Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Radical Hospitality – Life in Community – The Loving Community

Holy Week – 2 Weeks before CT Meeting: 

“A key New Testament metaphor for the church is as the body of Christ.  Thus, if God is love, and Christ is God, then the church is the love of Christ embodied in the world.  At its best, the church is a place where the Holy Spirit is both present and seen to be present.  It shows God’s love in its daily life through its words and actions.  It is a loving community.” – The Wesleyan Way: A Faith that Matters (p. 34)

Our prayer is that all Connectional Table Members, Friends and Guests would do our best to be “the loving community” Christ has called us to be when we come together at the CT meeting in a few weeks.  The reality is that loving communities sometimes have disagreements, and love doesn’t mean that we ignore pain, frustration, and anger in our connection.  Acknowledging the rising discussions that are happening across official and unofficial channels on human sexuality and the diversity of perspectives in our Church, we are entering into a dialogue that is wrought with a multitude of perspectives from across our connection that has been the source of this pain, frustration, and anger in our denomination.  Many have felt loved and many have felt unloved by actions and inactions of members of the body of Christ.  And so, we approach this meeting with hope and prayer that the Holy Spirit might be present and be seen as present in the midst of our meeting together and in our conversations.

How do we “love one another?”  How will we offer radical hospitality as Christian United Methodist to one another?  We would ask that all CT members, staff, official guests, unofficial guests and all those who call themselves Christian United Methodists be those offering radical hospitality by sharing God’s love in our intentional and unintentional actions.  As we live-stream a panel discussion on human sexuality as a portion of our CT Meeting on Tuesday morning, our hope is that CT participants both online and offline could show one another and others who might be observing our actions what “the gracious love of Christ” looks like.  May the Holy Spirit bring out the best of the best actions and attitudes in the church as we seek to be together in Chicago on April 28-29th.  Let us be sure to prepare our hearts and our souls for this time by committing to prayer, searching the scriptures and fasting.

With God’s Grace and Love,

Bishop Bruce Ough, Chairperson of the CT

Rev. Amy Valdez Barker, Exec. Secretary of the CT

Monday – Pray for all CT Members
Tuesday – Search the Scriptures: Read Matthew 28
Wednesday – Pray for the Bishops and General Secretaries of The UMC
Thursday – Participate in a Maundy Thursday Service in a UMC (If able, go to a different church than your home church to experience a different tradition.)
Friday – Participate in a Good Friday Service in a UMC (FAST for 24 Hours)
Saturday – Serve God by serving others (Volunteer in a food bank or mission ministry in your local church * and beyond.)

Monday – Pray for all guests joining the CT Meeting
Tuesday – Search the Scriptures: Read 1 Corinthians 13
Wednesday – Pray for the clergy and laity of The UMC
Thursday – Pray for the UMW World Assembly in Kentucky and the nearly 6,000 participants.
Friday – Search the Scriptures: Read John 17
Saturday – FAST and PRAY (For 24 Hours – or as your body will allow.)
Sunday – CT Meetings Begin (with committee pre-meetings)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bishop Patrick Streiff: Why I am a United Methodist today

In my teenage years, a pastor who had been appointed to another church a year ago, came to visit us and asked me “Pat, have you ever thought of becoming a pastor?” Not at all! But his voice continued to work in my spirit. Two years later, in a time of prayer and searching for direction about my future studies, I felt a calling from God becoming stronger and stronger. My father, a secular scientist, was surprisingly tolerant and supportive. My mother, a faithful, life-long United Methodist, was afraid whether I could ever make a living from the low salary of a UM pastor. I shared my calling with a pastor, but told him also that I see my gifts rather in teaching than in being a pastor. He answered that the UMC in Switzerland has no specialized ministries and everyone begins as an ordained elder in local churches, but additionally uses his or her specialized gifts on a conference level. He added that this combination is very stimulating in his own experience. I was willing to try. I could not imagine to change to the well established, wealthy Protestant church, even if it offered more diverse possibilities. I wanted to serve the church which had nurtured my faith. And I had been fascinated by the Wesley brothers and by the international scope of the United Methodist Church.

I was grateful that the Board of Ordained Ministry extended my candidacy time to add and complete a Ph.D. before being appointed to a pastoral ministry, a new, courageous step at that time. All appointments as a pastor which followed, led me and my family to places of ministry, which I would never have chosen myself. But I trusted that the cabinet is led by God’s Spirit and that the risen Christ will go before us and meet us even in surprisingly different locations from those I would have chosen. Beyond imagination, my life and the life of my spouse have been enriched and deepened by these experiences. And the same is true for my ministry as a bishop. I have not searched for it. I would never had made campaign for it. I inwardly even resisted it, but together with my spouse we said to each other: “The Lord has blessed us so far and I do not dare say no if others call me to this ministry.” And so the journey goes on, not on a road I would have chosen, but – amidst tough challenges - fulfilling beyond my imagination because of the transforming presence of Jesus, the Christ.

