UM News Weekly Digest – Friday, 8 March 2019 from The United Methodist News Service of the United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, United States for Friday, 8 March 2019

UM News Weekly Digest – Friday, 8 March 2019 from The United Methodist News Service of the United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, United States for Friday, 8 March 2019

UM News Weekly Digest

 

Friday, 8 March 2019

 

Top viewed stories from March 4-7. See all United Methodist News Service stories at www.umnews.org.

NEWS AND FEATURES


Reaction to GC2019 remains strong
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodists of varying perspectives continue to react to the General Conference decision to strengthen restrictions against ordination of openly gay clergy and same-sex unions. Protests have been widespread, and meetings by local churches and conferences to discuss the future are underway or planned. Sam Hodges and Kathy L. Gilbert report.
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Reaction to GC2019 remains strong by Sam Hodges and Kathy L. Gilbert

Matt Henson, prayer room volunteer, creates a “stained-glass” wall out of prayers offered by attendees of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.
Matt Henson, prayer room volunteer, creates a “stained-glass” wall out of prayers offered by attendees of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.
For the Rev. Matt Miofsky, the results of the special called General Conference weren’t what he’d hoped for and raised the question of whether his fast-growing church, The Gathering, should stay in The United Methodist Church.Miofsky told his St. Louis congregation over the weekend that he doesn’t yet have the answer.“I want to wait for the dust to settle,” he said.One week after the 2019 General Conference, the dust is still swirling. United Methodists of all perspectives on the question of how accepting the denomination should be of homosexuality continue to process what happened and what should come next.Much of the thinking has been done out loud — through sermons, special church meetings, social media messages, blog posts and other written statements. Protests of the traditionalist direction of the General Conference have been widespread, as have been apologies to LGBTQ people inside and outside the church.The Rev. Joe DiPaolo, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is part of the Wesleyan Covenant Association that successfully championed retaining and strengthening the denomination’s restrictions against ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions.

A message of love adorns the sidewalk outside Belmont United Methodist Church, a Reconciling Church in Nashville, Tenn. Leaders, members and volunteers drew messages of welcome and encouragement after the 2019 United Methodist General Conference voted to retain and strengthen the denomination’s restrictions against ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions. Photo by Susan Fagan, Belmont United Methodist Church.

A message of love adorns the sidewalk outside Belmont United Methodist Church, a Reconciling Church in Nashville, Tenn. Leaders, members and volunteers drew messages of welcome and encouragement after the 2019 United Methodist General Conference voted to retain and strengthen the denomination’s restrictions against ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions. Photo by Susan Fagan, Belmont United Methodist Church.

But DiPaolo’s church is not all of one mind.

“I think I will lose some folks who are more progressive,” said DiPaolo, who issued a statement about the General Conference and held a church meeting to discuss the outcome. “Things are kind of raw.”

The Feb. 23-26 legislative gathering in St. Louis, called by bishops to deal with longstanding division over homosexuality, included passage of the Traditional Plan that retains restrictive language and policies. Defeated was the One Church Plan, backed by most bishops, that would have allowed U.S. churches and conferences flexibility to decide on same-sex unions and ordination of gay clergy.

The votes were close, and the results were muddied by the Judicial Council, the denomination’s high court, declaring some Traditional Plan provisions unconstitutional. The council will review the plan again next month.

But the split within the denomination — along with rancorous debate and political maneuvering — was clearly on display in a General Conference that received national media attention.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., of the Great Plains Conference, was among those lamenting how the conference went.

“In our hands was the opportunity and authority to amplify and deepen our communion with each other and our mission in the world by helping each other realize our hopes while uniting with each other,” he said in a letter to his conference.

“Instead, we used our opportunity and authority to further constrain, abuse, and cut each other off. We used our speeches as flaming arrows against one another, our voting ballots as bullets. We failed to reach a compromise as Christ’s followers and United Methodists.”

Protests of the General Conference actions have taken various forms.

In Dallas, Northaven United Methodist Church and Grace United Methodist Church covered “United Methodist” on their signs with rainbow-colored material.

In at least three states, local churches or United Methodists groups bought newspaper advertisements to affirm their commitment to the LGBTQ community. One was Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, which took out space in the Tampa Bay Times on March 2.

“The immediate impact is the harm done to LGBTQ people, especially children and youth, who are being sent the message that God doesn’t love them, that they aren’t needed in the church,” said the Rev. Andy Oliver, the church’s pastor. “So we placed this full-page ad to send a clear message of love and support.”

Some who opposed the One Church Plan, such as the Rev. David F. Watson, expressed sorrow over the divisions within the church, including the toll on friendships.

“There are many progressive and centrist United Methodists that I care about a great deal,” said Watson, a professor and dean at United Theological Seminary, in a blog post. “It hurts to be estranged from them. Some of these relationships are likely unrecoverable except by a miracle of God.”

Reaction extended to the non-U.S. central conferences. Doreen Kallay, president of the women’s group at King Memorial United Methodist Church in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was pleased that the One Church Plan was defeated, believing that the Bible supports the denomination’s restrictions against homosexuality.

While aware that there will be fallout from the General Conference, including a potential decline in financial support for United Methodist work in Africa, she said that, “with God by our side, all will be well. … We will forge ahead successfully in Jesus’ name.”

The Rev. Lea Matthews, a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, spoke at New York’s St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church about her experience as an observer in St. Louis. She referred to “the pain inflicted with bureaucratic and spiritual violence” but also offered a word of hope.

“I testify today to the church being alive and well,” said Matthews, who is associate pastor at St. Paul and St. Andrew. “No matter what they say and no matter what they do. For we know all are children of God.”

Many local churches are holding meetings to explain the results of General Conference and to gauge opinions on what should come next.

The Alabama-West Florida Conference scheduled a series of meetings with Bishop David Graves beginning later this week. The New York and Greater New Jersey conferences announced special sessions of annual conference meetings, to occur before the regular season of annual conferences begins in late spring.

Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction affirmed their commitment to full inclusion and announced plans for a range of short-term meetings.

“We have committed ourselves to working in coalition with others to find a way to live our faith with integrity in the wake of the recent devastating General Conference,” California-Nevada Conference Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño said.

Some who had long opposed a denominational breakup acknowledge their perspective has changed after St. Louis.

“It is obvious to me that we are a denomination deeply divided over this issue and that our best efforts to find a way to keep the denomination together over the past 40 years have not been successful,” said the Rev. Kent Millard, president of United Theological Seminary, in a statement.

Millard suggested “it may be time” for church leaders to find a way for the denomination to divide formally.

The Rev. Rob Kaylor, pastor of Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church in Monument, Colorado, and a WCA council member, agreed. He said the denomination has reached a “Paul and Barnabas moment.”

“They had a sharp disagreement, and the disagreement was sharp enough that they needed to go their separate ways for the sake of the mission,” Kaylor said. “We need to have a coalition from different sides to come together and discuss how we separate in a way that honors one another.”

Kaylor is pointing toward the 2020 General Conference for some resolution and promised his traditionalist-leaning church would continue to pay its apportionments in the interim.

Others, such as the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, made clear that they have no intention of leaving the denomination.

“We are committed to sacred resistance, committed to full inclusion, committed to radical hospitality,” she said. “God is moving. God is going to do something good.”

Amid all the passion, Bo Frazier, who for 20 years has been treasurer of Trinity United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, offered a bit of humor.

He had hoped the General Conference would approve the One Church Plan. He explained with a laugh that the opposite result had riled him up at the worst possible time — tax season.

“I’m a CPA,” he said.

