Posted: June 14, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Below is the text from comments I made at both the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences.
In March, I was in Africa, in Zimbabwe, and I went to the Mutare Mission where hundreds of children and young people are receiving an education, and health care, and hope because the Methodist church has been doing mission work there since the late 1800’s. The site on which Africa University is planted, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is in existence because the people called Methodists believe that educating Africans on the continent was a vital mission of the church.
Were we to splinter or split, the work of Africa University, and the work of the Mutare Mission, among other places across the world, would be damaged. The matters of human sexuality and unity are presenting issues for a deeper conversation that surfaces in different ways of interpreting scripture and theological tradition.
Over the coming months and year or years, increasingly the Commission on the Way Forward will offer models to annual conferences through the residential bishops who are committed to leading and teaching in their own contexts and working with delegations to the special session of the 2019 General Conference.
Now, what does all that mean? It means that we have a group of about 30 people who are meeting every 6 weeks working on this on our behalf. It means that whatever is brought forward at the General Conference of 2019 will, then, have to be approved by that General Conference. In most cases, I believe the same delegates that were delegates in 2016 will be delegates in 2019, which means by and large it will be a group of the same people.
I also have to tell you that one of the churches in Mississippi who has departed, Getwell Road, was a church that I planted in 1986. I was the church planter, and my heart is absolutely broken over their decision to leave our family.
The day that I was born, my father was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church. Like many of you, my blood runs through the veins of the United Methodist Church, and it’s a little bit like when people talk about your family; I can talk about them, but you better not. I get a little angry.
I want us to be careful. Literally, the word careful is to be full of care. The meaning of careful is to be full of care.
How do we care for each other in the midst of our differences?
My home church, First United Methodist Church of New Albany, Mississippi is the church Lynn grew up in and I was a part of as a teenager.
Among the children of the elders of that church, there are a number of homosexual people. I have no idea, should this church split, what would happen to that congregation. And I would guess that church after church after church in our family could bear witness to similar stories.
The question I raise within my own spirit is – if we had not adopted The Way Forward, can you imagine what we would be doing right now as a denomination? We would be splitting this church up with a rusty butcher knife, and it would not be a very pretty sight. I will go so far as to say I’m not terribly optimistic that we will find a solution that everybody is going to sing the doxology over.
And if that’s the case, then I pray that we will have enough wisdom to find our way through this and hold on to each other. Schism is the lowest fruit on the theological food chain, frankly, but I simply ask you to bear with us and be patient with us and help us be in conversation together as we work our way toward a future that God has not yet defined. I don’t know anybody that would have signed up for this, but this is where we are.
I give thanks to God for the persons we are commissioning, the ones we are ordaining, those who are saying yes to this denomination. They want to give their life to this church and serve faithfully. Let’s remember that they see hope that maybe some of us don’t see. If you look back over the history of Christianity over the last 2,000 years, there have been a few bumps in the road, right? It has not all been smooth sailing, but somehow, out of that, God has still prevailed.
God is still on the throne. God is still the God of the resurrection. God is still the God of the future, not just the God of the past.
God is still calling us into that future, and I’m going to be trusting that God is going to show us the way.
Now God is not going to give us all the answers from here to the end of the road, so don’t expect that, but you can expect that God will give us enough light for our next step.
When the appointive Cabinet gets together every spring, I think, “How in the world are we going to make these appointments?” But, somehow, out of the mystery of God and the combined wisdom of that group of people, God shows us a way through. I trust that God.
I’m going to do my best to be faithful to you and faithful to God and this church, and I ask you to join me in that faithfulness. I will be faithful to the vows of my ordination as an Elder and my consecration as Bishop. If you have a problem and you feel like you need to talk about it, call your District Superintendent. If your District Superintendent can’t help you, then we’ll help you. I trust our Cabinet. They’re good people. I ask you to be faithful to what God is calling us to do.
Sunday night’s state of the church address probably disappointed some people because they thought I was going to talk about our denomination and not our mission. That was not an accident because
I don’t want this conversation to become our mission.
Our mission is to serve God and neighbor. To go into the world, to offer Christ to those who are hurting, one neighborhood at a time. I’ve been beating this drum for five years. I’m not going to stop beating it. We’re going to do the same thing we’ve been doing. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep pushing out. We’re going to keep pushing forward. We’re trying to transform congregations who transform people’s lives through the power of Jesus Christ who is a resurrecting God.
I believe in that God and that’s the God I’m going to bear witness to and I invite you not to be consumed by the negative press that the Church is going to receive in the coming years. And you’re going to get it from every direction.
My experience of the church is that there are some folk over here and some folk over here, but most Methodists are somewhere in the middle. Some of us are right of center and some of us are left of center, but most of us are centered in Christ.
My little 3 point sermon would be something like this: rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love.
Rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love. And if we live out of that triumvirate, and if we keep God’s mission at the forefront of our lives, other conversations will not distract us quite so much.
You know in 1 Peter: 5, there’s a line in there that says ‘beware of the evil one who prowls around like a roaring lion and seeking to devour you.”
