Methodist Thoughts

New York United Methodist Bishops make statement on Reproductive Health Act

posted Feb 19, 2019, 5:40 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Feb 19, 2019, 5:43 PM ]


January 31, 2019 / By UNY Communications 

Editor’s Note: The following statement was released on January 31, 2019, by New York Area Resident Bishop, Thomas J. Bickerton, and Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, about the Reproductive Health Act that was signed into New York State law in January.

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!

The conversation about abortion has dominated the media over the last few days. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, one of the most sweeping expansions of abortion rights since abortion was legalized in New York State in 1970. Some commend this action as a significant step toward securing women’s rights and health. Others fear the less restrictive provisions of the new law will lead to an increase in abortions and especially late-term abortions.

Although the number of abortions in New York State has declined in recent years (a trend mirrored across the country), New York has twice the number of abortions as any other state according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan research organization. 

The new law now permits abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy in cases where a woman’s life or health are threatened or when an unborn child is deemed not viable and unable to survive outside its mother’s womb. It also allows health care providers to determine what constitutes a health threat to a pregnant woman and expands authorized health care providers to include not only physicians, but licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives.

As United Methodists, we are clear about several things related to abortion. Our Social Principles state, “The beginning of human life and ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.”Our Social Principles also state that, “We are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers . . . We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics. We oppose the use of late term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life.” (Social Principles, ¶161K)

Our Social Principles challenge us to work for the “diminishment of high abortion rates” by “encourage[ing] ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies such as comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support for initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.”  We urge you to talk with other leaders about how your church might engage in these kinds of ministries.

We are supportive of our church’s current stance on abortion as expressed in our denomination’s Social Principles and encourage you to use these principles as a basis of education and conversation on this sensitive issue in particular.

We know passions run high on all sides of the abortion debate and in the midst of those conversations we know God calls us to a future where the value of every human life – including every woman and every unborn child - is honored and protected. The way to that future will not be found through finger pointing, legislating, or even church programs, but only by walking the path of Jesus with one another. 

Grace and Peace,

Thomas J. Bickerton                                               Mark J. Webb
Resident Bishop, New York Area                        Resident Bishop, Upper New York Area

Celebrating What Makes Us United Methodists

posted Feb 18, 2019, 9:43 AM by Bowmansville UMC

Why do you love your United Methodist church? Are you passionate about volunteering for global missions, or in a sewing ministry or a food pantry? Do you like the idea of being connected to millions of church members around the world? In this video, church members talk about why they choose to be part of the movement known as United Methodism

(Copy and paste the link below in your browser to open the YouTube video)

Music: “Our God is able, more than able, to do more than we can ask or imagine.”

James Tealy, Songwriter “So the song was meant to just be a celebration of all the work the church can do when they work together.” (Song Celebrates United Methodists, Malaria Fight)  

Reba Smith Poole, Tindley Temple United Methodist Church: “We are known for three things: good music, good preaching and good food.” (Tindley Temple: A Highlight of Methodist History)

Sam, Christ United Methodist Church: “Every Sunday I do come to church here because God has put me here because he wants me to make a really big difference for this church.” (Church Special Needs Prom Brings Joy

Ruth Cruz, Apex United Methodist Church Member: "I have been a United Methodist my whole life, and one of the things I always tell people is everyone is included." (Las Posadas: Welcoming Jesus

Anne Connolly, Bryson City United Methodist Church: We are church people, kayakers and rafters. The river is our church. But it sure is nice to have someone to pray with once you are out there.” (Blessings Flow at River Church

Pastor Moses M.K. Sandy, Kortihun United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone: (voice of interpreter) “When the congregation started growing beyond the capacity of the home where were worshipping, the idea of putting up a new church came on our mind.” (Nets Draw New People to Church in Sierra Leone

The Rev. Keith McLaughlin, Northampton United Methodist Church: “We’re going out into the community and doing stuff for people who may never walk in the walls of this church, I think it speaks to our heritage and who we are as United Methodists in great measure.” (Kids' Capes of Courage

