UMC

Have you heard this one?

Baptist: How many disgruntled members does it take for your church to change the pastor?

Methodist: Oh we don’t have to worry about that. They change themselves.

 

Unscrupulous people now invite us to believe that hidden cabal or deep state is conspiring to take away our guns, jobs, or daughters. Once we accept one lie it is easy to believe another. This death spiral has ruined the brilliant minds in the past and now may take ours.

Church is a gathering of people for prayer, study, and worship, who relate to each other and the world as Christ desires.

The Supreme Court’s action yesterday to rule Federal definitions of marriage unconstitutional has profound implications for every American congregation, and especially those who are small fellowships and/or members of the United Methodist Denomination. The United Methodist Church has a General Conference rule -- in a sense a “Federal act” -- threatening those clergy who officiate in gay marriages and civil unions with the defrocking. The word “officiate” is not too well defined and in local circumstances can be extended to mean participation or recognition. I found the wording that Justice Kennedy used to explain the court’s action profound:

This week, a ground hog will be pulled out of his hole and see, or not see, his shadow. People from as far south as Atlanta, will want to know if Phil predicts an early spring or six more weeks of winter. The ground hog’s statistics were in the paper today and they were dismal. Over the last ten years, you could spit on a rock and toss it in the air and have a better predictor of the upcoming weather. Fortunately, ground hogs are only good eating when they are young, so there isn’t much interest in shooting old Punxsutawney Phil. I have come to believe that most pastors are equally lousy at predicting the particular  missional calling of the church they serve.

     Most churches and businesses find it helpful to do exit interviews with employees who are leaving their post for whatever reason. If done with an open attitude, these meetings provide meaningful insights into the health of the organization and spotlight areas of needed change. They also help the departing individual find closure. If you are an exiting church employee or layperson stepping down from a key leadership role, you should request an exit interview. The people you meet with should not just include your supervising committee (PPRC in UMC), but also the other staff and church leadership who understood the nature of your work.

For all that has been,

Thank you.

For all that is to come,

Yes!

All across our country, school districts are in an uproar over metrics. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, they are short 200 teachers for this week’s first day of school. Why? Because the state has adopted a Metrics system which evaluates teachers on the performance of their students in standardized tests. Perhaps, the United Methodist Church should observe this mess before we wade deeper into using metrics (statistics, such as the change in church attendance) to evaluate pastoral performance. 

 

    In the United Methodist Church, decisions to move a clergy person from one church to another are usually made during Lent. This habit has many practical advantages, and one glaring fault. It disrupts the key spiritual process of Christian life. Lent is the process of moving from ashes to fire. We do it in our personal lives, as we embrace the fact of our mortality on ash Wednesday, follow Jesus to the cross, experience grace on a gut level, carry his body to the tomb, have our hope renewed by miracle, then rediscover the ways we are each called to utilize the fire of Pentecost.

Recently, I have been serving on a small advisory committee relating to a remote branch of the United Methodist Church’s largest agency (The General Board of Global Missions). It’s like being on the tip of the tail of a very large dog. My experience had led me to believe that the dog is heading in the wrong way. When once our priority was to bring the love of God to the most marginalized people on the planet, our new direction is to preserve the institution of Methodism at all costs. Unfortunately the dog (GBGM) reflects the way our church is going in general.

 

One of my favorite TV shows is Love It or List It on HGTV. The show begins with unhappy homeowners explaining how their current home doesn’t work for their family.  The show has two hosts, a realtor and a contractor, that promise to rescue the family from their housing dilemma in opposing ways. The contractor, takes the lists of complaints the family has about their house, and with a limited budget, sets about to fix each item. The realtor takes the homeowners on a tour of another house which meets all of their expectations and they can afford to purchase.

"On the Pulse of Morning" was written for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993. It cautioned the new leader to think first about the long view of history.

  You know how you pass those signs saying “Leaving City Limits of…”? Today I realized that I had left the holiness movement. My denomination (United Methodist) has a rich tradition of seeking personal holiness above all else. The Holiness Movement, which began in Wesley’s time among anabaptist groups, rose in prominence in the American religious scene throughout the 1800s, then lost favor to the prosperity gospel of the 1960s. Until the new millennium, I considered myself a holiness preacher. More than my colleagues, I emphasized the need for Christians to lead lives that grew more holy each passing day. Today, I saw the last hint of that attitude fade in my rear view mirror.

I find that when I step back from my ministry and look at the church as a whole, I am always humbled. All United Methodist clergy persons do their daily tasks within the boundaries of a parish to which they are duly appointed. We are never free agents. This field of service lies within a particular district and annual conference. It is within these three concentric circles (parish, district, conference), that you must demonstrate your promise and fealty to the United Methodist Church. For some period of your career, you may be asked or elected to serve the general church and/or to engage in mission work beyond the borders of your parish.

I believe that John Wesley’s vision for the Methodist movement can be boiled down to two foci, or what I like to call vectors. When he sent his preachers out, he said, “You have nothing to do but to save souls.” This is the New People Vector that I dealt with in last week’s blog. It’s an exclusive priority.

Football players learn something called the Two Minute Drill. This is a package of plays for the two minutes before halftime and the final possession of the game. These are the game’s most valuable seconds. United Methodist clergy need a similar package of plays for the days that follow a call from a cabinet member concerning a new appointment. If you don’t have a personal action plan prepared, it’s easy to feel out of control in this hustle-to-move-the-ball time.

Back in the 1970s, Loren Mead identified “Five Developmental Tasks” for transitional leaders. In the next few weeks, some of you will be moving to a new church and/or your church may be recieving new leadership. These five tasks provide a check list for healthy transition:

 

1) Help the congregation come to terms with its History.

Why did Kodak die? The simple answer is that people stopped buying film. Besides the world’s most famous film, Kodachrome, Kodak made darkroom chemicals and papers. Today, when photographs are printed people use inkjets. There are those who would fault Kodak’s leadership with not shifting full time into the digital camera market or becoming a leader in providing paper and ink. This is worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. Kodak has enjoyed great leadership. They would need a leader like Harry Potter to take on Canon, Nikon, or Epson.

In last week’s blog I stated that the repeal of DOMA (DOMA and the UMC) is a game changer for clergy who are being asked to officiate at gay ceremonies. While individual clergy may still wish to set higher standards and restrict who they will unite in marriage, the denomination can’t exclude a whole class of people without good reason. It would be like the United Methodist Church saying to me that I couldn’t perform marriages for people over 70 years old because they were unlikely to procreate.

Bill: When a married United Methodist clergy is up for a change in appointment, how much consideration should be given to the spouse’s career?