The episcopal area of Central and Southern Europe is the most diverse in the United Methodist Church. For those who only count professing members it is one of the smallest. But it is made up of 7 Annual Conferences, 16 countries, ministry in more than 20 languages. The UMC as a small minority church is in mission either in a secular Western or a strongly Catholic or a predominantly Eastern Orthodox or an almost exclusively Muslim context or a mix of all of them. There is no outward reason for such a strange conglomerate of situations within one episcopal area than a common Methodist identity lived in a network of connectional relationships. This connectional solidarity builds up the church and through its ministry transforms people’s lives. The diverse cultures in the episcopal area are like a microcosm of what we experience as a world wide church: challenging, fascinating and enriching if we see each other as called together into one body by him, the head of the Church.

Bishop Streiff serves on the Connectional Table as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters and as Central Conference member of Central and Southern Europe

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Rev Mike Slaughter: Why I am United Methodist

When I was asked by the United Methodist Church to write a blog about why I choose to be United Methodist, I decided there are two influential drivers. First, it is an inheritance from my parents. My dad was raised Roman Catholic; my mom was from a Southern Baptist tradition. My birth convicted them to return to church but left them with the dilemma of "which church?" The neighborhood United Methodist congregation fit the bill. Part of our Methodist DNA is to see all Christians, everyone connected to Christ, as equal. That's why we have an open communion table and don't practice re-baptism. My boyhood church provided a safe place for both my Catholic dad and Baptist mom to experience acceptance and inclusion. This inclusiveness and our United Methodist emphasis on Holy Conferencing make us stronger as a faith movement. We embrace the Christ worthiness of all who come to the table, no matter how much we may disagree politically or theologically on the nonessentials.

Of course, as an adult, I could have easily shrugged off my spiritual inheritance. But, our United Methodist theological underpinnings keep me firmly committed.  Over a two-year period in my late teens, I had a radical new birth experience with Jesus Christ that transformed my life completely. It continues to shape who I am, what I do and how I believe almost 45 years later. The Trinitarian faith I learned about as a boy that proclaimed I could experience a deep and personal revelation of God through Jesus Christ laid the groundwork for all that I have become as a husband, father and pastor.

I am also completely sold out to our United Methodist emphasis on social holiness, the belief that we have power with God through our actions toward other people. I am grateful for our connectionalism and for the opportunities Ginghamsburg has had to work with our general boards and agencies to advance God’s mission. We have partnered with United Methodist Communications on annual Change the World weekends, challenging 11 million Methodists worldwide to take the church into the world, renewing, restoring and rebuilding communities. Our partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief within The General Board of Global Ministry (GBGM) has resulted in a $6.1 million investment for our sisters and brothers in Sudan and South Sudan to create new life pictures, job training, education, healing and hope. The child development and protection program alone has impacted over 30,000 children. We are now partnering with GBGM and our West Ohio Conference to help eliminate death from malaria in our lifetimes through Imagine No Malaria.

Especially this time of year as we remember that Christmas is not our birthday, I am honored to be part of this United Methodist faith movement –a people and a church that actively demonstrate Jesus’ authority over our lives by daily living out the sacrificial love of Christ toward the least and the lost.

Mike Slaughter is lead pastor and dreamer of GinghamsburgChurch. He represented the West Ohio Conference as lead delegate of the 2012 General Conference. His life-long passion is to reach the lost & set oppressed free; he is a tireless advocate for the displaced people of Darfur, Sudan.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meredith Hoxie Schol - Route 122: "Leading Toward Transformation rather than Managing Collapse”

In addition to my appointment to the work of the Connectional Table, I am also deeply involved in the life of a small urban congregation on the northwest side of Chicago.  I love it dearly, and I’d like to think it is a church I would have found on my own, but, as luck (or itinerancy) would have it, my husband was appointed there in January 2012.  In our (almost) two years there, we have been a part of some really exciting work of the Holy Spirit, as this congregation on the brink of closure has more-than-doubled, largely because of new attendees and members under the age of 40.

I carry this story of this small church with me and tell it everywhere I can.  Not only am I proud of the work my husband has done, but I think it points to the reality that there are people (and I’m talking young people… those ever-so-elusive millennials everyone is blogging about these days) who are still looking for Christian community, and for the life transformation that comes along with finding a church home.

