Andrew Conard

Willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the church’s mission, vision and plan

A Response to the Charleston Church Shootings

Over the past few days, I have continued in prayer for Charleston. I want to share a portion of my response to the Charleston Church Shootings which I preached this morning at First United Methodist Church. I believe it is important and inadequate. You can find the entire sermon and manuscript online here.


Let me be clear:
God never intends us to choose evil.
The Charleston Church Shootings were not part of God’s plan.
Racism, murder and tragedy will never be God’s will.
Evil is never, ever God’s plan.

Each one of us has choices to make every day.
We choose between good and evil.
We choose between forgiveness and resentment.
We choose between light and darkness.
The choices that we make – both big and small lead us closer to God or further away from God.

Choose good.
Choose forgiveness.
Choose light and life.
Choose to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God is with us.

The Lost Son, Older Brother and Running Father

Jesus often tells parables or stories which teach us something that is true about God, about us and how God and humanity interact. Here is one of them from Luke 15.

This is the story of a man who had two sons

“The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’” This would have been what he would have received after his father died. Essentially, the son is saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead.”

He takes this money, travels to another state and blows it all on wild living – sex, drugs, and parties. He utterly enjoys himself, until one day he realizes that he is out of money. Completely.

“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything.”

Then, he remembers that even the slaves in his Father’s house were better off than he was right then. He sets off for home with a script in mind – “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.”

“So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him.” He throws a feast and a great party for this son that has returned.
His old brother complains to his father – “‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’

Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”

This story paints a picture of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. The very same love and forgiveness that is available for us today.
As United Methodist Christians, we believe that God is at work in the lives of people before they recognize it. God was working in the life of the son, even at the beginning of the story when he asks his father for his share of the estate.

God loves us even when we are sinners.

God offers us forgiveness, even though we don’t deserve it.

We can decide to live as followers of Jesus or of our own way. It is that moment of clarity for the son there with the pigs. Life doesn’t have to be like this.

We confess our sins, receive forgiveness, trust in God and seek to follow Jesus. We are set free from the slavery of sin and are free to live as slaves to God. We are made right with God and begin to grow in love of God and neighbor.

Then, we seek to follow after God all of our days. We grow to perfect love of God and neighbor with the spiritual practice to worship, grow, give, serve and share. When we use these spiritual tools, we come closer and closer to God and care more deeply for our neighbor.

By God’s grace, it is possible for us to be delivered completely from slavery to sin and death and live completely as disciples of Jesus Christ. The amazing thing is that to live in this way, it takes people who know what it is like to live as slaves to sin. The only ones qualified are the ones who have experienced God’s grace and forgiveness.

The good news is that Jesus Christ sets us free from sin to live a holy life today.

The opportunity to live a holy life and to receive God’s forgiveness is available today. It is available for you and for me. All we have to do is ask.

Praying for Charleston

The only response I can manage right now to to a story like this in the New York Times, is deep sadness, anger and prayer.

  • “A gunman … opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest black churches, on Wednesday evening, killing nine.
  • Police arrested the suspect in Shelby, N.C., a town east of Charlotte and just north of the South Carolina state line.
  • The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator, was killed, according to the minority leader of the State House of Representatives.
  • The police said the other victims in the Charleston church shooting were six women and two men.
  • The Charleston police chief, Greg Mullen, called the attack a hate crime.”

It is senseless…

Will you pause to pray?

12 Key Leadership Traits of Effective United Methodist Pastors

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver. Bishop Hagiya of The Pacific Northwest Conference who shared his dissertation research results around the question: “What traits, qualities, or characteristics, if any, do highly effective and successful United Methodist Church ministers exhibit specifically in regard to growth of their churches when compared to less effective United Methodist Church ministers?”

From in-depth interviews in response to this question, Bishop Hagiya found:

12 Key Leadership Traits of Effective United Methodist Pastors
  1. Excel in Emotional Intelligence
  2. Excel in Transformational Leadership – They see the gifts in others, name & cultivate those gifts, and unleash these gifts and people into the ministry & community
  3. Possess a deep well of faith in a Triune God, from which spring their values, behaviors, attitudes and decisions.
  4. Have a passion for their work in ministry, and are engaged and focused in their work.
  5. Possess a deep humility that stems from their allegiance to a higher authority & calling.
  6. All have mentors who have shaped their formation, leadership in ministry and provided trust and counsel.
  7. Demonstrate entrepreneurial traits and behaviors.
  8. Excel in oral & written communications. They are some of the top preachers of their annual conferences.
  9. Demonstrate resiliency in their personal & professional set-backs, and attribute such resiliency to their faith life and practice.
  10. Have a personal vision, and that vision does have an impact on the larger vision of the church where they serve.
  11. Understand systems theory and organizational development.
  12. Adapt to and are impacted by the local church’s situation and context.

You can download a PDF of Bishop Hagiya’s  full presentation here.

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections and Next Steps

This week I was part of the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver. After some reflection, I want to share some possible next steps for me and for our Board of Ordained Ministry. Here goes…

Next Steps for the Board of Ordained Ministry

  • Have God’s eyes for big possibilities
  • Consider process changes to encourage and identify highly motivated, self-starting, creative and entrepreneurial leaders.
  • Be steady in purpose, but flexible in strategy. -Gil Rendle
  • Continue commitment to change and diversify
  • Be intentional in language used around the candidacy process – What do we do? Why do we do it?
  • Focus on telling the story of the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry – not the stories of the Board from our former conferences.
  • Explore ways to recruit before self-selection as a candidate
  • Identify the small changes which would make the biggest difference in changing the dynamics of the Board.