Hodges and Gilbert are writers for United Methodist News Service. Phileas Jusu, director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone contributed to this story. Contact them at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Young adults reflect on Traditional Plan adoption
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Passage of the Traditional Plan by The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body is either “in perfect harmony with the word of God” or “a time of grieving,” depending on which young adult you ask. Jim Patterson spoke with some United Methodists about the outcome of GC2019.
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Beginning to look ahead after GC2019
ST. LOUIS (UMNS) — The Wesleyan Covenant Association is sticking around, and so are a number of church members who plan to continue defying the denomination’s policies on homosexuality. Healing remains a work in progress. Heather Hahn offers an overview of some developments since General Conference adjourned.
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Young adults reflect on Traditional Plan adoption by Jim Patterson, (UMNS)

Delegate Shayla Jordan receives hugs after speaking in support of the One Church Plan during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Young United Methodists have differing views on whether the Traditional Plan, adopted by the special General Conference, is the best way forward for the denomination. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.
Delegate Shayla Jordan receives hugs after speaking in support of the One Church Plan during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Young United Methodists have differing views on whether the Traditional Plan, adopted by the special General Conference, is the best way forward for the denomination. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.
Some young United Methodists warn that the Traditional Plan — adopted Feb. 26 during the denomination’s special General Conference — is the choice of older congregants who are not the future of the church.Others, like Monique Assi, a church member in Côte d’Ivoire, praised the plan as being biblically correct.“This plan is in perfect harmony with the word of God,” said Assi, 32, a lifelong United Methodist who is communication director for her local church in West Africa. “For me, it is proof that The United Methodist Church remains attached to the values and principles advocated by the Bible.”The plan retains a ban on gay marriage and forbids “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained in The United Methodist Church. It also adds more accountability and penalties for those who defy the bans. The One Church Plan, which would have allowed such decisions to be made locally, was defeated.The Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, will address questions about the constitutionality of parts of the Traditional Plan when it meets April 23-26 in Evanston, Illinois.The notion that the Traditional Plan is meant to be hurtful toward LGBTQ people is incorrect, Assi said.

“This decision is not the hatred we express to the LGBTQ, not at all,” she said. “This decision is rather the expression of our fidelity to the word of God. … The Bible is quite clear and explicit about homosexuality, that it should not be practiced in the church.”

Other young United Methodists took the passage of the Traditional Plan hard.

During the Feb. 23-26 special General Conference, 15,529 young people signed a statement asking for passage of the One Church Plan and for more young delegates to be selected in the future.

“I think the hardest part is that we were not represented, and to know that my voice was completely overlooked,” said the Rev. Chrisie Reeves-Pendergrass, 31, an elder at Gilbert United Methodist Church in Gilbert, South Carolina.

“There was such a vast overrepresentation of (delegates that are retired or nearing retirement), and the fallout of this will have to be led through the local congregation by everyone else. It’s really easy when you don’t have to deal with the consequences … on the ground in the everyday.”

Shayla Jordan, a lay delegate from Great Plains, echoed that sentiment while speaking during General Conference.

“People speaking here don’t represent the church that will be for years down the road,” Jordan said.

Young LGBTQ people, especially those headed toward ministry careers in The United Methodist Church, are alarmed, some students said.

“It’s a time of grieving right now,” said Kailie Hamilton, 19, who is studying social work and political science at the University of Kansas. “That our church that we have grown up in and loved did this to us; to us as queer people, to us as young people, to us as a generation, to us as a world, to every marginalized community out there.”

Hamilton hasn’t decided whether to pursue a career in the church, but it is still an option she is considering.

Chelsea Shrack, 31, campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at Kansas State University, said she feels sad for her LGBTQ friends.

“I am a recent graduate of seminary and so many of my peers identify as LGBTQ and have so many gifts to offer our conference and our world, and they won’t have that chance,” she said.

“Our church will be so much worse off for that.”

Aislinn Deviney, a delegate from the Rio Texas Conference, speaks during the debate on a vote to strengthen denominational policies about homosexuality. Deviney, who described herself as a young evangelical, said many young people “fiercely believe marriage is between one man and one woman.” Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Aislinn Deviney, a delegate from the Rio Texas Conference, speaks during the debate on a vote to strengthen denominational policies about homosexuality. Deviney, who described herself as a young evangelical, said many young people “fiercely believe marriage is between one man and one woman.” Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS

Michael McDowell, 21, a junior at Rice University who is planning a career in United Methodist ministry, said he had mixed feelings about the passage of the Traditional Plan.

“I’m pretty conservative theologically, and a lot of young United Methodists are a lot more conservative theologically than the general discussion about them seems to be … I’m glad the church voted to stick with their theological guns.”

But McDowell said he worries about what happens next.

“Where I certainly feel mixed about this is the fact that this pretty much means that the church is going to split.”

He is also concerned about his LGBTQ friends who feel targeted by the denomination.

“Really it’s a question of how we read the Bible and not a question of, ‘Do we love you or do we not love you?’”

Kent A. Manzo, 22, a district youth president in the Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference, said he was “delighted” by passage of the Traditional Plan.

“This church has chosen to put premium on God’s consistency and truth,” Manzo said. “Even though I belong to a generation where the majority of people embrace the non-conservative perception toward homosexuality, I still cling to the notion that the need to accommodate homosexuality due to societal pressures is not a substantial reason to bend our church’s foundation and principles.”

CJ Lord, 22, who is set to begin seminary training at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in the fall, said he is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“As of right now, I am going to wait for the Judicial Council’s ruling on the Traditionalist Plan,” he said. “I’m a faithful Wesleyan and The United Methodist Church is the most faithful that I can get to serving God in a tradition that upholds my theological convictions. However, getting it wrong at General Conference this year makes it a little bit harder.”

Lizette Che, 28, youth and young adult director of the Cameroon Mission Initiative of The United Methodist Church, is still praying for unity.

“Some are pleased and some are deeply hurt and disappointed,” Che said. “Some might be thinking they have defeated the other but to me, there is no win and there is no defeat. … My heart goes out for the brokenness experienced within the body of Christ. In times like this, togetherness is very important.”

Patterson is a United Methodist News Service reporter in Nashville, Tennessee. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

GC2019 maps uncertain way forward b

Delegates and bishops join in prayer at the front of the stage before a key vote on church policies about homosexuality during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
Delegates and bishops join in prayer at the front of the stage before a key vote on church policies about homosexuality during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
Beneath the Arch that symbolizes the U.S. Gateway to the West, more than 820 General Conference delegates worked to open a gateway in the denomination’s longtime homosexuality debate.But after four days of prayers, speeches, protests and votes, it remains to be seen whether The United Methodist Church has found a way forward or remains stuck.“It was our aspiration that we would find a way forward beyond our impasse. That was to try to really listen to people and listen to their values and understand them as people, rather than issues,” Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, said in a press conference after General Conference adjourned.“I will simply say we have work to do. We did not accomplish that.”

The Rev. Timothy McClendon of South Carolina leads delegates in prayer before a Feb. 26 vote approving the Traditional Plan, which maintains The United Methodist Church’s policies about homosexuality and strengthens enforcement. The vote came on the last day of the special General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

The Rev. Timothy McClendon of South Carolina leads delegates in prayer before a Feb. 26 vote approving the Traditional Plan, which maintains The United Methodist Church’s policies about homosexuality and strengthens enforcement. The vote came on the last day of the special General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Bottom line: More than 53 percent of the multinational denomination’s top lawmaking body supported the Traditional Plan that reinforces the church’s bans on same-gender unions and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.

Still uncertain is how much of the legislation will take effect — or whether it will change the dynamic in places where a number of United Methodists, including entire annual conferences, openly defy these rules.

Late afternoon Feb. 26, delegates requested a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan.

The denomination’s top court will address the request at its next scheduled meeting April 23-25 in Evanston, Illinois.

The Rev. Gary Graves, secretary of General Conference, said any piece of legislation that the Judicial Council declares unconstitutional would not be included in the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book.

The April meeting will be the Judicial Council’s third review of the legislation to see if it is in line with the denomination’s constitution.

In October, the Judicial Council — in a unanimous ruling — found seven of 17 petitions unconstitutional and identified unconstitutional portions in two others. It ruled eight petitions constitutional.

After some amendments to the plan, the General Conference on Feb. 25 asked the Judicial Council to rev­­iew the legislation again. Early on Feb. 26, delegates learned the court — citing the same constitutional issues as before — ruled seven of the petitions unconstitutional and identified an unconstitutional sentence in another.

In the afternoon, plan supporters amended some of the legislation again but didn’t address all the previously identified constitutional issues.

The final Traditional Plan legislative package did not include two petitions because they had not been moved forward by the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, the first stop for legislation that affects church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

One of the petitions not included in the final package could have been far-reaching, requiring annual conferences to certify they would uphold the marriage and ordination prohibitions or leave the denomination.

