Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pastor Salaries

Want to REALLY get into trouble? Here's an opportunity as we mix religion, money, and politics.

This comes from a congregational church polity, but some of the ingredients can just as easily appear in a denominational church. I've never heard of a clergy making 600K, so this got my attention.

"Live... from New York City... it's Sunday Morning Jive!"

Here's a teaser from the article:

"Longstanding tensions among parishioners at the renowned Riverside Church erupted again this week as a group of congregants went to court to stop the installation of a new senior pastor whose compensation package, they say, exceeds $600,000 a year."

"In a motion filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the group said that the new pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brad R. Braxton, and the church board that selected him last September after a yearlong search, had dismissed their calls for transparency in financial matters. They also complained that Dr. Braxton was moving Riverside away from its tradition of interracial progressivism and toward a conservative style of religious practice."

See the full story and all details at Pastor Salary

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rediscovering an Easter Methodism; Relighting Our Matches

This is an extended excerpt from the Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, Chapter VII “Primitive Methodism”

My business was to preach, meet the classes, visit the society and the sick, and then to my books and study; and I say that I am more indebted to Bishop M'Kendree for my little attainments in literature and divinity, than to any other man on earth. And I believe that if presiding elders would do their duty by young men in this way, it would be more advantageous than all the colleges and Biblical institutes in the land; for they then could learn and practice every day.

Suppose, now, Mr. Wesley had been obliged to wait for a literary and theologically trained band of preachers before he moved in the glorious work of his day, what would Methodism have been in the Wesleyan connection to-day? Suppose the Methodist Episcopal Church in these United States had been under the necessity of waiting for men thus qualified, what would her condition have been at this time? In despite of all John Wesley's prejudices, he providentially saw that to accomplish the glorious work for which God had raised him up, he must yield to the superior wisdom of Jehovah, and send out his "lay preachers" to wake up a slumbering world. If Bishop Asbury had waited for this choice literary band of preachers, infidelity would have swept these United States from one end to the other.

Methodism in Europe this day would have been as a thousand to one, if the Wesleyans had stood by the old land-marks of John Wesley: but no; they must introduce pews, literary institutions and theological institutes, till a plain, old-fashioned preacher, such as one of Mr. Wesley's "lay preachers," would be scouted, and not allowed to occupy one of their pulpits. Some of the best and most useful men that were ever called of God to plant Methodism in this happy republic were among the early pioneer preachers, east, west, north, and south; and especially in our mighty West. We have no such preachers now as some of the first ones who were sent out to Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Presbyterians, and other Calvinistic branches of the Protestant Church, used to contend for an educated ministry, for pews, for instrumental music, for a congregational or stated salaried ministry. The Methodists universally opposed these ideas; and the illiterate Methodist preachers actually set the world on fire, (the American world at least,) while they were lighting their matches!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Walking on Our Own Feet"

Bishop Zablon was presiding bishop for the Methodist church in Kenya from 1992 until 2004, and is now vice president for development of Kenya University. This spring and summer he has been serving as a visiting scholar at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

I often find I learn much about God, the work of the church, the ministry of clergy and laity, and the opportunity for ministry when I am part of international mission or ministry conversations enriched by a variety of voices from across the globe. I'm intrigued by the wisdom of the bishop's words below as he speaks rather unintentionally to U.S. denominational conversations by addressing the needs of the churches he knows so well. I've bolded a few thoughts that caught my attention, and bet you'll find other worthy phrases and concepts as well. Note that Zablon finds a theological issue at work, and presses for a dependence upon God and a local expression of faith realizing the necessary resources are present. I wonder if a call for congregational self reliance might take root in the United States as well as in Africa?!

Learning From African Church Leaders

The Self-Reliance of the Church in Africa

Professor Zablon Nthamburi, Presiding Bishop,
Methodist Churches In Kenya

The Church in Africa which has experienced a dramatic growth in the last 30 years is faced with a resource crisis. Many churches would like to have adequate trained personnel (evangelists, pastors, deacons etc.) but are not able to generate enough local resources to undertake this very important task. There is a need to build churches, clinics, and resource centers as well as to equip lay people for their role in the ministry. Unfortunately churches in Africa are made to believe that they must go to the churches in the West to beg for these resources in order to take advantage of the many emerging opportunities before them.

What can the churches in Africa do in the midst of all the problems that face the church and threaten the well being of the communities? The Church in Africa must subscribe to the understanding of God who is always present in the world and who is willing to transform it. Our God calls us to work with Him in order that he can transform the world through us. Our mission frontier is where the needs of the people are met in the name of Jesus. It is where displaced persons find new hope, where victims of ethnic hatred see the one who is a friend to all people. The hungry see Jesus as the person who gives them bread, the sick see him as the Great Physician, while the sinner sees Jesus as the one who pardons and restores wholeness. The Church in Africa must, more than ever before, begin to bear the imprint "made in Africa".

The Christian faith must articulate African symbols and metaphors in order for it to be real. In the same vein, the African Church will not grow into maturity if it continues to be fed by western partners. It will ever remain an infant who has not learned to walk on his or her own feet. A child who depends on parental support even during teen-age years may never be able to walk with dignity. We must challenge the churches in Africa to be self-reliant as a way of proving that the Church has taken root and has developed an African character.

Indigenous or independent African churches have demonstrated beyond doubt that the Church in Africa can be self-reliant. Many of these churches started without any visible support from the outside and have continued to grow and expand their mission strategies. They have localized their ministries and indigenized their polity to the extent that they have become in real terms "a place to feel at home". They proved that there are enough local resources to support their work. They have shown us that it is when people feel a sense of "ownership" that they are willing to give themselves to the task ahead, including full support of the Church's ministries. In Kenya a few of these successful churches are the African Brotherhood Church, African Christian Church and Schools, African Interior Church and the National Independent Church of Africa.

