"Write the vision clearly on the tablets, that one may read it on the run." — Habakkuk
The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. September, 2015

In this issue:

 


'MOUNTAINS OF HOPE' MISSION
Learning New Lessons in Life

By Tommy Dowd
10th grader from Wethersfield UMC

I’ve grown up in a church that is committed to mission, and the thing I’ve learned to love about it is that you often receive more than you give. This sounds a bit selfish, of course, going to one of the poorest countries in the world, but I have never been taught more about life than I did in one week from the people of Furcy.

My first trip to Haiti (youth VIM trip July 2 to 8) was an amazing experience filled with moments that warmed your heart and broke it at the same time. I went with an awesome team of 17 people, including eight youth—all of whom were from my church. All eight of us were first timers to Haiti and collectively we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We obviously knew we were going to encounter a lot of poverty, but I don’t think we were prepared for just how different it was going to be from our previous ideas of poverty.


A team member works with a little
girl drawing a picture.

This contrast was evident the minute you stepped out of the airport. Whether it was people lining the outskirts of the airport asking to carry our bags, or the rubble covering roads and infrastructure, or even the wild car rides we had, you could tell this was far from life as we knew it back home.

Furcy greeted us with friendly faces and breath-taking mountain views. We spent five of our seven days up in the mountains. This time included our “manual” labor—mostly painting and miscellaneous construction for the Methodist school. More importantly, we made meaningful connections and provided unique sources of joy for the locals. We funded (and our amazing cook made) two community meals, a day of Vacation Bible School, and a game day. We also participated in Sunday worship and visited many of the local homes later that day. These are memories and people I will take with me and cherish for a lifetime.

When people ask me the question: What is the secret to happiness? I will from now on have a response. The answer is of course, love, specifically God’s love that we have and show toward others. 1 Corinthians 13:13 reads, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I saw more examples of these three on the trip than I had ever seen in my life. In more affluent countries, we are so bound by our craving for the best material possessions money can buy. Unfortunately, we too often value this over our relationships.


The walls of the Methodist School in Furcy get some fresh paint.

This is completely different from the way of life we saw in Haiti. They understand that the happiness you get from friendship is invaluable, an understanding that was on display the entire trip.

NYAC Haiti Youth VIM Team
The team, many of them youth from Wethersfield UMC in Connecticut.

One woman we met in Furcy had never once been off the mountain in her 80 years. As someone in our group put it, God had given her everything she needed on that one mountain. She didn’t need anything else but the loved ones in her hometown. The people of Furcy knew that joy and laughter would always provide hope in the face of despair. Their delight was found in the smallest things like a bubble popping or the thrill of a sack race. They were also so kind to us. They jumped through every hoop to be sure we were as comfortable as possible.

Tommy Dowd helps serve one of two meals that the group provided to the children and community.

As we were leaving Furcy on the last day, I found it amazing how people we had just met, who spoke a language completely foreign to us, could make such an impact on us. You could tell that to them we were more than just vehicles of change for their mountain, we were regarded as friends; people they are going to think about constantly. That was the one thing they kept asking of us: “Remember me.” I’m not sure how I could forget.

Though some may consider it a curse, the people of Haiti are blessed. Not with the material possessions and wealth we have, but a different kind of wealth. They are so rich in faith, so rich in hope, and above all, so rich in love.


VIM Team Helps Save Methodist History

A Volunteers in Mission team traveled to Antigua from April 25 to May 4 to help with the restoration of the Gilbert Ecumenical Center, the former great house on a sugar plantation considered to be the birthplace of Methodism in the Caribbean.

The structure was the residence of the Nathaniel Gilbert family. Gilbert, speaker of the Antiguan legislature, was converted under the preaching of John Wesley while on a visit to England in 1759. Two African women, Sophie Campbell and Mary Leadbetter, whom Gilbert owned as slaves, were traveling with him and were also converted at the service . Upon their return to Antigua in 1760, the three new converts began to preach the gospel to all who would listen (slave and free alike); and so began the Methodist work that spread across the Caribbean. The impact of the conversion experiences of these three resulted in the Gilbert family freeing all of their slaves.

A second VIM team will head to Antigua from October 31 to November 9 to continue the work. Contact Rev. Gordon A.R. Edwards at ThePsychoanalyst@aol.com or 718-931-8760 if you’re interested in making the journey. Edwards, who led the first VIM team, offers this report of their journey:

Rev. Edwards tackles part of the gutting work.

Saturday April 25: Very early in the morning, eight of us set out to Antigua — Revs. Gordon Edwards, Beverley Hodges-Fairweather, Sonia Jermin; Cora Doram, Jermaine Lewis, June Constant, Evana Lewis, and Earlwyn Benjamin. Upon our arrival in Antigua we received VIP treatment, courtesy of the government. Even though we got caught up in the VIP moment, we realized that God had first moved us to be VIPs: “very important pioneers” in the work of restoration of this very sacred site. We felt that we were starting a process that had the potential to transform us and also those whom we would work along side.

Monday, April 27 was our first workday, and what a workday it was. Since the Gilbert Center was compromised by termites, we began gutting the building of all things wooden. For the next six hours (breaking only for a half hour lunch) we demolished floorboards, wooden panels, closets, and wooden doors. We set up an assembly line to move the debris outside. We worked at a feverish pitch allowing nothing to deter us. The true motivation was the thought of ending our day soaking our tired bodies in the seawater of the pristine beach a couple miles away.

By the end of the day, we had gutted five large rooms and created a heap of debris in the courtyard. As we had resolved, we closed the day with prayer committing both our work and fellow pilgrims to the safe keeping of Almighty God.


Gutting of the center created quite a pile of debris as seen behind the NYAC team members.

Tuesday, April 28 came soon and we were back to our task. We started by moving the heap of debris away from the building to what would later become a fire pile. We gutted another four large rooms and removed the debris outside.

