Saturday, April 28, 2012

Guaranteed Appointments and the LGBT question

I am not saying what exactly I support because frankly I don’t really know.  There are three things that have been capturing my attention this GC – guaranteed appointments, disposing of commissioning (personally invested in this one) and the ordination of LGBT.   Two of these logically go together – guaranteed appointments and ordination of all people.

I understand that guaranteed appointments have been around for half a century and that they were instituted so that women clergy would have a fair chance.  You see 50 years ago we were not debating if LGBT people would be ordained but if women could be ordained. 

So, let’s use a little logic here.  IF we dispose of guaranteed appointments and IF the ministry of LGBT is affirmed, what will be in place that the LGBT clergy get a fair chance?

So I say that these legislations go hand in hand.  I don’t think things will change horribly for me – personally.  I’m not going to say that I’m “in like Flynn” but I also think that I’m effectual and doing a decent job.  What disposing of guaranteed appointments will do for me personally?  I may not be able to be as outspoken about politically charged issues as I would like. Among other things.

However, I think that disposing of guaranteed appointments will do BIG things when it comes around to LGBT clergy being able to feel any sort of job security.

From an article on

In 1989, the Rev. Robert Kohler, then staff for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, presented a paper to the Commission for the Study of Ministry in which he pointed out that on this topic “one finds a very short legislative history and a very long oral tradition.”
Kohler refers to “The Minister in the Itinerant System” by Bishop Thomas B. Neely, published in 1914.  Bishop Neely wrote that in his time the system promises “that the preacher shall be provided with a pastoral charge…(and)…that, if he does faithful and successful work, he need not be concerned about his next appointment, for the appointing power will concern itself about that.”
The 1912 Discipline spelled out how conference membership could be terminated, and these included judicial procedures (Paragraphs 243-260).  The 1956 Discipline was clear that, "Every traveling preacher, unless retired, supernumerary, on sabbatical leave, or under arrest of character, must receive an appointment." (Paragraph 432.9)  The 2008 Discipline states, "All elders in full connection who are in good standing in annual conference shall be continued under appointment by the bishop unless…." (Paragraph 337).
The language of Bishop Neely in 1914 is most interesting: “Back of the system, therefore, is the whole Church, self-obligated – sworn, so to speak, to conform to and to uphold this system of pastoral assignment. It is a contract between the laity and the ministry.” In other words, the bishop sends, the clergy go without reserve, and the laity receives. Break any link and the itinerancy is in jeopardy.
From the HuffPo
The issue of clergy job security will be front and center next month when delegates to the quadrennial General Conference of The United Methodist Church considers a proposal to end "guaranteed appointments" for elders in good standing. The church's Study of Ministry Commission says clergy job guarantees cost too much money and can focus more on the clergyperson's needs rather than the denomination's mission. On the other side, many clergy express fears that eliminating job security may lead to arbitrary dismissals. A major concern is that clergy will be judged based on their performance at "toxic" congregations, churches with so much internal conflict that it is difficult for any minister to have success.
I've been reading for years about clergy burnout, toxic congregations and obversely, toxic pastors.  I've also watched as our society fragment - Cokey Roberts spoke about this a couple of months ago at Berry College.  There has been a loss of collegiality and congeniality in American society.  Used to be that politicians across the aisle - Republican and Democrat - would debate for hours on the floor and then go to parties with one another, get drinks after the debate, go to church with one another.  I understand that in the last few decades, that's not so true anymore.

Pity that.  We have become a solitary society whose elbows rub when we are madly texting other people across the country and instead of talking to and being in relationship with the person we are rubbing elbows with.  And then we get irritated at them for taking up so much of our space and bandwidth.

Society is changing.  We are in a post-modern world in which truth is voted on by the majority and Wikipedia is truth.  Truth by consensus - is it really true?  Our children don't believe in black and white anymore, just shades of grey.

So when we are watching the church, are we not just watching a smaller version of our society?  As a society in general are we not getting more toxic?  Why are we so shocked that the church is more toxic as well?