There are also missionary founded churches which have realized that they would never come of age if they hold on to their "swaddling clothes". One way of establishing their identity and recognizing their strength is to strive to do things in their own way. In this way churches identify their areas of concern and raise resources to meet those felt needs. The self-hood of the church in Africa will depend largely on an adequate strategy for self-reliance. For when people truly own their own process they support it fully with all their resources.

There are many examples showing how the church can be self-reliant. Some local believers told an incident of how their church was for a long time seeking support from overseas partners for a medical clinic. They had written many project proposals and only received about $2000 which could hardly build even a one-roomed clinic. It dawned upon them that, if they really wanted it, they had to do it themselves. The committee sat down, drew a program for fund raising and then conscientized the church members on the need to support this ministry. They asked people to bring things in kind such as chickens, farm produce, goats, cows etc. Within one single day they were able to raise the equivalent of US$20,000, enough to build and equip the clinic. What was more important, they discovered that they could do it. This convinced them of their own their strength on which they can now build to support other church ministries.

I believe that the church in Africa is endowed with the resources to support its own ministry. The challenge is to realize this fact and to know how to tap these rich resources. The spiritual resource of the church should be able to propel it to realize many other opportunities in ministry. Let our friends and partners help us to realize our potential by letting us "walk on our own feet."

Easter Denomination Part II: Agile Enterprise vs. Traditional Bureaucratic Model

While my typical "lead card" would be to go with either Scripture, tradition, or my experiences that have worked well I'm intrigued by an article I stumbled upon while looking for something else on the internet. I think this concept has application to denomination, church, and clergy in the current context of ministry.

Do you know about an Agile Enterprise?

While there are problems with imposing a business model upon the institutional church the concept does help me realize that many of the current denominational models were built on industrial era approaches to management. Of course, now you overlay life in the information era and many who either have prejudice against institutions or have no experience or perceived need for religion and the number of significant issues most denominations are facing is apparent. I find many elements of Agile Enterprise to be more reflective of what the church and the Church should be.

Forgive the extensive copy & paste, but I like the whole article which you'll find below. I have bolded a few concepts that catch my attention for current denominational church work. Here's the link if you are interested at Agile Enterprise

"The traditional bureaucratic model is exemplified by Scientific Management, which was developed during the Industrial Era for use in conditions that were easily measured, controlled, and replicated. It is characterized by routine, streamlined work and close supervision of workers who have clearly defined responsibilities. Mass production, which is characterized by centralized hierarchy, standardized product designs, and specialization of labor, is typical of a bureaucratic organization. During the Information era, however, rapid technological changes, extensive globalization, and intensive competition have created significant pressures on organizations. The Agile Enterprise is an appropriate alternative to the bureaucratic model under these conditions. The Agile Enterprise uses concepts from complexity science, which is based on the assumption that relationships between actors are autonomous and continuous. The result is self-organizing emergence, or the spontaneous formation of constantly evolving work teams, that produces novel products, services, or solutions through iterative and incremental development. The Agile Enterprise relies on the ability of its participants to rapidly evaluate feedback and new information, to continuously learn, and to morph and evolve as needed, often spontaneously."

"An Agile Enterprise is a fast moving, flexible and robust firm capable of rapid and cost efficient response to unexpected challenges, events, and opportunities. Built on policies and processes that facilitate speed and change, it aims to achieve continuous competitive advantage in serving its customers. Agile enterprises use diffused authority and flat organizational structure to speed up information flows among different departments, and develop close, trust-based relationships with their customers and suppliers."

"The Agile Enterprise focuses on (often dramatically) improving its 'front office' and 'mid office' processes, i.e. those processes which are directly or indirectly customer facing, and help the enterprise to move its products and services, and associated information flows, efficiently, effectively, and as quickly as possible."

"'Agility' in this context, could be defined as the sum of "Flexibility + Visibility + Responsiveness" - and the whole being greater than the sum of the parts."

"For an organization to achieve marketplace agility, it must be organized in a way that supports continuous change. External adaptability derives primarily from a self-organizing workforce. A Self-organizing workforce requires employees to assume multiple roles, improvise, spontaneously collaborate, and rapidly redeploy from one work team to another and another, while simultaneously learning from and teaching their peers. For this type of organization to succeed, its employees must be open to new ideas and be able to collaborate with others to accomplish shared goals."

Characteristics of an agile enterprise
"In their book The Starfish And the Spider[1] by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom describe several characteristics of a starfish organization, a term they use as a metaphor for an Agile Enterprise because of the starfish’s ability to adapt to trauma by rapidly regenerating lost limbs. Separated limbs are capable of returning to health and surviving on their own, much like autonomous work teams in an Agile Enterprise. (These authors use the term spider as a metaphor for bureaucracy because a spider’s body is controlled by a central nervous system and cannot survive severe trauma, much like a bureaucracy that is dependent on top level management to make all major decisions.) Brafman and Beckstrom offer several characteristics of a starfish organization that are consistent with views of the Agile Enterprise. Some of these can be summarized as follows:

1. Projects are generated everywhere in the organization, and many times even from outside affiliates.
2. No one is in control; thump it on the head and it still survives.
3. If you take out a unit, the overall organization quickly recovers.
4. Participants function autonomously, which facilitates workforce scalability.
5. Roles are amorphous and ever-changing; tasks are performed on an “as needed” basis.
6. Knowledge and power are distributed; intelligence is spread throughout the organization.
7. Working groups communicate directly, not hierarchically.
8. Key decisions are made collaboratively, on the spot and on the fly."