That evening we met with fellow Methodists at the Antigua circuit offices. We learned what life and ministry entailed for our Antiguan brothers and sisters, and in turn they heard from us. They talked about the challenges, the valley experiences and heights of joy they have had. We understood the dynamics at play: with so little resources, nothing short of the grace of God made life and ministry possible.


A visit to the Antigua Circuit offices to learn from fellow Methodists about their ministries.

Wednesday April 29 was a day to tour the country, visiting historical sites and churches, villages and hamlets, and learning about the cultural experiences that inform life in Antigua. We visited gravesites, too, of persons who were instrumental to the Methodist work of mission and ministry on the island.

Thursday April 30 brought us back to Gilbert Center where we resumed gutting the building. We all felt that the work on Thursday was the hardest and the most exhausting. Yet our spirits were not daunted nor did our zeal wane. We knew by then that the work we were doing was not just necessary to preserve a historical trust, but we knew that the work we were doing was holy work, God’s work.

In the evening, we met again with our fellow Methodists. Rev. Sonia Jermin made a presentation on aging and the ministry for, with, and by senior adults. We ended the day as we usually did: committing ourselves to the safe keeping of God. However, this night, we did it around ice cream and tea.


Barratt Memorial Methodist Church welcomed the visitors for worship.

Friday May 1, our last workday, began with joy and some sadness because we were feeling good about the quantity and quality of the work. We were also aware of the fact that this would be this journey’s last encounter with the birthplace of Methodism outside of England.

We comforted ourselves with the knowledge that what we did was to simply pave the way for others who would come after us; just as Nathaniel Gilbert, Sophie Campbell, and Mary Leadbetter had done under the influence of God’s leading.

When we left off this Friday we were anticipating a reception with the officers and families of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas; the Antigua Circuit staff and their families; and our host families. We ate and sang to the glory of God.

On Sunday May 3, we worshiped together in one place. We fully participated in the worship service and thanked God for the great things God had done with and through us. In the evening, we attended an evening of singing the great hymns of the faith. In truth our time was swiftly drawing to a close because we knew that on Monday morning, we leave to return to the United States of America, (New York in particular), to our families from whom we had separated ourselves for 10 days; it was physical not spiritually nor emotionally. Looking back we know that God was with us. We left Antigua the manner we came: as VIPs of the government of Antigua and Barbuda and VIPs of God. It was not just a journey, it was truly a spiritual pilgrimage.


9/16, 23, 30 Technology & Christian Values Webinars
Living as a Christian in a digital world calls us to rethink faith values and practices with new optics. This four-part webinar series from Drew University offers a new perspective on how to assess digital technology use, development, and expansion through a lens of Christian values. The first session will explore how to begin thinking theologically about technology. The next three sessions will consider specific ethical issues such as online activism, crowd source funding, blogging, etiquette; and sexting. Webinars are from 2–3:30 p.m., September 16, 23, 30, and October 7. Cost is $20 per session. A .5 CEU credit is available. To register, go to: drew.edu/techvalues.

9/21 New Pastoral Care Class Forming 
The Pastoral Care Specialist Training Program is accepting applications for a new class that will start September 21. The two-year training program, accredited by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, is designed to deepen the care ministry skills of pastors, priests and lay people. Classes meet from 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays at the Arumdaun Presbyterian Church in Bethpage. For questions or to receive an application, please contact Rev. Dr. Penny Gadzini at pennygadzini@aol.com, or 917-287-0583. The program is also sponsoring its second "Mind and Relationship" seminar from 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. September 14 at the Arumdaun church. Rev. Dr. Joshua Jong will speak about addiction and recovery; Gadzini will join with current students to discuss ministry with, by and for older adults. There is no cost and a light lunch will be offered.

9/26 "Methodism Matters"
Discover what Methodists believe and why it matters in this seminar from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Commack UMC, 486 Townline Road, Commack, N.Y. Sponsored by the Long Island East District with Superintendent Adrienne Brewington and guest speaker, Rev. Dr. Clayton Childers, program director for annual conference relations at the General Board of Church and Society. Call the district office at 631-366-2396 to register.

9/27 Installation of DS Riss
Installation of Rev. Timothy Riss as the new superintendent for the Catskill Hudson District, 4 p.m. at Reservoir UMC, 3056 State Route 28, Shokan, N.Y. Bishop Jane Allen Middleton and the cabinet will be in attendance; light refreshments will follow.

10/8–10 Native American Ministries Meeting
Anyone interested in Native American issues and culture is encouraged to attend the annual gathering of the Northeast Jurisdiction’s Native American Ministries Committee that will be held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff, N.Y. The deadline for full participation was September 10, but day guests can still attend for $118, which includes a breakfast buffet, and lunch. For questions and more information contact Elaine Winward, the NYAC Native American Ministries co-chair, at ewinward@optonline.net or 914 669-5264.

More events available on the NYAC calendar>>

10/24 35th Annual Men’s Retreat
This one-day training event is intended to generate interest and increase effective men’s ministry in our churches. Congregational leadership teams are coached to develop a plan to reach more men, and enable their spiritual growth. The day begins sharply at 8 a.m. and ends at about 5 p.m. at the Olmsted Center, 114 Bayview Avenue, Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. Cost is $65 per person and includes training materials, breakfast, lunch and ice-cream social. For more information, contact Royston Bailey at 516-485-3723, or via email at roystonbailey27@gmail.com; or Ernie Searle at umc_nyac_umm@yahoo.com. To register, find the form online at www.nyac.com/eventdetail/1570149.

10/24–25 Mark Miller Workshop & Concert
Composer, musician, educator, and social justice advocate, Mark Miller, will lead a workshop on “Music and Social Justice” October 24 at Community UMC in Massapequa, N.Y. That same evening, he will lead a concert featuring his own music and that of other composers. On Sunday, Oct. 25, Miller will preach and lead worship for the congregation. The church has joined with the conference Connectional Ministries office and the Conference Board of Church and Society, to sponsor this event.

