Tag Archives: United Methodist Church

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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Not stopping me!

On my Monday, May 7, the United Methodist Council of Bishops announced the results of the voting on five constitutional amendments that had come out of the 2016 General Conference. The reason it takes so long for these things to be reported is that each annual conference all over the world has to vote in their own annual conference. Those votes are sealed and then go to the Council of Bishops to tally and then report out the results of whether they were passed or not.

This information might not be worthy in many ways of a blog post for any one who is NOT United Methodist, however, the two amendments that were not ratified world wide had to do with gender equality. You can read more about those votes here and here. I am grateful for the many expressions of dismay of how these amendments did not pass from the Council of Bishops and the pastoral letter from the Female Bishops I felt a need to respond myself to this controversy.

Let’s just say I am tired. I am not spending any more energy, time or passion trying to convince anyone that I am equal, called, equipped, graced or able to be a pastor, a preacher, or a minister. I don’t need any constitutional amendments to verify, to acknowledge, or to affirm me as a full and equal human being, beloved of God. I just don’t waste time on any one who would argue biblically that men and women are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1: 26-27)

Having said that, I am not unaware that there are places in this world where women are not considered fully human, where they are second class citizens and not offered equal rights and opportunities. What really stunned me in all of this, are the annual conferences in the United States that did not have the votes to support these amendments.

I have read much of the analysis from both the right and left. Both sides speak of the uncertainty around the words gender and marital status. The uncertainty that gender might not mean male and female and marital status would include gay and lesbians drove many people to vote no. Fear seems to have driven the votes for no. There can be no “loopholes” no “opening” for people who are different or who might look for a place, a community of faith where love and grace abounds for all.

I admit, I may be judgy. I will own it. Like I said earlier, I am tired. I have been a pastor since 1982. Some of my reflections on my journey are included here and here  and a bit of history on the church here. I really try to be graceful and understanding of people who disagree with me theologically and socially. I get that we do not all agree. I just don’t want to fight about it anymore.

As a young clergywoman I spent so much time trying to prove myself. I wanted people to know I could do the work, I was qualified, I was trained, and I could do anything as good any of the guys. I worked harder, longer hours to show the “church” at large and the congregations I served they would not be disappointed that a “woman” had been appointed. I am absolutely certain my relationships suffered and my children did not have as much of me as that might have. I wasn’t a failure as a mother, I served smaller churches which allowed me to be far more flexible than a larger church might have been. Still, there were nights and events and time that I was called away in order to prove myself.

I am not willing to do that any more. I am more affected emotionally by this vote than I thought I would be. I didn’t write earlier because there was ministry to be done: a funeral, sermons to write, worship to plan, meetings to ponder and consider what it means to be the church in this time and place. I can not believe that in 2018 equality for women is even a question, let alone would we debate whether or not a person could be a member of the United Methodist Church based on their marital status or their ability or disability.

Here is what I know is true. I will not allow the failure of these constitutional amendments to define me, as a pastor, as a women, as beloved daughter of God. I am who I am, deeply called to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people, in all places. I will not be silenced or patronized nor will I pretend to be less than I am. My friend Brian Sutton created this lovely graphic

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And I will.

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Life Changing Witness

Today in worship, we picked up in the book of Acts where we left off last week. Last week we read the end of chapter 8 and engaged with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Chapter 9 is well known as the first story in Acts about the conversion of Saul (who we know later as the Apostle Paul.)

This well known story is often used as both an example and an excuse as to who we are as a people that follow Christ. The road to Damascus and the blinding light that stops Saul in his tracks is an experience not every has personally. I have occasionally heard people say about their choosing faith in Christ, “well I didn’t have anything nearly as dramatic as a Damascus Road conversion,” as if Saul’s experience is more real or true than others.

I think I could preach several weeks on the ninth chapter of Acts. I didn’t mention it today, but it has been on my mind whether or not anyone would really want an experience like Saul’s or to a lesser degree like Ananias. Both men were confronted with their own exclusivity, their own stubbornness to be able to look past their own opinions and see others as beloved children of God. Who really wants Jesus to say “oh, by the way, you have been wrong and pig-headed. You need to stop what you are doing and go a different direction, with an open heart, an open mind and an open spirit.” If I were to tell the truth, that’s not on my bucket list….(that doesn’t mean I don’t need it anyway, I can be as stubborn as anyone.)

Today I focused on Saul and Ananias’ willingness to change their minds and to be wrong in what they have believed in the past. Certainly in our culture, changing one’s mind, doing a 180 degree change in attitude, belief and spirit is not usually applauded. That is unfortunate.

Saul’s change of mind and heart and spirit opened up the community of faith to those outside the Jewish tradition. Saul’s willingness to be open to all people was a game changer. I still feel like we need more of that willingness to be open and inclusive in the community of faith and certainly in our world.

This Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church will begin meeting tomorrow and one of their agenda items is to listen to the report from the Commission on the Way Forward and to make a final recommendation to the Special Session of The General Conference in 2019. That recommendation will be shared in July once it has been translated into the many languages needed to share with our world wide church. I am praying for our Bishops and for our Church in this time of anxiety and uncertainty.

