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Consecration of Gay Bishop Against Church Law

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 00:00
By Linda Bloom, UMNS

The consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, the top court of The United Methodist Church has ruled.

However, the bishop “remains in good standing,” the Judicial Council said in Decision 1341, until an administrative or judicial process is completed.

“Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore or negate church law,” said the decision, made public April 28. “It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”
Officials in the U.S. Western Jurisdiction consecrated the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop on July 16, 2016. Based in the Denver area, she is the episcopal leader of the Mountain Sky Area, which encompasses Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and one church in Idaho.

A petition from the South Central Jurisdiction to the Judicial Council raised four questions about the legality of that election. Judicial Council claimed jurisdiction to review its petition “only with respect to the consecration of an openly homosexual bishop” and said the rest of the petition, related to nomination, election and assignment, “is improper.”

The vote on the decision was 6-3. Judicial Council members N. Oswald Tweh and Deanell Reece Tacha filed a joint dissenting opinion that the council had no jurisdiction over the petition. First lay alternate W. Warren Plowden Jr., who was sitting for council member Beth Capen, and council member Ruben T. Reyes each filed a concurring and dissenting opinion.

The court rejected the argument made during the April 25 oral hearing by Richard Marsh, Western Jurisdiction counsel, that Oliveto’s same-sex marriage to Robin Ridenour in 2014 was not a public statement about her sexual practices.

“A same-sex marriage license issued by competent civil authorities together with the clergy person’s status in a same-sex relationship is a public declaration that the person is a self-avowed practicing homosexual” for purposes of the prohibitive language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, Paragraphs 304.3 and 2702.1(b), the council ruled.

Church law requires all clergy persons to dedicate themselves to “the highest ideals of Christian life,” the decision said, including “their commitment to abide by and uphold the church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality. An openly homosexual and partnered bishop is in violation of those minimum standards.”

The decision further found that an openly homosexual and partnered bishop may be charged with disobedience to church law, along with other bishops and clergy persons who actively participate in the consecration of a bishop who has been found to be a self-avowed practicing homosexual through a judicial or administrative process.

“Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review,” the decision said.

Judicial Council spelled out the process required by The Discipline for such a review, which begins with the filing of a complaint against the bishop. If action is not initiated by the jurisdictional or central conference, the president or secretary of that body’s college of bishops must take action.
Pending the supervisory response process to review episcopal membership and office, the college of bishops, in consultation with the committee on episcopacy, “may suspend the bishop from all episcopal responsibilities for a period not to exceed 60 days.”

The process allows for a bishop to be placed in the retired relationship “regardless of age” if it is “found to be in the best interests of the bishop and/or the church.”

If there is no resolution, “the president or secretary of the college of bishops may refer the matter as an administrative or judicial complaint,” the ruling concluded.

See Original Article from UMNS

Related: Review All Clergy Qualifications, Court Says

Behind the Scenes With a Part-Time Local Pastor

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
John Thomas brings the same level of passion to the pulpit as he does to his full-time job as a teacher in East Texas.
When Rev. John Thomas retraces his spiritual journey into ministry, there are several surprising twists and turns. “Although my dad was a preacher, I would not say that my faith was my own until I was grown and on my own,” recants John. “I moved from Texas Tech in Lubbock to East Texas because that was home for my wife, and my plan was to teach – certainly not to preach,” he shares. Initially, John’s parents helped move him in to an apartment in Frankston to start his coaching job, while his wife stayed in Lubbock to tie up loose ends. In his solitude, John says he and the Lord “had a few conversations.”
Thinking back on how he meandered into the ministry – or was recruited, perhaps, John realizes leaders that see potential in other leaders can be sneaky. “Rev. Doug Howell in Frankston started pulling me in to help on occasion with a children’s sermon, or do a devotional at an event, or preach at a nursing home,” he says, “and before I knew it I was doing some legwork-ministry for him – and liking it!”
Adds John, “I guess he saw energy and potential in me because I was already a teacher. He was subtly encouraging me to apply my gifts to the gospel, which I have done.” John was appointed as lay supply in 2010.
“When Jack Albright came to hear me preach he encouraged me to get licensed, so I followed through with that,” he says. John became a Licensed Local Pastor in 2014 as a member of Frankston UMC, and within a year or so began pastoring a 2-point charge in East Texas: Mt. Vernon UMC in Frankston and Neches UMC. In the early days, Mt. Vernon UMC averaged around 22 in attendance; nowadays it is closer to 42.
Now I get to see a revival around me in the students I teach and people I come in contact with,” he says. “I have relationships with kids and parents and that has been a key to the growth we’ve experienced in the church. In days passed pastors would preach and keep office hours, waiting for people to come by, but these days they need to be seen.” John is privileged to communicate church news in the school newsletter and personally invite students to youth events. “When you watch, feed and teach teenagers at weekly youth rallies,” he adds, “parents drop them off, and sometimes decide to come check me out on a Sunday.”
Emily Buck a 7th grader and current student in John’s class says, "I like going to Mt. Vernon because pastor John cares about kids and does a good job getting the community together on youth nights. It helps that pastor John is accessible on social media so if I miss church, I can listen to him online on his podcast station." 

His basic secret to growth: loving on people. “It’s not about how much you know. People want a church that cares about them.”  Neches UMC is just four miles from Mt. Vernon UMC. “The church just voted to start a community garden, so we can hand out food in the name of Jesus,” he adds. He is also excited about a regional alliance of pastors that work together to improve the community.
Being a fulltime teacher and part-time pastor is taxing on his time, but that’s where John’s high energy kicks in. “I work on my sermon on Sunday afternoons, because my week of teaching and grading papers will start again on Monday.”
Mike Bennett, Chairman, Board of Trustees and Retired School Administrator occasionally visited Mt. Vernon UMC 30 years ago after purchasing land nearby. “My wife Cindy and I were consistently welcomed by the friendliness of the members. After we retired and moved here, we were embraced into this loving church family. God continues to bless us as the congregation grows in the same loving manner with opportunities to witness and serve.”
Neches UMC member Kimberlyn Snider says that the church is a blessing to her small community. “The church is able to reach out to community members through a ½ acre garden that provides fresh vegetables to the elderly and less fortunate,” she says, “and we have ranchers giving hay to other states suffering from the fires in the Panhandle. Linda Thornell, a 30-year member of Mt. Vernon, adds, “Our church has always had a mission driven mindset in spite of our small numbers. We help with local, regional and state needs and Methodist charities.”
People of all ages are feeling the love from “Coach” Thomas and the churches he pastors. College freshman Zach Phillips shares, "I like Mt. Vernon UMC because I love the people and Pastor John and because I don't feel judged or hated I only feel love.” Frankie Bammel, an elementary student at Neches ISD says,  "Mt. Vernon UMC youth nights are fun and I can understand what Coach Thomas is talking about."
Matt and Ben Wages are current and former students of Coach John that feel their preacher is very personal and easy to talk to. Will Phillips, a high school senior, adds, "I love attending Mt. Vernon because the people are welcoming and the preaching is amazing!" 
What’s next?
Whether he pursues seminary and ordination next, or signs up for the ABIDE program for small churches, one thing is for certain. “I’m all about growth,” he says.