Maybe you’ve read C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, and Screwtape says “don’t ever let them see the church with its banners waving.” There are forces in the world that do not want us to be seen with our banners waving.
But friends, there is some amazing, amazing transformational work that is taking place in the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences on behalf of the people called Methodists who are giving their heart, mind, and soul to people in need, and we’re not going to stop doing that no matter what happens way up here, right?
I showed you a picture of myself when I played football at two different periods of my life. I’m not sure some of you got it. My college coach used to always say,
“Always leave it on the field.” Now, what does that mean? You’re going to give it your “all” day in, day out.
We were having dinner with some friends the other night and Lynn was talking about when she was in her master’s program and we moved in the middle of her doing her master’s to a little house that had been flooded by Hurricane Katrina, and she was working herself pretty hard, and I said, “Well, you don’t have to get an “A” in everything.” She said, “I don’t know how to try to get a B!” That’s what it means to leave it on the field.
I’m going to be faithful. I want you to be faithful. I can’t make you be. But I can invite you to be. I can invite you to follow Jesus into the world and reach out to those who are hungry and those who are broken. As I said last night, God uses flawed people because he doesn’t have enough of the other kind.
And brothers and sisters, we have no room to point our fingers at anyone. We would be much better off to get on our knees and pray, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner, than to point our finger and say thank God I’m not like that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person over there.
As I’ve said to the clergy, Jacob walked with a limp and he was better off with his limp than he was without it. Yes, we limp as a church. Yes, we’re broken. Yes, we’re imperfect and yes, we’ve got to figure this out, but we’re going to do it and let’s stay together as we do it, and let’s love each other.
As I read the gospel, the central ethic of the gospel is love. It’s love.
I’m going to be about loving God and loving the people God loves, and that includes all of us. All the time.
Posted: April 29, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace and Peace to you from Jesus Christ our Lord. In this Easter season, I come to you with the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ who reminds us that life is stronger than death, love is greater than hate, that light overcomes darkness, and hope outdistances despair.
This week, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church convened (as it does regularly throughout the year) to consider various matters of church law. Of particular interest to many throughout our church was a question about the validity of the election and consecration by the Western Jurisdiction of a married lesbian bishop, Karen Oliveto. Yesterday the Judicial Council released its ruling which stated that the consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, but that Bishop Oliveto “remains in good standing” until an administrative or judicial process is completed.
As we consider yesterday’s ruling, it is important to remember that there are several authorized bodies in our church that guide us in our life together. The General Conference speaks for the church. The Council of Bishops exercises oversight and support of the church’s mission. The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality and legality of actions taken by individuals or constituted entities of the church, and in this instance, the action taken by a jurisdictional conference. At times these bodies collaborate, and at other times this work is done independently, but the goal is to discern God’s will for our church and ensure that our order is maintained as we work together to make disciples.
While the judicial process has been an important part of our communal life for many years, I would urge us to resist viewing this ruling in the context of “winners” or “losers.” We, as has been true since the beginning of time, are a broken people who are all in need of God’s grace. The grace-filled life understands that this is a time for compassion and prayer as we seek a means out of our brokenness toward restoration.
In the days to come, we will continue to grapple with the realities of this moment in our life together. Twenty-five years from now we certainly will look back on this time differently than we do now. For the moment, we only can see through a glass darkly. May God grant us the grace to find light in the midst of our darkness.
Please remember that the Judicial Council’s actions are specific to this situation and this decision does not change the United Methodist Book of Discipline, nor will it change the mission, vision, and scope of work of the Commission on the Way Forward. The commission’s work is ongoing and will continue toward a time in which a proposal will be presented in a Special Session of the General Conference to be held in St. Louis, MO on February 23-26, 2019. Only the General Conference has the power to make changes to the Book of Discipline.
And yet our calling to make disciples for the transformation of the world continues. I ask you to avoid a hasty reaction to this decision and instead spend time in prayer about God’s work for the people called United Methodists. Our mission has not changed, and we are called to be the body of Christ to a world in need.
It is also my hope that we give the Commission on a Way Forward the space and grace to carry out their work of discernment. The Council of Bishops is confident that the Holy Spirit is operating through the commission’s work and leadership, and we believe as a council that the Way Forward Commission is our best opportunity for determining God’s will for our church.
The United Methodist Church is an extraordinarily diverse communion — both theologically and politically. This is one of our unique strengths and yet maintaining the tension between differing understandings requires a commitment to engaging with one another even when we disagree. This engagement must always be rooted in love, which is the core of our faith in Jesus Christ. Be assured that the Council of Bishops is committed to the unity of the body of Christ, and we pray with Christ the prayer from John 17 that the church may be one:
“I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.”
-John 17:20-23 (Common English Bible)
Brothers and Sisters, I believe that the God who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). Christ’s command to love God and love neighbor still holds true. The work of offering Christ’s love to a hurting world has not ended.
May the Master of the Universe and the Provider of us all send a special measure of grace that in the midst of our darkness we will see light, in the midst of our despair we will find comfort, and always that in the midst of death we will experience resurrection.
