drink—even if many don’t like to admit it.
From teetotaling Baptists to Episcopalians who uncork champagne in the parish hall, what to do with the bottle can be a tricky question for religious groups to answer—especially during holy periods or holidays.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Alcoholism Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
When two congregations with declining membership and attendance merge, the resulting church must make changes, says a member of the rebirth team for a merged church in Winona, Minn.
Corwin Osterloh believes the two churches have much more work to do.
“Two congregations with declining membership are still going down the same path,” said Osterloh, a member of Central United Methodist Church, which merged in July 2010 with McKinley United Methodist Church.
“We really started talking about the fact that what we were doing wasn’t working.”
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In Tokyo, the Rev. Claudia Genung Yamamoto, a United Methodist missionary, discarded her planned Sunday sermon text at West Tokyo Union Church, where she has served as pastor for nearly 17 years.
Instead of speaking about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, she focused on Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
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Lord God, who didst inspire thy servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and didst endow them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in thy Church, we beseech thee, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known thy Christ may turn to him and be saved; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Now that [the Rev. Lee] Bines is stationed in Moncks Corner, he's turned his energies toward the troubled youth in the rural schools of Berkeley County. Those are the schools with the highest dropout rates, poorest population and most black students, a special area of concern to a black pastor.
Bines was trying to motivate about 50 young people at a luncheon Thursday afternoon. It was part of what he called the fourth annual Young Brothers to Men Summit, which continues through Sunday at Wesley United Methodist Church at Highways 6 and 315.
The summit, which also was sponsored by the Delta Alpha chapter of the Phi Alpha Fraternity, brings together educators, counselors, lawmakers and representatives of the juvenile justice system to encourage each other to keep trying to reach troubled youth. For instance, one of today's topics is "Breaking Strongholds: Confronting and Resolving Violence in the Youth Culture," with Moncks Corner Police Chief Chad Caldwell and staff from Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.
Read it all from the front page of yesterday's local paper.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * South Carolina
While The United Methodist Church’s U.S. membership has continued to shrink, its growth elsewhere in the world has put it over the 12 million-member mark for the first time, newly released statistics show.
The church’s membership in Africa, Europe and Asia grew from 3.5 million to 4.4 million in the five years ending in 2009, according to the United Methodist Council on Finance and Administration.
In that time, worldwide membership increased from almost 11.6 million to nearly 12.1 million.
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The Commission recognises that, if the goal of fuller communion is to be realised, in the course of the next two years significant work will need to be undertaken on some specific areas. These include issues relating to the interchangeability of ordained ministries and the ministry of oversight (episkope). Our hope is to find ways in which, in every place, the churches of our two world families may work as one in the urgent task of mission.
The Commission took careful note of the bilateral conversations between our communions. These are taking place in the United States, England, Ireland, and New Zealand, and in Canada and Australia between Anglicans and the united or uniting churches. In listening to the experience of two United Churches (Church of South India/Church of North India) the Commission has become more aware that questions of identity and belonging to wider Christian fellowships require ongoing attention. The Commission would welcome hearing news of any other bilateral conversations.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Reports & Communiques Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Methodist
...somewhere around the 10 year point in my own youth ministry experience, I began to realize that I was teaching on some of the same topics over and over again, and there was really no plan guiding me. Looking over the messages I had delivered over the previous three years, I discovered that we spent almost six times as much time in the New Testament as we did in the Old Testament; that we spent more time studying general topics than we spent studying specific biblical texts; and that our teaching curriculum was more a reflection of my training and biases than it was a reflection of the whole counsel of God.
I took my concerns to our volunteers and we began with the basic premise that we might have a student in our ministry for three years. On the basis of that assumption, and with input from our pastor and some members of our Youth Advisory Team, we developed a curriculum plan of topics and texts that we wanted our teenagers to be exposed to prior to graduation. For students who were in our youth group from grades 7-12, we decided there was no harm in their repeating the cycle a second time as long as we used different lesson plans.
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At the same time mainstream denominations lose thousands of members per year, churches such as Crosspoint are growing rapidly — 15 percent of all U.S. churches identified themselves as nondenominational this year, up from 5 percent a decade ago. A third dropped out of major denominations at some point.
Their members are attracted by worship style, particular church missions or friends in the congregation.
"They no longer see the denomination as anything that has relevance to them," said Scott Thumma, a religion sociology professor at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. He's compiling a list of nondenominational churches for the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study. "The whole complexion of organized religion is in flux."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Orthodox Church Pentecostal Presbyterian Roman Catholic United Church of Christ
The United Methodist church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is anything but united.
Two pastors preach from the same pulpit and live in the same parsonage next door, but they are barely on speaking terms and openly criticize each other’s approach to the faith.