Sound like a church/Church/clergy that would work well today? What does this say in response to the current UMC constitutional amendments under discussion?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Confidence in Organized Religion

Mark Chaves at Duke blogs that

"Between 1973 and 2008, the number of people with a great deal of confidence in religious leaders declined from about 35 to under 25 percent. Higher percentages of regular church attendees express a great deal of confidence in religious leaders, but the trend is the same. It is difficult to know which leaders of which religious organizations people are thinking about when they answer this question (local leaders? national leaders?), but if you lead a religious organization you probably will find this a disturbing trend under any interpretation."

We're in a time period where almost all institutions and leaders seem to be fighting long odds in terms of public favor. Does anybody believe in anything anymore? Do we have confience in any organization or leader? What might help Easter occur in the everyday life of a denomination and especially in how they are viewed by the world?

My guess is it won't be a PR campaign, but most likely a local emphasis where people see something in the Church which expresses the Kingdom of God. Maybe we all need to get a community of faith focus on how to express this reality TODAY.

"Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. All the Lord's followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved." Acts 2:43-47 CEV

Declining Confidence

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Great WSJ Article on Managing the Facebook Gen

This is a fascinating article, shared in its entirety, that has huge implications for EVERY institution.

Gary Hamel’s Management 2.0: A look at new ways of managing

"The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500"
By Gary Hamel

The experience of growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of “Generation F” – the Facebook Generation. At a minimum, they’ll expect the social environment of work to reflect the social context of the Web, rather than as is currently the case, a mid-20th-century Weberian bureaucracy.

If your company hopes to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, it will need to understand these Internet-derived expectations, and then reinvent its management practices accordingly. Sure, it’s a buyer’s market for talent right now, but that won’t always be the case—and in the future, any company that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud.

With that in mind, I compiled a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life. These are the post-bureaucratic realities that tomorrow’s employees will use as yardsticks in determining whether your company is “with it” or “past it.” In assembling this short list, I haven’t tried to catalog every salient feature of the Web’s social milieu, only those that are most at odds with the legacy practices found in large companies.

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.

3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others—and have more influence as a consequence. Critically, though, these individuals haven’t been appointed by some superior authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of their peers. On the Web, authority trickles up, not down.

4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you.

5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.

6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
On the Web, you get to choose your compatriots. In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others. Just as no one can assign you a boring task, no can force you to work with dim-witted colleagues.

7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
In large organizations, resources get allocated top-down, in a politicized, Soviet-style budget wrangle. On the Web, human effort flows towards ideas and projects that are attractive (and fun), and away from those that aren’t. In this sense, the Web is a market economy where millions of individuals get to decide, moment by moment, how to spend the precious currency of their time and attention.

8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
The Web is also a gift economy. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch—and garner the credit that might have been yours. Online, there are a lot of incentives to share, and few incentives to hoard.

9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
On the Internet, truly smart ideas rapidly gain a following no matter how disruptive they may be. The Web is a near-perfect medium for aggregating the wisdom of the crowd—whether in formally organized opinion markets or in casual discussion groups. And once aggregated, the voice of the masses can be used as a battering ram to challenge the entrenched interests of institutions in the offline world.

10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
As many Internet moguls have learned to their sorrow, online users are opinionated and vociferous—and will quickly attack any decision or policy change that seems contrary to the community’s interests. The only way to keep users loyal is to give them a substantial say in key decisions. You may have built the community, but the users really own it.

11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
The web is a testament to the power of intrinsic rewards. Think of all the articles contributed to Wikipedia, all the open source software created, all the advice freely given—add up the hours of volunteer time and it’s obvious that human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about. Money’s great, but so is recognition and the joy of accomplishment.

12. Hackers are heroes.
Large organizations tend to make life uncomfortable for activists and rabble-rousers—however constructive they may be. In contrast, online communities frequently embrace those with strong anti-authoritarian views. On the Web, muckraking malcontents are frequently celebrated as champions of the Internet’s democratic values—particularly if they’ve managed to hack a piece of code that has been interfering with what others regard as their inalienable digital rights.

These features of Web-based life are written into the social DNA of Generation F—and mostly missing from the managerial DNA of the average Fortune 500 company. Yeah, there are a lot of kids looking for jobs right now, but few of them will ever feel at home in cubicleland.

So, readers, here’s a couple of questions: What are the Web-based social values that you think are most contrary to the managerial DNA one finds inside a typical corporate giant? And how should we reinvent management to make it more consistent with these emerging online sensibilities?

Facebook Employees

Friday, April 24, 2009

Forget the UMC Amendments, There Is a Bigger Issue

I've struggled for a few weeks through Lent, tried to be about my local ministry and denominational service in the conference, and NOT blog in a negative way! Oh, I've got some drafts saved, and there have been a number of blogs I wrote and then deleted. Instead, I've tried to point more toward ministry practice or inspiration when I have had time to blog.

But there is something that is still bugging me and I can't shake it. I'm going to take this as something from God plaguing me here in Easter season, as my prayers are for resurrection and a present redemption for my life, my family, my church, my denomination, and my world. Matter of fact, I'm feeling a calling to this, as I'm a 47 year old who might be a "bridge" between where we've been and where we need to go. Generationally, institutionally, and in regards to career perhaps there are others like me who have experienced the one approach yet see something new developing.

