Posts Tagged With: United Methodist Church

Another Question re: Homosexuality

Question:  Will you perform same-sex marriages?

I can assure you I will not marry another man nor woman.  I also will not marry an adulterer who does not recognize his/her sin and has through the power of the Holy Spirit overcome it. I also will not marry someone I know who is an abuser. When I do marriage counseling, there are basically three questions that will be answered by the end of the counseling: 1. Is she going to still marry him 2. Is he still going to marry her and 3. Am I still going to marry them. As pastors, we are held to a higher standard. One that’s even higher than the supreme court…God’s judgement. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely.” I believe that.

I also believe as Shane Idleman wrote much more eloquently than I could, “A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claiming to be. Wolves don’t often attack wolves, but they do go after sheep. They bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often, by telling people what they want to hear (cf. Jeremiah 23). They provide layers of truth mixed with error, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16b).

Also, if the day comes where I am required by the United Methodist Church to perform these marriages, the sound you will be hearing will be my feet leaving the UM Church.

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Should United Methodist Pastor’s Perform Homosexual Marriages?

In light of recent events and discussions regarding marriages of homosexual persons performed by United Methodist Ordained Clergy, I have been asked regarding my position on this subject.  So, in this blog I will make an attempt to state my position with grace and steadfastness to my personal faith.

Is homosexuality a sin? 

It is my belief that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings.  Yes, I believe it is sinful.  However, I believe that all humanity is broken and we are all guilty of sin in whatever forms it presents itself.

Should United Methodist Ordained Clergy officiate homosexual weddings? 

No.

Every United Methodist Clergy took a vow at their ordination and said yes to the following question:  “Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?”  To which every ordained clergy answered, “I will, with the help of God.”  So, each clergy has vowed to “accept our doctrine and discipline.”   This doesn’t mean we have to agree with it nor is it a requirement that we have to like everything in the doctrine and discipline…however, we have vowed to accept it and defend it.

The 2012 United Methodist Discipline states: “¶ 341.6
Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

This is the rule of the United Methodist Church and if a clergy or a bishop officiates a wedding, they have broken their vow.  What does the willful and intentional breaking of one’s vow taken before God in a worship service say about said clergy’s honor?  We also don’t have the privilege of a “Line Item Veto” where the clergy can pick and choose what parts of the Discipline they will uphold and live by.  We vow to uphold and live by all the “doctrines and disciplines” of the church.  If a person cannot do that, then they should pursue another avenue to live out their calling. 

Each year as a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry, I ask the question of Candidates for the Ordination of Elder, “Will you itinerate?”  Like it or not being itinerate is part of our church.  If the candidate refuses to be itinerate, he or she should not be a United Methodist Ordained Elder.  I believe the same is true as to someone who is so opposed to the UM stance on conducting homosexual marriages and are willing to violate the Discipline and their Ordination vow.  It’s simple, this is the rule of law within the church, you’re taking a vow to uphold and abide by that rule and if you are going to refuse to minister by that rule…DON’T TAKE THE VOW!

It all comes down to a choice for the clergy and clergy candidates

–       Can I take a vow to “accept and defend” something I may not like or am opposed?

–       Will the rule of the United Methodist Church keep me from ministering in a way I feel called?

–       Will I break or maintain a vow that I have taken before God?

If you disagree with church doctrine, there are other options rather than violating a vow and just breaking the rules.  One can move to change the doctrine using the appropriate channels and means that have been laid out.  You can change to a denomination that better fits your theology and beliefs or one can always turn in credentials.

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Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s Brave Response

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I (along with all the clergy and many lay members who are on the Bishops e-mailing list) received the email posted below regarding a retired UM Bishop who plans to marry a homosexual couple in Birmingham.  I want to say how proud of the leadership of Bishop Deborah Wallace-Padgett.  Her response to this event is certainly to bring her under attack from within our church in addition to those outside our church.  I stand with her and for her as she leads our Conference in a way that is first and foremost Biblical (Old Testament and New Testament) and is in accordance with our denominational rule of law found in the 2012 Book of Discipline. 