10/26–30 Clergy and Spouse Clinic
Twice a year, New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn opens its doors to 12 clergy and/or spouses for a four-day clinic in which major diagnostic tests and consultations are made available. To apply for the next clinic, download a brochure and registration form at www.nyac.com/eventdetail/1864900 or contact Rev. Elizabeth Braddon at elizabeth.braddon@gmail.com, indicating your interest. Every person in the clinic receives a standard battery of tests—some of which are gender specific. Beyond that list, you or your home primary doctor can decide on specific tests geared directly to your situation. At the NYM clinic, you’ll meet with a doctor for a preliminary exam, and that physician will order the other testing. At the end of the week, participants meet with the doctor again to discuss any of the results that are ready.

11/7 Mission Central HUB Summit
Come to this meeting to learn what it means to be a HUB location for mission and disaster work in the Northeast Jurisdiction. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the conference center in White Plains. Harry Overholtzer, the HUB jurisdictional coordinator, and Robert Visscher, director of Mission Central in Pennsylvania, will be on hand to explain the process and importance of HUBs. Questions? Please contact Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, conference mission coordinator, at jewoodzie@nyac.com, or 914-615-2233. For additional info, go to www.nyac.com/eventdetail/1592713.

11/14 Starting a Healing Ministry
This workshop at Jesse Lee Memorial UMC is for all church leaders and pastors who would like to know more about starting or strengthening a Christ-centered healing prayer ministry. Topics will include prayer guidelines and Scriptural basis for physical healing and inner healing, and how to train and commission prayer teams. The workshop in the Carriage House at the Ridgefield, Conn. church is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with registration at 9:30. The $15 fee includes lunch. Contact Pastor Debbi Mygatt at dhmygatt@sbcglobal.net with any questions. Online registration will start October 1.

Got an Event to Share?

We welcome the opportunity to help publicize events that have a wide appeal to people across the conference in The Vision. To make it easier to publish your event, please send the information as a simple Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx suffix). Do not send it as a completed flyer, poster or as a PDF. Your event information will most likely appear on the "Save the Date" page. Email the event details directly to vision@nyac.com, and be sure to include contact information. The deadline for all the remaining 2015 issues is the first Friday of each month, with posting to the web site approximately 10 days later.



Thomas KemperWelcoming the stranger can be tough and risky, but also offer the potential for new insights and understanding, writes Thomas Kemper, top executive, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, in the statement below about the current refugee crisis. The statement was sent to the UMC’s Council of Bishops.

The arrival in Europe of massive numbers of Middle Eastern refugees is causing crises for humanitarian organizations and churches as well as for governments. At such a time, scripture draws us to Matthew 25:35b: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Jesus said in a sermon about the behavior he expects of those whose lives reflect the grace and love of God.

The thousands of displaced persons pouring out of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and various parts of Africa into Europe put a tremendous strain on regional and global economics, political and social systems, and human compassion. Christians know our responsibility: Welcome the stranger, and that can be a tough mandate, difficult and risky, demanding of sober realism, and also full of potential for new insights and understandings about human and cultural relations.

United Methodists are wondering and asking the General Board of Global Ministries about how The United Methodist Church in Europe and at the international level is responding to the migration crisis. The information below is an attempt to respond to the most-common questions and concerns.

Scope of the Crisis

The thousands of people entering Europe include war refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants seeking better ways of life. Nation states treat each of these groups differently. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14) and various United Nations protocols on refugees put responsibility on nations to accept and assist persons seeking asylum when facing death or loss of freedom at home. Host countries are expected to recognize the right of asylum, allow safe entry and/or passage, and provide long-term needs for work, education, legal aid, and documents for travel. The church and other humanitarian organizations try to serve all who stand in need.

While the European Commission is currently trying to place 160,000 persons currently in Greece, Hungary, and Italy into other European countries, the total number that have arrived in those countries so far this year is 549,000, and some 794,000 persons have applied for asylum across Europe. The number of refugees in Europe by the end of 2015 is expected to be 4.7 million. (Statistics from the European Commission, the United Nations, and other sources, as compiled and reported on September 10 by The New York Times.)

Care for the refugees is one component of the crisis. Another component is nations finding ways to stop the conflicts that give rise to displaced persons: by bringing peace to Syria and ending the violence against civilians; controlling the so-called Islamic State which has overrun parts of Syria and Iraq, and persuading Middle Eastern and Arab states that are harbingers of much of the problem to become advocates for peace, justice, and honesty. The refugee crisis will not be solved until the states of the Middle East and Arab lands learn conciliation, and we must acknowledge that many of those states are allies of the affluent nations of Europe and North America.

Prayer

Prayer is one immediate response Christians can take, prayer for peaceful means to bring an end to military actions causing such widespread displacement of people from Syria and Iraq; prayer that refugees will be welcomed around the world with warm, calm hospitality; prayer for those who provide asylum and refuge. A collection of prayers from Germany reminds us to pray for the exhausted people on the move as well as those still in refugee camps in the Middle East; to “strengthen our connection with Jesus” as we minister in his name; to pray that politics “find its right mind” in confronting the situation; and to thank God for all who provide care—for all the “unconditional charity and solidarity” that is coming from the churches—and that in this time that God’s will be done on earth.

Local Responses

The pathways of the current refugees are from southern and southeastern Europe toward northern and western Europe, notably Germany. The small—very small—United Methodist communities on the route are joining neighbors to meet immediate needs for food, water, and clothing.

In Macedonia, which is on the refugee route from Turkey and Greece, church members and employees of the Miss Stone Center, a diaconal institution, are greeting the travelers and responding to the immediate needs.