After admiring the efforts of other bloggers in writing about the pros and cons of the upcoming conference votes on UMC amendments I attempted to follow suit. I waded through all of that, thought through aspects of it, and found myself of a split mind, yet still thinking there is something bigger going on.

I share this as one who loves the UMC, appreciates the Wesleyan doctrine and approach, and as one who has benefited tremendously as I wasn't born into this denomination but have been drawn to it and found a home in it. Yet, I don't think we've made it on to perfection just yet with the UMC.

Bear with me as I try to be concise yet express some varied issues that are nagging me.

Some Historic Institutions are Dying and Others are Transforming

Call this the emergence of postmodern institutions, or organizational restructuring, or streamlining, but it's a significant trend. Think GM, think of the 2nd largest mall company going into bankruptcy, think of schools struggling to reform, and certainly think of denominations. It's a new economy emerging, but it's also something more.

Mark Chaves certainly captures some of the issue with his blog on declining confidence . We live in a new, different, and challenging day and old institutional ways are not as efficient today as we need them to be.

Possibility of a New Denomination for a New Millenia?

Just as GM has been pushed to a new structure which is much more radical, much more aggressive, and much more imposed than anything they would have imagined on their own. No one within the "family" who has come up through the beloved institution would place on the table in late 2008 what they now see as a path in April 2009. The numbers, the economy, and the future weren't that radically different in the few months in between.

In our system, it seems to me, something so radical might only occur if God imposed a reformation upon us. And I don't tend to think God works that way! My fear then would be our huge, lumbering ship would "stay the course" and slowly dwindle. Of course, we'd positively redefine that, continue to be the Church, continue to express our doctrine and calling, yet we'd be slowly dying. You've seen that local congregation live out it's life once the "die is cast." :) We're beginning to see this in some conferences, and the thing will spread. Now, I'm not talking about the international, or southern hemisphere UMC as much as I am the United States version.

But what if we found a new energy, a new mission, and a new calling as we find new life in these days of a Risen Savior. In my campus ministry I find MANY college students who are not from church backgrounds, or who come from other religious stances, who are very open to Methodist thinking and Methodist ways. We are distinctive and we have some very real opportunities in this generation even with a postmodern and secular majority. I don't think we've got to yield any ground to anybody! I don't believe that it will make us spiritually superior to fight to the death in legislative sessions, or amend ourselves into more exotic configurations, or become a minority by attrition and institutionalization.

Not Anti-Institution, But A Radical Call for Reform

I no longer think we can take small steps in this "redenominational" effort. I am not anti-institutional as I see both doctrinal and practical value in our coordination for mission. And having served at various levels I know we have some of the best people doing the best they can. The thing is we haven't gotten it right just yet, & I strongly suspect it's a systemic issue. The whole process of us trying to be church and Church is now encumbered and no longer free for mission. And to place this within the context of postmodern thought, the individual finds too many barriers due to the institution.

I can't vote for more amendments that create more institution. We're already overly institutionalized. Instead, if we have opportunity to strip the institution down to the primary elements I'd be ecstatic.

Focus on local ministry such as congregation, chaplaincy, and campus ministry. In United Methodism substantially streamline so that the majority of input of resources impacts the local ministry level rather than draining the local work. The work of the denomination is then to equip, encourage, and radically support effectiveness in ministry at the local level.

Redo the Book of Discipline so it doesn't look and feel like the laws added to laws. We keep doing addition but never do any subtraction! I'm fairly certain that Wesley WAS NOT trying to recreate the Church of England, and it appears that we have successfully acheived this. We are too top heavy with structure and the BOD illustrates this.

Now here's the radical call for a dream denomination. Purge & eliminate the agencies, refocus the seminaries and colleges, strip and redefine apportionments, and after the demolition reconstruct a system that is streamlined and has strong connection between the elements at every level. Many congregations have gone through this and found tremendous benefit for mission, enthusiasm, finances, leadership development, etc. I'd still have churches "pay forward" for mission, but we wouldn't want to use mission language to fund purely institutional "stuff" with no direct relationship beyond the local ministry. Local church, district, conference, & UM college and seminary would depend upon and trust one another in pursuit of expressing God's kingdom today. The majority of input would be upon effective spiritual leadership for clergy and laity, and there would be a strong predisposition to working everyone while also finding the best place of service. This seems to me to be the priority which has gotten lost in the denominational business and largeness of the enterprise.

Forget most of those amendments because there are some MUCH larger issues which the UMC is being slow to address.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Church Music Death

I've been away from the world of blogging for the last week as my work sometimes moves beyond the local church ministry and extends into denominational service. With that larger world of the Church in mind the death of a seminary church music school got my attention. This was my seminary at one time. It was a place of rich tradition, of mainstream classical theological education, which drew a diverse student body of 3500 students in masters and doctoral work engaging students from throughout the national and world. But things changed rather dramatically.

Numbers of us left the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 90's as the "fundamentalist takeover" had run its course and permanent changes were in place in all arenas of religious life. For any moderate types there was little room in the new scheme despite the historic tradition that found strength in the combined thinking and efforts of the revivalists (Sandy Creek tradition) and the more liturgical, high church element (Charleston tradition). So, many of us became independent, or community church, or Methodist, Presbyterian, American Baptist, or other. Having served a UM church in New Albany IN while in seminary I found my home and context for ministry within United Methodism.

Through Facebook many old friends from college and grad school days have reconnected. I didn't realize it until my old college roommate posted a link informing me that part of our past died this week. He too has moved on and has Presbyterian identity while serving as a music professor at a university. He wrote about this as "remembering mourning" and I can't capture the feeling any better.

