A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57


Sunday, June 28, 2009

John Wesley's 306th Birthday Anniversary






John Wesley: June 28, 1703 to March 2, 1791

Sunday Worship Preview - July 5

Sunday, July 5 - (8:30 A.M. & 11:00 A.M. Traditional & 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - "Packing Tips"

Features - 5th Sunday After Pentecost & Holy Communion

Scriptures - II Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; II Corinthians 12:2-10; & Mark 6:1-13

Theme - In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus offers packing tips for the twelve disciples as they prepare to announce God’s inbreaking kingdom in the surrounding villages. On this Fourth of July weekend, what are the urgent issues facing us as a nation and how can we, the church, extend God’s healing love without wasting any time?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Giving Back





Way to go Joe and Sue Paterno!


Ancient Symbols for a Post-Modern World

"Excuse us, pastor. But we are curious as to what those symbols around the large cross stand for?" The two young men who asked me this question came up to me following a wedding rehearsal I conducted last night at the church.

Enthused that they felt willing to approach me and ask this question, I quickly explained that the twelve symbols around the cross represented the twelve disciples. They suspected that this would be my answer but just needed some confirmation. I explained the symbols and when I got to the top right symbol, the chalice and the serpent, I shared how this represented the Apostle John.

"He was the only disciple who wasn't killed for his faith. He lived to old age and because of his long life, became a very wise and trusted voice in the early church." One of the men commented that he wasn't aware that not all of the disciples had died for their faith.

And then I pointed out that the number twelve is an important biblical number because for Jesus, choosing twelve disciples was symbolic for the people of Israel since historically, Israel consisted of the twelve tribes. "So choosing twelve disciples was not an arbitrary number for Jesus. He deliberately chose twelve to show his continuity with God's calling of Israel (the twelve tribes) to be a light to the nations and bring blessing to the whole world. Jesus fulfilled this through his life, death, and resurrection."

This brief exchange reminded me of how important symbols are in the Christian faith and how post-moderns, including seekers and the unchurched, are interested in learning more about the meaning of Christian symbols. Sadly, we who have been part of the church for any length of time, tend to take these symbols for granted.

Thankfully, the church has a way of keeping these symbols fresh in our minds by following the liturgical calendar in which colors of paraments change according to the church season, setting out the Paschal Candle for specific Sundays, the clergy wearing various stoles, and utilizing symbols like a pitcher of water when celebrating baptisms. The Voice website has a link that explains some of our Christian symbols. It's presently under construction but it does have information on some symbols.

In our 21st century world, there is a growing hunger among people to know more about the symbols of our Christian faith. Sometimes, the way to draw closer to God and share our faith with others is right there in front of us.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Closing Program - Vacation Bible School




Over 200 children had a great week at Vacation Bible School learning about prayer and having a lot of wonderful fun, food, fellowship, and recreation.


The picture is from the closing as one of the age groups sang one of the songs they learned this week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why Do VBS Kids Love to Baptize Pastors???

Pastor Rick and I both got drenched in water this week at Vacation Bible School.

Check out the brief video of two VBS kids who told me how much they enjoyed seeing me get dunked in water.

The picture above is from tonight as I was responsible for making sure that the kids who were jumping in the spacewalk were following the rules. How did I get such a responsible job?


video

Quote of the Day

I haven't submitted a "quote of the day" for a while, so here's a good one to think about today.



"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” - Karl Barth

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dinner on a Porch

Members of our church, Bill & Karen Turner, invited Penny and me to their beautiful country home for dinner tonight. We knew the meal was going to be amazing since Karen is a wonderful cook, but we didn't realize how wonderful the atmosphere was going to be.

We enjoyed our meal outside on their picturesque front porch. They brought everything out on a cart and with a gentle breeze, a nice temperature, the sun just beginning to set in the west, and a humming bird nearby, we had a wonderful time sharing stories and taking in the evening.

This was one of those "God is truly present" kind of moments where grace was abounding.

Thank you Bill and Karen, for a wonderful evening of food and fellowship as God's creation surrounded us in all of it's beauty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Lumps of Clay" by Steve Robbins

One of my church members, Steve Robbins, is a creative writer who often shares his work with me. His most recent piece is "Lumps of Clay." What I appreciate about Steve is that he is also a successful international businessman who offers his gift of writing to be a blessing to others.

Listen for the Genesis creation story lurking in the background of this piece.

Thanks for sharing, Steve!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Worship Preview - June 28

Sunday, June 28 - (8:30 A.M. & 11:00 A.M. Traditional & 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - "Hitting Your STRIDE – Experiences"

Features - 4th Sunday After Pentecost & Holy Baptism (11 A.M.)

Scriptures - II Samuel 1:1, 17-27 & Mark 5:21-43

Theme - What does it mean to "hit our stride" in being the fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be? This is our question for the four Sundays in June. Today, we conclude this sermon series by celebrating the ways God uses our experiences, good and bad, to draw us closer to Jesus Christ and to each other for service in the community.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tomorrow's Sermon

During tomorrow's sermon on "Hitting Your STRIDE - Individuality & Dreams," I'm planning on sharing how my particular personality type is the rarest type among males. Out of sixteen possible personality type variations, my particular mix represents only 1/2 percent of all males.

So this explains it!

Here's my personality type (See the sidebar of my web blog for this information as well):
  • Introvert (Renew energy by being alone)
  • Intuition (Focus on creativity more than facts)
  • Feeling (Decide more from the heart than from logic)
  • Judging (Like structure more than being care-free)

To complete a free personality type inventory go to the "My Personality" website.

