A Season of Transition

It is a season of transition. I have had the opportunity to serve as the preacher at Berryton United Methodist Church since July 1, 2018. On Sunday, I announced during worship that I have received a new appointment from Bishop Ruben Saenz to serve as the pastor at Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church in Topeka beginning July 1, 2019. I will miss the good people of Berryton and am grateful for the care our family has received from both the church and community. I look forward to meeting the people of Susanna Wesley, learning more about the ministries, traditions, hopes, and dreams of the congregation, and continuing to reach the mission field with the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. I am also looking forward to learning from Rev. Maria Campbell who has served Susanna Wesley faithfully these past seven years!

The Staff Parish team at Berryton UMC has been in conversation with our District Superintendent, Rev. Kay Scarbrough, about who will be appointed to serve as the next pastor. We will share that news when it is available. Will you take a moment to pray for our community, congregations, Bishop, District Superintendents and our family?

If you would like to get or stay connected with me, here are a few ways:

I am committed to making this transition in the best possible way, including saying goodbye, grieving, finding away in the “in-between” space, saying hello, and engaging new beginnings.

Annual Review for Clergy – District Superintendent Version

As a United Methodist clergy person, part of my annual routine is a conversation with my District Superintendent about life and ministry. My conversation with the Topeka District Superintendent, Rev. Kay Scarbrough, is next week and thought you might be interested in the written responses which I provided in advance. I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, or opinions about what you read here.

How is it with your soul – personal celebrations and concerns?

My soul is better today than it has been in some months. Our family has navigated our transition to the Topeka area relatively successfully. I have been intentional about creating space in my weekly routine for work, family, and recreation. I have maintained a commitment to a practice of meditation, reading the Bible in a year, and spending time in prayer each day. I have also recommitted to my practice of running, including registering for four half marathons in the appointive year ahead.

Review your ministry during the past year – accomplishments? frustrations? areas for improvement? (If you are in first year of setting, you can either share about previous setting or skip this question.)

One of the key accomplishments in my ministry during the past year was leaving First UMC El Dorado as well as possible. I was able to create space for the congregation and our family grieve what was ending and to be intentional in preparing for what was ahead. An area for improvement is engaging a wide variety of stakeholders when making significant changes in the life and ministry of the congregation.

Describe the opportunities in your current mission field / community – needs to meet? affinity groups to reach?

One of the key opportunities in my current mission field is to connect families with elementary-age children into meaningful community to grow in their faith. There are a number of these families who are present in worship, though are not yet connected with either Sunday school or other small group opportunities.

There is also an opportunity to share a balanced approach to faith with the community which includes the evangelical and social gospel and sees good in both sides in many theological and social issues. This could be most effective when offered in ways that comes alongside the day to day life of families and does not demand that they adapt to the logistics of practicing faith that have been effective in previous generations.

I believe that there is also an opportunity to coordinate the outreach and discipleship efforts of congregations in the Shawnee Heights school district to more effectively connect with the community. I am hopeful that the work of our network will be able to catalyze connections for youth and adults across the community.

Share your plans / priorities for the coming year in leading your congregation(s) to greater vitality (or to the next phase in its life cycle). (If you are in first year of setting, the 100-day plan will suffice for this part.)

One of my priorities for the coming year is to strengthen lay leadership and equip current leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders. I hope to make progress in the communication tools to reach both the current congregation and surrounding community. I plan to help the congregation improve financial practices for annual giving and to develop a plan for long-term vitality of the congregation.

What specific assistance do you need from the DS or the conference to realize your goals? to be effective/fruitful in ministry?

The DS and conference can assist by providing as much clarity as possible about future organizational changes and shared initiatives for Great Plains United Methodists. Also, encouragement, institutional backing, and, perhaps, financial support to experiment with new ways of organizing to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the wold.

100 Conversations in 100 Days

Today is my 32nd day as the preacher assigned to Berryton United Methodist Church. It has been a wonderful journey of learning, sharing, and welcome. I am so grateful for the warm welcome that we have received from the congregation and community. One of the ways that I have been learning about the congregation is something that I am calling 100 Conversations in 100 Days.

