Monday, April 15, 2013

Marc Brown: Why I choose UMC

I remember the first time I witnessed an infant being baptized and the first time I received the Lord’s Supper even though I was not a member of The United Methodist Church. Infants were not baptized in the denomination in which I was raised and it was understood that church membership was required to receive the bread and the cup. When I saw the infant receiving the sacrament of baptism and when I was welcomed to the sacramental table of the Eucharist, I began a new journey in understanding how God’s inviting love is proclaimed. In time, I joined that congregation because I knew I had been welcomed by the love of God that was beyond my understanding.

As a follower of Jesus, I still choose to be a member of The United Methodist Church because I want my life to be connected to the story of God’s inviting love that is still beyond my understanding. I want the story of my life to be witness to the claiming grace of God where people are baptized and invited to the Lord’s Table so they may join in the journey of following Jesus.

The Rev. Marc Brown is an elder in the Virginia Conference who is currently appointed as the conference’s Director of Connectional Ministries.  Prior appointments have included serving as pastor of small, medium, and large churches as well as service as a district superintendent.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Jovito J. Sermonia, Jr: Why I Chose UMC

As I reflect upon what had been happening in our church (UMC) during the last two to three decades, I could not help but feel sad because I believe that we have been falling short of our mission. In the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we are told that “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. And that “local churches provide the most significant area through which disciple-making occurs.” At the UMC, however, we can all acknowledge that our population had been dwindling continuously over the years. So the question is – how can we ensure disciple-making at the UMC when there are fewer and fewer of us left? Also, with the shrinking church membership, how can we ensure that the UMC’s role as a community in which the people of God could grow and flourish is maintained?

From my cursory research I gathered that, in general, people leave the church for various reasons including the following. First, people leave the church when roots are not established – without roots, people come and go as they please. Second, people leave the church when connections are not made. People tend to leave when they do not connect to the vision and direction of the church. Third, people leave the church when they are running from the truth. When the word of God is taught, it brings with it the truth and reality about God, as well as about ourselves, and some people simply resist when the truth is presented to them. Fourth, people leave the church when offense occurs between church members. An example maybe when one church member gossips about another member, who most likely will be offended and leave the church. And fifth, people leave the church when they lose their hunger for things of God.

On a less intellectual note, my casual observations over the years tell me that people left the UMC due to various reasons which include the following. One reason is that some people have migrated and now attend another church in their new location. Also, others might have become tired of the Methodist church and have joined a non-Methodist church. Another reason is what I have outlined as the “fourth reason” above. Finally, some people perhaps were trying to find their “comfort zones” and followed their friends who had left the UMC.
As it is, we can all acknowledge that we have some issues within the church that we need to address. These issues, however, need not be the justification for us to leave the church. The battle is here and the opportunity to gain and strengthen our faith is here! In fact, if we look closely at what’s happening around us and look closely at our church, we might see the light.

I personally am very optimistic that we can encourage current members to become more active and that we can recruit many new converts to our church because salvation is still in the United Methodist Church! Why and how, you might ask? First, our church shares a common heritage with all Christians. Second, our church has always maintained a neutral political stand unlike some churches/religions which I shall not name. Note that here and elsewhere, the political activism of some churches/religions has turned people off. Third, our church has maintained its clean image, again unlike some churches which have been involved in various scandals (sexual, financial, etc.). In short, the reputation of our church as a “neutral” community and one which exists solely to promote our spiritual well-being has been safely preserved all these years!

James 1:2 said, “consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Jun Sermonia is a member at Knox United Methodist Church and currently the Conference Lay Leader of Philippines Annual Conference. He supports various missions in the Philippines and overseas as well like UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. He is also involved in Medical missions particularly in the Baguio Episcopal Area.  In business, he deploys Filipino workers for overseas employment.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Brad Brady: Why I Am a United Methodist Today

My spiritual journey began in the Methodist Church.  The first church I knew anything about was a Methodist Church in Statesboro, Georgia, USA.  I was baptized soon after my birth at this church.  My earliest awareness of “church” was in my early childhood when my parents joined a group of others to plant a new Church on the other side of town.

Those early years were formative in many ways.  Being a minister was in my heart long before I received and responded to a call to preach as an adult.  I can remember coming home from church as a young child, putting on my Father’s dress shirt, grabbing the family Bible and going to the carport to preach.  I repeated as much as what I could remember the pastor saying that morning.  Our backyard neighbor would be on his porch listening attentively and with encouragement. 

So, I am a United Methodist today, in part, because it is the church I was exposed to as a child.
Through the years, I have explored and embraced the spiritual richness of The United Methodist Church.  It is because of this personal experience with these emphases that I remain a United Methodist today.
  • Theological balance—United Methodists believe that God is the source of our salvation.  We are saved by the undeserved love of God.  Yet, we receive this gift through faith in Jesus Christ.  Our response to God’s love is vital to our journey as disciples of Jesus.  I believe our theology best articulates this “invitation and response” pattern, which is a fundamental aspect of our life-long relationship with God.
  • Discipleship focus—United Methodists have a sense of urgency around forming disciples of Jesus Christ.  It is not enough to remain a spiritual baby feeding on spiritual milk.  All across the United Methodist movement laity and clergy are finding creative and Spirit-filled ways to urge every Christ-follower to grow in their knowledge and love of God.  As the Apostle Paul prayed, we United Methodists want everyone to be “filled with the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
  • Faith impacts real life—United Methodists understand that forming disciples should impact the world in transforming ways.  Faith is not something we reserve for Sunday and the sanctuary.  The biblical values formed within us are intended to influence every aspect of our lives.  Assuredly, our faith and reliance on God grows we reach out to represent Christ by confronting the injustices of the culture around us through word and deed.   Our desire to partner with God to restore Shalom is at our core.
  • Going on to perfection—United Methodists admit that we don’t have it all together.  We are still being formed into Christlikeness as individuals and as a Church.  We trust the Holy Spirit to continue lavishing sanctifying grace on us.  Some days, more than others, we recognize the distance we still have to travel to reach perfection.  It is in those individual and communal moments of awareness that we are drawn closer to God and to each other.  I feel very much at home with those who realize we have not fully reached our destination with God.

It is exciting to realize that millions of United Methodists all across the globe are experiencing and responding to God’s grace, growing as disciples, representing Christian values to their community, and going onto perfection. 

We come from the smallest village to the largest city.  We speak almost every language under heaven—yet, we are united in faith and mission through Jesus Christ.  What a movement!  I cannot think of any other place I would rather be than in The United Methodist Church.

Brad serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries in the South Georgia Annual Conference.  He has been active in almost every aspect of the Church including pastoring local churches, serving as District Superintendent, serving as Conference Secretary for 13 years and as Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference Secretary from 2008-2012.