This morning, I met with a group of clergy colleagues in what is a regularly scheduled gathering. Today we shared, reflected, grieved, considered the future and talked about what and how to best share with our local congregations the events of General Conference. I shared an image of the disorientation that I am feeling in response to the passing of the Traditional Plan…
It’s like I am driving our minivan down the highway. I am making progress toward my destination. Everything seems to be running pretty well. We are on the way. I stop to refill the fuel tank and pick up some snacks. As I get out of the vehicle and start to head inside the convenience store, I take a look back and suddenly, it’s not my the minivan. It turns out that it is a truck.
Wait a minute… What?!
I thought I was driving toward a destination and all of a sudden, I realize that I have been driving inside a completely different vehicle. What happened to the familiar surroundings of the vehicle with which I was familiar? What have I been driving all this time?
The re-affirmation of the Traditional Plan three times over – in the prioritization, in legislative committee, and in the plenary session of General Conference 2019 is confusing. I thought that I have been part of a denomination that is moving toward full inclusion throughout the entire life of the church – albeit slowly and hesitatingly. Yet, the evidence of the voting demonstrates that this is not true – at least not on a denominational level. It is frustrating to find that the United Methodist Church turned away from greater inclusion. Yet, it also illuminates the truth: There is a need action in new ways, with creative approaches, and bolder vision. I don’t yet know what this looks like, however I want to help figure out what’s next for a more inclusive church.
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 light and life.
Choose to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God is with us.
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.
As a pastor, I have the great honor of being part of some of the most significant events in the lives of people. One of these is when a couple is joined together in Christian marriage.
Premarital appointments with a couple are crucial as they create the opportunity to:
- Get to know each other
- Plan a service of Christian marriage that makes sense for them
- Offer coaching or help around areas of concern for the couple
- Share guidance from marrying and counseling couples
I am in my ninth year as an appointed pastor in the United Methodist Church and during that time I have officiated at thirty-seven services of Christian marriage and currently have four scheduled in the next twelve months. I have developed this template for four premarital appointments. While I will continue to develop it, I wanted to share my current version with you.
Feel free to use and adapt in whatever ways are helpful for you. I hope that this is helpful for you in ministry.
What have you found to be effective and helpful in meeting with a couple before they are married?
One key to restarting this blog is to more actively listen to others who are writing to similar audiences. Since the death of Google Reader, I have not kept up with blogs. Last week I downloaded Leaf – The News Reader and have subscribed to the following blogs:
Great Plains Conference Bloggers
Around the Connection
I feel that this list is sorely inadequate, having been relatively inactive in the Methodist world online in the past few years. I am especially interested bloggers in the Great Plains Conference. What blogs do you recommend? Maybe yours?
As a leader there is value in spending time both:
- On the balcony – getting a big picture perspective removed from day to day responsibilities and
- On the dance floor – accomplishing day to day tasks to make progress as an organization.
Spending time in either location can be productive, however you cannot spend your time in one place or another.
As I have entered into a new leadership setting – as pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS – I have found that it has been particular important to make sure that I spend some time on the balcony. The day to day responsibilities of transitioning into a new role can overwhelm the time needed to take a breath and reflect on the big picture of life and ministry. As I prepare to begin my fourth month in this appointment, I have been making progress on spending time in both places.
I have started my third month serving as the pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, Kansas. It has been fantastically busy, fun, exciting and full of opportunities and challenges to have a baby, move to a new home and start serving as the lead pastor at a new congregation in the past three months.
While I am still continue to make the transition to our new home, it is time for me to start blogging again. I know, it has been months. However, I plan to begin with a few posts a week and see how it goes. While I have a lot of ideas about what to write about on this blog, I want to write what would be most interesting, helpful or intriguing to you. So, what will it be?
What would you like for me to write about on this blog? What would be interesting to you? What would you want to share with others? I am looking forward to beginning this blogging adventure with you again.