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Wisconsin Delegation Statement

The Wisconsin Annual Conference delegation to the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church affirms the need for our denomination to seriously consider necessary changes to its structure, its leadership development and credentialing processes, its financial stewardship, its faithfulness, and its relationship to the larger global church. We acknowledge and appreciate the hard work done thus far by our bishops and the various agencies and study teams to produce The Call to Action, the Study of Ministry, the Interim Operations Team report, and other proposals for change within The United Methodist Church, but we have reservations that the current recommendations will not produce the intended results.

Wisconsin Delegation Statement.

The Unclean

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

There is a man who panhandles in front of my home. “Jim” can be found working the South Street traffic several times a day. When I ask him, “Jim, how’s your day been?” his response is measured by the generosity of the passers-by. A “good day” means he has collected enough money for a couple of fast food meals. We do not give Jim money; we do provide a cup of coffee each morning he is present and occasionally some food. He knows we are safe space. He has thanked my wife and me for talking to him, treating him like a person, not ignoring him.

Weather extremes – severe heat and cold – seem to take the greatest toll on Jim. Under such an extreme he once agreed to allow me to contact on his behalf Central Intake for the city’s homeless services. I made the phone call. I don’t know who was more cynical and distrusting of the other, Jim or the intake worker. In the end, Jim declined to go and the worker declined to concede that the person he was supposed to be helping would be anything less than manipulative and deceitful. For each person, their prior experiences drove their assumptions about the other.

As Christians we have a great deal of difficulty trusting Jesus. We resist relinquishing control of our lives to God. And we know better. We know from our experience the value of doing so, we know and understand the good that comes from this. And yet we are reluctant to concede control.

www.ianpollock.co.uk

Leper Cured - copyright Ian Pollock

So why would we expect that people who have no job, no source of income, no healthcare, no place to call home – why would we expect them to trust and relinquish the little bit of control over their lives to a “system” that contributed to their current state of life? Our failure as a society to recognize the value of human life and treat other people with dignity, as Jesus did with the leper in Mark 1:40-45, contributes to the isolation and oppression. It is a form of rejection that sustains an “us and them” mentality.

***

From time to time I find myself feeling as though Jim takes advantage of us, that he is not doing “his part” to improve his circumstances. I become resentful. Cynical. Recorded in John 13:34, Jesus tells his followers to “love one another as I have loved you.” That is, without conditions, stipulations, expectations; accepting them and their plight, just as they are. Just as I am.

Leaving the Boat

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I love the story described in Matthew’s Gospel (14:22-33) of Peter stepping out of the boat in response to Jesus’ command, “Come”. It is a dramatic climax in response to fear, anxiety and uncertainty. I have often thought of this in light of my own call experiences.

He, Qi. Calling Disciples, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity LibraryToday’s biblical lectionary passages include two other “boat stories” that sit in stark contrast to one another.

Jonah had to be thrown out of the boat, and struggles to the very end to let go of his self interest and pride.

By contrast, Simon, Andrew and the Zebedee brothers asked no questions, offered no excuses or resistance, leaving everything behind, followed when Jesus called.

How will you leave the boat when God calls? Before you answer, think about the fact that it’s not just your life which is transformed. You want to make a difference in the world – your town or the global village? If these stories are any indication, getting out of the boat with Christ just might be a good place to start.

 

Image: He, Qi. Calling Disciples, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.  http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46099 [retrieved January 22, 2012].

Categories: Christianity, Discipleship

Planning Consultant Available for Churches

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

What consultant did your church use when it engaged in the most recent strategic planning exercises? Courtesy of Duke Divinty’s Call and Response blog

Spiritual discernment is messy, often slow and extremely complicated. Most churches want neat, quick and simple. Spiritual discernment begins by admitting we do not have the solutions. Spiritual discernment invites thinking, praying and reflecting at a level that most of us studiously avoid.

Read the full article from EthicsDaily.com:  Why Strategic Planning for Churches Wastes Your Time

What Action Are We Called To?

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Recommended reading and consideration for the United Methodist’s, and applicable to the future of all mainline denominations, Ben Gosden asks, “What Are We Doing Here?: Questioning Our Methodist Mission”

…of the Call to Action statement offered by the Council of Bishops – It’s a major structural change that seeks to address the excess and inefficiency identified as a primary source of our “lack of vitality.” But just as the Methodist church has done before, it adopts major practices from the American culture to find a source of providence. The structural changes promise a priority on the building of congregations. We’re no longer to be a connectional church as much as we’re called to be a collection of churches. But the problem is, as far as I can tell, we still don’t address our lack of vision and self-awareness.

From Ben’s blog, Covered In The Master’s Dust

Radical Hospitality as Evangelism

Here’s the best thing I have read this week and I encourage you to read it as well:

Ben Gosden writing in “Covered in the Master’s Dust” poses the following in his post How Radical Hospitality Can Become a Recipe for Colonial Evangelism:

“Radical Hospitality is one of the distinctive marks that identifies us as Christian–we accept and love people without pretense. It is a practice marked by humility and generosity. But what happens when we abuse the practice of radical hospitality?”

Ben goes on to raise concerns about a distorted view of radical hospitality being used by the church as a means for increasing attendance and participation in the church, that the church may be losing the vision of practicing Christ-like hospitality for its own sake.

You can read the full article here.

The Summer of My Enlightenment – Part Two

The ministry of compassionate anonymity sits in stark contrast to “selfism.”

Serving this summer as a hospital chaplain, I was often anonymous. I was known by my role, my title, “Chaplain,” not by my name. I was present with another human being in their moment of crisis, their moment of pain, their time of fear, their overwhelming grief. When their experience defied understanding because of their lack of faith, or because of their faith’s rigidity, I was present. When they were without hope, I was present. Regardless of whom they were, their tradition, orientation, ethnicity, or age, I was present.

Among the revelations of this summer experience was recognition of the gifts of the Creator: that what I have described and will describe herein are events and attributes, and most notably opportunities, given by God.

There were moments when I prayed great prayers. There were times when I was speechless. There were occasions when words were not needed.

There were experiences of spiritual connectivity, moments when I was a conduit between patient and God, because I was present. And there were more times than I can count when I was profoundly blessed, fortunate to be in that particular place at that specific time. Yet in each of those special moments, it was not about me. This is the meaning of Mark 8:35 – I experienced the presence of God in relationship with another person, when I was fully present to that other person to hear their expressed need, disengaged from my own wants and needs.

My relationship with other people, be it my wife, family, colleagues, friends, patients or parishioners, must be grounded in my relationship with God. This, too, became profoundly evident this summer. I had little strength from The Source to minister to the needs of others if I did not care for and cultivate that spiritual relationship each day. I had few resources to be present and listen to people if I was not taking the time to be still and listen to God. In the hospital environment, “self care” was a mantra, repeated frequently. Yes, we half – joked that it was “self care” because no one else would take care of you. But the reality is that we do need to take care of our spiritual selves, nurturing our relationship and understanding of the Divine Presence in our lives, in order to be effective ministers to others, for that is our purpose for being.

This ministry of compassionate anonymity resonates with me. It reflects my understanding of Christ’s call to feed, clothe and care for those among us who are in need.  It embraces social justice issues and ministries, just as it does local programs and services. Yet, one does not need a program or a cause to compassionately and anonymously minister to others. And it definitely contrasts with the selfism of our culture and cautiously, our church. For we do not compassionately care for those who need us in order to get a reward; we don’t do it for ourselves, our benefit, but rather because our neighbor needs us, and we can respond.

Most significantly, the ministry of compassionate anonymity captures the essence of a 21st century life transformed. It’s not about me.