I hope to share a one-on-one conversation with 100 people so that I can hear their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the church and community. My hope is to get this accomplished in my first 100 days, which gives me until October 8. As of today, I have four down and ninety-six to go. If you live in the Berryton area, would you be willing to share a conversation with me about the church? Visit www.calendly.com/AndrewConard and click on “100 Conversations” to set up a time to meet.

I have been updating and adapting questions from Eleven Questions for Getting to Know a New Congregation. Here is the original list:

  • Tell me about a time when you felt especially proud of some members or leaders of your congregation, when you felt they were really following Christ. What makes this incident stand out in your mind?
  • Whom do you especially respect as leaders? Why do you hold them in high regard?
  • Tell me why you’re glad you are a member of this congregation. Why did you join this congregation instead of another one?
  • How has being part of this congregation helped you and members of your family grow in faith? Please give me some examples of experiences or classes that made a difference. How did you change?
  • Tell me a story about when congregation members resolved a conflict or difference effectively. What do you think the congregation learned from this experience? How effectively do leaders and members handle differences now?
  • What have you especially valued about your pastors and other congregational staff? (Be specific.) Do any sermons, initiatives, or attributes of your previous pastors come to mind?
  • Tell me about a time when you were disappointed with members or leaders. What happened?
  • Complete this sentence: “God is calling this congregation to be …”
  • What do you think God wants your congregation to emphasize in the next three to five years?
  • What else do I need to know in order to thrive in this congregation and community?
  • Do you have any other concerns or suggestions?

What strategies or techniques have you used to learn about the congregation and community in a new appointment?

The United Methodist Church in April 2017

One Preacher’s Congregational Guide

Several of you have mentioned the recent articles (hereand here) in The Wichita Eagle about the United Methodist Church. You can find the most up to date denominational news here. In this article, I hope to share some background information, explanation of current events, and what might be next for our denomination and congregation.

Division in The United Methodist Church

For decades, there has been division in our denomination about how to interpret the passages in the Bible related to same-gender relationships. Our official position both recognizes God’s grace and the sacred worth of all people, and also considers the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching. The denomination does not currently allow for the ordination of lesbian and gay persons or for United Methodist clergy to officiate at same-gender marriages. However, there are a number of clergy, annual conferences, and jurisdictions which in practice, statement, or resolution have deteremined to ignore the portions of the Discipline which cause harm to LGBTQ persons.

As a global denomination, there are faithful United Methodists around the world that find themselves with different understandings of what it means to be faithful in these matters. Within the United States, there are congregations which find themselves in different places, as well as individuals within particular congregations who would find themselves to disagree.

An Episcopal Election and the Judicial Council

The current news is connected the election of a bishop last year. In June, Karen Oliveto, who was the pastor at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church at the time, was elected bishop by the Western Jurisdiction. She became the first married lesbian bishop in our denomination and assigned as Bishop of the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Conferences.

In the closing moments of the South Central Jurisdiction, there was a petition to the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church which made their April 2017 docket:

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the South Central Jurisdictional Conference concerning the application, meaning, and effect of ¶¶ 304.3, 310.2d, 341.6, 2702.1a), b), and d) of The Book of Discipline 2012 in regard to the nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment as bishop of a person who claims to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage or civil union.

You can find the official document here (PDF) or their entire April 2017 docket here.

A Ruling and Next Steps

The Judicial Council is expected to issue a ruling on this question on Friday, April 28. My understanding is that after the ruling Karen Oliveto will either beBishop or not be Bishop. No matter what ruling the Judicial Council issues, there will continue to be pain, division and disagreement in our denomination.

On April 24, the Council of Bishops called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23–26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference will be “limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward — a 32 member team appointed to lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality and examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options to strengthen the unity of the church. You can find the full press release here.

In 2019, the official position of the denomination will stay the same, become more accepting or something else entirely. There may continue to be a United Methodist Church, the denomination may dissolve or two or more denominations will form consisting of congregations of the current United Methodist Church. There are likely even more options.

Next Steps for First UMC El Dorado

There are faithful people within our congregation who disagree about these matters. This is similar, perhaps, to many United Methodist congregations across Kansas and Nebraska. So, what does this all mean for our life together as First United Methodist Church in El Dorado?

What it means is that we will continue to welcome all people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ as we worship grow, give, serve, and share.

We will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We will not create barriers for those who seek to live a faithful life as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.

It is an interesting time to be a United Methodist.