Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Racism in the United Methodist Church

Check out this article from United Methodist News Service:

Delegates say racism affected Southeast jurisdictional elections

Some excerpts:

July 28, 2004

A UMNS News Feature
By Michael Wacht*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — While delegates to the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference celebrated the historic election of two women bishops to the jurisdiction, some were also left hurt, angry and empty by proceedings they felt were unjust and racist.

The Rev. Geraldine McClellan, a member of the Florida delegation to the July 14-17 session, said racism was blatant at the conference, both in the balloting and in the way delegates interacted with each other.

Referring to the record 34 ballots taken to elect the slate of six bishops, McClellan said the balloting went on so long “for one reason—the SEJ refuses to elect a qualified, visionary African-American woman."

"In 1984, Bishop Leontine Kelly was an episcopal nominee in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. She left the jurisdictional conference, flew to the Western Jurisdiction and was elected to the episcopacy,” she said. “What was prevalent then is prevalent now: the blatant sin of racism.”

Lynette Fields, a lay member of the Florida delegation, said it was “really powerful” to hear the stories of ethnic conflict in episcopal elections from past conferences.

“The experience of those last ballots [this year] brought back those stories,” Fields said. “The experience reminded people of our past and how far we have to go. It was a celebration that we elected two women, but the process was so obviously divisive and painful, that it was hard to fully celebrate.”

Dawn Hand, a lay delegate from Western North Carolina, said she does not like to make things into racial issues, but is sometimes “painfully reminded … that somehow, at the core, it unfortunately turns out to be a racist issue.

"It’s painfully obvious it’s not the will of this conference right now to support a Native-American person who is qualified, a black woman who is qualified,” she said. “Racism, whether intended or not, is a painful experience, but one I have become accustomed to.”

Some would deny the charge of racism because one African American, Bishop James Swanson, was elected on the fourth ballot, Sheila Flemming, a Florida lay member pointed out. “It’s tokenism,” she said. “White people are comfortable with one. As a historian, I see from the very early days that whites are more comfortable with a few blacks. Racism can still exist when a few blacks are at the table.”

The Rev. Roger Hopson, the Memphis Conference’s director of connectional ministries and a member of the Memphis delegation, said he didn’t think the racism was conscious and believes it came out of a rush to get through the process.

"The great majority of Euro-Americans weren’t consciously trying to keep African Americans out,” he said. “For the majority, I think it was unconscious racism. We are so programmed to think of only one [minority] and one [woman]. There were too many competent African-Americans to elect only one.”

McClellan said she saw the quota mentality in the report of the nominations committee. When delegates challenged the report on inclusivity issues, a nominations committee member said the 2000 Book of Discipline set a minimum of 30 percent racial ethnic representation and the SEJ had included 31 percent."

--I am glad to read this article, to know that there is attention drawn to issues of racism that we still have to battle, but sad, of course, to read of these realities as well. I am even still amazed at how few female bishops we have in the jurisdiction - 13, I think, before these most recent elections, give or take a couple, and that includes, I think, retired female bishops. I think it is so difficult to recognize our own racism (speaking as a white person). We can recognize its existence, recognize it in others, all while insisting we are not racist. For me in seminary, recognizing my own racist behaviors and attitudes was an important part of my journey. Learning about white privilege, learning about my ignorance of black history, etc. - these things were painful things I did not want to confront and with which I still struggle, all while considering myself a progressive, open-minded, social-justice equality minded person. We have much work to do, and a long way to go.

Youth, Church and Society, and a Ticket

Just recovering from a busy week.
Friday-Sunday was one of our conference youth events at Casowasco Camp/Retreat Center, and I am the Conference Youth Coordinator. This is a position I've had for a year now, and I still often feel like I'm learning the ropes, and this weekend was no exception, with plenty of glitches in things to keep me a little crazed all weekend. But, to me, the things that makes it worth doing for me are the youth and the faith they can sometimes express so eloquently when not keeping the chaperones running around after them. For example, the chair of our CCYM (Conference Council on Youth Ministries) is so often good enough to quote, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him head into ordained ministry, though he currently has other ideas. In one of his witnesses at our event he said, "It doesn't really matter to God when [our faith journey] starts, just that it does. All faith journeys start in the same place: with God." As  much as the youth sometimes push the limits and bend the rules, I am reminded that this group of nearly 100 teenagers has chosen to spend a weekend they know will be filled with keynote speaking, and small group time, and worship time, in the middle of their summer vacations. That's pretty impressive.

