One of the e-mails that has been regularly showing up in my in-box is a mailing from the Texas Methodist Foundation called A Place at the Table. The site describes itself as “an online quarterly journal . . . that seeks to nurture a critical and reflective understanding of challenges facing the United Methodist Church by engaging dialogue amongst those seeking a faithful part in God’s hope for the future.” The site features articles by a variety of church leaders on thinking about ministry in missional terms.
Over the last several days the United Methodist Council of Bishops has been in session at Lake Junaluska, NC. Of the many topics on the agenda this week, none was more significant or more engaging than the discussion that resulted in this statement (posted below).
This statement from the Council of Bishops is a result of discernment, prayer, and deep reflection. It arises out of the recent actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert in the residential area of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padget.
Retired and resident bishops of The United Methodist Church throughout the world came to the Council of Bishops with widely different contexts, culturally and theologically, to craft the following points:
1. An acknowledgement of our dependence on God and our need for prayer
2. A recognition that United Methodists are not of one mind on the subject of human sexuality, and that there are deep divisions among Christians who read scripture in different ways and whose consciences move them to opposing convictions.
3. A direct response to the action of Bishop Talbert, which was in violation of the 2012 Book of Discipline by undermining the ministry of another.
4. A commitment to lead honest and respectful conversations around human sexuality, race, and gender in light of our theological convictions for the sake of our mission.
I ask you to note three facets of this development:
1. The General Conference, not the Council of Bishops, speaks for The United Methodist Church.
2. The Council of Bishops does not hold an individual bishop accountable; this practice is given by the General Conference to the (jurisdictional) College of Bishops.
3. The response of the bishops is a reflection on two subjects: a) the violation of the Discipline by a member of the clergy, b) the ongoing struggle of the church with our ministry with gay and lesbian persons.
As the resident bishop of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I take seriously the calling to be a shepherd to the clergy and laity of the Nashville Area. I am aware that there are deep divisions among us on this subject. We are in a difficult time as we navigate the changing cultural landscape. We are also an incredibly diverse Church. I covet your prayers for all who are harmed by this action.
Peace and Deep Prayer,
– Bishop William T. “Bill” McAlilly
*For those who follow a number of bishops on these matters, Bishop Ken Carter was the chief architect of the above statement with slight variations for the Nashville Area. I am indebted to Bishop Carter for sharing his willingness to be collaborative. A small group of bishop colleagues collaborate on a number of issues of this nature from time to time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Council of Bishops
Contact: Diane Degnan (email)
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”
“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.
The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.
These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.
Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.
Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.
Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.
In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)
# # #
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – United Methodist bishops from around the globe will gather in North Carolina at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center for the Council of Bishops meeting, November 10-15, 2013.
“The clear priority for the Council of Bishops is to increase vitality in our congregations in all the regions where we are present,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council. “We will engage in prayer, theological reflection and visioning so that we help one another to train leaders, to create new faith communities, and to engage in ministries with the poor and health programs like Imagine No Malaria.”
On Sunday, November 10, a memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville. Bishop Wenner will present the President’s Address at 9:45 am on Monday. On Wednesday, the Council will travel to the Qualla Boundary, which is part of the original homeland of the Cherokee Nation. The area is currently home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, direct descendants of those who were able to avoid forced removal to the area that is now Oklahoma.
“We will spend an afternoon with our sisters and brothers of the Cherokee Nation, following up on Acts of Repentance at General Conference,” said Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Episcopal Area. “We will remember the start of the Trail of Tears 175 years ago and point toward our Council meeting in Oklahoma later this quadrennium,” he said, referring to the Council meeting scheduled for November 2014.
The Council will spiritually center itself in daily worship and communion, along with small covenant groups for prayer and reflection. Plenary sessions, held each morning Monday-Friday, as well as Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, are open to the news media and the public. Among other reports, some of the items that will be discussed include:
• Objectives for the quadrennium: adaptive challenges and vital congregations
• Four Areas of Focus, agency alignment, 2016 budget process
• Elections: President, President-Designate, Secretary
• Preparing for 2016 General Conference
• Imagine No Malaria
• 2016 Episcopal Address
• Theological foundations of United Methodist identity and mission
During the six-day meeting, the bishops will also have various small group meetings, including accountability groups which were created as part of a covenant to hold one another accountable as they work together to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.