Conference Staff Realignment Focuses on Expanding Mission Field

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
Retirements and new appointments are bringing new faces to the Texas Annual Conference staff, along with new perspectives in several modified positions of leadership.
As Rev. Artie Cadar moves from serving as pastor of Houston Crossroads to a new position in the conference office as Coordinator of Mission Field Development, he is part of a mission-driven strategy that has been unfolding over the last decade. “Across the Texas Conference, communities are rapidly expanding in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural sense,” he observes, “but also becoming more distant from the church, and ultimately, from God. As United Methodists, we have a tremendous opportunity to minister to these communities. The world is (still) our parish, and the world is here within the boundaries of the TAC.” Adds Artie, “This is why now, more than ever, we need to equip congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world to the glory of God.
Rev. Diane McGehee’s appointment to serve as senior pastor of Bering UMC and Rev. Scott Moore’s appointment to the role of Director of Missional Excellence is a part of this transition to viewing mission and mission field in a slightly different and expanded way. “Some may think I have purposefully worked myself out of a job by moving Hispanic ministries into the Center for Congregational Excellence. I am excited about this realignment because Hispanic ministry is not an area of mission but rather a growing part of our congregations. This change allows us to help the local congregations become more missionally relevant in light of the quickly changing demographics of Texas.” Adds Diane, “I am also excited to see Hispanic leadership at the conference office and throughout the conference.”
Building A Reputation for Innovative Conference Leadership
“The evolving conference organization shows -- in tangible ways -- the seriousness with which the TAC approaches issues directly related to congregational health and vitality,” shares Dr. Jesse Brannen, Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence. “All of the realignments are being undertaken so that the Centers can better serve the churches of the TAC.”
Diane is excited to be a part of orchestrating this realignment within a conference that has a reputation for impactful new initiatives. “I am leaving because I believe that God has called me to pass this work on to others and to return to the local church.”  She has shared with other conferences on many occasions what the TAC is doing. “I know other conferences are watching us on many fronts,” adds Diane. “Not only have we created the Emerging Leader program to recruit younger clergy for future opportunities, we have been grooming new leaders through the Hispanic Apprenticeship program and will commission eight Hispanic certified candidates into congregations in this appointment season,” she says. “Additionally, we have partnered with the Houston Immigration Collaborative to host a series of nine clinics and we are expanding the focus of our Mission Center in Conroe to provide training for congregations seeking greater missional engagement beyond disaster relief.”
What’s Next in the Center for Missional Excellence?
The staff changes that take place this summer will also streamline the focus of the Center for Missional Excellence to empowerment and advocacy related issues in areas including foster care, homelessness, immigration and refugees and human trafficking – and the TAC’s longstanding tradition of disaster relief.
The Mission Center’s disaster supply warehouse will continue to be used to enhance disaster response work in terms of staging, training and deployment.
“In an effort to provide the highest quality of service to our local churches and to leverage the capabilities of the Mission Center in Conroe, the Texas Annual Conference is relocating the Center for Missional Excellence to Conroe.,” Scott explains. “This will allow all of our missions personnel to office in one location and to share information and resources as they equip and empower our local congregations in their mission efforts. The TAC Mission Center will serve as the hub for everything that the conference does in its various mission efforts. “
Notes Scott, “I'm very excited to take on these new responsibilities and roles as I continue to oversee TAC Disaster Ministries.  The philosophies and methodologies that we have adopted for our disaster relief and recovery efforts are already based on the 50/50 In Mission Together model that we are encouraging all of our local churches to embrace. I plan to use what we have learned in Disaster Ministries as a model for wider missional engagement. “
The Mission Center can host on-site -- or bring to the local churches -- any number of trainings including:
  • Connecting Neighbors Church Training for Disaster Preparedness
  • Early Response Team Disaster Training (next class is May 6 at Good Shepherd UMC in Houston)
  • 50/50 In Mission Together (April 29 at Mission Center)
  • UMVIM Team Leader Training
  • ERT 200-level Advanced Disaster Trainings
“It's part of our Wesleyan heritage to be advocates for justice issues and empower others through missional engagement,” Diane adds. “The TAC Mission Center in Conroe is a geographically desirable hub to teach basic skills in advocacy as well as in our 50/50 empowerment model that teaches us to do ministry with others rather than for others.” Evangelism training is also being planned to help individuals and churches share their faith story in their respective communities.
Missionally Relevant Congregations
 “I am most excited about the great potential that we have in the TAC for congregational transformation and growth in the mission field,” adds Artie, stating that Hispanic church membership in the Texas Annual Conference has increased by 50% over the last 10 years.  “By 2020, 50% of the population across our districts will be Hispanic,” he adds, “and that tells us that if we are going to achieve congregational excellence in our local churches, we have to be more intentional about reaching, welcoming and discipling this cultural segment of our mission field. The Texas Annual Conference is committed to connecting with the Hispanic community through relevant initiatives that respond to the spiritual and social needs of the ever-increasing multi-ethnic population that surrounds us.”
Repositioning Hispanic Ministries to the Center for Congregational Excellence allows the conference to identify more church growth opportunities by engaging in ministry with Hispanics and other cultures in both, new spaces, and existing local churches. Hispanic Ministries will also work closely with Congregational Excellence and the Center for Clergy Excellence to develop programs that concentrate on training both clergy and laity to be fruitful in doing ministry in a multi-cultural setting.
‪ ”God has been raising up leaders in recent years and there is a sense of readiness for these new areas of emphasis,” adds Diane. “I have been working with Scott and Artie for years, and it is exciting to become more diverse and missionally relevant as a conference.” In much the same way, Artie is looking forward to getting settled into his new position within The Center for Congregational Excellence. “This Center is eager to partner with local congregations that are willing to be trained and coached to adjust and align their missional work with the spiritual and social needs of our changing communities. Church revival awaits us, and that’s pretty exciting!”

Denomination Launches E-newsletter called “United Methodist Now”

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
This new digital publication features insight and inspiration delivered with the distinctive voice of the denomination.

A new e-newsletter marks the launch of a denomination-wide effort to streamline and customize communications for United Methodist members, leaders and seekers. A reflection of UMC.org, United Methodist Now is the first publication to carry the voice of the denomination directly to members by delivering inspirational and informational content specifically designed for them.

“United Methodist Communications is excited about this new way to reach out and connect to United Methodists,” says Dan Krause, general secretary of United Methodist Communications. “All of us can benefit from a word of encouragement, an insight into church beliefs or information about the denomination’s rich history.”

Sent twice per month, United Methodist Now includes stories, articles, videos, quizzes, links and other multimedia content. Subscribers can anticipate learning about:
  • What it means to be United Methodist
  • Christian living/your daily journey
  • Church beliefs and history
  • Motivation, inspiration and things worth watching
Members can subscribe to the free e-newsletter and view the most recent articles at UMC.org/newsletter. Local church leaders are encouraged to help spread the word about the publication so that all church members have an opportunity to be part of the United Methodist Now community.

United Methodists who would like to share their inspiring stories in the e-newsletter can send ideas to UMNow@UMC.org for consideration.

An RSS feed of the five most recent United Methodist Now articles is available for churches that utilize United Methodist Communications’ webhosting service. More details about this service, as well as local church webhosting grants, are available online. For more information, contact Laura Buchanan at lbuchanan@umcom.org or 615-742-5413.


First UMC Orange Youth Lead by Example

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
Whether they are participating in a 30-hour famine or picking up trash in and around town, the youth at First UMC Orange are modeling the Christian life for others to see.
How many youth groups have a “Purpose Statement?” The youth ministry of FUMC Orange does – and it shows. Here, students strive “to be zealous about their God through a united community -- not only making an effort to share the gospel with others, but to disciple others into a relationship with Christ as well.”
After reading a book called Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields, Randall Bridges, the Director of Youth and Christian Education, set a plan into action. He says, “Basically we make sure that everything we do has an aspect of Community, Worship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Evangelism.”
At the beginning of the year, Randall helped them create a “personal purpose statement” by having the students ponder how they might grow spiritually stronger this year. “Each of them decided what they would focus on, and found a scripture verse that expressed that quality and then painted their word on canvas. These word pictures are on display in our Family Life Center where those who worship in our contemporary service can see them each week,” he shares.
Students, such as high school junior Trent Brown who serves on the Youth Council Games Committee, are being impacted. “I like FUMC Orange youth because it truly is a family. No matter what you are going through or who you are, our youth accepts one another. Our youth group is a place you can be vulnerable and ask for prayer about anything. Leading games has been a blast this year during our CREW Sunday night program. It’s awesome to see everyone play a game I pick or make up and really enjoy it or learn from it!”
Rev. John Warren says, “During a time of transition between youth directors the Youth Council gave parents and youth more ownership of the youth ministry as the church searched for a new staff member. Randall has since grown that concept and it has blossomed under his leadership to provide a solid core program. FUMC is in the VCI process and a number of our youth are involved is several strategic areas including the visioning team, worship excellence team and communications. The input they give and the gifts they share add a depth to our work together. “ 
About a quarter of the active students serve in a leadership role on the Youth Council that includes a few adults as well. “Students serve on a welcome committee to follow up with guests, they help with youth worship planning and discipleship activities,” adds Randall, “and they like to be empowered to own it and generate topics, activities and themes. I guide them, but when it is their turn to lead, they ‘own’ it.” Adds Randall, “The Youth Council is vital to how successful our Youth Ministry is. Students are stepping up and leading their part each week, and learning how to grow in becoming better speakers, as well as developing leadership qualities that they can use the rest of their lives.”
By assigning a key word and spiritual concept as the driving force behind all of their activities – the youth ‘calendar’ has an added dimension of significance. “For example, since we learn much differently by doing than listening, in May, our students are participating in the national poverty simulation called the 30-Hour Famine,” he explains.  Through special challenges, inspirational discussions and an unforgettable no-eat overnighter, youth groups fast together and raise funds to fight hunger. “We are even talking about making houses out of boxes to experience the feeling of homelessness,” he adds.
Active youth, 6th-12th  grades, enjoy a meal and fellowship time together every week at Wednesday Night Live where the younger members of the youth group attend Confirmation classes while the older ones experience a class called The Best Year Ever where they learn a new discipline of how to live more Christ-like each week. Both classes share in a time of reflection and prayer. WNL is geared to stimulate personal enrichment, spiritual growth and build maturing disciples for all ages. “At CREW (Christians Ready, Equipped and Willing) on Sunday nights, the youth join in fellowship over a meal time, worship and prayer time in the chapel, skits or videos made by students to introduce the lesson, a lesson, small group time, and games,” Randall shares.
Parents of youth involved at FUMC Orange are very supportive of the ministry in that they see how the events strive to provide youth opportunities in Evangelism, Christian Leadership, Fellowship, that help young people connect with God and learn more about the Wesleyan expression of Christianity.
Student mom and youth group volunteer Angela Abshire says, “The youth group at FUMC is a blessing to our personal family as well as our church family. They are the most dedicated, faithful, and hard-working group of young people, and they have servants’ hearts that inspire us all. As a parent, I am thankful our church provides many opportunities for spiritual growth as well as leadership opportunities for our teens.”
Whether young people are taking cookies to local firemen, participating in a local mission’s project to enhance an outdoor space for residents at a nursing home, or heading to summer camps centered around service and life changing worship, FUMC Orange is investing in the young at all age levels. Children’s ministry leaders at FUMC Orange pursue creative expression as well. Youngsters are currently prepping for a musical about some of the greatest kings of Israel, including Jesus, the King of Kings, and families are participating in a “Design a Robot Contest” for the upcoming Vacation Bible School Theme, “Maker Fun Factory.”