With the love of Christ,
Bishop William McAlilly
Posted: April 27, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
During these changing times in the history of our church, there will be defining moments when words on a page, no matter how carefully crafted, might not convey the thoughts, emotions and importance of one’s message. Today is one of those significant times.
As we await the response of the judicial council, it is important in the upcoming and unpredictable days, that we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, the light and our salvation. Our call is to continue to offer Christ to a hurting world. My prayer that this call will direct my thoughts, conversations, and actions.
No matter the outcome of the Judicial Council, I am committed to keeping that focus. As you watch this video, my hope is that you will be moved to do the same. I invite you to listen for Jesus’ call to love God and neighbor. May we be inspired in our thoughts and words as we remain focused on offering Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.
May our thoughts and words mirror the call to love God and neighbor and that they might be pure and acceptable in God’s sight.
Q & A about the Judicial Council
Posted: April 12, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Recently, Lynn and I were privileged to travel to the Holy Land with our good Methodist people from across the Nashville Area. You will remember three years ago my trip was cut short by an untimely fall near Jericho which landed me in the hospital. So, it was good to get to go back and experience the entirety of the “land of the Bible.”
It was a marvelous experience and my heart was full as I walked from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, on down to the Holy City. What’s more, walking the Via Dolorosa and stopping at the stations of the cross brought home again the agony of Holy Week.
I often reflect during Holy Week how we see the humanity and divinity of Jesus comingled in the events between Palm Sunday and Easter. Fredrick Buechner in his work, The Faces of Jesus, writes:
“WHAT YOU ARE GOING to do,” Jesus says, “do quickly.” What Judas is going to do, he does in a garden, but though he goes about it as quickly as he can, there is a little time to wait before he gets there. It is night, and they are all tired. Jesus tells them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death,” and then asks the disciples to stay and watch for him while he goes off to pray. One thinks of the stirring and noble way others have met their deaths—the equanimity of Socrates as he raised the hemlock to his lips, the exaltation of Joan as they bound her to the stake, Nathan Hale’s “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Jesus sounds like none of them. Maybe it is because it is to the ones who are most fully alive that death comes most unbearably. His prayer is, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what thou wilt,” this tormented muddle of a prayer which Luke says made him sweat until it “became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” He went back to find some solace in the company of his friends then, but he found them all asleep when he got there. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” he said, and you feel that it was to himself that he was saying it as well as to them.
I’ve often thought about what it must have been like for Jesus to want to hang out with his closest friends only to discover they could not remain awake long enough to be present to him.
If you have ever tried to remain present when the pain or suffering or grief is as thick as molasses in January, you begin to understand why the disciples could not bear up under the weight of the moment. It’s just the way God has wired us—to protect us from trauma that is often too deep for words.
How many times in a weak moment have we muttered the words, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I acknowledge I often feel weak in the face of innocent suffering. I often feel as if I do not have the proper words when I walk into a hospital room and the diagnosis is difficult. I have always found comfort in the words of Henri Nouen when he spoke of the ministry of presence in his book, The Wounded Healer. Generations of clergy of been helped with that word. There’s nothing worse in such moments than to say the wrong thing.
I felt powerless and helpless this week as I read about the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt that was attacked on Palm Sunday. I felt helpless in the face of the chemical attack on innocent civilians in Syria. I felt helpless when I read this morning that there are at least four places in the world where hunger is so devastating that children are dying daily. And even as they are dying, there are still more dying from war. It’s one of the most helpless feelings I have had in a long, long time.
This week a colleague asked me to read a blog post he was considering by asking me if it was too dark. I said, “No. After all, it’s Holy Week.”
Holy Week. A time when, all too often, tragedy and suffering are visited on our world.
Good Friday. A time when we remember the suffering and death of Jesus.
The paradox is that the darkest day in history we call “good.” And yet we have the audacity to believe that we could have Easter without Good Friday.
Without Good Friday, there would be no empty tomb. Without Good Friday, the disciples would simply have returned home to the work they knew so well. Without Good Friday, we would be without the possibility of new life. Without Good Friday, without Easter morning, we would be devoid of the faith that believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
There are times these days when I think about the future of the United Methodist Church that my faith wavers. But then, somewhere in the midst of God’s great grace, there springs forth out of the barren soil of winter a crocus. Someone will reach down and offer a cup of cold water to parched lips. A miracle will appear out of nowhere. Grace will fall fresh on the world. A college student will say yes to the call of Christ on her life to pursue ordained ministry. God will make a way where I cannot see a way.
Late this afternoon one of our pastors called to tell me about a conversation he had with one of his confirmands. A twelve-year-old young girl, sat across from her pastor and said, “I think God may want me to be a minister.” As he told me the story, chill bumps formed on my forearms as I marveled at the way God continues to move in the hearts and minds of our young. All because a pastor took the time to listen to the heart of this twelve year old. She’s not thinking about the future of the denomination. She’s thinking about how she can serve God. Would that our eyes be that focused-on Jesus! The witness of this pastor dispelled for a moment, all my fear and anxiety. In that moment, I heard Jesus whisper in my ear, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Since moving to Nashville, I’ve been introduced to musical artists that I had not previously known. One of those is Mike Farris. He has a great song, “Mercy Now.” At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all need? We need a little mercy now. It is my prayer for you this week, that you will pause and reflect on what you need to leave at the cross so that on Easter you might rise and sing with all the saints in glory, the resurrection song…a song that will bring mercy to you, even in the darkest of nights.