One of the big advantages of knowing what type of personality we each have is that it helps us to not only appreciate who we are but who others are as well. We have all been made in God's image.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s
womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your
works; that I know very well
.” - Psalm 139:13-14


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy 201st Birthday, Xenia: Faith Community United Methodist!


Today brings back many great memories of last year's 200th birthday celebration with the Bishop sharing with us on the Sunday before our church's birthday.

The line he used in his sermon was, "How ironic. It's your birthday, but you're the gift!"

So true.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Books Recently Read - "Axiom" by Bill Hybels


Last week, I finished reading Bill Hybels' book, "Axiom" which is a book on Christian leadership. It's a new book that was published in 2008.

Hybels has been pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois for over thirty years and "Axiom" lists seventy-six leadership principles that he has implemented with success over the course of his ministry.

He divides these leadership principles into four major categories:
  • Vision & Strategy
  • Teamwork & Communication
  • Activity & Assessment
  • Personal Integrity

Here is a very brief sampling of my highlights from reading the book:

  • Don't be afraid to ask people to do something great for God
  • Remember that vision leaks. We need to constantly fill the vision bucket and remind ourselves of God's preferred future for our church/ministry.
  • Churches typically lose 10% of their membership each year which means leaders/congregations need to be very intentional if they want to see the church grow.
  • Hybels uses a "rapture" theology reference which is incidental to his point, not that this surprised me, but it's not my understanding of the second coming of Christ. For my perspective on the 2nd coming, read the post, "Where's Jesus."
  • The most important parts of a meeting are the beginning and the end. The last thing that happens in a meeting room will be what people remember. We tend to give the greatest focus to the middle of the meeting.
  • I like the "umbrella of mercy" concept which encourages creative brainstorming so people know to not offer their personal judgments or criticisms too quickly when they hear an idea expressed.
  • Every church leader should respond to people's requests/inquiries within 24 hours. There's no excuse for delayed responses.
  • When beginning a ministry, always plan for making it sustainable. Most of us are so focused on getting a ministry off the ground, that we don't plan for it's long term sustainability.
  • Studies show that if you work more than 10 hour days, your effectiveness will dry up and you will experience diminishing returns.
  • Effective leaders read. Read a variety of books, periodicals, etc. that will help you to be effective in ministry.
  • I like this leadership principle which is very Wesleyan. Don't be late for meetings. Show up ahead of schedule. Lead by example.
  • Hybels references a personal story of seeing the great tennis player, Martina Navratilova working out in a gym at the crack of dawn, the morning after she had just won a grueling match in a different state! I've heard similar stories about Tiger Woods. Effective leaders are disciplined.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Wesleyan Prayer

A big thanks to Rev. Ken Carter of Providence United Methodist Church in North Carolina for creating this prayer. This prayer captures the Wesleyan spirit at its core.

A Wesleyan Prayer

O God, you are high and lifted up,
and yet yours is the still, small voice within us.
We pray as the church evangelical and catholic,
whose one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.
We pause to acknowledge the tensions within this body:
between who we have been, in your providence,
and who we might become, in your grace;
between the personal holiness that is our conversion,
and the social holiness that is our compassion;
between a preference for order and tradition,
and an anticipation of recreation and new birth;
between an appreciation for who we are, as Methodists,
and an awareness that in your house there are many mansions.

Remind us, O God, that these tensions give us our very life
as your body:
If we are catholic and not evangelical,
we become ritualistic and rule-oriented,
having the form without the power of your presence.
If we are evangelical and not catholic,
we plant ourselves at some distance
from the streams of living water
that have carried us forward until this moment.
For the gift that is your church, O God,
the earthen vessel that nevertheless
contains the treasure of the good news,
we give you thanks and praise.
In the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(A Prayer written by Ken Carter for the Committee on Faith and Order
of the United Methodist Church, June, 2009)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June 14 Sermon - "Hitting Your STRIDE - Talents & Resources"







Sunday Worship Preview - June 21

Sunday, June 21 - (8:30 A.M. & 11:00 A.M. Traditional & 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - "Hitting Your STRIDE – Individuality & Dreams"

Features - 3rd Sunday After Pentecost; Receiving of New Members; Holy Baptism; & Fathers’ Day

Scriptures - Psalm 139:13-16; Acts 2:17-18; Romans 12:1-18

Theme - What does it mean to “hit our stride” in being the fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be? “STRIDE” is an acronym we have been using to help us reach our fullest potential. On June 7, we focused on the letter “S” which stands for our spiritual gifts. The letters “T” and “R” stand for our talents and resources which we looked at last Sunday. And today, we arrive at the letters “I” and “D” to help us identify our individuality and dreams.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bless Israel at the Expense of the Palestinians?

One of the nine recommendations that came before the West Ohio Annual Conference session this year was a "Resolution on Investigating Companies Supporting the
Occupation of Palestinian Territories."

Here's one of the main points of the resolution:

"Therefore, be it resolved that a task force chosen by the Let Justice Roll lead team and the
West Ohio Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits review and research companies
that may be contributing to the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and formulate
recommendations with regard to possible divestment."

In the course of the debate on this issue (two speeches for and two against) one of the common threads in opposition was regarding a theological viewpoint that the bible claims that we should support Israel because if we don't, God will not bless us. I'm not sure who "us" is. Maybe United Methodists. Maybe West Ohio United Methodists who were voting on the issue. Maybe Christians in general. Or maybe, the United States.

This theology that claims that God's blessing is in relation or is proportional to how people favor or not favor 21st century Israeli policies is so strong within some Christian circles, that it's difficult to help people realize that this sentiment might be the result of a misunderstanding of the scriptures.