Handling Change: Life Coach Shares Ways to Turn Obstacles into Opportunities

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
From his experiences as a life coach and TAC Vibrant Church Initiative consultant, Steve Stutz shares how keeping an open mind opens new opportunities.
One thing that I’ve learned as a life coach and consultant is that we all have issues with “change.” Whether it’s the thought of making a significant change in our personal lives or banding together to chart a new direction for our congregation, the very idea can be so intimidating for some of us that, even though we want to step up and do the right thing, we end up doing nothing out of fear. But that doesn’t make the issues we struggle with go away. We simply abandon our power of choice and someone else decides. In the end, fear of change often causes us to settle for less and prevents us from responding whole-heartedly to God’s invitation for our future.
As a VCI Directive Coach, I’ve worked with a significant number of congregations in the Texas Annual Conference to address fears and anxieties surrounding “changes” that their VCI Consultation Team suggests in the report outlining recommended “prescriptions.”
These common fears seem to group under four key obstacles. I will address each of these four obstacles and provide insight that hopefully will help you work through personal struggles with adopting positive life changes as well as work for VCI leadership teams.
Obstacle #1. The Big Kahuna–Fear of the Unknown
Someone has said, “The Devil you know is better than the one you don’t.” Your current situation, even if it is toxic and unfulfilling is at least predictable. “What if we decide to make this change and it ends up worse than what we have now? What if we take a chance and end up failing? What if…?”  Without constraint, your imagination can very easily dream up a never-ending supply of terrible things that could happen. The good news is that your mind can also work in the opposite direction! You have the potential to use your energy to imagine the absolute best thing that could happen to your congregation as a result of implementing change. It’s simply a matter of focus.
True Confession: there have been periods in my life when I wasted so much time imagining the worst case scenario, when there was very little chance that it would happen, and a much greater probability of something wonderful manifesting instead. Because you can’t accurately predict the future (BTW, if you can, please email back so we can talk about the stock market!) there’s no way you can’t tell for sure what the exact consequences of your actions will be. It’s much more of a “quantum” probability type of thing than a Newtonian “cause and effect” type of thing. Try approaching a new situation with this mindset: “I can’t lose– regardless of the outcome of the decision I make–because the world is a place of opportunity and I look forward to the learning and growing that any outcome gives me.”
Obstacle #2. Self-Doubt/Lack of Compelling Vision
You may not notice it anymore when you’re driving, but there’s a warning label on your passenger side rear view window that reminds you that what you’re looking at is not in correct scale. Your eyes are playing with your sense of proportion and it can be dangerous if you try to change lanes without making the mental adjustment. Likewise, I’ve found when working with VCI Teams that when they’re contemplating the full scope and impact of what they are being asked to do, it can seem a lot bigger and harder than it really is. Yes, there is certainly a level of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenge involved, but the majority of the problem is inside the heads of those involved. The question of, “Who do we think we are – in thinking that we can do something like that?” reveals the presence of self-doubt.
Perspective changes when you remember that you are a child of God. Thinking small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It is in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Obstacle #3. Caring Too Much About How the Polls Are Trending
Another problem VCI Teams and individuals face when contemplating change is the tendency to focus on external things to define identity and worth (for churches that might include what kind of campus and style of worship offered, etc.). A fixation on what is transpiring in the “parking lot meeting” or around the coffee pot also causes emotional paralysis. Leaders can find themselves giving undue weight to the loudest voices and the “lots of people are saying” meme. A loss of momentum often follows as enthusiasm wanes, and progress comes to a halt. In my experience, I’ve found it helpful to ask VCI Teams to focus on the value of what is being proposed, how it will improve all the relationships currently in tact in the congregation and how this change can help those outside the congregation to find their entry point.
Obstacle #4. Chained to Material Stuff
It goes without saying that we cling to certain possessions, statuses, and perks we’ve been given along the way. People will “handcuff” themselves to jobs they hate with thoughts like, “I’ll stay until I use up all my vacation days” or “I’ll stay until I’ve got my pension.” People often fight the “I’ll stay until…” delay tactic. We tend to do this in the congregation as well. During VCI Consultations, I’ve seen well-meaning folks who are yoked to programs, activities, and ministries that ceased to be effective sometime in the 1990s. Suggesting that these “sacred traditions” be evaluated in light of the current vision of the congregation can be difficult. Leaders can feel challenged by the views of friends and family. I’ve found it helpful to remind them that while it can be frustrating to realize that you have no control over their thoughts or responses, the good news is that you can always change your own perspectives.
There’s a System for That
VCI Consultants and coaches use a process adapted from industry known as ADKAR
to help leaders and congregations to successfully manage change. The term is an acronym that embodies the change process via its name.  A—awareness, D—desire, K—knowledge, A—ability, R—reinforcement. As a VCI Teams sounds out the congregation along these lines, a clear picture emerges of where attention needs to be focused. This method will work for any change, but what if we took it out of the VCI context and placed it within a larger conversation occurring within the United Methodist Church concerning the proper response to questions regarding homosexuality, same sex marriage, etc.
Awareness—what is your level of awareness of the issues involved here? Do you really understand the views of both sides and the issues at stake? Can you articulate the position that you are AGAINST to the clarity and satisfaction of someone who holds that position? Or is your opinion based on a strawman characterization of your “opponent” that is incomplete, inaccurate, and/or biased?
Desire—what is your level of desire to see healthy, positive change happen (either your own views or the position of the church)?  Or are you happy with the status quo-- or something in between? Are you able to clearly define your own desires and commitment to seeing them fulfilled?
Knowledge—what do you know about the structural, legal, financial, ecclesiastical issues involved? It’s great to have high personal awareness and desire, but if you don’t understand how the larger system works, you’re more likely to end up angry and frustrated.
Ability—what can you personally do to manifest the change you desire? How can you get more involved in the “action” and do less watching from the “sidelines”? What level of acceptance do you perceive in your congregation for either perspective? In other words, what will likely happen to us if either position carries the day?
Reinforcement—how can you reinforce the change in a way that it will ‘stick’?
Do you have the reinforcements in place to prevent you from reverting to old habits?  Do you have systems of accountability to sustain and celebrate the change?
As someone who has worked through thorny issues with lots of folks over many years, I’ve come to believe strongly that if you can train yourself to keep an open mind, you’ll find that new opportunities in your life open up as well. Ensuring that your perspective is open to all possibilities will bring good things your way – via a whole new world of thoughts, experiences, and adventures. This holds true for our life in Christian community as well.  Although your instincts may guide you to stick to the familiar, stay open to something new. VCI congregations are great examples of knowing what kind of possibilities will present themselves when you open your mind and try something new.
Judicial Ruling
Keeping an open mind in today’s tumultuous culture can be challenging, to say the least. In the Methodist denomination, the Judicial Council will issue a ruling that could easily cause a rift if people forget to speak in holy conversation and focus on unity as the primary goal, in spite of differences. Bishop Scott Jones speaks often of the importance of listening to one another. For more information on the upcoming.

