Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bishop Sally Dyck - Why I'm Glad I'm United Methodist!

When I go to services of confirmation, I talk about why I’m glad I’m United Methodist.  I chose United Methodism and I value some of the unique core values that defined us in the past and continue to give us our identity today.  So I give them my list of 5 things, including how important grace is in our understanding of God and what it means to be a Christian.

But my last point is that John Wesley is cool!  Then I show this picture of John Wesley from the 18th century:

They all groan and I remark on how funny John Wesley looks to us today with his strange pageboy.  But then I show them this picture which a friend of mine photoshopped:

(Don’t you think he looks a lot better with a haircut?) I remind the confirmands that John Wesley would think they look a little funny to him, too! They laugh and before they begin to think I’m too crazy, I tell them that one of things about United Methodism that I really like is that we’re not meant to live like John Wesley hundreds of years ago, but live like people of faith in our present age.  “New occasions teach new duties,” as the old hymn says.

Rethinking is our tradition from the very beginning of the story of our salvation and is part of our Wesleyan heritage.  People throughout the ages have taken what it means to be the people of God, followers of Jesus and living the United Methodist Way into new places with new people in new ways.  For instance, about 175 years ago when people came to the northern Illinois area, they had to rethink where to have church; how to provide for the spiritual needs of people without a clergy in every gathering of Methodists; how to care for one another in the times in which they lived as opposed to how they did all these things in the “Old Country” or “back East.”

As United Methodists we are most resilient when we remember that rethinking is our tradition.  I’m glad our tradition isn’t meant to keep us tied to a by-gone year but to force us to figure out how to live our faith today in social, ethical, theological, biblical and global ways that John Wesley would never have dreamed of facing in its day.  But with the foundation of our faith, particularly our personal and social holiness, combined with the admonition to work these things out in a faith community, it helps us to not only live our lives but to be relevant in our world.

It’s challenging but it’s exciting…just like it’s been all the other times we’ve had to rethink who we are.  Yes, that makes me glad to be a United Methodist! 

Bishop Sally Dyck, an ordained Elder from the East Ohio Conference, was elected to the episcopacy in 2004, where she served the Minnesota Area until 2012. She currently serves as resident bishop for the Northern Illinois Conference. She has been president of UMCom since 2008. She is a year-round runner and is married to the Rev. Kenneth Ehrman.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jane Finley - Why UMC (video)

The Connectional Table caught up with member, Jane Finley, at her 2013 Annual Conference in North Georgia to tell us "Why UMC Today."

Jane is a member of Toccoa First UMC in Toccoa Georgia. She has served in various leadership roles within the conference including conference lay leader and is currently the North Georgia Conference Lay Delegation Head and Director of Leadership UMC.  She has served as a member of the Board of Discipleship.  She and her husband, Roger, have 4 adult children and 8 grandchildren.

Jane Finley - Why I Remain a United Methodist?

Why I remain a UM?
It’s all about reaching the world for Christ!

As the old familiar hymn, “Others” so eloquently expresses:  “Others, yes others! ~ Let this my motto be.  Help me to live for others that I might live like Thee.” I feel strongly that my United Methodist upbringing and heart is a constant reminder to me of my calling to be a lay servant leader and a servant to others.

As I  reflect on the many blessings that we as Methodist bring to the world in outreach of mission and ministry as a denomination that holds churches together through the connection ~ other helping others.  I read with great interest a recent blog by Joshua Harris regarding “humble orthodoxy” and his statement: “Trust in the power of the gospel and the sufficiency of God’s word” as he emphasizes that “truth matters, but so does our attitude.”  If we concentrate on being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world and we carry out the Great Commission and the United Methodist theme: “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” we are servants in ministry and mission.  We make sweet music to God’s ears and celebrate His greatness as we span the world with love through our attitude of gratitude.  When we are in mission and ministry together with those in need, we receive blessings beyond measure; and it is these blessing that in turn bless others, keeping us humble with a grateful attitude for the opportunity to serve Christ.

As a child in an urban setting, I was raised in the United Methodist Church where I first learned to appreciate our Wesleyan heritage.  The church where my family and I worshiped was located in close proximity with other denominations, but there were no opportunities to serve in an ecumenical event, but Martha Brown UMC did our own thing as did the other churches.  Time has brought significant change to emphasize the “connection” ~ to partner the local church with others in the same geographic area as well as churches around the world.  This is a wonderful example of what we can do together that we cannot do alone as we live out Wesley’s 1739 statement, “the world is my parish”. 