Yes, Israel has a very special place in God's heart. They are the people whom God has chosen to be a blessing to all of creation. When God called Abraham to become the Father of Israel in Genesis 12, there is a verse that talks about blessings and curses, but what gets lost in that passage of scripture is the part that reads, "and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." - Genesis 12:3c
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The whole point of God calling Abraham and Israel to be God's covenant people was that it would be through them that God would bring salvation to all of creation. A big part of the scriptural telling of this calling is in how God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land. However, the point of that story is to be seen in the context of an even bigger story in which God doesn't just want to claim the Promised Land. God's intention is to ultimately reclaim all of creation.

When our theological view focuses only or primarily on God's intention for Israel to occupy the Promised Land at almost all or any cost, we miss the bigger picture of God's concern to one day reclaim all of creation, and not just a geographical sliver of it. And of course, God has been faithful to this covenant promise by sending Jesus Christ, who became the true representative of Israel through his obedience, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension.

In other words, through Jesus, God's rescue of all of creation (not just the Promised Land) has already been inaugurated. Theologically speaking, the Promised Land is an important part of God's plan to rescue all of creation, but is not the only focus.

All of this is a theological context regarding the geographical area of Israel and I realize that there are several other issues at work here, not least of which is the 20th century holocaust which made it imperative for people of the Jewish faith to have their own homeland. Adding this historical reality to the mix makes any talk of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict difficult in finding a hopeful solution.

But what we (meaning Christians) do not want to do, is further complicate matters by propagating a misinformed theology of Israel that has as its focus a geographical piece of land at the expense of the whole world, all of which has been created by God and who called it, "good."

Let justice roll.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Extravagant Generosity - West Ohio Annual Conference

Our West Ohio Annual Conference Love First Miracle Offering goal was $325,000. If I remember correctly, the final number before leaving Lakeside today was approximately $379,000, well above our goal and worthy of "extravagant generosity" status!

Xenia: Faith Community contributed $891 as well as several school kits. The offering will be used to support leadership development efforts in West Ohio and around the world:
  • $75,000 will go to support clergy and lay leadership training in our four mission partnerships in Southeast Asia, the North Katanga Conference in the Congo, the Oriental Conference in Mexico and the Volga District in Russia.
  • $100,000 will go to support West Ohio Conference's Next Generation leadership development efforts.
  • 10,000 school kits for children in the United States and around the world (valued at $150,000).

Ginghamsburg Worship and Preaching Team - West Ohio Annual Conference

Our West Ohio Annual Conference was blessed this week with the presence of the Ginghamsburg UMC praise team and the teaching presentations by pastors Sue Nilson Kibbey and Mike Slaughter.

Sue Nison Kibbey spoke on "Developing Leaders." Here are some of her key points:
  • According to Psalm 37:4-9, God wants to do wonderful things through each of our lives.
  • The 20/80 barrier (20% of the people will usually do 80% of the work) is a huge problem in most local churches. Sometimes, the 20% people prevent the 80% to get involved because the 20% only want the 80% to do the ministries they are doing!
  • In order to break the 20/80 barrier, the 20% people need to develop a church atmosphere in which the 80% are given permission to be involved in the new ministries they want to do and not just the ones which we feel are critical to do.

Mike Slaughter spoke on "Leading a Missional Movement." Here are some of the key points:

  • The local church leaders need to always ask and answer these basic three classic questions: 1) What is our business? Answer: Making disciples for the transformation of the world. 2) Who is our customer? Answer: The poor according to Isaiah. 3) What does our customer value? Answer: God's healing grace and love.
  • In order to be faithful to our mission in the church we always need the three "p's." P - Picture (what's your picture of God's preferred future?) P - Plan (which includes loving God and neighbor.) P - Practice
  • Our missional strategy are the three "c's." C - Celebration (Worship) C - Cell (Accountable small groups) C - Call (Serve in the world)
  • A process for assimilation of new people includes 1) Radical Hospitality 2) Personal connection with the pastor(s) 3) Care System 4) Opportunities for service

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Annual Conference Lakeside Group Picture

Here's our group picture at the West Ohio Annual Conference in Lakeside, Ohio. The picture includes delegates from Xenia: Faith Community UM, Port William UMC, Evangelical UMC, Cedarville UMC, Forest Chapel UMC, & John Wesley UMC.

Together, we have worshipped, learned, discussed proposed legislation, prayed, and enjoyed great meals.

Annual Conference often feels like a family reunion with 3,000 United Methodist family members and most particularly with the folks in the group picture.
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Rethink Church - New UMC Media Focus


One of the highlights of Tuesday's West Ohio Conference session was a presentation given by folks representing the "Rethink Church" media focus of the United Methodist Church.

Their research has shown that in order to reach the unchurched, we need to appeal to their felt need of wanting to be part of a community of faith which is actively making a difference in the world.

Translation: the unchurched don't want to waste time "playing church" by simply sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. Check out this "Rethink Church" promotional video. Shorter advertising segments will be shown on TV.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Absolutely Beautiful Day at Lakeside, Ohio

Well, today was the 2nd full day of the West Ohio conference and we had more inspiring worship and preaching. We also voted on the constitutional amendments to the Book of Discipline given to us from last year's General Conference.
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After long morning and afternoon sessions in Hoover Auditorium, some of us went for a walk down by Lake Erie and I took this picture of a cottage owner watering her beautiful flowers. It was 75 degrees, sunny, and no humidity today.

Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 8, 2009

June 7 Sermon - "Hitting Your STRIDE - Spiritual Gifts"







Hope for Africa Children's Choir - Fantastic!