A similar petition in the Modified Traditional Plan, meant to augment the Traditional Plan, also died in the standing committee. The Judicial Council also had previously found some constitutional problems in text shared by both petitions.

The Judicial Council ruled unconstitutional the second petition in the Modified Traditional Plan, which would have created a Global Episcopacy Committee to hold bishops accountable.

The parts of the Traditional Plan that the Judicial Council has held constitutional include an augmented definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” to say it includes people “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.”

Also previously held constitutional is legislation that sets a minimum penalty for clergy performing a same-sex wedding of one year’s suspension without pay for the first offense and loss of credentials for the second.

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, speaks to the press following the conclusion of the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, speaks to the press following the conclusion of the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

The Judicial Council will consider what in the plan can take effect when it meets this spring.

Regardless of what the Judicial Council does, no one left General Conference feeling happy with what happened.

The Rev. Wellington Chiomadzi, a Zimbabwean student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, worried after the plan passed what the vote would mean for relationships across the international church.

Voting is by secret ballot, but it was clear from floor-vote speeches that tallies reflected regional differences.

“The decisions will have a big impact on the future of the church,” Chiomadzi said. “I am not sure relationships across the church are going to be the same after this. I am very anxious.”

In protests, prayers and songs, many LGBTQ United Methodists expressed a sense of anguish.

Also unknown is how many disheartened United Methodists will make their way to the exits.

The last piece of legislation General Conference approved was an amended version of a petition that allows churches, with limitations, to leave the denomination with their property. The Judicial Council ruled a previous iteration of the legislation unconstitutional but the new version is not, at this point, up for court review.

Just before General Conference ended, the Rev. Donna Pritchard, delegate from the Oregon-Idaho Conference, proclaimed the Western Jurisdiction was not going anywhere and would remain on its path of inclusion.

The jurisdiction, which encompasses multiple annual conferences in the western U.S., elected Bishop Karen Oliveto — the denomination’s first openly gay bishop and leader of the Mountain Sky Conference.

“The Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children across the theological and social spectrum,” Pritchard said as other delegates from across the jurisdiction stood beside her.

The Rev. Jeff Greenway, chair of the Wesleyan Covenant Association that lobbied hard for the Traditional and Modified Traditional plans, worried that the plan as it stands “has no teeth.”

“There’s little likelihood of accountability, which means people all around the church are increasingly frustrated,” he said.

The Wesleyan Covenant Association’s leadership council is holding a meeting Feb. 27-28 to determine next steps, which could include calling an April 25-26 Convening Conference that would potentially start a new denomination.

This special General Conference — the first such off-year gathering in the denomination since 1970 — came about after long tensions boiled over at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.

That General Conference authorized the bishops to form the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward to find ways to help the church stay together — and to call a special General Conference to take up the commission’s proposals.

A St. Louis police officer pulls Carol Scott through a turnstile barricade in the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, site of the 2019 United Methodist General Conference. Scott, a member of the Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew in New York, joined other supporters of full inclusion for LGBTQ persons in the life of The United Methodist Church in a protest outside the legislative assembly. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

A St. Louis police officer pulls Carol Scott through a turnstile barricade in the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, site of the 2019 United Methodist General Conference. Scott, a member of the Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew in New York, joined other supporters of full inclusion for LGBTQ persons in the life of The United Methodist Church in a protest outside the legislative assembly. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

The Traditional Plan was among the plans to emerge from the commission’s work as did the One Church Plan, which would have left questions of marriage up to individual churches and clergy, and ordination up to conferences.

The One Church Plan had the backing of a majority of bishops and was affirmed by a majority of commission members. But the plan only had about 47 percent support from the delegates.

Most of the delegates are the same who served in 2016.

As of October, the bishop-appointed commission had used 56.2 percent of its nearly $1.5 million budget. That does not include the commission’s participation in the special General Conference.

The special General Conference itself cost about $3.6 million.

No matter what they feel about what transpired, many of those at General Conference were already looking to Sunday.

Even those in pain saw hope in the weekly worship timed to be a reminder of Christ’s resurrection.

Ben Weger, a transgender worship leader at Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, said he expects to go to church on Sunday and have a time of lament.

“But I think there will also be joy because we already know who we are,” he said of his church, which identifies as Reconciling, meaning it advocates LGBTQ equality. “We are going to continue to be and build the church we have been called to.”

Bishop Carter, who also leads the Florida Conference, said he doesn’t take anybody’s participation in church for granted.

“The people who are my heroes,” he said, “are the people who have been hurt by the church and yet stay at the table.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

GC2019 maps uncertain way forward

Pastors became counselors after deadly tornado
OPELIKA, Ala. (UMNS) — Ash Wednesday gatherings at United Methodist churches in east Alabama became services of remembrance for 23 people killed in a massive March 3 tornado. Just after the twister hit, United Methodist clergy formed a crisis counseling team at the local hospital. Sam Hodges reports.
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A Statement from Bishop David Graves Regarding Catastrophic Storms in Alabama

“I am deeply saddened as I continue to hear of the rising death toll in Lee County. Yesterday’s storms were catastrophic and will leave a permanent mark on areas of our conference. I want to express my deepest sympathy to the families who lost a loved one in this tragedy. The raw pain you are experiencing is unfathomable. Several United Methodist pastors have responded to these families and were present last night at East Alabama Medical Center to provide comfort, prayer and pastoral support. They will continue to be available to families affected by the tornado.

Watoola UMC, located near Opelika, AL, received extensive damage from the storms. Our Montgomery-Opelika district disaster response director and team are assessing damage and will keep our conference leadership informed as they continue to contact our churches and clergy in the area.

As we draw close to Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our human mortality and sorrow. The United Methodist Church has a great opportunity to serve our communities who are broken by this tragedy. We will respond to immediate and long-term needs in the days and weeks to come. Please join me in praying for those who were forever changed by yesterday’s storms.”

Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida ConferenceRead statement from Alabama-West Florida Conference’s Bishop Graves

Church empowers rural women in Zimbabwe 
MUTASA-NYANGA, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — United Methodist church-sponsored projects including beekeeping, small-scale farming and craft making are helping rural women in Zimbabwe survive the struggling economy. Kudzai Chingwe has the story.
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Church empowers rural women in Zimbabwe by Kudzai Chingwe, MUTASA-NYANGA, Zimbabwe

A local agriculture extension officer teaches members of the Odzani Swarm Charm how to separate honey   and wax using a honey separator. As part of the United Methodist Women project, the women manage   beehives and sell the honey and its by-products to provide for their families and local church. Photo   by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.
A local agriculture extension officer teaches members of the Odzani Swarm Charm how to separate honey and wax using a honey separator. As part of the United Methodist Women project, the women manage beehives and sell the honey and its by-products to provide for their families and local church. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.
Church-sponsored projects including beekeeping, small-scale farming and craft making are helping rural women in Zimbabwe survive the struggling economy.The country’s inflation rate hit a 10-year high in December, according to the statistical agency Zimstats. In January, the government more than doubled fuel prices, leading to violent protests and fuel and currency shortages.As part of its strategic plan to empower rural communities in Zimbabwe, The United Methodist Church in the Mutasa-Nyanga District has encouraged its women’s groups to empower members to start small capital projects to help keep their families going during difficult times.

The Odzani Swarm Charm, a beekeeping initiative, is one of the projects that is transforming the lives of women through the selling of honey. Twenty women form the group, with each member owning more than 15 beehives. Most of the women are United Methodists.

While members have their own beehives to manage, they sell the honey collectively. They also receive training together from the local agriculture extension officer.

Beeswax is weighed before being sold at in Mutasa-Nyanga, Zimbabwe. Women in the Odzani Swarm Charm process honey, candles and shoe polish to sale at local markets. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.

Beeswax is weighed before being sold at in Mutasa-Nyanga, Zimbabwe. Women in the Odzani Swarm Charm process honey, candles and shoe polish to sale at local markets. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.

Judith Chikono, project chairperson, said bee farming is a lucrative business that has not been fully tapped into by indigenous farmers, especially women in Zimbabwe. She said although honey is in demand on the market, its production is still low in the country.

