Monday, July 21, 2014

Brad Brady: Worldwide Nature of the Church

I can’t get the hymn, “In Christ There Is No East or West” out of my mind as I participate in our ongoing discussions around the Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church.

It is easy to sing and celebrate our unity in mission.  Across the globe there are signs of spiritual transformation flowing out of the congregations and ministries of United Methodism.  As the hymn states, our joining hands in the disciple-making mission of Christ is the “golden cord” that binds us together.

Like in so many areas of our Christian experience, there is a “present” and a “not yet” dimension to United Methodism’s pursuit of fully living as a worldwide church. 

You do not have to look hard to find examples of this unrealized vision, especially when you begin talking about our organization, structure and governance.   One can feel the struggle of the “not yet” whenever the inevitable power-shifting discussions unfold.  As in any system, those with power naturally seek to protect their control and influence. 

It doesn’t take long in these conversations to have the Apostle Paul’s teaching about the Body of Christ challenge me to fully recognize and value each part of the body.  For me, I suppose the core question we are pursuing is what would our church look like if we more fully lived up to Paul’s image of the Body of Christ?

The last verse of the hymn places before us an invitation as we continue to prayerfully discuss and discern matters related to the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church.
In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north;
all Christly souls are one in him
throughout the whole wide earth.
In Christ There Is No East or WestThe United Methodist HymnalHymn 548

Brad is Pastor of Perry United Methodist Church in the SouthGeorgia Annual Conference. He has been active in almost every aspect of the Church including pastoring local churches, serving as District Superintendent, as Director of Connectional Ministries for 11 years, as Conference Secretary for 13 years and as SEJ Conference Secretary from 2008-2012.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Why Be Part of a Worldwide UMC?

By: Bishop Patrick Streiff

Twice over the last month, regions in my Episcopal area have been flooded, first in Serbia, then in Bulgaria. In Serbia the UMC churches were not directly affected by the floods, in Bulgaria church property and houses of members were damaged or destroyed. In each case, Methodists from other regions called our office and asked: “What help do you need? What can we do?” In Bulgaria, a poor Roma (Gypsy) church collected money in the Sunday worship for the Roma church farther north which was directly affected. The Polish Annual Conference which met a few days after the devastating storms in Bulgaria made an offering for the UMC in Bulgaria. And in our office, we continue to link the support between the countries because the most difficult time for the people will come when there will be no harvesting in summer and fall. By that time, the headlines of the news will be directed to other topics. People will have forgotten about the floods, but Methodists remember. – I know why I want to be and remain part of a worldwide UMC!

Youth from many countries in our central conference met last year in Serbia for a summer camp. As often it was difficult to receive the applications in time. But more than 50 young people came to the “YouMe” and after that experience they asked that we organize more often such youth camps. This summer many partnership churches or VIM-teams from the US come to central and southern Europe. They organize English camps or leadership training, help in building projects and celebrate worship with their partner churches. And many of our growing churches are communities which are particularly welcoming towards foreigners and migrants living in our society. – I know why I want to be and remain part of a worldwide UMC!

This year in the fall, the central conference of central and southern Europe will celebrate its 60-years. After World War II and with the rise of communism, it seemed impossible to reconnect and again build up the central conference. In 1954, the founding central conference took place in Belgium, one of the countries belonging to the former Methodist Episcopal Church South. The newly elected Bishop could not travel every year to Eastern Europe. It depended on the “political climate” whether and in which country he received a visa for entry. But Methodists were re-connected between East and West a long time before the fall of communist regimes around 1989. We continue to celebrate and renew such connections in the midst of recurrent raises of nationalism in many European countries. – I know why I want to be and remain part of a worldwide UMC! And you?

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, June 30, 2014

Why I am United Methodist - Susan Henry-Crowe

Church inspired crossing boundaries, reflecting critically, praying earnestly, thinking globally. 

Article originally posted on The General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church on June 25, 2014. 

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of reflections on their own faith journeys written by members of the staff of the General Board of Church & Society. The photo is a compilation of items each person brought to a day-long retreat with the agency’s new general secretary last fall. Each item is a personal icon representing a staff member’s faith journey.

I come from a family that supported a young woman, my Aunt Della Wright, who in 1905 in her 20s was the second principal of the Colegio Metodista Americano in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Aunt Della lived her life in Brazil, Texas and on the margins of life.

The best Sunday School teacher in the whole world was a middle-aged, white businessman who inspired my love of thinking theologically. Mr. Buchanan had us as high-school students read Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and form critical methods of reading Scripture. He led us in wonderful ethical and theological discussions that were relevant and engaging every Sunday morning.

Our sub-District and District Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) worked together. Our church and our District’s youths worked across economic and cultural lines in the Anderson Rd. Mission of our denomination. We tutored, played basketball and were very present to children and young adults we would never have known otherwise.

Olene Civils, our church’s Director of Education, was a deaconess. She guided our MYF study for over a year on the Middle East. The summer of 1967, at the time of the Six Day War, 45 MYFers from our church were at our denomination’s Church Center at the United Nations in New York City watching King Hussein of Jordan enter the U.N. headquarters across the street.