OK, we were immediately blown away by the Hope for Africa Children's Choir who sang and danced at our opening worship service at annual conference this morning.

I had goose bumps as I watched and listened to them. Wow!

Sunday Night & Monday at Annual Conference

Upon arrival at Lakeside, Ohio, we dropped off about 25 bags of potatoes being collected for the hungry thanks for the generosity of the Faith Community congregation! That's Pastor Rex helping unload our van load of potatoes. He looks like he is already into reflective "holy conferencing."

I'm staying with Joyce and Rick Smith, Pastor Rex Robinson, and Pastor Mark Putman in a beautiful cottage. Mary Carol Short, another lay delegate has been with us for the sessions. We're part of 3,000 lay and clergy United Methodists gathered for worship and "holy conferencing."

Today (Monday) we heard an inspiring message from Pastor Junius Dotson who serves the St. Mark's UMC congregation in Wichita, KS. Junius. He's known as a church planter and motivational speaker and his theme was, "You're Closer than You Think."

As far as legislations go, we have completed Recommendations #1, #3, & #4. We still have meetings tonight.

It's been great to see lay and pastor friends from various churches.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Trinity Sunday!





Collect of the Day: Trinity Sunday
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday Worship Preview - June 14

Sunday, June 14 - (8:30 A.M. & 11:00 A.M. Traditional & 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - "Hitting Your STRIDE – Talents & Resources"

Features - 2nd Sunday After Pentecost & Coins for Missions Sunday (Coins placed in the offering will help support St. Paul UMC Outreach Center in Dayton, FISH Food Pantry, the Caring Place Meal Ministry in Xenia, & IHN which provides temporary housing for families in need)

Scriptures - Acts 4:32-37 & Matthew 25:14-30

Theme - What does it mean to "hit our stride" in being the fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be? This is our question for the four Sundays in June. On this second Sunday, our focus is on identifying and using our talents and resources to help build up the church to bring transformation to the world.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Indescribable Gift: Grace - Part II

The Gratitude Dance. God's indescribable gift of grace will do this to you. Check it out.

The Indescribable Gift: Grace - Part I

"The Daily Office" method of reading scripture focuses on the theme of grace in all three scripture readings today (Old Testament, Epistle, & Gospel.) I love how the Apostle Paul refers to God's grace as an indescribable gift in II Corinthians 9:15.

Sometimes if I'm really paying attention at any given moment, God's grace is so real to me that like Paul, I can only refer to it as indescribable. That's how wonderful God's grace is. God's unmerited favor is being extended to me through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I've included a portion of each of today's "Daily Office" readings which refer to how God's indesribable gift of grace is at work.

"Lord, help me to be aware of your indescribable gift of grace, not just on sunny, blue sky days, but during the stormy days as well. Amen."

Moses reminds the Israelites of God's indescribable gift of grace through their deliverance from slavery in Egypt:
Deut. 29:2-15 (NRSV)
2Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 3the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. 4But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear. 5I have led you forty years in the wilderness. The clothes on your back have not worn out, and the sandals on your feet have not worn out; 6you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink-so that you may know that I am the LORD your God. 7When you came to this place, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan came out against us for battle, but we defeated them. 8We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 9Therefore diligently observe the words of this covenant, in order that you may succeed in everything that you do.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of why they are offering their generous financial gift to help the struggling church in Jerusalem. It's because of God's indescribable gift of grace!
II Corinthians 9:13-15
13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Jesus reminds the disciples that the more we sow God's love, the more we will reap God's indescribable gift of grace.
Luke 18:26-29
26Those who heard it said, 'Then who can be saved?' 27He replied, 'What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.' 28Then Peter said, 'Look, we have left our homes and followed you.' 29And he said to them, 'Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.'

Friday, June 5, 2009

The United Methodist Way of Voting on Issues

Sometimes, people ask me how I will vote on a particular issue at Annual Conference. Let's face it. Most, if not all of us, have a sense of how we will vote on an issue before we even go to a meeting.

People sometimes wonder why United Methodists do not allow for absentee balloting at church meetings. It's because of John Wesley's emphasis on "Holy Conferencing." Wesley believed that conferencing was a "means of grace" in which our discussions, deliberations, and decisions, were a means whereby God's unmerited favor was made present through the gathering of God's people.

If we would cast a vote and not attend a meeting or come to a meeting with our minds already decided on a particular issue, we end up blocking a fuller understanding of the issues that are before us through the discussions and the information that is shared.

I have found that what I thought would be an obvious way to vote on a particular issue ended up being a lot more complex than when I had first read a proposal on paper. When we truly listen to each other, especially those who represent "the other side" of an issue, God is able to help us arrive at a decision that will be faithful to the gospel and the mission of the church.

"Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors"

It's more than a slogan.

2009 West Ohio Annual Conference (June 7-11)

Our West Ohio Annual Conference consisting of lay and clergy representing 1,150 United Methodist churches meets June 7 to 11 at the historic and scenic Lakeside grounds, in Lakeside, Ohio, along Lake Erie.

In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.

Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.

I have posted 7 of the 9 recommendations each day this past week. The final two recommendations are regarding a pensions and an equitable salary report. Because those are mostly related to information, I won't included these on my blog, but these can be reviewed on the West Ohio Conference website.
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Each year, a miracle offering is received during conference and this year, Faith Community will be providing a check of approximately $850 which will go to support pastoral leadership development which is one of four major goals established by the 2008 General Conference.
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I notice the West Ohio Conference's Annual Conference link has an RSS feed if you want to follow the developments of our June 7 to 11 meetings. Or you can simply just go to the website periodically to find updates.
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The picture above is Hoover auditorium where 3,000 lay and clergy United Methodists will be gathering for worship and plenary sessions.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finding God in the Shack - Session #6


This morning, my Thursday bible study concluded our study on the best selling novel, "The Shack." We're using the resource, "Finding God in the Shack" by Roger E. Olson which examines the approach the novel takes in explaining how a good, loving, and all powerful God can allow suffering and evil in the world and a creative approach to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity.