The Rev. Rachel Cornwell, Silver Spring United Methodist Church: “There are lots of social service agencies that are feeding people, clothing people, teaching people English. We’re not a social service agency. We’re a church. We’re followers of Jesus.” (English Circle Builds Church Community

Ralph Jordan, Alpharetta First United Methodist: “You never know when a prayer is going to have an impact. You never know where that’s going to land or who that person is going to be.” (Church Collects Tons of Cookies for Troops

The Rev. Romeo del Rosario, Missionary from The Philippines: “I’m proud to be a United Methodist because of what life has been for me as a United Methodist. It’s given me the joy of fellowship. We all have our calling and this has been mine.” (Missionary’s Global Calling

The Rev. Nancy Folsom Lane: “As a United Methodist pastor, I’m very proud that people that come here experience grace. They may have been told some things that have really have broken their spirit, but when they come through our doors, they get love! And they get acceptance.” (Church Renews Faith for Job Seekers

Music: “Our God is able, more than able, to do more than we can ask or imagine.”

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN and was
first posted on February 5, 2019.

What Do United Methodists Really Believe? by Sam Hodges, February 12, 2019, NMNS

posted Feb 13, 2019, 9:26 AM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Feb 13, 2019, 9:27 AM ]

United Methodist Communications surveyed United Methodists in the U.S. on their theological beliefs, and the largest group identified themselves as "conservative/traditional." Graphic by United Methodist Communications.United Methodist Communications surveyed United Methodists in the U.S. on their theological beliefs, and the largest group identified themselves as "conservative/traditional." Graphic by United Methodist Communications.
The United Methodist Church is a big tent theologically, and people with conservative or traditional religious beliefs make up the largest group under that spreading canvas.

Those are two key findings from a new United Methodist Communications survey of United Methodists in the U.S.

Of those contacted, 44 percent identified themselves as conservative/traditional in religious beliefs, 28 percent as moderate/centrist and 20 percent as progressive/liberal. 

“Oftentimes we think the denomination is equally divided. It was important for us to see that the plurality of people see themselves as more conservative,” said Chuck Niedringhaus, who oversees research for UMCom. 

The survey dug into United Methodists’ views on various theology-related subjects, including the Bible, Jesus, salvation, the Resurrection and the afterlife. 

Beliefs and priorities held by the self-identifying groups proved, in some cases, strikingly varied.

“There are significant differences in how we’re approaching being United Methodists,” Niedringhaus said.

For example, the survey asked whether the primary focus of The United Methodist Church should be saving souls for Jesus Christ or advocating for social justice to transform the world.

Eighty-eight percent of conservative/traditionalists said saving souls, while 68 percent of progressive/liberals chose social justice.

“Essentially, they’re focused on different ends of the mission statement,” Niedringhaus said, referring to the denomination’s official goal to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The survey, in detail

United Methodist Communications and Research NOW collaborated on an online survey of United Methodists, aimed at identifying theological perspectives. From Sept. 27 to Oct, 4, the researchers obtained online questionnaire results from 541 people.
Charts showing the questions and responses can be found here. 
The United Methodist Church’s struggle for unity is hardly new, and its longstanding, split-threatening conflict over homosexuality is to be addressed at a special session of General Conference, occurring Feb. 23-26, in St. Louis.

The communications agency did a 2015 survey on United Methodists’ views on same-sex marriage, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized such unions across the country. 

The new survey did not ask about homosexuality or any other social issues, but instead sought to find out whether basic theological differences might be driving divisions within the denomination, Niedringhaus said.

UMCom contracted with the firm Research NOW, which obtained online questionnaire responses from 541 U.S. residents last fall. (Logistical and informational challenges made it impossible to extend the survey to church members in Africa, Europe and the Philippines, Niedringhaus said.)

All the respondents were laity who either belong to a United Methodist church or attend one regularly, but who do not serve as local church leaders. 

The survey was balanced geographically, so that areas where United Methodist membership is strong, such as the Southeast, had more respondents than where that isn’t the case, such as the West.

UMCom has clergy staff members who helped frame the questions, Niedringhaus said.

