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April 05, 2010

Comments

Andrew Conard

Mark - Thanks for your series of posts. I am in my fourth year of ministry as a United Methodist pastor and will be ordained at annual conference this year. I would invite my friend to become a United Methodist pastor for several reasons:
One - The United Methodist Church provides accountability. While planting a church on your own may provide the opportunity to "go wherever I want to go, and stay there as long I want," it does not provide accountability. In my ordination and conference membership, I am becoming part of a team whose mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If I am failing in my responsibilities as a pastor, I want one of my colleagues to call me to account. Likewise, I hope to be able to hold others accountable to the mission of the church. While it would be possible to develop such a network of accountability in a stand alone church plant, this is an integral part of being a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I need more than a network of friends that think like me. I need to be challenged by colleagues that will force me to always ask - "Am I being faithful to the gospel and relevant to today's culture?"
Two - A pastor in The United Methodist Church is linked to the historical stream of Christianity. Tradition matters. Neither the Bible nor Christianity dropped from the sky within the past dozen years. Entering into a denomination is a humble recognition of the reality that there are pastors and congregations that have come before and there are those that will come after. A United Methodist pastor has the opportunity to be the steward of a particular faith community in a particular place. While those who have come before may not have had all the right answers, neither do I. As a United Methodist pastor, you have the opportunity to respect what has come before and shape what comes next.
Three - As a United Methodist pastor you will be part of a global church. This enables your ministry and that of the congregation which you serve to have immediate impact around the globe in times of crisis and disaster response. The UMC has people on the ground in countries around the world. When the United Nations Foundation was looking for a partner to fight malaria through the distribution of bed nets in sub Saharan Africa, they partnered with The United Methodist Church. Being a global church also makes it possible to share in the joy and learn from the passion of discipleship in areas in the world where the church is growing exponentially.
Finally, I believe that the best years of The United Methodist Church are ahead of her. I would invite my friend to be on the journey of changing lives, transforming the community and renewing the church as a United Methodist in the years to come.

Kathy

(I am not involved in ministry in any way. I grew up in the Methodist Church, which was as different from GCC as any conservative, traditional church could be. I have attended Baptist, non-denominational and no church at all for a longer time than I should have.)

What you may see as a long time to be ordained should be viewed as a positive that you should be so well trained before having your own church. Instead of being concerned about moving, look forward to going where you are needed.

It is a matter of choosing to work for a large worldwide corporation, with the support that this organization can offer you, and the flexibility to serve your flock like my old traditional church, or a modern GCC, or something else that only you can envision. You can be an entrepreneur in the UMC with a whole field of support, or you can be an entrepreneur with only your own resources to support yourself in a start up.

I was struggling with my faith as a teenager, and went to speak to a my UMC minister, with questions about full immersion baptism, which was not practiced at my church. What I remember him saying to me was that UMC was an inclusive denomination, that some churches practiced full immersion and some didn't and all were accepted by the church.

John

I could give such a person several reasons not to pursue ordination in the UMC.

1. It's all about apportionments and numbers.

2. Bishops and their District Superintendents will not confront sick, problematic churches out of fear of loosing more members and more money coming into the conference.

3. A study of clergy wives reported on in the Circuit Rider shows that they are the angriest of women in Amercian society.

4. 1/3 of our membership attend 2/3 of UM churches while 2/3 of our membership attend 1/3 of UM churches.

5. UM Polity appears to trump theology over and over.

6. Most small churches are ancester shrines which should be allowed to die instead of chewing up idealistic clergy who think they can turn them around.

7. Seminaries teach clergy to go pastor an active, good sized church when in reality one might not ever see such a congregation for an entire 40 years.

8. The number of churches which can sustain the appointment of an ordained elder are declining and creating more as well as bigger circuits.

9. Any expectation of more stronger and vital congregations being available as older clergy retire does not carry a very high probability in light of how many churches are closing and stronger churches are being hooked up with the smaller ones who have not died yet.

10. The gap between the salaries of the heirarchy along with the larger churches and those in the majority of appointments is very wide and only continues to increase.


John

I could give such a person several reasons not to pursue ordination in the UMC continued.

11. The cost of health insurance upon a church or circuit of churches and the pastor's family is huge due to such a large older clergy population with a terrible health status compared to the previous generation.