Here are the highlights from today's final session:
  • The author of "Finding God in the Shack" questions the novel's happy ending as it relates to real life and matters of faith. Is it possible for an encounter with God to help someone become healed from clinical depression? This is an important question because sometimes Christians become frustrated when people do not receive this type of dramatic emotional healing even after a powerful encounter with God.
  • Like the Book of Job in the Bible, "The Shack" does not attempt to give a full proof answer as to why tragic things happen in life. But it does suggest that even though God is all loving, God has chosen to not always exercise his power to bring healing.
  • Our bible study group talked about the importance of living with the tension of Christian triumphalism ("claim the victory in Jesus" rhetoric) on one hand, and deep despair (lamentations) on the other. Both of these extremes as well as everything in the middle can be found throughout the scriptures.
  • Some well known Christian writers and theologians such as St. Augustine, William Cowper, and C.S. Lewis have suffered from times of deep spiritual wilderness.
  • The final chapter of "Finding God in the Shack" focused on what is heresy and what is not heresy. Some Christians are quick to find heresy in other Christians or denominations or churches. The author doesn't believe the novel falls into heresy at all. Instead it helps us to see God in a very creative way that is rooted in historic Christianity.

Next Thursday, my bible study group will begin a new study on the book, "Laughing Out Loud" by Tom Mullen. Yes, we are switching gears to the more lighter side of our faith.


2009 West Ohio Annual Conference (June 7-11) - Recommendation #7

Our West Ohio Annual Conference consisting of lay and clergy representing 1,150 United Methodist churches meets June 7 to 11 at the historic and scenic Lakeside grounds, in Lakeside, Ohio, along Lake Erie.

In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.

Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.

Each day leading up to the beginning of Annual Conference, I am providing a recommendation so we can all begin praying and think about these issues that are before us. You are welcome to make comments on this blog regarding these issues.

RECOMMENDATION #7
2 Episcopal Residence Committee Report
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4 Report
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6 Upon the reappointment of Bishop Ough, the committee, which is comprised of the chairs of the
7 Episcopacy Committee, Board of Trustees and Council on Finance Administration, reviewed its
8 responsibilities under the approved 2008 Resolution 3.
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10 The reappointment presented an opportunity to review anew the immediate need to make a
11 change in our Episcopal Residence. The committee weighed the current needs with the
12 conference’s finances and the economic downturn and met with Bishop and Mrs. Ough. The
13 committee concluded that a new residence is needed, but should be acquired such that our next
14 bishop will move directly into it in 2012. The committee will bring forth a plan in 2010 that will
15 result in a new residence for our next bishop.
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17 Recommendation
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19 WHEREAS, the Episcopal Residence Committee (ERC) is required to provide suitable housing
20 for the Area Bishop, and
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22 WHEREAS the 2008 Annual Conference voted to invest up to $450,000 as appropriate for a new
23 residence, and
24
25 WHEREAS Bishop Ough was reassigned to the Ohio West Area, and
26
27 WHEREAS the ERC reviewed the immediate needs of the bishop and consulted with Bishop and
28 Mrs. Ough, and
29
30 WHEREAS the ERC considered acquiring immediately a new residence or delaying it until 2012
31 and the appointment of the next bishop, and
32
33 WHEREAS the ERC concluded that deferring the purchase of a different Episcopal Residence is
34 in the best interest of the West Ohio Conference,
35
36 THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 2008 resolution on the Episcopal Residence be
37 rescinded, and
38
39 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the ERC continue to develop a new timeline and plan for a
40 new residence, and present it to the 2010 Annual Conference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2009 West Ohio Annual Conference (June 7-11) - Recommendation #6

Our West Ohio Annual Conference consisting of lay and clergy representing 1,150 United Methodist churches meets June 7 to 11 at the historic and scenic Lakeside grounds, in Lakeside, Ohio, along Lake Erie.

In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.

Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.

Each day leading up to the beginning of Annual Conference, I am providing a recommendation so we can all begin praying and think about these issues that are before us. You are welcome to make comments on this blog regarding these issues.