On some matters there was broad agreement. For example, large majorities of all three self-identifying groups believe in Jesus’ birth from a virgin, his crucifixion in order to reconcile humans to God and his resurrection in bodily form.

By big margins, conservatives, moderates and liberals understand God as creator of heaven and earth and believe God’s grace is available to all.

But only 50 percent of liberals believe in a literal hell, compared to 82 percent of conservatives and 70 percent of moderates.

One question asked respondents to choose the most authoritative source of their personal theology.

The largest group of conservatives, 41 percent, chose Holy Scripture, and the second largest, 30 percent, said Christian tradition. 

Meanwhile, the largest group of liberals, 39 percent, cited reason as most authoritative. The smallest, 6 percent, chose Holy Scripture.

An overwhelming majority of conservatives, 86 percent, said a relationship with Jesus is the only way to salvation. Sixty-four percent of moderates agreed with that, and 54 percent of liberals did.

The self-described moderates generally ended between conservatives and liberals in the results for specific questions. But often they were closer to the conservative position.

“I don’t think you can add the moderates and progressives and say that’s where the church is,” Niedringhaus said. “Theologically, many (moderates) are more traditional.”

The survey showed that women are more likely than men to hold liberal/progressive views and that church attendance is strongest by conservatives.

The average age of conservative respondents was 55, and that of moderates and liberals was 48.

Niedringhaus said there will be briefings on the survey for church agency leaders after the special General Conference.

“There’s a big theological gap,” he said. “At the very least, boards and agencies should be looking at this data.”

Hodges is a Dallas-based writer for United Methodist News Service. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or

Keep Your Head - a letter from Keith Boyette from the Wesleyan Covenant Association

posted Jan 27, 2019, 1:12 PM by Bowmansville UMC

     Throughout my life, I have had to remind myself that my journey needs to be seen from a larger perspective than my own experience. The United Methodist Church has arrived at the time of decision. In a few weeks 864 delegates from around the world will gather for what is expected to be a defining special general conference.      

     As we journey toward that moment, there is a tendency to think that this time is unique in church history – that at no other time has any other group of Christians experienced what we are experiencing within the UM Church.      

     The truth is that while there are unique aspects to what we are experiencing as one part of the body of Christ, those who have gone before us have walked similar roads and encountered challenges far more daunting than what we are facing. Every generation of Christians faces questions like those with which we are wrestling. The presenting issues have often been different, but the deeper realities have been the same.     
      In his second letter to his disciple Timothy, Paul provided sound counsel for navigating unsettled waters in times analogous to the days in which we are living. Paul delivered a charge to Timothy. Acknowledging that a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine . . . and [instead] turn their ears away from the truth,” Paul instructed Timothy to “keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:3-5.     

     Even as 2018 concluded, the emotional and spiritual temperature was escalating. No doubt, grief, fear and anger stoke the temperature. For many of us, the UM Church has been our church home for most of our spiritual lives.  We have deep commitments and relationships which we realize are being threatened in this season.    While we have known change is coming, it is now at our doorstep and it is marked by uncertainty.  Many are justifiably concerned the special General Conference will reshape the UM in a way they can no longer support.     

     When Paul charged Timothy in his second epistle, the movement of which they were a part was threatened from within by Gnosticism and other heresies, and from without by opposition and persecution from the secular culture.       Yet Paul was unwavering in his principled convictions. He knew He served a risen Savior who was present as Timothy and he labored to advance the Kingdom of God. Whether lay or clergy, many of you are leaders in your church. You have been raised up as leaders for just this time.  

     God did not call us because we are especially talented. He called us because we are surrendered to God and committed to being vessels in His hands through whom the Holy Spirit can accomplish God’s work.       We serve more than the people with whom we are journeying, and more than an institution – the UM Church.  We serve the Living God.  On February 27, God will still be the Sovereign Lord.  He will still be accomplishing His mission to bring people into an eternal relationship with Him. He will still be transforming lives – ours included – so that our lives increasingly align with His design. And God will know all that we are experiencing.      

