A Pastoral Letter about health care to the People of The United Methodist Church – Nashville Area

episcopallogoSisters and Brothers:

Grace to you from Jesus Christ, who calls his Church to care for “even the least of these.” One of the ways we participate in that possibility is to create personal, environmental and social conditions in which each individual can receive good health care. In the Gospel of John 10:10b Jesus says, “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” It is our deep desire that all persons across Tennessee might have the possibility of living the abundant life.

The Social Principles of our church remind us of this truth in its statement on the Right to Health Care. “Health is a condition of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.” [Para. 162(v), 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church]

In caring for our neighbors and allowing more of our fellow citizens to have access to good healthcare, I urge your prayerful support for Insure Tennessee, an initiative that Governor Bill Haslam has recommended to the State Legislature. Its passage will allow 200,000 more Tennesseans to have adequate health coverage. The program will be open to Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $16,000 in annual income for an individual or $33,000 for a family of four).

A special called session of the Tennessee Legislature will be convened on February 2nd to consider the Insure Tennessee plan. I encourage you to do the following four things prior to that date.

1) Become fully informed and educated about the benefits of the Insure Tennessee Plan.

A good website to consult is www.insuretennesseenow.com.

2) Personally contact your Tennessee legislators and give voice to your opinions. Letters, emails and phone calls can all be effective. If you need contact information for a senator or representative, it is available at www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators (Find My Legislator section on right side).

3) Share this letter with friends, family members and neighbors as a part of your witness of care for fellow citizens who need better health coverage. Click here for a PDF copy.

4) Pray for our legislators that they might seek God’s will as a part of their own discernment process.

The New Testament teachings of Jesus remind us over and over again of his ministry of healing and wholeness. I encourage you to respond promptly and faithfully to this opportunity to join him in this mission.

I invite you to share this with your congregation this Sunday. Click here for a PDF copy.

Expecting Greater Things,

Bishop William T. McAlilly

Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church

(Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


We are 30% of the way to $1 million goal for ‘Imagine No Malaria’

Imagine-No-Malaria-logoThe Jan. 16 issue of the Romans 12 Newsletter produced by the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship includes information about a United Methodist church in Iowa that is working to raise money for Imagine No Malaria and the unique way the church decided how and why to be engaged in mission in a meaningful way.

I want to encourage you to read the newsletter, themed “Running from Malaria,” because it offers helpful information about reframing ministry questions that address global health issues and living as disciples of Christ. A pdf of the newsletter may be viewed and downloaded here.

Because this newsletter talks about Imagine No Malaria, this seems the right time and place to address where we are with our Nashville Area campaign to save 100,000 lives by raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria by this year’s Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2015.

Through Dec. 31, 2014, our total giving from both conferences is $292,484.36. The total includes $123,068.01 from the Memphis Conference (with approximately 400 churches) and $169,416.35 from the Tennessee Conference (with approximately 600 churches).

I’m going to round up that total number and say we are 30 percent of the way toward our goal!

I am so proud of all our local congregations that are imagining God’s greater things as they raise awareness and save lives. I have heard and read stories about many creative fundraising events, including volleyball tournaments, chili cook-offs, bake sales, Thanksgiving dinners, children’s events, craft sales, Christmas offerings, t-shirt sales, concerts and more.

Unlike many other diseases that await a cure, malaria was eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s. Even though it is 100 percent preventable, it continues to kill a person every 60 seconds in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Imagine No Malaria is part of a global partnership to beat malaria once and for all. Over the last 15 years there has been a 54% drop in mortality from the disease.

Imagine No Malaria is our opportunity to respond to our calling as Christians and United Methodists—to show our love through generous gifts. As John Wesley said, “It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.”

United Methodists are committed to a denominational goal of $75 million for Imagine No Malaria and have so far raised just over $64 million. Our Nashville Area goal is $1 million by June 2015.

If your church has not already worked to raise at least $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria and submitted these funds to your conference treasurers, I hope you will make plans to do so in the coming months so we may celebrate reaching our $1 million goal in June at our Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences.

To learn more and find resources, visit www.imaginenomalaria.org or contact your district office.

~ Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church (Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


DMin degree program is one more way Nashville Area of The United Methodist Church is living into its mission

wesley john

JOHN WESLEY

As I am well into my third year of serving the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences), one issue always on my mind and heart is making sure we have a well-planted Wesleyan theology throughout all of our congregations and ministries.

I want to help secure a Wesleyan theological foundation for our Christian faith and practice that embraces Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I think this foundation is especially critical for the success of our new Area-wide mission to discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.

As one of many ways to address this theological grounding, my office is currently coordinating the offering of a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree program that begins this month.

To initiate this program with about 10 students from each conference, I, along with Dr. Douglas Meeks and Rev. Tom Laney of the Cal Turner Center for Church Leadership at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn., identified potential students. My hope and intention, however, is that this will be only the first cohort of an ongoing program. It is also my desire that those who complete the degree will help carry forth the teaching of Wesleyan theology across our Area.

The DMin program is a partnership with Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. and the Turner Center. Cal Turner, Jr., has provided a generous grant to make this program possible.

Students will meet four times over a two-year period for two weeks at a time at four different locations: Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn.; Methodist-LeBonheur Healthcare System in Memphis, Tenn.; Wesley Theological Seminary; and Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn.

