Posts Tagged ‘CHANGE’

An Unbroken Line

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 | By Kimberly Reisman
Filed in: Kimberly Reisman, What's Your Next Step?

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The current conversations flying around the web in the United Methodist Church reminded me of a post I wrote last year. I pulled it out and gave it a bit of an update…

 

Last year I defended my thesis for my PhD at Durham University in England. It’s an event the British call a ‘viva’ and it’s a nerve-wracking several hours spent fielding what seem like endless questions from two examiners. As is required, neither of my examiners had ever seen my work before and my supervisor, David Wilkinson, was not allowed to be present. It was quite a solitary experience, but at the same time, in an intriguing kind of way, not.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Immediately before the time of reckoning, David and I shared a coffee and then headed over to the Cathedral for a short time of quiet and prayer. As we sat in that amazing environment, David began casually, but eloquently, to remind me of the history of Durham University. Durham has been a seat of learning for over 1000 years beginning with the Venerable Bede, whose shrine was right behind us as we sat. The tradition of scholarship has continued in an unbroken line ever since, with each new scholar meeting with more experienced scholars to discuss their work. Even though he knew I was nervous and just a bit intimidated by the process, David emphasized that I should enjoy the viva, recognizing that what I was going to experience was much bigger than my thesis. The viva, as stressful as it may feel, was the entrance into a long tradition of scholarship, the doorway into a community stretching back over 1000 years.

After a brief time of prayer, we parted ways and I walked to Abbey House to meet my examiners. During the hours that followed, though I knew it was up to me alone to defend my work, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t such a solitary experience. Even more to my surprise was the realization, about midway through, that I was actually enjoying myself; it was invigorating.

The memory of that experience, and more specifically of my conversation with David beforehand, has returned to me frequently – especially in the days since the United Methodist Council of Bishops met in North Carolina. It’s been a struggle not become absorbed in the difficulties facing the United Methodist Church. I’ve had to remind myself over and over that as Methodist Christians, we draw upon the insights of John Wesley (and Charles too), which is a wonderful thing. But that’s not who we follow. We follow Jesus Christ. Our tradition didn’t begin in the 18th century; it began in the first. Our creed isn’t the misnamed ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ it’s the Nicene.

about-portraitJust as my viva experience was bigger than my own thesis, we Methodist Christians are part of something much larger than our own history, much more foundational than any structure we might devise for our denomination, and deeper, more steadfast and enduring than any passing cultural norm could ever be. We are part of a magnificent Christian tapestry, woven from the threads of Scripture and a tradition stretching back over 2000 years. Our Methodist strands augment that tapestry, but not in the sense of adding something new or different. Those threads augment the tapestry by adding complementary colors to the already existing pattern. Some people describe it as following Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys. In my family we call it being a Christian with a Wesleyan accent.

I have no doubt that as people who follow Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys, we will survive our current challenges. What that will actually look like – I don’t know. But however things unfold, if we are faithful, what results will not happen because we will have created something new, but because we will have rediscovered the grand tapestry of Christian faith that is richer and more vibrant than our few threads alone.

Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World

 

Jorge Acevedo

 

Lead Pastor ~ Grace Church in Southwest Florida

 

A Seminar for Laity and Clergy

 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church

3179 North 600 West (Mt. Comfort Rd) ~ Greenfield, IN 46140 ~ 317.894.8965

1/2 mile north of I-70 (Exit 96) on Mt. Comfort Road (600W) 

 

Jorge Acevedo

Jorge Acevedo

Have you heard of Jorge Acevedo? His multi-cultural, multi-site, mega-church in southwest Florida has done what the United Methodist Church has struggled to do: reach people. His book, Vital, was a suggested text before the 2012 General Conference, and is a pretty good read.

In just a couple of weeks, he’ll be coming to Indiana to lead a day-long seminar you don’t want to miss! The location is Mt. Comfort UMC, which is near Indianapolis.

The event is sponsored by the Indiana Conference Confessing Movement. For details and registration information, click here.

 

There are a lot of challenging things happening in the UMC right now; but there remains one thing I believe we can still all agree on – the importance of reaching out to others with the love of Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what Jorge Acevedo is doing in Southwest Florida. If you’re anywhere close, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend.

 

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

 

Next Step was founded in 2005 as a vehicle for ministry in the areas of evangelism, spiritual formation, and leadership development. It’s been an amazing 8 years, full of challenges, surprises, and a great deal of meaning. Many of you have been with me from the beginning, some have come alongside me more recently, all of you have been wonderfully supportive.

Opportunities are currently unfolding that will necessitate a change in direction for Next Step. I’m shifting responsibility and will now be at the forefront of a new venture – A Wesleyan Accent – a web-based ministry providing free and subscription resources for Christian spiritual formation, catechesis, and discipleship in the Wesleyan way. It’s my hope that by clearly articulating the Wesleyan understanding of Christian faith, A Wesleyan Accent will contribute significantly to the task of strengthening discipleship, empowering mission and evangelism, cultivating ministry gifts of young leaders, and nurturing the professional and service life of young theologians.