The extended excerpt below is taken from the link explaining the death of the School of Church Music at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While music and maybe worship has undergone changes I think the model (though likely not the size of the model) still works even if the SBTS approach is officially dead. I remember SBTS music school for producing incredible musicians with the broader theological education, creating worship experiences and modeling some variety that helped many of us broaden our views, allowing me to live next musicians in Seminary Village (they'd practice music at 11 PM every night!), and allowing me to learn in a worship class with Raymond Bailey and Milburn Price as a teaching team. Perhaps death will lead to a new resurrection?

Southern Seminary Closing School of Church Music
By Bob Allen
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is closing its 65-year-old School of Church Music and Worship, combining it with the School of Leadership and Church Ministry into a new School of Church Ministries.

Southern Seminary opened the music school at a time when the Southern Baptist Convention's growing seminary system began moving beyond training preachers to additional tasks, like improving the quality of worship and discipleship training in Southern Baptist churches.

While taken for granted for more than a generation, combining classical music training with theology studies in a seminary setting is primarily a Southern Baptist innovation, said Paul Richardson, professor of music at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

Richardson said Southern Baptists began purposeful training of church musicians in the early part of the 20th century. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary established a School of Gospel Music in 1915.

In the 1940s, the SBC's Sunday School Board established a church-music department led by B.B. McKinney, a famous writer of hymns and gospel songs who taught at Southwestern Seminary from 1919 to 1931. Under his leadership the board released the Broadman Hymnal, creating a common worship tradition in Southern Baptist churches so pervasive it earned comparison to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The new pavilion will house Southern Seminary's admissions and security offices.

The National Association of Schools of Music began accrediting undergraduate degrees in church music in 1952. Before long many Southern Baptist congregations came to expect that a full-time minister of music would complete seminary training or comparable training at a university.

Influenced by the models of Westminster Choir College and Union Theological Seminary, SBC music schools focused on sophisticated choral music, graded choirs and more formal worship. While not alone in the effort, Southern Baptist seminaries were often considered unparalleled, in the theology-school world, in their commitment to church music. They grew into programs unsurpassed in size and scope.

For instance, only three schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools offer doctorates in musical arts, and all are SBC seminaries.

By the 1980s and 1990s, enrollments in schools of church music reached record highs.

Seminary Change

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Disaster Response Training

Disaster Response
Monster Training Event

Dates: Friday April 24th and Saturday April 25th.

Location: Salem Camp Ground, 3962 Salem Road, Covington, Ga. 30016.

Directions: From I20 East of Atlanta take the Salem Road/ SR162 Exit south 6 miles and Salem Camp Ground is on the left beside Salem UMC.

Friday's Schedule:
Starting at 12noon Registration for the weekend will be open
Starting at 12noon Display material and Equipment trailers will be setup.
4:00pm NG Conference Ham Radio demonstration of the equipment and how it works
5:30pm Dinner will be served at the camp Hotel at a cost of $13.50 per person.
Online Reservations must be made in advance (see link above)
7:00pm Informational Sessions
1. Connecting Neighbors (PowerPoint Presentation)
2. The role of Methodist with amateur radio (PowerPoint Presentation).
8:00pm Devotion (modeled after debriefing that occurs each evening with Early Response Teams)

Saturday's Schedule:
7:00 am Event Registration will be open
7:00am Breakfast will be served at the camp Hotel at the cost of $ 8.50 per person
Online Reservations must be made in advance (see link above)
8:00am Assembly in the Tabernacle
8:30 am Classes Start
Choose a Class:
1 UMCOR ERT Training
2 UMCOR ERT Training
3 Hands on Chain Saw Training
4 Emotional and Spiritual Care Training
5 HAM Cram Class and Technician Test
6 Red Cross Shelter Worker Operations and Simulation
12:00 pm Lunch ($5 Pork BBQ) and free time to get to know others and look at displays
1:30 pm Classes resume
4:00 pm Event Closing

Base Cost for Lunch/ID Badge:
1. Saturday Noon Pork BBQ lunch $5.00
2. There is a $5.00 charge for an ID badge for each class

Cost for Classes:
1. There is a $20.00 charge for the Ham Operators License and test
2. There is a $10.00 charge for a background check
Note: A background check is required for the following classes before an ID badge can be issued:
Emotional & Spiritual Care, Hands on Chain Saw, and UMCOR ERT Training
Register for Monster Training Event

Cost NOT INCLUDED IN REGISTRATION (must register separately in advance-limited space):
5. Hotel stay at the Salem Hotel is $42.50 per person including Dinner and Breakfast (max: 2 people per room; you may have a roommate assigned to you)
Make Salem Hotel Reservations (includes Friday dinner & Saturday breakfast)

Link here

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Saturday Night Rock Concert Fundraiser 4 Relay for Life

Find below a rock concert fundraiser honoring a Lakeside High School teacher who has cancer. The proceeds will benefit Relay for Life and help fight cancer. My oldest son, a junior at Lakeside High School in Evans, plays bass guitar in a jam band that's up first Saturday evening. FYI- they'll be playing at Augusta's First Friday this summer so they're pretty good. Only $5, an entertaining evening, and you'll help a great cause. Spread the word and bring a friend. And if you are local to the Augusta area share this post to your Facebook site

BAND Together: BANISH Breast Cancer
A Benefit Concert in Honor of Karen Chase
Host: Grace Bellmer
Date: Saturday, April 18, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: Wesley United Methodist Church
Street: 825 North Belair Road
City/Town: Evans, GA
Phone: 7069517466

Come enjoy a rockin' concert while supporting the fight against cancer!
The concert will feature local artists such as Quadraphonic, Ship of Fools, Patrick Reagan, David Owen, etc.
Tickets are five dollars and can be purchased at the door.
Concessions will be available and donations are accepted.
All proceeds go to Relay for Life.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Bloggers

There are many Easter friends I've never met, but who encourage me and challenge me everyday with their blogging. I won't list the 20 plus bloggers I review most weeks though you know I'll often vigourously "cut and paste" from some who really strike a chord or nerve with me.