Church helped see larger world
Some years later, I articulated that it was the Church that helped me glimpse a world where as a Christian I would never be completely at home in Greenville, S.C. And I never was. I would need a larger world to satisfy my curiosity, my longing to understand Christian life from the eyes of those in textile communities, rural communities, John's Island, S.C., Jerusalem, Palestine, countries of Europe and Africa.

I went to my first high-school prom with a young gay man. My church cared for him and all of its youths. The culture may have stigmatized him, but my church did not.

The summer I graduated from high school, I participated in a Migrant Ministry program on Johns Island with other Methodist, Lutheran and Catholic young people. I worked with women and children. We met in the camps each night with families who lived in extremely crowded, hot, spartan, unsanitary conditions. I helped a young woman give birth to her baby when the hospital would not admit her. I got hepatitis.

In college at the Wesley Foundation, there were Bible studies, theological reflections, retreats and several times a week outreach to a girls’ home. We went to Columbia, S.C., to civil-rights demonstrations and anti-war protests. We also went on retreats, sat around campfires singing, and undertook basic Christian formation.

Early wave of women into ordained ministry
I was ordained with the early wave of women into the ministry of The United Methodist Church. Bishop James Thomas’ and Bishop Edward Tullis’ names are on my ordination credentials. I think they were as proud of me as I was to belong among them.

I served three pastoral appointments in rural and textile communities in South Carolina. I loved the people of those communities.

I served a parish in conservative Strom Thurmond territory. I loved the people of that community. I have many stories of how they journeyed in having a young woman pastor, and how I journeyed into lands I never knew.

I served on the South Carolina Conference Council on Ministries, holding almost every portfolio of the UMC. Serving with Bishop Roy Clark and Joseph Bethea, the ground was laid for five cross-racial appointments in South Carolina in 1989. It was hard and painful and joyful work.

I served for 22 joy-filled years as Dean of the Chapel & Religious Life at Emory University, serving the needs of the university in eight schools and 30 religious communities. Multi-faith work in a large university grounded in the ecumenical spirit of Methodism was a great joy.

The Church’s gift
I am sharing this because it is this Church that gave me and continues to give millions of young people this gift: crossing boundaries, reflecting critically, praying earnestly, thinking globally, living in communities I, nor they, would ever have known or come to understand. The Church put me in places as a 12-year-old, a 16-year-old, an 18-year-old, at 21 to 25 … I learned firsthand that there are greater and lesser resources, vision, and people and communities that are not homogenous.

The Church gave me a way to see Christ in the world not just from the eyes of privilege, but from the eyes of migrant workers, of textile workers, of Strom Thurmond conservatives — all whom I loved. I knew nothing about textile workers: The Church gave me that gift. I knew nothing about the Middle East: The Church gave me that. I did not know many Strom Thurmond conservatives, and I loved them.

Christian formation, education, outreach and justice, love of God and love of God's world are the gifts given to and illuminated for me.

Treasure ‘the Connection’
I treasure what we historically, pragmatically and legally call "the Connection." But that word does not fully indicate what it is. The Connection is Christian life together, of prayer, of sacraments, of teaching, of living, of bearing witness, of doing good, of visiting those in prison, standing with migrants, working alongside immigrants, to holding the broken hearted, of hallowing to the Joy of the Gospel of the Risen Christ throughout the whole inhabited earth.

We must move organically from fear, suspicion and brokenness to respect and trust. The Church must be inclusive of all. Fully and completely. A Church divided can never fully heal. We know divisions of the Church throughout the centuries break the heart of God and violate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world needs this Methodist family, as broken and wounded as we are.

I am United Methodist because of the gifts given me and to which I hold, believe, teach, preach, treasure, and am in love with: one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one Order, one worldwide United Methodist Church.

Susan Henry-Crowe became General Secretary of the Board ofChurch and Society in February 2014. Before her election, she served as dean of the Chapel and Religious Life at Emory University for 22 years. For 16 years, Henry-Crowe served as a member of the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination’s “Supreme Court.” She was the first woman elected president of the Judicial Council, serving in that role from 2008-2012. Henry-Crowe is an ordained elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference where she served in three pastoral appointments, and as associate director and then director of the Conference Council on Ministries.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Connectional Table gathers feedback on the worldwide nature of the church

In an effort to foster ongoing dialogue about topics of interest to the broader church, The Connectional Table and the Commission on General Conference are inviting members to join them in conversation about the worldwide nature of the church.

“We are asking you, as members of The United Methodist Church, to join us in addressing the challenges we have before us that affect how we live out our Gospel mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” said Bishop Bruce Ough.

Adding that the issue of the global connection is more than just a conversation about structure, the Missional Collaboration Group on the Worldwide Nature of the Church, has launched a new website at with downloadable resources to facilitate discussion about the worldwide issues affecting our missional effectiveness as a worldwide church. The site highlights an introductory video (as shown below) and offers a link to a survey for feedback.

The website, with supporting documents available in English, French and Portuguese, features an executive summary and discussion questions regarding the worldwide mission of the connection, a downloadable PowerPoint presentation that outlines the history and comparisons of central conferences and jurisdictions and supplemental reports on the UMC’s worldwide nature from past General Conferences. Delegations are encouraged to review the materials, discuss the questions and submit responses through the online survey or by email.

The deadline for survey responses is August 31, 2014.

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.