There will be two main areas of the WesleyanAccent.com site – free resources and information, and subscription resources. The free resources will include blogs, sermons, articles, book reviews, and videos from leading voices in the Wesleyan family. Discipleship in the Wesleyan Way will be the subscription portion the site. Individuals and churches will be able to purchase annual subscriptions, which will provide access to an extensive library of small group lessons on all aspects of Christian theology. Additionally, Discipleship in the Wesleyan Way will support discipleship and small group development by providing resources for both leaders and participants through a platform of customizable curriculum planning and private group portals for ongoing communication and additional resourcing.

I’m excited about this new phase of ministry. A Wesleyan Accent will launch in the fall and you’ll be able to find us at www.wesleyanaccent.com. At that time, visitors to this site will be redirected to A Wesleyan Accent. In the meantime, if you’re new to Next Step, I hope you’ll explore the site as it is – there’s a lot of great content here that will remain accessible to you throughout the transition phase and beyond.

Thanks again for your support. I look forward to continuing to serve through A Wesleyan Accent!

Peace,

Kim

 

A Hard Path to a Better Place

 

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

I’m an Independent, not registered with any political party; although neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to know that based on the literature and surveys they send me – both parties clearly think I’m one of them. Go figure.

I don’t know who will win the election in November and I’m not trying to send any messages about who to vote for. But, I found the closing words of President Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention last night extremely moving:

…Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

I know that was a word to the nation, but in some strange way it also felt like a word to the church.

 

 

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it may own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.            ~Philippians 3.12-14 (NRSV)

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

What’s your next step?

It’s a good question – in this case as it relates to the United Methodist Church – what’s our next step? General Conference is a (sort of) distant memory; our regional Jurisdictional Conferences have come and gone. Various groups and people have publically staked out their claims about keeping their covenants or breaking them. So what’s next?

Jason Vickers

Jason Vickers

Now that my PhD work is officially over I’ve begun trying to catch up on my reading. Jason Vickers’ book, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal was a timely read in the aftermath of all the church politics that have unfolded thus far in 2012. The book is full of important insights that are particularly relevant to the current state of affairs in the UMC. I hope to explore some of those insights over the next several posts.

The first idea I want to highlight comes at the very end of the book – literally the next to last page. Jason writes:

…Many liberals and evangelicals are blinded to the shifts taking place around them precisely because they cannot take their eyes off one another long enough to take notice. It is as though evangelical and liberal Protestants are locked in a death embrace in which both sides are equally obsessed with killing one another. All the while, we keep buried in our basements the solid food for which a spiritually hungry generation is searching far and wide.*

I’m not sure I’ve read a better description of General Conference 2012. But more than that – Jason is spot on in his insight when it comes to the overall UMC. That’s what troubles me. How can we really understand the nature of the church, of what God has called us to be and do in the world, if we are so distracted?

Many folks these days talk about reviving the ‘movement’ nature of Methodism as a way of renewing the UMC. I find that somewhat ironic since in its institutionalism, the UM of today resembles the Church of England of John Wesley’s day. Being or behaving like a movement seems unlikely. A better option might be Wesley’s own approach of seeking ‘the lost sheep of United Methodism.’**

For that to happen though, we’ve got to take our eyes off each other long enough to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, on whom the very life of the church depends.

 

*Jason Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 106

**In Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England, Wesley described his work as being for ‘the lost sheep of the Church of England.’

 

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.

 

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.

 

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…

 

Bearing the Weight…

 

UMCGC 2012 logo

UMC General Conference 2012

In his post yesterday, Mitchell Lewis talked about the importance of doctrine. He concluded with this insight:

We can change our organizational structure, the way we select and retain clergy leaders and the means by which we measure success, but unless we get a common sight-picture on the mission / doctrine piece, we’re not going to get very far. All of the elements of our institutional existence should support our missional – doctrinal self-understanding.

As I’ve continued to plow through the 1000’s of pages of General Conference petitions, resolutions, commentary, information packets, brochures, DVD’s booklets (even actual books which must have cost a pretty penny to print and distribute), blogs and letters (including pledges of prayer which are very appreciated, but also including specific instructions about voting in a particular way), Lewis’ words hit home and clarified my unease as I get ready for Tampa. The metaphor of weight-bearing walls keeps coming back to me, along with the concern that we’re expecting certain things to bear the weight of our communal life together that aren’t able to do so in the long run. Lewis is right – our organizational structure will only get us so far. Our decisions about how we train leaders or whether or not we have a set aside bishop won’t change our confusion (and in some cases conflict) over what we believe about Scripture and theology.

Kimberly D. Reisman

Kim Reisman

I’m reminded of the results of an exit poll of people who attended a seeker study from 2003-2006 at a variety of United Methodist churches. It indicated that we’re perceived as not knowing what we believe or why we believe it. Particularly disturbing were comments such as, “Methodists are all over the map. I spent almost a year finding out that they don’t have a clue what they really believe.” (Robin Russell, “Too Bland for Our Own Good?” Good News, January/February 2011, 20-21)

Though I don’t yet know what it will look like, I’m confident the United Methodist Church will have a new organizational structure at the close of General Conference. We’ll also probably have added something new or different to our approach to training ministers and dealing with bishops. What I’m not confident about is whether any of that will matter if the walls that actually bear the weight of our communal life together, “don’t have a clue what they really believe.”