Tag Archives: United Methodist Church

Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of New Beginnings

We have had a very full day at church! This weekend it started with a “bit” of water in our basement under the sanctuary. We had already planned a church wide Sunday school and mission lunch in Meredith Hall (underneath the sanctuary.) Fortunately it was found yesterday or cleanup and a fixing of the pumps could happen before today.

Today’s scripture is a difficult one because in the 21st century it is hard to figure out how best to deal with “demon possession.” The scientific and medical understanding today is far beyond what was understood 2000 years ago. Yet, I tend to be intrigued by how God in Jesus can be encountered in this stories which were recorded so long ago. The story of “Legion” paired with the scripture reading from Galatians is a powerful reminder that Christ draws a wide circle and a greater circle then we can imagine.

The General Board of Global Ministry (GBGM) along with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) called for today to be a day of solidarity for suffering children. You can find their full statement here. We included the prayer woven into the pastoral prayer this morning.

Today’s service included two beautiful musical numbers on call and a wonderful children’s time by Pastor Rebecca. You can find the whole service or just the sermon here.

I am continually challenged in my own life in how I can Draw the Circle Wide and be part of God’s reign in Christ.

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Tired, Sad, Still not leaving

Last week, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church met to rule on the legality or the constitutionality of decisions made in February by the General Conference. I have not posted much about the what happened. Judicial Council has a particular role in the United Methodist Church. Two years ago, I wrote a blog on the ruling the Judicial Council made on the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto in the Western Jurisdiction. It explains the process and my response.  You can read my thoughts here.

Those who know me well, know I was grieved and saddened and angered that in 2019 we still can not move forward on full inclusion. On my church’s website, I posted this video in response. I have no say or vote in the matter, but I felt that the One Church Plan, while not perfect, offered the biggest tent for people who have deep disagreement over the issues of human sexuality to dwell together.

I was wrong. The General Conference voted (by a slim majority) to not only uphold the current stance in the Book of Discipline but to add punitive and mean measures to make sure everyone toed the line. The Judicial Council’s role is to look over the legislation and make a ruling on what is legal and what is not. While this comes from a Progressive point of view, this chart is a good visual for understanding the decisions made.

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I am not particularly surprised by the most recent Judicial Council rulings. Their job is to see how decisions are legal or not legal by the United Methodist Discipline and Constitution. That does not stop me from being sad. I understand that different people can come to our Holy Bible and interpret it in different ways. What I have trouble understanding is the punitive nature of how to punish those who disagree.

The Reverend Doctor Rebekah Miles has reflected on the General Conference actions and the Judicial Council’s response.  I highly respect her thoughts and recommend you read her article in its entirety. She is the Professor of Ethics and Practical Theology at Southern Methodist University, an elder in the United Methodist Church and has attended General Conference many times.

Personally, what stands out for me in Dr. Miles post is this statement:
Only one offense with minimum penalty

Speaking of the many things, including celibacy, that have nothing to do with sex, we can at least take strange comfort in the fact that none of them will trigger mandatory minimum penalties for clergy. We, in the United Methodist Church, have mandated minimum penalties for only one offense: officiating at a same-sex marriage. Your pastor could steal the church’s money, have sex with various and sundry people, or even stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, without triggering a mandatory minimum penalty. But if he agrees to officiate at the wedding of his beloved lesbian daughter, we have made it more difficult for his conference to avoid a clergy trial and have mandated that the conference must suspend him for a year without pay if it is his first offense and take away his ordination credentials if it is his second. 

This is stunning. I can basically do all kinds of immoral and unethical and illegal actions, but the United Methodist Church has no minimum penalties for those actions. Now, at any point in the process, a pastor can lose their credentials, but the only “offense” that has specified punishments and penalties are for officiating at gay weddings (which in the United States is legal in all 50 states.) I can get a divorce, remarry, get a divorce, remarry, get a divorce and remarry again and again and again; no questions asked. I can abuse people, steal money, create a hostile work environment at church, and there is no minimum penalty for these offenses. If you want to know what “chargeable offenses” are in the United Methodist Church you can find that information here.

Perhaps this is an overstatement, but the truth is that the Discipline of the United Methodist Church does not prescribe any particular resolution for these pastoral failings. This is an entirely new path that the United Methodist Church is taking. The definition of what it means to be homosexual has been changed as well as the understanding that if a person is celibate, they can still serve as an elder, a deacon, a bishop, etc. Now, it only takes a declaration of being “gay” to exclude one from ministry.