While members receive about $500 U.S. for selling 30 kilograms of honey quarterly on the local market, even more could be realized if the farmers had the money to venture into large-scale farming projects, Chikono said.

“The bee-farming business has not been fully exploited considering that most of the farmers are small-scale and found in the rural areas where financial support and expertise are not easily accessible,” she said.

Christina Chinyanga, a member of the Odzani Swarm Charm group, said when she was growing up, bee production was not common, and when it did take place, it was a male-dominated field.

“When we started, we never wanted to come close (to the bees) because we were afraid that they might harm us,” she said. “But due to intense training, we became used to it and we can work with them harmoniously.”

Chikono said if the government would support the women, they would see even more benefits in terms of revenue.

“As small-scale farmers, we have only managed to process honey, candles and shoe polish, but if the project is funded well, honey has other by-products that include wax, wine and perfume, among others,” Chikono said.

Other women in the district are seeing the benefits of small-scale farming projects, too.

Euriah Makwasha coordinates a farming venture on a one-hectare piece of land (about 2.5 acres) at the United Methodist Old Mutare Mission Center. She said they have more than 50 women producing cowpeas for the local market.

“We have been allocated a piece of land by Old Mutare Mission Centre, where women are growing cowpeas for feeding our families, while the surplus is sold at the local market,” she said.

Cowpeas are an annual legume that tolerate heat, drought and humidity. The fresh, dried leaves can be used as relish on the table and the pea seeds can be eaten after harvest.

Makwasha said although generating income was the main objective when they started, they are now using the surplus to support their families, and the church also is benefiting from the plough-back initiative.

“As women into farming, we are not only producing for consumption, but the surplus from the proceeds is also directed to other church programs that require capital,” she said.

Those programs include paying school fees for orphans and providing milk for infants.

Women weed a cowpeas field at United Methodist Old Mutare Mission Center in Mutare, Zimbabwe. More than 50 women produce cowpeas for the local market as part of a local United Methodist Women project. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.

Women weed a cowpeas field at United Methodist Old Mutare Mission Center in Mutare, Zimbabwe. More than 50 women produce cowpeas for the local market as part of a local United Methodist Women project. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UMNS.

She said the project has allowed the women’s organization to supply funds to the church for various projects more quickly than it had in the past.

“I am delighted that we no longer have to wait to be reminded to pay to the church as we have managed to sustain our needs through the selling of cowpeas and its products,” Makwasha said.

Some of the beekeepers and other women from the Shakuyu Circuit also are involved in a handcraft project to generate income. The group of 20 women make bags and mats to sell at a local market.

Jane Nemaunga, a member of the group, said that in addition to earning income for their households, the group has managed to contribute toward the district budget from the sales.

“Our efforts are beginning to bear fruits as we can now make contributions towards the district budget, not taking from our pockets but from the proceeds that we are realizing from the sale of bags and mats,” she said.

Although the project is still in its infancy, Nemaunga is confident that it will grow.

“Our group is still small but with the number of women that have shown interest in the project, soon we will be expanding to … accommodate new players” and export markets, Nemaunga said.

Chingwe is communications coordinator for the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

 

South Carolina Conference
The message of the hush harbor

CAMDEN, S.C. — The origin of Good Hope Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church dates back to a time when its congregation had to worship in secret. What was the hush harbor? And who were some of those who risked it all to worship the God of their ancestors and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The Rev. Angela Ford Nelson has the story.
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The Message of the Hush Harbor: History and Theology of African Descent Traditions

The Message of the Hush Harbor: History and Theology of African Descent Traditions

By the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson

On March 27, 1871, just eight years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation wherein African-American slaves were given their freedom, the Rev. Samuel Watson and eight of his members purchased two acres of land in Sumter County to be used for building a church that they would later call Good Hope Methodist Church.

Although March 1871 is the date the church was officially established on the property, its congregation is thought to have worshipped there for many years before in a secluded space called a hush harbor.

It was on this land that James M. and Mary Louisa Davis, Alexander and Elias Dessassuare, Junis and Sara Davis, John Desassuare and Lloyd Dessassaure and others gathered under the cloak of night to worship God in song, dance and prayer.

In 2002, Good Hope Methodist Church merged with Wesley Chapel Methodist Church, another church with plantation roots, to form Good Hope Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, per a history by Jewell R. Stanley. This unified church maps its beginnings to a time when slaves were not allowed to worship unsupervised by their masters. Yet, in spite of restrictions and life-staking repercussions, they stole away to hush harbors where their faith was continued from Africa and strengthened in the New World.

Today, I serve as the second female pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC in its 147-year history, a history that began in the secrecy of a hush harbor and continues amid changing times.

But what was the hush harbor? Who were some of those who risked it all to worship the God of their ancestors and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What was worship like in these sacred spaces?

And what is the message of the hush harbor for us today?

 

What was the Hush Harbor?

The hush harbor, also known as a brush harbor or a bush arbor, was “a secluded informal structure, often built with tree branches, set in places away from masters so that slaves could meet to worship in private,” according to Paul Harvey’s “Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity.” During the Antebellum period, and subsequent to the Great Awakenings, Christianity grew rapidly in America. This growth included a number of African Americans who assumed the Christianity of their masters and shaped it into what author Albert J. Raboteau and others call the “Invisible Institution.” This institution, which was characterized in large part by the hush harbor, enabled slaves to worship in spirit and in truth in thickly forested areas which were hidden from their masters, wrote Raboteau. In parallel to the invisible institution of worship, there was a visible one.

To this end, Harvey explains there were actually three ways in which African-American worship took shape during this period: Firstly, in segregated biracial churches where white ministers preached. Secondly, in African-American churches such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1816. And thirdly, in hidden hush harbors where slaves were free to combine both African and Christian worship practices.

It was in the hush harbor, buried deep within the untended woods on the plantation that slaves remembered the forests of their homeland. As Noel Leo Erskine wrote in “Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery,” it was there that they escaped the confining worship of segregated chapels and were able to practice African rituals and to rest in knowing that the spirits of their ancestors followed them—even into slavery:

“It was primarily through religious rituals and the carving out of black sacred spaces that enslaved persons were able to affirm self and create a world over against the world proffered by the master for their families.”

The hush harbor would eventually serve as not only a place for worship, but also as a place where unrelated slaves would become a sustaining family of faith.

 

Hush Harbor worshippers

Leaders within the slave community announced hush harbor gatherings or “meetin’s” with the use of coded language or songs, which traveled from one slave to another until the appointed time of the gathering.

Singer and preacher Melody Bennett Gayle explains that on the day of the meeting, slaves would work all day in the hot sun, gather at night in the hush harbor to worship until the sun came back up, and then return to the fields in the morning renewed to begin work again. These worshippers risked being severely beaten, sold off from their families and even killed if they were caught; however, the risk was worth it because of the liberating power of the unfettered Gospel that was preached in the woods.

To this end, former slave Lucretia Alexander explained that in the white church, the preacher would tell slaves to obey their masters and they had to sing softly. Further, per Raboteau’s “African American Religion,” escaped slave Henry Atkins lamented that “white clergymen don’t preach the whole Gospel there.” It was in the hush harbor that slaves could hear stories of the children of Israel and their exodus from the slavery of Egypt and envision their own freedom in this world and the world to come.

It was also in the hush harbor where plans for freedom where hatched in the hearts and minds of those like Nat Turner.

On August 22, 1831, history records that the largest slave revolt in America was waged by slave preacher and organizer Turner. On this fateful day in Southampton County, Virginia, Turner led a group of some 20 other slaves to kill the family of his owner, John Travis, and 60 other whites. Turner’s plans were born as a result of visions received, prayers rendered and plans made in the seclusion of the hush harbor.

PBS.org records the following about the signs that Turner received from the Lord: “In May 1828, he experienced a vision of a serpent. In February 1831, he witnessed an eclipse of the sun. Then on Aug. 13, 1831, the final signal was revealed to him: a second “black spot” on the sun. He told his followers, ‘As the black spot passed over the sun, so shall the blacks pass over the earth.’”

After the insurrection it became even more difficult for slaves, especially those in the South, to escape the grip of their masters—yet they could not be deterred for long. Erskine affirms that “where ever Black people were they had an irrepressible need, a desire to worship in their own way.”