About the Council of Bishops | The Council of Bishops – made up of 46 active bishops in the United States, 20 bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa, and 97 retired bishops worldwide – provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
The United Methodist Church is in the midst of a reordering – a reordering of the life of the church for greater effectiveness and vitality in mission. This is something we are all striving to understand.
“The paradox of our time: We are at an end and a beginning” is an article written this month by Rev. Tom Hazelwood, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Memphis Conference.
Tom does an excellent job of explaining what he calls “the paradox” — being at an end and a beginning. He writes about the United Methodist Church envisioning a new day, managing transition, coaching for the future and being called to a new creation.
I invite you to click on the link below to read Tom’s words that speak so well to our entire Nashville Episcopal Area that includes the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
by Heather Heinzman*
A few years ago, Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina was contemplating using a portion of their precious green space to expand the parking for crowded Sunday mornings and highly attended special events. At certain times of the morning, a parking spot could not be found, and people were forced to park up and down the streets bordering the property. But was this really the best use for the land?
Highland UMC had hosted a weekday English as a Second Language (ESL) program for several years, and as some of the church leadership began connecting with the staff and students, a greater use for the proposed parking lot emerged—a community garden. Many of the students came from agricultural areas and not only missed farming the land, but could not afford to buy fresh, healthy produce at the grocery store. After gaining support from the congregation, including a member with a background in agriculture who agreed to head up the project, the Highland Victory Garden was born.
The results from the garden far exceeded expectations. Not only were church members and ESL students working side-by-side in the dirt, other residents in the community volunteered and joined in the effort. The garden also became a place of refuge. People driving by would stop to spend a moment on one of the benches interspersed between the beds, and family members of patients at the nearby hospital would come to the garden for some quiet time away from their loved one’s bedside.
Within a year, the Highland Victory Garden produced enough food to not only feed those who regularly worked in the garden, but provided hundreds of pounds of fresh, healthy food for the local food bank. As churches and community groups were inspired by the garden, at least forty other gardens were also started in the area.
– – –
Questions for Discussion
• How are your church’s resources utilized? Are you building bigger barns or seeking to use your resources to meet needs in the community?
• How is your congregation intentionally building relationships with its neighbors, particularly those who are the most vulnerable?
• Are you aware of the needs and hopes of your neighbors? What are you currently doing to be Christ’s hands and feet to bring hope?
– – –
About Romans 12 | Romans 12 is a project of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
These congregations are marked by:
– Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
– Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
– Nurture of growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
– Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable–the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
– Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the Body of Christ.
– Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
– Shared clergy and lay leadership.
Romans 12 Newsletter. Issue #174 © 2013 GBOD. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of the General Board of Discipleship and is funded through World Service apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.To subscribe or discontinue a subscription contact Deb Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous issues of the newsletter go to www.gbod.org/Romans12
GBOD | The United Methodist Church (www.GBOD.org)
PO Box 340003
Nashville, TN 37203
2013 Clergy Age Trends Report Shows Older Clergy Bubble Growing Larger
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The number of older clergy continues to grow according to the Clergy Age Trends in the United Methodist Church report released today by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary. The annual report is prepared with assistance from the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church.
Older Clergy Reach Historic High as Share of Elders
• Elders between ages 55 and 72 comprise 54 percent of all active elders, the highest percentage in history. This group reached 50 percent for the first time ever in 2010. This age cohort represented only 30 percent of active elders as recently as 2000. Previously their percentage of the total was even lower.
• This oldest cohort of active elders makes up 59 percent of elders in the Western Jurisdiction and 58 percent in the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
• The median age of elders remains at 55 in 2013, the highest in history, reached first in 2010. The median age was 50 in 2000 and 45 in 1973. The average age remains at 53, an historic high, and the mode age (the single age most represented) is now 61, also a high.