Posted: February 15, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
A prayer as the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences lead the UMC in prayer this week:
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, grant to your Church great wisdom for the task that is set before us.
We pray for those who have been set apart for the task of guiding the Church toward a Way Forward, seeking in the midst of great division, a place to stand which allows the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ to be made known in the world.
Grant also that each of us, in this journey fraught with difficulty and challenge, might seek your face. Give patience, wisdom and courage to the members of the Commission, that their work would bring glory and honor to your name. Remind us that the wisdom in all of us that is greater than the wisdom in any one us. Free us from the arrogance to believe that any one of us has all the truth but that by your great grace, together, your truth might be made known to the world through the witness of this challenging and dangerous work. We make this prayer in the strong name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Please join the prayer vigil as we continue our prayers throughout this week and including Saturday.
Posted: February 2, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Over the last few days there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the executive order banning refugees from seven countries. Within this context, many of our fellow churches are requesting ways they can offer sanctuary to immigrants within our communities.
I know this issue is complex, and I believe we, as the church, and as United Methodists, must pay close attention to how we respond in these days. I encourage churches and clergy who wish to offer sanctuary to contact our District Superintendents for guidance and resources.
Currently, the United Methodist Immigration Task Force (UMITF) is working across our connection to support Sanctuary Cities that are opposing the construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The UMITF also is supporting the Bridge Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation that would allow young persons who are eligible for temporary relief from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to stay in the U.S.
As we move through the coming days, please pray deeply for God’s guidance. Moreover, may we gain courage in knowing God does indeed call us to speak out for justice, especially for the poor in our midst.
In times like these, let us remember the mission of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences 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.
To be sure, we are living in a hurting world, but I am certain that hundreds of passionate congregants across our two conferences will share the love of Christ to those who are overcome by confusion and fear.
Posted: January 9, 2017 Filed under: Bishop's Blog, Memphis Conference, Tennessee Conference | Tags: Sent to Serve God and Neighbor
Grace and peace to you from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I greet you in this New Year with great joy and great hope for a grand and glorious new beginning for our life together, as United Methodists.
Across the last four years, we have focused on offering Christ to a hurting world as our primary mission, as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ in every place. Our dream, our hope, our possibility is to help congregations increase their capacity and capability of making disciples.
We have come to know that we are living in a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. A world not unlike the world in which Jesus was born. A world where there is chaos and there’s confusion. There’s uncertainty.
We only have to look at our recent political elections to see that there is a great divide in this country still. How will we unite around a common mission? The church can be a vital witness to this world in this season.
As we near Annual Conference 2017, we will be thinking together about our theme: Sent into the world to love God and neighbor. Last year we talked about our neighborhoods. This year, we want to focus very specifically on those in our midst who are hurting, those who are lost, those who are alone. Those who are in need of the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
How can we, as the United Methodist Church in this region, be a voice of hope, a place of peace, a place of love for people who are broken? That’s our call.
One of the ways in which I find hope is in music. I think about all the songs that I’ve heard over the years that have changed my attitude and my spirit when I have listened to the words.
One of those songs is a song called “Go Light Your World.” It encourages the listener to go into the world and light up the world with hope and promise and possibility, in those places of need.
I think we need a song right now. We need a song that will challenge us to see the possibilities. See the hope. See the promise. And be those beacons of light in the world.
Let us be the light of Christ, sent into the world to offer love, love of God and love of neighbor. It’s our call. It’s our promise. It’s our hope.
Join me, will you, as we seek to be God’s people in this place, for this time?
I hope so. But more than that, I pray so.
Posted: December 16, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Posted: November 29, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Across the Southeast in recent days, weeks, and months disasters have visited our people. From flooding in South Carolina and North Carolina, our friends and neighbors have been displaced.
Now, in East Tennessee and North Carolina, forest fires are raging and threatening homes, churches and communities.
Let us remember and reach out in tangible ways to bring our support. In this Advent Season, may we be proactive in the following ways:
First, as always, pray. Prayers for all those affected are needed. Pray for all of those who are responding, emergency personnel, all those affected, survivors, tourist, business owners, those having to evacuate, everyone! Please also be in prayer for the Holston Conference of the UMC as they respond to their hurting neighbors.
Second, Financial Donations: Holston Conference will also accept financial donations with checks made to “Holston Conference” and “Holston Wildfire #864” on the memo line.
Mail to: Holston Conference, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701. Online giving is also possible at Holston.org/wildfires.
Below is the link that has been sent to their churches so they know what churches are safe.
GATLINBURG FIRE: UNITED METHODISTS CHECK FOR DAMAGED CHURCHES, EXPLAIN HOW TO HELP
By Annette Spence
Photo above: Fire comes within two miles of Wears Valley United Methodist Church on Monday night. Photo at top of page: Donations to help firefighters begin to arrive at the Alcoa Conference Center.