Monday I headed to DC for an additional member nominating committee and found out I will be returning to the General Board of Church and Society this quadrennium after all. I am very excited about that - I love working with GBCS. This was also the first time I was at The United Methodist Building, where GBCS is located. It is literally next to the Capitol, which is pretty cool positioning for our denomination's social justice/advocacy agency.

Then, last night, after driving for hours, I got a ticket for a broken headlight 5 minutes from home! Go figure...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

"This Land is My Land"

Check out this cartoon.
It's a version of Woodie Guthrie's "This Land is My Land." Not really related to sermons/lectionary stuff/etc., but pretty darn funny. Plus, it takes equal jabs at both presidential candidates (fair and balanced?) so any political persuasion can enjoy...

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bishop Solomon preaches at NEJurisdictional Conference

I wanted to share a few quotes I jotted down from Bishop Solomon's sermon at Northeastern Jursidictional Conference last week.

He said, "Love is not a possession; it's an expression."
And his major points throughout:
1) "Rules are out. Relationships are in." What he had to say on this was most moving, I thought:
"Jesus was more concerned with relationships than rules . . . There is no shortage of people who are quick to remind you of the rules . . . At this last General Conference, time was spent solidifying the rules at the expense of sanctifying the relationships.Any community that is bound by legalism is not free to love."

2)"Individualism is out. Neighbors are in."
3) "Indifference is out. Responsibility is in."
4) "Literalism is out and truth is in." "Jesus is the plumb line for truth." "If you put the Apostle Paul up against that truth, even he is a little ragged around the edges."
5) "Lament is out and action is in."

Some good stuff in there! 

Monday, July 19, 2004

Sudarshana Devadhar elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church

Congrats to Suda Devadhar, a D.S. from my NCNY annual conference, who was elected bishop last week. Suda is a good man, has a great passion for youth work, and will be accompanying our jurisdictional youth on their mission trip to India this December. Good stuff!

Sudarshana Devadhar elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church:

The Rev. Sudarshana Devadhar
July 14, 2004

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (UMNS) -- The Rev. Sudarshana Devadhar of the North Central New York Annual Conference has been elected a bishop by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Devadhar, the superintendent of the Ontario District, was elected Wednesday, July 14. He will fill one of the vacancies created in the denomination�s Northeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops by the retirements of six bishops. The new bishops are being elected by 288 delegates attending the July 12-17 conference.
Devadhar, a native of India, will be one of 50 active U. S. bishops leading the United Methodist Church and serving one of the episcopal areas of the 13 annual conferences that make up the 12-state jurisdiction. The Northeastern Jurisdiction is home to 1.5 million United Methodists in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. It also includes the District of Columbia.

A consecration service for the new bishops will be held at 11:15 a.m. July 16, at Syracuse (N.Y.) University.
An episcopal assignment committee is already considering where Devadhar and other active bishops will serve for the next four years. Their assignments will be effective Sept. 1.
Endorsed by the North Central New York Conference, the Western New York Annual Conference and the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, Devadhar was elected on the second ballot, receiving 169 votes of the 287 votes cast. The number of votes needed to elect was 165.

While the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference is electing six bishops, four other United Methodist jurisdictional conferences are meeting to elect 15 others.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Affirmation of Faith

I’m currently at NEJ conference, and at our service of retirement for 6(!) of our bishops, we read this affirmation of faith (no source cited, I think Bishop Susan Morrison may have written it herself):
We believe in God
Who loves us as a parent
Searching for us when we are lost,
Embracing us in our hurt,
Always looking for any reason to throw a party.
We believe in the risen Christ,
Who gathers all the lost and forgotten
Into a new community and tells them,
And us
We are forgiven, blessed and loved.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
Who empowered the new community of followers
To share bread,
Tell stories of God’s love
And turn the world upside down.
We are a faith-filled
Blessed community.

I’m not usually an affirmation-of-faith person, at least not the ones commonly recited in our congregations, because I usually end up questioning one or two of the theological positions said affirmations put forward. But this one really caught my attention, and so I post it here today, and put it in our bulletin at St. Paul’s for Sunday!