The Percentage of Middle Age Elders Continues to Shrink
• The percentage of elders aged 35 to 54 continues to shrink, from 65 percent of all active elders in 2000 to 39.81 percent in 2013. In addition, the total number of active elders decreased again in 2013 and all the loss took place in the middle age group, with modest increases in actual numbers for both young and older elders.
The Number of Young Clergy Stays about the Same
• There are more young elders, deacons, and local pastors than ten years ago, though the percentage of young elders remains low compared to historical patterns, though the trend line is up modestly but consistently.
• For example, there are more young elders than since before 2000, and the percentage of young elders is higher than since before 2000. Young elders as a percentage of all elders stayed in the 4 percent range in the first half of the 2000s and since then have made steady progress in the 5 percent range, moving closer to the 6 percent or higher range last seen in the 1990s.
Full Report Available for Download
Much more information is available in the complete Clergy Age Trends report, which is available as a free PDF download at http://www.churchleadership.com/clergyage. It shows the average and median ages of elders by United Methodist conference and features a breakdown of young, middle age, and older clergy by conference for elders, deacons, and local pastors.
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary is pleased to provide this report as a service to the church.
# # #
About Lewis Center | The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary seeks to advance the understanding of Christian leadership and promote the effective and faithful practice of Christian leadership in the church and the world. The center is building a new vision for church leadership grounded in faith, informed by knowledge and exercised in effective practice. The center seeks a holistic understanding of leadership that brings together theology and management, scholarship and practice, research and application. The Lewis Center serves as a resource for clergy and lay leaders, congregations and denominational leaders. Through teaching, research, publications and resources, the center supports visionary spiritual leaders and addresses key leadership issues crucial to the church’s faithful witness.
September 26-27, 2013 | Location: Beersheba Springs Assembly (MAP) | Please RSVP by Sep. 18
Memphis & TN Conferences | Featuring Bishop Bill McAlilly
“Delightful, interesting, thought provoking…moving”
> ONLINE REGISTRATION
Arrive 5:30 pm for registration (either eat before you come or enjoy snacks provided)
7:00: Fun and games/get acquainted
8:00: Bishop McAlilly
9:00: Evening Devotional (Memphis)
7:00 am: Breakfast
9:00: Morning Devotional (Tennessee)
1:00 pm: Local sights
2:30: Closing Conversation
> Cost: $60/room (2 per room covering Thursday evening lodging, snacks, and 2 meals on Friday)
Mail registration form and $25.00 deposit by 9/18 to:
316 W. Lytle Suite 101
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
Coming off the heels of the extravagant generosity expressed by the Tennessee Annual Conference in June, there is another opportunity for Methodists in Middle Tennessee to don hair nets package meals to be delivered to hungry all over the world.
A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be held at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on Saturday, July 13th at Belmont University. The afternoon packaging shifts starting at 12:15 and 2:15 pm are open to local congregational teams who desire to package meals and receive training to bring hunger action opportunities back to their congregations.
You are encouraged to gather a carload of “mission-minded” folk from your congregations and experience the power of being the hands and feet of Jesus!
In addition to meal packaging, you will learn more about hunger in our world, and how we can all be part of a movement to stop it. This is one case where Christians need to cultivate intolerance…toward world hunger! There will be time available to ask questions and receive tips from leaders, and resources that you can bring back to your church.
Note: This event is open to ANYONE, not just those that are registered to participate in the UMMen conference!
> CLICK HERE to sign up to participate and/or donate at:
For questions or help, you can contact the Calvary UMC Stop Hunger Now Team:
Tyler Petersen (email)
Joe Dunn (email)
Andy Morris (email)
Larry Malone (email)
SAN DIEGO, Calif.: The second day of the learning forum for bishops serving annual conferences around the world focused on the strengths of The United Methodist Church and how to leverage these attributes as the church moves into the future.
The day began with worship, prayer, and singing, “Lord you are able to make all things new . . .” Preaching on the text, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” (II Cor. 5:17) Bishop Debra Wallace Padgett, of the Birmingham (Ala.) area, invited the bishops to reflect on how they as individuals and as a community can grow as new creations in Christ.
