Thursday, December 3, 2020

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

What is Truly Essential about Wesleyan Spirituality?



These are difficult times in North American Methodism. I don’t know what all the answers are related to moving forward, though I know unequivocally that I am not leaving my spiritual home.

I believe traditional, centrist, and progressive United Methodist are called to love and serve together and move forward in history, allowing diversity of thought and practices rather than drawing lines in the sand mirroring the culture wars of America, over issues that are not even mentioned in the gospels or the ancient creeds. It’s in our Wesleyan DNA to be connectional, and  it’s Christ’s vision for the Church evident in his prayer for us in John 17. We are indeed better together.

What is essential to Wesleyan spirituality that will guide us through these times and help us move forward together? I found an excellent article on this subject here and wanted to share it with you.

If you’d like to hear more about our efforts to stay in the UMC, see this website.

#stayumc

Saturday, November 28, 2020

New Content on Stay UMC Website

There is some new content posted in the Stay UMC website. If you are a North Alabama United Methodist, I encourage you to have a look.

The website features a video testimony by Rev. Kip Laxson of Asbury UMC in Birmingham. As one of my fellow Stay UMC board members, he puts succinctly why so many of us in North Alabama do not want to leave the UMC in the present impasse.

I do not condemn the North Alabama chapter of the WCA or the “New Methodist Movement” they are hoping to give birth to as they leave our denomination. However, I believe we are better together. I believe traditionalists, centrists, and progressives can be one church without a schism over issues that are’t even mentioned in the gospels or ancient creeds. We can find a way to contextualize ministry across the country without losing integrity and truly move forward as people of “open hearts, open minds, and open doors.” And we can be known for our love, not our intolerance.

I also do not believe those who are leaving our denomination should force the entire conference to leave and go with them against our will.




There is also new content in the FAQ section of the Stay UMC website For the Stay UMC website, which may be found here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

God Brings Life to the Dead Branches



Today, I spent some time with the most unlikely of roses.

We have lived in our new home for over four months. As always, moving is a chore (for pastors, it's an occupational hazard). There has been an enormous amount of things to do.

I have loved meeting the people of our new church. That's the best part. But I often say "I love going to new churches, I just don't love moving to get there!" Between unpacking and getting settled, decorating the house, reclaiming the yard, meeting my neighbors, and starting a new ministry, it's always a challenge to get it all done. With COVID, it's been strange challenge indeed.

One of the tasks that went undone was tending to a particular dead rosebush in our backyard. I've noticed it countless times. It's right behind the house, in front of the garage and under an old clothesline post we've reclaimed with teal spray-paint and bird feeders. The branches are brittle and it has looked dead as a doornail for four straight months. I've been meaning to cut it away.

I'm glad I didn't. Last Sunday, suddenly, I noticed a breach of the deadness with a burst of life. A new rose blossom had appeared. Out of the deadness, there is life. Out of the dryness, there is joy. Wow. God did it again.

I have contemplated all week this gift of God. There is so much deadness around us right now. The coronavirus has been an unimaginable curb of normal life, not to mention the death it has brought to hundreds of thousands. The country has been through divisive times politically, as if there are two alternative worlds we live in, not one. Signs of structural racism abound, and I wonder if the energy to bring about prophetic change will fall away as it too often does. The denomination I love is going through a long, drawn-out, slow division as a group makes plans to secede and go start a new denomination.

It feels like there is a dead rosebush that I can't seem to get around to. It just lingers. Where are the signs of life? Then when I least expected it, it appeared. There is hope.

This week, I spent some more time with that little rose. It's moved from being a rosebud to a fully formed thing of beauty. I just can't bring myself now to break away the dead branches, for now they stand behind the rose as a reminder of the deadness God has brought life to.

God did it again. And God will keep doing it again.

Here's a picture of what I experienced in my quiet time today. May the joy of the Lord burst forth in your life, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

For Your Birthday


Today is my "half birthday" (my actual birthday is April 22, six months from now).

In morning quiet time, I ran across this beautiful birthday blessing in John O'Donahue's To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.

I wanted to share it on my blog this day, in hopes that is serves as a blessing to many of you on the "echoing-day of your birth."

For Your Birthday 

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day 
The blueprint of your life 
Would begin to glow on earth, 
Illuminating all the faces and voices 
That would arrive to invite 
Your soul to growth. 

Praised be your father and mother, 
Who loved you before you were, 
And trusted to call you here 
With no idea who you would be. 

Blessed be those who have loved you 
Into becoming who you were meant to be, 
Blessed be those who have crossed your life 
With dark gifts of hurt and loss 
That have helped to school your mind 
In the art of disappointment. 

When desolation surrounded you, 
Blessed be those who looked for you 
And found you, their kind hands 
Urgent to open a blue window 
In the grey wall formed around you. 

Blessed be the gifts you never notice, 
Your health, eyes to behold the world, 
Thoughts to countenance the unknown, 
Memory to harvest vanished days, 
Your heart to feel the world’s waves, 
Your breath to breathe the nourishment 
Of distance made intimate by earth. 

On this echoing-day of your birth, 
May you open the gift of solitude 
In order to receive your soul; 
Enter the generosity of silence 
To hear your hidden heart, 
Know the serenity of stillness 
To be enfolded anew 
By the miracle of your being. 

 — John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Few Basic Facts for North Alabama Laity



Are you confused about all this? 

1. The “New Methodist Movement” is curated by a few clergy in the North Alabama Conference of the UMC that plan to leave our denomination and start a new one.

2. The post-separation UMC will not force or compel pastors or churches to change any policies concerning wedding ceremonies.

3. Forcing all clergy, churches, and parishioners of our Conference to leave our own denomination with a 57% vote would be an injustice. Those who wish to leave will be able to do so without requiring others to leave against their will.

4. A proposed new traditionalist denomination has not yet formed, so the Conference would be voting to become part of something that doesn’t exist. The uncertainties are endless.

5. If we leave our own denomination, we will no longer receive any benefits that come from it.

6. Churches in a proposed new denomination may or may not have a pastor at a given time, because there will no longer be an appointment system.

To learn more, see www.stayumc.com.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Stay UMC



Dear Methodist friends,


These are difficult times, and there are many more pressing things on our plate.


However, a group of North Alabama Methodists are advocating that the North Alabama Conference "Stay UMC," should there be a vote called for on the Annual Conference level to secede from the United Methodist Church and form a new "traditionalist" denomination. This vote could take place in 2021 or 2022 if the Protocol passes at General Conference in 2021, as many expect. There are some clergy and laity in the North Alabama Conference who are actively working toward the goal of leaving the UMC.


"Stay UMC" released www.stayumc.com today. This was to be unrolled in early March and the pandemic caused a heavy pause. General Conference has now been postponed to August/September of 2021, so it is still something in front of us.


I wholeheartedly support “Stay UMC!” I invite you to explore www.stayumc.com and join the movement.


I hope that discussions around the “Stay UMC” movement will lead to greater transparency so we can be a better Church.


I have nothing against clergy and churches who wish to leave the UMC in the present impasse. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. Some are very traditionalist, others are very progressive, but on both edges there are those that would choose to no longer stay in communion with the traditionalists, centrists, and progressives that believe we are called to be one diverse Church. The denomination is making withdrawal possible now, and churches may keep church properties if they follow the appropriate requirements. I just don't believe those who wish to form a new denomination should attempt to force the entire Annual Conference to go with them.


Please check out www.stayumc.com to understand what the Protocol is, why we wish to "Stay UMC," and what's at stake if we don't.