Urban Poets to Share Anthology of Insight and Inspiration

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
Student authors in the life-changing Iconoclast program (sponsored in part by the Texas Annual Conference) will share their artistic expressions on May 11.
Improbable friendships are one of the by-products of projectCURATE’s Iconoclast program that is active in seven urban schools and three juvenile detention centers in the Houston area. This artistic approach to self-expression is designed to interrupt the flow of the “school to prison pipeline” and it is changing lives on a regular basis.  
Iconoclast Artists, founded in 2014 by Marlon (Marley) Lizama, international artist, author, dancer and teacher, and by Matthew Russell, Ph.D., pastor, academic, activist, includes both an in-school writing program and an innovative curriculum as well as a performance program called Iconoclast Sessions. While projectCURATE is now a separate 50©3, Iconoclast grew out of St. Paul’s UMC, Houston and St. Paul’s continues to provide the soil and root system.
According to Executive Director Matt Russell, “Over 300 students – mostly immigrants -- gather in a dynamic learning environment to write poetry, short stories and to give voice to their rich and varied experiences. This setting cultivates poetic and literary awareness by focusing on writing, self-reflection and performance.”
The unique Iconoclast program provides academic, artistic and emotional support on a weekly basis to 300-400 under-resourced high school and middle school students. Adds Matt, “The improbable friendships that emerge through this program break through the boundaries of race, religion, socio-economics and ethnicity and allow the honest and inspiring voices of these talented urban poets to be heard.”
On Thursday, May 11 from 7pm - 9pm, Iconoclast Artists will host a free celebration event at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, near the TAC office, featuring live performances by the authors of They Say, Vol 2, a collection of important poetry by some of HISD’s most creative and talented minds.
The evening’s festivities will also include an introduction by MFAH’s Caroline Goeser, DJ Ill-Set and The museum’s exhibit, Adios Utopia:  Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950, which inspired some of the poems in this anthology. “All of the published poems give voice to the poets’ struggles and hardships in their daily lives,” shares project manager Jennifer Palomo, “and also to their internal reflections and contemplations, with an honesty and conviction that few people have the courage to communicate.”
The featured book of poetry is a part of a collective of Iconoclast Artists that are developing as writers, poets and artists. Shares Matt, “This is done through facilitated writing, performance workshops and a creative Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum all of which is intended to nurture a deep sense of kinship between communities of varying economic and social divides. Additionally, community gatherings called Iconoclast Sessions make it possible for these students to perform their own original work surrounded by an audience of mentors, peers and the broader Houston community.”
During the monthly Sessions, spoken word poets are paired with academic poets and perform at free public events, building friendships among different communities and providing an opportunity for the youth poets to prepare for the bigger museum event.
Marley Lizama is thrilled that his students will have the opportunity to perform for a large crowd of people at the book release celebration on May 11th, where his students will be inspired by the recognition of their hard work.  “This is the big ‘Ah-ha!’ moment for our kids, when it finally hits them,” he says.  “The Museum event is so grand, so beautiful and so important that the impact on them is incredible. It says to them: you are worth it, your voice matters and we value your stories.”
Three Ways to Support this Life-Changing Initiative
Individuals are always needed to volunteer at schools, mentor students, invest in the scholarship fund, and buy the poetry anthologies.  Without this creative curriculum, students are more likely to be characterized as “at risk”, caught in the “school to prison pipeline” and in the vast population of “failing schools.” ProjectCURATE leaders are excited to change that story through this program. Matt says, “You will find these students committed to acts of courage each day as they rise in the morning with the noble purpose of defying a world that they know will not give them an equal opportunity. They challenge each other and those around them to find, develop and apply their voices as creators of societal change. All the while they are categorized by their skin color, zip code, parents’ education, and standardized tests.” Adds Matt, “These students constitute a powerful counter-narrative and are shifting the perception of their context by rising above isolation, alienation and silence and creating a true community of brave young voices. These brave young souls are instigating a conversation across all borders and few things are more healing and necessary.”

Youth-Focused Activities Abound at 2017 Annual Conference

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:00
Following a two-year hiatus, youth-friendly fellowship and worship opportunities will return to the Annual Conference this May at The Woodlands UMC.

Eddie Erwin, the TAC Director of Youth & Young Adults, is excited about Annual Conference this year for a number of reasons.  “First,” he shares, “our time of Holy Conferencing will be in the welcoming setting of The Woodlands United Methodist Church and the surrounding communities. Secondly, some of our youth will have completed their school semester and have more of an opportunity to join us and be engaged in the life of the Conference.”
Rev. Eric Pugh agrees. “Empowering youth and encouraging them to take their place in church leadership has been important to me for a long time. Shortly after being appointed to Strawbridge UMC, I had a conversation with my senior pastor about just that,” he adds. “I was aware that my appointment would create another lay delegate position for our church, so I asked if there was a plan to fill it. This created an opportunity for a great conversation about involving youth not only in the life of the church, but in its leadership as well. This triggered several other discussions which led to an older delegate relinquishing his spot so that a youth might attend in his place.”
Notes Eric, “Nowhere in any of the conversations did anyone say they didn't want a youth delegate, but rather that they simply had not thought much about it. I can't wait for our youth to experience the worship, teaching, and most importantly, the connectional community of annual conference.”
On Sunday afternoon, time has been set aside for youth groups to join together for food and fellowship before going to worship.  Eddie says, “Our plan is to have some food trucks available while we spend some time playing games and expanding friendships. In the evening, we will participate in opening worship. Students should be looking forward to the opportunity to worship in a traditional or contemporary style with Bishop Jones sharing the message in both!” 
Activities for youth and students of delegates will be hosted on Monday and Tuesday. “Please sign up by the deadline so we can make logistical arrangements,” he adds. 
Shares Eddie, “There are still some opportunities for youth to be delegates to Annual Conference.  We have an online application and we’ll let selected students know shortly thereafter of their acceptance. We’ll sit together to refine relationships and answer any questions around the proceedings. Annual Conference is a critical component to our connection and we look forward to sharing these extraordinary opportunities of worship, fellowship, learning and community.”
Registration Information
Sunday, May 28 - Youth groups will gather for Food, Fellowship and Worship at "The Loft/Student Ministry" area from 4-6 for meals and merriment and then transition over to the main campus for worship.  
Monday, May 29 - Young Adult (25-35) Dinner at Christ Church UMC from 5-7pm and Younger Adult (12-25) event from 8:15-9:30 at The Woodlands UMC.
Tuesday, May 30 - Youth Worker Lunch at Escalante's (1900 Hughes Landing Blvd. # 100 The Woodlands Texas, 77380) at 11:30. This is a great (self-pay) opportunity to fellowship with other youth workers. RSVP to TAC Director of Youth/Young Adult Ministries Eddie Erwin by 5/28.
“Since some school districts are out by the time of Annual Conference this year, we're inviting youth to apply to be delegates this year,” adds Eddie. Check out more info and applications.  Activities are also available for the children of delegates. 
Sunday, May 28 - Youth groups - Food, Fellowship, & Worship.  We'll gather at "The Loft/Student Ministry" area from 4-6 for meals and merriment and then transition over to the main campus for worship, both 'traditional' and 'contemporary' styles will be offered.  RSVP HERE by 5/19
Monday, May 29 - U-35 Dinner - We invite all Clergy, Candidates, and Laity who are age 35 and under, as well as their families, to join us for dinner and fellowship at Christ Church UMC from 5-6:30 pm RSVP & PAY HERE.
Tuesday, May 30 - Youth Worker Lunch at Escalante's (1900 Hughes Landing Blvd. # 100 The Woodlands Texas, 77380) at 11:30.  This is a great opportunity to fellowship with other youth workers, but we're asking you to pay for your own lunch. Please RSVP by 5/28.

Meals at TAC 2017: Registration Deadlines Draw Near

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 00:00
Please register soon for meals at TAC 2017. 


