Monday, September 30, 2013

Rev Andy Langford: Why I Choose the United Methodist Church

I am a sixth-generation United Methodist.  I own an 1865 Methodist hymnal in German from my great-great-great grandmother who lived in Indiana.  I am the son of a United Methodist pastor and theologian (Thomas Langford), husband to a United Methodist pastor (Sally, the Assistant to the Bishop in the WNCC), and the father of a United Methodist pastor (Ann Duncan).

I choose to be United Methodist because of my loyalty to our theological tradition and its culture of reformation.  Our unique blend of sacramental theology and evangelical witness, vital piety and community engagement, social and personal holiness, and respect for the past yet eagerness to serve the future all attract me.
I have served as a United Methodist pastor for 37 years.  This denomination has paid my salary, housed my family, introduced me to leaders around the world, and honored me in countless ways.  I was blessed to serve on the 1989 hymnal committee and edit the 1992 book of worship.  I now have the high honor of serving a wonderful local congregation that is unafraid of venturing into new territory. 

While I choose to be United Methodist, I am also aware of the vast weaknesses and challenges facing our communion.  During my lifetime, United Methodists in the United States have been in perpetual decline in membership, attendance, and finances.  While we celebrate the growth of our church outside the West, we appear unable and unwilling to confront and reform the systems that have created this decline.  We have grown to love the current system instead of the reason our system was created.  I fully anticipate that during my lifetime the United Methodist Church as we know it will die.

What then arises from those ashes of our church may again be a denomination of which John Wesley could be proud.  Until then, I will be faithful to our tradition and serve as a voice for reformation.

Andy Langford is a local church pastor in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Andy was the editor of The United Methodist Book of Worship and over two dozen other books. He has been a delegate to 5 general conferences and has been active throughout the connection for decades. This is his second quadrennium on the Connectional Table. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Moses Kumar: "It truly is all about the connection"

One thing that drew me to the United Methodist Church is the idea of the United Methodist connection.  Christians of all denominations know that it is the connection that God the Father had with Jesus that consequently benefitted us.  It is this supreme connection with our Heavenly Father that provides the grace and salvation we experience every single day. This amazing connection is the strength of our denomination and why I am proud to be a United Methodist lay person. 

I was raised in the Lutheran church and met and married a woman devoted to the Methodist church who is currently a United Methodist pastor. When I committed my life to Jesus Christ during college while working with World Vision International, I vowed to use the gifts and graces God had bestowed on me to serve His church.  It was while doing this work that I truly felt my call to serving God in administration.  From that time to the present day, I have developed a sense of purpose and gratitude for being able to do this kind of work. I rejoice in committing my service to helping the Church lead people to Christ.  This call enables me to be creative and innovative in making changes for the Church, and ultimately provides the much needed services for all of us to be in ministry to God’s people. Without a doubt, this is my passion!

1 Corinthians 3:9a tells us that we are all coworkers in God’s service. I believe that the United Methodist connection exemplifies this scripture in that we all have various gifts and talents and together we glorify God and impact the lives of God’s people.   

United Methodists may not always agree on the best way solve the problems of this world.  But what we do all agree on is that we can do greater work together as one body than we can do by ourselves, separately.  We are committed to the connection.  I have much gratitude to my United Methodist brothers and sisters as we work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

I will close with this scripture: Romans 12:4-5. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  We are united in the body of Christ and I have great joy in working with each of you in this ministry. 

Moses Kumar is the General Secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church

Monday, September 16, 2013

Prayer, funds needed after Colorado floods

Flooding in Longmont, Colo., forced area residents - inclduing a United Methodist district superintendent - to evacuate Sept 13. Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Conference. 
By Heather Hahn and Tim Tanton

Originally posted on UMC Connections

United Methodists in Colorado are asking for prayers and monetary donations in the wake of the floods that have ripped up roads, cut off communications and taken the lives of at least four people.

Nearly 500 people were still unaccounted for following the deadly floods as of Sunday, Sept 15, according to news reports.

"My prayers are with all who are responding to flooding along the Front Range today," Mountain Sky Area Bishop Eliane J.W. Stanovsky posted on Facebook on Sept 13. "And more to come. God is in the midst of the trouble. A very present help in time of need."

The dead include the great-grandson of a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Boulder, according to a Facebook post by Stanovsky, who oversees The United Methodist Church in Colorado. The teen was swept away while trying to rescue his girlfriend, who also died.

Stanovsky visited churches affected by the flooding. In a Sept 15 Facebook post, she wrote, "This morning I'll visit as many churches affected by the terrible floods as possible. My message: When the storms of life are raging, God stands by you. The whole church prays and upholds you during this terrible disaster.

"Thanks to all the pastors and lay persons in churches on the front lines of the flooding, who offer a ministry of help and presence when the world is literally turning upside down and washing away," she wrote.

Heavy rains over the weekend grounded helicopters and slowed rescue efforts. News reports said helicopter flights to help with evacuations were expected to resume Monday. Residents expected it would be days before the full extent of devastation was known.

Tens of thousands of Colorado residents have been evacuated from their homes, including the Rev. Skip Strickland, superintendent of the Peaks and Plains District. He lives in Longmont, and his district encompasses other flood-drenched cities of Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins, Lyons and Estes Park.

Strickland, who is also new church development coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference, was monitoring the situation and checking on pastors in his district Sept 13, as well as attending a long-planned meeting in Idaho on starting new congregations. His wife is staying with their son in North Longmont.