RECOMMENDATION #6
2 Resolution on Investigating Companies Supporting the
3 Occupation of Palestinian Territories
4
5
6 Whereas we affirm Israel’s right to exist within permanent, recognized and secure
7 borders, and Palestinians’ rights to self-determination and formation of a viable state; and
8
9 Whereas the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from moving its
10 own people into territory it occupies, and there are currently almost 500,000 Israeli settlers in the
11 occupied Palestinian territories, with thousands of new settler housing units being planned and
12 constructed, making a viable Palestinian state less likely,
13
14 Whereas Palestinian land is still being confiscated for these settlements and for
15 construction of a separation wall now advancing deep inside the Palestinian territories,
16
17 Whereas to make room for such illegal settlements Israel has illegally demolished
18 hundreds of Palestinian homes, leaving thousands of Palestinians homeless, destroyed hundreds
19 of acres of olive trees, devastating the Palestinian economy, confiscated thousands of acres of
20 land in the Palestinian territories for Israeli settlements and built hundreds of miles of exclusive
21 settlement access roads, all of which has placed nearly half of the Palestinian Territories under
22 settler use and control;
23
24 Whereas the above illegal destruction of Palestinian homes and economy, and
25 confiscation of Palestinian land, is made possible by the use of armored bulldozers, helicopter
26 gunships, tanks and other equipment supplied to Israel by multinational corporations that profit
27 from such violent and deadly activities;
28
29 Whereas, “The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the
30 West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources,
31 the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and
32 any vision of a ‘Greater Israel’ that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem
33 and its surroundings;” (2008 Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, Resolution
34 6073: “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land”).
35
36 Whereas the United Methodist Church should not profit from the illegal Israeli
37 occupation of Palestinian land or the destruction of Palestinian homes, orchards, and lives,
38
39 Whereas we are committed to ensuring that our denomination’s money is used in a
40 manner consistent with our beliefs, with international law, and with Christ’s teaching,
41
42 Whereas we are called to support members of Christ’s church around the world,
43 including Palestinian Christians who are being forced to leave the Holy Land due to Israel’s
44 confiscation of their property and the severe hardships of living under occupation,
45
1 Whereas the United Methodist Church requires “careful consideration of divestment”
2 from companies that “support violations of human rights;” (2008 Book of Discipline of The
3 United Methodist Church, Paragraph 716: “Socially Responsible Investing”)
4
5 Whereas the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBOPHB) is mandated to
6 screen all their investments according to the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions,
7 and has an active and ecumenical department, the Socially Responsible Investing department, or
8 SRI, to do this work,
9
10 Whereas many local congregations and all West Ohio Conference investment counselors
11 screen their investments through the SRI department of the General Board of Pension and Health
12 Benefits,
13
14 Therefore, be it resolved that a task force chosen by the Let Justice Roll lead team and the
15 West Ohio Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits review and research companies
16 that may be contributing to the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and formulate
17 recommendations with regard to possible divestment.
18
19 Be it further resolved that within six months this task force will meet with the GBOPHB
20 SRI department for purposes of dialogue and to share its own research and recommendations.
21
22 Be it further resolved that United Methodist congregations and investment managers in
23 the West Ohio conference will be kept informed of the work of the task force and encouraged to
24 examine their portfolios in light of the task force’s final report after meeting with the GBOPHB
25 SRI department.
26
27 Be it further resolved that the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church
28 calls on the U.S. government, the government of Israel, and the elected Palestinian leadership to
29 reject all acts of aggression and violence, to respect the equality and dignity of all the region’s
30 people, and to forge solutions based on the principles of international law and human rights.
31
32 Be it further resolved that we affirm the right of all faiths to freedom of movement in the
33 Holy Land, and that we affirm the maintenance of Jerusalem as an open city for people of all
34 faiths in accordance with Resolution 312 of the United Methodist 2004 General Conference
35 Book of Resolutions.
36
37 Proposed by Rev. John Wagner, Chair, Let Justice Roll lead team
38 Endorsed by:
39 Rev. Brett Kelly, Peace with Justice Coordinator
40 Deacon Elizabeth Rand
41 The Let Justice Roll Lead Team,
42 The Executive Committee of United Methodist Women, West Ohio Conference


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 West Ohio Annual Conference (June 7-11) Recommendation #5

Our West Ohio Annual Conference consisting of lay and clergy representing 1,150 United Methodist churches meets June 7 to 11 at the historic and scenic Lakeside grounds, in Lakeside, Ohio, along Lake Erie.

In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.

Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.

Each day leading up to the beginning of Annual Conference, I am providing a recommendation so we can all begin praying and think about these issues that are before us. You are welcome to make comments on this blog regarding these issues.

RECOMMENDATION #5
2 Central Conference Pension Fund
3
4 Whereas the 2008 recommendation #10 was approved after amendment at last year’s Annual
5 Conference (see page 306, 2008 Journal), and
6
7 Whereas the original recommendation was to provide $200,000 to the Central Conference
8 Pension Fund for 2008, and
9
10 Whereas it was amended to $400,000 for 2008 and four successive years at $400,000 per year,
11 and
12
13 Whereas the economy over the next four year is unsure and it would not be in good stewardship
14 to overdraw the medical or pension fund
15
16 Therefore, let it be resolved that the $400,000 each year should be a goal and not a mandate.
17
18 Further be it resolved that the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits fund the CCPI
19 in accordance with the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits plan documents and
20 policies, and
21
22 Further be it resolved that the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits report annually
23 the pledge and paid amount to the CCPI.
24
25 Submitted by Jim Sies, Treasurer
26 Brecon United Methodist Church
27 Ohio River Valley District

2009 West Ohio Annual Conference (June 7-11) - Recommendation #4

Our West Ohio Annual Conference consisting of lay and clergy representing 1,150 United Methodist churches meets June 7 to 11 at the historic and scenic Lakeside grounds, in Lakeside, Ohio, along Lake Erie.

In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.

Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.

Each day leading up to the beginning of Annual Conference, I am providing a recommendation so we can all begin praying and think about these issues that are before us. You are welcome to make comments on this blog regarding these issues.