“’All things new’ begins with you and me,” she affirmed. “We are becoming new . . . it sweeps across communities, organizations, churches, councils, even denominations.”
Following worship, Brian McLaren, noted author and leader of the emerging church movement, addressed the bishops and engaged in dialogue concerning promising signs in The United Methodist Church. In the spirit of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, he suggested the church is in a time of “letting go” and “letting come” what God wills. In many places, there are creative leaders emerging and prototypes developing that reflect new ways of being church.
“As pressures increase,” he noted, “so do creativity, courage, and determination.” In such a time, things can, in the words of author and educator, Parker Palmer, “break apart” or “break open.” McLaren believes this can be an opportunity for the church and its leadership to “break open” with new possibilities.
In the afternoon, bishops shared “best practices” in appointment making, accountability systems, and ministry with younger generations. Small accountability groups met to enable the bishops to work with one another in the light of their commitments in the Four Areas of Focus and the adaptive challenge of developing more vital congregations. The day ended with learning groups discussing how each bishop can best lead in the unique contexts of the particular annual conference(s) she or he is serving.
# # #
United Methodist Bishops Begin First Forum Meeting
SAN DIEGO, Calif. // May 6, 2013: Active bishops of The United Methodist Church began the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops on May 5 in San Diego with inspiring worship led by Rev. Jorge Lockward, Director of Global Praise for the General Board of Global Ministries. The bishops and spouses spent time in prayer, singing, praying for one another, anointing each other, and remembering their baptisms.
“The emerging church is a movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Robert Hayes of the Oklahoma Episcopal Area, who preached at the first night’s event. Bishop Hayes encouraged colleagues to reconnect spiritually with one another and with the church and to expect great things from God. “Change begins with us. We have to learn to engage with each other and even to disagree without being disagreeable. We have to model how to put new wine in new wineskins.”
“The purpose of the forum is to learn how to become a learning community,” said Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area and leader of the planning team. The Forum of Residential Bishops is a continuing education platform for the global community of United Methodist bishops with residential responsibilities.
In the first learning session, several bishops shared thoughts about how to engage with their colleagues in order to lead the church in times of rapid change. In addition, the bishops began meeting together in small groups in order to commit themselves to an intensive exchange about how to lead toward more vitality in their areas. The meeting will continue through May 9.
United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals
“Exploring leadership for an emerging church” will be the theme of the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops, scheduled on May 5-9, 2013 in San Diego.
The purpose of the five-day meeting is to create a learning environment where the residential bishops will share best practices, experiments and innovations that are working/not working in order to learn from one another. Each day’s discussion and learning will focus on a different theme, with addresses from selected keynote speakers.
“This will be an intensive time of learning, listening and renewing our commitment to our call,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops. “By removing ourselves for a few days from the day-to-day urgency of leading annual conferences, we have an opportunity to jointly gain a wider perspective of the church as a whole and to help one another as leaders from around the globe.”
The bishops have previously committed to hold each other accountable through a covenant to work side-by-side to lead the denomination forward despite existing challenges in order to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.
During the forum, the bishops will develop small accountability groups, and group members will follow up with each other afterwards related to their annual conference, jurisdictional and general leadership roles and responsibilities.
The bishops have identified some specific goals they are collectively working toward, which include:
- Double the number of vital congregations in the U.S. by the end of 2017
- Increase the number of vital congregations in the Central Conferences
- Raise $75 million in the fight against malaria
- Engage congregations in ministries to end poverty
- Start 1,000 new congregations by then end of 2016
- Enlist, support and mentor an additional 2,000 young candidates for ministry
On May 7, the Episcopal leaders will take a field trip to visit the U.S. – Mexico border.
The bishops will share information about their learning experiences through a series of daily updates which will be available on the Council’s website, and will conclude the meeting with a press conference (via web or phone — details to follow soon).
Last year, the Council of Bishops – which is comprised of both residential and retired bishops – decided to create a Forum of Residential Bishops for the purpose of building a learning community among peers. The meetings will be attended exclusively by active bishops; however, the forum will have no authority to make decisions or take actions on behalf of the Council. Such actions would be handled only when the full Council is assembled.