Wesleyan Basics says:

"The basic move - the Wesleyan root - seems to be an energetic creativity and willingness to innovate inside our outside the establishment if it gets people over the hump from being “Almost Christians” to fully Christian. Of course, doctrine matters. But even Wesley’s famous arguments with Calvinism strike me as being about practice. He found “double predestination” outrageous because it tended to undermine people’s love of God and cool their zeal for good works."

"But - and this is where I probably go way off the path - recapturing Wesleyan practice is not about adopting his innovations. It is not about going back to field preaching or societies and band meetings. Those were well tuned to his setting. Our settings are not his."

"We might end up in some of the same places that Wesley did, but we should not start there."

"We need John Wesley’s spirit and zeal. That is a Wesleyan root to which our United Methodist Church would do well to graft itself."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Friends

This happened about 5 years ago when I was serving Greensboro GA First United Methodist Church.

Mr. Herbert, age 87, came by the church today with an 8 foot ladder sticking out the trunk of his car. His Sunday School class, named the Adult Men’s Class, once over 100 strong but now down to 4, had 3 lights burned out of the 5 light chandelier that hangs in their room. Their room is actually a side entry way for the choir, a room which is taller than it is wide. Mr. Herbert shows up on a rainy Monday with a 4 pack of 75 watt bulbs and his ladder. He's a tall, lean, and somewhat frail man who is beginning to walk a little delicately as his body is showing its age. But he's independent, and maybe a little stubborn. He came into the office asking for a key to get into the main building. I volunteered to help with the door and the ladder thinking I might end up taking care of the thing myself, and avoiding the possibility that my old friend might fall on such a wet day. But this was Mr. Herbert’s job, his idea, and his ladder. So, guess who climbed the ladder?! There I was, the 41 year old youngster steadying the ladder for the old man who wanted to make sure his friends had the light.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday 2009

Lord of the Dance
words by Sydney Carter, music traditional

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What to Do Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday

Depth of Mercy
Words: Charles Wesley, 1740
Music: Adapt. from Orlando Gibbons, 1623

Depth of mercy! Can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear,
me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood his grace,
long provoked him to his face,
would not hearken to his calls,
grieved him by a thousand falls.

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
oft profaned his hallowed name,
put him to an open shame.

There for me the Savior stands,
shows his wounds and spreads his hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Now incline me to repent,
let me now my sins lament,
now my foul revolt deplore,
weep, believe, and sin no more.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Messiah Dies

`Tis Finished! The Messiah Dies
Words: Charles Wesley, 1762 (Jn. 19:30)
Music: William B. Bradbury, 1853

'Tis finished! the Messiah dies,
cut off for sins, but not his own.
Accomplished is the sacrifice,
the great redeeming work is done.

The veil is rent; in Christ alone
the living way to heaven is seen;
the middle wall is broken down,
and all the world may enter in.

'Tis finished! All my guilt and pain,
I want no sacrifice beside;
for me, for me the Lamb is slain;
'tis finished! I am justified.

The reign of sin and death is o'er,
and all may live from sin set free;
Satan hath lost his mortal power;
'tis swallowed up in victory.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast
Words: Charles Wesley, 1747 (Lk. 14:16-24)
Music: Katholisches Gesangbuch, ca. 1774; adapt. from Metrical Psalter, 1855

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,
let every soul be Jesus' guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
for God hath bid all humankind.

Do not begin to make excuse;
ah! do not you his grace refuse;
your worldly cares and pleasures
leave, and take what Jesus hath to give.

Come and partake the gospel feast,
be saved from sin, in Jesus rest;
O taste the goodness of our God,
and eat his flesh and drink his blood.

See him set forth before your eyes;
behold the bleeding sacrifice;
his offered love make haste to embrace,
and freely now be saved by grace.

Ye who believe his record true
shall sup with him and he with you;
come to the feast, be saved from sin,
for Jesus waits to take you in.

Change of Pace-- Welcome to Our Local Golf Tournament

I know, I know. In most of the world this week, at least from a Christian view, the only correct thing to talk about would be Holy Week and the final days before Easter.

But, as with any week, there are other things going on in life-- especially in Augusta, Georgia, USA.

This first full week of April is all about the The Masters golf tournament locally. Perhaps you have heard of this international golf event?! It is a tremendous event in terms of exceptional golf play, tradition and history, and a destination experience for people from all over the world who love golf. All of this converges on the Augusta National just off of I-20, Washington Road, and then Berckmans Road which fronts the entry gates into the National.

So, the world arrives in Augusta while huge numbers of our locals leave for Spring Break.

I could give you lots of local talk about The Masters, but for the time being enjoy the following link from a local sports writer who has covered the event for over 20 years. He's got a great view of the course which you will enjoy if you've visited before and which you will appreciate in anticipation of the live TV coverage this weekend.

Don't forget the other happenings of the week, but enjoy a few minutes diversion here in Augusta.

The Masters Walking Tour

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passover Seder

I don't generally use Wikipedia as a primary information source, but sometimes they offer a concise detailed explanation. Today is Passover, and you'll find the story and the Seder practice might awaken new thoughts and experiences for your Holy Week and Easter.