In Hungary, United Methodist congregations in Budapest are active in “Christians for Migrants,” a group offering assistance in refugee camps. The Hungarian UMC is a member of Hungarian Interchurch Aid, also active in the camps. The Wesleyan Alliance, in which Methodists are involved, set up a baby-bath center at Keleti Railway station.

In Austria, United Methodists are working with Caritas, a new group called “Train of Hope,” and Diakonie Austria. A diaconal (ministry) center in Linz has opened living space for unaccompanied minor refugees.

In Germany, the destination of many refugees because of an open welcome, the public support system is better equipped to handle the influx than in less-highly organized and less-affluent areas. Germany has a long memory of dealing with mass movement of people from the days after World Wars I and II and the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The difficulties of many refugees in reaching Germany, though, is raising human rights concerns. “The right of individuals from all countries to ask for asylum is under threat,” said UM Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany. “We as people of faith have to make use of the fact that the reality proves the failure of the current regulations to work not only for humanitarian aid but also for more just procedures for those who come to Europe.” For those who do reach Germany, many churches are opening their doors to house them.

The Work of UMCOR

United Methodist leaders in Europe and the United States are encouraging church members to contribute to the work of UMCOR. For years, UMCOR has worked with partners in serving persons displaced by fighting in Syria and Iraq, and persons temporarily living in other Middle Eastern locations or making their way westward. To date, UMCOR has allocated $2 million to provide the basics of life to persons displaced in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. Middle Eastern countries of far less affluence than the nations of Europe have proportionately admitted many, many more migrants than are now entering Europe. Our work among those

displaced persons must continue. In addition, UMCOR is collaborating with partners to provide for refugee families in Greece, including the islands of Lesbos and Kos. With an Italian partner, it is responding to refugees from North Africa arriving in Sicily and other parts of Italy.

Next steps in ministries with the asylum seekers will be guided in large part by the recommendations coming from the European Methodist Council, which will be meeting in mid-September. European and international ecumenical organizations are urging all of the churches and church-related humanitarian organizations to collaborate in the long-term work of resettlement, much of which will be in Europe. Concerning the Middle East, we have long-term relationships with the Middle East Council of Churches and its member communions.

Contributions to UMCOR’s ongoing work with the refugees/migrants in Europe and the Middle East should be made to the International Disaster Relief Fund, Advance #982450, at www.umcmission.org/ Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/ Projects/982450.


Migrants resting in Hungary.

Enlarging the Welcome

The question on many lips is, “Why is the U.S. not doing more to respond to the European refugee crisis?” The U.S. currently has a ceiling of 70,000 carefully screened refugees for 2015. Since the war in Syria began in 2011, only 1,500 identifiable Syrians have been admitted as refugees, with another 300 expected by the end of September. At the same time, the U.S. is the largest donor of funds

for humanitarian assistance among those displaced by the Syrian/Iraqi wars, having given $4.1 billion in the last four years. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on September 9 that the U.S. would raise the refugee ceiling to 75,000 for 2016, and of those, 33,000 slots would be for persons from unnamed locations in the Near East and South Asia. A subsequent White House announcement directed the administration to prepare to take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, in its first specific commitment toward increasing its acceptance of refugees from the country.

Global Ministries welcomes these announced increases, but finds them inadequate. We agree with human rights and relief agencies that the U.S. Congress should allow 100,000 refugees from the Syrian-Iraqi conflict to enter the country. Our relief partner, Church World Service (CWS), is one of the agencies organizing the campaign, and churches that want to join in the call to Congress can find information online at http://www.cwsglobal.org/ get-involved/advocacy/syrian-
refugees-need-your-voice.html.
The care of the refugees, however, is not only the responsibility of the U.S. and European nations; other wealthy nations, such as Saudi Arabia and those of the Gulf States, need to do a great deal more.

Resettling Refugees in the U.S.

Congregations that want to apply as sponsors for refugee resettlement must follow the rules of their respective countries. In the U.S., this means working through a local or regional organization certified as a refugee resettlement agency, and for United Methodists this means CWS, our long-time partner in refugee resettlement.

CWS has a network of its own and affiliate offices spread across the U.S. UMCOR does not have a refugee resettlement program, but refers interested United Methodists to CWS.

Concern for Backlash

We must realistically acknowledge the risks that are involved in welcoming strangers from politically volatile regions in a time of tight security concerns brought on by terrorist activities. We would be blind to ignore this factor. One terrorist attack by a “refugee” in Germany or the United States would change the whole lay of the land, causing social backlash against all migrants and potential international chaos. The avoidance of such incidents brings us back to the need for creative action to bring an end to conflict and militancy.

We must also be alert to the possibility of “charity fatigue” on the part of those assisting the migrants should this mass movement of people continue well into the future. This raises the need for taking time for our own spiritual and physical renewal as we seek to help others.

Interfaith Implications

Since most of the new refugees are Muslim, interfaith relations becomes an issue when newcomers are resettled among majority Christian populations and culture. The arrival of migrants is an opportunity for the practice of Christian hospitality and efforts toward strong, respectful interfaith dialogue and community interaction.

The United Methodist Church, through its legislating General Conference, has provided guidelines on interreligious relations. These can be found in The Book of Resolutions 2012, item 3141, beginning on page 269.

Mission and Humanitarian Service

In serving the needs of refugees/migrants in Europe and the Middle East we reach toward a world of peace and justice, where children can grow to adulthood without fear, and families can live in harmony with their neighbors far and near.

Thomas Kemper
General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church

 

(An online version of this statement can be found at: www.umcmission.org/learn-about-us /news-and-stories/2015/september/ 0911welcomingthestranger.)

Technology Helps New Paltz Prep for
230th Festivities

When the New Paltz United Methodist Church celebrates its 230th anniversary in 2016, it will be able to share some of its earliest history thanks to a digital assist from the UMC Archives.