The degree program will focus on issues important today that also were part of the original Wesleyan revival: healing and health care delivery, education, urban and rural poverty, and the penal/political/economic system.

The DMin program will employ an interdisciplinary approach to equip pastoral leaders for the challenges of their mission fields. Each course will include work on scripture, Wesleyan theology, congregational formation for mission, and social, economic and political analysis of mission opportunities in middle and west Tennessee and western Kentucky.

I want to express my appreciation to the Turner Center for the grant funds it is providing to cover the cost of tuition for those who decide to enroll. (Students will pay for books and travel.)

The Turner Center also graciously funded an event last August to introduce and explain the degree program to potential students. Dr. Meeks met with the group and, among many things, talked about how John Wesley served “in the world.”

As Dr. Meeks told the potential DMin candidates, if Christ’s love and forgiveness can’t be conveyed by our United Methodist churches in the midst of current events, we are no different than any other organization.

It is my hope that this DMin program will train and prepare these clergy to convey grace and share the gospel while “in the world” so others may learn and know the love of Christ.

~ Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church (Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


SOS from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel

SONY DSC

Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel preached at the 2014 Memphis Annual Conference in Paducah, Ky., in June.

Today I received the below communication (originally dated Dec. 28 from Africa) from Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel, resident bishop of the East Congo Episcopal Area. To remind you, Bishop Unda preached at our 2014 Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences in June 2014. He thanked our Nashville Episcopal Area for raising money in 2013 to construct an Episcopal office and residence in the Congo, which I helped dedicate during my August 2014 trip to Africa. If you wish to offer any financial assistance for the current crisis he describes below, please send to your conference treasurer for “Bishop Unda SOS.”  ~ Bishop Bill McAlilly

To brothers and sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As I write these few lines, my heart is too heavy because of the situation going on in Beni territory, northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is part of my Episcopal Area. The efforts of our army (are) insufficient to protect people.

People there are killed every day in the neighboring villages and we run the risk of losing all our believers. Two weeks ago, a group of Uganda rebels killed people in the villages (of) Kamango, Oicha and Mbawu. A Methodist family (a father, his wife and their two children) were killed with machetes.

Many people are fleeing to Beni. Our local congregations there are crowded with displaced people who flee from villages for their lives. We need your prayers. But, as you know, food and basic needs must be met. Our evangelization should reach people in need.

I am sending this SOS message to all those who may want to help.

May God be with us all during Christmas, but let’s keep in mind that our brothers and sisters are dying somewhere because of selfish interests.

Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel
Resident Bishop, East Congo Episcopal Area


A Bishop’s Letter on Immigration

episcopallogoGreetings,

The humanitarian crisis that unfolded this summer on our southern border, with the arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, brought to our attention the plight of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the globe. These children have been relocated with family members across the United States, and they may even be your neighbors, Sunday School students or the classmates of your children.

Why are immigration issues important to us as United Methodists here in middle and west Tennessee and western Kentucky? Both emerging population trends from the Census data and our Social Principles (¶162H) lead us to care about these issues.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, there are now over 1,000 children in the state of Tennessee placed with family member sponsors after entering the United States unaccompanied. Many of these children have escaped dangerous circumstances in their home countries in Central America. After fleeing from violence and surviving the treacherous journey across the U.S. border, they now face the difficulties of our current immigration system.

Throughout scripture, we witness a clear command to love our immigrant neighbors:

  • “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)
  • “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)
  • “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17 NIV)
  • “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 CEB)

Our mission in the Nashville Episcopal Area is to offer Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time. As many of our local communities continue to grow and change, it is essential that we extend hospitality to the neighbors in our midst. As United Methodists, we have a holy responsibility to “recognize, embrace, and affirm” all persons.

In response to recent events, I ask that each of you respond in the following ways:

  1. Pray for the immigrants in our community, particularly those who have recently entered the United States under difficult circumstances.
  2. Support efforts to provide these families with hope, hospitality, and basic needs. Become involved with an organization such as Tennessee Justice for our Neighbors, which helps provide free and affordable legal services for immigrants in our community.
  3. Advocate for those who may not have a voice of their own. Contact your elected officials in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Let us remain faithful in prayer and dedicated in action for the families and children impacted by our broken immigration system.

We remain hopeful for justice in the name of Jesus Christ, our great source of hope.

In Christ’s Love,

Bishop William McAlilly
Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church

 


The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state:

“We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, healthcare, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”
http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/the-social-community#immigrants


The Ferguson Decision and Our Jesus-Centered Response

ferguson1-519x388

People hold hands and pray during a vigil in August 2014 near the site where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo. United Methodist News Service Photo by Rev. Matt Miofsky

Rev. Richard Smith, senior pastor of Germantown United Methodist Church in Germantown, Tenn., in the McKendree District of the Memphis Conference, offered some personal reflections last week (to staff and key leaders of his congregation) about the situation in Ferguson, Mo. Germantown is a city that borders Memphis, Tenn., on its east/southeast side. With Richard’s permission, I am sharing his reflections (below, slightly edited) as a way to help us all move forward from this tragedy.