Here are a few teasers from the link:

"The rituals and symbolic foods associated with the Seder evoke the twin themes of the evening: slavery and freedom."

"The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God in Exodus 6:6-7: 'I will bring out,' 'I will deliver,' 'I will redeem,' and 'I will take.'"

"Why is this night different from all other nights?"

Part of the song/recitation: "I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy."

And we cried unto the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders... Deuteronomy 26

Passover Seder

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Honeysuckle Sin and Easter

The days leading up to Easter travel directly through the crucifixion of Jesus, even though it's very easy and even tempting (either by omission or commission), to take a detour around that part of the story. Now I'm not talking Mel Gibson "The Passion" sort of reflection (read what the Gospels say about this and notice the emphasis and balance in those stories). I do want to get to Easter after all! It's just that I've become aware that I might too glibly, too quickly jump to the end of the story before experiencing a necessary part of the story that is essential to the drama.

I've realized that I'd prefer to be busy with Easter activities and not reflect on the story. Strange isn't it, how we'd just as soon not deal with THAT part of the story. The pain is too much. The blood is too much. And the sin is too much. But it's a necessary path if we are to enjoy the true power and potential of Easter.

A few years ago I had a problem I'd too long overlooked. The first impression, and general appearance, was that all was well. I'd taken care of everything, attended to business as I needed to, and seemed like everyone else. But by making a small exception, not thinking there would be a consequence, life soon got out of hand. This didn't happen all at once as it was subtle with few perceptible, immediate changes.

Our home landscape sloped toward a creek, and we had a nice variety of southern trees and shrubs. In the front yard, directly in front of the house, we had a few trees and a cluster of azaleas. If you don't know what azaleas are then check out the Masters golf tournament this week and notice the shrubs that are 3-4 feet tall with the show of early spring flowers. Azaleas produce multiple trunks that create a beautiful plant which produces green leaves early, and then surprises with tremendous numbers of pink or red or white flowers which overwhelm the view around late March and early April. It's a southern favorite which gets lots of attention with our local golf tournament.

One year saw a honeysuckle grow up in the azalea planting where we had at least 10 azaleas. I'm not sure where it came from, not sure why it chose that location, but it was there. But this was not a problem since my children enjoyed the honeysuckle. It wasn’t a big deal, just one cute vine, so we let it go through the spring, and then the summer. Before you knew it a year had rolled around.

The problem came the following January with an early Georgia spring week with temperatures in the low 70’s. The honeysuckle thought it was spring, and leafed out after a few days. It proved a stark contrast between everything else that seemed to be "winter dead" and the honeysuckle which appeared to be a huge green monster consuming everything in its path! It was at this point that we realized we had 3 dead azaleas, and a serious problem with the honeysuckle vine that would now be a greater challenge to control.

As we we tried to pry the honeysuckle vines from the azalea trunks we learned far too much of the invasive growth. Its habit is to wrap itself around existing branches so that the old plant offers the framework from which the attacker to create a new kingdom. The twisting, curling, redefining growth uses the old plant as a skeleton and framework which allows one plant, then two, then more to be absorbed. So, at numerous points the honeysuckle had come up in the azalea plants. At the main trunk of the honeysuckle it would separate into 4 trunks which sent out vines all over the azalea. It then choked the life out of the shrub as it invaded the territory, took over with aggressive fast growing vines, and then took complete control.

We don't tend to think of sin that way. We usually think of "sins" as a moral lapse, a breach of socially acceptable behavior, or more likely of someone getting caught doing something we didn't think "they had it in them" to do. As a matter of fact, I'm much more comfortable saying "we" and thinking about "you" than making this a personal matter and confessing that I don't tend to think about my sin.

But like it or not Holy Week asks us to consider our sin. Am I innocent of the blood of Jesus? Is the death of Jesus my responsibility? Do my words or actions betray and mock Jesus? Do I pretend to pay Christ homage, or merely do that in superficial ways? Do I know the forgiveness of God that comes through Jesus Christ?

Still, we desparately need and sometimes confess "I believe... in the forgiveness of sins" even my sins.

We are confronted with God's response to the problem... to our problem... to my problem. This week we consider our part in the ongoing drama of redemption, and wait on the resurrection of Easter. Just beware that innocent looking vine that looks so pretty on a spring day.

Pictures of God

It's Masters Week here in Augusta, Georgia. That means the world has gathered in town to enjoy a premiere golfing event, and many of the locals have left town! In terms of church it makes for a very different sort of Holy Week as the Masters impact is felt by us. I find that much of my experience of faith is lived out and understood in a community of faith. When there are significant changes in the community it's strange how it affects me and my experience of faith. But there are some constants even when life is in flux. During this Holy Week the following link will be in my mind as the story of Jesus and my story intersect.

Pictures of God

Monday, April 6, 2009

United Methodist Deacons Aren't Pastors??

Did you see the info out of the recent United Methodist General Board of Higher Education Ministries meeting? The main topics that got my attention relates to a recent survey result and a comment as part of the article.

See Deacon which speaks to a high degree of deacon job satisfaction. This mirrors what I know from other colleagues who enjoy their specialized calling and the opportunity to devote their lives to that ministry in service to the church and world.

Many folk know that deacons in the United Methodist context are a more recent development since 1996. So, in many respects this order of clergy is an odd mix of specialized ministers, e.g. youth ministers, music ministers, or other emphasis on discipleship, women, prayer, etc. which is in contrast to the more general ministry of an "elder" or pastor in charge. Some of us who serve as deacons (this is my order and calling) have emphasis in mission which may either be in the local church ministry or in some other context which connects Church and World.

