Sunday, October 08, 2006

THOUGHTS...


This morning even though I still have not processed much of what I experienced over the last several days at the UMerging Colloquy but I am currently feeling a tremendous sense of of overwhelming grief and hope. My grief is that we are at a place where our leaders in the UMC are not necessarily able to hear the concerns and voices of emerging leaders in the UMC. I know some will read that and say that things have almost always been that way in the UMC since they can remember too. Maybe that's your experience however I would contend that as we are transitioning from a modern to a postmodern context (which does mean that we are still in a modern situation, only it is rapidly changing like never before) there is a barrier that is not about having a bishop who is liberal or conservative, a micromanager or a freespirit, a prophetic voice or a traditionalist, younger or older- it's about power and the ability to hear the concerns of a new kind of methodist pastor who is interested in new ways of doing church.

We happened to have at the colloquy two of the youngest bishops in the umc come and speak to us and allow us to ask questions. This is definitely not an "age" thing because although I wouldn't say they are both out to lunch- it is obviously that they are both highly intelligent and talented Christ centered leaders- but I'm not sure that they have "any" grasp on this emerging context in which some leaders, of all ages, feel called to respond to.

My hope however is lies in the collegues that I met and met up with over the week. We shared, struggled, worshiped and prayed for a new way to do church together. I heard about ministries that would seem as far from a traditional elder's context to elders talking about the changing dynamic of an urban neighborhood and how to reach the people around them and offer them hospitality and community.

My hope is with leaders like Hal Knight and Doug Strong who are able to see beyond the matrix of the everyday United Methodist Machine that is finely oiled and maintained by years of systemic power struggle to maintain thing as they are and not allow the Holy Spirit to do the Holy Spirit's work in raising up new kinds of ministry.

My hope is with the Foundation for Evangelism and visionaries there who are able to see past what is and invest in dreams of what might be. For all you bishops, ordained ministries, district councils and people of power- that's called RISK. Risking to love the unlovable in risky and messy new ways that may or may not produce visible "fruit" for a very long time is what what we're talking about.

Bishop Jones, whom I have much respect for and have been shaped by in my studies made the comment directly to me this weekend. My concern that I raised to him was that some people who feel called to ministry are both thankful for the spiritual practice of the itineracy system for elders but also feel called to a particular missional context- such as urban neighborhoods or rural areas to work among the poor and marginalized. How do we hold both in tension?

The last part of his response was- "There is much talk amoung professors and students in academia about the "poor and marginalized". And while we are all talking about it- there is still poverty and people who are hungry."

Bishop Jones- you are right. There is much talk. But if you had really heard my heart and the hearts of others in that room- I mean really LISTENED to our hearts, you would have heard people saying-
"BISHOP!!
SEND ME!!! SEND ME!!!
TAKE A RISK!!!
IT WON'T LOOK NEAT AND NICE!!!
IT'S GONNA BE MESSY BISHOP!!!
BUT SO IS POVERTY BISHOP!!!!
SEND ME!!! SEND ME!!!

IT MAY TAKE SEVERAL YEARS BISHOP!!
IT MAY TAKE 20 YEARS BISHOP-
BUT EMPOWRED COMMUNITIES TAKE TIME TO BUILD

WE MAY NOT WANT TO GROW INTO A MEGA CHURCH BISHOP
WE MAY WANT TO BREAK INTO ANOTHER CHURCH WHEN WE REACH
A CERTAIN NUMBER BISHOP!!

WE MAY WANT TO TRY SOME CRAZY STUFF BISHOP
BUT WOW WE'RE LIVING IN CRAZY TIMES BISHOP

I MIGHT JUST FAIL MISERABLY BISHOP
BUT I'D LOVE THE CHANCE TO TRY IT BISHOP
JUST INVEST IN RISK... CREATIVITY... AND THOSE WITHOUT A VOICE BISHOP

WHO WILL GO?
SEND ME!!! SEND ME!!!

in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit,
shalom.
j.norm

16 comments:

ingrid said...

J- You've ALREADY been sent - by someone with MUCH more authority than any bishop could ever have. You are an inspiration to me...to ALL you are in ministry with everyday! Your spirit and strength encourages and challenges me. It was SO GREAT to see you and get to spend time with you in KC. Let's be in better touch. I'm not a nerd blogger, but I will email. So - know I pray for you and for your seed to fall on fertile ground - for you have SO much to plant!

Mary Beth said...

Amen and amen!

gmw said...

"We happened to have at the colloquy two of the youngest bishops in the umc come and speak to us and allow us to ask questions."

It would have really been interesting and exciting to hear you return saying, "We happened to have at the colloquy two of the youngest bishops in the umc come a speak to us and ASK US QUESTIONS"!

gavin richardson said...

i second what guy says

Anonymous said...