Read the post on the North Alabama UMC website by clicking here. 

Below is her e-mail to clergy and laity:

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Dear Clergy and Lay Members of the North Alabama Annual Conference,

Good things are happening in North Alabama. I am appreciative of you and your ministry. You are making a difference in your churches and communities.

I want to share with you my press release in response to an upcoming event planned by two North Alabama lay persons and a bishop from another region in the country. I have urged the bishop to not officiate at the event which centers on a complex issue that is polarizing our society and church. The anticipated media coverage of this event will test our capacity to remain focused on our vision, mission and priorities that have emerged over the past year. Please join me in committing to stay focused on the mission of the United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Thank you for your prayers for all involved as well as your leadership and ministry.

Blessings,
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett

 


Press Release

A retired United Methodist bishop from another region of the country notified me that in late October he plans to travel to North Alabama to officiate at the celebration of a ceremony of a same-sex couple who were recently married in Washington, D.C.  Though the couple are members of a United Methodist Church in the North Alabama Conference, the celebration will not take place in a United Methodist Church.  I urged the retired bishop to reconsider as his officiating at this ceremony would be in violation of United Methodist Church law.

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church, not a retired bishop, represents the United Methodist Church around this and other social issues.  It is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. The General Conference of the United Methodist Church meets every four years.  The most recent General Conference took place in 2012 and consisted of nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world.

Our 2012 Book of Discipline affirms that all persons are of sacred worth and that God’s grace is available to all. Every person is welcome in our churches.  It also states that we consider the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching. Our ministers are not permitted to conduct ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions or perform same sex wedding ceremonies.  For a bishop or any ordained or licensed minister to disregard a law of the church creates a breach of the covenant they made at their consecration, ordination or licensing.

As a Bishop of the United Methodist Church, I am committed to abide by and uphold the Book of Discipline (church law) of the United Methodist Church.

This statement is for release in its entirety with no redactions.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
North Alabama Conference

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Guaranteed Appointments Eliminated

Guaranteed appointments for Elders in the UM Church has just ended.  Click HERE to read more.  And I have noticed an increase in Facebook chatter responding in a negative way, which I don’t understand.  Let me explain…

I worked in the corporate world (or as some church people call it, “The Real World”) from 1993-2002.  I worked for several companies including

State Farm Insurance

State Farm Insurance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automatic Data Processing and State Farm.  These were both very “good” and high paying jobs. They also had one thing in common…I was expected to produce and be effective.  If I was not effective and did not produce, it was not long until I knew I would be out of a job.

I was a Fire Claim Representative for State Farm.  I was trained for months before going into the field.  I was sent to Bloomington for 3 weeks one January to learn the policy.  [Believe it or not, if someone failed the policy exam, they were escorted back to the hotel, watched while they packed, put on a plane and sent home (without a job).] When someone’s house burned or was damaged and they filed a claim with insurance, I went out and assessed the damage, took measurements, wrote an estimate and then issued a draft.  I usually worked about 30 claims per month.  Each of those approximate 30 claims had the possibility of being re-inspected by someone. (The Farm actually has a “re-inspector” position and all they do is go out and make sure you did the claim according to standards.)  The re-inspector retook all the measurements and gave us a 1/2″ allowance to be off.

Each quarter, every Claims Adjuster had a performance review in which our re-inspections were reviewed with management.  These quarterly performance reviews determined if and how much of a raise we received.  If the adjuster had consistently bad reviews, it would result in termination.  In other words, my job security was performance based and not guaranteed!

I was dumbfounded when I entered into the ministry and discovered that not only did pastor’s NOT have performance reviews to see what kind of job they were doing but also had GUARANTEED APPOINTMENTS.  We have one of the most important duties and we are not held accountable???  I really could not believe it.  However, in the pulpits, most ministers will preach on accountability yet we don’t seem to want anyone to hold us accountable.