    So who are we to be in this season? First and foremost, we are children of God who have been called to serve Him and His people.  Remember your identity.  Human institutions (a denomination), labels (a name), and possessions (property and assets) do not define us.  

     We are to remain true to the One who gave us life, who sustains us in every moment, who surrendered His life so we might have truly abundant lives, and who is at work in us and in our circumstances.      Second, in Paul’s words, “keep your head in all situations.”  As a teen, those who mentored me shared with me Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling’s poem   “If.” How appropriate his words are in this season!   If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you;  If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too:   If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,  Or being hated don’t give way to hating, and yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!      

    Spirit-filled leaders, in this season, will be rooted and grounded. They will not react to every shift of the wind.   They will not focus on the immediate, but rather on the eternal.   They will remember the core of their calling. They will seek Godly wisdom and guidance.   They will ascribe the best of motives to those with whom they disagree and hope the best for them.  They will be filled with confident hope and communicate that confident hope to others.     

    The Greek word nepho which the NIV translates as “keep your head” is translated as “keep a clear  mind” in the NLT and paraphrased as “keep your eye on what you’re doing” by Eugene Peterson in  The Message. Sound counsel for all of us in these days.     

    Third, “endure hardship,” Paul urges.  Paul and Timothy certainly knew hardship. Paul is writing Timothy from a Roman prison facing the reality of imminent death. Timothy is contending with opposition and persecution. What we face pales in comparison, but is daunting nonetheless. In the NLT, Paul’s words are translated, “Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.” Part of our identification with Jesus is walking the road He walked which at times was a path of suffering. Discipleship – following Jesus – is costly. Be prepared to suffer if necessary in the coming days.   Consider what Jesus and those who follow Him have done to prepare the way for us. 

    Fourth, “do the work of an evangelist.” The UM Church in the U.S. is in precipitous decline for many reasons, but chief among them is mission drift.  Let’s not contribute to that in this season.  Work at telling others the Good News. Keep the Message alive. Maintain perspective.   What we are experiencing in the UM Church may not even warrant a footnote when the whole of church history is written at the end of time.     
    Finally, “discharge all the duties of your ministry.” God has placed each of us in our venue of service.       He has defined the territory for which we have responsibility.   He is counting on us.  Let us count on Jesus all the more in this season.   Let us be patient and focused.   Let us attend to critical details and fully discharge the ministry God has given us.      

     Finally, let us be winsome and fully engaged in what God has called us to do in this season. The days ahead will be difficult regardless of the outcome of the special General Conference.  Stay informed. Stay engaged. Put on your spiritual armor.   Live into Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

The Christmas Conference: 10 days that started a church

posted Dec 19, 2018, 7:54 AM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Feb 13, 2019, 9:34 AM ]

A Feature by Joe Iovino

For many of us Christmas morning means lounging in our pajamas, eating delicious food and slowly opening gifts. For those who started the Methodist church in America, their Christmas Eve in 1784 was the first of ten days of serious church business. In the end, their gift to us was the formation of a new denomination that would change history.

The decision to meet

When Thomas Coke bumped into Francis Asbury after a worship service at Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica, Delaware, he shared important news. John Wesley had sent him to ordain Asbury and appoint him superintendent of a new, Methodist church in the United States.

The Christmas Conference was held at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland, began on Christmas Eve 1784. Image courtesy United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History.

This had been a long time in coming. Church of England priests serving in America returned to England during the American Revolutionary War, leaving no one to administer the sacraments to the Methodists. Lay preachers kept the societies going with meetings and love feasts, but they needed ordained clergy.

When the Church of England continued to refuse Wesley’s requests to ordain some of his Methodist preachers and send them across the Atlantic, he took matters into his own hands. Wesley ordained two Methodist lay preachers to serve in the U.S., and appointed Coke a general superintendent.

After worship at Barratt’s Chapel on that November Sunday, Asbury and Coke decided to call a special conference for all the Methodist preachers in the United States. They would meet at Lovely Lane Chapel beginning December 24, 1784, to found and organize a new church. The 10 days they spent together would later become known as the Christmas Conference.