The Ferguson Decision and Our Jesus-Centered Response

By Rev. Richard Smith

There is no way for any one of us to know for sure whether Darren Wilson was guilty of a crime when he shot Michael Brown to death on Aug. 9. Whether justice was truly served is beyond our comprehension, I believe; certainly beyond mine.

Do I personally believe that Officer Darren Wilson bore some level of responsibility for the death of Brown? I do. It is hard, from the outside looking in, to see that the level of force he used was absolutely necessary. Would sitting in the conversations and the evidential reviews of the Grand Jury have led me – or you – to a different perspective? We’ll never know.

Let me offer some personal reflections, which may or may not help in any way, but they are my heartfelt feelings about how we move forward from this tragedy and its aftermath – both in Ferguson, Mo., and in Memphis, Tenn.

  • There is tragedy on several fronts here. The Brown family has lost their young son in a violent way and that pain will be real with them for months and years to come. Meanwhile, Darren Wilson will not be able to live a normal life for months and years to come; if ever.
  • It is clear that the racial context in Ferguson – and here in Memphis – cannot be ignored. There were too many chilling accounts of police profiling and mistreating blacks in the Ferguson community for us to not pray for and encourage a change in that community. There are too many instances right here in Shelby County, Tenn., of African-Americans being mistreated for us not to pray for and actively seek greater justice, equality, and compassion as we live and work as brothers and sisters in our wider community.
  • Our Church and the Church at large must be a venue for a Jesus-centered response. As I see it, a Jesus-centered response says we must:
    • Listen to those who might radically and passionately disagree with us on issues like this. No one has all the answers and when we care like Jesus, another person’s opinion and experience matter to us.
    • Avoid demonizing either Officer Darren Wilson or Michael Brown. Only God knows fully what happened that night of Aug. 9 and why.
    • Passionately, fervently step up our efforts to make our communities more loving, equitable, affirming, racially- and culturally-inclusive places. We Jesus folks have a unique opportunity to show the world at large how we deal with heated, complex and controversial matters without any of us claiming absolute knowledge or wisdom. We can show the world what it means to treat each other with respect, consideration and Jesus-grounded love.
    • Spend fervent prayer time praying for the Browns, the Wilsons, the civil authorities involved, the religious community of Ferguson, ourselves, our community at large. This is a time when considerable prayer is needed by all people of faith.
    • Be clear that while protests are a natural and sometimes needed response to extreme civil disappointment, violence and hateful disruption are not acceptable. We need to work toward reconciliation which then leads to disciplined conversations about what needs to change for things to be different for those who are racially and economically mistreated in our society. Racism is alive and well in America and we cannot ignore that.

Bishop Schnase calls for prayer as Ferguson, Missouri awaits grand jury ruling in shooting death of Michael Brown

let-us-prayBishop Robert Schnase, resident bishop of the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church, today issued “a call for prayer” (below) as Ferguson, Missouri waits for the St. Louis County grand jury to decide whether Officer Darren Wilson should stand trial in the August shooting death of Michael Brown. The grand jurors have until January, but a decision could come at any time between now and then.

A CALL FOR PRAYER

I’ve preached twice in recent weeks in St. Louis and as I visited in our churches, the tension is palpable as people await the news from the grand jury in the Michael Brown case. Fear runs deep that there will be more violence. The tragedy has left the community on edge as it copes with the anger, frustration, and mistrust felt by so many people following the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darin Wilson.

The issues involved are far larger than Ferguson, than St. Louis, and than Missouri. The entire country and the whole church need to engage these issues. The focus for law enforcement and the legal processes is on what happened on August 9. But the tragedy forces people of faith to confront a larger question: What happens now? What happens next? What do we learn about ourselves and our communities that will cause us to change so that such events are less likely in the future? What kind of preferred future does God intend for our communities and for our world?

Followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and believers in the God who is the lover of justice must come together for prayer and dialogue to address the deeper and more intransigent issues that have been too long repressed in our communities. These are issues such as racial profiling, mistrust of authority, violence in our communities, underemployment, quality education, fear of one another, white flight, inequalities in our justice system, family breakdown, and under-representation of ethnic officers in law enforcement. There are hard issues and issues that require deep commitments and changes of attitudes, values, and behaviors. These require changes in systems. These require long-term work and a willingness for community and church leaders to stay engaged for the long haul.

In the short-term, the role of the church is to be the purveyor of peace. The sin of racism must be dealt with, but not through violence. Violence rights no wrongs, heals no harms, and leads to no positive change. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

What can United Methodist Christians do?

First, pray. Pray for peace. Our faith finds its roots in the hope for a day when “the lion shall sleep with the lamb.” We serve a Lord who said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” For nearly two thousand years, we have offered “grace and peace” to one another when we gather in Christ’s name. Peace is our hope, our prayer, our yearning, our aim, our end, and it is our gift to the community.

A number of our United Methodist churches in St. Louis and across the conference are already planning prayer vigils on the day the grand jury decision is announced. Other of our churches are working with Metropolitan Congregations United to plan “safe places” for the community to gather for dialogue and to offer support to one another. These churches are also planning to offer a variety of worship experiences and other services needed by the surrounding community.

Second, call upon officials to work for ways so that people can express their frustrations and voice their concerns peacefully. People need a way to participate, to speak out, to gather for mutual support, and we need leaders willing to give room and space for it in a way that reduces the possibility of violence rather than ratcheting up tensions.