Monday, July 12, 2004


Silk Soy Milk

So, back at the start of Lent, I began a half-hearted attempt to go vegan. While not successful in any strict sense, one thing I have managed is to give up milk at home, and switch to soy. Silk Soy milk has been my overwhelming favorite, particularly chocolate silk!
Finally, after starring at their carton while making a chocolate-soy-vegan-shake, I popped onto their website, and was pretty impressed with the advocacy they do - 100% wind renewable energy, soy beans grown on sustainable farms only, etc. The whole package. Check them out!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Ask Dr. Cobb!

Ask Dr. Cobb!

Did you know you can submit questions about process theology to the Dr. John Cobb at the Center for Process Studies?

I've mentioned, too often?, that John Cobb is one of my favorite theologians - and here's an illustration of why. I feel drawn to process theology in many ways - when I first was introduced to it in systematic theology in seminary
with this reader: Process Theology, I felt like I was finally reading something that answered, or at least addressed, a lot of questions that kept resurfacing in my faith journey. But process was like learning a whole new language, too, talking about God's 'lure', comparing eternity with everlastingness, simplicity/complexity, etc. What I like about John Cobb, though, is that despite what I perceive to be his great intellect, it seems so important to him that process theology does not get lost by becoming an inaccessible, unreadable essays and books. Keeping process theology a practical, applicable theology.

Another process thinker who does that: Marjorie Suchocki. I actually used a lot from her book God, Christ, Church in my interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry for Probationary Membership.

Ok, I'll try to stop posting about process theology for a bit!
A side note - the more I've been blogging, the more overwhelmed I become about the huge culture that is associated with blogging. It's crazy, and frankly, a little addicting!

Friday, July 09, 2004

beliefnet: interview with william sloane coffin

Check out this story from beliefnet, an interview with William Sloane Coffin -I was drawn to it by a link from the textweek blog, and I really found it meaningful. Some excerpts:

"My own feeling is you have to be as pastoral as you can be without surrendering one single iota of ethical initiative. Nothing ever stops a minister from saying, in the middle of the sermon: 'What I now want to say it’s hard for me to say, so I can imagine how painful it’s going to be for some of you to hear. Let us remember that in the church, our unity is based not on agreement, but on mutual concern. So let me tell you what’s on my heart and mind and then you be good enough to tell me where you think I went wrong.'"

Yes! This is precisely the dilemma that I constantly have in ministry - prophetic/pastoral conflicts. How do I work for the social justice causes about which I am passionate without alienating the congregation I am serving, the congregation that trusts me but that is not at the same place I am on many issues like this?

Another: "The churches are a reflection of the truth of Plato’s statement, "What’s honored in the country will be cultivated there." When we got started as a country, we had no more than 3 million people--less than Los Angeles County today. Yet we turned out Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton--you can name a list as long as your arm. How many people on the public stage can you name today who are of the caliber of those first men? And why aren’t there more? Because what’s honored in the country will be cultivated there...we have mediocre politicians, and the clergy is pretty mediocre also. But what’s honored in a country will be cultivated there. The greatest recession in this country is not economic; it’s spiritual. And so the great biblical mandates of pursuing justice and seeking peace are shortchanged.

Too many ministers, also, are dependent on the love of their congregation. A real friend is one who risks her friendship for the sake of her friend, rather than using the friend for the sake of her friendship. The clergy don’t speak out because they don’t want to risk the love of their congregation. It’s pathetic! If [a parishioner] says, "If you say anything like that again, you’ll never see me in this church again," you should say to him, "You know, I must have said something very important. It certainly got you all riled up." But most ministers would take the hand in both hands, "Oh, come on Joe. There must be some misunderstanding. I’ll call you. We’ll have a date over a cup of coffee."

If you’re shepherd of the flock, you’re supposed to keep the wolves out so more sheep can come in. And the hills are full of browsing sheep, wondering whether there’s room in the fold for them. But they look in and say, "There’s no Good Shepherd there, lots of wolves. I’ll stay browsing outside."

Here is another that hit the mark in me - the overwhelming desire to be liked, the overwhelming fear of making people mad, attempting to avoid conflicts at the cost of what should be, what is right. The wolf/sheep imagery - what kind of shepherd can I be?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Reflections on Luke 10:25-37 - Wesley White/Richard Fairchild quotes

On his site, Wesley White asks this question: "How many different ways can you speak about the importance of neighbors?"