Last week, I had the chance to attend part of the Route 122 Network event in Indianapolis, put on by the General Board of Discipleship.  The theme of the event was, “Leading Toward Transformation rather than Managing Collapse.”  It brought together conference staff, district superintendents and other leaders focused on the renewal of existing congregations.  Sessions focused on a variety of ways to address change, including reports of best practices from local churches and annual conferences across the denomination.

In my life as a United Methodist, and particularly since coming to work at the Connectional Table, I sometimes hear lament over the disconnect between the local church and the broader denominational bodies.  While we continue to work on what it means to be a global, connectional church, I think events like the Route 122 Network are bright spots that show how our connectional nature truly allows us to accomplish more together than we could on our own.  Conference leaders sharing stories, sharing strategies, and agency leadership providing consultation and resources… it was an experience I found deeply enriching, both in terms of my work at the Connectional Table (primarily researching denominational collaboration) and in my identity as a participant in the life of a small, revitalizing church on the northwest side of Chicago.

For more information about Route 122 you can contact Betsey Heavner at

Meredith Hoxie Schol is the Missional Collaboration Coordinator with the Connectional Table.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rev. Harald Rückert: Why I Choose the United Methodist Church

The UMC in Germany – as in all other European countries – is a minority church. The Lutherans and Catholics are dominating in the public. Methodists, Baptists and others in Germany are small Christian churches, and were often suspected to be a sect.

My parents and grandmother were Methodists. They were proud of it and felt at home in this community. Unfortunately our church was located on the other side of town and therefore I could not participate in the children’s programs very often. Instead I went to the children’s Sunday School class of the Lutheran Church and became a boy scout in the YMCA – both just around the corner from where we lived. But in spite of that, there was no doubt: I am a Methodist!

This feeling became stronger when I entered the confirmation class in our Methodist Church. I found friends. I was invited to the trombone choir and had the opportunity to learn the trumpet. I was trained to lead a children’s group. I was allowed to play music with some friends on Sunday mornings - even rock music with my guitar! Our pastor and our youth leaders provided good biblical teaching. They laid a good foundation. I felt at home at church.

Some of my good YMCA friends were involved in the charismatic movement. They shared their experiences of the Spirit with me. For almost two years I tried to combine both: being a “sober” Methodist and being a sympathizer with the charismatic spirituality. Although I made some important experiences, it became very clear: This expression of faith does not fit me. Intentionally and with full conviction I became a confessing member of the UMC. There were people of all ages at church - I needed all of them. The UMC appeared to be a pious community - but at the same time very open-minded and sensitive for the needs of our world. There was a structure - but very much freedom at the same time. There were rules - but the needs of people were always more important. There were well educated pastors with a mature theology - but lay people contributed equally to the mission. There was a local church, small and far from being perfect – but it was part of a big worldwide family. Even at the age of 19 I had a good feeling for all of this.

Then I left my home town for university (I studied food chemistry before I was called to become a pastor). There was no Methodist Church at the new place. For that time I joined a small Mennonite congregation.

All of these ecumenical experiences, influences and contacts were enriching my spirituality. They did not threaten my Methodist identity. In fact they helped me to gain a clearer understanding of what it means to be a Methodist. I became proud of the gift to live within this church. Still I am passionate about our church, even though there was a lot of disillusion during my time as a district superintendent. But still I am curious how God will serve our world through the UMC in the future and I want to be part of this adventure.

Rev. Harald Rückert is pastor of a local church in Reutlingen, Germany South Annual Conference. Since 1992 he is member of the Central Conference of Germany. He was elected delegate to the 2008 and 2012 General Conferences. He held appointments in local churches and a church planting project. For 10 years he served as district superintendent. He is engaged in the leadership training programs for candidates and ordained ministers in his Central Conference. Complimentary he is chair of an addiction therapy institution of the Church.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rev Tim Rogers: Why I am a United Methodist

The United Methodist Church has been God’s agent of change in my life.  We frequently hear that we should get out of our comfort zone in order to grow.  Well, I like my comfort zone.  I am not happy when I have to leave it.  I am a small-town boy who resents change.  Little did I know that by answering the call to ordained ministry, and choosing to stay in the denomination I grew up in, that I had signed up for a lifetime of change.

I doubt that my experiences as a United Methodist pastor have been unique.  My first appointment came when the phone rang unexpectedly during my middler year in seminary. Two of my appointments have been to places that I could not identify on a map beforehand.  One was to the one place I told my wife we could never be appointed to.  One came with a question from the cabinet: would I like to? My answer: no I would not.  I served that appointment for seven years. I signed up to serve as a United Methodist clergy with the expectation that I would tend the faithful who would show up on my church’s doorstep.  I woke up one morning living in one of the largest mission fields in the world.