He said the floodwaters in some areas were already higher than the deadly Thompson Canyon flood in 1976 in part because of the burn scars left after wildfires, which destroyed much of the vegetation that ordinarily would have absorbed the rain.

He said that one pastor in his district and the mother of a newborn, the Rev. Emily Flemming, opened Lyons (Colo.) United Methodist Church at 2am Sept 13 to take in evacuees. Later in the day, the National Guard evacuated the entire town of Lyons. Both Flemming and her family were safe, the conference reported.

"We're in the emergency phase right now and then we will be moving into the response phase in the next few weeks," the Rev Nancy Boswell, disaster relief coordinator for the Peaks and Plains District. "That's when we'll gather people into work teams to clean up and then get people back on their feet."

She is also the pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Fort Collins and helped coordinate the recovery after last year's wildfires.

Fro now, both Boswell and Strickland asked United Methodists for prayer and funds, particularly since many of those affected do not have flood insurance.

The Rocky Mountain Conference shared an update on its churches:

  • Lyons United Methodist Church: The town is completely isolated and the infrastructure is destroyed. No clean water is available.
  • Johnstown United Methodist Church: There is no access.
  • St Paul's United Methodist Church, Boulder: There is extensive flood damage to the parsonage basement and to the pastor's personal library. There is some flooding and damage to the church. 
  • Mountain View United Methodist Church: There is flooding at the church and parsonage. 
  • Fort Lupton United Methodist Church: There is some water damage in the parsonage basement and the church.
  • Burns United Methodist Church: There is flooding in the first floor and the elevator shaft.

Other United Methodist churches reported minor flooding, and as of Sept 13 afternoon, the conference still had not heard from the Estes Park congregation.

Boswell knew that at least in Boulder, United Methodist planned to worship as always this weekend.

"All three (United Methodist) pastors said that some of their parishioners had been evacuated but were safe, and they were getting their churches ready for worship on Sunday," Boswell said. "They felt that was really important."

Strickland, who did not know whether his house would be livable when he returned, said he decided to go ahead with his meeting with Path1 because of the importance of starting new congregations.

"When something like this happens, we all know there will be a future," he said, "and we need to prepare for that."

To help:

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for the United Methodist News Service and Tanton is executive director of content for the United Methodist Communications. Strickland is also a member of the United Methodist Communications' governing board.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thomas Kemper: Why I Choose the United Methodist Church

       I find special guidance for all parts of life in our Wesleyan emphases on spiritual and social holiness. A strong spiritual life expressed in social contexts is to me the essence of being Methodist.
       I was born into a parsonage—my father was a Methodist pastor in Germany; actually, we are from the Evangelical United Brethren side of the United Methodist family and we moved easily into the minority Methodist community in predominantly Lutheran and Roman Catholic Germany.
       As the first born child after two miscarriages, my parents saw me as a long awaited gift of God. Their unconditional love has marked my life. It was my early experience in what we Wesleyans called the “optimism of grace.”  We had regular evangelistic campaigns in our church and it was in a mission tent I felt the very personal call to follow Christ.  This call was nurtured through my family and church.  I learned to see Christ rooted in the solid, intimate group of Christian friends in our local youth group and in the personal relationships of a small United Methodist Church.
       My father was born during World War I and raised in the extreme poverty of those years. While politically and theologically very conservative, he was a strong anti-war advocate because of his experiences as a soldier in World War II.  His influence was one of the main reasons why I became a conscientious objector, rejecting the obligatory military service in West-Germany.
        My alternative service took me to the German Methodist Mission in London.  In England, I experienced Methodism in a way I had not in my small German UMC congregation – church as a public advocate for peace and social justice while deeply rooted in Wesleyan tradition and spirituality.  I also learnt about the global nature of Methodism itself by living in an international Methodist student’s hostel. That set me on fire for issues about world Methodism and the wider global family.  
       One highlight of those years, with strong, lasting influence, was when I attended the World Methodist Conference in Dublin in 1976 as a youth delegate. I shared a room with Derek Kotze, the white youth secretary of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa. His black counterpart in the youth department had been denied an exit visit from South Africa. Every night Derek kneeled in prayer for justice and liberation in his homeland; every morning, he rushed to the news stand for fresh information on the struggle against apartheid.  Derek’s spiritual depth and his social consciousness have stayed with me through the years, including when I went back to Germany and continued to be involved in the anti-apartheid movement.
       I have found in the years since then and in many places around the world that what binds us together as Methodists is:  the experience of our faith as a “social religion” that is lived out with others in community and which is rooted in a deep spirituality out of which grows a commitment to social action. I know this blog is all about United Methodism but this wider Methodist family has always been as important to me.  And I must mention what my Catholic sisters and brothers and the Latin American liberation theology taught me about the role of the Bible in mission during my years as missionary in Brazil. I discovered the communal reading of the Bible from the perspective of the poor: from life to the Bible and from the Bible to life. This insight has shaped much of my approach to mission and makes me thankful that we have chosen Ministry with the Poor as a focus area of our church. I profoundly believe and have seen how the Gospel transforms individual lives and the world.  I am grateful to be a Methodist and I strive to live up to our Wesleyan ideals as a member in the United Methodist Church community.  I am even more grateful that I am allowed to participate in the “Missio Dei”, God’s mission, and to be invited and challenged, to catch the hem of God’s coat while God moves through the world.  

Thomas Kemper is top executive of GBGM. From 1985 - 1994, he served as a missionary in Brazil before returning to his native Germany to lead ecumenical learning at the Lippische Landeskirche, a regional church of the Association of Protestant Churches. From 1998-2010 he served as mission leader for the United Methodist German Central Conference.