12. Bishops and their cabinets do not know their churches very well at all.

13. Bishops and their cabinets lack the guts to really match people's giftedness with the needs of the congregations for to do so would mean drastic cuts in salary packages for many with senority while others with 5, 10 or so years of actual experience would suddenly jump those who had merely put in 15, 20, or 30 years which I once heard a bishop regretfully admit. (BTW, my dad had the guts to make such tough decisions in the corporate world which helped the growth of the company he worked for greatly.)

14. The increas of abusiveness of clergy from churches and other clergy.

15. The often unspoken means of getting ahead to better appointments is to attach yourself to the right group of clergy who look out for each other in order to move up.

16. What's theology go to do with it becomes a second hand consideration to the power of one's personality and political cunning which uses evangelical piety to accomplish selfish steps towards gaining more power or building a bigger name for oneself which all to often is the case of those one would expect better of.

17. The UMC has become much like the corporate world where the Bishops protect each other and the Superintendents protect their own bishop and each other with very little actual accountability while holding so much power over the lives of others and demand them to be accountable.

18. Clergy spouses are the largest group of all spouses working outside of the home due to the huge educational debt carried by many clergy and the puny salary packages most churches pay.

19. The parochial nature of the UM for only listening to people from within its own system.

21. The inhumane appointive system.

22. Racism and sexism both overtly and covertly playing discrmination games in appointment making.

Randy Willis

John, I think you misread the question. :-)

Eric Bascom

Dear Pastor Mark,
Thanks so much for making my Saturday's more enjoyable at GCC. I am not a pastor. This past weekend, I spoke to my uncle Steven Bascom. He is a UMC Minister in Worchester, MA area. He states, that the UMC Church is fundamentalist teaching of Christianity. Politically, it’s mainline conservative. The stronghold of the UMC is in Southern United States, especially Texas. President George W. Bush belongs to the UMC. We have a UMC Church in Mishawaka. It's in the old downtown section on the south side in center of town. Here are five things he told me:
1.UMC beliefs in adult baptism and that your born again. Baptism is done by full body emersion.
2.UMC believes that females should keep abstinence from sexual intercourse till they can married
3.UMC the traditional age for College students is between 18-25.
4.Abortion is prohibited by UMC Church Teachings
5.UMC Church believes homosexuality is a sin
6.Creator of God is born again and created by our universe

Cindy

I am lay person who use to be a memeber of a Congregational Church and have for 35yrs gone to UMC because I married a life long UM member.
Your questions raises the questions as to what are the advantages and disadavantages of UM. UMC should improve on the advantages and reform the disadvantages. I agree with Ben that just beause it worked 200 yrs ago or even 5 yrs ago does not mean it is relevant today. The Gospel is unchanged but how it is presented including the church service, rituals,and hymns or songs needs to keep up. John Wesley is our example as a change agent who did that, but it was and is not easy. We need pastors like John Wesley, you and this person who is asking you questions to help the UMC that has a world-wide system to help it to grow and change with the times. One person can make a difference and we need you and all your creativity, blessings and God working through you and others for this to happen.

Jerry Selleck

This first question should ALWAYS be, "God, where do you want me?" It is really the only question. As for me, I became a UM for all the wrong reasons, and when I found Jesus (after seminary and 5 years of ministry), I had to ask God if the UMC is where He wanted me, because Evangelicals were not very welcome at that time. It was clear I was to stay, and be in mission to the UMC, precisely for that reason. I wish your friend well, in discerning where God wants him.

Matt

This is a question that I have been working through in my life as well. I am currently serving in the IN conference, and will be up for ordination next year (2011). Reading through the other comments, I have to agree that the connectional system in the UMC is crucial, not only for doing ministry around the world, but in doing ministry right in our own backyard.

Another reason why I continue in ministry in the UMC is because I think the mission of the UMC is right on target with the calling that God has on me - to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We have our debates with the conservatives and the liberals, but if we all just stop for a minute and look at that mission statement, I don't think there's a single person (conservative, liberal or otherwise) that can't get on board with that.

Itineracy can be an issue, but the way I look at it, the bishop and the cabinet are not out to make sure that churches die and pastors suffer burnout. They try to find the best fit that will benefit both sides of the equation; sometimes they fail, many times they nail it. There comes a time when a pastor (and a church) needs to move on to the next phase, and thankfully, there are a handful of people who are praying about just that.