ALCOA, Tenn. (Nov. 29, 2016) – Holston Conference leaders are asking United Methodists to be prepared but patient while waiting for information about how best to help victims of a wildfire that reportedly destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses since last night in Gatlinburg and other parts of Sevier County, Tenn.
Holston leaders are also checking on churches, parsonages and members in the tourist region now turned disaster area and have released a list of properties that are currently safe and undamaged.
“Our emergency person is in touch with TEMA. They’re not allowing anyone into Gatlinburg so we don’t know yet what the needs are,” said the Rev. Charles Maynard, superintendent of 64 churches in the Maryville District, including those in the wildfire area.
Maynard said he has communicated with pastors of these churches and the related parsonages, all of which are safe:
First Pigeon Forge UMC
Burnett Memorial UMC
Walden’s Creek UMC
Union Grove UMC
Pleasant Hill UMC (Sevierville)
Wears Valley UMC
Cedar Bluff UMC (Sevierville)
First Sevierville UMC
Murphy’s Chapel UMC
In Loudon County, where another fire is burning, Bethel United Methodist Church is safe, despite inaccurate reports on social media, Maynard said. Another fire is burning in Monroe County. After initial concerns, Maynard learned later today that First Tellico Plains UMC and Ironsburg UMC are currently safe.
The Rev. Mike Sluder, Holston director of connectional ministries, said information will be forthcoming on immediate needs and long-term relief for fire victims in Sevier County and other areas.
Earlier today, the Alcoa Conference Center (217 S. Rankin Road, Alcoa, Tenn.) announced that it would accept donations of these items to provide aid to firefighters. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
“If you are not near the Alcoa Conference Center, consult your local Red Cross for immediate needs,” Sluder said. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has contacted Holston’s disaster-relief director and has offered financial aid, Sluder said.
Holston Conference will also accept financial donations with checks made to “Holston Conference” and “Holston Wildfire #864” on the memo line. Mail to: Holston Conference, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701. Online giving is also possible at Holston.org/wildfires.
“Right now we are not sure of all the needs,” Sluder said. “As we transition into long-term recovery I am sure some of the funds will be available to help supply work teams with needed relief supplies.”
Maynard said he will provide more information about other church properties and church members’ homes soon.
On Monday night, The Connexion housed 35 evacuees from the Sevier County area, most from the Ministerio del Espiritu Santo congregation, said the Rev. Susana Lopez. She said The Connexion will remain open tonight for residents in need of shelter.
We are stronger together when we can respond faithfully to tragedy in our communities and congregations.
Posted: November 17, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Nashville Episcopal Area clergy and laity are continuing their efforts in the fight for affordable healthcare in Tennessee. The report below outlines what they will be facing in the years ahead and how you can get involved. Please pray for those who fall in the coverage gap as well as those advocating for them.
United Methodists at a coalition meeting of those advocating for affordable healthcare for all.
A coalition of community members from various nonprofit, public policy, and faith-based groups throughout the state gathered at the Tenn. Primary Care Association on Monday, Nov. 14, to discuss the future of healthcare in Tennessee, specifically the challenges ahead for TennCare, the Affordable Care Act and closing the coverage gap.
The Rev. Merrilee Wineinger, Coordinator of Faith that Heals Ministry at TN United Methodist Conference, was an active partner at the healthcare coalition meeting. Alongside Wineinger, representatives from the Tennessee Justice Center, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Tennessee Health Care Campaign, Nashville CARES, Mental Health America, National Healthcare for the Homeless, and fifty others were in attendance to discuss the future of Tennessee’s healthcare.
“There are currently lots of unknowns in the healthcare world over the next few years, making it even more important for the non-profits to join forces, share knowledge, and educate our constituents,” said Katie Alexander, Field Director for the TN Justice Center. “I am honored and humbled to be a part of so many compassionate individuals who want to come together to create a united front to ensure the most vulnerable in the state are not left behind.”
The current healthcare atmosphere is on shaky ground after Donald Trump’s election, running on promises to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act once in office. Tennesseans are fortunate to have U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will play a key role in shaping the broad changes planned by the Trump Administration and the new Congress.
Mary Moore, Get Covered TN Program Coordinator of Family and Children’s Services of Nashville, stressed the importance of citizens continuing to enroll for coverage on the healthcare marketplace. “People need the coverage and want the coverage. The day after the election was the largest sign-up day to date with over 100,000 citizens shopping on the marketplace and enrolling in plans.”
Gordon Bonnyman of the TN Justice Center noted that much of the Affordable Care Act is likely to be repealed early in 2017, and it is vitally important that it be replaced by reforms that will work for all Americans. He warned the attendees that all current health care programs, even Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid that covers over 1.3 million Tennesseans, face radical cuts and reforms. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has announced a desire to cut domestic spending and curtail federal health programs.