With the conference beginning in just 40 days, they needed to get the word out immediately. Freeborn Garrettson, leader of the society at Barratt’s Chapel, mounted a horse and set out. The Paul Revere of Methodism would later write in his journal, “My dear Master enabled me to ride about twelve hundred miles in about six weeks.”

Freeborn Garrettson is sometimes called the Paul Revere of Methodism.

Freeborn Garrettson is sometimes called "the Paul Revere of Methodism." Image courtesyUnited Methodist General Commission on Archives and History.

The Conference

Garrettson was effective with this monumental task. According to Coke, 81 people met at Lovely Lane. “Nearly 60 of them” were “American Preachers,” he notes, “most of them young.”

As the conference to found the Methodist Episcopal Church began, only Coke, Richard Whatcoat, and Thomas Vasey—the two Wesley had ordained in England a few weeks earlier—were clergy. All other members of the Christmas Conference, including Asbury, were lay preachers. Coke would soon rectify that.

Beginning on Christmas Day, Francis Asbury was ordained a deacon, ordained an elder, and consecrated as a general superintendent on three consecutive days—a record that will never be broken.

Asbury, who had served as the de facto leader of the Methodists in America for years, refused to accept the role of superintendent solely by Wesley’s appointment. He insisted the preachers elect him to serve in that capacity.

Soon after the Christmas Conference, Methodists began to refer to Coke and Asbury as bishops, despite Wesley’s objections to the term. The United Methodist Church still elects our bishops today.

Asbury’s ordination contained another bit of foreshadowing. Philip Otterbein, a pastor in the German Reformed Church, participated in Asbury’s ordination. Otterbein would later help found the United Brethren, another predecessor denomination of The United Methodist Church.

Philip Otterbein participated in the ordination of Francis Asbury.

Philip Otterbein (2nd from left) participated in the ordination of Francis Asbury. Image courtesyUnited Methodist General Commission on Archives and History.

No minutes of the Christmas Conference survive, but based on the journals of those present and the Discipline they produced, historians can piece together much of what happened. Twelve lay preachers were elected and ordained as elders (clergy). The Sunday Service John Wesley sent with Coke was approved for use in the new church—a forerunner of today’s Book of Worship. The conference also talked about forming Cokesbury College, and made a host of other decisions necessary for the formation of the new denomination.

When the conference was concluded and the church born, Asbury journaled about all this activity in his typically understated way. “We spent the whole week in conference, debating freely, and determining all things by a majority of votes,” he explained. “We were in great haste, and did much business in a little time” (The Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury, December 18, 1784, p 939).

That is not the way many of us would choose to spend our Christmas vacation, but as descendants of these forebears in the faith, we’re sure glad they did.

*Joe Iovino works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

This story was published December 12, 2017. 

Wesley's Take the Web - Episodes 1, 2 and 3

posted Dec 1, 2018, 4:53 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Dec 2, 2018, 2:09 PM ]

This is the first episode in a series of three short videos that offer a modern animated version of the brothers who founded Methodism talking about how the denomination started.

In this episode, John and Charles test their smartphone on her knowledge of fun facts about The United Methodist Church.

In this episode, John and Charles Wesley view examples of Methodism's core principle of social holiness via smartphone.


posted Sep 24, 2018, 7:30 AM by Bowmansville UMC

Tithing is commonly understood as the giving of one-tenth of one’s income for God. This standard of giving comes from several passages in Scripture (e.g. Genesis 28:10-22).

The founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, offered an even higher standard for giving, and for our entire approach to living. 
It’s found in Wesley’s sermon, “The Use of Money,” which is among the Standard Sermons included in our doctrinal standards.
Here is Wesley’s own brief summary which is the foundation of our teaching: 
“Gain all you can…. save all you can… give all you can.” 

As he develops each of these points in his sermon, his message is plain. 
We are to seek to earn all we can in ways that are helpful to ourselves and others, never harmful. We are to “save all we can” by being frugal in our expenses. 

And then having earned all we can and spent only what we must to care for our own basic needs and those of our family (which we are never to neglect!), we are to give everything else away. 

