Archive for July, 2012

Occupying Jurisdictional Conference

Monday, July 30th, 2012

When I attended the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference in 2008, I was amazed at the luxury we stayed in:  it was a stark difference from the small country church that I grew up in.  At some level there is always a struggle between local churches and the larger church surrounding apportionments (or ministry shares or taxes, however you want to name it).  I have seen the good work that money can do with missions and advocacy, but the lodging at the Northeastern Jurisdictional (NEJ) Conference showed me poor stewardship was practiced with money shared in good faith.  After 2008 I, along with others, shared our displeasure and requested that the committee consider a more affordable location, such as a college campus, where NEJ conferences had historically been held. 

A friend and I were fortunate enough to be elected as delegates to the 2012 NEJ conference.  When registering for the conference, we decided to refuse the expensive housing plan, and we brought a tent instead.  Having to work Monday, we drove down late and spent the first night in the back of my pickup truck.  After interviews on Tuesday, we set up our tent at the corner of the Civic Center and bedded down for the night with a sign outside asking folks if we could be better stewards.  Several from our delegation offered floor space or to even pitch in for a room.  There were others that offered support.  We made it through the night without being bothered; this itself was something to be celebrated.  We had anticipated being asked to leave and were prepared to do so.  We were pleased that our tent and sign were present as everyone walked to the session on Wednesday morning, but when we checked on the tent at the first break, it had been removed.  Civic Center staff stated that they had asked NEJ staffs if they would like the tent in place, and NEJ staff responded to have it removed.  After speaking with the Civic Center staff, they were glad to return the tent (though it seemed like having to go to see the principal).  

We hoped that delegates and visitors would see our tent and sign and be more aware of the need to spend our money more responsibly.  If you would prefer to see your Jurisdictional Conference offer more reasonably-priced lodging options or have delegates stay on a college campus, I would encourage contacting the chair of the programs and arrangements committee of your jurisdiction.

Northeastern Jurisdiction

Southeastern Jurisdiction

North Central Jurisdiction

South Central Jurisdiction

Western Jurisdiction

Maybe if we offered options for delegates to stay at a more affordable hotel, a college campus, or at a campground,  savings could be used to purchase more mosquito nets for sub-Saharan Africa, send more youth on mission trips, and live out our mission to transform the world.


Eric Yetter is a social worker and farmer.  He is a lay member of Tabernacle UMC in Binghamton NY, a reconciling congregation.

MFSA Emphasizes Social Holiness at Jurisdictional Conferences

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – July 23, 2012- Following the five recent Jurisdictional conferences of The United Methodist Church, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) expresses gratitude for delegates, volunteers, and church leaders for their service this past week. Each jurisdiction passed legislation surrounding extensive justice issues within The United Methodist church and around the world. MFSA staff was present at each Jurisdictional Conference to help monitor, shape, organize, and celebrate the actions of each region. “This is the first time MFSA has been involved at the Jurisdictional level,” said Jill A. Warren, Executive Director. “We consider our work to be a success and look forward to the ways in which we influence conversations moving forward.” The work of MFSA will continue this fall at Annual Conferences in The Philippines.

In the Northeastern Jurisdiction, delegates voted to recognize work of the Native American Ministries Task Force. A petition on the global nature of the Church was referred to a task force to be selected by the Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops. Rev. Scott Campbell, a member of the New England delegation, put forth legislation asking the Jurisdiction to recognize that those engaged in ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are not only bound by the Book of Discipline, but also “by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed,” and that “individuals who take punitive actions against others for offering the sacraments and rituals of the church on an equal basis do so contrary to the highest ideals of the United Methodist Church.” Campbell’s legislation was passed by the Conference with a 61% affirmative vote.

In Oklahoma City, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference included an intentional hands-on ministry experience with the Hunger Project at the Church of the Servant. MFSA applauds this action and encourages all United Methodist gatherings to put their faith into action in similar ways.

The Western Jurisdiction, while not electing bishops, engaged in appreciative inquiry to determine the movement of the Holy Spirit within the context of their shared ministry. The Jurisdiction reaffirmed their 2004 “We Will Not Be Silent” statement, affirming prophetic ministry with persons who have experienced marginalization within The United Methodist Church.

Three Jurisdictions participated in a process to elect new bishops for their regions. MFSA, working in tandem with Reconciling Ministries Network, supported delegates by providing a series of questions about values sought in episcopal nominees. Questions were included in many interview sessions across the connection and focused on understandings of grace, baptismal and ordination vows that come in conflict with the Book of Discipline, and a vision of a United Methodist Church that is free of racism and sexism.

Finally, each Jurisdiction approved nominations to denominational boards and agencies which carry out the work of the Church on a global level.  Warren states, “MFSA will work cooperatively with those who were elected bishop and those sit on these boards and agencies. We will also hold them accountable to carry out the work of General and Jurisdictional conferences over the next 4 years in ways that reflect our highest values as United Methodists.”

MFSA’s witness at Jurisdictional Conferences was buoyed through the use of social media for transparent communication, essential to any democratic process. “Twitter, Facebook, and text messaging, combined with face-to-face contact, created a unique opportunity to express progressive values to delegates and the broader community,” said Chett Pritchett, MFSA’s Development and Communication Associate. “Across the Church, I saw great interaction with those who call The United Methodist Church to a renewed emphasis on social holiness.”

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.


The U.S. Military and The United Methodist Church: When will the UMC catch up?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Excerpts from an article of interest

"As gays serve openly, few chaplain issues", July 5, 2012. Asbury Park Press

Washington (Associated Press) – "Col. Timothy Wagoner has been an Air Force Chaplain for 20 years, serving a denomination – the Southern Baptists – that rejects same-sex relationships.Yet here he was at the chapel he oversees, watching supportively as an airman and his male partner celebrated a civil union ceremony.

'I wouldn't miss it,' Wagoner said at the chapel at Joint Base McGuire Dix-Lakehurst, days later. 'I don't feel I'm compromising my beliefs…I'm supporting the community.'

Wagoner didn't officiate at the ceremony – he couldn't go quite that far.
But his very presence at the gathering was a marker of how things have changed for  active-duty clergy in the nine months since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed and gays could serve openly.

'As a Southern Baptist why was I here? I was here to lend support,'
Wagoner said. 'I was here supporting Airman Umali. I've worked with him.
He's a comrade in arms.'"


If this could happen in the US military, why not even more so in The United Methodist Church?

In less than a week the Jurisdictional Conferences will be meeting. They have the opportunity through discussion and resolutions to rescue the now fragmented and prohibition-shaped ministry of UMC clergy to LGBT persons, and same sex couples. Resolutions could be passed that express our denominational commitment to total, and not partial ministry, to same gender couples. The UMC dare not wait until  2016 to affirm and approve complete ministry to those whom we believe are "persons of sacred worth". We cannot be silent because of uncertainty about how the Judicial Council  would respond.

Some of us believe that a Judicial Council that could render unconstitutional, a denominational re-organization plan, would render our present restrictions  on clergy, in conflict and at variance with what we believe and say about ministry in the Book of Discipline.


Rev. Gill Caldwell is retired United Methodist clergy living in Asbury Park, NJ. He is former Associate General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race and one of the founders of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.  As a long-time MFSA supporter, Gil's ministry of writing challenges the United Methodist Church to be the best it can be.

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