Tony Garr of the Tenn. Healthcare Campaign, explained that Medicaid, known in Tennessee as TennCare, is currently an entitlement. This means citizens who meet specific criteria for eligibility have a right to participate and their coverage is protected by federal law. The federal government appropriates two-thirds of the funding as necessary to cover costs, as opposed to a fixed cost. Tennessee pays the other one-third of the costs. Block grants have been proposed as an alternative to reduce the rising cost of healthcare, and to give states more power over the program, a proposal that Garr opposes.
Garr argued against block grants by presenting facts unknown to most constituents, such as the crucial role TennCare plays in covering over half of live births in Tennessee and more than half of nursing home care. Under a block grant, federal payments would be limited, leading to continuing cuts in the program as health care cost continue to rise, and as the population increases. Control of the program would be given to the Tennessee legislature, and it is unclear who would be covered under a block grant. Some 300,000 working Tennesseans who are in the health insurance “coverage gap” would likely remain uninsured.
Currently, about 60 percent of those on TennCare rolls are working. Proposed new work requirements could result in loss of coverage for the other 40 percent in the coverage gap including adult students, the disabled and those tending to disabled family members in their homes.
The Rev. Marie C. King, Chair of the TN United Methodist Conference Health and Welfare Committee, added her faith-based perspective. “I want to encourage church leadership to educate the community on the discussions currently taking place in healthcare reform. Tennesseans need to educate themselves on what is happening and we need to support our congregations on this important policy issue as the Founder of Methodism John Wesley taught us,” said King.
To learn more about enrolling on the healthcare marketplace, visit getcoveredtenn.org. To keep up with changes affecting our health care, and to learn how you can become involved as an advocate for our most vulnerable neighbors, contact the Tennessee Justice Center at tnjustice.org.
Posted: November 7, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Bishop Ken Carter wrote this prayer in 2008 on the occasion of the Presidential Election. Bishop Carter offers it again for this election. I share it with you for your reflection.
Creator of us all:
you are the source of every blessing,
the judge of every nation
and the hope of earth and heaven:
We pray to you on the eve of this important and historic election.
We call to mind the best that is within us:
That we live under God,
that we are indivisible,
that liberty and justice extend to all.
We acknowledge the sin that runs through our history as a nation:
The displacement of native peoples, racial injustice,
economic inequity, regional separation.
And yet we profess a deep and abiding gratitude
for the goodness of ordinary people who have made sacrifices,
who have sought opportunities,
who have journeyed to this land as immigrants
strengthening its promise in successive generations,
who have found freedom on these shores,
and defended this freedom at tremendous cost.
Be with us in the days that are near.
Remind us that your ways are not our ways,
that your power and might transcend
the plans of every nation,
that you are not mocked.
Let those who follow your Son Jesus Christ be a peaceable people
in the midst of division.
Send your Spirit of peace, justice and freedom upon us,
break down the walls of political partisanship,
and make us one.
Give us wisdom to walk in your ways,
courage to speak in your name,
and humility to trust in your providence.
Bishop Ken Carter
Posted: October 19, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Early Response Team at work after the Southeast was hit by Hurricane Matthew. (photo: SC Conference)
Hurricane Matthew was a very powerful and deadly Category 5 Hurricane that left a wake of destruction in its path. As reports and assessments continue to come in, we ask you to be in prayer for all of those who are affected. We ask prayers for those who have lost so much and for those responding to their hurting neighbors. May we be reminded that God is always with us in these long days ahead.
“Thank you to everyone who has already reached out to us on how to respond to those affected by Hurricane Matthew. At this time the only request is for trained Early Response Teams (ERT’s) to assist in the South Carolina, South Georgia and Virginia Conferences,” said Angela Overstreet, UMVIM/SEJ* Disaster Chair. “We will communicate other needs as soon as it is available to us.”
The Tennessee conference has two Early Response teams already deployed to South Carolina and Angela is working with trained ERT’s for additional deployments. As a reminder, do not self deploy. A strength of our connection is that we can cooperate and respond based on need.
As needs are communicated to us, our Disaster Response Coordinators, Robert Craig in Memphis Conference and Angela Overstreet in Tennessee Conference, will let you know specifically what kinds of supplies or kits are needed by our UMCOR warehouses, at this time there is NOT a need.
Here are two ways we can support our Brothers and Sisters who are hurting in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew:
- Pray. Our friends and partners across the Caribbean, and up the Eastern Seaboard need our genuine prayers in the days, months, and years to come.
- Donate. UMCOR has Advance numbers set up for both international and domestic disaster response.
To donate to the international effort, please click here.
To donate to the domestic effort, please click here.
*UMVIM/SEJ: United Methodist Volunteers in Mission/Southeast Jurisdiction
Posted: October 12, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
Over and over as we travel to churches across the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences, I hear about churches, large and small, that are reaching out to their communities by forming partnerships with their local schools. Earlier this fall, I received an email from Dr. Linda Gilbert, Director of Schools in Murfreesboro and a fellow United Methodist, who shared with me the wonderful way in which St. Mark’s UMC is partnering with Reeves-Rogers Elementary School to enable student success.
Rev. Martha Touchton, Minister Of Education at St. Mark’s, shared the following with me about the things they are doing. My hope is that other churches in our conferences reach out in their own neighborhoods in similar ways.