RECOMMENDATION #4 (A Partial Report)
2 Council on Finance and Administration Recommendations
3 Calendar Year 2010
4
5 Special Days and/or Offerings
6
7 General Church Special Sundays - 2010
8 1. January 17 Human Relations Day (Offering)
9 2. March 14 One Great Hour of Sharing (Offering)
10 3. April 18 Native American Awareness (Offering)
11 4. May 30 Peace with Justice (Offering)
12 5. October 3 World Communion Sunday (Offering)
13 6. November 28 United Methodist Student Day (Offering)
14 West Ohio Special Emphasis Days
15 1. January 10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
16 2. February Black History Month
17 3. February 14 Scout Sunday
18 4. March (your choice of day) Camp Sunday
19 5. April 18 Heritage Sunday
20 6. May (your choice of day) Golden Cross Sunday (Optional offering)
21 7. May (your choice of day) Rural Life Sunday (Optional offering)
22 8. June (your choice of day) Hunger Awareness
23 9. September (your choice of day) Christian Education
24 10. September/October Festival of Sharing
25 11. October (your choice of day) Access Sunday
26 12. October (your choice of day) Children’s Sabbath
27 13. October (your choice of day) Laity Sunday
28
29 Other approved offerings and appeals:
30 1. Special gifts by churches, classes, or individuals to METHESCO and the United Theological
31 Seminary, for scholarship funds.
32 2. Churches may make donations of food and clothing through CROP, which is the food
33 collection agency of Church World Service. Special gift vouchers will be issued by UMCOR
34 for receipts forwarded to them.
35 3. CFA has approved a conference-wide appeal by the United Methodist Children’s Home.
36 Deadlines
37 December 28, 2009 Last day to receive vouchers in treasurer’s office for invoices to be paid
38 in 2009.
39 January 4, 2010 Last day to mail payments for 2009 apportionments.
40 January 8, 2010 Last day to receive 2009 apportionment payments in conference
41 treasurer’s office.
42 February 5, 2010 Last day to mail 2009 Statistician and Treasurer’s reports.
43 February 8, 2010 Last day to receive 2009 Statistician and Treasurer’s reports.

Monday, June 1, 2009

We Miss You Dad! Norman McDowell - November 7, 1928 to June 1, 1989

"A Gift to My Husband" by Penny McDowell on behalf of Janelle McDowell, 1989

A quiet man to us God sent
Not ours to keep, but only lent.
He loved the sport, he loved the earth
He loved us all and gave us worth.

She loved the man, she loved his life,
Hand in hand she became his wife.
He was her love, he was her friend,
She loves him now even more than then.

In mountains grand he was at home;
The woods and glades he loved to roam.
His favorite bird is blue and free
He loved to hear them sing from the trees.

His first has strength just as he had;
The next his joy; she's always glad.
His first born-son is calm and warm
The last is one in his own form.

A quiet man to us God sent
Not ours to keep, but only lent.
He loved the sport, he loved the earth,
He loved us all and gave us worth.

2009 West Ohio Conference (June 7-11) - Recommendation #3

Our West Ohio Annual Conference consisting of lay and clergy representing 1,150 United Methodist churches meets June 7 to 11 at the historic and scenic Lakeside grounds, in Lakeside, Ohio, along Lake Erie.

In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.

Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.

Each day leading up to the beginning of Annual Conference, I am providing a recommendation so we can all begin praying and think about these issues that are before us. You are welcome to make comments on this blog regarding these issues.

RECOMMENDATION #3
2 Strength for Today…Bright Hope for Tomorrow
3
4 WHEREAS, the Strength for Today…Bright Hope for Tomorrow campaign committee was
5 discontinued in 2008 and the on-going work of donor identification, cultivation and solicitation
6 for the Initiative has been fully integrated into the mission of the Council on Development; and
7
8 WHEREAS, Recommendation #8, Financial Strength for Today Revisited, was passed at the
9 2006 Annual Conference in the following form (bordered and italicized for reading
10 convenience):

WHEREAS, on June 9, 2003, the West Ohio Annual Conference authorized
that “Money raised through the fund drive will be held and placed in an
investment fund by the West Ohio Conference Board of Trustees and then
distributed over a 10-15 year period. Each year an amount, determined by
the Conference Board of Trustees, will be granted to local churches by the
Board of Congregational and Community Development (for new ministry
starts and the revitalization of existing ministries) and to the area of
Leadership Development (for recruiting, training and retention of clergy and
lay leadership). Administrative costs will be netted from the original
corpus.”

WHEREAS, the above action of recovering administrative costs “from the
original corpus” meant that campaign expenses were never formally
incorporated into the Conference Council on Finance and Administration’s
budgets which led to campaign expenses not having been in budgets
approved by the Annual Conference, i.e., they have been “off of the books”.
WHEREAS, on June 15, 2005, the West Ohio Annual Conference, in its
passage of Recommendation #8
• Provided for the repayment of campaign expenses from specific
contributions for that purpose and mandated a half tithe on all
other contributions;
• Reiterated the 2003 empowerment of the Board of Trustees and the
Board of Congregational and Community Development in funding
decisions flowing from the proceeds of the campaign;
• Called on the Conference Council on Finance and Administration
to limit Conference spending to authorized budget items and to
report to the 2006 Annual conference on the use of Line of Credit
funds; and
• Indicated support for all efforts to raise the level of apportionment
participation, and called for a plan to be in place by September
2005 to increase the number of churches paying apportionments in
full, but did not indicate who was responsible for making this
happen, nor is it clear that such a plan is in place.

32 WHEREAS, one of the four foci affirmed by the 2008 General Conference of The United
33 Methodist Church to guide the United Methodists at the dawn of the 21st century is “Developing
34 principled Christian leaders for the church and the world”; and
35
36 WHEREAS, current release of held funds is necessary for meaningful outcomes of Leadership
37 Development especially in the appointment of Residents;
38
39 THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,
40
41 In keeping with the 2003 Annual Conference approved action, affirmed in 2005 and
42 2006 regarding administrative costs and fees, the administrative costs for “Strength
43 for Today…Bright Hope for Tomorrow” continue to be repaid as follows:
44
45 1. Donors may designate their gifts for campaign expenses.
46 2. Earnings on gifts held for distribution will be allocated for campaign
47 expenses until they are paid.
48 3. 5 percent of all gifts will be allocated for campaign expenses until they
49 are paid.