Third, support the efforts of two of our United Methodist Churches near Ferguson, Wellspring and The Gathering at Clayton, who are developing extensive plans to be open and available to the community as places of peace and respite. These two churches are collecting supplies and gathering individuals with the needed skills sets to be helpful. Manchester United Methodist Church has volunteered to be the drop-off point for supplies. We are collecting a pool of volunteer pastors to be sent to Wellspring and the Gathering in Clayton to offer support as requested and needed by those two churches. The Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, an interfaith group, has also offered suggestions to area congregations on how they can be helpful.

Along with other religious leaders in Missouri, I renew my call to everyone in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area to be an instrument of peace amid chaos, a calm voice in the turmoil, a sign of grace when the world needs most the message we offer in Christ.

Yours in Christ, Bishop Robert Schnase, The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church

 


Council of Bishops issues statement concerning human sexuality

November 8, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and Peace to you!

Below is a statement that yesterday afternoon the Council of Bishops adopted, unanimously, regarding our ministry with all persons, regardless of sexual orientation:

As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

This statement is offered to the United Methodist Church to affirm our vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We are mindful that many across the Church will disagree; some expecting more, others expecting less.

As a global church, we wrestle with language that does no harm-either in the United States or abroad. What we are clear about is that the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is our deepest call and commitment.

We acknowledge that differences and divisions exist within our denomination and across the Nashville Area. Therefore, we will prayerfully consider ways in which to open space for deeper conversation among one another with regard to our differences around our understanding of human sexuality.

Please continue to offer prayer for each other and for the bishops as we move toward General Conference 2016.

Serving Christ With You,
Bishop William T.  McAlilly
Resident Bishop

*For more information about this statement from the Council of Bishops, click here to read Nov. 7 story from the United Methodist News Service.


Clergy Cannot Be Punished for Future Action

Prelude:

Across the United Methodist Church these last several months and in particular the last 10 days much attention has been given to the Judicial Council with regard to the fate of Reverend Frank Schaefer and his status or lack thereof as a United Methodist minister. Reports from news outlets have trickled out sensationalizing the story, yet with varying degrees of accuracy.

Below, Jim Allen, Tennessee Conference Director of Administrative Services and Conference Treasurer, offers a factual article on the Schaeffer case and perhaps it will shed light on what actually has taken place within the United Methodist Church with regard to Judicial Process that resulted from Reverend Schaeffer’s decision to perform the wedding ceremony of his gay son. The article below is not a commentary on who was right and who was wrong. Rather, it is a simple statement on what happened in the case and the various processes of appeals that the legal process of the United Methodist Church offers any person.

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Clergy cannot be punished for future action

By Jim Allen

Journalists creating headlines have long lived by the mantra, “Dog bites man is not news; Man bites dog is news”.  I suspect that is why every headline I found trumpets that the Methodists support pastor Frank Schaefer who presided over same-sex marriage.  I wish less sensational, but more accurate, headlines had been used.  But who would have read an article with the headline used here?

Frank Schaefer was convicted under The Book of Discipline ¶2702.1b (conducting a same sex marriage) and ¶2702.1d (disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church).  That much is undisputed.  The problem arose with the penalty which the trial court sought to impose:

Suspend Rev. Frank Schaefer from all ministerial duties effective immediately for 30 days. If there are any violations of the Discipline during the 30 days, his credentials will be surrendered to the annual conference. … If at the end of the 30 days Rev. Schaefer has determined he cannot uphold the Discipline in its entirely, he must surrender his credentials.

After 30 days, Shaefer reported to the Board of Ordained Ministry, and said

I have been directed to report to you on whether I can uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety. My honest answer has to be: No, I cannot.

In fact, I don’t believe anybody can. It’s impossible to uphold the Discipline in its entirety because it is filled with competing and contradictory statements.

The Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals, and subsequently the Judicial Council in its Decision 1270 agreed (perhaps reluctantly) with Schaefer.

The trial court tried to split the baby.  Rather than punish Schaefer for what he clearly did in the past, it tried to fashion a penalty that would be imposed only if Schaefer did, or did not do, something in the future.  There were other problems with the verdict, but this was at the heart of the problem.

The Discipline forbids clergy from committing a “crime”.  Using the general definition of “crime” (an illegal act that can be punished by the government), driving 60 in a 55 zone is an offense that can be punished by the government, and by the church.  Who among us could take an oath that we would never, ever violate any traffic rule?  This is a silly example, but it points out the need to withhold judgment until the bad action occurs.

Decision 1270 does not absolve Frank Schaefer of chargeable offenses.  Decision 1270 recognizes that the trial court’s penalty was improper and unenforceable.

The Judicial Council recognized, correctly, that many in the church will be unhappy with their decision.  But in the end, the Decision stands only for the proposition that verdicts cannot vary from what the Discipline permits.

Below are various likes to stories that have appeared in recent news outlets with regard Reverend Schaeffer.