The cornerstone of our school partnership is the Mentor Program for children, which brings joy and encouragement to all who participate. Mentor coordinator Mary Jane Henry states, “We have been overwhelmed at the response and commitment to this ministry! This year we have thirty-seven mentors, including three from other churches, who give one hour each week to mentoring a child. It really is awesome to see how this mission has been received by our church family and how generously members have supported it with their time, money, encouragement, and prayers.”
Mentors make a difference in the lives of Reeves Rogers children. According to mentor Ann Scales, mentors may help students with a particular academic skill or simply serve as “a buddy, an encourager, a good listener, and a friend.” Margie Jennings, another coordinator in this ministry, beams as she says, “All the children want a mentor. Getting extra help is suddenly a good thing! St. Mark’s is changing the attitudes and perspectives of these students. We believe in them and they know that!”
“Next to my many years of teaching, mentoring is the most rewarding experience I have ever had!” Retired teacher Cindy Flippin
Another significant aspect of our partnership is offering support to those employed at the school. This fall, we are launching a new ministry that connects every teacher, administrator and support staff person with an adult Sunday school class for encouragement, prayers, and hands-on help with specials events and projects. We also sponsor a “Back to School” luncheon, provide food for parent/teacher conferences and Professional Learning Community days, give creative holiday gifts, and provide workers for the school’s book fair. We are always seeking new ways to shower each adult worker with the love of Christ!
There are many other practical ways St. Mark’s goes about building this partner relationship:
- St. Mark’s Wednesday Night Together fall kick-off event. “Won’t you be my Neighbor?” was held at Reeves Rogers in August. More than 200 church members shared fellowship with Reeves Rogers teachers as we toured the school building and learned about our neighborhood school and our shared community.
- Last Advent, St. Mark’s filled more than 150 gift bags for K-2 children. We plan to increase that number to 250 this year, and our prayer is that in the near future we can provide a gift bag for every child in the school.
- St. Mark’s provides material assistance to families through collections for food boxes, clothing, and school supplies
- Teachers and school families are invited to St. Mark’s Backpack Blessings Sunday and Vacation Bible School
- “Todo Galope,” (Total Gallop) an afterschool homework help site for Hispanic children and their parents, meets at St. Mark’s on Thursdays, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
- St. Mark’s UMMen have scheduled a work day at Reeves Rogers to help spread mulch
Our biggest plan yet? On October 30th, St. Mark’s UMC and Reeves Rogers PTO will sponsor a combined Fall Festival at Reeves Rogers. Since the school’s opening three years ago, it has not been able to afford a Fall Festival on its own. More than 1000 persons are expected! We are excited about the opportunities this event will provide for our communities to grow toward one another.
Bishop McAlilly’s theme for our 2016 Annual Conference in June was “Offering Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.” Reeves Rogers is St. Mark’s neighborhood. It is a place where we can welcome and love children in Jesus’ name, a place where we can do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, and a place where we can be Christ. From a Deacon’s perspective, this partnership provides endless opportunities to connect the ministry of the church with the needs of the world. I give thanks for all those who give of their time and resources to deepen and expand this relationship and make these special events happen between school and church, and I pray God’s continued blessing upon St. Mark’s as we seek to be Christ in our neighborhood.
Martha Touchton, St. Mark’s UMC
St. Mark’s is changing lives, along with so many of our churches across the Nashville area that are participating in Church & School Partnerships. Not only are these community servants helping children academically, but they are touching hearts, lifting social and emotional needs, and giving hope where there was none previously.
Dr. Gilbert closed her email with these words, “Proud to be a United Methodist.” I, too, am proud to be a part of a Church with a history of a heart for education.
Thank you St. Mark’s! And thank you to our many, many other United Methodist churches that are choosing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in local schools…providing miracles for children…putting faith into practice…yielding fruit.
If you would like ideas about ways in which your church can partner with a school, please visit PartnerToday.org.
Posted: October 6, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
As is the case in any organization, a church’s ability to develop, articulate, and implement its core values is critical to fulfilling its mission, vision and purpose. One dictionary defines a core value as a “principle that guides the organization’s internal conduct and its relationship with the external world.”
A church that effectively develops, articulates, and appropriates its core values can remain clear on what it believes about itself, and focused on what God calls it to be and do.
Core values essentially speak to:
- Identity. Who we believe we are.
- Theology. How who we believe we are fits with God’s vision for us.
- Action. How we will act on what we believe about ourselves.
As a church plans to engage in ministry, its core values are a key mechanism for keeping the church focused and on track.
As part of a strategic planning process several years ago, Epworth United Methodist Chapel in Baltimore spent a considerable amount of time in discernment, clarifying its core values in light of its history, present realities, and hope for the future. Epworth Chapel’s strategic plan states that: “As a church, our values stand at the core of all that we are, all that we do, and all that we seek to become as the people of God.” The seven core values Epworth Chapel named are:
- Prayer. Public, private, and communal prayer is central to all that we do.
- Excellence. We strive to offer God and one another our best in all that we do.