After thirty five plus years, I might be given some grace if I had decided I didn’t want to fight any more. It might be understood if I decided to give up, to turn away from any organization that would be so closed, so deeply entrenched, so unwilling to continue to delve into scripture and to find the grace and love I see in Jesus.

I am still not leaving. I am probably too stubborn and pig headed to give up. I just can not imagine giving up on the church that I have served and loved for decades. I may have to, but I am not willing to stop working for what is just and right and good yet. I continue to share with the young LBGTQ people that worship at First that hope is still available. That some day, it is possible that they can live fully into who God has created them to be in the life of the church. Someday, when they want to pledge their love and their life to their partner, I will be able to be their pastor.

I hope and pray that will be true. I know there are discussions on the future of the UMC. I know we may be looking at schism. For the first time in decades, I am believing this may be the way forward. In the meantime, I will continue to work, to pray, to preach, to pastor and do the work of God in downtown Wichita. I will continue to open the doors for all people, no matter their age, their race, their ethnic background, their social economic status, their political leanings, their gender, or their gender identity or their sexual orientation. I am not leaving, I am not going away. I am continuing to believe and base my ministry on love, on inclusion and on justice.

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Ponderings on International Women’s Day

So many do not remember their names, except the ones who were first: the first woman in a pulpit, the first ordained, the first consecrated bishop. But there are others I remember who never made the history books. Those pioneering women who pastored and preached and provided leadership before there many women, in times past, when the push back was terrible and the call was strong, the prospects of living fully into their call bleak.

Yet the persisted, seeking out their pulpits, while the men were appointed, these women found their own places of service. When a man was found to serve, they had to seek again their own places to preach, to pastor, to pray. Their names: Nina Anderson, Marian Holbert, Portteus Latimer, Lois Lenz, Janet Sevier, Marjorie Swingle. These women are a few I remember. There are countless others who led the way, who persevered against the odds to serve and lay the ground work for all of us who followed.

My path as a pastor has been made so much easier because of the witness and the strength and the determination of those who went before me. While my ministry has not always been easy,  it is those amazing, beautiful, strong women who went before me that paved a path for living out my call. Those women stood up preached, prayed, proclaimed and pastored in spite of the name calling and the flat out determination that they not succeed.

Every excuse was used to stop these women from following the call of God in their lives. You are too young, you are too old. You are too tall, you are too short. You are single and will steal our husbands, or you are married how will you take care of your husband? You are too ugly, too beautiful, you voice is too high or too low or too soft.

They preached even when they were told to be silent. They prayed even when their right to do so was questioned. They presided at the table and baptized and stood at gravesides to comfort the heartbroken in the face of unbelievable opposition.

On this International Women’s Day, I want to say thank you to Portteus, Marian, Janet, Marjorie, Nina and Lois in particular and to all those other women who pioneered in ministry. Thank you for your witness, for your strength, for your sense of humor and for your determination. Your memory is a blessing to me, and to those who do not know your name. You are blessing to a new generation of women who have a much easier path and I am deeply grateful to be part of your legacy of faith and ministry.

For me, I am once again reminded to live out my call to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people. While sometimes my pathway in ministry was difficult, it was certainly made easier by these amazing women. May my ministry make the way broader and more inclusive for the next generation. May it be so….may it be so.

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Year of Gratitude

Last week, I didn’t get a prompt posted for our year of gratitude. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful or that I didn’t send a thank you note, I just didn’t get the blog written. Some of that had to do with the life of the global United Methodist Church. While I have tried not to be anxious, I have been.

As I write, General Conference has not yet concluded, but the One Church Plan which I supported and many of my colleagues and friends supported was defeated twice. I am heartbroken. Sunday, I preached a sermon about why I was going to continue to be on the side of love and acceptance of all. You can find both the worship service or the sermon by itself here.

Today I was attending a Sunday School lunch which was called  “picnic.” There was napkin that looked like this:

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Honestly, I have probably felt more like the cat than the girl! And yet being sad and angry and grieving does not mean I am not thankful. Many of my collegagues and friends from the Great Plains Conference have represented the church I love well. In the four short days, these persons have found themselves at the microphone using the legislative process to do what is right and just. The have diligently worked for good for the greatest amount of people. I am grateful for their passion, their faithfulness and willingness to serve in such a difficult time.

I can not say thank you enough to Amy Lippoldt, Adam Hamiliton, Cheryl Jefferson Bell, David Livingston, Mark Holland, Shayla Jordan (one of the youngest elected to the General Conference), Stephanie Ahlschwede among others. I know I missed some, but still I am deeply grateful for their commitment to living out God’s love for all people. I don’t know what the future holds. For so long, 35 plus years as a clergy in the United Methodist Church I have supported and worked for full inclusion of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and friends. I don’t intend to stop.