A handwritten manuscript—that begins with a brief description of the ministry of two circuit riders who traveled to New Paltz in 1786—was deemed too fragile to handle, so church historian Anna Bates and Pastor Bette Sohm decided that a digital copy should be made. Various options were discussed, but each came with its own set of problems that might further damage the book and accelerate the aging process.

So the pair arranged a consultation with Mark Shenise, associate archivist at the denomination’s archives housed on the campus of Drew University in Madison, N.J.

That conversation led to talks with Alfred T. Day III, the general secretary of the Commission on Archives and History and Dale Patterson, archivist-records administrator. It was agreed that the manuscript—“A History of Methodism on the New Paltz Charge”—would be brought to the archives, and photographed on their book scanner.

The book scanner is a highly specialized piece of equipment with a bed that holds a book open at a 90-degree angle, with a matching glass plate that slides down into place holding the book open with pages flat. Two

New Paltz UMC
Dale Patterson, archivist, uses a book scanner to photograph the hand-written history of New Paltz UMC. Patterson and Anna Bates, New Paltz UMC historian, hold a bound manuscript of the church’s early history copied at the UMC Archives on the campus of Drew University.

cameras, each focused on one side of the glass, can be adjusted to the page size. Each image is then downloaded in sequential order to a computer where they are initially saved as JPG files. The images can be converted to a PDF format, and finally into an e-book.

On August 14, Rev. Sohm and Bates observed the whole process as Patterson carefully photographed each page, making sure that not a single letter was lost in the copying. The reproduction is now being transcribed by church member Marilyn McNamara for use in the yearlong series of celebrations being planned by the church.

The New Paltz congregation got its start in 1786 when circuit riders Ezekiel Cooper and John M’Claskey made the trip up to “the Paltz” to lead worship. For the first 54 years of its existence, the congregation met in people’s homes and in a local schoolhouse. The first church building was erected in 1840 on Church Street.

The manuscript, though begun on October 20 1879, takes note of the circuit to which Cooper and M’Claskey had been appointed some 93 years earlier. The last entry records that the mortgage on the new building erected in 1929 was paid off six years later, and the church entered 1936 with a balanced budget.


Young Clergy Growth All Among Women

(UMNS) Women are responsible for gains in the percentage of elders under age 35 in The United Methodist Church, according to the annual Clergy Age Trends report from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. In 2015, 986 young elders make up 6.56 percent of the pool of active elders, but the pool of elders is down by 3,000 since 2005. The percentage of women among young elders has increased from 31 percent in 2005 to 41 percent in 2015. Among young deacons, the percentage of women is 80 percent.

In 2005, the United Methodist Church reported the smallest percentage of under-35 elders ever. The 850 young elders that year represented 4.69 percent of active elders. Growth among young elders has been slow but relatively steady over the past ten years.

For many years after seminary enrollments showed a balance between men and women students, the presence of young UM clergywomen seemed to fall much below their proportion of seminary students. That has now

changed steadily over recent years with the 41 percent of young women clergy in 2015 being the highest ever.

Deacons, on the other hand, have traditionally been predominantly female. Yet, even among deacons, the percentage of women has increased. Since 2012 the percentage of female deacons has increased each year from 68 percent in 2012 to 80 percent in 2015.

Among local pastors, the young cohort is increasing but primarily among men, with the proportion of young female local pastors dropping somewhat.

Elders and local pastors are appointed as pastors of congregations. The number of active elders continues to decline as the number of local pastors grows. Since 1990 there are 6,488 fewer elders and 3,525 more local pastors. In 1990, there were over five elders for each local pastor; today there are two elders for each local pastor. In

2015, there are 15,019 elders and 7,464 local pastors.

Elders between ages 55 and 72 comprise 55 percent of all active elders, the highest percentage in history. This group reached 50 percent for the first time ever in 2010. This age cohort represented only 30 percent of active elders as recently as 2000.

The median age of elders remained at 56 in 2015, the highest in history. The median age was 50 in 2000 and 45 in 1973. The average age remains at 53, a historic high, though unchanged for six years.

Unfortunately, the modest gain in the presence of young elders was offset by a decline in the percentage of elders aged 35 to 54. This mid-age group continues to shrink, from 65 percent of all active elders in 2000 to 38 percent in 2015.

To read the full report, go to www.churchleadership.com/clergyage/.


St. James UMW Funds New Clinic

St James UMC Funds Clinic
Patients—mostly mothers with young children—wait to be seen outside the Matizha Clinic in Zimbabwe.

BY JOANNE S. UTLEY
Editor, The Vision

Bit by bit, dollar by dollar, a medical clinic is being built and outfitted in Zimbabwe through the efforts of the United Methodist Women of St. James UMC in Kingston, N.Y.

The story begins when Pauline Mukozho, an immigrant from Zimbabwe, moved to the Kingston area about 13 years ago. When she first arrived she stayed with friends who took her to their Catholic church, but Mukozho longed to return to her Methodist roots and eventually found St. James.

Although there were no other black people in the church and Mukozho admits that she “didn’t know if she would stay,” she did feel openly embraced by the community.

Members of the church picked her up for worship and invited her out to eat in an American restaurant for the first time. They helped her find a new apartment, and encouraged her to get training to work as a health care aide. Mukozho found a home and a new “family” at St. James. And as she says, “God was already making plans.”

Eventually she joined the church and the UMW and was asked “how they could help back home.” Mukozho had retained strong ties to her home country where her brother, daughter and grandchildren still live. Mukozho indeed has a heart for orphans and widows and recently established, Vana Vedu Care, a non-profit organization in Zimbabwe, focused on helping those two groups “survive and thrive.”

On a trip back home for her mother’s funeral, Mukozho reconnected with Tapera Mubvekeri, a businessman in Zimbabwe, and the two talked about the lack of medical care for her mother and the needs of the Matizha clinic in Serima.


Beds in a clinic room.