- Hospitality. Everyone we encounter should receive radical hospitality, a friendly and open welcome, and all persons are to be treated as full participants in the body of Christ.
- Justice. We are committed to a vision of society where every individual has equal access to the resources, opportunities, benefits, and protections that society offers, and where every individual is treated with dignity and fairness.
- Family-focused. We affirm and support the building of strong families as we model what it means to be the family of God.
- Nurturing. We are committed to supporting and encouraging each other, and providing opportunities for all persons to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
- Diversity. We believe that there is strength in welcoming and accepting persons of all ages, genders, races, abilities, orientations, identities, and nationalities — all God’s people — into the church family.
Core values can serve three critical purposes for a church. In a planning process, they provide a reflective mechanism for the development of church-wide goals and objectives. They can be used to judge whether a new ministry opportunity fits the church’s values. And they help individual church members live out their lives as Christ-followers.
Epworth Chapel has implemented our mission and vision statements with careful consideration to our core values. And, we give prayerful and careful consideration to new opportunities for church and community engagement that align with our core values. For instance, Epworth Chapel has developed an ongoing partnership with one of the elementary schools in its community. As this ministry opportunity fit our core values, the church embraced and implemented it.
A church that effectively develops, articulates, and appropriates its core values can remain clear on what it believes about itself, and focused on what God calls it to be and do.
This article is reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, a free e-newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and available at churchleadership.com.
Posted: September 29, 2016 Filed under: Bishop's Blog
If your church communications are not working well, the advice in this article might help!
Ryan Holck, an expert on church communication, says that leaders tend to throw so much information at their congregants that nothing sticks. There’s also a tendency to use insider language while never addressing what people really want to know: “What’s in it for me?” He shares some simple fixes for these common communication challenges.
We’ve got great ministry ideas, and we’re working hard to connect people, but something isn’t working. We assume the issue is the event or a lack of interest by the congregation. More often than not, the issue is actually a communication challenge. There are simple fixes to these communication challenges.
1. We Say Too Much
Congregations have limited bandwidth. We spend all week thinking about our ministry plans, but they haven’t. When we throw everything at them at once, nothing sticks. A typical listener can only take in so much information before they shut down and stop listening.
If your church is struggling with communication, don’t worry. Do this one simple thing: Say less, with greater clarity, in ways that connect with people.
The solution is to be intentional about what we share. Pick the top three to four things in the life of your church and share about them well. This is best done with a calendar so you aren’t caught off guard as events approach.
A good rule is that a ministry opportunity needs to relate to 50 percent of those in attendance for you to share about it in worship. If it doesn’t, you should find ways to share with just the people who need to hear it. For example, you would announce an upcoming women’s retreat, since it relates to 50 percent or more of Sunday morning attenders, but not a men’s woodworking class, which could be shared with interested people in other ways.
2. We Only Talk to Insiders
I recently found a “secret menu” for In-N-Out Burger, a California-based fast food chain. The menu includes creative ways to take their basic ingredients (burger, fries, and drinks) and switch them up. I’ve been going to In-N-Out for more than 20 years and had no idea that I can get grilled onions on my burger and my wife can have a Lemon-Up — a combination of lemonade and 7-Up. Why didn’t we know? Because they haven’t printed the information on the menu board. The menu is so simple; you have to know what to ask for or they will serve it like they always have.
Unfortunately, we treat our church guests much the same. We assume they understand the context of our church, and they do not. We announce events in ways insiders understand but guests don’t. For example, “Join us for Bible Study on Wednesday in the MPR.” Guests need to know more.
The solution is to answer the questions guests would be asking. Who is this event for? What time is it occurring? What is the full name of the location? Where would I find this room? Can my kids come too? So for example: Life can be confusing! Join our adult Bible study as we talk through practical ways to gain wisdom and understanding. Wednesdays, 7 pm, Main Office Lobby. Child-care is available by reservation.
3. We Share Details with No Heart
The power of the Gospel is its ability to connect people to God. These are people who want something more from the life they are living and don’t want to waste time on trivial things. Our guests come to church each week, and we fill them in on all the “exciting ways to get involved.” But they don’t connect.
Why? Because they approach every opportunity, subconsciously or not, with a mental question: “What’s in it for me?” They want to know what makes this opportunity something worth considering, and boring announcements with event details aren’t enough. People are hungry for the solutions God offers. It’s our responsibility to show them.
The solution is to highlight the benefit of attending and participating. Go beyond the details and present examples of life change in your ministry. Look at previous attenders, congregation members, and your community. Share the way God has used the ministry in the past and the difference it can make for those in similar situations.
One Simple Rule
If your church is struggling with these church communication mistakes, don’t worry. There is hope. You can reverse the trend by doing one thing:
Say Less + With Greater Clarity + In Ways That Connect With People
Do this consistently, and you will see growth in your congregation. Neglect it, and you will struggle to connect and retain new people.
This article is adapted from “3 Top Church Communication Mistakes and How to Fix Them” on the Church Tech Today website, June 3, 2016, and used by permission.
This article is reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, a free e-newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and available at churchleadership.com.