 

Worship in the Hush Harbor

In their beautifully written and illustrated children’s book, Freddi Evans and Erin Banks reveal the intricacies of hush harbor worship. Once the coded call had been made to “Steal Away to Jesus” or “There’s A Meetin’ Tonight” worshippers would leave their slave cabins under the veil of night and make their way through the woods to a designated spot.

Upon arrival, a person would be designated to watch out for the “paterollers” (patrollers) who were always lurking in the woods looking for runaway slaves. Wet Quilts and rags would be used to form a tabernacle and wash pots would be turned over to catch the sounds of the worshippers singing, weeping, dancing, praying and preaching. When the Holy Spirit fell upon the worshippers they were free to dance and shout because there wasn’t anybody there to put them out! Songs such as: “Kum bah yah,” “Go Down Moses” and “Have You Got Good Religion?” were sung. On occasion, Evans wrote in “Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret,” the elderly were prepared in prayer offered by the gathered community to meet the ancestors.

It was also there in the hush harbor that the African ring shout, or circle dance, continued from Mother Africa.

The ring shout is a dance that continues today in some black churches, especially in the Sea Islands and the surrounding areas. In the dance worshippers gather in a circle and dance in a counter-clockwise manner, and a song leader leads the song as the circle moves and the dancers echo a rhythmic chorus. Without consideration for time, the worshippers are united with God, with their ancestors and with one another, per Flora Wilson Bridges’ “Resurrection Song: African American Spirituality.”

 

The message of the Hush Harbor

On June 26, 2015, a grieving nation leaned in to hear words of hope offered by President Barak Obama following the horrific murders of the Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight of his fellow disciples while attending Bible Study one evening at Mother Emanuel Church.

In his eulogy, the president invited the nation to remember “when black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah—(applause)—rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart —and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church.”

As our nation continues to groan under the weight of violence and intolerance, we are reminded by the first African-American President and the voices of our ancestors to remember what happens in the hush harbor of Christ’s Church—where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Amen.

 

Minnesota Conference
Lay speaker delivers 500th sermon

MINNEAPOLIS — With prompting from his pastor, Jack Rogers went through lay speaker training. Now, 15 years later, he recently completed his 500th lay sermon. “I find great joy serving Christ and being a part of so many lives,” he said. Christa Meland reports.
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Lay speaker Jack Rogers delivers 500th sermon by: Christa Meland

Back in 2004, when Jack Rogers found himself out of work and shackled by a non-compete clause, Rev. Rachel McIver Morey called him up and told him he was going to start preaching at a senior living complex.

At the time, Morey was the pastor at Riverview UMC (which no longer exists), and the Twin Cities church led a worship service for the senior living complex’s residents once a month.

“There’s got to be someone more qualified than me,” Rogers recalls telling Morey, who now serves Northfield UMC. But she insisted that he was up for the task. So after Rogers accompanied her a few times and watched her preach, he reluctantly delivered a sermon himself.

Rogers went through lay speaker training and continued to preach and lead worship, initially at the senior living complex and then at various churches too. Now, 15 years later, he recently completed his 500th lay sermon.

“When I retired, I wanted to serve God,” said Rogers, now a member of Brooklyn UMC in Brooklyn Center. “I give God all the praise that He gives me the ideas for my sermons and helps me find related stories that give it impact.”

In addition to being a lay speaker, Rogers is the Twin Cities District lay leader, a role that involves coordinating direction, training, and motivation for all lay people in the district’s 57 churches.

Rogers, 71, not only preaches in churches and nursing homes; he’s the go-to guy for hospital visitations, spends hours with those in hospice, and has preached at dozens of funerals. He’s even helped new pastors prepare to officiate their first funerals.

“I find great joy serving Christ and being a part of so many lives,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience the vast gifts and talents of an incredible number of persons from many backgrounds and cultures.”

He estimates that he preaches between 50 and 100 times in a given calendar year.

Rogers insists that the first sermon he ever preached was so bad that he promised God he’d give the same sermon 10 more times to 10 additional groups of people—but delivered well—as restitution. He’s made good on that promise and kept track of his progress, and just one of the 10 recitations remains.

Rogers has all kinds of stories about his preaching experiences. Before he retired from his job as an executive at a copper and metal company, he regularly attended trade shows in Chicago. Several times, when trade show organizers were looking for someone to give an invocation, he volunteered. Others in his industry quickly came to see him as a person of deep faith, so when one man who wasn’t a church-goer died, his wife asked Rogers to officiate the funeral.

Another time, Rogers was asked to lead a worship service in a bar—which he happily did a couple of different times.

“I’ve found lay speaking to be a lifelong opportunity to serve in places that are not a church,” said Rogers. “Sometimes I wonder why we are selling everybody on the church when we should be out selling everyone else on becoming part of the body of Christ.”

Rogers maintains that preaching has not become easier over the years. “I’m terrified every time I stand up in front of people,” he said. “I sometimes shake.”

But he also knows God is there, walking alongside him and guiding him—and that gives him both comfort and confidence.

What would Rogers tell other lay people who are exploring their call but intimidated by lay speaking?

“The more success I have, the better the example Christ is making me for other people,” he said. “I’m not educated, I’m not good-looking, I’m not athletic, I’m not well-spoken, I’m not well-dressed. I’m as plain and ordinary as you can get . . . If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Rogers doesn’t plan to slow down—and he’s committed to helping more people get into lay servant ministry. He’ll be leading a “Nuts and Bolts of Lay Speaking” session from 9 to 4 p.m. at Holy Trinity UMC in Prior Lake on Saturday, April 27 (learn more and register). Another great opportunity to begin to explore lay servant ministry is a ConneXion Retreat taking place April 5-7 at Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids (learn more and register).

“I find great joy serving Christ and being a part of so many lives,” said Rogers.

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Greater New Jersey Conference
Joining other faith groups for ‘day of action’
HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. — A meal- and toiletry-packing project in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. united volunteers from First United Methodist Church of Hightstown with Muslims, Jews, Baha’is and Hindus. Josh Kinney reports. Read story

PRESS RELEASES


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Lutheran bishop sends letter after GC2019
CHICAGO — The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, sent a letter to The United Methodist Church following the special General Conference, assuring that “as the UMC takes its next steps, we in the ELCA will continue to walk with our full communion partner.” The ELCA assembly in 2009 voted to allow those in same-gender relationships to serve as pastors.
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ELCA presiding bishop pastoral letter on UMC decision

Dear Church,

This morning at worship in the Churchwide Office we sang;

God, when human bonds are broken, and we lack the love or skill
To restore the hope of healing, give us grace and make us still…
Give us faith to be more faithful, give us hope to be more true,
Give us love to go on learning: God, encourage and renew. (ELW 603)

These words speak to many aspects of our current world.  Today they resonate especially with our continuing prayers for our full communion partner, The United Methodist Church (UMC), and, as they call themselves, for all “the people called Methodists.”

Yesterday the 2019 General Conference, the UMC’s highest legislative body, voted to affirm the church’s current prohibitions of “ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage.” (You can read about this decision at  https://www.umnews.org.) This special General Conference had been called for this issue only; in the end, delegates turned away from a plan recommended by their Council of Bishops, which allowed for diversity in local practice, to embrace instead this “Traditional Plan.”

Many of you today are asking the good Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” The implications of the decisions of the General Conference are not yet fully apparent: the Judicial Council must review controversial provisions later this year, and in any case the rippling consequences for ecclesial life will take much longer to work themselves out. Yet it seems clear that the conclusion of this process has not brought the greater unity for which so many longed.

What we can say with certainty is that as the UMC takes its next steps, we in the ELCA will continue to walk with our full communion partner. We treasure the joyful memories of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, where, in a near unanimous vote, we entered into this relationship. We are grateful also for the common witness, deepened friendships and shared ministries that have been the fruits of this decision. This relationship, and our commitment, have become woven into who we are as this church. Our life together as churches is a shared life together in Christ.