All of this change has led me to meet and work with many, many amazing people.  I have been blessed to work with men and women of all kinds of backgrounds from all sorts of places.  There have been brilliant thinkers, devoted servants, inspirational leaders, and – above all – genuine lovers of God.  Exposure to so many genuine servants of the Gospel has been a challenge to grow in my own life and faith.

Every step, unbidden and unplanned on my part, has been useful to God in the continual work of re-shaping my heart.  Every wound has been an opportunity for grace.  Every new work has been a challenge to grow.  Every defeat has been a tutor in the discipline of trust.  Every move from appointment to appointment has taught the transience of things and the value of relationships: relationships with people, and above all, my relationship with God.

Relationships with people become more astonishing with time.  There are a number of people who, for reasons that are not clear to me, love me.  Miracles happen.  My relationship with God becomes ever more central as the days pass by.  I have learned that I cannot live without a vital, daily relationship with God through Christ.  Or rather, life without faith in Christ is a kind of living death for me.

Like many of us, I did not fully understand all that I was agreeing to when I said “Yes” to God’s call to ordained ministry.  But it was the United Methodist Church that gave me a place to respond to that call.  And it has been the United Methodist Church that God has used to make, and re-make, and re-make my soul.  We call it sanctification.  It has not always been easy.  But it has been grace-filled.  I would not change it.

The Rev. Tim Rogers is a member of the South Carolina Conference and serves as the senior pastor of Mt. Hebron UMC. He has previously served as Conference Secretary and Coordinator of Clergy Services. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, he and his wife live in Lexington, SC. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bishop Jeremiah Jungchan Park: Why I am a United Methodist

Once a Methodist, a Methodist forever. That’s how I was born and raised. My father was a Methodist pastor in Korea and I was a Methodist before I was born. My Christian identity has never been separated from my identity as a Methodist in Korea and now a United Methodist in the U.S. it will never be.

I am a United Methodist because I affirm the spirituality, theology, practice, and tradition of Methodism. I wholeheartedly embrace the evangelistic zeal for making disciples of Jesus Christ and the missional passion for transforming the world. I believe in a healthy balance of personal holiness and public and corporate witness to social holiness, holding the two in harmony and tension. I believe in discipleship as a process. No one has arrived. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, everyone is on a journey of faith with God and with one another. All of us are encouraged and challenged to continue to grow, expand, and change in the understanding and practice of discipleship. I also believe in the connectional nature of the church. We are better together for ministry and are stronger together for mission. Together we can be more and do more as a church. I highly value the big tent image of the church. No one way of being or doing the church is perfect. There’s always room for all God’s people to be a part of our church.

I once expressed the vision of my church in these words: A truly inclusive, diverse, evangelistic, missional, healthy, and growing church, where people are accepted and affirmed as God’s children of sacred worth, confirmed and convicted as disciples of Jesus Christ, and commissioned and sent as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel.  I am a United Methodist because I believe that I have the best chance to be a part of the church of my dream in the United Methodist Church than in any other church. The world is facing ever-increasing diversity, demographic change, societal illness, conflict, humanitarian needs, and environmental crisis. Real and significant opportunities for life-changing and community-transforming mission and ministry are being created for such a time as this. I am a United Methodist because I believe that the United Methodist Church has the best means to make a difference in the world. God is not finished with our church yet.

Let me add an intensely personal reason why I am a United Methodist. It’s “grace”. I experience the width, the length, the height, and the depth of grace in the most incredible way through my journey as a United Methodist. I started my journey as a United Methodist when I immigrated to the USA 36 years ago. As the Resident Bishop of the Harrisburg Area, I now live in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, some 50 miles away from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is the birthplace of Korean Methodism. A young man named Henry G. Appenzeller, who was nurtured in a Methodist church in that place came to Korea in 1885 as the first missionary sent from the church now known as the United Methodist Church. Some 128 years later, there are over 5,000 Methodist churches with some 1.5 million Methodists in Korea. Here I am, a product of the Korean Methodist Church and a first generation immigrant, now serving as a United Methodist Bishop near the place where it all started. This amazing grace grabbed me only because I am a United Methodist. Why am I a United Methodist? What happened to me could only happen in the United Methodist Church. “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1Corinthians 15:10a). Being a United Methodist is an essential part of what I am, a swimmer in the sea of grace.

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park was elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and is currently serving in the Harrisburg Area after serving 8 years with the New York Area.  He became President of the General Commission on Archives and History in September 2012.  He has served as DS and Council Director for the Northern/Greater New Jersey Annual Conference as well as the associate director of the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry of the NEJ.