You can find today’s worship service here. I am praying that God might change my heart, my mind and my spirit that I might witness in a way that offers love and grace to all.

 

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Speaking out

I am tired. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of the hate-filled rhetoric. There are many times I might have blogged, but chose not to. I,often, have no words, I who am supposed to have a “word” for everything. I am a preacher after all, and am called to have something to say in times of joy, in times of sadness, in times of uncertainty, in times when words seem to fail.

I often have had to something to say, when there has been horrible violence:

Horror and Violence in the nth degree

Prayers for Paris,  

Another Shooting

When there are times that are anxious:

Anxiety, Fear, and Rumors of Wars

When I am upset and overwhelmed by racism or sexism:

Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

#MeToo

And my blogging started years ago with the shooting of Dr. George Tiller and then the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in a post:

Words Matter

Today, once again, I KNOW that words matter, that denigrating human beings and their homelands is bad, period. I can not be the only tired of the words that are coming from our nation’s capital. Words matter, language matters, manners matter and holding one’s self to a higher standard matters. It matters when the president of the United States does not condemn racist language or hateful speech. It matters when the president of the United States uses twitter to belittle other people, to bully other people, to make policy statements or post anything untrue. Words matter, even on twitter, even in private meetings about immigration.

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As an “old pastor,” one who has been around for a while, I often talk with new clergy about things that matter, words, certainly, but also dress and behavior and the higher standard to which we are held. It isn’t fair, it isn’t! When I was young, I lived in a very small town and not long after I was there, some of the people came to talk to me about how I dressed when coming downtown to pick up my mail. I saw nothing wrong with wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Some people saw it differently and said they didn’t want to be embarrassed to introduce me as their pastor.

Did that upset me? You bet it did. However, I decided as a young clergy woman, I had enough strikes me against me that I didn’t want my appearance or my clothing to distract from my service, my work, my calling, my ministry. I probably over dressed for a long time, but no one ever said they were embarrassed again about the way I dressed.

I also over the years have become aware that my facial expressions, my aside comments, my overheard comments and critiques can also be incredibly damaging. I confess, I have not always done well or that I don’t still fail pretty regularly. Rolling my eyes at things I think are ridiculous, making comments about situations or people, these are not only unhelpful, they are wrong and hurtful.

Anyone in public service, whether ministry, or teaching, or government are held to a higher standard of behavior and they should be. We are called to be leaders, we are called to thoughtful rhetoric. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean there can not be deeply held beliefs that are divisive. It doesn’t mean there can’t be heated argument, debate and disagreement.

What it does mean is that WORDS MATTER. Using offensive language to describe a person’s home country, making insulting and derogatory comments about human beings is unacceptable as a public servant, or for anyone. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have made this statement about the offensive remarks .

I would invite the President, but more importantly all of us to re-think how we behave in private and in public. What he says, what we say can make a difference for good or ill, for peace or violence, for what is right and what is wrong. As a follower of Jesus, I am convicted that I must stand against racism, bigotry and words that incite hatred and violence.

My words matter, as do all of ours. I call on all of us to stand up against hatred, against racism, against any language that is used to put down, bully or insult other human beings regardless of their race, their age, their nationality, their gender, their orientation, their religion. I, we, can do better than this. Let us choose justice, let us choose goodness, let us choose a higher road and a higher standard for our behavior.

 

 

 

 

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Flood Bucket Celebration

Sunday, September 10th, many people from all over Wichita gathered to put together flood/cleaning buckets for United Methodist Committee on Relief to take to hurricane victims. People came with individual items, with full and partial buckets and with helping hands. By Wednesday morning 165 buckets were completed. You can read the full story in the FUMC Wichita Missions Blog.

Next month there will be another opportunity for the community to gather and to fill  more buckets. Thousands will be needed. The mission director and I created a thank you video to send our gratitude out to all those who put their heart and hands and spirits into making a difference for those so devastated by the storms.

I believe that “when the storms of life are raging” God is with us, but what we do for each other, makes God’s presence real. For all who brought items, sent money, gave of time and energy and those who surrounded this project with prayer. Thank you!

 

Yesterday we loaded 165 flood buckets into the church van, trailer and a SUV and took them to the Conference Offices in Wichita where they joined 1000 other flood buckets that will be heading to UMCOR! It could not have been done without your help! Sunday approximately 100 people came to the Wilke Family Life […]

via THANK YOU!!! — FUMC Wichita Missions

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Helping people devastated by Hurricanes

A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey did horrific damage to Houston and other communities in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Irma has already done catastrophic damage in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and currently Cuba with Florida in it’s path by tomorrow (Sunday, September 10.) The United Methodist Committee on Relief had already issued a call for “flood/cleaning” buckets prior to Irma for those affected by Harvey.