Indeed, Wesley says, “Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s.” For some of us, after earning and saving all we can, while caring for our family’s basic needs, there may not be much left over. For others, there may be much, indeed. Whatever that is, we say, give it all!

The United Methodist Church, in its Book of Discipline, emphasizes tithing as a “minimum goal of giving” and encourages local churches to find creative ways to become “tithing congregations with an attitude of generosity.”  The church asks all those being ordained to “teach and model generous Christian giving with a focus on tithing as God’s standard of giving.”
United Methodists value the tithe as a benchmark for giving, one we encourage our members to move toward and, once achieved, move beyond. We believe our giving should be both more challenging and more gracious to the whole world than simply trying to give a tithe of our income. We also believe that there is joy in giving, and the greater the generosity the deeper the joy.

Barratt's Chapel: Independence Hall of American Methodism, Frederica, Delaware

posted Jul 5, 2018, 6:45 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Jul 5, 2018, 6:46 PM ]

Barratt’s Chapel is the oldest Methodist church building in the United States still in use as a place of worship. Historical markers on the property call it the “Cradle of Methodism,” but historians here say “Independence Hall of American Methodism” is a more fitting title. Take a tour, and get a drone's eye view, in this video. 

Motorists along busy Route 1 in Delaware might zoom past the simple brick buildings of Barratt’s Chapel and never realize its significance in the history of The United Methodist Church.

Philip Lawton, Peninsula-Delaware Conference Historian: “This is the place where Methodism became a church.”

Church historian Philip Lawton says not long after the Revolutionary War, Methodists formally split from the Church of England.

Phillip Lawton: “They did that here on November 14, 1784, at least symbolically, by celebrating the sacraments for the very first time in a Methodist meeting without an Anglican priest doing the celebration and that was a symbolic declaration that they were going to be a church. So this is really the Independence Hall of American Methodism."

Barb Duffin, Curator, Barratt's Chapel & Museum: “This is the place where baptisms and the Lord’s Supper were offered for the first time by an ordained Methodist minister.”

On that Sunday in 1784, newly ordained Thomas Coke was in the pulpit preaching when Francis Asbury arrived for an historic meeting. A star marks the place where the two embraced. At the time, the sanctuary had only simple furnishings.

Philip Lawton: “Originally, there would have some split log benches. Probably, a lot of people just stood or brought a stool from home. Structurally, the building is a barn. People come today and they think of this as a quaint little country church. And that’s not at all what Phillip Barratt thought he was building.”

Phillip Barratt was a wealthy Delaware politician, landowner and Methodist.

Philip Lawton: “He was building a major meeting place for the Methodists on the main highway through Delaware. This building seats about 500 people. When he built it in 1780 there were maybe 1000 Methodists on all of the Delmarva Peninsula. By building this on the main highway he was really making a statement. He had a vision that the Methodists were going to grow and were going to become something important. It’s here that a national movement began.”

Methodism became one of the largest Protestant denominations in America. That November day at Barratt’s Chapel, Asbury and Coke prepared to call all the U.S. Methodist preachers together

Philip Lawton: “Then in Baltimore on Christmas Day they organized themselves as the Methodist Episcopal Church, the first truly American-born denomination.”

Joy Gordy-Stith, Wesley United Methodist Church: “I was baptized here. And I’ve just been coming here my whole life for various services. And you know, it’s not Christmas if we don’t come here and sing lessons and carols. It’s a very important part of my life.”

Today, Barratt’s Chapel is a favorite stop for confirmation classes and United Methodists who are writing the next chapter in the living history of this place.

(To watch the YouTube video, copy and past the the following address in your browse:)

Why do United Methodist pastors change churches?

posted Jun 14, 2018, 10:14 AM by Bowmansville UMC

Our unique system of deploying clergy has its roots in the earliest days of Methodism. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, preached up to 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. He was an “itinerant” preacher, traveling from town to town in England, setting up Methodist societies.

“John Wesley believed that itinerant preachers who moved from place to place were more effective than those who settled in, grew comfortable, and wore out what they had to say,” says the Rev. Belton Joyner.