Cabinet Dinner 6:00 – 9:00 pm Marriott Waterway
For Cabinet only - no tickets required
Board of Ordained Ministry Meeting/Meal  4:00-6:30 pm
TWUMC-Asbury Hall BOM
Members only – No tickets required
Youth Groups Food & Fellowship 4:00 – 6:00 pm               
TWUMC-The Loft “Rebel Base” Food Trucks available for purchase
Please RSVP online by 5/19
to Eddie Erwin, eerwin@txcumc.org
Fellowship of Associate Members & Local Pastors 7:00 – 8:30 am TWUMC-Asbury Hall   
Tickets: 15.00
Irv White 713-545-2353 or iwhite@wvumc.com
Restorative Justice Ministry Breakfast 7:30 – 9:00 am
TWUMC-Children’s Worship Center 2nd floor
Tickets: $12.00
Ana Robles 832-312-7943 or arobles@txcumc.org 
Small Membership Church Breakfast 7:30-8:30 am
TWUMC-Aldersgate Hall  
Tickets: $20.00
Dick White 903-975-5563 or richard@fumcquitman.org
United Methodist Men’s Breakfast 7:30-8:45 am              
TWUMC-Children’s Activity Center 2nd floor
Tickets: $15.00
Kenneth Tielke 713-724-9755 or kenwtielke@aol.com
Clergy Spouse’s Luncheon 11:30 am – 1:00 pm  
TWUMC-Asbury Hall
Tickets: $17.00
More Info
Register Online
Jill Krone 409-267-6494 or jill.krone@gmail.com
Confessing Movement Lunch 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
TWUMC-FLC Gymnasium
Tickets: $17.00
Terry Loughridge (281) 297-5932 or tloughridge@twumc.org
Hispanic Ministry Luncheon 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
TWUMC-The Loft “1st-4th Grade/Craft Circle Room”      
Tickets: $15.00
Ana Robles 832-312-7943 or arobles@txcumc.org
More Info
Breaking the Silence/Reconciling United Methodists Luncheon 11:45 am – 1:30 pm         
Marriott Waterway-Ballroom    
Tickets: $25.00
Kent Ping 281-360-1443 or kentping@msn.com
Laity Lunch 11:45 am – 1:30 pm 
Marriott Waterway-Ballroom    
Tickets: $25.00
John Esquivel (713) 408-9779 or jme4107@aol.com
See Brochure
United Methodist Women’s Luncheon Noon-1:30 pm   
TWUMC-The Loft “Worship Venue”       
Tickets: $25.00
Margarett Goodson 713-412-6869 or jimgoodson@earthlink.net
Endrika West 832-866-8552 or ephesians32021@yahoo.com
Friends of Wesley Foundation Dinner 5:00-7:00 pm
Fuddrucker’s in The Woodlands               
No tickets necessary, pay on your own.
U-35 Dinner  5:00-7:00 pm
Clergy, Candidates, and Laity who are age 35 and under, as well as their families
Christ Church The Woodlands
RSVP online       
Contact: Eddie Erwin, eerwin@txcumc.org
Awards Banquet 5:15-6:30 pm  
TWUMC-Asbury Hall      
Tickets: $25.00
Vickie Simons 281-773-4234 or pastorvickie@yahoo.com
Black Clergy Women & Friends
7:00 – 9:00 am   TWUMC-Aldersgate Hall              
Tickets: $20.00
Denise Caulfield (713) 614-1006 or dcaulf7631@att.net
Church & Society and Religion & Race Breakfast
7:30 – 9:00 am   TWUMC-Children’s Activity Center 2nd floor      
Tickets: $12.00
Ana Robles 832-312-7943 or arobles@txcumc.org
Order of Deacons Breakfast  7:30 – 9:00 am        
TWUMC-Children’s Worship Center 2nd floor    
Tickets: No cost to deacons, all others $10.00
Emily Everett 832-656-3521 or emilyaeverett@gmail.com
Providence Place Breakfast  7:45 – 8:15 am         
TWUMC-Asbury Hall      
No tickets required but please RSVP to
Casey Beck 210-696-2410, X-128 or casey@provplace.org   Donations accepted.
Youth Worker Lunch 11:30 am – 1:30 pm              
Escalante’s – 1900 Hughes Landing Blvd. #100, The Woodlands  
Lunch on your own Please RSVP by 5/28.
Contact: Eddie Erwin, eerwin@txcumc.org
Friends of Asbury Theological Seminary Lunch (120)  11:45 am – 1:00 pm               
TWUMC-The Loft “Children’s 1st & 4th Grade/Craft Circle Room”             
Tickets: $20.00
Raegan Seaton 281-433-0240 or
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Lunch               11:45 am – 1:15 pm       
Jasper’s-9595 Six Pines Dr, The Woodlands 77380             
No tickets required – but please RSVP to
Selina Aguirre 512-404-4809 or saguirre@austinseminary.edu  
Celebration Women’s Ministry Luncheon Noon – 1:45 pm           
TWUMC-The Loft “The Hangar”
Tickets: $25.00
Sheila Davis 409-363-2372 or sdavis@esc5.net
Duke Divinity Alumni Luncheon 12:00 – 1:30 pm
TWUMC-The Loft “The Green Room”    
Tickets: $17.00
Brandi Horton 903-235-8907 or btevehorton@gmail.com
Perkins School of Theology Alumni & Friends Luncheon 12:00 – 1:15 pm
TWUMC-Children’s Activity Center 2nd floor      
Tickets: $25.00
Lisa Beth White lbwhite@smu.edu
Methodist Children’s Home Luncheon 12:00-1:30 pm     
TWUMC-Asbury Hall  No tickets required – but please RSVP to
Laura Sarno, 254-750-1348 or lsarno@mch.org
Retiree Luncheon 12:00-1:30 pm              
TWUMC-Wesley Hall     
For our retired clergy & spouse – no tickets required
BMCR Luncheon 12:15-1:30 pm
TWUMC-The Loft “Worship Center”
Tickets: $30.00
Register online
Eleanor Colvin 832-647-6188 or efcolvin@sbcglobal.net
Frances Dunlap 281-433-0341 or frances.dunlap@sbcglobal.net
Laity Hospitality Room 1:00-3:00 pm       
No tickets required
UMW Executive Committee Meeting & Dinner 4:30-6:30 pm      
TWUMC-Children’s Worship Center 2nd floor    
No tickets required
Commissioned & Ordained Banquet 5:00-6:30 pm           
TWUMC-Asbury Hall      
For Commissioned/Ordained and their immediate family  
no tickets required
Clergywomen Breakfast  7:30 – 9:00 am
TWUMC-Asbury Hall      
Tickets: 15.00
Bonnie Osteen (409) 392-7565 or bosteen@txcumc.org
Additional information regarding meals and meetings is available at: http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017 

Human Trafficking Awareness Event: Modern Day Slave Auction May 2

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 00:00


DATE: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
TIME: 4:45pm — Modern Day Slave Auction and Press Conference
5:30pm — Volunteer Outreach Event: Flyer Distribution
WHERE: Jury Assembly Plaza, 1201 Congress St., Houston, TX 77002
VOLUNTEER REGISTRATION / INFO: http://www.freethecaptiveshouston.com/otc-outreach/

Houston is one of the top cities in the nation for sex trafficking, and this problem increases whenever large events come to town, like the Offshore Technology Conference. A modern day slave auction will be held on May 2 to demonstrate the severity of sex trafficking in Houston.
“Sex trafficking increases in Houston anytime a large event occurs. Just like with the Super Bowl, whenever you have over 100,000 people flood the city, traffickers see the opportunity to make money. Teen girls are specifically recruited and trafficked to meet the demand from buyers,” said Julie Waters, an attorney who founded Free the Captives in 2009 to rescue teenaged girls from modern-day slavery—girls not only from the inner city, but from affluent suburbs like The Woodlands and Cypress.
The goal of the modern day slave auction is to raise awareness among OTC attendees and Houstonians, alike. “We want to educate and deter the buyers or “Johns.” Buying a woman or girl for sex in many cases is sexual slavery. Rarely does an adult woman wake up one day and decide that she wants to sell her body. Often times, she was sexually abused as a child and then trafficked as a young teenager. Once she is entrapped, it is exceedingly difficult to get out,” said Waters.
“Teenagers are being bought, sold, and traded every day right in front of our eyes. Slavery still exists in the United States in the form of sex and labor trafficking. Just as the many freedom fighters of the past refused to allow slavery to continue we, as a community, must stand together to help end modern slavery. The image of the slave auction is an iconic one. It is one of the greatest downfalls of our country - the buying and selling of human beings. We cannot stand idly by as our children are preyed upon and exploited,” said Sheila Whittle, program coordinator at Free the Captives.
“These men think they may be buying a consenting 19 year old woman, but in reality they could be purchasing a trafficked 14 year old girl,” said Waters, “And these girls are controlled by heartless, brutal traffickers – emotionally, physically and mentally. I’ve worked with teen girls, born and raised in Houston, who have been raped and beaten by traffickers until they have blacked out. Then, they are sold night after night. What if this was your daughter?
Despite the horrific brutality, the emotional scars last much longer than the physical ones. Free the Captives helps young teen survivors to rebuild their lives by offering support groups and mentoring. Additionally, they assist with shelter, provide economic stability through their job program, and teach life skills.
MAY 2, 2017: Free the Captives will hold a modern day slave auction followed by a press conference at 4:45pm at 1201 Congress St., Houston, TX 77002. At 5:30pm, volunteers will distribute anti-human trafficking flyers to OTC attendees and the general public.
“We welcome anyone who wants to come and volunteer with us. This is your opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Julie Waters, founder and executive director of Free the Captives, a faith-based anti-human trafficking organization that partners with law enforcement, government agencies, and other non-profits in the fight against modern day slavery. They rescue and restore the lives of teen sex trafficking victims in Houston by providing jobs, shelter, mentoring and more. Register here to help distribute flyers on May 2.

Script for Modern Day Slave Auction
Click here to read the script for the reenactment and to learn more about teen trafficking in Houston.

