Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tea Rooms for Missions?!

Here's something for the Idea Bank-- use your church location and provide a service as an element of big community events!  While a Tea Room might not work in your city or community there's likely some area event where you can find your role and create your own tradition.

What new opportunity is brewing for you and your community?
I just read an interesting article that is a great match for adults during Lent.  I love that God can get our attention whether we are Chuck Colson or Mike McCurry.  I'll resist the temptation at this point to make a joke about politicians of every stripe needing redemption!  Read about McCurry's ongoing discovery and openness to faith even as he continues to look at the social and political implications of faith.  Neither a Colson or McCurry can erase their background, their world view, their perspectives and life experiences.  Yet they can grapple with who Jesus is and what it means for them to follow Him.  Don't get too drawn into politics if you are a diehard Republican or Democrat, but read here and think about your own adult journey in faith.  I guess the challenge is what do we with our faith, how do we express such a relationship and faith, and what good does it do to us or the world?

There is so much to enjoy about this article in terms of adult faith, vocation, and our ongoing discipleship.  I find many questions spin out of McCurry's experience and statements that most teens and adults can appreciate and pose more personally.

  •  How important is it for children to have a church experience that might continue to have impact upon them in adult life no matter what happens over the years?  
  • How do we compartmentalize our faith and separate an hour or two on Sunday from our vocation?
  • Or is it that we separate our work from our faith and continue to seek our calling?
  • How might our church experience grow to be more than an hour escape from reality, but become an every day reality that frames our work and our world? 
  • How might we, as adults, remain sensitive to God's work and calling in our life and continue to follow in dynamic, perhaps unexpected ways?  
  • How are we continuing to grow in our understanding- speaking vocabulary and practical experience- & everyday relationship with God?
God continues to seek us, and the Kingdom continues to seek to be a reality here on earth.  But it's certainly not the typical political kingdom we'd imagine.  It's more personal, more challenging, and more transformational.  What parts of your life is God asking you to open up to the Kingdom way during this Lent? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Denominational Divorce: Who Gets the Property?

I had forgotten about this.  After all, it's been 7 or 8 years.  That's a long time to be caught up in a custody battle.

Remember the Episcopal Church rift which ended with some congregations and clergy breaking away from their denomination while trying to hold on to their property?  The dispute over who gets the building has been snarled in the legal system all this time.  Monday the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.  Find the story of the Episcopal Church property dispute for the whole story to refresh your memory.

The United Methodist Church should read this closely as we head down the path of ready soap boxes and hot rhetoric, challenges to justice and covenant, folk calling for divorce, and all of us struggling toward the next General Conference.  I won't list all the ironies in this EC saga compared to our own UMC drama because they seem so obvious.  Our UMC tendency (is this true for all religious loyalists who love their denomination?), for most everyone involved, is to talk past each other as we enjoy our party platform and our coalition of true believers and reinforce each other in a holy war.  This pits US regions against each other, divides various theological and hermeneutic camps within US conferences, and exposes some of the generational and political differences within every US annual conference.  #DreamUMC can easily begin to sound like #NightmareUMC as we don't easily find a way beyond the impasse. In too many ways we begin to sound like the politicians in DC that are set up in deadlock and are bound to see it through to stalemate.

As we tussle in holy battle over the denominational kingdom the churches continue to struggle and dwindle, our communities continue with their own issues often so different than the church fight, and we continue to expend energy and resources in an unending battle with each other.  While a little relational tension is good we're all too likely headed down the EC path if we aren't careful.   

I'm rather certain that both sides have it all wrong in our zeal to be right!  And, of course, there is the vast Methodist Middle, and UM conferences and Christians all over the world, and all the property, that's caught in between on this US social issue.  Is there some other creative, fresh way through this which would allow us to move forward?  I wonder if Jesus is still seeking to show all of us a better way.

Perhaps like disciples of old we still expect Jesus to do what we ask rather than being available to do what he is asking of us.  Recall those early leaders who told Jesus "we want you to do whatever we ask you."  Are we asking or telling God on some of these matters that are taking center stage in national/international UMC life?!  That passage in Mark 10 goes on to say that when the other disciples heard what had happened they were angry.  I've always wondered what emotions the two would be leaders expressed.  The teaching of Jesus to the 12 to be slave of all shows the way of being a religious leader in the way of Christ.  Then, to add insult to injury, the contrast of the blind disciples with the healing of Blind Bartimaeus puts an exclamation point on the Jesus way of leading, healing, and following.  These are the sorts of Methodist Christian distinctives that I hope we can reclaim in our words and actions.  That is often easier to do on the local scene than it is in national or international conversation or in social media.   

Lent is a time for individuals (and maybe even churches and denominations) to lay aside our need to be right, to build kingdoms, to pursue our personal agendas.  It's a time to personally follow Jesus who is often very tough to follow.  Repentance, forgiveness, and new creation are the themes I'm once again becoming aware of and challenged by during Lent 2014.  That's calling for habits of deeper prayer, study, and service.  It's difficult to lay aside my experience, my interpretations, my opinions, and my power and yield to following God in new and fresh ways.  Yet it is possible.  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me/us!  

It's time for some significant personal and denominational changes.  Otherwise, if we continue to follow the course we've set, the best we might do is prepare for the inevitable ugly divorce.  But, then again, maybe that's part of the ebb and flow of denominations over the centuries as God's Kingdom moves on using those who are most available.  Or maybe it's our choice which way this plays out.      

My hope and prayer is we find a better way than divorce.  Perhaps if we make ourselves available to God and to one another... maybe this Lenten season we will fall more deeply in love with God, with one another, and with our work as we live in the way of Christ.