The clinic is housed in two small buildings with six rooms that hold only 10 patients, yet the facility is the closest medical care to some 80,000 people living in the region. At the time, the clinic had one thermometer and one blood pressure gauge. Pregnant women may walk for days to the clinic, only to be turned away because there are not enough beds. Often times on the journey home, they give birth at the side of the road.

Mubvekeri suggested adding a third building that would provide another 10 beds for patients and housing for the medical staff. When the St. James UMW saw the initial price tag they wondered how they could ever raise nearly $34,000. It seemed like an impossible task for their 15 members. But they trusted in God, in the faith of Mukozho, and in the trustworthiness of Mubvekeri.

UMW Treasurer Bernadene Quimby calls Mubvekeri “God’s gift” for the project; he serves like a general contractor keeping track of how the donations are spent, lining up the workers and overseeing the progress. Early donations helped purchase much-needed equipment—a refrigerator, suction machine, and sterilizer.

Mukozho, who lives by the words of her favorite hymn, “I Surrender All,” has helped the congregation understand some of the problems facing the people in her homeland.

“Having Pauline present with us, and helping us grow as she witnessed has been a blessing,” UMW President Barbara Sanborn wrote in an email. “Many members have pitched in and made this part of their mission gifts. When a new member put on a pork dinner . . . our goal was $1000, but we made $2000 because everybody was aware of the great need of the clinic.”


During a 2012 visit to the Matizha Clinic, two nurses show off
the newly purchased sterilizer to Pauline Mukozho, second from left, and Madison Brinnon, right.

The clinic project has helped St. James broaden its missional reach even further into the world. The church has a history of meeting the needs of many local community groups by opening its doors for their activities and meetings.

“St. James finds ways to work locally and globally with all that we have been blessed with, with great people who have great hearts for others and with a building that we say ‘never sleeps’,” said Rev. David Jolly, pastor of the congregation.

While much of the clinic donations came from small fundraisers—soup luncheons, sales of homemade pickles and jams—the UMW began looking for ways to make more money. “We needed something to get a bigger bang . . . more than the $400 or $500 we were making at a time,” said Quimby.

That’s when the organizers of the annual yard sale to benefit the church’s Happy to Help Food Pantry, which feeds about 1200 a month, committed half of their proceeds to the clinic. In 2013, that amounted to $2000.

That amount combined with a December “Regifting Boutique” and the February soup and bread luncheons allowed the UMW to send a first installment of $5000 to Zimbabwe in July 2014. The yard sale in 2014 brought in $4800 for the clinic.

“Two months and two yard sales later we were able to send another $5000,” Quimby wrote in an email. “God is good! And construction was on its way.”


Tapera Mubvekeri, center, speaks to visitors from St. James UMC outside the Matizha Clinic in Zimbabwe. Mubvekeri has been key to the project's success.

At the yard sale just a couple of weeks ago, another $2800 was raised and the UMW sent $3500 to Zimbabwe, for a total of $22,000.

“I never would have dreamed we would be able,” wrote Quimby. “ God has provided what is needed and I trust Him to see it completed.”

Mukozho has been trusting all along.

“It takes prayer. That’s all,” she has said, as a knowing smile crept across her face.

(If you would like to donate to the Matizha Clinic project, you can purchase a “gift card” by calling the office of the St. James UMC at 845-331-3030.)


Updating Social Principles for Changed World

BY JACOB DHARMARAJ, Ph.D
President

National Federation of Asian
American United Methodists

Late last month, at the invitation of the General Board of Church and Society, a group of United Methodist leaders looked at the Social Principles — especially, “The Economic Community” and “The Natural World” sections—to suggest updates in keeping with the rapid changes that shape these two key areas.

Today’s radically altered world warrants new mission principles that take people, societies, cultures, traditions, histories and worldviews seriously, and evaluate them in response to the revealed biblical truth in order to guide the world to become a new creation.


“The Natural World” section of the Social Principles includes concern about the sustainability of water resources, like this well in South Sudan constructed by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Kairos photo by Paul Jeffrey.

These changing circumstances call not only for multicultural ways of engaging in mission, but also coming up with new principles that interact between the global and local, intercultural and transcultural, monolingual and polyphonic aspects of today’s world. The core of such interaction should undergird today’s mission and evangelism, proclamation and social justice: a holistic gospel call.

Our social principles are about the important things in daily life. They are about cultivating and sustaining relationship with God and others. They are about justice and mercy; shared resources and interdependence; nurture and hospitality. They are an ongoing process and a lived relationship.

Since the Social Principles—as part of mission principles—are carried out in specific contexts, they must be communicated in meaningful and contemporary language. One particular model or activity cannot be pointed out as normative for all time and every place, as every community is presented with evolving contexts each day.

In the United Methodist Church, we are a diverse group from every corner of the world, and we make up numerous racial, ethnic, national and cultural backgrounds worshipping in many different languages. We represent many

regional, annual, jurisdictional, central and general conferences.

Our denomination now stands at a defining moment in history. Since the local and global are interconnected, the church and its community have to adjust to new contexts of plurality: Power-sharing rather than privilege and prestige.

In addition, the UMC is now in a critical period to help facilitate exchange, and listen to voices from connectional partners who can help develop mission principles that are capable of equipping the church for active participation in the Kingdom of God.

Our current set of Social Principles was drafted a little more than a generation ago before the emergence of a hyper-differentiated and hybridized world made possible by globalization, migration, and technological advancement.

Hence, we need to update our social principles to undergird our practices and explore the biblical and theological foundations for the shifting contexts of mission. Consequently, the metaphors we use, stories we tell have to make sense and be relevant.

Language has its inherent limits. Sacred signs and symbols, not rooted in the lived experience of a faith community, become empty and meaningless. For instance, a baptismal font is meaningful, if the church celebrates baptism. In a museum, the baptismal font becomes a mere artifact. In a museum, a curator can write and describe what baptism is all about using the baptismal font as a symbol. But a group of young Sunday school children who witness baptism in their own local church has a more lived experience of the ritual, and are more likely to celebrate this sacrament.