In a letter to the Rev. Samuel Walker in 1756, Wesley wrote, "We have found by long and consistent experience that a frequent exchange of preachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation."

In the early days of Methodism in America, a pastor — most often a circuit rider — might be appointed to half of a state or more. His appointment might be for only three months, after which he moved to another circuit. Thousands of the oldest United Methodist congregations today trace their history to a circuit rider.

This traveling from place to place to begin Methodist societies was adapted for the Methodist congregations many of these early societies would become after the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784. It thus became the basis of the itinerant system The United Methodist Church uses today.

United Methodist pastors are sent, not called or hired. “Itinerancy” refers specifically to the commitment by pastors to go and serve wherever their bishops send them. “Appointment” is the action taken by bishops. These are different, yet related.

Clergy in The United Methodist Church commit to serve where their bishop appoints them. Appointments are typically for one year at a time, though the bishop may move any itinerant pastor at any time. The goal of the appointment process is to match as much as possible the gifts and graces of the particular pastor or deacon with the ministry needs of a particular congregation or ministry setting. In this “serial leadership” of consecutive pastors and deacons — no two are alike — over time, the combination of skills blends to form a broad base of developed ministries.

While bishops make appointments, they incorporate a consultative process outlined in The Book of Discipline that includes district superintendents, clergy and pastor/staff parish relations committees. The needs and desires of clergy are considered, but the mission of the church comes first.

Joyner explains, “In a connectional system such as United Methodism, the question from any individual congregation or from any individual [clergy] is not, 'What is best for me?' The question is 'What is best for us, the whole connection?' The one who has oversight, the bishop, makes those decisions. (The New Testament word for bishop is episkopos, which means 'the one who can see the whole picture.')

“The changing of pastors brings different and often-needed gifts to the local church (1 Cor. 12:4). The changing of settings can keep a pastor refreshed. The missionary journeys of Paul are surely a reminder of that (for example, Acts 13:2-14:7; 15:36-18:22; 18:23-21:19).”

Image of a circuit rider, courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History for The United Methodist Church, Drew University.

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

posted Jun 2, 2018, 7:47 PM by Bowmansville UMC

The answer to your question is, of course, determined by the definition of what a Christian is. If a Christian is simply someone who assents to belief in the Triune God, then the answer is no. If a Christian is someone who is kind, caring, and keeps the basic ethical teachings of loving God (without specific practices) and loves one's neighbor, then the answer could be no, one does not have to go to church.

However, if a Christian is someone who has been baptized into the church and professed the faith of the church, then the answer is yes.

At baptism or in confirmation/profession of faith, we make very important promises. We renounce evil, the spiritual forces of wickedness, and repent of our sin. We declare that we accept the freedom God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Then we declare we trust in Christ for salvation and promise to serve him in unity with his church.

In those promises we accept God's acceptance of us within the beloved community, we promise to serve WITH THE CHURCH, and the church welcomes us as members of Christ's royal priesthood.

John Wesley taught and practiced accountable discipleship. He knew what we deep down know today--we can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians. Without hearing the Word read and preached, without gathering with other Christians around the table to share and feast upon Christ who is host and sacrifice for us, and without becoming part of the fire of the Spirit, we are like embers of a fire separated from the community of grace. We grow cold and the fire and flame of love grow cold and we die spiritually. We may still believe, but we stand outside the covenant in our practice.

However, it is important to add God does not let us go or give up on us. What God promises, God does not revoke. We are still marked as Christ's disciple and still called to live in and with and for Christ.

So what is the answer? Ask yourself, can you be a Christian--baptized, table sharing, connected to Jesus and one with his body--the body that Paul says we are to discern when we gather to remember (See 1 Cor. 11)?

The plain point is this: without God's grace we cannot live the Christian life. God's grace is everywhere at work and always available. And if we really seek it and must have it, why would we go anywhere but to where Christ has promised, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)

--Rev. Dan Benedict
Center for Worship Resourcing
General Board of Discipleship

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