The full Council of Bishops has traditionally met twice a year, though they are not required to do so under church law. In order to make the forum meetings possible without creating additional cost, the Council decided to meet only once a year. Their next meeting will be November 10-15, 2013 in Lake Junalaska, N.C.
# # #
Beginning tomorrow morning the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences will embark on a 40-day journey together with God and through prayer. As we prepare for this upcoming Annual Conference season (Memphis – June 2-5, Tennessee – June 10-12), consider walking with us!
“We will join hands and hearts across Conferences as we enter into a 40-day season of intentional prayer together and with God. I believe this call to prayer will change your life and our churches as we prepare for Annual Conference.” – Bishop Bill McAlilly
There are several options for participation during the 40 Day Walk…
- Physical prayer guides: there might still be a few of these floating around, contact your District offices for info (Memphis | TNUMC)
- Digital prayer guides: DOWNLOAD (.PDF) for printing or for reading on your computer
- 40 Days of Doodles for kids! CLICK HERE to download (.PDF)
- Subscribe to the Bishop’s Blog: by subscribing with your email, you receive automatic updates to your inbox – each daily devotion will release at 6:00 am cst every morning between Apr. 24-Jun. 2. Enter your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the HOME page
- Follow the Bishop’s Blog daily: just log on to www.BishopBillMcAlilly.com every day to read the daily devotions from the 40 Day Walk With God prayer guide – each daily devotion will release at 6:00 am cst every morning between Apr. 24-Jun. 2
Use hashtag #40daywalk when sharing and tweeting through Twitter – let’s let the world know that the Memphis and Tennessee Conference’s are in a season of prayer and encourage our brothers and sisters across the connection to join us!
Here’s a suggestion from Bishop McAlilly – another post from the “Leading Ideas” blog from The Lewis Center for Church Leadership. The text blow is an image that will take you straight to the full blog post in another window. Happy reading – and we welcome your additional ideas and comments below!
READ FULL ARTICLE on BloomBytes Blog
Excerpt: In September, I watched online as a United Methodist bishop from the Democratic Republic of Congo pleaded with a sympathetic U.S. congressional subcommittee to help end the rapes and killings in eastern Congo.
Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda and other members of a Congolese delegation were visiting New York and Washington on an urgent mission. They wanted to persuade Congress and the United Nations to pressure neighboring Rwanda to end its support of the M23, rebel fighters causing havoc in the region.
Two months later, as today’s front-page headline in The New York Times observed, “Congo slips into chaos again…”
As a denomination, we need to pay attention to this crisis for a variety of reasons — to support our fellow United Methodists in the DRC, to honor our decades of mission and ministry there and to join the international call for an end to the continuous violence that especially has plagued vulnerable women and children.
Last week, with the M23 advancing, United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba, who leads the East Congo area, said Goma and nearby villages “are not a place to live because of all the horrors that take place.” The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries responded with a message of prayer and support.
I remember a period during the 1990s, amidst the horror of the Rwandan genocide, when the Board of Global Ministries was helping United Methodists bring hope in Goma, Bukavu and Uvira.
Refugees from Rwanda and, later, Burundi, fled to what was then known as eastern Zaire and its residents were struggling to deal with the influx of 2 million people.
United Methodists from Zaire and several hundred international volunteers-in-mission offered assistance in refugee camps and worked to create the Goma Children’s Village to care for a small portion of the more than 100,000 lost, abandoned or orphaned refugee children from Rwanda. Local street children also were welcome.
United Methodists also established medical clinics in Bukavu and Uvira and built a large church in Uvira that also housed a school for refugee children. It was hoped that additional children’s villages could be set up in those two cities.
In early 1996, the United Methodist Committee on Relief received a $3.5 million grant from the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to manage firewood cutting and distribute pharmaceuticals to Rwandan and Burundian refugees living in the region… | READ FULL ARTICLE
> DOWNLOAD sermon by Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba, East Congo Episcopal Area, to the Council of Bishops at Epworth By The Sea on November 7, 2012 (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE to read the article on the TX Methodist Foundation’s blog A Place At The Table
FULL ARTICLE: Hope is now building in the United Methodist Church like a fire. What started at first as a small spark some years ago among a small group of loosely connected leaders has continuously and increasingly found fuel and is now spreading. It is not just hope that is building but an impatience to engage the possibility of the mission field instead of the problems of the institution. A movement is forming.
