December 31, 2005
Well, it is time for the annual New Year's resolutions to begin spilling from our mouths, our hearts, and yes, the yearnings of our spirits. Let me list mine. They are not listed in order of priority. I need to lose about 35 pounds, continue to increase my walking, spend more time with the family, read more books, be more frugal with the finances God blesses me with, practice a bit more patience, (especially with two teenagers I know) and schedule time alone in prayer and bible study.
I really feel better now that I have listed my resolutions. Now, comes the hard part and that is to not allow other competing interests to crowd these very imporatnt resolutions out. I will begin by placing them on my schedule and not allowing them to be afterthoughts. Now let me see where I can fit these in... :)
In all honesty folks, most of the resolutions we make need to be followed through on and believe me I have good news for you , WE CAN DO IT, especially if we remember that we are not alone but that we have a parent who cares, the Holy Spirit to empower us, and Jesus to walk beside us.
Hey, have a blessed, prosperous, and disciplined New Year. I plan to.
December 16, 2005
The Church's Leadership Needs
I just returned from Duke University where I participated in what has been dubbed an "Episcopal Leadership Forum." This group is comprised of 18 Bishops meeting to discuss and discover the many ways God leads us and directs us to be leaders. The Forum took place over 2 and ½ days. The expenses were paid through a grant from a benefactor.
In preparation for this meeting I viewed a DVD presentation on Leadership given by Ronald Heifetz. He made a statement that continues to stick in my mind and gut. “Leadership is only needed in the midst of challenges and opportunities.” In making this statement I believe Heifetz is also implying that the rest of the time what is needed is simple management.
Well, I must say that the United Methodist Church in particular and the Church in general are in challenging and opportunistically laden times. I believe we are missing opportunities and not meeting the challenges of this era. I realize that statistics are not always good barometers of the strength or weakness of a person or group but they are certainly indicators that the potential for failure is present. It appears therefore to me, that the United Methodist Church is in dire need of leaders or we need to find a way to release leadership.
Heifetz goes on to say that we need “Adaptive Leaders” and not “Technical Leaders.” Technical Leaders are those charged with responding to challenges that fall within our repertoire. In other words we already know what to do, either turn on a light switch if it’s dark in a room, adjust the thermostat if it is too hot or too cold or we know how to compose an order of worship. These are technical skills. But we need Adaptive Leaders. We need people who can lead us to find answers that fall outside of our repertoire.
We are in a time when the old answers do not work and we need leaders as Heifetz puts it who can “…stand on the balcony and give guidance.” Heifetz outlines this in his book “Leadership without Easy Answers.” I believe Boards of ordained Ministry need to listen to Heifetz especially since the Board of Ordained Ministry is charged with leading the church in the credentialing and examination of a person’s fitness for ministry. If times have changed, if the challenges have changed, if the demands have changed and if the settings for ministry have changed (as I believe they have) then should we not reexamine what we expect from candidates for ministry and create news of getting at that? Oh well, just the musings of a bishop.
December 08, 2005
Are There Places and Issues to Which Christians Should Not Speak?
This morning, I sat reading Psalms 145 and continued to read 146, 147, 148 and 149. It hit me while I was reading that this is (all of it is) God’s world. Oh, it is not that I didn’t intellectually know this. I guess this morning I saw the consequences of truly believing not only with the mind but the heart, as well as what follows if I accept this.
If everything, everyone, and even our thoughts should be subject to God, then there are no places, things, people, and activities of humanity that God doesn’t have authority to speak to. And if God has that authority and we are the body of His Son then doesn't the church, (the body and the people of God) have the right to speak to everything that either brings God’s kingdom (dominion) or hinders God’s Kingdom from coming “…on earth as it is in heaven”? I realize that many of us Christians are uncomfortable with that notion and desire to limit conversation either because the conversations challenge us or our beliefs or threaten our power or way of life.
I remember so well that while serving on the General Board of Church and Society that an issue arose about Mt. Olive Pickle Company and what responsibility they had to the persons who picked the cucumbers that they subsequently would buy. Some of the GBCS members wanted to boycott Mt. Olive and I did too until I realized that my daughter and I who were pickle lovers always bought Mt. Olive Pickles. (They really tasted the best to us). Well, all of a sudden my vote was not just a vote against Mt. Olive but a vote against my daughter and me eating Mt. Olive pickles.
Now, this may seem comical to some but it was serious with me. And then the scripture came to me, “If it offends my brother to eat meat, I will eat meat no longer.” I didn’t need to hear that. Well, our committee that was considering this discovered that the President of Mt. Olive was a faithful United Methodist and so we began a conversation with him that didn’t always go well but eventually with the help of the North Carolina Conference and others we were able to resolve it in a way that blessed the farm workers and Mt. Olive.
This came to happy resolution but sometimes when we (the Church) decide to speak truth it is hard and difficult for some of us to do so and it places us in positions that we don’t like to be in. I realize that we cannot always avoid getting people angry about what we say but when we speak we should be clear that our desire is to bring about transformation of people, systems, organizations and places in such a way that God’s Kingdom comes even when it is painful.
Are there places and issues to which Christians should not speak? No. I believe I hear Jesus say to us, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit TEACHING them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
December 07, 2005
Last Sunday I went to the Wytheville District in the Southwest Corner of Virginia to preach at the Mountain Plains UMC church in a combined service with their partner church Island Creek. These two congregations are served by Vickie Neese, a local pastor. It was such a meaningful, moving and spirit-filled worship experience. The most meaningful for me was the beginning of the worship with the lighting of the Advent Candle. This was done by a husband and wife team of Ted and Diane Webb. They talked about the partnership between Mary and Joseph with Diane pointing out the lonely proposition that Mary faced of bearing a child out of wedlock.
Ted then said to her and to all of us there, “Yes, and that is why God gave her Joseph. God knew she needed a partner.” And then he went on to say to Diane, “And God also knew I needed a partner and that is why he gave you to me and I want to thank you for being my partner throughout the years of our marriage.”
Well, about that time those of us sitting and taking this in began to wipe tears away, including the bishop. Ted and Diane blessed us with this wonderful display of love and helped us to catch a glimpse of the love between Joseph and Mary the chosen parents of Jesus. And it was then that I realized that we were in a spirit and an attitude of worship. We had been ushered into the presence of God.
They topped that off with a moving rendition of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It was a great time of worship, I believe, because we started out right. In fact, even after worship we continued to bask in the presence of God as the Holy Spirit moved us to demonstrate in fellowship what we had experienced in worship.
When was the last time you left church and felt empowered to witness to the love of God and believed that God was indeed with you? Great worship can do that for you and I believe those of you who have experienced this don’t need me to tell you what happened because it is like Maxwell House Coffee, “Good to the last drop.”
Thank you Mountain Plains and Island Creek for a glorious worship experience.