January 30, 2012

A Chance for Change? :: Part II

This is Part II (read Part I here) of a blog series talking about the chance for change within The United Methodist Church. In this post I will be focusing on change at the General Conference level, which is the primary decision making body for the entire denomination. This body of delegates meets every 4 years and will be meeting this year, April 24-May 4, in Tampa, FL.

I admit that I am unaware of all the various proposals, petitions, legislations, etc. that sit before the General Conference, so, having said that, I will touch on a couple that are changes I think could be helpful for our denomination. My hope and prayer is if we agree on nothing else, we would agree that something needs to change at the very least.

Proposed Restructuring 
I’m big into organization structures and efficiencies. I like to change things structurally and move pieces/people around but I don’t believe restructuring alone necessarily equals meaningful change. If you have the wrong pieces to start with and simply move them around, you still have wrong pieces, just in different places. I think the saying goes something like…right people, right bus, right seats.

I do not share the concern of consolidated power under the bishops. While the “set-aside” bishop reminds me of the office of Pope from my Roman Catholic upbringing, the Council of Bishops, the General Council for Strategy and Oversight, and the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry seem so disconnected from local church ministry that the impact of such restructuring would be minimally felt.

I believe issues that address streamlining (overhauling?) the ordination process, an appointment system that provides opportunities for effective clergy, and theological issues that advance the mission of the Gospel would bring about more significant, meaningful, and overarching change to our denomination.

Fellow UMC twitter friend @halehawk suggested “A More Equitable Salary” petition to the General Conference. Which changes do you support or suggest?

January 26, 2012

Infant Baptism vs. Baby Dedication: Part I

I’ve had a couple infant baptisms over the past few months and have a number of couples that are expecting babies to arrive soon and the topic of baptism vs. dedication was brought up recently. I don’t think “vs.” is the best way to frame it but we’ll work with it for the purposes of this post. A couple different thoughts were raised so I thought I would write a two-part post in response.

Is infant baptism scriptural? 
It was not uncommon for the apostles to baptize entire families, including babies & small children. We see examples of this in Acts 16:11-15, 31-34; 18:7-8; 1 Cor. 1:16. Baptizing an infant would fit well with the Jewish thought of covenant and how baby boys would be circumcised on the eighth day to represent their involvement in the covenant and then have the opportunity to “own” that for themselves at their Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah for girls). In The United Methodist Church, the opportunity to “own” one’s infant baptism comes through the process we call Confirmation.

John Wesley talked about a form of grace he called prevenient. The idea is this type of grace comes before, or prior to, one’s realization of its presence. It is by God’s grace that we even become aware of God’s grace. For me, infant baptism has become one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s prevenient grace, present in a baby’s life before s/he is ever aware of it. It seems as though infant baptism speaks to the very nature of grace, which is always prior.

What are your thoughts? Where do you see yourself on this topic? Look for Part II talking about doing a baby dedication at an infant baptism church.

January 23, 2012

A Chance for Change?

2012 proves to be a significant year in the life of The United Methodist Church. Every four years delegates from all over the world meet at General Conference (#gc2012) to discuss matters concerning the denomination. This is also the elected body that determines the governing policies of how the UMC operates. Everything from clergy salaries & pensions, ordination process to the denomination’s stance on issues of homosexuality. This is the body empowered to bring about real change, the question is, does meaningful change really have a chance?

So, with the thought of change on my mind, over the coming weeks I am going to post some thoughts on change as it relates to The United Methodist Church at the General Conference, Annual Conference, District, and Local Church levels. Personally, I know more about certain levels than others but that’s what makes this conversation so interesting, you can help fill in the gaps. Of course there will be things that are a priority to me that won’t be for you, which changes would you like to see in the UMC? If you’re not a part of the UMC, which changes would you like to see in your denomination or church?

January 16, 2012

MLK Day & the Church

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day has me thinking about the phrase, "The most segregated hour of the week." This is referencing Sunday mornings in the Church. I'm curious to hear your thoughts...

Do you think this is the case? Why or why not?
If Sunday mornings really are the most segregated hour, is this a good or bad thing?
How do we go about changing this if it isn't the way it should be?

January 14, 2012

Crossroads Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLVI is coming to Indianapolis, the "Crossroads of America." I live a short drive away from downtown Indy and have worked in northeast Indianapolis for nearly 10yrs now. I have lived in the Midwest my entire life (grew up in Michigan, lived in Indiana the past 15yrs) and have never regretted it. Sure I've been other places...South America, New York City, West Coast, Gulf Coast, the South...and yet when I think about living somewhere else, I find myself not wanting to leave.

My wife and I have plenty of friends and family who have left the Midwest only to return or count down the days until they could. I find it oddly satisfying how often individuals hate on the Midwest, and Indiana specifically, only to long to be back.

I am excited about the opportunities the Super Bowl will bring to highlight the great city of Indianapolis and the Midwest in general. It's about time the rest of the country recognizes the Midwest has plenty to offer.

Visit Indy has a great list of events happening around the city during Super Bowl XLVI. Know of other events we can't miss? Tell us!

January 12, 2012

Outside In

Of course there is a lot of talk about politics right now and as I was driving into the office the other day I heard one of the Republican candidates talk about eliminating most, if not all, of federal taxes. As I thought about it I thought to myself that I could be alright with that. I have a decent paying job, house, cars, saving account, investments, etc. I'm not sure it would bother me not to pay taxes and really allow me to keep more of my hard earned money. But then I kept thinking...

What about the individuals who have minimum wage jobs that are barely getting by, which most aren't even doing? Without taxes many of the government funded assistance programs become no more and the family that doesn't earn enough to feed themselves now goes hungry because their food stamps are gone. There are countless examples of hardworking people who rely on government support in order to make ends meet.

Those of us on the "inside" don't want to pay taxes because we don't see the direct benefit from them per se but that fails to remember those who have been left out. It seems like taxes are one way for those on the inside to help those on the outside. This sort of inside-out thinking happens in the Church all the time. Most of the decisions we make in the Church are based on those who are already inside, which sends a message to those who aren't. I wonder what might happen if we were to change our mindset and instead of starting with ourselves (inside -> out) to starting with those who aren't already here and figuring out ways to invite them in (outside -> in).

January 2, 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were relaxing and joyous. I had the chance to see plenty of family which was a great time, especially when your sister has twins.

So, it's a new year. I don't know about you but I am all for new beginnings, starting over, clean slates, etc. The new year also brings another birthday for me, being born on Jan. 2nd so I am ready to start trying some new things. I don't typically make resolutions but I have come up with a few things I'm going to try and work on:

  • Drink more water. I am going to try and drink at least 32oz/day. I am also thinking of drinking only water when I go out to eat. 
  • I am going to blog at least 3x/week. Sometimes long ones and sometimes really short ones. 
  • I am going to start a new blog but need help with a name for the blog/url. Any ideas?
What are the things you are going to work on for this new year? I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts and maybe even stealing an idea or two to challenge me this coming year.