Pre-Conference Videos

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 00:00

Pre-Conference meetings were held in each district in preparation for Annual Conference 2017. For those unable to attend and for those who would like to review some of the materials presented, video presentations are being made available at: http://www.txcumc.org/pretac2017videos
The text of the constitutional amendments are available at http://www.txcumc.org/amendments2017
Additional information about TAC 2017 is online at: http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017

Annual Conference 2017 Overview







Court Hears Arguments Over Gay Bishop

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 00:00
Was last July’s election of a gay bishop by United Methodists in the denomination’s U.S. Western Jurisdiction a violation of church law or a legal elevation of a clergy member in good standing?

Representatives of both positions argued their case before the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, during an April 25 oral hearing.

Athough she was not named in the motion for a declaratory decision submitted to Judicial Council, the focus was squarely on Bishop Karen Oliveto, the denomination’s first openly gay bishop. Oliveto, elected in July, currently serves as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, which encompasses Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and a church in Idaho.

The 9 a.m. hearing — which lasted nearly three hours, including a break — drew about 200 people to the Hilton at Newark Penn Station, some of whom sang, worshipped or held communion before or after the hearing.

Those seated in both the main hearing room and an overflow room equipped with a closed-circuit broadcast listened quietly and attentively. It was the only portion of the council’s April 25-28 meeting open to the public, but N. Oswald Tweh Sr., president of the Judicial Council, thanked the church for its “prayerful support” during his opening remarks.

Oliveto was present at the hearing, along with other bishops of the Western Jurisdiction, staff from her jurisdiction and a large group of supporters.
Also present were others interested or concerned about how Judicial Council might rule in the case — including Dixie Brewster, the petitioner and a lay representative to the 2016 South Central Jurisdictional Conference, whose motion initiated the proceedings.

The Rev. Keith Boyette represented Brewster before Judicial Council and filed briefs on her behalf that ask the council to rule that the Western Jurisdiction’s actions in electing, consecrating and assigning Oliveto “negate, ignore and violate” provisions of the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book.

Richard A. Marsh, who represented the Western Jurisdiction, said the court should find that the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing to challenge the election. He cited the 1939 Plan of Union between the Methodist Episcopal Church North and Methodist Episcopal Church South as the genesis of the church’s constitutional protection for regional bodies known as jurisdictions.

The constitution provides that elections in jurisdictions be “free from interference or oversight” from other jurisdictions, he said. On that basis alone, Marsh continued, Judicial Council should decline the request for a declaratory decision on the matter.

Boyette rejected that position. “A person elected to the office of bishop is a bishop of the entire church,” he said. Any bishop can go to another jurisdiction, preside at General Conference, nominate church members to the general boards and agencies or serve in a leadership position for those boards and agencies, he added.

Marsh also argued that Oliveto was an elder in good standing and “as such, met all requirements” to be bishop.

Noting the public record of Oliveto’s 2014 same-sex marriage to Robin Ridenour, a United Methodist deaconess, Boyette disputed that she was a qualified candidate for the episcopacy. He argued that a public record of such a marriage is the same as someone being “self-avowed” as a practicing homosexual. The Discipline, he said, “makes clear” that an ordained person must be celibate in singleness or faithful in heterosexual marriage.

But the Discipline does not specifically prohibit a clergy person from being in a same-sex marriage, Marsh said. Nor, he told the council, does such a marriage equal a public statement of being self-avowed or create a legal definition of “practicing” for the church.

Earlier in the day, the United Methodist Council of Bishops had issued a “call letter” for a special session of General Conference to be held Feb. 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis. The purpose is to receive and act on the bishops’ report based on recommendations from the Commission on the Way Forward, a body established to help the denomination discuss conflicts over issues of sexuality.

Referring to that body, Marsh said that Judicial Council “should not interfere with or complicate the commission’s work” by making a ruling in this case.
Boyette declared, however, that Judicial Council is the only body within the denomination that could declare the Western Jurisdiction’s action “to be unlawful, null and void and of no effect.”

The petition on the Western Jurisdiction episcopal election is one of seven being considered by Judicial Council this week. No decisions will be released until the meeting has concluded. 

Briefs from petitioner
Opening brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster, file by the Rev. Keith Boyette
Reply brief on behalf of Dixie Brewster, filed by the Rev. Keith Boyette

Briefs from respondent
Opening brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, filed by Richard A. Marsh and Llewelyn G. Pritchard
Reply brief on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, filed by Richard A. Marsh and Llewelyn G. Pritchard

See original post at UMC.org

Council of Bishops Sets Date for Special Session of General Conference in 2019

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 00:00
The Council of Bishops announced the call to a special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
The special meeting of The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly will be limited to acting on a report by Council of Bishops, based on the proposals from the Commission on the Way Forward. The 32-member commission, appointed by the bishops, has the charge of finding ways for the denomination to stay together despite deep differences around homosexuality.
General Conference is the only body that can speak for the denomination.
“The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for Holy Spirit breakthroughs for the Commission on a Way Forward and the Special Session of General Conference,” said Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops, in a letter released Tuesday, April 25.
The bishops said last year a special General Conference would be held in 2019, but did not issue a specific call or set the date and location.
The bishops made their announcement the same day the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, is hearing oral arguments in a case that could affect Mountain Sky Area Bishop Karen Oliveto, who is openly gay and married to a deaconess.
The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document approved by General Conference, bans same-gender weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. However, debate over those rules has intensified recently.
In July last year, the Western Jurisdiction elected and consecrated Oliveto, who was at the time the senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. Also in the months since last year’s General Conference, a number of conferences voted not to conform with church restrictions related to ministry with LGBTQ individuals.
Meanwhile, a group of United Methodists has formed the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a member-based network for congregations that regard the church’s teachings on homosexuality as part of Christian orthodoxy. At its first meeting, that group urged the Way Forward Commission to either find a way to hold church members accountable for the church’s provisions on homosexuality or prepare for a church split. The Wesleyan Covenant Association is set to hold its second meeting April 28-29.
The Commission on a Way Forward includes two leaders of the Wesleyan Covenant Association as well as at least three openly gay members. All told, the commission includes eight bishops, 11 laity, 11 elders and two deacons from nine countries. The group is currently looking at ways to loosen the church’s structure.
The special General Conference session would use the same delegates as General Conference 2016 unless annual conferences choose to elect new delegates.
The Commission on General Conference, which plans the lawmaking assemblies, has set the delegate number at 864 — about 58 percent from the United States and 30 percent from Africa. The remaining delegates are from the Philippines, Europe and Eurasia as well as 10 from “concordat” churches with which The United Methodist Church has formal relationships.
The St. Louis location was unexpected in the Missouri Conference, which learned late April 24 it would be hosting the special General Conference.
"While it comes as a surprise to us, we look forward to offering the church and her guests radical hospitality in the days leading up to and throughout the special session," the Missouri Conference said in announcing the gathering
Last year, Moses Kumar — the chief executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration — told church leaders that a special General Conference session would cost $3.39 million for two days or $4.12 million for three days. Kumar is also the treasurer of General Conference.
To pay for such a gathering, Kumar recommended shortening the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis by the number of days used for any special General Conference session.
Last year, by a vote of 428 to 405, General Conference decided not to take up any legislation related to homosexuality and instead authorized the bishops to form the Commission on a Way Forward. The vote came after rumors of a potential church split reached a fever pitch.
The bishops do not have a vote at General Conference. However, they do have the authority under the Book of Discipline to call for a special session of the General Conference, a possibility last considered to address the worldwide economic crisis of 2008. The bishops in 2009 ultimately opted not to call a session that time.
Since The United Methodist Church formed in 1968, it has only held a General Conference once outside of the normal four-year schedule. That was in 1970, and its purpose was to organize the merger of Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations.
The hope is the special General Conference will help strengthen the denomination that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
See original post from UMC.org

Immigration Community Meeting - Clear Lake UMC

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 00:00
Learn about educational opportunities for undocumented students, learn about your rights and plan for the future, and consult with immigration attorneys.
Thursday, April 27th 2017 7:00-9:30 PM Clear Lake Methodist Church 16335 El Camino Real, Houston, TX 77062 For information: (713) 686-1577
See Flyer
Acompáñenos para aprender acerca de oportunidades educativas para estudiantes indocumentados, aprenda acerca de sus derechos, y como planear para el futuro, y consulte con abogados de inmigración.
Jueves, 27 de Abril 2017 7:00-9:30 PM Clear Lake Methodist Church 16335 El Camino Real, Houston, TX 77062 Para informacion: (713) 686-1577
Ver Folleto


Itinerancy & Relocation Event

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 00:00
"You Say Goodbye...I Say Hello" an Itinerancy & Relocation Event Presented by The Center for Clergy Excellence

At the direction of the Bishop and Cabinet, all relocating clergypersons and P/SPRC chairpersons (or lay representative) are required to attend.
The event is based on "The Right Start" by Dr. Lovett Weems and is designed to help clergy and congregations work together to reduce the stress of relocation and facilitate healthy, graceful transitions.