We remember also that the same 2009 Assembly decided to open the way for those in same-gender relationships to serve as pastors. This week, as we watched the impassioned debates on the plenary floor in St. Louis, we recognized that these costly struggles are familiar from our own recent history, and acknowledge that some amongst us have experienced re-traumatization. In our present experience also, we have not fully grown into the commitments we have made. Yet, though a controversial decision at the time, our 2009 action has brought strength and blessings for our life and mission beyond what we could have imagined a decade ago. This church treasures the faithful ministries of those rostered leaders who help us witness to God’s love and invitation for all people. Their ministries are integral to who we are as this church.

I ask this church, then, to continue by the side of the UMC, exchanging gifts and sharing burdens. In particular, we pray for them in their continued efforts faithfully to be church in the contexts we share.  As we pray for them, we pray also for this church: may we be faithful to the calling to which we have been called, willing to confess our shortcomings and to trust in the healing, challenge and surprise of the Spirit of God, who calls us always forward.

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop

 

United Methodist Association of Communicators
Phillips, Tanton named Communicators of the Year
ST. LOUIS — Mary Catherine Phillips, director of communications for the Alabama-West Florida Conference, and Tim Tanton, chief news officer for United Methodist Communications, were honored as Communicators of the Year during the recent United Methodist Association of Communicators annual meeting. The Rev. Daniel R. Gangler, who retired as an Indiana Conference communicator, was inducted into the UMAC Hall of Fame. Kay DeMoss reports.
Read about Communicators of the Year

by Kay DeMoss

February 22, 2019 | ST. LOUIS—At their annual gathering here, the United Methodist Association of Communicators named two seasoned journalists as Communicator of the Year for 2019.

Mark Doyal, chairperson of UMAC’s leadership team, began his remarks, “We are breaking new ground tonight. This is always the most difficult decision your leadership team makes, and this year it was so difficult that we decided to honor two individuals.”

The honorees are Tim Tanton, chief news officer for United Methodist Communication, and Mary Catherine Phillips, director of communications for the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

Doyal called Bishop David Graves to the platform. Episcopal leader for Alabama-West Florida, Graves said, “When I was elected bishop, a communicator came up to me and said, ‘I need your cell number.’ She didn’t need my cell number—but I sure needed hers.” Graves praised Phillips for her integrity. “She is one who doesn’t mind challenging the bishop,” he said with gratitude. “She loves the Lord, the annual conference and The United Methodist Church,” he concluded, “and always strives to communicate with excellence.”

Phillips then came to the microphone confessing that she was overwhelmed. “The bishop tricked me when he told me why he was here,” she said. She told the story of the note she received from her predecessor. “It said, ‘Welcome to your ministry.’ I thought, ‘Ministry? This is a job.’ But looking back, she was so right.”

Putting the evening in context, Phillips spoke of the General Conference looming within hours “We have been marking the days since May 2016, counting them down.” She then recalled a low point in her life when she and her husband spent their first anniversary at the unemployment office. Phillips added words of encouragement. “I never would have dreamed then that I would someday be here,” she said. “I am here to tell you that you have to cross the river. There will be storms but you won’t die.” Looking ahead, she concluded, “I hope we are here a year from now, all together again. If we are not, I don’t believe God is through with us.”

Doyal returned to the podium and announced, “The next person is an individual you all know, one who has poured himself into his work and has the back of every communicator in this room.” A video featuring Dan Krause, General Secretary of United Methodist Communications, introduced Tim Tanton as a 2019 Communicator of the Year.

“Tim recognizes the importance of on the ground, localized reporting,” Krause said. “We are blessed that he proudly claims his calling and lives it out with United Methodist News. Tim firmly believes that it takes faithful, unbiased and objective reporting to effectively serve the worldwide church.”

Krause praised Tanton’s efforts in launching the new UMNews.org as well as expanding the team of global correspondents. “One third of our stories now come from Africa, the Philippines and Europe,” he explained. “Tim’s passion for ensuring people’s voices are heard has bled into the news platform to allow for different points of view to be reported,” Krause said. With much-needed detail and clarity, “Tim leans into the role to lead the charge,” Krause concluded.

“I am a person of faith, so I believe it is only going to get better,” Tanton remarked upon acceptance of the award. He expressed gratitude for Krause’s leadership and support of communication ministry. He praised, too, the rest of the team saying, “It is a privilege for all of us to be in this moment serving The United Methodist Church. God put a call on our hearts to use the gifts we have in the service of Jesus Christ.”

Like others speaking throughout the day, Tanton addressed the developments that brought United Methodists to St. Louis in February of 2019. “This is an unprecedented time in our careers,” he said. “We have a call to not shrink away from the responsibility we have to communicate faithfully and courageously … to give the best counsel while continuing to inspire the church.” He added his words of assurance to those of others. “We don’t know what the future brings, but we do know that God goes into the future and holds us in God’s hands. We know that God is already ahead of us, and it will be well.” Tanton concluded his remarks with an invitation to continued partnership. “Let’s journey together with our arms linked and our hands joined.”

Phillips graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1998, where she majored in marketing. As director of communication of Alabama-West Florida, she has worked closely with two bishops—Paul Leeland and David Graves—in communication training, hurricane recovery and growing the conference’s digital outlets. Phillips is an active leader of First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Tanton graduated from the University of Tennessee with a major in journalism. He worked in newspaper for a time, then joined UMCom in December 1997 as a news editor for Tom McAnally. Tanton now serves as chief news officer for UMCom. He heads the News and Information Team, comprised of Ask The UMC (former InfoServ) and United Methodist News Service. The team serves The United Methodist Church’s “world parish” in five languages. Tanton is a longtime member of East End United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

The criteria for nomination as Communicator of the Year include recent striking achievements in communication, broad impact of the communicator’s contribution and vision-thinking beyond the demands of the job. For her outstanding, tireless work in disaster reporting and for his generous embrace of a global constituency, Mary Catherine Phillips and Tim Tanton bring those criteria to life.

Kay DeMoss is senior content editor for the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church.


Read about UMAC Hall of Fame recipient

by Kay DeMoss

February 22, 2019 | ST. LOUIS—The United Methodist Association of Communicators  announced the Rev. Dr. Daniel R. Gangler as the Hall of Fame inductee for 2019. Gangler, a gifted journalist, has told the stories of both The United Methodist Church and The Disciples of Christ. He is now retired and living in Indianapolis after 38 years in pastoral and communication ministries.

In 1983 Gangler started service as the communications officer for the Nebraska Conference of The United Methodist Church, after having served as an ordained pastor there for seven years. Later he became the director of communications for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. He also worked as an associate editor of the United Methodist Reporter and as managing editor of the Disciple Magazine of The Christian Church based in Indianapolis.

The United Methodist Association of Communicators previously honored Gangler with the Communicator of the Year award in 1996.

During his introduction of the Hall of Fame recipient, Mark Doyal, chair of UMAC, listed the qualifications expected. Those with a minimum of 10 years of experience as a United Methodist communicator and retired from full-time work for at least three years are eligible for the UMAC Hall of Fame. Annual selection is based on a record of excellence in the communication ministry of the church.

“Our recipient exceeds all of those qualifications,” Doyal said.

Addressing his longtime colleagues on the eve of the 2019 General Conference, Gangler remarked, “We are facing a very difficult General Conference. I’ve been acting as the news guru for the Indiana Conference. I have covered seven General Conferences and have never seen the likes of this.”

The veteran newsman left UMAC members with 12 words of wisdom: “I’ve based my pastoral and communications ministry on these words. Be assertive. Be truthful. Be gracious. Be you. And speak with integrity.”

A native of Peoria, Illinois, Gangler holds a bachelor of science degree in education from Illinois State University at Normal (1968), a master of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Evanston, Illinois (1974), and a doctor of ministry in Christian Social Ethics from the Saint Paul School of Theology at Leawood, Kansas (1994).

Gangler and his wife, Enid, remain active in retirement. She volunteers at area museums and at the Indianapolis 500 Festival. He currently serves as advisor and past president of the Religion Communicators Council, chair of the United Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network of Indiana and social justice advocate for Tobacco-Free Hendricks County.

Kay DeMoss is senior content editor for the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church.


UMAC honors United Methodist communicators

by Jessica Brodie

Feb. 22, 2019 | ST. LOUIS—United Methodist communicators were honored Feb. 22 with an awards celebration at the Hyatt Regency in downtown St. Louis. The celebration was a highlight of the United Methodist Association of Communicators’ annual gathering, held Feb. 21-22 and 27.