But movements must deal with gaps that arise when some have been in the conversation about the purpose of the change from the beginning, others join later, and there are still many who don’t even know about the conversation (or don’t want to). If hope is to grow we will need to address the gap.
In this issue of our TMF e-journal we offer two vignettes about hope and the gap:
- An Experience of the Gap – Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones shares a real-life experience as a district superintendent where she has been working intentionally to shift people’s focus from protecting their own church to engaging the mission field. Consider what it is like to be a leader who sees the hope, who works intentionally to help others see and respond, and is then confronted with the gap. This is a picture of where we are in the wilderness of an established denomination living in a deeply changed mission field.
- An Example of Bridging the Gap – One of the great supports of the new and growing hope is that there are already examples of people who deeply understand the new mission field – which often demands very non-traditional responses that are very different from standard congregational fare. The ability to offer non-traditional responses is often the key to addressing younger generations. However, it requires that these people actively bridge the gap between what ministry once was and what it is yet to be. It means standing between being accountable to the long established institutional church and simultaneously risk building non-traditional approaches that can introduce discipleship to people who live in a changed culture. District Superintendent Ellen Alston from the Louisiana Conference helps us listen in on the experience and reflections of some young clergy who are already bridging the gap. One of the reasons we can hope for a changed and more Wesleyan United Methodist Church is because it is already happening. There are some already bridging the gap.
Every brave pilgrimage through a wilderness requires us to continue to draw the picture of the faithful future, to look back at that part of ourselves that is lagging behind, and to be willing to close the gap as an effort of hope. Where are you in the conversation?
> CLICK HERE to read the article at Lewis Center’s LeadingIdeas
FULL ARTICLE: My mother attended a one room schoolhouse for all but the last two years of her public education. As a Baby Boomer, I grew up riding the wave of school growth and consolidation and the several accommodations that went with the territory: school buses, area rather than local sports, and, above all, specialization in curriculum with division of the student population. The churches I attended as a teenager and young adult emulated the best practices of the public school system: dedicated spaces, quality and colorful curriculum supported with the latest innovations in audio-video equipment, and credentialed experts to model and train teachers.
If this were the only script for doing Christian education and formation in a community of faith, small churches would seem to have been left behind — again. It’s the same familiar story: the needs are too great, the resources are too small. But those who are familiar with small churches know otherwise. The biblical portrait of transmitting the faith from one generation to the next in the context of everyday life continues to thrive in small congregations. The best teaching begins in the character of the teacher (put these words of mine in your heart and soul), capitalizes on teachable moments (when your children ask), and is achieved regardless of setting (when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise). (Deut 6:20-21; 11:18-20).
This is good news for small churches struggling with self-worth but also for the many formerly larger congregations today faced with the upkeep of empty Christian Education buildings, the loss of Sunday School as a primary port of entry (see Mission as the Emerging Entry Point for New People, Leading Ideas, April 6, 2011), and the need to consolidate classes or even grade levels. There is something to be said for the one room schoolhouse model of Christian formation and education, a model that capitalizes on the energy of the intergenerational experience with gentle regard for real differences in cognitive development and literacy.
There are one room schoolhouse examples of Christian education and formation that look like the last desperate efforts of a dying institution. There are others that flourish. The difference seems to be in the element of intentionality. Someone has to care enough to carry the vision of a dynamic community of learners across age and skill levels, together developing faith foundations. Outside help is available, even a curriculum specifically targeting the one room schoolhouse model (see “One Room Sunday School” at http://www.Cokesbury.com), but someone has to take the lead in that wonderful small church alchemy of turning necessity into opportunity.
Dr.Lew Parks is professor of theology, ministry, and congregational development and director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Wesley Theological Seminary. His most recent book is Preaching in the Small Membership Church (Abingdon, 2009). It can be purchased at Amazon or Cokesbury.