In the church’s social hall, two camps eye each other suspiciously as one finishes its meal of rice and beans while the other prepares steaming pans of chicken lo mein.
Two very different congregations share the soaring brick building on Fourth Avenue: a small cadre of about 30 Spanish-speaking people who have worshiped there for decades and a fledgling throng of more than 1,000 Chinese immigrants that expands week by week — the fastest-growing Methodist congregation in New York City.
The Latinos say they feel steamrolled and under threat, while their tenants, the Chinese, say they feel stifled and unappreciated. Mediators have been sent in, to little effect. This holiday season, there are even two competing Christmas trees.
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Members of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. voted 367 to 8 on Sept. 26 to allow same-gender marriages to be performed in its building. Foundry is among many congregations in Washington that have been discussing same-sex marriages since the city passed the Marriage Equality Act last March.
The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s rulebook, says it is a chargeable offense for a clergyperson to conduct a holy union or marriage for gays and lesbians.
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The recession has finally caught up with churches.
After two years of treading water, more Protestant congregations have seen their Sunday collections drop this year.
Pastors blame high unemployment and a drop in per-capita giving by members. To make ends meet, churches have laid off staff and frozen salaries, put off major capital projects and cut back on programs. At the same time, more of their congregation members and neighbors are asking for help with basic needs such as paying the rent and buying groceries.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Pastoral Care Stewardship * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian
Mary E. Gilbert often drove right by the large, intimidating church buildings in her community, never stopping to go inside because she feared she would not be accepted or welcomed.
God would invite her in, if He was there, but would the all-white congregation be as hospitable? The thought kept her away.
The 26-year-old Jackson State University student recently shared her feelings with a diverse congregation at Central United Methodist Church.
Sunday Morning Segregation: How much has changed since the days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the latest topic of The Medgar Evers/Ella Baker Civil Rights Lecture Series.
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Parish ministry can be a lonely vocation. The “set-apartness” of the pastoral role, the effects of geographical isolation, and the time demands of congregational life can all conspire to make the parish feel like what the old spiritual calls “the lonesome valley.” And yet Jesus walked that same lonesome valley, and, through him, even the loneliness of ministry can become a source of beauty and communion. Hear Jeremy Troxler, director of the Thriving Rural Communities initiative, discuss the loneliness of rural, and all, ministry.
If you have the capacity and interest you can download this presentation via Itunes following the link here.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Disciples of Christ Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic
The United Methodist Church’s public policy agency can advocate on causes beyond alcoholism and temperance without violating the terms of its endowment, a District of Columbia judge ruled on Wednesday (Oct. 6).
Superior Court Judge Rhonda Reid Winston’s decision is the latest twist in a long-running debate in the UMC about how its General Board of Church and Society is funded and the positions it takes on political issues.
“This matter has been an enormous, unnecessary distraction,” Jim Winkler, the board’s chief executive, said in a statement. The board has for decades fought “predatory enterprises” such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling, he said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Church/State Matters Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President President Barack Obama Senate * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist
In a letter to all conference members supporting the election of Mr. [Bill] Brownson, resident Bishop Bruce R. Ough wrote, “He was the only candidate ready right now to assist CFA and the Conference to address the financial constraints that are threatening our mission capacity… I am fully cognizant that some persons will seize upon my participation and support of Bill’s nomination as advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle. The only agenda I have had in the entire search process has been for a financially challenged West Ohio Conference to have a superior CFO.”
Despite a process carefully planned by the conference’s Unity Task Force to ensure fair, informed, and civil debate, many believe the decisive factor in the debate was a seemingly intentional strategy crafted by the CFA outside the agreed upon debate process. These actions included:
• Presenting Mr. Brownson to lobby with youth and young adult members of the conference prior to the vote with no provision for presentation of an opposing view.
• Using the conference treasurer’s report to repeatedly affirm and endorse Mr. Brownson. The conference treasurer compared the conference to an airliner flying in a storm on one engine. Without Mr. Brownson’s election, the last engine would be gone and disaster would be certain....
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First, the bad news: The United Methodist Church needs to change its operations denomination-wide to address financial challenges and be more relevant in its ministry around the globe.
Then, the good news: Despite these challenges, many churches of varied sizes and settings have found ways to grow and thrive.
Those are the findings of two studies by independent researchers released this week by the denomination’s Call to Action Steering Team. The reports included an “Operational Assessment of the Connectional Church” and a “Congregational Vitality” overview.
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The ten year average for POF is 2638. We have surpassed the ten year average over the past two years. Among most Conferences, the goal is simply to slow the decline. North Alabama has dared to pray for more. And it is deeply gratifying to see visible evidence of the Holy Spirit moving among us. Behind every one of these numbers is a family reached, a person saved, a soul that is welcomed and included into the family of faith. And behind every number is a congregation and a pastor who is not threatened by our Wesleyan ethos of accountability and growth but is excited that we are focused on “the main thing” – salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.