Work was submitted across 10 classes of communications, with a best in class for each, as well as first, second and third place winners selected for each category. Also at the event, the group honored its 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, the Rev. Dr. Daniel R. Gangler, and two Communicators of the Year, Mary Catherine Phillips and Tim Tanton.

Masters of ceremony Kelly Roberson, director of communications for the South Georgia Conference, and Tyrus Sturgis, director of leader communications with United Methodist Communications, led the awards ceremony, with winners in each class, division and category. Click here for a complete list of award recipients.

Best in Class winners are as follows:

Class 1: Print Publication: Robert F. Storey Award of Excellence
40 Days of Reflection: A Coloring Book Supporting North Carolina Disaster Response
Derek Leek, Julie Brown and Hannah Koch, North Carolina Conference

Class 2: Digital Publication
response magazine Assembly comic book
Tara Barnes, Chavah Billin and Margaret Wilbur, United Methodist Women

Class 3: Writing Publication: Donn Doten Award of Excellence
His Struggle Made Him Who He Is: ‘God Wastes Nothing’
Annette Spence, Holston Conference

Class 4: Internet Communications
A tie for Lake Junaluska Instagram and Lake Junaluska Facebook
Liz Boyd and Mary Bates, Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center

Class 5: Video Production: Hilly Hicks Award of Excellence
Agape Pastries
Kelsey Johnson, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Houston

Class 6: Audio Production
Meet the Bishops: Get Your Spirit in Shape
Joe Iovino and Fran Walsh, United Methodist Communications

Class 7: Photography: Donald B. Moyer Award of Excellence
Paths Collide for Immigrants, Border Agents
Mike DuBose, UMNS

Class 8: Visual Design
Michigan Conference Website
Mark Doyal, Michigan Conference

Class 9: Publicity and Advertising: Leonard M. Perryman Award for Excellence
United Methodist Women’s Assembly 2018
James J. Rollins, Evelyn Warren, Sarah Brockus, Yvette Moore and Rae Grant, United Methodist Women

Class 10: Media Presentation
Town Hall Presentation
Todd Seifert, Great Plains United Methodist Conference

Gangler is Hall of Fame inductee 
UMAC chair Mark Doyal (Michigan) came to the microphone to announce Gangler as the Communicators Hall of Fame inductee for 2019.

Gangler is the former director of communications for the Indiana United Methodist Conference and is now retired after 38 years in pastoral and communication ministries. He serves in retirement as advisor and past president of the Religion Communicators Council, chair of the United Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network of Indiana, as a volunteer social justice advocate for Tobacco Free Hendricks County and president of the Clermont Lakes Home Owners Association. Currently, he is also working with the Religion Communicators Council and the Associated Church Press as co-chair of their 2019 RCC-ACP Convention in Chicago, April 10-13. He was named UMAC Communicator of the Year in 1996.

Gangler applauded the work of his communications peers across the UMC, particularly this year with their coverage of the special called General Conference. He said while he has covered seven General Conferences during his tenure, he has “never seen the likes of this.”

Gangler closed by offering his peers 12 words upon which he has based his communications ministry.

“Be assertive, be truthful, be gracious, be you and speak with integrity,” Gangler said to a standing ovation.

Phillips, Communicator of the Year 
Next, Doyal announced two communicators—Phillips and Tantonhad been selected as the UMAC Communicator of the Year.

Bishop David Graves introduced Phillips, whom he called a woman of “great integrity” who loves the Lord, the people, the annual conference and the denomination.

Phillips has served since 2011 as director of communications for the Alabama-West Florida Conference for The United Methodist Church. In addition to working closely with Bishops Paul Leeland and David Graves, she has led workshops throughout the conference and has helped grow and maintain the conference’s various digital outlets.

As an active member of First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Phillips has served on numerous committees, been a member of Joseph’s Ministry and has served in a leadership role in her Sunday school class. She has been a leader in her neighborhood organization and has spoken out against crime and violence in an effort to create positive change. She is a member of the Junior League of Montgomery as well as other civic groups.

A tearful Phillips accepted the award noting she was “speechless” and “overwhelmed,” especially given the time the church is in now and the caliber of the work of her peers.

She told a story about having come from a time of great personal difficulty early in her career to where she is today, standing before a crowd accepting an award of this nature for work she now considers to be her ministry.

“As the ecumenical pastors said earlier, you’ve got to cross the river, and there are going to be storms,” Phillips said, but hold fast to faith, and God will see you through.

“I’m here to tell you that’s the truth,” Phillips said to a roomful of applause.

Tanton, Communicator of the Year
United Methodist Communications head Dan Krause gave a video introduction of Tanton, lifting him up as a faithful, professional and objective man who is passionate about reporting, sharing stories and ensuring people’s voices are heard.

Tanton is chief news officer for United Methodist Communications. He works with the News and Information Team, comprising Ask The UMC (InfoServ) and United Methodist News Service. The team serves the church’s “world parish” in multiple languages. Tanton is a longtime member of East End United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

In his acceptance of the award, Tanton thanked the body and praised the strong work of his team, all of whom embrace storytelling ministry as a personal call.

“It is really humbling to look out across a roomful of people so deserving and think of all we’ve achieved this year in the name of Jesus Christ in telling the stories and bringing people to our Lord,” Tanton said.

He said communicators must not shrink away from the responsibility they have to communicate faithfully, from the written word to podcasts to video.

“We do not know what future brings, but God holds future in God’s hands, so stand strong and confident,” he said. “The world so much needs to hear the stories of how United Methodism is changing lives. Let us rise to that call and tell the stories.”

Doyal closed the gathering with a reminder that UMAC would hold their next event in 2020, the location of which will be determined soon.

Jessica Brodie is editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.

United Methodist Women
Continuing the mission, despite differences
ST. LOUIS — As The United Methodist Church concluded the special session of the General Conference, United Methodist Women vowed to work across differences to further its mission on behalf of women, children and youth.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

United Methodist Women Vows to Work Across Difference, Create Inclusive Spaces for All

United Methodist Women Vows to Work Across Difference, Create Inclusive Spaces for All
At a gathering of delegates before General Conference 2019

Feb. 27, 2019, St. Louis, Mo.—As the United Methodist Church concluded its three-day, special session of the General Conference, United Methodist Women vowed to work across differences in the furtherance of mission on behalf of women, children and youth.

United Methodist Women CEO Harriett Jane Olson, issued the following statement:

“The Traditional Plan adopted by General Conference invites clergy, bishops and congregations who do not support the church’s stand regarding LGBTQIA persons to leave the denomination and form another expression of Methodism. However, while our membership has many opinions about the matters considered at General Conference, United Methodist Women stands together, committed to serving women, children and youth. Part of the United Methodist Women Purpose is to be a creative supportive fellowship, and that’s what we intend to do.

“For United Methodist Women, commitment to the Purpose and prayer are the only litmus tests for determining who can belong, who can serve and who can devote themselves to mission. Our differences make us stronger. We continue to be open to any woman who chooses to commit to our Purpose and mission.

“The Special General Conference was difficult for all—even the Traditional Plan adopted may not be enforceable—but LGBTQIA sisters and brothers bear the brunt of the pain. United Methodist Women will continue to pray for our beloved church and stand in solidarity with all those who are in pain.

“United Methodist Women will continue our focus on mission, living out our Christian discipleship together, and addressing the needs of women, children and youth.”

United Methodist Women Communications

Contact:
Yvette Moore
Director of Communications and Marketing
phone: (212) 870-3822
ymoore@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Foundation for Evangelism
Texas lay pastor named distinguished evangelist
HUMBLE, Texas — Pastor Davidson “Danny” A. Hernaez, a charter member of the Texas Conference’s Laity Unleashed program, is the Foundation for Evangelism’s distinguished evangelist for 2018. He is president of a nonprofit that supports the distribution of Bibles and other resources to seminaries, colleges and churches in the Philippines. He also was instrumental in bringing The Walk to Emmaus to the Philippines.
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2018 Distinguished Evangelist - Pastor Danny Hernaez

Pastor Danny A. Hernaez Named
2018 Distinguished Evangelist

Pastor Davidson “Danny” A. Hernaez of Humble, Texas in the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, has been selected as The Foundation for Evangelism’s 2018 Distinguished Evangelist. This recognition is bestowed annually by The Foundation for Evangelism to celebrate, inspire, encourage and equip ALL who are called to be evangelists.