Contemporary sociologists and linguists argue that all transformation is linguistic. If we have any desire to create a new or an alternative future, we need to make a shift in our language and conversation that we have not made before, one that has the power to create something new in the emerging world. This insight forces us to question the value of our stories, the positions we take, our love of the past, and our way of being in community in order to create a new context.

It means we go beyond mere change to work for transformation. After all, change fixes the past; transformation creates the future. I am indeed grateful to be a part of the team that builds on the past and strives to update the Social Principles for a better tomorrow.


Beware of Assumptions About Age & Abilities

By Rev. Jim Stinson
Consultant for Older Adult Ministries

Jim Stinson

“Are you out of your mind?”

“It is time for yourself; you don’t have to keep giving to others.”

“You do know you are not getting any younger, don’t you?”

These, and many other similar responses—including well wishes that far outnumbered the somewhat negative ones—came on my retirement and subsequent announcement of an interim pastoral appointment.

I was ready for people who knew me well to tell me what they thought. Indeed, I value the friendships that allow for such honesty.

What came as a surprise was the number of people who know me only peripherally who felt they could express such opinions. Why did they feel the need to do so? What motivated them? I don’t know, but have a strong suspicion!

Our culture, while changing in such attitudes, is still filled with ageist understandings. There are still assumptions made that there are some things older adults just cannot, or should not, do.

“Mom is getting on in years. She should not be living alone!” (Who says so? Is that statement driven by factual evidence in her particular circumstances, or by something else?)

“He is 80 and should not be driving.” (Is he driving unsafely, running red lights, getting lost, memory and cognition going, or something else?)

“She is in her 80s and is dating someone even older than she. There is something wrong with that!” “Is she using him for free meals, is he using her?” (Why is it normal for people to enjoy dating and even looking for a longer relationship for those under a certain age, but taboo for those over a certain age?)

Is something going on within those making such assumptions? I cannot judge. But I do know the realities of aging are different for every person. Not everyone loses their physical or mental abilities as they age; certainly not to the same degree. Like people of any age, older adults deserve to be seen for who they are and what they can do, rather than judged by blanket assumptions.

Any congregation would do well to look again at its way of being in ministry with its older members. Is it mostly what that ministry does for them, or mostly what it does with them? If it is about doing for, rather than doing with, the congregation may be short changing itself and underestimating the older adults in its midst.

Jim StinsonWe do well to constantly remind ourselves of the years of wisdom and experience that age group has to offer. Ministry to older adults may be a reflection of a cultural understanding of what it means to be old. Ministry with them offers a better chance of reminding all of us that the call to discipleship does not end with any particular birthday.


Add Your Voice to GC2016 Worship

Your words can inspire the world. You can help shape the worship services at the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, taking place on May 10–20 in Portland, Oregon. The worship design team for the conference is seeking volunteers to write liturgy, including prayers, calls to worship and litanies.

“If worship—liturgy—is indeed the work of the people, then obviously the people must be involved not only in the worship experience itself, but also in the planning and preparation. By inviting a variety of voices around the world to contribute pieces of written liturgy, the design team is hoping to expand and deepen our corporate identity as a United Methodist community that truly worships in unity,” said the Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett, Worship & Music Director of the 2016 General Conference.

A full set of writing guidelines is available, along with the list of specific writing assignments at this shortened link: http://bit.ly/1KHijUR.

Take note: the deadline for submitting liturgy is October 1.

Writers whose work is selected to be included during worship services will retain copyright ownership, and their names will appear in the list of copyright credits printed in the General Conference worship booklet.

Complete HQ to Cut Deductible

Clergy covered by HealthFlex insurance are reminded to complete the HealthQuotient (HQ) by September 30. The HQ is an online health assessment questionnaire that helps evaluate risk for common health concerns, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and high cholesterol. Knowing one’s risk levels can prompt steps that lead to improved health.

Your individual information is not shared with the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, the conference staff, Blue Cross Blue Shield, or HealthFlex. Although, some risk factors may trigger a call from a health coach who follow strict HIPAA guidelines.

Completing the HQ also lowers the HealthFlex annual deductible for next year. Savings are $250 on a single plan and $500 on the family plan when both the clergy member and spouse complete the assessment online. 

To complete the HQ:

  • Go to www.gbophb.org.
  • Click on “HealthFlex/WebMD” icon.
  • Enter your WebMD user name and password.
  • Click on “Take HealthQuotient” under your action plan.
  • If you have any difficulty logging in, contact WebMD at 1-866-302-5742.

Continued Plea for Sandy Volunteers

Dear Friends,

It is amazing how the most daunting situations in life become an inspiring story when God sends volunteers to assist. This is how I describe most of the Sandy Recovery ministry currently going on around the New York and Connecticut areas. Lives are being restored. Homes are being rebuilt, and the discouraging narratives are being replaced with hopeful and exciting stories all because of what God is doing through the volunteers. The Psalmist said “But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” (Ps. 9:18)

On July 29, Bishop Jane Middleton sent out an urgent call for more "volunteers to help our neighbors to rebuild and recover from this disaster." Our volunteers did that 10 years ago in Biloxi when hurricane Katrina smashed in there. This is why I am inviting you to volunteer again in this recovery ministry. There are more hurdles ahead for many families, and volunteers like you can help change the story and transform the situation. Incredibly, many of the homes that were destroyed by the Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 are still in need of repairs. Homeowners are still without basics, and living in "temporary" conditions. Recovery is a long way from being complete. The need is ongoing.