Next Steps for Me

  • Have God’s eyes for big possibilities
  • Actively engage as a lifelong learner, i.e. D. Min, conferences, reading, etc.
  • Be part of addressing the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities of being a global denomination with a democratic polity.
  • Consider additional opportunities to serve at the annual, jurisdictional and general conferences
  • Look for ways to further develop my:
    • emotional intelligence
    • understanding of systems theory
  • Continuously look for the gifts in others, name and cultivate those gifts, and unleash these gifts and people into the ministry and community.
  • Seek out those who would mentor me and those who could be mentored by me.
  • Recognize that deep change means surrendering control.
  • Identify the small changes which would make the biggest difference in my leadership in the local church
  • Seek both mastery and originality

Will you please share your thoughts, feelings and opinions about these lists? What changes could be most helpful for the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry? How might I best improve my work as an Elder in the United Methodist Church?

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 4

Today was the final day of the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver.  We had the opportunity to hear from two groups presenting on Identifying Critical Issues for General Conference. For each we heard a presentation and had the opportunity to follow up with table conversations on both the Global Discipline and Study of Ministry.

As the presenters were speaking about the questions the teams were facing, tentative recommendations and potential legislative proposals, my brain started to hurt. I am amazed at the complexity and implications that are involved in considering issues.

One of the attenders named a blog post from Bishop Tuell which sums up the issue for me:

The United Methodist Church has undertaken a bold challenge in the way we govern our denomination. We are the only major Christian church in the world that seeks to do two things: (1) Be truly a global church; and (2) be a church that is truly democratically governed by its ordinary lay and clergy members. The Roman Catholic Church is global, but obviously does not pretend to be democratically governed. Other major Protestant churches are all essentially national churches, though some are bound together by loose international ties.

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 3

Yesterday was Day 3 of the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver.  In the morning we heard from two different panels  with Val Hastings, Founder and President of Coaching4Clergy as Moderator.

Panel 1: Developing Effective Leaders

  • Fred Allen, National Director, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century
  • Ted Campbell,  Associate Professor of Church History, Perkins School of Theology
  • Gail Ford Smith, Director, Center for Clergy Excellence, Texas Annual Conference

Panel 2: The Role of Supervision in Developing Effective Leaders

  • Bishop Cynthia Harvey, Louisiana Episcopal Area
  • Rev. Dr. Tom Choi, District Superintendent, California-Pacific Annual Conference
  • Rev. Dr. Candace Lansberry, District Superintendent, Desert Southwest Annual Conference

In the afternoon we were divided among table groups with a mix of people both geographically and in role (Board Chair, Vice-Chair, DS, etc.). We were given case studies of situations which a Board of Ordained Ministry may face and engage in conversation and reflection about what actions, motivations and next steps. In the evening, we went out to eat as a Great Plains team with one of our Iliff seminary students.

Here are some of my takeaways from the day:

  • Many early Methodist leaders would likely have faced significant challenges moving through the process with a Board of Ordained Ministry today.
  • Regarding the divide / friction / boundary between cabinet and Board of Ordained Ministry:
    • It is common across many annual conferences.
    • The Judicial Council decisions around this matter center around fair / due process.
    • Agreement around a common goal can significantly dissolve anxiety and build trust
  • Systems, processes and strategies are bound by time and place. They are not effective forever.

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 2

Yesterday was Day 2 of the BOM Mid Quad Training Event in Denver. The morning was a back and forth between presentation from Bishop Hagiya of The Pacific Northwest Conference and conversation in response at our tables with others from our annual conference. In the afternoon we self-selected into affinity groups for conversation and the evening brought jurisdiction meetings.

I found Bishop Hagiya’s presentations to be the most significant part of Day 2. Here are some of the highlights:

The Changing Context of Ministry – Download full presentation (PDF)

  • The world around us has changed.
  • Our United Methodist Church must change and diversify.
  • Expectations of Clergy
    • To create a culture of growth and outreach for the local church
    • To move from a culture of maintenance to transformation and discipleship making

A Systems Approach to Clergy Effectiveness – Download full presentation (PDF)

  • “Be steady in purpose, but flexible in strategy” – Gil Rendle Adage
  • We must foster a culture of innovation and risk taking.
  • What we must discover through experimentation and innovation are the new strategies that will fulfill our mission
  • Bishop/Cabinet must be aligned with the Board of Ordained Ministry
    • Bishop and Cabinet – Appoints and supervises; How many and what type of clergy are needed
    • Board of Ordained Ministry – Credentials, commissions, ordains; Determination and selection of gifts and graces

Leadership Traits 
of High Effective United Methodist Pastors – Download full presentation (PDF)

  • Research Question: “What traits, qualities, or characteristics, if any, do highly effective and successful United Methodist Church ministers exhibit specifically in regard to growth of their churches when compared to less effective United Methodist Church ministers?”
  • There was significant correlation between high effective clergy and
    • emotional intelligence
    • church size and vitality
    • self-ranking (humility)

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 1

This week I am Denver for the BOM Mid Quad Training Event. The event is designed around the theme of Excellence in Ministry and is designed to help annual conferences make progress on the systems contribute to recruiting, supporting, nurturing, and holding clergy accountable. I am here in my role as Treasurer and member of the Call team of the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry.

I had to put my seminary brain back on to catch up with Randy Maddox as he began his talk yesterday. I appreciated the depth of his presentation about the historical and theological underpinning for excellence in ministry in the United Methodist Church. It is pretty incredible to be in the same room with Bishops, cabinets and BOM teams from across the nation.  I am looking forward to the rest of the event and bringing back new possibilities for sustaining and expanding excellence in ministry in the Great Plains.