Bob

Why become a United Methodist pastor is a relevant question for me. I married into the Methodist church nearly 40 years ago. My wife and I have been in the same congregation for over 25 years. Many of our friends have left and then returned to our congregation, but for reasons that only God knows we have stayed.

Nothing happens by accident. God has a plan and I am convinced that He leads us to the place where He wants us to be. If He wants us to work to help to reshape a church that in some respects has lost its first love then we need to respond as Isaiah did, “Here am I, send me.” There is no wrong turn in God’s plan. We need to listen carefully to where God wants us to be planted. He will not leave us rest if we are in a place different than where He wants us to be. The hounds of heaven bark loud and are relentless in seeing to it that men and women who love God and are called according to His purpose find no peace until they are where He wants them to be.

I have had a heart for the people in our church for the past decade. Their literacy of God’s Word was woefully missing and I know I needed to be equipped, so I found myself enrolling in a non-Methodist seminary because of my conservative beliefs and my desire for more in-depth biblical understanding. Not sure what God will do with me, if I ever do graduate. This is especially important since I am coming close to retirement age in the corporate world.

I have been training for nearly a decade and love to teach those who hunger and thirst for something that is right in their face but are unwilling to taste and eat the goodness of God, found in the study of His Word. The Methodist church is as good a place as any. There is need everywhere and I know God will enable growth wherever we go. We just need to flower wherever we are currently planted!

Thomas Stewart

Now I'm no proof reader or even well versed in interpretation, so forgive me if I'm missing the point. I am certainly not as intelligent as many who post or read Mr. Beeson's blog, but if we're trying to create an open source tool, I'd like to put in my 2 cents. There appears to be a grammatical err which I felt should be addressed. In paragraph eight (8) of the latest entry the dialogue reads -

“I’ll bet that’s it,” Susan adds. (“I’m mean, think about it.") A correction might be to replace ("I'm mean") with (I mean)... Because I'm sure Susan is a very nice person... Not mean at all...

Enjoy your day.

Mark Beeson

Thanks Thomas.
Good catch! I appreciate it.

Dave D

I'm a "brand new" pastor at age 52. I grew up Baptist as a youth, and I had trouble with the things that were being taught. Not the Word, as that is the same in most every denomination. It was the "little things". At age 19, I ended up at a UMC to be with my then-girlfriend, now-wife. The more I learned about Methodism, the more I felt comfortable and I would find myself saying, "That's what I always believed too!" I believe it's the little things that make denominations. After reading all the previous posts, I would agree (with what seemed the majority) you serve where you are called. Early in my Methodist experience, I was part of church that was closed right out from under us by a bishop who seemed, at the time, to have an agenda. My wife and I "left" the UMC for some time. We tried other churches, but I always felt called back. We eventually came back to the UMC because that is where we wanted to be. Now, I can't imagine pastoring another denomination (or lack of one). I've been told the "horror stories" and I'm sure I'll hear many more as I attend my first annual conference as Clergy! And I have a few gripes myself - but, it doesn't matter. This is where I feel called to serve and this is where I will serve as long as God will have me. My answer to your question would be the same as my witness... "This is why it's right for ME..."

Todd

Todd

Love this question it goes to the heart of what we face as United Methodists. We have unparalleled opportunity as UMs. At the same time we face major obstacles but then again no more than anyone else. Here goes.

1. Know you are called period. It is God voice and not yours you hear. That will sustain you through anything and you go back to that at every hardship that you heard the voice of God and experienced the call to lead the church.

2. Opportunity to vision cast where it is needed. Some won't like it but that will happen in any church. In the UM church you can vision cast as much as God leads and back it up with solid results. Leadership and vision will lead to white hot results in a dry and weary land.

3. Living in the tension of evangelism and social justice is solid theology, and perfect in this cultural climate. We need both to proclaim the gospel today.

4. Living in the dialogue. As a UM I have lots of friends who are way more liberal than I am. I am good with that. I can live in the place that we can hear each other. In our country we face a lack of civility....check out the Tea Party, and we have angry people. What if you can lead a movement where people listen to each other with the Grace of God present. That speaks to young people and brings the gospel into focus.

5. Grace: Pure and Simple as an ordained clergy you can point out that living in grace is a daily thing. Not a one time event. As an ordained clergy you find grace on your knees in the midst of hard times, and you find grace when you stand to share the word with a congregation.