Two Options to Attend:
     Saturday, April 29, 2017, 9:00 - 11:30 am at Conroe, First UMC     or
     Saturday, May 6, 2017, 9:00 - 11:30 am at Longview, Greggton UMC
  Registration Info (Mail-in Registration) Questions? Contact Ivana Wilson at 713-521-9383 or iwilson@txcumc.org 

General Council on Finance and Administration Announces New Method for Funding Ministry

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
A new corporate sponsor is providing a fundraising opportunity to empower churches and members to seamlessly connect to local merchants who give back to non-profit groups in their community.
Who says nothing is free anymore? The General Council on Finance and Administration’s Boosterville platform is available to United Methodist churches and affiliated organizations at no cost. Through this new funding resource, churches and affiliated organizations can raise money for ministry and outreach needs including youth programs, local and international mission projects, capital campaigns, and more.
Boosterville is an offers and loyalty platform that seamlessly connects merchants with cause-driven buyers. No more overpriced wrapping paper or cookie dough sales; this system encourages everyone to buy what they want with a variety of merchants that will donate a portion of the purchase to the ministry or organization. Watch the video to see how it works.
Boosterville CEO Pam Cooper says, “We’re thrilled to offer this new fundraising opportunity to churches across the U.S. Finding new ways to fund church programs is critical to ministries of local churches. We are happy Boosterville can be part of the solution for The United Methodist Church and its members.”
She adds, “By supporting community businesses, the community will support you.” An added bonus: churches can have greater visibility as a beneficiary of funds in their communities. Participants can rest easy knowing there is a mobile app for convenience and that both personal and financial data are protected under careful security.
“GCFA is proud to announce Boosterville as a vetted corporate sponsor. We look forward to Boosterville sharing more about their ministry-support platform with local churches and affiliated United Methodist organizations,” adds Bari Beasley, Chief Officer of Marketing and External Relations.
Material on how church members can use the program to support local church ministries will be available by early May, 2017. If you would like early access to the Boosterville, contact Pam Cooper, pam.cooper@boosterville.com, or 317-689-8585.
More information at: http://www.gcfa.org/boosterville-introduced-as-new-sponsor

Health as Ministry: Congregations Partnering with Houston Methodist Hospital to Launch Golden Care Initiative in their Communities

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
Faith-based hospitals and faith communities are working together to create healthier populations through the new Golden Care ministry.
Wanted:  Clergy and lay leaders looking for a creative ministry opportunity that combines congregational care and community mission and outreach.  “I like to think of Golden Care as Jesus 101,” says Rev. Kim Mabry, who is serving in extension ministry as the project manager for Houston Methodist Hospital’s Golden Care ministry. “You don’t have to know much about the Christian faith to know that Jesus was passionate about caring for the sick and the poor, but finding those who need the most help and being able to target exactly how to help them can be overwhelming.  But, that is where the hospital and the church can work together.” Statistically, she explains, a healthcare provider can often predict which patients are more likely to have complications that require them to come back in to the hospital.  This likelihood of readmission is usually due to problems such as a lack of healthy food, not being able to afford their medications, or not going to follow-up appointments due to a lack of transportation. Adds Kim, “These are all things that the church could help people overcome.”
The idea of Golden Care Ministry was introduced about a year ago by Dr. Rev. Charles Millikan, Vice President of Spiritual Care and Values Integration at Methodist Hospital. It is based on a congregational health ministry model created between community churches in Memphis, Tennessee and the Methodist Hospital of Memphis.  The Houston Methodist initiative aims to emulate the Memphis model but with a structure that serves the vastness of the Texas Annual Conference and Houston Methodist Hospital system. Golden Care officially began in September 2016 with the hiring of Rev. Mabry.  As project manager, she works to coordinate relationships and resources between congregations, communities and hospitals across the conference.  “This is a big job,” says Kim, “and the hardest thing has been learning to organize our plans in to manageable steps without losing site of the overall goal that Golden Care be an interfaith endeavor for hospitals and communities across the conference. But for now, we will start with the seven Houston Methodist hospitals and the UMC churches in and around the Houston area.”
“Our connectional system works beautifully to manage something as big as Golden Care,” says Kim. “With the help of the conference Mercy Ministry Committee, which works to help Rev. Mabry organize and implement local church involvement, Golden Care is working to collaborate the personal skills and communal resources of multiple congregations so that they might work together at the task of creating healthier congregations and communities.” In March, about 40 representatives from six or more congregations gathered in the La Marque south bay area to begin the conversation of how to foster a ministry of health in their communities. Leaders from Hitchcock UMC, CrossRoads UMC, Memorial Drive UMC, Missouri City UMC, FUMC La Marque, McKinney UMC, and FUMC Texas City shared how they are preparing to serve in this capacity. “FUMC LaMarque, for example, has two storage rooms of medical equipment,” notes Kim, “and McKinney UMC has identified several active and retired nurses within the congregation who are interested in visiting people who have been discharged from Houston Methodist Hospital. Additionally, passionate volunteers from UMC churches in Texas City are planning to involve their youth groups in projects such as building wheelchair ramps for congregation and community members with health issues involving mobility challenges.”
Other churches are getting involved in different ways. CrossRoads UMC hosted a health fair last month that can likely serve as a model for other congregations to implement. Representatives from The Rose, a nonprofit breast cancer screening organization, were on site, and CrossRoads did a great job helping attendees get connected to resources they need. In addition, Rev. Eddie Hilliard has been leveraging the Shelby database to scan the membership of Missouri City UMC to identify members in the medical profession who might have a passion for pursuing a health ministry program with Golden Care.
Golden Cross Becomes Part of Golden Care
“I’m excited to share that our conference leadership has agreed to reintroduce our churches to Golden Cross, a funding source established in 1921 to help assist those who might otherwise go without the medications and medical treatment they need,” shares Kim. “Approved individuals may access up to $3,000 per year for medical related expenses such as medications, exams, and medical devices.” This historical fund will be receiving the offerings from this year’s Memorial service at the Annual Conference. In addition, Golden Cross received approval as a 2018 missional advance where by any congregation can contribute at any time.
Great Opportunities
Anyone passionate about local mission or congregational care around health care and health related ministry will find a place in this new program.  “I like to think of Golden Care as a ministry that both reaches ‘out’ and reaches ‘in.’ When a church invites Golden Care to help it organize to receive referrals to help with patients discharging into vulnerable circumstances, they are inevitably organizing to help with the same sort of needs in their own congregations.  More Information, don’t miss the Church & Society Breakfast at Annual Conference Tuesday, May 30 from 7:30-9am where Rev. Kim Mabry will describe how a faith-based hospital and faith communities are working together to create healthier populations through the new Golden Care ministry. Or, stop by the booth to learn more about this exciting new outreach to “be the church” in your community.

Chapelwood, Lake Jackson Maps the Journey of Discipleship

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
As a part of their recent focus on discipleship, Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson and area leaders are hosting sessions on “Discipleship Forward” and “Going Deeper” in early May to help other congregations clarify this essential pathway.
Like the Apostle Paul, Rev. Cathy Richardson Hastie truly loves to encourage churches to “make disciples,” but this phrase often has a different meaning from one congregation to another.  Cathy, an extension minister with the consulting firm of Ascending Leaders, helps teach congregations about the four basic stages of faith and how to help people at all stages move to the next phase of spiritual development. “Paul wrote to his churches that he wanted to come be with them and encourage them,” she says, “and that’s something I love to do as well!”
Chapelwood UMC, Lake Jackson is one of the congregations Cathy is encouraging through this essential leadership process. According to Rev. Peter Camerano, Chapelwood leaders focused first on redefining the church vision, mission and values, guided by the book, Church Unique, by Will Mancini. “Once that was implemented,” he explains, “we turned our attention to thinking about how people move through our church.” Leaders started with two things 1) contracting with Faith Perceptions (a Mystery Guest Worshipper program that rates a variety of characteristics using unchurched folk in the area) and 2) researching organizations skilled at formulating a discipleship pathway in area churches.
“Formulating a discipleship pathway can be a huge undertaking,” he admits, “so we quickly found Mike Johnson and Cathy Richardson Hastie (of Ascending Leaders) and began asking them questions, and viewing their YouTube workshops and presentations on this process,” he adds. Chapelwood began the New Year with an Epiphany Worship Series entitled: Find your Path.  Notes Peter, “We are already beginning to reap the harvest of our first six months of work with Ascending Leaders. Through the series, we used the Move Study and Reveal Work published by Willowcreek Association along with videos of ‘coffee shop’ interviews with church members.”
According to Associate Pastor Kate Walker, the Discipleship Pathway helps take people from where they are to where they want to be, in a spiritual sense. Cathy has helped Chapelwood set up a12- to 18-month process that defines what the church will offer people in each of the four key faith development stages. “I thoroughly enjoy working with different churches and denominations to determine what is needed to help members grow as more committed disciples,” notes Cathy.
Chapelwood Lake Jackson’s work is ongoing and incorporates the input of about a half-dozen church leaders.  Adds Peter, “We continue to tweak the various best practices so that they speak to our missional context. We have joined an online learning cohort through Ascending Leaders where we can learn together, swap success stories, and evaluate frustrations. Mike Johnson has put together a comprehensive program that can help a mid-size to large church like Chapelwood learn, develop and implement a discipleship pathway.”
Learn More in May
Ascending Leaders is holding a two-part discipleship conference at Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson on Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6. The workshop will provide a practical framework for understanding the stages of spiritual growth. Find out more about the May 5 and May 6 conference in Lake Jackson or host one in your location at: http://www.ascendingleaders.org/discipleforward.
“ So far,” says Peter, “the experience of focusing on our discipleship pathway has been delightful. Church leaders have a better language for describing what people need to grow in discipleship, where they might get stuck and how to offer ministries that will enable people to ‘Find their Path’ and grow in grace.  We expect to continue this work with Ascending Leaders for at least another 9 months and we are thankful to have the collaboration.”