In response to that call, Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr, the bishop of the Great Plains conference issued a challenge for 5000 buckets to be brought to the conference to be sent out later next week. First United Methodist Church has created a Flood Bucket Assembly Event for tomorrow, Sunday, September 10 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. This event is a practical hands on way to respond to the great needs currently in Texas and Louisiana. This event will be only the first of several we intend to host. The Bishop’s challenge of 5000 is only a “drop” in the bucket of needs that will be arising over the next few weeks and months.

I encourage people to send money, particularly to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, as this independent ministry of the church has received an A+ rating from Charity Watch and a four start rating from Charity Navigator. There will be time for teams to go down and help in the future, but right now, money and flood/cleaning buckets are the first things we can do other than pray for those who are in the midst responding to all the people affected.

If you would like to know exactly how to create a bucket, this video that Annette Schmidt and I created shows how to fit everything in the bucket. There are been questions asked as to why certain items are not included and as to why only certain sizes are needed, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is very specific because this is what works and what fits into a five gallons bucket with a lid.

UMCOR and the Great Plains Conference will not accept partial flood/cleaning buckets, but we will. Tomorrow you are invited to come and help fill as many buckets as possible. If we run out of buckets, we will put things in trash bags to place in the buckets once we receive them (our plan is to finish completing buckets before Tuesday that are not completed tomorrow.) People are invited to bring individual items off the list, to bring full or partial buckets or money to buy items to complete the buckets. We have already received funds and used them for this event. In October there will be another event to fill more buckets.

Here is a complete list of what is needed for each bucket. I hope and pray that you can help us with this important ministry.

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Some Reflections on the the Great Plains Annual Conference

For United Methodists, Annual Conference rolls around every year. It is “non-negotiable” if you are clergy you are required to show up. If you are a lay member, it is expected you show up, but not required. Annual Conference in the best of all worlds part revival, part business session and part family reunion. I both love it and dislike it (the loathe and hate words being too strong.)

I’m an extrovert, so having a chance to catch up with folks I only see once a year it wonderful and exciting. Mostly I enjoy the worship if done well, some of the business and the visiting. I do dislike, no I actually loathe the horrible chairs that are uncomfortable and actually are a pain in the “back” and backside!

Four years ago, three annual conferences (Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West) became one conference. I won’t go into the myriad of reasons, but suddenly finding venues large enough to hold that many clergy and laity became more difficult. No longer can we have chairs around tables, which makes it easier to do the work of the conference, now we are in long rows with uncomfortable chairs hooked together. We juggle our laptops or tablets or workbooks on our laps and heaven help anyone who needs to get to a microphone quickly or let alone the bathroom!

The sessions planning committee works hard in those large arenas to make the stage worshipfull and beautiful for our various services. There is nothing easy about trying to get that many people together and have all the various functions go smoothly. I miss the smaller conferences partly because of the ease of knowing most everyone and for the ability to make space more intimate. I, also, was one who voted for the one conference, because I had served a three point charge and I am well aware of the toll on the leader trying to do three of everything. That is not good use of resources, not of time, not of finances and certainly not of human beings.

This year’s conference was our new bishop, Ruben Saenz, Jr.’s first with us. I have been a pastor a long time, but had few bishops. Bishop Scott Jones was my bishop for twelve years, Bishop Fritz Mutti was my bishop for twelve years before that, Bishop Ken Hicks was my bishop for eights years before that and I begin my ministry under the leadership of Bishop Ben Oliphint. Each bishop brings their unique and unrepeatable spirit and their gifts to the area in which they serve. 

Bishop Saenz led with humor, humility, honesty and  a good deal of laughter. He noted again and again that the United Methodist Church is in a time of discernment, and honestly a time of difficulty. There is much about the future that is uncertain, but what is certain, Bishop Saenz stated again and again, is that “Jesus is the foundation and it will be alright.” 

When things got tense, or there were strong feelings running deep, Bishop Saenz’s would stop and lead us in prayer. To some that might some manipulative or shallow, but for me it never felt that way. The times of prayers felt genuine and deep. The prayers were not directed to one viewpoint or another, just that we might discern God’s path for us and to love one another.

Anyone can go to the conference website to see the pictures and videos and updates. My take away said are pretty basic, we are in changing times. Pastor’s and lay leaders need ot be discerning where God is leading using Jesus’ prayer, “not will by thine” and “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The people of God need each other. 

Personally, I am delighted to return as senior pastor at First UMC, downtown Wichita and to begin work with my new associate Rebecca Goltry Mohr. As part of the Transition into Ministry program, I am honored that First will be a teaching/mentoring congregation and that I have the honor to be a mentoring senior pastor. 

During the opening worship service, we were given small silk flowers to remember those members of the annual conference, both lay and clergy who had died in the prior year. During holy communion we were invited to drop those flowers into a bowl in honor and rememberance. Then someone created this with those flowers:


Stunningly beautiful, during ordination we were reminded we are surround by such a great cloud of witnesses. We were commissioning and ordaining our new leaders and being blessed and reminded to continue to run the race set before us. Pastor Rebecca’s was commissioned as a provisional elder during that service.


The theme for this years conference is a good one: Know God, Proclaim Christ, Serve Others, Seek Justice. May it be so. 

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