I have and have always had (gonna make some of my teacher friends mad) a problem with tenure.  The biggest problem with tenure is mediocrity.  You have a job regardless if you do it well or not.  (I know some are going to say that it prevents teachers/preachers from being fired over what they say or teach, but let’s be real!  We have way more problem with ineffective teachers and preachers!!)  Can the system of Performance Based Employment be tainted? YES.

To be effective and fair, the United Methodist Church is going to have to institute the following or something close:

  • Clearly defined performance goals so the Bishop, DS, BOOM and Clergy are on the same page.  These goals need to be individualized for each clergy because every church is different.
  • Regular performance reviews.  These means the Bishop/DS/BOOM or other is going to have to be in the business of every local church and pastor on a higher level and more routine level
  • Develop policies for helping pastors who are not performing to expectations and a process leading to termination if expectations are not met.
  • A check and balance system so that one person cannot just arbitrarily fire a pastor.

I know this can be strange and somewhat scary. I like knowing that I’m going to have an appointment no matter what! But tenure/guaranteed appointments are not the answer.  This leads to ineffectiveness, mediocrity, laziness and the stats of the UM church don’t show we as pastors are doing our jobs in reaching great masses of people for the Kingdom.  Right now as it has been, a pastor can go play golf 5 times a week, preach on Sunday and be guaranteed a pulpit.  That’s the larger injustice.

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“All In”

When we read a sermon title on “Stewardship”, we know we are going to hear about giving our money to the church.  The “money part” is often couched within the other aspects of living a life of faith.  As members in the United Methodist Church, we vow to be faithful with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  A sermon on stewardship in the Methodist tradition correctly admonishes us to be good stewards in all of these ways.

Often we limit stewardship to the amount of money we give.  Traditionally and from Old Testament mandates, one tenth is the standard given for a tithe.  As New Testament Christians, we are under a new order, a new way of being faithful.  No longer is the Old Testament our only standard for living.  Now we live by the standards that Jesus Christ has set.

One example of Jesus teaching his disciples and us about giving is found in Mark 12: 38-44. He warned the disciples to “Watch out for the religion scholars.  They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.”  Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.  Many of the rich were making large contributions.  One poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together.  All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”  The Message. Eugene H. Peterson

You will not find any standard percent of giving discussed by Jesus in the New Testament, rather he does talk a lot about how we give and why.  The story of the widow’s mite shows us two things:  how not to give as demonstrated by the religion scholars, and how to give as demonstrated by the widow.  No doubt the religion scholars gave their tenth and did it out of an arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical heart.  The widow, on the other hand, gave a measly two cents.  Jesus compares her giving to theirs and calls her giving extravagant, sacrificial, and all of what she had.  She gave 100%!!

The widow reflects another standard of giving that is at the core of our being as people of faith and that is the standard set by Jesus himself.  Jesus gave his all—100% even unto death.  He gave his life willingly, out of love, and of course he gave sacrificially.

Nowhere do I find in the New Testament that Jesus will be satisfied with a tenth of who we are or what we have.  He wants all of us—100%.  When we are really understanding stewardship as Jesus taught us, we are “all in”.

Our percentages of giving in dollars may vary, but our commitment to discipleship should not.  We are all uniquely gifted by God to serve and follow him.  In order to be good stewards of what we have been given, we must seek ways to be faithful in all aspects of living a life that produces fruit for the Kingdom.  We ask ourselves,  “Am I 100% committed to the “body of Christ” with my prayer life; my faithfulness in attending church; my gifts, both monetary and spiritual; my service and ministry to others; and, my witness, sharing with others what Christ has done for me”?

Chances are we will not be perfect in our 100% commitment, but we can certainly strive to live a life of faith dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.  Ask yourself, “Am I ‘all in’ “?

