Archive for June, 2012

 

 

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Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

 

The View from Here

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | By Mike Coyner
Filed in: Michael Coyner, The View from Here

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“Walk, Walk, Walk” – June 19, 2012

My granddaughter Leah is only 17 months old, but already she loves to go for walks. In fact one of her favorite pleas is to look at us with her beautiful blue eyes (her name Leah actually means “beautiful eyes”) and to ask, “Walk, walk, walk,” She wants to go outside and not just walk but run down the sidewalk. Of course we have to watch her carefully to keep her from veering into the street, and it is actually hard to keep up with her. Her little legs really move!

 

I like her spirit, and I believe she is reminding us that the Christian life is a walk, a journey, a following of Jesus and his ways. Sometimes I read various blogs, websites, articles, and books which seem to imply that being a Christian is all about having the right set of beliefs. I am sure there is some truth to that. After all, as one writer has said, eventually we must decide whether Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or a Lord when he gave us his commands and spoke about his own role in bringing in God’s Kingdom. It is not enough to know about Jesus, we must come to know and believe the truth of Jesus.

But certainly being a Christian is more than just a set of right beliefs. The most common invitation of Jesus in the Gospels is: “Come, follow me.” He does not say, “Figure out who I am” or “develop a right set of beliefs and an impressive theology.” He does not even say, “You must have complete faith.” No, he says, “Come and follow me.” Or in the words of my granddaughter Leah, “Walk, walk, walk.”

The invitation of Jesus is an invitation to come along with him on the journey of faith, to learn along the way, to be tested, and to be stretched (after all, walking is good exercise). To follow Jesus is to walk with him, to discover that he is the way, the truth, and the life.

Want to be a Christian? Then put on your walking shoes and get going. Don’t wait until it is convenient or understandable. Don’t wait until you think you are worthy, and for God’s sake don’t tell anyone else on the journey that they are not worthy – if Jesus invites them, that’s good enough. Just get going. Follow Jesus.

And “walk, walk, walk.”

Mike Coyner

Bishop Michael Coyner

 

 

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Making Life Matter

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

 

 

John and Kim Reisman

John and I leave for some time away to celebrate the completion of my PhD. He deserves a nice trip given all he’s had to put up with these past few years and I am grateful he loves to travel! What’s Your Next Step will be a bit quiet until I return; however, there will still be posts from The View From Here and Making Life Matter.

Thanks for your continued support of Next Step and I’m excited about what the future holds as we work together for the Kingdom.

Peace,

Kim

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral, Durham, England

 

 

2012 IN AC logoAt the Celebration of Ministry Service at Annual Conference in Indianapolis last week, I was struck again by how we in the Methodist tradition continually strive to invoke the Holy Spirit upon the life of the church and upon those who are to order and lead it: in the midst of conference and bishop, in the call to itinerant forms of ministry and accountability, we confess how dependent we are upon the Spirit to share in the mission of the whole church. I was struck by the way we are to order our lives not simply toward God but toward one another, and by the way our guiding vision always takes a particular shape during a particular time regardless of the challenges. It was a grace-filled moment, to be sure, but also a reminder of the true end to which Christ calls each of us.

In a letter to John Smith on June 25, 1746, John Wesley, in reflecting on the Methodist movement, wrote, “What is the end of all ecclesiastical order? Is it not to bring souls from the power of Satan to God? And to build them in his fear and love? Order, then, is so far valuable as it answers these ends; and if it answers them not it is worth nothing.”

Wesley’s quote captures the deeply missional thrust of the people called Methodists: a church’s pattern of organization and authority – or polity – must be oriented toward the church’s mission of saving souls or making disciples. How we order our lives must somehow support that basic mission. As Wesley would say elsewhere:  if we can’t find ways to organize the church toward these ends, then we might as well let the devil win!