Churches Link Arms to Address Urgent Housing Needs for Foster Children

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
Several conference committees and congregations are working to mitigate a placement crisis for children and teens in foster care.
Investing in the Young is more than a phrase on a wall banner at the Texas Annual Conference. It is one of three pillars of focus for the entire conference to rally around. While that goal can be accomplished in thousands of different ways, it is presently the driving factor behind a conference ‘movement’ to impact several urgent needs within the foster care system in the greater Houston area.
“In our work with the juvenile justice system,” notes CEO Charles Rotramel who heads up Houston: reVision, “we have discovered some gaps in the foster care system, particularly for those who age out or have behavioral issues.”
In emergency overflow situations, foster children might even end up sleeping in State offices while other arrangements are being worked out. However, while there is a critical need for foster homes, adoptive homes, and mentors across the state, the reality is that foster care, adoption, and mentoring are not for everyone. “The good news is that there are many, many ways to help in this area, so everyone can do something to ease this growing crisis,” shares Rev. Amy Bezecny a foster care and adoption consultant at the Hope and Healing Center.  “In addition to the many ways there are to directly help the children, there are also additional ways to help foster and adoptive families succeed.”
Several Texas conference committees and congregations have recently stepped up to take an active role in providing support for these often-forgotten children – from providing housing to providing training to volunteers and mentors. In the last few months, Rev. Will Reed, First UMC Pasadena, has been researching how to configure some space at the church to become a secure and welcoming space to provide beds for up to 16 foster children caught in the overflow gap. He started meeting with leaders at the church to float this idea, then received advice from Urban Strategies, a faith based group that runs shelters. He has also been in ongoing discussions with the state about building regulations to use a portion of the building for a residence. “Since we want to be known as a church that loves children, this is really in line with our vision statement,” he shares. “When we can help kids that have no backup plan or forever family, we can help prevent them from ending up on the streets or incarcerated, perhaps. I expect our congregation to get involved in a number of ways, whether we get this housing concept approved or not.”
Rev Emily Everett is assisting in the coordination of volunteers and those interested and passionate about working with at-risk kids. “So far we have about 50 people who have offered to help in some way,” she shares. “We are still figuring out what that will look like as plans continue to develop and take shape.”
“My first experience with the foster care program was through my daughter who was a foster mother to an 8-month-old boy for 16 months before he was returned to the birth family to live with a great grandmother,” shares FUMC Pasadena volunteer Judy Everett. “We learned a lot from the experience, and were surprised to learn how many children are in the system in need of guidance. That’s why I am excited about the possibility of housing older foster children at the church where we can interact with them and mentor them during their crucial teenage years. The most powerful thing we can give these foster children is a feeling of being wanted and loved… that someone cares enough to take time to be with them.”
St. Luke’s Gethsemane Campus and the reVision team is collaborating with FUMC Pasadena to train volunteers to work with children and teens in different ways. Judy enjoyed her first exposure to reVision’s Curfew Night with at-risk teens. “I was amazed at the relationships I saw between the young adults participating in the break dancing,” she shares. “Helping each other, learning from each other and even when competing against each other in the dance battles, never showing signs of negative competition-- just amazing camaraderie and true kinship with one another within a vibrant community of friends.” Adds Judy, “Recognizing the hardships that some of the children have been through makes their sense of kinship even more special.”
Charles hopes other congregations will come visit reVision and see what they are doing to build community and mentor teens. “By intervening in the foster care system,” he says, “we hope to prevent teens from going to prison, committing crimes or suicide by connecting them with mentors and families. Many of them age out of foster care and feel utterly alone.” Volunteers are welcome to come to an orientation on the first Thursday of every month at Gethsemane Campus at 6:30 – for one hour, no strings attached. Call Charles for more information at 832-577-5556.
How Can You Help?
  • Congregations and individuals can contact their local Child Protective Service faith-based specialist, who can guide them to their local B.E.A.R. (Be A Resource) room, Rainbow room, older foster child mentoring activities and more.
  • Many local Child Placing Agencies offer information sessions and training to help increase knowledge of foster children's needs.
  • reVision helps congregations and individuals engage in long-term and meaningful mentoring relationships with dual-status youth.
  • A Way Home guides potential adoptive parents into an intentional mentoring relationship with foster children transitioning into permanent homes.
  • Also, individuals can become a Child Advocate or CASA volunteer to help children navigate the foster care system.
Adds Amy, “Just as foster children need families to help them navigate life, foster and adoptive families need their congregations to help families navigate life.” Amy is channeling her passions into a new nonprofit called Cultivating Families. This new organization believes that congregations need help to know how to help -- until they are confident they can sustain foster care ministries and programs on their own. “We work alongside congregations to determine what would be the best way to help foster children in their local community,” she explains. “First and foremost, we help congregants engage in prayer for specific foster children and together, we will hold every foster child in prayer. Hundreds of prayer volunteers are gaining awareness about the foster care system and covering thousands of children in prayer.”
The new nonprofit has additional “Cultivating Activities” and “Engaging Activities” for congregations:
  • Awareness presentations,
  •  Weighted Blanket and Prayer Shawl Ministries for foster children, and
  •  “Learn and Serve” projects including hands-on activities such as assembling first night kits, packing backpacks, or building beds for foster families.
  • Implementing Foster and Adoptive Supportive Care Groups
  • Adoption and Foster Care Decisions Courses
  • Awareness events
  • Trauma-Informed Parenting Classes
  • Trauma-Informed Care for Volunteers and Childcare Workers
“With more funding, we can add respite care ministries, helping older foster children and foster alumni, child and teen nurture groups, children’s classes, service projects, and more foster and adoption grief and loss services,” she adds. Amy also spearheads an in-depth training course for existing or potential foster parents.
Adds Charles, “In our work in the juvenile justice system we see many teens who are locked up in prison and that is why this work in the foster care system is so important as an intervention in that path to prison. Let’s all work together to keep them from experiencing a negative future.”

Free Flags, Food and Fun: Rural Ministry Success Story

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
Creating a sense of community in a very rural area is not always easy, but Harleton UMC found a way to do that well in March.

Rev. Kate Turner and her husband Joe Turner, part-time Local Pastor and Certified Lay Minister know that people tend to settle into their individual churches in rural areas, and mingling is somewhat rare. But, once in awhile, a creative idea surfaces that brings people together for a common cause.

Harleton UMC’s Rev. Kate Turner explains, “Recently, we learned that a friend and retired Methodist minister, Rev. James Knight along with his wife, Marie, had begun a unique personal ministry. The Knights have given away more that 1,000 durable, outdoor quality 3’x5’ Christian flags.” Knowing that the Knights were visiting Harleton UMC on March 19, the church invited area churches, schools and others to church adding that we would give away free flags immediately after our worship service. In addition, for a donation, we gave away flag poles, hot dogs and drinks.”

According to Joe, the church was “swamped” with people. “We gave away more than 100 Christian flags plus about 75 hot dogs,” he adds. The donations poured in. They raised over $600 and donated half this money to a new Grief Share Program and the remainder was placed in the church operation fund. 
A hundred new Christian flags are now flying all over East Texas. Kate shares, “This was easily the most successful event our church has had in many years. Our congregation joined in to the hand out the flags, cook hot dogs and manage the traffic. They unanimously voted to make Free Flags, Food and Fun an annual event. The Lord was with us on that Sunday morning. He brought His Christians out to get a free flag, meet us and other new friends and enjoy Christian fellowship.”

Member Suzanne Bartuska says, “Everywhere in town that week, I heard nothing but good comments about our flag giveaway.  When I hear the disappointment with not getting one or not knowing about the event, I tell them come back next year for a great service - then stay for hot dogs and a flag!”