Rev. Nancy Cole is an ordained Elder serving in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church as the Coordinator of Natural Church Development and Coordinator of Disaster Recovery.  Nancy entered seminary after a thirty-year career in education where she was a teacher for 18 years, and a psychometrist and guidance counselor for the last 12 years.  She is married to Steve Cole and has one daughter, Tammy,  two sons, Jason and Bo, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Before being appointed to Connectional Ministries in the Conference, Nancy served churches in Harpersville, Mignon, Tuscaloosa, and Gordo. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John Wesley, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Transforming “I Will”

On a clear, cool Fall Sunday morning a young family makes their way to the altar of a local United Methodist Church.  They had been attending the services for three months.   After conversations with the pastor, and prayerful consideration, they made the decision to become members of the congregation.  As they approached the chancel rail of the church the pastor met them with a smile.  He asked them to face the congregation as he introduced them.  Then he asked them to re-affirm their commitment to Christ by remembering their baptism, and promising to be loyal to the the United Methodist Church by doing all in their power to strengthen its ministries. [UMH, page 37-38]  After their re-affirmation of commitment to Christ and the church, they were asked the traditional question that is asked of all who join United Methodist congregations.  “As members of this congregation will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?”  (UMH, page 38)  Their response was the same response every United Methodist has given as they began their discipleship journey.  “I will.” 

Each time a new member makes that commitment in our congregations, we as United Methodists, are challenged to renew our commitment and join their voices with a resounding, “I will.” 

It all begins with the promise:  “…will you faithfully participate in ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?”  Your response of “I will” is the first step in an incredible Wesleyan journey to fulfill the core purpose of your congregation.  How can each person faithfully fulfill their church’s mission of making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ?  They begin in prayer, and continue by being present in study, worship and fellowship.  They celebrate their giftedness from God by being faithful financial disciples.  They become the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world, and proclaim the word of God both spoken and lived out in a world that hungers for the love of God.

Conversations about stewardship and giving are viewed by some in the church as taboo.  If giving is mentioned only once or twice a year in a congregation, there is often an admonition that “all we ever do is talk about money” at church. Giving is often viewed as “too personal” to be discussed at length in the church.  By making stewardship and giving a forbidden subject Christians give money a mysterious power outside the bounds of theology.     In essence it is given god-like tendencies.  The truth is that stewardship is more about spiritual growth than financial strength or weakness.  It is time that modern Christians celebrate their role as financial disciples of Jesus.

The celebration of financial disciples begins by establishing a healthy theology of stewardship or giving.  Everything we have comes from God, and living out that giftedness in the world is vital to responsible discipleship.   Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke were both a truth and a challenge.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34, New International Version]  The treasure that a Christian posesses is a gift from God to be activated in love from the heart.  The theology of giving is best lived out in the church in three ways.  First, as an act of worship.  Both the Old and New Testaments talked about the offering of our gifts in the context of worship.  Most of those vignettes were in the temple, and were clearly acts of corporate worship.  Secondly,  giving is an expression of faith.  Not only does the Christian recognize the generosity of God in the bountiful gifts they receive, but also in the giving of those gifts they faithfully fulfill God’s purpose in the world.  Finally, stewardship and generosity are a spiritual discipline.  It is easy for modern Christians to have a serious disconnect between faith and money.  A healthy theology of giving helps us remember that our stewardship is about spiritual growth.  William Sloane Coffin began a stewardship sermon at Riverside Church in New York City with the following introduction:  “I have not come today to raise money for the church, I am here to remind you who you are.”  Stewardship and giving are not transactional.  Giving should be transformational for the church, for the world, and most of all of the faithful financial disciple of Jesus.  “I Will”,  these two simple words in response to God’s call in our lives can transform our lives, our church, and our world for Christ.

Article written by Rick Owen.

Rick has over 35 years of experience working with churches and non-profit boards. His passion for visioning, strategic ministry planning, functional- and gift-oriented board structures, leadership development, and the creation of cultures of innovation are refreshing in the world of churches and institutions. He is an experienced teacher, preacher and presenter in a variety of settings. He has served as a minister in churches from 15 members to 4,500 members; he has taught philosophy, ethics, Old Testament and New Testament on the college level, and currently works with leaders, boards and pastors as a strategic ministry coach. He has served on a number of church-related and community boards, and is committed to the vision of empowering people to live out their vision and purpose.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dissension in the Church