Methodists uphold reinstatement of pastor who presided over son’s gay wedding http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/27/methodist-panel-upholds-reinstatement-of-the-rev-f/

Top United Methodist Church Court Supports Rev. Frank Schaefer’s ‘Refrocking’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/27/methodist-frank-schaefer_n_6054720.html

Frank Schaefer wins final reinstatement with Methodists http://www.religionnews.com/2014/10/27/methodist-rev-frank-schaefer/

Top court affirms Schaefer’s reinstatement as clergy http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/top-court-affirms-schaefers-reinstatement-as-clergy

Judicial Council Decision 1270 Re: Frank Schaefer http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/preview/judicial-council-decision-1270-re-frank-schaefer

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Postlude: 

We who are United Methodists find ourselves in a precarious place regardless of where you land in the spectrum of debate about same gender marriage and Church law.  Therefore, I appeal to all United Methodists everywhere to join me in prayer and fasting for the Unity of the Church.  Many rejoiced when the verdict was given.  Others are incensed and calling for schism or worse, saying they can no longer remain United Methodists. I call upon all United Methodists to live with a spirit of love and grace toward ALL persons.  Let us find space to hold this tension.  The Clergy in each of our two conferences, Tennessee and Memphis,  have recently spent a day considering what it means to be in Covenant with one another. Our commitments to Christ and his Church are deep and abiding.

And as your Bishop, I will uphold the Covenant I made to God and to the United Methodist Church to seek to maintain the unity of the Church and uphold it’s Book of Discipline.  This I will do.  I can not do it alone. Therefore, I call upon all lay and clergy members to join me in that prayerful attitude which seeks the face of Christ in the midst of a turbulent and changing world.

In writing to the Church at Corinth, I Corinthians 2:2, Paul writes: “I made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified.”(CEB)

This is our greatest hope and the marching orders I seek to live by.  I ask you to join me in deep prayer for all that is before us and all that is to come in the days, months and years to come.

Bishop Bill McAlilly


Sacred Leadership:

November 20, 2014 Center for Faith and Health, Methodist Health Systems, Memphis, Tn10:00 AM to 2:30 PM

Led by Bishop Bill McAlilly, Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church, Lynn Taylor, Coordinator of Emerging Ministries, Nashville Area UMC and Gary Shorb, CEO Methodist Healthcare

Sacred Leadership is a day to explore leadership in form and philosophy, in technique and theology.  Along the way we will examine the traits, qualities and characteristics of effective clergy leadership.

  • You will hear from lay people about the skills they would like for clergy to have or develop for leadership in the 21st century.
  • We will explore some of the barriers and obstacles to effective leadership and we will look specifically at the importance of Emotional Intelligence.
  • We will examine secular leadership, organizational development theory and look for the intersections between the secular and the sacred.
  • We will seek to clarify the difference between faith-centered leadership and secular leadership.
  • At the end of the day we hope that you will be on your way to becoming a more effective, adaptive leader.

Click this link for registration: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/sacred-leadership-with-bishop-bill-mcalilly-gary-shorb-lynn-taylor-tickets-13464989145


My Congo Pilgrimage

By Rev. Randy Cooper, Martin First UMC, Martin, Tenn.Randy and friends

TOP PHOTO: Rev. Randy Cooper (right) and his United Methodist clergy friend, John Paul, at the East Congo Episcopal Area Conference Round Table. BOTTOM PHOTO: Cooper (left) and Kinshasa, daughter of Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel.

Two Martin First UMC youth heard Bishop Bill McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area announce last year at the Memphis Annual Conference his goal of raising $87,000 for the East Congo Annual Conference. Our two young people returned to Martin, Tenn., and challenged our congregation to raise $5,000. I thought the goal was beyond our reach, but we surpassed it.

Our interest in the Congo continued. We invited Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel of the East Congo Episcopal Area to our church this past summer. He preached for us on Pentecost Sunday in June when 400 Martin First UMC and McCabe UMC (also in Martin, Tenn.) people crowded into our sanctuary for a service that lasted nearly two hours. We were blessed by Bishop Unda’s presence and spirit.

Four days later I received an email from Bishop Unda, inviting me to come to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to witness firsthand the work and presence of United Methodist people in his land. I accepted the invitation in the full knowledge that those two young people and the youth group of my church deserved all the credit for this unfolding chain of events.

My journey to the Congo in August 2014 was a mixture of adventure, heartbreak and inspiration. Adventures aside, let me share with you a few of those heartbreaking moments and one inspiring moment that has been written onto my heart.

It is one thing to see dying children on television during the evening news. It was quite another to stand in hospital rooms in Kindu and Wembo Nyama, Congo near children who were dying from dysentery as their silently-grieving mothers comforted them. Also, I shook hands with United Methodist preachers who don’t own a Bible and who can’t afford a bicycle. I met a wonderful pastor who lived in forests with his people during the recent civil war in order to escape militias who intended to kill, maim, rape and destroy. I heard a widow of a Methodist pastor express heartfelt gratitude that the new Methodist pension program would keep her from the dangers of starvation. My complaints about the challenges I face as a pastor paled in comparison to theirs. These and other encounters will remain with me.

There was one moment that has come to represent to me the whole of my pilgrimage. Bill Lovell (translator and retired elder from the Tennessee Conference) and I left one of the hospitals with a United Methodist pastor who had been showing us around. I believe he sensed the sorrow weighing upon our hearts as we loaded into the back seat of a car. He sought to comfort us as he said, in his Otetela language and with Bill translating, “When we think of all our challenges and sufferings, if we are not joyful and grateful to God, then we are truly walking in the valley of death.”  I will never forget those words. They have become a sign to me of the hope that United Methodists in the Congo have.