He's talking about the Amos text for the lectionary on the 11th (7:7-17), but I think the question is more pervasive than that. How many times can Jesus speak about the importance of neighbors? How many times can God try to shake it into us that our concerns are few but overwhelming in their importance: love God, love neighbor.

I also really like Rev. Richard Fairchild's take on this Luke text in one of his sermons. He writes:

"It has been suggested - and I think rightly so given some of the teachings of the time and the reality of human nature at all times, that the lawyer
is really asking Jesus:

"Who is NOT my neighbour? Who is that I am allowed to ignore or to neglect? Perhaps even to hate? What is the minimal thing that I need to do to keep God's law of love - and what can I safely get away with not doing...

That is a horrifying approach to keeping the law of God isn't it? Who must I love - and who can I get away with not loving...

It is a horrifying approach to keeping the law of God - but it makes sense when you think about it; it makes sense when you look at the world and consider the problems within it."

Monday, July 05, 2004

atom feed link

I've been getting a lot of errors with people trying to get my blog feed for atom - I use feedburner so I can provide atom and RSS, but if you want the feed directly, please note that the url is: - an extra directory in there.

SojoNet - Claiming Religion Again for the Democrats

Check out this article from Sojourner's editor, Jim Wallis. In it, he urges Democrats to stop leaving religion, morals, and values, to the claim of Republicans.
I think this is a great and essentail issue for the elections. Why are the only 'morals' conservative morals? Why are the only values those that of the Republican party and the Bush administration? Here's a quote from the article:
"Some of us feel that our faith has been stolen; and it is time to take it back. In particular, an enormous misrepresentation of my Christian tradition has taken place. And because of an almost uniform media misperception, many people think Christian faith stands for political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning. How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American? It's time for a rescue operation-to get back to the historic, biblical, and a genuinely evangelical faith rescued from contemporary distortions. The good news is that the rescue operation has begun-in a time where the social crisis we face literally cries out for more progressive and prophetic religion."

Saturday, July 03, 2004

new bible translation?

Check out this article about a new bible translation, from a group of British Christians called The One.
The group, whose site I only briefly checked out, looks pretty interesting. Their members, says their site:
(1) Promote harmony between Christians.
(2) Participate with others in prayerful activity to establish peace, justice, dignity and rights for all.
(3) Live in a manner that supports sustainable use of the earth's resources.
(4) Challenge oppression, injustice, exclusion and discrimination.
(5) Accept one another, valuing their diversity and experience.

Seem like good value to me.

Anyway, their bible translation aims to make the text accessible for the unchurched. Obviously, liberties are taken with the text (aren't all translations this way?) Predictably, many Christians groups have already condemned it saying it "promotes fornication," which doesn't exactly seem to be the case from the quotes I've read! But definitely some fun and a good discussion piece - I want a copy!

Here are some of the new passages, as quoted in the news article I linked above:

"DIPPING INTO A NEW TRANSLATION (as reported in the Times)

Mark 1:4

Authorised version: 'John did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.'

New: 'John, nicknamed 'The Dipper', was 'The Voice'. He was in the desert, inviting people to be dipped, to show they were determined to change their ways and wanted to be forgiven.'

Mark 1:10-11

Authorised version: 'And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from the heaven saying, Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'

New: As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You're doing fine!''

Matthew 23:25

Authorised version: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!'

New version: 'Take a running jump, Holy Joes, humbugs!'

Matthew 26:69-70

Authorised version: 'Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, 'Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.' But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest'.

New: Meanwhile Rocky was still sitting in the courtyard. A woman came up to him and said: 'Haven't I seen you with Jesus, the hero from Galilee?' Rocky shook his head and said: 'I don't know what the hell you're talking about!' "

Thursday, July 01, 2004

thoughts on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 from Preaching Peace

Found this at one of my favorite sites, Preaching Peace, by Michael Hardin and Jeff Krantz:

"This [sermon time] is one of those moments when we might be most effective modeling for our congregations the behavior commended by Jesus to his disciples, giving our hearers something to imitate rather than speaking to them of their mission."

Yes! Truthfully, in fact, we are probably always most effective when we model instead of just preaching. The adage that actions speak louder than words is certainly one that holds true. In fact, isn't that why Jesus' message is so powerful? He did as well as taught.

Sermon, "In Denial," Mark 8:31-37

Sermon 2/20/24 Mark 8:31-37 In Denial My sermon title is both a reflection of our gospel text for today, and a reflection of how I felt abou...