Here's the section of the article I want to examine more closely:

"The Rev. Anita Wood, director of Professional Development, said she was surprised to find that 21 percent of deacons who were appointed in the local church selected the title of associate pastor in the survey. 'Deacons are not pastors and that indicates that we have some work to do in communicating the role of the deacon in connecting the church and the world,' she said."

While I'm not too surprised I think the clearer distinction is that we are not elders, i.e. pastors in charge. As a mission pastor in a large church I think I serve in the perfect situation to connect Word and Service (the work of a deacon). I'd imagine most others who are called to specialized ministry would express similar sentiments whether they are called associate pastor or something else.

In a practical way if a deacon has other responsibilities in a local ministry that makes them indispensable, such as an associate pastor, we strengthen our ministries and we strengthen the local ministry. So, when our church cut a program staff position in January I could add evangelism to my existing work of mission and campus ministry, and had the experience and background to absorb this ministry and advance it. In all this I'm speaking very practically and from my experience. As deacons we are still responsive to the needs of the church/Church in the local ministry context where we serve. So while we may have a calling and skill set which is more specific than an elder, I think we are also gifted and flexible to meet the needs of the Church.

I could write more about my understanding of deacon ministry and order from perspectives of the Book of Discipline, Methodist doctrine, scriptural relevance, or practical life in the church, but I'll save that for another time. I believe that the deacon ministry offers great opportunity to help a local church be in ministry, and under the supervision of an elder, district superintendent, and bishop we should allow latitude in how the order continues to advance to connect the church and the world.

What is your experience and thinking about this? Are deacons pastors or not?? As an order that is still evolving and defining itself I think this is an important conversation and value your thoughts and experiences.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Methodist Way

I stumbled upon a 20 minute overview of Methodism that is well worth your time. The General Board of Discipleship, Randy Maddox, the Council of Bishops, and Steve Manskar collaborated on the effort. You will find this so useful you'll want to share it in your church, Sunday School class, study group, etc. I'd especially encourage you to send the link to your pastor or staff as they will find much of use regarding Methodist history & doctrine as well as application for the current work and ministry of the local church.

Methodist Way

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Failed Leadership Fill in the Blanks Story

Here's a fun little game using major excerpts from a current story which can readily be applied to a local church or to a denomination. You fill in the blanks and create the rest of the story. It's about a leader who has been axed and the reasons why his company has declined due to his leadership.

"He apparently was a nice guy who got along well with everyone else in the old-boy network."

"_____ _____ showed how much he and his whole insular, inbred industry hadn't learned when ________"

"...he demonstrated that he still hadn't learned very much, as he dragged his feet on doing the necessary and drastic things needed to give his company a chance to survive."

"What's wrong, in a nutshell, is that it is a narrow, insular culture. Those who make it to the top of the heap, like _____ , tend to be white Anglo-Saxon males who have worked at the same company their entire career, and have come up with the same set of buddies."

"It is very hard to fire your old pals or even do things to make them uncomfortable."

"They gave ___ ____ some time to fix it, but guess what?"

"Sadly, in the end, he seems to have been a smart guy with no vision beyond whatever pieces of paper lay in front of him."

" Three years ago, he actually conceded that his worst mistake was killing the _______ program and 'not putting the right resources into ________.'"

"Unfortunately, he was too dull to comprehend why. 'It didn't affect profitability, but it did affect image,' he said."

"Talk about not planning for the future! Wacky old Henry Ford I once said that if he had asked consumers before starting out, they wouldn't have said they wanted an automobile at all. 'They would have said they wanted a faster horse.'"

"Now, ___________ has a little less than two months to try to invent a future, in a corporate culture where vision has mostly been punished. For all of our sakes, good luck with that."

What does this exercise teach you about your organization? about your leadership?

Full Story

Friday, April 3, 2009

United Methodist Constitutional Amendments

Find here all the energy and angst, pros and cons, and mix of blogs and official information related to the UM constitutional amendments which each annual conference will be voting on this year.

United Methodist Constitutional Amendments

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seminary Grads Working in the Church

“Students don’t want to serve in the local church when they graduate; they want to do something more exciting.” seminary grads

That's a quote from a Southern Baptist seminary administrator about their graduates. I wonder if that is true for other denominations and seminaries?

Thankfully Curtis Freeman at Duke offers a different view.

"When I ask soon to be graduates in exit interviews how they’ve changed during their theological study, one of the answers I am consistently amazed by is that they have learned to love the church. When I ask where and how they learned this, they indicate it’s systemic: from the faculty, to the curriculum, to spiritual formation groups, to field education. And it’s not just the church as a sort of platonic ideal. It’s the church on the corner." Cyprian's View

What's your perspective?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not Necessary to Stage the Conversation as Science vs. Religion

It's funny how someone can share a thought that helps you put into words that which you sensed, but hadn't vocalized in some time. I've always disliked a simplistic argument that too quickly or easily pits religion against science.

Dan Dick offers an extremely helpful continuum that gives 10 different options of "where someone might be" in their thought on science and religion. In this scheme not only can one get a personal sense of where you might be, but you can also get an idea of where others might be in their thinking. This approach is helpful in that it will advance dialogue as both science and religion need each other and need to be in some level of conversation and relationship. Or, perhaps you find you are so far removed from the other person that it will take significant work and multiple steps to ever find each other!

"This allows a whole lot more people to find a place that is comfortable for them to stand. By allowing for varying degrees of acceptance and rejection, we open the conversation in significantly fairer, more beneficial ways. Here is a brief overview of the ten positions on the relationship of science and religion." Science and Religion