Pastor Hernaez serves as a charter member of the Laity Unleashed program in the Texas Annual Conference, a program developed for individuals who want to contribute to God’s kingdom in a meaningful way, but don’t feel called to ordained ministry. He is also a Vibrant Church Initiative consultant and ministry coach, and serves on his Conference and Leadership teams.

In addition to his role as CEO of a healthcare company, Pastor Hernaez is president of a non- profit organization that supports the distribution of Bibles and other resources to seminaries, colleges and churches in the Philippines. He was instrumental in bringing The Walk to Emmaus to the Philippines in 2012 and continues to serve on teams including Chrysalis and Kairos. He contributes regularly as a spiritual columnist for The Filipino Press, writing daily digital devotionals that reach more than 2,000 recipients.

Pastor Hernaez is described as an innovator, a thoughtful writer and preacher. He preaches nearly every Sunday in North America, the Philippines, Vietnam, and wherever he feels God calling him to bring the Good News.

“I share my life to the people as a broken vessel full of holes, sinner yet given a second chance, forgiven and saved. There is no other compelling reason for the folks in the pew to be stirred, inspired and encouraged to join me in leadership wherever we are called.” Pastor Hernaez shared.1

Perhaps most compelling, though is Pastor Hernaez’s words from a session at the 2011 School of Congregational in which he challenged attendees that “All of us are called to be witnesses to the power of the gospel story to redeem. To transform and give meaning to life.2 “
The Foundation for Evangelism welcomes Pastor Danny A. Hernaez to the roll of Distinguished Evangelists dating back to 1989, and looks forward to sharing more about his ministry over the course of 2019. Follow him at http://foundationforevangelism.org/category/distinguished-evangelist/.

1 “Leadership in High Gear: Meet ‘Energizer Danny,’” 3/27/2014, Texas Annual Conference https://www.txcumc.org/newsdetail/107534.
2 2011 School of Congregational Development, UMC Discipleship Ministries, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/transforming-church-culture-at-2011-school-of-congregational-development.

Pastor Danny Hernaez

Previous Distinguished Evangelists

Past recipients of this award include:

  • Ms. Kay Schecht, Irving, TX – 2017
  • Adam Weber, Sioux Falls, SD – 2016
  • Harry Lyness, West Harrison, IN – 2015
  • Bishop Richard Looney, Chattanooga, TN – 2014
  • Rev. R Mark Beeson, Granger, IN – 2013
  • Rev. Charles Anderson, San Antonio, TX – 2012
  • Dr. Ed Robb, The Woodlands, TX  – 2011
  • Rev. Shane Bishop, Fairview, IL – 2010
  • Rev. Jorge Acevedo, Cape Coral, FL – 2009
  • Dr. Keith Tonkel, Jackson, MS – 2008
  • Dr. Kent Millard, Indianapolis, IN – 2007
  • Dr. Norman Neaves, Oklahoma City, OK – 2006
  • Dr. George E. Morris, Canton, Georgia – 2005
  • Ms. Billie Fidlin, Phoenix, Arizona – 2004
  • Rev. Dr. Michael Slaughter, Tipp City, Ohio – 2003
  • Rev. Dr. William “Bill” Bouknight, Memphis, Tennessee – 2002
  • Rev. Dr. Joe Hale, Waynesville, North Carolina – 2001
  • Bishop Earl G. Hunt, Jr., Asheville, North Carolina (Lifetime Award)
  • Rev. Adam Hamilton, Leawood, Kansas – 2000
  • Dr. James C. Logan of Wesley Theological Seminary – 1999
  • Reverends Juanita and Rudy Rasmus, Houston, TX – 1998
  • Rev. Stephen A. Rhodes, Washington, DC – 1997
  • Dr. James E. Barnes, Denver, Colorado – 1996
  • Dr. Kirbyjon Caldwell, Houston, Texas – 1995
    Dr. Lawrence Lacour, Tulsa, Oklahoma (Lifetime award)
  • Dr. Eddie Fox, Nashville, Tennessee -1994
  • Bishop Kenneth Carder, Nashville, Tennessee – 1993
  • Dr. James Buskirk, Tulsa, Oklahoma –  1992
  • Dr. E. Malone Dodson, Roswell, Georgia – 1991
  • Joe A. Harding, Corvallis, Oregon – 1990

RESOURCES


United Methodist Communications
Watch video recap of GC2019

ST. LOUIS — A team from United Methodist Communications put together a five-minute summary video with footage from the Feb. 23-26 special session of General Conference.
Watch video

Religion and Race
Help with deepening the Lenten season

WASHINGTON — Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. There are resources available to help create a meaningful period of self-examination and reflection.
Read story

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. During the 40 days of Lent, we invite you into a meaningful period of self-examination and reflection to realign your life and focus toward God and the work God calls you to do by using the resources below.

Lent and Easter: Resisting Racism

It would be very hard to find anyone who would say they were against resisting racism. Yet, racism persists both in our world and in The United Methodist Church. To resist racism, we must learn new information (knowledge/mindset), engage our willingness to make change (will/heartset), and do the tangible work of disrupting and dismantling racism (action/skillset). The resources presented in this package have been created and framed for both individuals and groups to engage during the Lenten season. May God bless you as you seek to do the work of Resisting Racism.


Lenten Series: Roll Down Justice

GCORR’s Lenten Biblical Reflection, Roll Down, Justice!, written by Faye Wilson and featuring the music and reflections of Mark A. Miller, poses two questions to believers. First, what are you prepared to give in order to have a closer walk with God? Second, what can you give in order to embrace anew the work of justice? Roll Down, Justice!, is based on six songs* that are included in the book/CD set Roll Down, Justice! – Sacred Songs and Social Justice. The songs in this Lenten series are offered as six videos, and each video includes a guide for study.


Be Still and Go: Meditations for the Movement

Be Still and Go: Meditations for the Movement is a devotional podcast from The Riverside Church with daily episodes available during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Each episode is an invitation to reflect on a text or a theme so that you can be refilled and refueled for the work of love and justice that you are called to do. And this work is not a sprint. Take a moment and do your stretches because we’re in this for the whole marathon.

The 2019 Lent season of Be Still and Go features reflections from The Riverside Church clergy and congregants as well as Christian leaders from across the country and around the world, including Erin Hawkins and Rev. Michelle Ledder from GCORR.

EVENTS


Here are some of the activities ahead for United Methodists across the connection. If you have an item to share, you can add it to the calendar with this submission form.

Monday, March 11-Friday, March 22

Online class: Writing Your Christian Testimony

United Methodist News Service is a ministry of:

United Methodist Communications

810 12th Avenue South

Nashville, Tennessee 37203-4704, United States
NewsDesk@umcom.org

Phone: (615)742-5400

 

_______

Published by

Gary Lee Parker

Born on August 2, 1952 to Ethel Barbara Garrabrant Parker & Harold H. Parker at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Elmira, New York. Educated at the Waverly Central School District at First Methodist Church (Kindergarten), West End Elementary School (1st-4th), Lincoln Street Elementary School (5th-6th), Mary Muldoon Junior High School (7th-9th), Waverly Senior High School or the Don W. McCleland Junior Senior High School (10th-12th) then graduating with a Local & Regents High School Diplomas in June 1970. Educated at Mount Vernon Nazarene College, now University, (Freshman), Pasadena College to Point Loma College: an Institution of the Church of the Nazarene, now Point Loma Nazarene College, University (Sophomore & Junior), Grand Canyon College, now University (Senior) graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Business Administration) in July 1978, Elmira College (Graduate) graduating with a Master of Science in Education (Education & Psychology) in May 1988, and Nazarene Theological Seminary (Graduate) graduating with a Master of Science in Divinity (Theology & Evangelism) in May 2002. I am a trained teacher & pastor, as I listen to God I continue to be a Father to James Alfred Lowell Parker (having multiple disabilities) believing he is part of God`s Ministry through him as God leads me to encourage the Church to fully include all people with disabilities as active lay or clergy members.

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