As United Methodists we have spent a great deal of energy over the years trying to align our organization more purposefully with our mission. As historian Russell Richey of Emory University has stated, Methodists have always tried to develop appropriate structures that would sustain and nourish their mission depending on the era. What have remained constant over time are those elements that have been distinctive to Methodists from early on: conference, episcopacy, itinerant ministry, and forms of accountability. While these aspects do not provide a full account of Methodist polity, the loss of any of them would diminish something unique to the Methodist way of sharing in God’s mission.

To be sure, it’s a tall order to keep these four elements together, especially during a time of historic transition. It would be easy, for example, to fall into the trap of wanting to do away with one of these principles at the expense of another. It would also be tempting to see the role of the Holy Spirit as only working in our individual lives or congregations as against the structures of the wider church as an institution. And yet, as our history indicates, our polity has persisted through time not just because we have the right structures but because we are actively seeking to respond to what the Spirit is doing.

Such characteristics, of course, are not unique to United Methodists. Other Pan-Methodists and Wesleyan Holiness churches have also struggled with matters of discipline and order – African Methodist Episcopal and Free Methodists come to mind. They are reminders that questions of mission and polity go hand-in-hand in the Wesleyan tradition.

Andy Kinsey

Andy Kinsey

Celebrating in worship at Annual Conference, and praying for those who were being commissioned and ordained, I was moved at how Methodism seeks to order its life as a mission-driven community of faith. Again and again, we invoked God’s Spirit as we sent out those who will serve among us, sharing in ministries of mutual accountability, and renewing our covenant to be faithful to the example of Christ. It was a hope-filled moment, to say the least.

However, as we think about the future of the United Methodist Church, we may also want to ask ourselves why these four elements in our polity have persisted throughout our history. We may want to ask what these may mean in light of our present challenges. As General Conference in Tampa revealed we have much work to do.

 

 

Andy Kinsey serves as the Wesleyan Theologian on the Leadership Table of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church and as pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin, Indiana.

 

Matrix Mentor, Maxie D. Dunnam

Maxie D. Dunnam - Kingdom Catalysts

The heat is rising in United Methodism since General Conference. Retired Bishop Mel Talbert poured fuel on what have been dying embers only hours after the adjournment of the conference. He urged ministers to disregard the church’s position on human sexuality and perform same sex weddings if the laws of their state allowed it. A number of bishops, some retired but others who are active, stood with him as he made his passionate appeal to what he believes is a justice issue being violated by the church.

Minerva Carcano

Bishop Minerva Carcano

Within a month, Arizona Bishop Minerva Carcaño appealed to our African brothers and sisters to “grow up”…not a very polite, much less Christian, way to talk about the segment of our movement that is growing and impacting a continent for Christ. Carcaño’s thoughtlessness obviously flowed from the fact that the Africans have found their voice and are expressing an understanding and commitment to the Gospel that differs from hers.

The latest as of this writing is the New England Conference General Conference delegation’s claim that we must recognize and affirm our differences and that all the structures of the church (including bishops and the General Conference) must be ordered in a way to support but not control the local expression of the faithful.

New England ACThat sounds a bit like having your cake and eating it too! No accountability defined by the “whole community.” On the contrary, they suggest that the majority bodies of the church might need to be guided by the minority, though funding would still come from the majority.

The New England Annual Conference is not large nor is it growing. Numbers are not the ultimate measure but it may be worth something to ask if there are reasons growth is taking place in some areas and not in others.

Significantly, I did agree with one position of the New Englanders. They contended that strength and vitality will not be found in structures but in our identity as a spiritual movement, grounded in the grace of God and linked by common practices of personal and social holiness.

I agree; but I would invite them to consider that Jesus not only incarnated grace, he incarnated and called for truth. His followers have truth/authority, which is not relative. In the church, truth is posited in what we designate as “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.” That truth can’t casually be altered by cultural norm.