6. Live with integrity. If you believe the call can no longer be lived out in that denomination. Leave, go and don't look back. Eternity is more important. But until you feel released by God keep going remember it is by Gods spirit and not your power you can make a difference.

All that said for a high capacity leader I can use so many as non-ordained clergy to get a local church moving. But if they are called to ordained work then this is the best denomination to speak to the world.

I would encourage the person to pursue their passion and always be there when they struggled. Because they will I guess it isn't about things like guaranteed appointment (needs to go) Connection (really I don't think that is worth giving my life for), or Itineracy (totally outdated mode that needs a new outlook). Sorry just few opinions there at the end.

Steven Housewright

"Well, hmmm." That would probably sum up to total verbal response I would immediately have! I can automatically think that I would utilize strange and unusual verbage to try and convince this person about a life-long struggle between wants and desires; pullings and pushings; cravings and fullfillments; the crazy dichotomy which is the ministry - and that just within one "brand name" denomination. And yet, there is the kicker in our discussion! The discussion should not revolve around his question: "Why should I serve in the UMC?" Rather, through a prodding here and a swift kick there, hopefully our caffeine-laden neophyte would adjust his question to be, "Why should I not serve in the UMC?"

This, of course, is a scientific approach to a spiritual dilemna. The scientists goes in to his research in order to prove something does not exist; work; function; is not true... Ergo, we have a hypothetical situation. Why not include this technique when it comes to answering a call as to where I should serve? My goodness! 45 minutes in which to direct a possible reflection of Wesley! We usually only have 30 minutes in which to change the world! Pros and cons, possibilities and non-possibilities; positives and negatives...you would have to buy a lot more coffee in which to arrive at a satisfiable conclusion.

As an Elder in the Evangelical Methodist Church - serving with blessings in the United Methodist Church - I am tainted from the outset. My frustrations theologically and politically with the UMC pushed me out. Maybe I was little-minded, perhaps I became jaded throughout the "process" (isn't that what we do with food?), but I was led by God through a miraculous chain of events and circumstances to be ordained in the EMC. So, I would encourage the "candidate" to truly seek out as much information as possible and speak with as many people as possible...and then take him to a struggling UMC church abandoned by the denomination and being "supplied" by another caffeine-laden individual and let him hear the real story of where he will begin - that is, of course, unless he truly is free to follow God to where his Master desires him to serve.

Which brings us full-circle to the true debate: do we follow God or do we follow the leadings and decisions of "men of God?" Wow. That is the question I would respond ultimately with as I sipped my cup of java. Do you ask God to lead you solely...or do you ask God to lead you and trust He will place the right people, at the right time, and in the right place throughout your life (prevenient grace anyone)? And that this will be where you abandon yourself and His ministry He has placed on you? "Good luck with that! Hey, let me pay for the coffee! After all, I am already ordained!"

Cameron Kinch

I. A firm grasp on Episcopal Polity and Apostolic Succession are two reasons of why I truly believe the United Methodist Church (UMC) stands as an example within a postmodern culture. A church living by example, that's very structure should bring us and our people into discipleship. I follow a phenomenal structure of community, which I truly believe the church is called to represent. By no means the only reason I serve, but an appealing aspects for my service. These two traditions often frowned upon may be actually reflecting what a 'true community of believers' should look like. Our denomination holds firmly onto examples of submission (polity) and accountability (succession), both are qualities that are lacking within our culture, (Especially down the pulpit to the congregation) individualism is such a comforting concept within our world. However it has never been advocated by the Gospel nor the UMC.

1. Our governmental structure is dependent on others in order to function (church, district, conference) Although the world may view us as rigid and hierarchal, methodical (pun intended) if you will, I have always seen it as encouraging and rebuking. It is what some may even call discipleship. A bolder claim may be to go as far to assert, that the very structure of the UMC may be trying to represent an imitation of Christ. As Thomas a' Kempis says "It is much safer to obey than to govern." And in the same sense the eternal Son submits himself in order take to himself a human nature, considering "equality with God nothing to have." And he rebuke's and encourages the Twelve with accountability, by shaping them into disciples.