I want to tell those who feel most bruised and broken by what is occuring that you are not alone, there are many allies who will continue to work for justice, for love, for grace, for everyone to be part of the community of faith. We do not lose hope, we cling to faith, we remember that nothing, NOT ONE THING can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I am grateful for the reminder of that promise and that somehow, in someway, we will go forward.

Years ago, a wonderful song was penned that has been sung for several decades: the story and sharing of that song is one that I pray brings hope and promise to those of us who continue to sing for our lives and the lives of the church together you. You will find that story and song here.

 

 

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Courageous Faith: Deliver us from Evil

Today was a beautiful day filled with sunshine. We are winding down our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. Yesterday in St. Louis, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church began a special called session to find a way forward in our denomination. For over 40 years we have wrestled with the issues around human sexuality and at the 2016 Conference, the delegates asked the Council of Bishops to lead us in a way forward.

A commission was created and three plans were offered to the General Conference. Over the next few days a decision will be made. I am praying for grace in the midst of the tension and no matter what the decision, that we as brothers and sisters treat each other tenderly and with compassion. In fact in dealing with the scriptures offered in today’s worship, the author of 1 Peter was pretty clear about how we are treat each other.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I support the One Church Plan. In my opinion is offers the biggest tent for the most people to live in the tension of disagreement and also to live together as brothers and sisters. Whatever happens, I will continue to choose love, to choose inclusion over exclusion and continue to be a voice for all people to be loved and welcomed into the body of Christ.

Early this morning as I walked into the sanctuary I was stunned by the window:

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The eastern portion was flooded with light and the rest still shadowed. I had never seen that glass look quite that color, so deep and rich. In my heart I believe that is what the kingdom of God looks like when God’s love and grace floods into our hearts and spirits. One of these days, all of us will be illuminated by the light of Christ and it will literally change the world.

Until then, I am praying for the United Methodist Church, praying for all of us to be delivered from any evil that might try to break us apart. I am praying for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

You can find the whole of today’s service here. Tomorrow the sermon only will be uploaded as well. #Itstime friends. #Itstime. I am so grateful to be graced to serve.

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Here Am I, Lord, Send Me

Today, is the thirtieth anniversary as an elder in the United Methodist Church. On May 31, 1988, I waddled up the stairs in Sam’s Chapel at Kansas Wesleyan University, Salina, Kansas. Waddled, literally, I was seven months pregnant with my son Joshua.

The elders that accompanied me up those stairs (which had the wobbliest hand rail) were Portteus Latimer (who was in her 80’s and one of the early, early women who pioneered in the Methodist Church) and Elsie Crickard who also pregnant and who would give birth to her daughter the next day.

My mother and family arrived a bit late and had to sit in the balcony. She shared me that as my name was called and I began to climb those stairs to the stage someone whispered dramatically, “She’s pregnant!” and then as Elise began climbing the stairs, “oh my God there are two of them!” I have smiled over that memory more than once.

I began preaching in 1982 as a full time licensed local pastor, went to seminary and while in seminary was ordained a deacon in 1985. My district committee on ordained ministry had to come to my home for my interview to be approved to go the conference committee because I had given birth to my daughter, Kristin, the week before. The stained glass window I use in my blog from First United Methodist Church helps me remember that first ordination as it was held there.

I was so young and excited and awed and blessed to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I had such hopes for the future.   I knew that the world was changing and the church was becoming more inclusive and more and more women were entering seminary and being ordained. I believed the time was coming when we would fully embrace the gifts our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters would bring to the community of faith. Even as I attended the 1988 General Conference in Saint Louis and saw the long road ahead, I believed that the winds of the Spirit were moving.

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Since that day, I have worn this stole and the gold dove with pride. The red stole was put on me on that night thirty years ago. The gold dove was a gift from my family with the date engraved on the back. I wear it each year on this day and during annual conference. If I participate in ordination, I wear this particular stole. I have other red ones, but this one connects me to each ordination class and my own.

Fast forward thirty years. I am not so young, but still excited and awed and blessed to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I have been honored and privileged to baptize dozens of babies and youth and adults, confirm many into life of faith, perform dozens if not hundreds of weddings and funerals. I have been blessed to be invited into the most intimate moments of peoples lives and be the incarnational presence of God. Women are in leadership as bishops, district superintendents, conference leaders, general secretaries and senior pastors of large churches. There are many young women entering the ministry and they continue to embrace the call.