“You only count what is important and whatever you count becomes important,” says one of our slogans. By counting every week the new life that God gives us, we are making that new life the engine that is driving our church life. Not content to care for the needs of who is already there, our churches are reaching out to those who are not.
Take a look.
Faith in a crucified Christ allows Hauerwas to continue his work with what seems like indefatigable energy. It also inspired him to argue that the “we” in a “we are at war” response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, could not possibly be a Christian “we.” One might suggest that such a challenge was not a far cry from Stanley Hauerwas, age 7, who innocently challenged the etiquette of the water kegs available for bricklayers with one cup designated for white and another for black workers. Young Hauerwas drank indiscriminately from either one. The difference now, 60 or so years later, is that Hauerwas intentionally chooses to drink from the cup that unites us all as sons and daughters of God, no matter the consequences.
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Yes, evangelicals do have more retention of youth than mainline churches. But it is unfair to say that this is because evangelicals care more about keeping them. As someone who grew up as an evangelical and who is now in a mainline denomination, I see a different way of analyzing this trend. Rather than evangelicals caring more, they engage in the business of scaring more (sorry for the pun, it just worked well.)
Mainline denominations are uninterested in telling youth that they are going to burn in Hell if they don’t commit to Christianity and regularly come to church. Evangelicals, on the other hand, do. Mainline denominations are uninterested in guilting their members into attending; evangelicals see no problem with this. It’s a matter of philosophy. Evangelicals are consequentialists when it comes to youth formation–the end justifies the means. Mainline denominations are typically deontologists–if the means are not right, the action is wrong, even if good comes from it....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Youth Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ
The church recently concluded a study of more than 32,000 Methodist congregations across North America, seeking the "key factors impacting vital congregations." The study surveyed everybody from bishops to district superintendents to people in the pews.
Working with New York-based Towers Watson consultants, researchers constructed a "vitality index" to measure each church and concluded "that all kinds of UMC churches are vital -- small, large, across
geographies, and church setting."
The report identified four key areas that fuel vitality: small groups and programs; worship services that mix traditional and contemporary styles with an emphasis on relevant sermons; pastors who work hard on mentorship and cultivation of the laity; and an emphasis on effective lay leadership.
These four factors "are consistent regardless of church size, predominant ethnicity, and jurisdiction," the study concluded.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care Preaching / Homiletics * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Pastoral Theology
THE Archbishop of Canterbury (above) told the Methodist Conference on Tuesday that “a sense of urgency of who Jesus is” must be at the heart of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.
Dr Williams said that the Covenant, signed in 2003, was “unfinished business”, and they were now working out how to “settle in for the long haul”.
It was the second time the Archbishop has addressed the Methodist Conference — the first was in 2004.
Dr Williams took the examples of St Peter and St Paul to show how the Church of England and the Methodist Church should handle disagreements. He contrasted St Peter’s willingness to compromise with St Paul’s confrontational approach. The apostolic witness embraced both approaches, Dr Williams said. But, he went on, neither “compromise for the sake of a quiet life” nor “confrontation for the sake of feeling righteous” were fully biblical approaches.
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Denominations appear to have fallen on difficult times. Theological controversies over core Christian beliefs have weakened some denominations. Others have succumbed to classic liberalism. A handful of denominations have reaffirmed their commitment to theological orthodoxy, but even many once-growing conservative denominations have experienced difficult days. All in all, membership in 23 of the 25 largest Christian denominations is declining (the exceptions being the Assemblies of God and the Church of God).
The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) found that the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christians decreased from 86 percent in a 1990 study to 76 percent in 2008. Much of the loss does seem located in large mainline denominations. At the same time, the ARIS indicated that nondenominational churches have steadily grown since 2001—and that self-identified evangelicals have increased in number. But it seems that denominations have not shared in the growth.
According to many church leaders, denominations are not fading away—they are actually inhibiting growth. I have heard many pastors denounce denominations as hindering more than helping their churches' mission. Others carp at wasteful spending, bureaucratic ineffectiveness, or structural redundancies; these objections seem to have gained adherents in an economic climate of pinching every penny. Loyalty to a denomination has declined and in some cases disappeared.
Meanwhile, many of the better-known churches in America today have no denominational affiliation....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Baptists Evangelicals Lutheran Methodist Presbyterian
Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir has been out for not quite a month, but in that time I have received more letters about the book than any book I have ever written. I am not sure why that is the case, but it seems that I have struck a nerve. That I come from the working classes evokes for many a sympathetic reading. Others respond to my having lived for over twenty years with a wife that suffered from bipolar illness. The significance of friendship for sustaining my life also seems significant to many readers. The response I find most surprising is the surprise many express about my surprise that I am a Christian.