We have an opportunity for change.  We the church have the opportunity to really do Holy Conferencing - for Communion to occur.  This General Conference let us do that - leaving our own toxic natures aside, let us embrace all those things which are good.  Let us Do No Harm, Do Good and Attend God's Holy Ordinances.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


There are a lot of tweets (#gc2012), Facebook postings and blogs all centering around one thing - the "atmosphere of fear" that is surrounding General Conference this year.  I hear it - and I wonder if it is something to put our energy into or if we ourselves are throwing the gasoline on the fire.

They are in committee this morning - last night was the evening plenary with a wonderfully produced and heartfelt presentation by Adam Hamilton.  I've heard him called "mega-church" pastor Adam Hamilton, as if the word "mega-church" is somehow equated to "anti-Christ."  Ridiculous put that way, eh?  It was obvious to me watching last night and watching again this morning that Rev. Hamilton loves this church - and he want it to survive not just because he loves the institution so much but because he love the people and he has a heart for those unchurched.  The tool he's advocating is the Bishop's CTA (Call to Action) which has garnered it's own share of hate-speech last night and this morning.

There has been such a visceral reaction to his address and support because we are frightened by change.  I would add that perhaps there is another tool we can use - another advocated by people at General Conference and that would be discipling.  Growing and maturing Christian in this faith that we declare leads to life eternal.

Words have power - let us monitor our words so that we don't lose the love we have for one another in Christ Jesus.  The word I would have for Adam Hamilton is "Thank You."  You have been a leader in this church and I thank you for the love you have for the people of the United Methodist Church.  The other word I would have for him is this:  can we be in conversation?

The tweets I read last night were damaging.  If I had read them as a person to whom they were directed, I think I would have been devastated to think that my message was so misread.  As we go into committees, please be in prayer for all those delegates who will be debating if our "shalls" should turn into "mays" or if our "mays" be turned into "shalls."  Words have power.

May the Word of God keep up and sustain us; may the Word made flesh be with us; may the Word we speak be the Word eternal.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It's time for General Conference in the United Methodist Church.  In Tampa - this week, committees.  Next week - the voting.

I've been told this is an historic General Conference that it's the most significant General Conference since unification in 1968.  That this is a General Conference of significance. That we can redefine our denomination, that we can restructure, that we can become Vital Congregations.

I hope so - I pray so. But I do believe this morning's debates about rules is a signpost.  There were power plays, there was debate, there were conversations on the floor, off the floor, on the internet, Twittered, Facebooked, Video Chatted and so forth and what was the result?  We (they, actually b/c  I'm not there!) accepted the rules as written.

I hope this is not a sign of things to come. If this is really a conference to change our denomination from an institution to a missional movement, this debate about the rules does not bode well.  I hope and pray for real and substantive change, grassroots change, radical change - change that goes to our roots as Methodists.

I'll be watching and praying.  May God have mercy on our denomination!

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Rules for Life

Project Order from Chaos and my Eating Clean are coming together. One of my "life quotes" is from the Nag Hammadi: 
For what is inside of you is what is outside of you, and the one who fashions you on the outside is the one who shaped the inside of you. And what you see outside of you, you see inside of you; it is visible and it is your garment. -- "The Thunder Perfect Mind" 
 It's on my sidebar - used to be in the header. I get stuck on the idea of the inside reflecting the outside reflecting the inside. I get stuck on the idea of being a white-washed tomb. I want both my interior and exterior to be healthy.

 Thus I am make some new guidelines (or rules, if you wish.) I am not going to diet; I am going to move toward health. So here goes:
 1. Always eat at the table.
2. No reading material or electronic devices at the table EVER. Concentrate on eating and enjoying the food. And take your time at it.
3. No crashing into the perfect way to eat. Any sort of crashing sounds like it hurts. It took 16 years to gain 130 pounds. Move gradually, one step at a time into healthy living.
4. No stalling though.
5. The perfect meal consists of a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. No processed foods. Food should look like food, not like Cheeze Whiz.
6. By weight and volume, most of my food should be plant material – fruits and vegetables. Some raw, some cooked.
7. I eat nothing white: no white potatoes, no white sugar, no white flour. There are zero nutrients in this kind of food; it’s just calories and filler.
 8. Fats should be mostly in the food – nuts, seeds, avocado, fish. Other (cooking) fats should be only Olive, Canola or Safflower oils. Period.
9. Meat is a condiment. Enjoy it as so. Eat only lean meat and beef/pork maybe once a week. Make that 8 oz filet a 4 oz filet. Cut it way back.
10. Curves is great. It’s making a difference (I think.) Riding the stationary bike is great. But I think I need a “Level One” change – a first order change in my habits. I need to get up and move at least once an hour. It’s easy to get sucked into the computer. I need to move around 8 minutes every hour. I can start by just getting UP.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tony Freeman? Gordon Jones? Separated at birth? (Have you ever noticed how much Tony Jones looks like Gordon Freeman from Half Life?