I am a bit more realistic as to how quickly the world changes, however. In fact I grieve that some things have not changed at all in thirty years. We still exclude our called gay and lesbian friends as pastors. The United States and many other countries in the world recognizes marriage between same gender couples, but as pastors we are denied the honor of presiding at such services. It saddens me to the core.

Still, here am I. I have written several blogs about not going away, not being willing to stop working for the changes in the church I love. The United Methodist Church has been good to me, I have served churches as small as 8, to the large church I serve now. I have loved and delighted in being a pastor and sharing the good news of God’s love with others. I am deeply grateful to have been entrusted with the care of the congregations I have served since 1982.

As I wear my dove today, I remember those hands on my head and on my shoulders. I remember the excitement and fear, the energy and love and faith I had that God would use me to build the kingdom, the reign that Jesus had promised. I still believe. Sometimes a little weary and worn, sometimes a little bit angry and anxious, but determined and trusting that God is not done with me or with the United Methodist Church I love.

Here am I, Lord, send me.

 

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Not Stopping Me! Part II

On Wednesday evening, I wrote Not Stopping me! out of fatigue and sadness and grief. I wondered the next day whether or not I should have written or shared what I did. I felt vulnerable and not only weary, but a bit angry as well.

I need to be clear that I do not feel like the United Methodist Church has as a whole treated me badly. I have been amazingly upheld in my ministry and my gifts. Some folk, men and women talk of “bad appointments.” I have never had one. I have had some churches and communities where I have learned some hard lessons, dealt with difficult decisions personally and with the churches I have served. Bad appointments? Not at all, I have loved every church and community I served since 1982. The Kansas  West and now Great Plains conference has been extremely good to me. I have broken a couple of glass ceilings by being the first woman senior pastor.

There have always been people in each place that were “against” or “opposed” to women preachers. I was once called a “petticoat preacher” which made me smile. I have joked over the years I never went anywhere they actually “wanted me” as a woman. And that is true. I supposed I should have been offended, but perhaps I am too arrogant or certain enough of my calling and ability to not be hurt or stopped by comments or defensive positions that do not mean anything to me. I always figured it was about the people who said such things or held such positions, not me.

It is also true what I wrote a few days ago. I have always been aware that what I do or don’t do matters. Men can fail and no one ever says don’t send another man. If a woman makes a mistake or crashes and burns, it is often said “please don’t send us another woman.” I am sure that is not said as often as it was when I started ministry, but, there is still that sense that what I do matters for all the women who will follow me. And I say that from a position of privilege as an anglo woman, I can not imagine how difficult it must be for women of color.

In an interesting twist on the two constitutional amendments that failed to gather the necessary 2/3’s majority to be ratified, it appears that amendment one was sent out with incorrect wording. You can read the story here.  So now, all the Annual Conferences will have to revote on Amendment 1, and those who have already met will vote next time they meet.

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up! It doesn’t take away the pain of that first vote. Several people have asked in one way or the other, why stay? Why should I stay if my beloved United Methodist Church can’t uphold the equality of women as human beings?

I suppose I am too stubborn to stop. I don’t want to go away. Methodist theology speaks of grace in such a deep way for me. I have used humor for a long time to deal with the push back against equality and inclusivity. More so, I have believed that grace will ultimately lead everyone home, even those who would restrict access to that grace.

Yesterday on twitter Leonard Sweet posted (and I reposted) “Every person you meet is hurting deep inside from something. Go gentle into this good day.” How I needed that word. The church I serve had made a very difficult decision to close our coffee shop at the end of July. Mead’s started ten years ago at time when Downtown Wichita was just in the beginning of revitalization. Mead’s was part of that, and with that meant the lease increase became unsustainable. Some want to blame the owners, but I don’t. The truth is Mead’s was part of what made downtown much more valuable and lucrative and desirable. There is nothing wrong with that. I suppose we could “blame” ourselves. I don’t blame anybody, but it was one more thing to make the week difficult emotionally and spiritually for me.

Grace is gentle, loving and tender with so many who are hurting deep inside. Those who were deeply wounded by the non-ratification of two constitutional amendments in the United Methodist Church. Grace is gentle, loving and tender to those who are haunted by past sexual abuse and violence, by those who continue to feel the door shut to the church because of their sexual orientation. Grace is gentle, loving and tender to the outcast, the lost, the lonely and those who live in fear.

Why don’t I leave? I believe in grace. I believe in Love. I believe in God who was made real in the ministry, love, teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. No vote can take that away from me or anyone. So my quote for today comes from Linda Clark: “What keeps the Christian going, cheek to jowl with the stuff of everyday existence, is the knowledge of God written on his or her heart.”

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