2. So I ask pastor/theologians are we not to also submit ourselves into the bishops and the conferences, submitting our will in order for the betterment of the church? Was that not the model of the early church, elders ordained and overseen by the apostles? I am not claiming that we go without our opinions or views, we need to be encouraging and rebuking of our people and leaders when needed, but we do that by example and constantly sacrifice our will first for the will of God and the Church. Maybe we should say, "We who consider our own desires and will nothing worth having." Our Catholic brother's (those who ordained) absolutely sacrifice all of their desires to God through a love for the church. As Wesley discusses on his sermon on the Catholic Spirit. "If ye' heart is as mine, here is my hand." Bishops or our people, we need to be lending our hand. Whether we agree with or disagree with leadership decisions is irrelevant, if we must give our opinions we do it with love for the church even if they are harsh and strong, the church needs to always be in the forefront of our minds. This is the type of Episcopal Polity I am discussing.

II. So what then are we to say of our District Superintendents and Bishops? Should we not only expect, but require from our leaders a protection of our doctrines and disciplines (a love for the Biblical church). Apostolic Succession. And if they do protect 'The Discipline' and more importantly 'the rule of faith,' then we who follow should have nothing to complain about. There is a 'rule of faith' that runs through the Apostolic Church up into the Methodist Societies today? Are our leaders keeping churches accountable, expanding the denomination, and making disciples. Based off of that. This rule has transcended through the ages: from the Apostolic Church, Nicean Fathers, the Catholic Church, the Anglican faith and then Wesley, we have an obedience to those who have came before us. The community of believers is not simply believers of present, but of past and future. Our authorities are seen not to dictate but to protect and defend the faith with all cost. Having an upmost obedience and fear of dogma and an unwavering belief in our doctrines.

1. Imagine a battle, our leaders are not the generals who bark orders, rather they are the first to boldly charge into the fight, defending that which is sacred and holy. They lay themselves in the more dangerous position than any, hence we pray continually for them.

2. What then do we do when our bishops and ds overstep the boundaries of the, 'rule of faith.' Those who are submissive, should speak and call for action. Not to long ago a bishop in the UMC denied the bodily Resurrection of Christ. And what happened... The church stood by the wayside and allowed it. Only a few elders spoke out against such, heresy. We need to keep each other accountable, Even Paul calls out the head of the church, Peter when he witnesses his sinful pride, denying an audience with the Gentiles. Our leaders should protect that which is most important and keep us accountable to that standard. While we are called to defend our leaders not just in 'hear-say' but in their own lives.


III. The Methodist model is based off a goal to establish checks and balances. But more importantly I serve a model of government that truly believes in loving those who work with me and serving as Christ served, this is more important than my own opinions or views (where I think money should be appropriated at annual conference). It is not a foolproof communal system, there is no such thing, "under the sun." We will have our problems, sin always is trying to intervene with the churches affairs. But somehow, in our minds, we have equated community with simplicity or easily attainable. Community is rough. I get frustrated and aggravated with others, but that does not mean we fail to love each other. Being rebuked is not fun but is needed, both of the local scale and the conference scale. Jesus gets frustrated with his disciple, (and they, all though wrongly, get frustrated with him). That still does not make community lacking. Rather it fulfills it. We challenge and push each other to become better. As Wesley constantly quoted, "Pressing onto the goal." The UMC community is meant to be authentic and loving. Authoritative but compassionate. I serve because I constantly need encouragement and rebuke. I believe the UMC gives me both. I serve and submit because the church betters me, and I hope at the end of the day I better the church.

Lorna Koskela (see-through faith)

good question but I am not sure you'd like the answer (and no you don't need to use it - even though I am a member of the UMC)

I think God is calling people back to the heart of what Wesley's movement knew to be true ... that the call is to be a disciple and to be transformed by our relationship with Him. I am no longer convinced as a Methodist that this does (or even can) happen in the regimented structure of worship that is prevalient nowadays in the contemporary church.

Wesley's fear was "“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

For me the answer to you (who feel called to be an ordained elder) is that you must seek God together with Christians you trust across the denominational divide. It is my experience (and also my hope for the future) that instead of pastor-dominated services which are more-or-less devoid of the power and love of God - that we will recapture the heart of what Wesley knew to be true about disciples banding together to encourage one another in faith - and it may be THAT that you are truely called to pioneer in the C21st.

(told you you might not like it) Blessed Easter!

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