One of the great theremin musicians, Barbara Buchholz, passed away. May she rest in peace and be raised in Glory.

Friday, April 06, 2012

It is Friday

It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.

Nothing can be said, nothing can be done.
Action is futile – hebel.
I can hold the other's hands and weep, but I cannot be comforted.

It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.

The air is heavy still with waiting and longing.
Waiting for the inevitable, longing for the impossible.
Can this cup pass from me?
I look around me – all the colors are muted.
Dusty browns and grays – Cold and metallic.
Rolling black clouds cover the brilliant blue of the sky
As my soul is occluded by pain.
All that remains is the red of the blood
Running down the weathered wood of the cross.

It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.

I reach out and touch the raised grain of the wood.
It is rough against my fingertips.
The pong of unwashed wool and bodies crowds my nose.
I smell fear, pain, death. I taste it at the back of my throat.
I hear the labored breathing from the cross.
Death is near.

It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.

Remember Him!
Remember Him as the silver cord is severed, as the golden bowl is broken.
Remember Him as the pitcher is shattered at the spring and the wheel broken at the well.
Remember Him as the dust returns to the ground it came from and
His spirit returns to the God who gave it.

It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Year B Maundy Thursday Service

I've used the Maundy Thursday, Tenebrae and Good Friday Services from the United Methodist Book of Worship several times and wanted to shake things up a little this year.

Since Year B of the Lectionary is the year of the Gospel of Mark, I decided to write the entire service around Mark 14 and 15. I have interleaved the readings with communion, Hymns from the "United Methodist Hymnal", Songs from "The Faith We Sing" and the Cokesbury Hymnal with only one addition from an outside sources - "Bitter Was the Night" by Sydney Carter (I think it's #132 in Voices United which is used by the United Church of Canada. I had a few other selections in mind, but I began to limit the amount of music so that the middle lections had a different rhythm. The service uses only 12 candles, unlike other services. I think I'll record it tonight so that I can listen later.

Prayer – Opening words

Mark 14:12-25 – Last Supper
Hymn:  Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees UMH 618

Mark 14:26-31 – Peter’s Denial Foretold
Choir: Stay With Me
Extinguish First Candle

Mark 14:31-36 - Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
Trio: Into the Woods
Extinguish Second Candle

Mark14: 37-42 – The Disciples Sleep
Choir: Stay With Me
Extinguish Third Candle

Mark 14:43- 52 – The Arrest of Jesus
Choir: Stay With Me
Extinguish Fourth Candle

Mark 14:53- 65 – The Trial of Jesus
Choir: Lonesome Valley
Extinguish Fifth Candle

Mark 14:66- 72 – Peter Denies Jesus
Choir: Bitter Was the Night
Extinguish Sixth Candle

Mark 15:1-5 – Jesus Before Pilate
Extinguish Seventh Candle

Mark 15:6-15 – Pilate Hands Jesus Over to be Crucified
Extinguish Eighth Candle

Mark 15:16-20 – The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Extinguish Ninth Candle

Mark 15:21-32 – The Crucifixion of Jesus
Choir: Oh the Lamb
Extinguish Tenth Candle

Mark 15:33-41 – The Death of Jesus
Choir: Why Hast God Forsaken Me?
Extinguish Eleventh Candle

Mark 15:42-45 – The Burial of Jesus
Hymn:  Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? UMH 288
Extinguish Twelfth Candle

Isaiah 53:4-9
Choir: Your Only Son
Relight largest candle

Depart in silence.