Human sexuality is the issue that is tearing our church apart. Scripture, the church through the ages, and our present UM Church believes the practice of homosexuality violates the call both to personal and social holiness. It is impossible for me to imagine that we can grant the desire of a small segment of the church that they have support and freedom to deal with this issue as they please.


Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

I’m puzzled by the assertion of the New England delegation to General Conference that the body of Christ might have no common identity…

I’m also wondering how exactly we are to be ‘resourced but not controlled’ by the support structures of the Church?

Read on for the full New England Delegation Statement…

New England ACAnd no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.  (Mark 2:22 The NIV)

In 2012 the United Methodist Church came of age. We may not know it yet, but when the motion to adjourn General Conference came at 10:45 on Friday evening, May 4, from Joey Lopez of North Carolina, we were launched from the cozy confines of the nest that had sheltered us for the last 44 years into a new world that we can hardly begin to imagine.

Some of us may have sensed it at the time, but for most of us there has been a growing realization that what we have been counting on to save our church will never be sufficient for the task. If we were depending on getting our legislative house in order, we failed to do so. If we were hoping that instituting strong centralized leadership would be the panacea, all the plans went up in smoke. If we thought a common theological perspective, or a unified worldview, or new language around inclusion would rescue us—none of these were anywhere to be seen.

The reality is that the United Methodist church is too big and too diverse to be held together by any of the centers we have relied upon for more than four decades. We will not be saved by our bishops, our polity, our structure, our metrics, our theology, our doctrine, our social principles, or by Roberts Rules of Order. Thank God! What Tampa taught us is that the vitality of United Methodism is not to be found in any of its structures. Our strength and our unity lie in our identity as a spiritual movement, grounded in the grace of God and linked by common practices of personal and social holiness. Nothing more, nothing less.

We in the New England delegation are convinced that all efforts to impose a common identity on the Church theologically, ecclesiologically or culturally are not only doomed to failure, but actually thwart the attempts of United Methodist Christians to follow faithfully in the ways of Jesus Christ. We believe that the old Church with its old myths of a common identity imposed from the center has failed. We further hold that any new structures that emerge in the years ahead must emphasize relationship among the wonderfully diverse parts of our communion rather than uniformity of practice across the connection. Further, such plans must not only permit, but must encourage communities to freely meet the needs of people in their own contexts, resourced but not controlled by the support structures of the church. Such structures includeThe Discipline, the episcopacy, the General Conference and the boards and agencies.  Each exists only to equip and serve the servants of God’s people. (emphasis added)