 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16 NIV

I’ve been around a great many churches in my life and career.  I have found that so many people have been hurt in the church.  In most of these it seems that someone said something, did something, didn’t say something or didn’t do something and this hurt someone else.  The person who is hurt will usually do one of the following:

  • Leave the church
  • Allow their hurt to seep out to others in the congregation

What this does is creates dissension within the walls of the church.  This is very dangerous and is the playground for Satan.  The prince of darkness loves it when Christians begin to quarrel with one another because it takes their focus and the focus of the church and places it on something besides the Great Commission. Thus the warning from Paul to the Philippians, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”

Is this really possible?  A church without some sort of dissension seems like the exception to the rule.  However, IT IS POSSIBLE.  How do we get to that point?  Well, Jesus gave us a plan to deal with problems in the church.

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” Matthew 18:15-17 The Message

A three-point plan to prevent dissension/arguments/hurt feelings within the church.

  1. Go and tell the person who hurt you or your upset with.
  2. IF he doesn’t listen, take one or two others along and try again.
  3. IF he still won’t listen, tell the church.

In our churches today, there is way too much skipping of the first step.  As pastor, when someone comes to me with a complaint against another congregation member or a staff member, the first thing I ask is, “Have you talked to that person?”  Most often the question is no.

The main reason people get hurt and leave the church is a lack of communication.  Skipping step number 1.  Jesus made this one number 1 and I believe he was a pretty smart man.  If we’re Christian, why do we just jump over the first step when most disagreements can be solved at this point? Let me assure you that anonymous letters, talking with other congregation members or just holding it in and staying hurt or mad will NOT help the situation.

Please, allow me to encourage you to open up that line of communication with everyone in the church.  If you have an issue with something a fellow member, staff or if the pastor has said, not said, done, or not done something, please go to that person with your concerns.  If he/she does not listen, then go Step 2, then if it is not resolved go to Step 3

It seems that someone is always upset with the pastor. It’s okay because the way to avoid that is to try to make everyone happy.  When pastors try to make everyone happy, they lose focus of their true calling from God.  I had one of my pastor mentors tell me, “Don’t spend time worrying about the complaints that have come from someone on behalf of the person who is complaining.  If they won’t talk to you one on one, you’re not going to be able to make changes to their satisfaction and it takes your focus off the important stuff.”

Open up your communication and there WILL BE less dissension in our churches and can you then imagine what God can accomplish for the Kingdom!

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, John's Rant (opinion) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Outside the Wall’s

The teachings of Jesus say that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  He was the greatest model of someone being a servant to others.  This is completely contrary to a worldly view where we are taught to put ourselves first.  Becoming inward is something that happens quickly in our personal lives and our churches.

As individuals, it’s a very easy process.  We have an unexpected bill come in and just this once we use our offering to cover it.  Pretty soon we find ourselves not giving any offering and we have become internal. All about me.

Churches can also have this happen. In our church situation, we have come out of huge hole and have gotten our head just above the water.  It would be very easy to direct all of our focus on ourselves.  I don’t want this to happen.  Last Sunday, I challenged our congregation to begin looking and planning as to how we could give of ourselves outside our local church.  We have a budget of $260,000 which essentially pays our bills.  We are not doing what God has called us to do if we relax and just meet this budget!  We must be on a mission to budget for more than just ourselves.  What if we committed to 10% of our yearly budget for missions or is it too much to ask for the church to devote 20% ($52,000.00) of our budget to serve others?  What if we decided we were going to take $26,000.00 and start a food pantry? Or a battered woman shelter? Or provide school uniforms in a 3rd world village so their children could go to school? Or buy $26,000.00 of mosquito netting for people in Africa dying from malaria.  Can you imagine brainstorming on how to use $26,000.00 or 56K to serve others?  I can.  I see it happening and I see Union growing from it.  I know we can do it, so let’s focus our prayers and our efforts to achieve this!!