WHEREAS, an Annual Conference cannot commit a future Annual
Conference on financial matters.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,
A. The provisions of the 2003 Annual conference resolution iterated above
be carried forward through 2007.
B. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration continue to
report on its use of Line of Credit Funds each year to the Annual
Conference.
C. A complete accounting of “Strength for Today, Bright Hope for
Tomorrow” funds received and expended be made available to
members of the Annual Conference as soon as possible and preferably
before the adjournment of the 2006 session.
D. The Conference Board of Trustees limit distribution from “Strength for
Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow” funds to the amount of campaign
expenses of the Conference recovered.
E. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration be instructed
to maintain fiscal integrity by assuring that all Conference expenditures
are as approved by that Council and in the budget approved by the
Annual Conference.
F. The 2005 Annual Conference call for a plan to raise the level of
apportionment payments be renewed by the Annual Conference, and
that the responsibility for formulation and execution for such a plan be
placed respectfully upon our Bishop and his cabinet and the
establishment and effectiveness of such a plan be reported to the 2007
Annual Conference.
1 4. Undesignated gifts will be used for campaign expenses until they are
2 paid.
3
4 All previous Annual Conference Actions regarding Strength for Today…Bright Hope
5 for Tomorrow taken on June 9, 2003, June 15, 2005, and June 14, 2006, be affirmed
6 except for Item D of the June 14, 2006, Action which stated The Conference Board
7 of Trustees limit distribution from “Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow”
8 funds to the amount of campaign expenses of the Conference recovered.
9
10 Explanation and Rationale
11
12 We acknowledge the fiduciary reasoning that formed the 2003, 2005 and 2006 Actions. The
13 West Ohio Annual Conference has adhered to those Actions in all respects. We are committed to
14 continue to repay the administrative costs as established in those Actions.
15
16 The result, however, of having Item D in the 2006 Action has been that while the fiduciary
17 constraints are in place, funds are being held that are essential to gain the outcomes called for by
18 the Strength for Today…Bright Hope for Tomorrow Initiative. We do not see a valid reason to
19 continue limiting the distribution of funds being held; in fact, holding the distribution of funds is
20 a detriment to the Initiative’s outcomes and to on-going donor cultivation and satisfaction. Those
21 funds have been designated for specific purposes. Except for the half tithe applied to repay
22 administrative costs, those gifts should be utilized for their designated purposes without delay
23 and should not be tied in any respect to the repayment of administrative costs.
24
25 Gifts held for distribution funds in the various accounts as of December 31, 2008 amount to:
26 $831,484. In addition, the following figures are provided as background information:
27
Total Campaign Expenses $942,553
Total Campaign Expenses repaid -$248,677 (see below for detail)
Total Campaign Expenses yet to be repaid $693,876
DETAIL:
Pre-Strength for Today…Bright Hope for Tomorrow gifts $ 18,575
Interest (earnings on gifts held for distribution) $ 34,764
Designated gifts for Campaign expenses &
5 percent tithe on other gifts
$135,975
Undesignated gifts for Campaign expenses $ 59,363
Total Campaign Expenses Repaid $248,677
(Figures as of 12/31/08 and rounded to nearest dollar)
28
29 It can be argued that if held funds are released, then we would lose the benefit of the interest on
30 the held funds being applied to the repayment of administrative costs. Based on the current
31 amount of funds being held, the interest income is approximately $20,000 annually. However, as
32 a practical matter it is highly unlikely that the entire amount will be released under the
33 established procedures; hence, the entire amount of interest will not be lost. Also, removing the
34 current distribution limitation should substantially improve our ability to cultivate new
1 donations. By continuing to receive a half tithe on future gifts to repay the administrative costs,
2 we anticipate being able eventually to pay off the debt faster than interest on the held funds.
3 Furthermore and most important in our opinion is that the intrinsic value of increasing our
4 outcomes under this Initiative far outweighs the monetary value of interest on held funds and
5 keeps us in line with our mission.
6
7 Therefore, we propose this modified procedure be instituted that will hold the Annual
8 Conference in compliance with the intended fiduciary restraints, and allow the release of held
9 funds in order to deliver on our promise without further delay---to investors, to our districts for
10 new church starts, to our Annual Conference and to our next generation clergy leaders.
11
12 Promise to Investors:
13
14 Investor amounts should be used for their intended purposes, and we should be able to put the
15 investments to effective use without undue delay. Existing and potential investors are asking
16 why there have not been more direct outcomes from our Initiative.
17
18 Promise to our Districts for New Church Starts:
19
20 When Strength for Today…Bright Hope for Tomorrow was first introduced, the Conference
21 recognized the urgent need for new church starts to reach the 6.5 million people within our
22 conference boundaries, one-half of whom have no church affiliation. New church starts are
23 essential to meet the ever-changing demographics.
24
25 Promise to the West Ohio Annual Conference:
26
27 In order to remain vital as a Conference, we must be intentional about leadership development
28 and new church starts throughout the Conference. We have dedicated ourselves to these two
29 primary areas of importance and we must be able to release available funds to deliver on our
30 promise and create even more investment opportunities.
31
32 Promise to Next Generation Leaders:
33
34 One of the four foci affirmed by the 2008 General Conference to guide United Methodists at the
35 dawn of the 21st century is “Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the
36 world.”
37
38 Submitted by:
39 Council on Development