That a theologian should be surprised about being a Christian may seem strange, particularly among folk who have little sympathy with Christianity. They often assume that theologians by definition must believe in what they think about. That, of course, is a deep mistake made, particularly in recent times. Many who become theologians in our time think their task is to try to determine how much of what has passed for Christianity they still need to believe and yet still be able to think of themselves as Christians. I discovered, however, that I did not know enough about Christianity to know what I was disbelieving....
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I became a theologian because I could not be saved.
I was baptized at Pleasant Mound Methodist Church in — you will not be surprised — Pleasant Mound, Texas. Pleasant Mound Methodist was Methodist, but like most folks in that area, we were really Baptist, which meant that even though you had been baptized and become a member of the church, you still had to be "saved." Baptism and membership were Sunday morning events. Saving was for Sunday nights. Sunday night was an hour hymn sing, a time for "personal prayer" at the altar rail, a forty-five minute to an hour sermon, and then a call to the altar for those convicted of their sin.
If you came to the altar, it was assumed that you had struck up a new relationship with God that was somehow equivalent to being saved. I wanted to be saved, but I did not think you should fake it.
I am not sure how old I was when I began to worry about being saved, but it was sometime in my early teens. I had begun to date a young woman who also went to Pleasant Mound, which meant I was beginning to sin. I was pretty sure I needed saving, but I just did not think I should try to force God's hand. All this was complicated for me because the church was at the center of my family's life.
Our minister was Brother Zimmerman. Brother Zimmerman had actually gone to college and maybe seminary, but he preferred to be called "Brother" to show, I suspect, that even though he was educated he was not all that different from the rest of us. He was thin as a rail because he gave everything he had to being a minister. I remember him as a lovely, kind man, but he believed we did need to be saved.
Read the whole thing.
Fast growing African Christianity, both evangelical and Catholic, is transforming global religion and affecting American Christianity, particularly its debates over homosexuality. The U.S. Episcopal Church, of course, has been prominently roiled by controversy since its 2003 election of an openly homosexual bishop, now joined by a newly elected openly lesbian bishop. African Anglican bishops, overwhelmingly conservative, have steadfastly encouraged the global Anglican Communion to sanction U.S. Episcopalians for their heterodoxy. But the Anglican Communion's authority is mostly symbolic, and the Episcopal Church governs itself. A new communion, the Anglican Church in North America, is largely for orthodox former Episcopalians, many of whom have placed themselves under the authority of African bishops.
Considerably less publicized but no less significant is the United Methodist Church, which now almost uniquely among liberal-led, old-line denominations continues to affirm orthodox teachings on marriage and sexual ethics. The traditionalist stance, dismaying to its liberal elites, is thanks partly to the denomination's growing African membership. Unlike the U.S. Episcopal Church, which is almost entirely U.S. members plus some small dioceses from Latin America and Taiwan, United Methodism is more fully international, with about one third of its members in Africa. Amid growing United Methodist churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, among others, and a U.S. church losing about a 1,000 members weekly, the 11.4 million denomination likely will soon be majority African. At the church's next governing General Conference in 2012, probably 40 percent of the delegates will come from outside the U.S., even further diminishing liberal hopes.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * International News & Commentary Africa * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)
A years-long disagreement between a local church and the denomination it was a part of for more than a century has been settled.
Donald Capper, attorney for the Windsor United Methodist Church, said Tuesday that congregation and the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church should finalize with a week or two an agreement that will allow the local church to remain open but not be a part of the Methodist fold and pay only $100 in damages.
Windsor Methodist treasurer Diane Duncan said the disagreement began several years ago when the trustees at Windsor voted to leave the Methodist conference because the local congregation objected to what it considered a more liberal turn in church doctrine, namely the ordination of [non-celibate] homosexuals.
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Too often, church volunteers burn out while in the trenches of servanthood.
In churches where there is always a ministry to tend, a committee to lead, a class to teach or an event to chair, it is hard to find people willing to step up to the plate. When you find them, it is even harder on the church to lose them, especially if they are doing a good job.
“Brent,” who asked that he not be identified, has been a member of his church for more than 10 years. He has spent seven of those helping with the youth, ushering every Sunday, serving on the worship and finance committees, and pitching in with special programs and activities. Eventually, his church time took a toll on his work and family time.
“I looked up, and my work and family life had begun to suffer. I knew I had to let something go,” he said. Brent prayed long and hard about cutting back on his church obligations, especially working with youth.
“It was hard,” he said. “They had shared a lot with me on their mission trips and at other activities through the church.”
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