Our youth have already started doing just this.  They are using their offerings to sponsor a child through Compassion International. I challenge our church to follow their example.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, John Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

4 Reason I Love the UMC

I’ve been a United Methodist all my life and I realized in seminary that I was a UM not only because of my life-long membership.  It was because I truly believed in the theology and doctrine of our church.  Do I agree with it all, no.  But here are some reasons that I love the UMC

  1. We Baptize Infants. We believe that the grace of God extends even to the youngest.  Even those who are so young that they have no inclination there is a God, God still loves them and showers them with grace.
  2. The Communion Table is Open.  Everyone is invited to feast at the table of the Lord who love him, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with each other.  It doesn’t matter how much money you make, where you are from, what your race is or your age…you’re invited to the table.
  3. Our Connection. We are a connectional church which means that all of our churches are part of the larger church.  This gives our ministries greater effectiveness throughout the world.
  4. Accountability.  There is not a Lone Ranger sense being a pastor within the UM Church.  I understand that I’m going to be held accountable to the church through the Staff/Parish Relations Team and to the larger church through the District Superintendent and the Bishop.  In North Alabama, a new focus is being put in place to monitor a pastor’s effectiveness and there are some who are upset about this.  I’ve never worked for an organization where I didn’t have review, goals and quota’s.  Why shouldn’t we as pastors expect the same accountability?
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Connectional Giving: World Service Fund

The World Service Fund is the heart of our denomination-wide ministriy, underwriting Christian mission and ministry around the world.  This fund strenghtenes our evangelism efforts, stimulates church growth, expands Bible studies and enriches spiritual commitment. By giving to the World Service Fund we help God’s children everywhere shape the lives of tomorrow’s leaders and proclaim our Christian faith.

The World Service Fund truly demonstrates the Mission of the United Methodist Church by:

  • Supporting specific local church work with children, youth, students, persons who are mentally and physically challenged, adults and older persons;
  • Providing leadership and coordination for denominational ministry with youth;
  • Continuing nearly 200 years of commitment to quality college and graduate education;
  • Certifying United Methodist professional Christian educators, communicators and musicians;
  • Assuring United Methodists speak and work to help encourage a more ethical, just and human world;
  • Continuing a proud tradition of cooperation and dialogue with other faith traditions through interdenominational and ecumenical work;
  • Giving our denomination a presence in the mass media and making new communications technologies accessible to the church.

Click HERE to learn MORE

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Connectional Giving: Children’s Home

Last week, I started my effort to put our connectional giving into a new light.  As I wrote earlier, some people view this as a church tax or “big brother” taking our money and this could not be further from the truth.  Our connectional giving is one of the great things about being United Methodist.  It is all of our churches uniting together for the good of the Kingdom.  Through our connectional giving we are able to do so much more than we could accomplish as a single church.

This week, I want to focus on The United Methodist Children’s Home (click here). Many people do not know that a portion of our apportionments directly go to support the UM Children’s home and their budget is based upon our giving.

I am so proud to say that the United Methodist Women of Union are giving $300.00 to be used in our Connectional Giving specifically for the UM Children’s Home.  PRAISE GOD!! This amount is above and beyond what we are asked to give to the home but I’m sure the excess will be put to good use for the children.  Why is $300.00 above and beyond what we are asked to give?  Because with Connectional Giving the amount needed is spread over some 860 churches.

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Connectional Giving

As a pastor, I have heard many people’s opinion on Connectional Giving (apportionments) within the United Methodist Church.  (For those who are not UM, we are a “connectional” church, which means that all of our churches are connected under the banner of the District that the church resides in.  The District is part of the Conference and the Conference is part of the General church.)  The opinions have ranged from being unfair and to a tax on local churches.  I believe that some of these opinions are formed due to not having an understanding about what Connectional giving actually entails.

As a pastor, I believe that ONE of the signs of spiritual maturity is giving of one’s resources (money, time, resources) to God.  It is Biblical that as disciples we give at least 10% of our earnings back to God.  Is this because God needs our money?  NO!  It’s because money can so easily become lord of our lives and God’s desire is to be first in our life, not our money.  I believe Connectional Giving is one of the signs of spiritual maturity in the life of a church.  It’s a way for us to give back to God a portion of the blessings He has given to us.  That reason alone should be reason enough for all UM churches to strive for 100% connectional giving.  However, I want to (over the next several weeks) share with my readers how what we give is used.