Since my pilgrimage, I have often recalled Paul’s words about faith, hope and love in 1 Corinthians. I must say I don’t believe I saw more faith in Congolese United Methodists than I see in my local congregation. I doubt, too, that United Methodists in that part of the world are any more loving toward one another than we are. Yet I do believe I met people whose hope is richer and deeper than ours. The United Methodists of the Congo are a people who hope in God, who have nothing else and no one else to depend upon. If the apostle Paul were writing to them, I believe he would write to them about hope.

Any ongoing relationship we in the Nashville Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) have with the East Congo Annual Conference in years to come will be a blessing to them, and also to us.


Uniting in prayer for the persecuted church…

UNITING IN PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH, IN THE SPIRIT OF ONENESS THAT CHRIST COMMANDED: ‘FOR IF ONE SUFFERS, WE ALL SUFFER.’

A guest posting by Dr. Joe Geary, Superintendent of the Paris District of the Memphis Annual Conference

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted: you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”
Psalm 10:17-18 ESV

Bishop William T. McAlilly and the Nashville Area Cabinet took action at the most recent cabinet meeting to commend prayer for the persecuted church (especially in the Middle East), and to invite our United Methodist people to address the refugee crisis caused by terror and war through their giving.

According to a statement issued by the General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC, “Alleviation of human suffering and advocacy for justice and peace—two goals of the United Methodist mission, dramatically come together in church responses to thousands of people being displaced and slaughtered by civil conflict in Syria and Iraq.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has targeted ethnic and religious minorities for apparent extinction. To date, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has provided $170,000 in emergency assistance to communities pushed north by IS. The UMCOR assists those in need without regard to religion, race or national origin. The Islamic State is persecuting Christians known in the particular area as Nazarenes, Chaldeans or Assyrians. However, their persecution is not limited to Christians as Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Zoroastrians and other branches of Islam are systematically eliminated.”

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Click here to read the GBGM statement and give greater detail to our response. Please view the link to UMCOR INTERNATIONAL DISASTER RESPONSE, ADVANCE #982450 and give your people an opportunity to support the humanitarian response to the needs of the refugees displaced by IS.

Also, view the links related to the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH, NOVEMBER 9, 2014. PLEASE OBSERVE THE IDOP IN YOUR CONGREGATION(S). THESE LINKS PROVIDE WITH YOU WITH PRAYER AND WORSHIP RESOURCES FROM THE GENERAL BOARD OF DISCIPLESHIP OF THE UMC.

Above all, resist the temptation to hate or stereotype another religion or ethnicity. Instead, stand by the persecuted church with prayer and practical assistance and look for every way to commend the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ, to the world through Word and Deed.

Educate your United Methodist people that our leaders do take the persecuted church in the Mideast and everywhere in the world seriously; and are providing leadership to our people in the midst of this crisis. Share with your people the actions aforementioned as evidence of this leadership; and when combined by yours at the local level, it will make a difference.

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
-Hebrews 13:3 ESV


Scripture Reading Plan for the week of 8/31/2014

Acts 11
Common English Bible (CEB)

Jerusalem church questions Peter

11 The apostles and the brothers and sisters throughout Judea heard that even the Gentiles had welcomed God’s word. When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him.They accused him, “You went into the home of the uncircumcised and ate with them!”

Step-by-step, Peter explained what had happened. “I was in the city of Joppa praying when I had a visionary experience. In my vision, I saw something like a large linen sheet being lowered from heaven by its four corners. It came all the way down to me. As I stared at it, wondering what it was, I saw four-legged animals—including wild beasts—as well as reptiles and wild birds.[a] I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!’ I responded, ‘Absolutely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice from heaven spoke a second time, ‘Never consider unclean what God has made pure.’ 10 This happened three times, then everything was pulled back into heaven. 11 At that moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them even though they were Gentiles. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered that man’s house. 13 He reported to us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is known as Peter. 14 He will tell you how you and your entire household can be saved.’ 15 When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as the Spirit fell on us in the beginning. 16 I remembered the Lord’s words: ‘John will baptize with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who am I? Could I stand in God’s way?”

18 Once the apostles and other believers heard this, they calmed down. They praised God and concluded, “So then God has enabled Gentiles to change their hearts and lives so that they might have new life.”

The Antioch church

19 Now those who were scattered as a result of the trouble that occurred because of Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. They proclaimed the word only to Jews. 20 Among them were some people from Cyprus and Cyrene. They entered Antioch and began to proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus also to Jews who spoke Greek. 21 The Lord’s power was with them, and a large number came to believe and turned to the Lord.

22 When the church in Jerusalem heard about this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw evidence of God’s grace, he was overjoyed and encouraged everyone to remain fully committed to the Lord. 24 Barnabas responded in this way because he was a good man, whom the Holy Spirit had endowed with exceptional faith. A considerable number of people were added to the Lord. 25 Barnabas went to Tarsus in search of Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him to Antioch. They were there for a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching large numbers of people. It was in Antioch where the disciples were first labeled “Christians.”

