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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.

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 One

I had to travel to the other side of the world to see what was in my own backyard.

Back in May, the Christian churches our group visited in Korea were mission focused. By that I mean that each congregation defined what area of ministry was most important to them and built their programs and services around that targeted focus. Some churches worked to relieve hunger, housing and basic material needs in the impoverished inner city. Another was focused on contributing to a better educational environment, while another adopted social justice as their mission field. In each congregation, fellowship and nurturance were still an essential component of their internal community support, but they clearly defined and articulated how they lived out their discipleship within the larger community.

In China, we learned that there are no evangelism campaigns, no “revivals,” and no televangelists, yet people flock to join Christian communities and congregations. Despite a cultural and political environment where proselytizing is not tolerated, there is a growing awareness of the church and a desire to participate. So what’s the attraction? A simple credo: love your neighbor as yourself. As Christians engage in providing for the basic material needs of their fellow citizens, the recipients of that care and compassion are drawn to the source of that care. “They will know we are Christians by our love” might be the motto of a socially engaged, charitable communion of saints.

In both countries, the disciples of Christ organize themselves around accepting people where they are: where their interests and resources are, and ministering to the Others at the point of their need – be it food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, empowerment or fellowship.

Recently I have read several articles on the “selfism,” as Episcopal Bishop Scott Benhase refers to it, American’s fixation on ourselves. This flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching, recorded in Mark 8:35 (NRSV): “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” A recent article by Harriett Baber in the British guardian.co.uk calls attention to the correlation between a declining Christian church in the U.S. and a growing focus on “self-help” programs in those very churches. And writing in The Huffington Post, author Skye Jethani observes that Americans have extracted from the Bible, and applied to our daily lives, the “Christian principles” that allow us to proclaim ourselves as Christian without committing ourselves to a lifestyle of discipleship. Hear again Mark 8:35, this time from the Message translation: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.

These observations about who we are and what we want as noted above are within the Christian church. We are supposed to be different! We are to be the voice crying in the wilderness to go a different direction, one where the destination is an improved quality of spiritual life, not a greater quantity of life’s things. All too often it seems we have been co-opted, absorbed by the larger materialistic, success – oriented culture instead of maintaining our responsibility to represent the marginalized and serve “the poor” (those with out).

I recently heard a seminary colleague proclaim that he “wanted it all” – success measured by achievement, recognition and material goods. I wanted to share that I once had possessed a lot of “it” and found my self still lacking the quality of life I desired. And I wonder if the mainstream denominations which are moving towards evaluative processes based on “measuring success” by the weekly attendance and offering numbers are institutionalizing “selfism,” becoming culturally compromised and losing effectiveness.    

(In Part Two – I’ll come off the soap box to share the experiential aspect of my summer of enlightenment)

God’s Vulnerability

July 9, 2011 1 comment

There is an article in Time magazine this week entitled “The Pessimism Index.” The writer reports on a recent poll of Americans in which we noted just how gloomy our future appears. One sentence caught my eye: that we are feeling a “sense of inevitable vulnerability.”

Inevitable vulnerability. Unavoidable helplessness. Certainty of exposure.

In our interpersonal relationships we speak of vulnerability Read more…

What if there really is just One God?

June 18, 2011 1 comment

What if there really is just One God?

Christians tend to believe this – that there is just one God. But so do Muslims. And Jews. Some Hindus believe there are multiple expressions of a single god. Buddhists don’t follow a specific deity, but don’t necessarily deny that there might be one.

So what if there really is One God,  Read more…

Separation Anxiety?

Words of assurance for you, and for me:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.                Romans 8:35-39

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that keeps God’s Love away from any one of us. Put another way, God’s Love is given to every one of us.

We are called (instructed, directed by Christ himself) to love one another just as Christ loved us (John 13:34). Therefore, we are to exhibit, communicate, and proclaim by our actions the never ceasing, all – welcoming love of God to everyone. Period. End of Sentence.