Observations

  • We are not defeated or dismayed by what happened and what did not happen at the General Conference. We in the New England delegation, while recognizing that much of what we had hoped for may not have come to fruition, understand that the aftermath of General Conference presents us with new opportunities to reshape the church in a more just and equitable fashion. This opportunity is offered not just to those who attended General Conference but to all in the UMC who are called to serve God’s people.
  • The expanding role of the Central Conferences, both numerically and politically, has created a new reality in the church. The church can no longer operate from a US-centric perspective at General Conference, nor will the theological and cultural norms with which those of us in the US have become familiar suffice for us going forward. Our future will not be a recapitulation of our past. There are difficult challenges ahead as the UMC attempts to address worldwide structure issues. Ours is a church divided by language, culture, theology, social perspective and economic means, just to name a few. We are hampered by the reality that enabling legislation to create the framework for a new worldwide structure failed four years ago because many in the church were afraid of what it might portend. (Proposed Constitutional amendments that would have eliminated the term “Central Conferences” in favor of “Regional Conferences” and would have included the US as one of those regions were passed by General Conference, but not endorsed by the required number of persons voting in the annual conferences.) Still, we can find hope and unity if we can envision ways for our Wesleyan heritage to keep us in relationship and our structure to allow us to minister freely and fully in our unique contexts. If we can rise to this challenge, we may well be on the verge of the richest blessings our church has yet known.
  • Any plan for reorganization of the church needs to begin almost immediately and have broad buy-in from many voices, so that it arrives at GC 2016 with momentum and consensus already established. We must move away from the notion of proportional representation (i.e. areas with the largest membership get the greatest say) and ask instead which perspectives need to be represented in creating our new church. It may well be that constituencies that are entirely under-represented at the moment are key to the future of the denomination. Whatever we do, it must be crystal clear that the purpose of any plan is to enable ministry and not to consolidate power.
  • Annual Conferences must monitor closely the new power that has been put in the hands of the bishops to withhold appointment from elders in good standing in order to make certain that this tool is not being used to inhibit prophetic and/or inclusive ministry. Clergy sessions of the annual conference must be especially vigilant in this area. Additionally we need proactive guidelines for missional appointment-making that protect prophetic preaching and preserve racial, ethnic and gender diversity in our pulpits. The legislation passed by the General Conference was intended to ensure more effective pastoral leadership in our churches. We remind ourselves and our appointive authorities that effectiveness can only be truly assessed by taking into consideration the contexts into which persons are sent.
  • The New England Delegation is clear that the unity of the church cannot come at the expense of being a fully inclusive church.  Council of Bishops President Rosemary Wenner’s apology to GLBT United Methodists for the harm that our church has caused was a much welcomed and long overdue word, but we need more than words. The majority of our delegation remains committed to the creation of a UMC where all God’s people are welcome to share all of their gifts.
  • We believe that the most fruitful change in any organization always comes from the edges and never from the center. We are encouraged that the conversation has continued in so many places after General Conference. We are concerned that these conversations are still confined to the US and challenge those who are engaged in them to expand the circle to the Central Conferences. Still, we are pleased that so many people still care so passionately about the church we all love.

One word from the New England delegation is that ‘any plan for reorganization of the church needs to begin almost immediately.’

So what’s our next step? Let the conversations begin…

 

 

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Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.

 

 

The Second Need of Leadership: Wisdom

(This is installment 3 of Leadership Lessons from the Kings)

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.  And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong…(1 Kings 3:7-9)

Solomon, the boy king, was offered a “blank check” by God and instead of cashing it on material possessions, fame or power he asks God for wisdom.  I am not sure that Solomon at his age knew what he was asking for.  In fact it was likely out of desperation that made his request.  No doubt, his court was full of advisers and wise men who would have gladly filled the request.  For some reason, Solomon did not think their wisdom sufficient and so he asks God for it for himself.

If the first need of a leader is a relationship with God, the second need of a leader is the wisdom that comes from God.  There will always be plenty of people who offer their opinion and call it wisdom, but the leader has to be able to discern what is foolishness, what is worldly wisdom and what is God’s wisdom on the matter.  Leaders often find themselves surrounded by people who want what they want for the leader or they want what the leader wants for the leader, but finding people who want what God wants for the leader even thought it may cost them is a rare thing.  The leader who can claim such an adviser can certainly count themselves as blessed.

However, there is another level of wisdom that cannot be assigned to advisers.  When decisions come, surveying the data is important, listening to wise counsel is equally important—but seeking God’s wisdom is the key to leading wisely.  Sometimes the data and counsel both point to something that make sense in the moment, but only God can see clearly the outcomes.

Bryan Collier

Bryan Collier

The Israelites, under Joshua’s command found themselves in this position when they made a peace treaty with the Gibeonites (9:14).  The Israelites examined the “data” and did what seemed right and faithful, but the telling words are “…but they did not consult the Lord.”  The consequences of what seemed like a wise decision were substantial.

Solomon asked for godly wisdom, for a constant consultative relationship on the front end of his tenure.  He didn’t wait for a crisis or for a specific incident in which he needed God’s wisdom.  He knew given his task and responsibility that his need for godly wisdom was going to be a constant.

The godly leader understands the need for wisdom beyond the data, and beyond wise counsel…it is a wisdom that only comes from God.  Blessed is the godly leader who asks for it before they need it.

 

MLM-splash-3

Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life in order to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.