27 About that time, some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, Agabus, stood up and, inspired by the Spirit, predicted that a severe famine would overtake the entire Roman world. (This occurred during Claudius’ rule.) 29 The disciples decided they would send support to the brothers and sisters in Judea, with everyone contributing to this ministry according to each person’s abundance. 30 They sent Barnabas and Saul to take this gift to the elders.

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 11:6 Or birds in the sky
Common English Bible (CEB)Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


Stories from the Congo #2

Sunday, August 17
Celebrating a new home

Sunday's Celebration

Sunday’s Celebration

Excitement filled the air as we worshipped and assembled to dedicate the new episcopal residence for Bishop Unda as well as two office buildings. Over 1000 people attended the gathering in Kindu including many government dignitaries. As we shared life together, a number of different choirs sang great music, and many introductions and celebrations took place. I cast our vision in the Nashville Area of “Expecting Greater Things” and presented Bishop Unda one of the special stoles made by the Tennessee Conference for my first annual conference with them. Bishop Peggy Johnson, who speaks sign language with the deaf, was overjoyed when she discovered members of the Church speaking in sign language. It was powerful to see that sign language did not need translation; the language is universal. Complete with ribbon cutting and blessing, Bishop Unda’s home will be very comfortable and adequate for his needs. It is located about 150 yards from the conference offices and situated on the expansive, church owned property where several buildings destroyed during the 15-year war, have been rebuilt through the partnership of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences along with the General Board of Global Ministries.

Monday, August 18
Combatting Malaria

Passing out Bed Nets in Kindu

Bednets in Kindu

We visited a health clinic, located a short distance from the Episcopal residence, where parents can bring their children under age 5 to be treated for malaria and receive bed nets at the same time. The number of patients at the facility overwhelmed us. On that particular morning, the clinic had already seen 26 patients before noon. Some patients were much sicker than others. Many were on IV drips, much like of M*A*S*H* unit rather than a medical clinic. The unforgettable image of those patients makes me realize the importance of our efforts to raise $1,000,000 for Imagine No Malaria. Not only are we equipping them with bed nets that will protect 3-4 people each night, we are also providing, along with the government, essential medicine to combat this killer disease. It was gratifying to know that we are making a difference in a profound way.

Tuesday, August 19
Happy Anniversary to Lynn!
Seeing the Connection

After returning to Lubumbashi, we visited our HIV hospital provided by UMCOR. While there, we spoke with doctors and nurses and saw firsthand, the incredible witness of the United Methodist connection through the Global Aids fund and its provision of much needed health care. Because of this assistance from The United Methodist Church as well as support from other partners, the clinic can offer free health care and medicines. Seeing UNICEF boxes of medicines in the clinic’s warehouse reminded me of the many times I collected money for UNICEF as a teenager. Wednesday, August 20 Experiencing the Connection The night before we were to depart, I realized my passport was missing. I searched high and low and retraced my steps. Our hosts, dear United Methodist sisters and brothers, assisted me in my search by calling the places we had visited. With no success, I resorted to what others do when losing a passport in a foreign country; I called the American Embassy in Kinshasa. As I figured out next steps, I discovered that a member of our group, Evette Richards, National President of the United Methodist Women, had a friend whose sister is the wife of the American Ambassador in Kinshasa. Through that connection, Evette obtained the contact information for the Ambassador’s wife. Before 8:00 a.m. the next day, Evette communicated my dilemma to the Ambassador’s wife and the wheels were put in motion to secure a new passport.

While others worked on the securing the passport, we tried to determine if there was a flight out of Lubumbashi, and received misinformation about it. In the midst of the conflicting information, we experienced a moment of grace, as we learned Vano Kiboko, one of our hosts and United Methodist brothers, had connections with the airline in the Congo. Vano secured for me the last seat on the plane that departed at 7:00 p.m. Flying to Kinshasa Thursday night was critical because the Embassy closed Friday at noon. If I did not make this flight, I couldn’t obtain a new passport on Friday and would be stranded in a Kinshasa until Monday. By this time, I realized I would not arrive home to be present for Bishop Robert Schnase’s presentation on his book, Seven Levers.

Throughout this experience, Bettye Kiboko, the wife of one of our pastors in Iowa, acted as my interpreter. While Bettye helped me report my passport missing to the police and secure a temporary one to fly within the country, the Conference Communications Coordinator worked diligently to obtain my new documentation and ensure our other team members caught their flight.

Over and over again, I was reminded that I was secure, as the good people called Methodists on the other side of the world cared for me because we were one in Christ through our bond as United Methodist sisters and brothers. This journey has been one of the most powerful examples of the United Methodist connection I have experienced.

I am indebted to Bishop Ntembo’s staff for assisting me and to Vano Kiboko for arranging drivers to take me wherever I needed to go, covering our hotel bill, and organizing transportation for from the tarmac in Kinshasa to my hotel. I’m also deeply indebted to Bettye Kiboko for guiding my steps and urging the people securing my temporary passport and flight to persevere.

Today is testimony to God’s amazing grace. I have never been so proud to wear my purple episcopal clergy shirt and collar, as they are helpful in finding a good way to get safe passage on an African Airline. It will be a shame if The United Methodist Church cannot find a way to remain united. The linkages we enjoy will be lost and we will never regain them. We are a Church that sends missionaries from everywhere to everywhere. Because 100 years ago United Methodist missionaries came to the Congo, I was secure in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa.