Through the Call to Action and the 16 Drivers for Vital Congregations, we are re-thinking our many ways to be a healthy local church and to welcome the stranger into an encounter with the God of grace and second chances.  As so many people feel unworthy and guilty, they shun the church and getting to know God feeling that they must “earn” salvation.  Again, Wesley’s teaching of grace brings us to the reality that we must share and exemplify.

Our conference has focused on ways to make our best efforts even better.  Having just completed our North Georgia Annual Conference where some 2,000 Methodists gathered to learn about the Bridges to Mission that we have established with Methodists throughout the globe as well as a local mission bridge with Action Ministries that enables any church regardless of size or financial status to be “on a mission bridge.”  This does make the value of “the connection” come alive and provides an avenue for sharing new ideas and meaningful ministry which equals vitality. 

I am excited and humbled by the unlimited witness opportunities to make a difference in the world ~ one life at a time, and one heart and life to know peace that comes only with a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Come Holy Spirit and dwell in every heart with the desire to touch another soul for the Kingdom. That is the United Methodist way, and my conviction as a United Methodist to live that others might see Jesus in me.

Jane is a member of Toccoa First UMC in Toccoa Georgia. She has served in various leadership roles within the conference including conference lay leader and is currently the North Georgia Conference Lay Delegation Head and Director of Leadership UMC.  She has served as a member of the Board of Discipleship.  She and her husband, Roger, have 4 adult children and 8 grandchildren.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rev. Dr. Laishi Bwalya: Why I Chose to be a UMC

I am a senior pastor of LIVING WORD, in Kitwe, Zambia. I am a clergy member of the Southern Congo/Zambia Episcopal area. I am former District Superintendent of Samaria in Lubumbashi (D.R. Congo). I am actually the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry in the Zambia Conference.

It is important to point out that The United Methodist Church is first and foremost MY Church because this is the only church in which I was born, raised, grew up and I am still serving. In other words, I share my deep love for the United Methodist Church.

Both my parents were members of the United Methodist Church. My father served as lay leader at both local and district levels; while my mother served as chairlady in the United Methodist Women fellowship.

At my tender age, my parents used to go with me to church every Sunday and left in the safe hands of the Sunday school teacher. It was in such an atmosphere of a Sunday school pupil that I learned for the first time to read (in that period of time, there was no pre-schools as our modern children enjoy today). I learned, as well, to memorize bible verses, to sing new songs of praise and adoration. That was the beginning and foundation my long journey of faith in the United Methodist Church.

As I grew up, I realized that God’s transforming power is found in the United Methodist Church. My uncle who called himself “son of hell” was well known in all our area as a drunkard, a very difficult man to rely on. Our local evangelists tried, by all means, to convince him to attend the Easter revival during the Holy week. That was a turning point of his life. He accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and gave his life to Him.

Yes! God’s transforming power has moved my uncle! He is no longer a “son of hell” but a child of God. God’s transforming power has changed him from a drunkard to be a witness of God. God’s presence and power is to be found in the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church is an open door to everybody regardless of his/her condition, or his/her status. The church strives to make disciple for the transformation of the world. I have witnessed this with the life changing of my uncle and I have decided to serve God and be also a disciple maker.

As a student at the theological training, I enjoyed the Wesleyan theology, especially on our distinctive heritage as United Methodists which emphasize upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers.

It can be argued that the distinctive shape of the Wesleyan theological heritage can be discovered  in the area that point out the creating, redeeming and sanctifying activity of God.
What strike me in the Wesleyan theology is that the outreach of the church is grounded from the working of the Holy Spirit. As United Methodists, we respond to that working trough a connectional polity based upon mutual responsiveness and accountability.

The rationale behind my choice to belong to the United Methodist Church can be summarized as follows:

1)    The United Methodist Church is an inclusive church: the door is open to each and everyone regardless his/her age as was my personal experience as a Sunday school pupil.
2)    The transforming power of God is found in the United Methodist Church. I witnessed lives changing of many people, especially my own uncle.
3)    The doctrine of the United Methodist Church is biblically grounded, especially in the church vision of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Really, I am proud to belong to the United Methodist Church, the church where everybody is somebody regardless of the status, race, or origins.

The Rev. Dr. Laishi Bwalya, a senior pastor of LIVING WORD, in Kitwe, Zambia, is a clergy member of the Southern Congo/Zambia Episcopal area. He is a former District Superintendent of Samaria in Lubumbashi (D.R. Congo). He is a spiritual coordinator at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (Kitwe, Zambia) and lecturer at Copperbelt and North Western University.