The sad thing/hopeful thing is that I heard this from 60 people in ministry now, and yet I heard how are you going to fund it from the leaders.

emily said...

so this has nothing to do with the blog BUT, some of those pics. up at the top are ones i took! jus thought it was cool.

nss said...

thanks for posting this jonathon... especially the monologue thing at the end; it gives me hope, and that's the only way i can put it.

-natalie

decaf owl said...

You may need to reflect on John Wesley. He did not exactly "fit" into the extablished church of his time - he preached in the fields because the pulpits of churches were by and large closed to him and his message. He succeeded in spite of, rather than because of, the estabished church.

In your monolog/poem at the end, you have "WE MAY WANT TO BREAK INTO ANOTHER CHURCH WHEN WE REACH
A CERTAIN NUMBER". Here again I recommend John Wesley. He wanted to, and he wnated his movement to, stay in the Anglican church. The break with the ordination of Thomas Coke for America came because it was necessary, not because it was wanted. Please do not feel that you can leave because you want to, or because it is easier, but only if the work to which you are called requires it.

Joel Thomas said...

Excellent post. On most theological polls, I come out as more "emerging theology" than "Wesleyan" although not by a lot.

I had a workshop with Bishop Jones that was pretty good on basic beliefs of United Methodists. I mostly agreed, although he seems pretty down on the Apostle's Creed, preferring to stick with the Nicene. Instead, I think they blend well together and then are enhanced by occasional use of the affirmations such as from the United Church of Canada.

Another thing he said bothered me too. He ridiculed using the term "children of God" to refer to anyone other than Christians. He particularly asked us never to use the term "all God's children" if we are talking globally/universally. Biblically speaking, I know where he is coming from. But from the standpoint of "generous orthodoxy" I see practical problems with focusing too much on that exclusion. Yes, the New Testament uses the term in relationship to our adoption and being part of the family of God. It also refers to un-Christians as "children of wrath" or "children of the devil." However, in a world where children are starving, dying of AIDS, etc. we at least need an adequate substitute. One would be "a child lovingly created by God."

I am very heavily inclined toward generous orthodoxy, but I'll probably stay on the sidelines and be a cheerleader for the movement's mostly younger generation. That generation seems to be able to articulate this new vision better than I. My heart says "emergent" but I'm still steeped in the language of the old in many ways.

The statistic that the average age of United Methodists has gone from 30 in the 1940's to 60 today was not only sobering but shocking. I knew it was bad, but not that bad.

The problem is, the "blame game" won't fix it. It is going to take a movement that shifts the focus, creates cross-denominatial alliances and makes the church more flexible, etc.

Jeff Conklin-Miller said...

That conversation did seem, in a way, to be one of the more important moments of revelation over the weekend. I've put this up at Gavin's and Jay's, and in the interest of full coverage, am adding this here too. I hope this works-- it's a link to an article recently written by Bishop Schnase on the issue of 'fruitfulness' which was one of the terms in that conversation that suffered some linguistic confusion, yes? Hope we can keep talking...

http://www.umnexus.org/commentary.php?Article=169

Susan said...

WOW. I am not sure how I feel about it all...I just know that I am grateful for folks who continue to care so much about the gospel, and who although so, what I believe are rightfully frustrated, still show up for a UMerging conference...thanks to all of you.
Susan C-J

St.Phransus said...

yes, and susan, I am so thankful that you are in leadership and i am thankful for the perspective and voice you bring to our denomination. I think that the Bishops were just as frustrated as we were that we don't really have a fully complete understanding of what this new thing is. I am also hopeful that this is the beginning of a new kind of conversation in the umc.

Jonathan said...

I was not at the conference, but it sure sounds interesting. I do know that Bishop Scott Jones is very much interested in missions, evangelism, and risk-taking for the gospel. What exactly were you suggesting that he was reluctant to take a risk on?

St.Phransus said...

it wasn't so much what he was or wasn't saying- i think it was more of a defensiveness that his body language and tone carried in not understanding what the emerging colloquy was all about. i'll be posting the bish's words on mp3 here soon so we can all hear and i can process the words better myself.

shalom.

gmw said...

Hi, Joel, et al,

That's an interesting subject you bring up about Jones' comments on using the phrase "children of God" in reference to Christians or non-Christians. I think he makes a good point. But I think you make a good point as well that we need something to use in its place. Something that articulates more accurately what we're sensing intuitively and that reflects what we think biblically.

I would respectfully press back on your application of the phrase "generous orthodoxy" here since it seems to be in reference to a generosity toward religious belief broadly and not, as I think it is typically (and best) used, as referring to a generosity of spirit to Christian orthodoxy.

That voiced, I like where you're going with "child lovingly created by God." Perhaps the way is to emphasize our true commonality with non-Christians like you're doing there. How about drawing in aspects like our common bearing of the image of God and our common offer of grace as ones for whom Jesus died? Thanks for your thoughtfulness on this subject.

St.Phransus said...

huh?