And…we are globally connected because I was able to stay connected to Lynn through the amazing wonder of technology.

Most of all, I had the sense in these days that angels were watching over me. When Vano took me to my hotel in Kinshasa Thursday night, we entered the room, and he said, “Before I leave, we pray.” And we did.

Our prayer reminded me of John Wesley’s definition of a Methodist long ago. He said, “by Methodists I mean, a people who profess to having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.”

Vano and I

Vano and I

Vano, a lay person dedicated to the church, a man who lost his wife 9 years ago, and a person who is committed to sharing the gospel, at every point, lived out this definition of John Wesley. As he spoke of his desire to offer his life in service to Jesus Christ, I realized how he is a living testament to 1 John 4:21: “And this commandment I give you, if you love God, you will also love your brother.”

Listening To God

Coming to the Congo, my prayer was for God to show me what I needed to know. My prayer has been answered. God has shown me:

  1. We stand on someone else’s shoulders. Missionaries, who came to Africa 100 years ago, came without fear and served in love. Today, we won’t travel without security. Do I have as much faith as they had?
  2. Our American view of Africa is distorted. While it is true that poverty is rampant in many places, there are places like Lubumbashi, where The United Methodist Church is building up the body with wise stewardship and strategic church planting. Vano’s church is trying to put a roof on their building. In last Sunday’s offering, they raised $150,000 in cash and pledges toward the $250,000 they need for the roof. The roof will not be constructed until all the cash is in hand. As more churches are constructed, they are placed in the centers of communities to serve the greatest number of people and to partner with existing community leaders.
  3. In spite of great obstacles, the passion for serving Christ moves beyond personal comfort. The District Superintendents do not have any means of transportation except a bicycle. They do not have parsonages and their salaries are meager.
  4. Without the United Methodist connection, many, many more people would die from malaria and from HIV. The United Methodist Church is providing healthcare and education, the keys tools for evangelization in Africa. Pastors in the villages know who are sick and visit them. In this way, the pastor brings people into the life of the congregation and thus salvation. This personal way of bringing the gospel to people is making Church in Africa grow. It reminds me of what John Wesley taught us long ago but what we in the United States have forgotten.
  5. Finally, I have learned again, we have a great Church! In spite of our differences and in spite of our challenges, God has brought us this far by faith.
IMG_0825

Brothers in Christ in Africa

I will return soon and invite you to continue in the challenge to support Imagine No Malaria. We will continue to discover ways for the Nashville Area to support the East Congo Area of The United Methodist Church.

Asante Sana! Thank you for blessing our efforts in this place.


Scripture Reading Plan for the week of August 24, 2014

Acts 11

Common English Bible (CEB)

Jerusalem church questions Peter

11 The apostles and the brothers and sisters throughout Judea heard that even the Gentiles had welcomed God’s word. When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him.They accused him, “You went into the home of the uncircumcised and ate with them!”

Step-by-step, Peter explained what had happened. “I was in the city of Joppa praying when I had a visionary experience. In my vision, I saw something like a large linen sheet being lowered from heaven by its four corners. It came all the way down to me. As I stared at it, wondering what it was, I saw four-legged animals—including wild beasts—as well as reptiles and wild birds.[a] I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!’ I responded, ‘Absolutely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice from heaven spoke a second time, ‘Never consider unclean what God has made pure.’ 10 This happened three times, then everything was pulled back into heaven. 11 At that moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them even though they were Gentiles. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered that man’s house. 13 He reported to us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is known as Peter. 14 He will tell you how you and your entire household can be saved.’ 15 When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as the Spirit fell on us in the beginning. 16 I remembered the Lord’s words: ‘John will baptize with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who am I? Could I stand in God’s way?”

18 Once the apostles and other believers heard this, they calmed down. They praised God and concluded, “So then God has enabled Gentiles to change their hearts and lives so that they might have new life.”

The Antioch church

19 Now those who were scattered as a result of the trouble that occurred because of Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. They proclaimed the word only to Jews. 20 Among them were some people from Cyprus and Cyrene. They entered Antioch and began to proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus also to Jews who spoke Greek. 21 The Lord’s power was with them, and a large number came to believe and turned to the Lord.

22 When the church in Jerusalem heard about this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw evidence of God’s grace, he was overjoyed and encouraged everyone to remain fully committed to the Lord. 24 Barnabas responded in this way because he was a good man, whom the Holy Spirit had endowed with exceptional faith. A considerable number of people were added to the Lord. 25 Barnabas went to Tarsus in search of Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him to Antioch. They were there for a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching large numbers of people. It was in Antioch where the disciples were first labeled “Christians.”

27 About that time, some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, Agabus, stood up and, inspired by the Spirit, predicted that a severe famine would overtake the entire Roman world. (This occurred during Claudius’ rule.) 29 The disciples decided they would send support to the brothers and sisters in Judea, with everyone contributing to this ministry according to each person’s abundance. 30 They sent Barnabas and Saul to take this gift to the elders.

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 11:6 Or birds in the sky
Common English Bible (CEB)Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


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