One of the ways that our givings are used is to fund the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF).  The MEF is used to help people who are called to go into the pastoral ministry fund their seminary education.  In my own career as a minister I can tell you that there would have been no way for me to go to seminary without MEF.  Not only was I able to go, I was able to graduate with next to no student loans.  Praise God and thanks to all the churches who paid their apportionments.  I owe a great deal of my seminary education to them.

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1st 90 Days

Here is a great article regarding the new program within the UM Church which focuses on the first 90 days of a pastors new appointment.  It’s well worth the read.  Click Here to see the article.

The program has been adapted from the book “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins and has truly been helpful in getting me as a pastor and the church on the same page regarding mission, vision, dialogue, expectations and communication.  I highly recommend this book and I’m thankful that our Conference is serious about giving churches and pastors the best tools in order to succeed.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Leadership | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Big Day Today! BOOM Interviews are OVER

In 2000, I began a journey to become an Ordained United Methodist Minister. It was the beginning of a long, long road which has been filled with  excitement, sadness, and a great deal of hard work.  However, it has been worth it!  It has been an amazing adventure and today was (hopefully) the last hurdle that must be cleared.  Let me give you a timeline of how this worked:

2000  Informed my pastor (Jerry Sims) that I was interested in the ministry.  After meeting with the District Superintendent, I was assigned a mentor (Dallas Culver) who helped me explore my call.  This process can take anywhere from 6 months to two years depending on the individual.  As I was working for State Farm full time, I took my time doing this.

2002  In February, I went to License School at Camp Sumatanga to receive my license to preach.  It was there that I first met Robert Mercer.  Robert has become one of my best friends and I think he is one of the finest people I know.  We would later be roommates in seminary.

In June 2002, I was appointed as a Student Local Pastor to Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Decatur.  The people of Chapel Hill are some of the best people in the whole world.  They gave me the ability to grow as a pastor.  I listen to some of my Chapel Hill sermons and think, “Those poor people had to sit through this horrible sermon.”  Their encouragement  and support helped me become the pastor that I am today.

In August 2002, I began Memphis Theological Seminary. I did not want to go  and hated the fact that I had to go back to school.  However, this became one of the highlights of ministry career.  Being in this environment truly helped me grow in my spiritual walk like never before.  It was some of the best years of my life.

In January of 2005, I was appointed Latham United Methodist Church in Huntsville.

In May of 2006, I graduated from MTS.

In February of 2007, I went before the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) for interviews in regards to being Commissioned.  The three main areas of focus are Theology and Doctrine, Called and Disciplined LIfe, and Practice of Ministry.  My total paperwork for this was close to 70 pages.  Then went to Camp Sumatanga for the interviews in each of the three main focus areas.  I was commissioned a Resident in Ministry.

In the Fall of 2007, I completed Level 1 of Clinical Pastoral Education at Huntsville Hospital.

In the  Fall of 2007, I also began work on starting a new church called The Bridge.

Late summer and early Fall of 2009, I began working on the paperwork for the BOOM in regards to Ordination and turned this paperwork in to the Office of Ordained Ministry in November.

The final step of this long process (hopefully, explain more about that in a moment) happened today when I met for interviews with teams having the same focus as the teams for commissioning.  This was different though.  Now they were looking not as much at my theology, but how do I apply it in the course of my ministry. I found this to be a very affirming process and one that while stressful was very rewarding.

Once you reach this point, there are several options the BOOM can take.

  1. Vote to ordain you.
  2. Not approve you and give you another year to be brought back for the same process next year.
  3. Completely reject the Resident
  4. The BOOM also has other things that can be done such as elaborating on answers contained within you paperwork.

This is the end (hopefully) of ten long years in this process and if all goes well, I will be ordained an Elder in the Methodist church during Annual Conference in June.

Categories: Church | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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