In the recovery phase of the disaster, the NYAC Sandy Recovery Ministry has assisted more than 500 families through a Red Cross grant, and more than 175 families through an UMCOR grant. The ARC grant provided for many basic necessities while the UMCOR


Rev. Charles Ryu, left, pastor of St. Paul’s UMC in Middletown, N.Y.,
and his team answered Bishop Middleton’s call to help in the Sandy recovery.

grant supports more extensive volunteer and rebuild efforts. Despite this work, and the collaborative efforts of other organizations, thousands remain in need and the recovery is anticipated to continue for another 10 years.

Some of us have doubts about our construction skills when we think of volunteering our services for repairs such as installation of insulation and drywall; taping, spackling, priming, painting, etc. You will be surprised how God will use your skills and talents to make a difference when you volunteer. You will also be surprised how many blessings you will receive in return.

Please consider this invitation prayerfully and then follow the registration instructions below:

Volunteer groups can be as large as 15 oras small as 3. Teams can volunteer for a week, a weekend, or take part in the "Done in a Day" program. To register, please contact Barbara Burnside, volunteer coordinator at sandyrecovery@nyac-umc.com. For more information on the recovery effort, or to schedule a speaker, contact Rev. Tom Vencuss, Sandy recovery coordinator, at tvencuss@nyac.com.

Yours in Mission,
Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie
Conference mission coordinator


Disaster Care Team Training Offered

In observance of the upcoming anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the conference’s Sandy Recovery Ministry team are offering a “basic care team course” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17.

The training, led by Rev. Wendy Vencuss, a disaster care consultant for UMCOR, will be held at the Bellmore UMC, 2640 Royle Street, Bellmore, New York 11710. A freewill offering will be received to cover the cost of a light lunch.

UMCOR-trained disaster response “care teams” are faith-based, ongoing teams with standardized training to provide spiritual and emotional care before, during, and following disasters. They work closely with their annual conference and district disaster response ministries to connect victims to spiritual, emotional, and basic life resources.

To register or for further information, please contact: Wendy Vencuss at wvencuss@gmail.com or 860-324-1429; or Judy Chiarelli at the Bellmore UMC at 516-221-1220.

Youth Nominations Sought For Ambassadors For Mission

Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, conference mission coordinator, has invited all NYAC clergy to nominate one or two youths from their church for the youth ambassador’s mission journey to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in February 2016.

The trip will focus on construction of the “Rios de Agua” church building, Vacation Bible School, and youth ministry. It provides an opportunity for the youth to strengthen their faith by sharing God’s love.

Apply now by contacting: Ewoodzie at 914-615-2233, or by email at jewoodzie@nyac.com. For additional details go to, www.nyac.com/vimprojectdetail/685551.


MARCHA 2015 Focuses on Equity, Justice, Peace

(UMNS) The local church is the foundation of ministry, the Rev. Amaury Tañon-Santos told the annual gathering of MARCHA, United Methodism’s Hispanic/Latino caucus, during its Aug. 13–16 meeting in Madison, Wisc.

“What we have discussed here regarding equity, justice and peace is very important,” he said. “However, for this to affect the life of the church and have an impact beyond it, there has to be a demonstration at the local level because that is the foundation of the ministry. Each local church has a particular challenge in identifying their contribution to the ministry from its reality. It should get out of the typecast and any other label that is imposed for being Hispanic/Latino or for any other reason.” Tañon-Santos is the networker for the Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Rev. Hector Burgos, MARCHA communications coordinator and an elder from the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, shared his experience and welcomed a “new generation of Hispanic/Latino leaders that is rising and making its voice heard within the church and in society as agents of change, actively working with their communities for a more inclusive church and society.”

During a “Social Holiness” workshop, youth and young adults focused on biblical analyses of why God calls people to seek justice for the oppressed.

"We are definitely at an important moment in the history of our church because I think that it is ready to take decisions and make changes," said Jonathan Cintrón Rodríguez, a young lay leader from Puerto Rico starting theological studies in Boston. "The church can count [on] committed youth to create intercultural and intergenerational bridges that help make decisions and take actions to promote the establishment of the kingdom of God. What I experienced here has given me the strength to keep walking in humility and among the people to carry the prophetic voice of my church."

During plenary sessions, each jurisdiction had the opportunity to meet and update MARCHA about what is happening in their communities. Group workshops explored the theme, "Forging Ways of Equity, Justice and Peace."

MARCHA also set aside plenary sessions to review legislative resolutions and proposals in preparation for the 2016 General Conference:

  • "Annual Conference Strategic Comprehensive Plans for Hispanic/Latino Ministries" urges annual conferences to develop strategies for establishing ministries with Hispanic/Latino communities.
  • MARCHA asks continuation of the UM Hispanic/Latino Scholarship Fund, created by the 2012 General Conference to support college education among the Hispanic/Latino population.
  • “Financial Covenant for Sharing Facilities in Local Churches” establishes an agreement between churches or faith communities that share facilities and outlines financial responsibilities for maintenance.
  • “United States-Mexico Border” asks General Conference to advocate with the governments of both countries for policies that reduce economic disparities and encourage fair and well-paid jobs, correct environmental degradation and establish an immigration system that ensures United Nations agreements protecting migrant workers.
  • “Political Status of Puerto Rico, U.S. Policy in Vieques and Release of Oscar Lopez Rivera” encourages United Methodists to educate congregations about the political situation in Puerto Rico without promoting a political or partisan perspective. After 60 years of use by the United States military, Vieques still has active bombs and an altered ecosystem. Based on the support the UMC has traditionally provided the Vieques cause, MARCHA requests the General Conference to advocate restoration of the environmental conditions of the island. MARCHA also asks delegates to support immediate release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican patriot who has served more than 35 years in prison after a conviction of conspiracy because of his independence ideals.
  • “Lift the U.S. Economic Embargo in Cuba” urges Congress to suspend the embargo and continue to strengthen the process of diplomatic restoration and trade relations.

UM Branding Toolkit Now Available

United Methodist Communications is offering a new toolkit to make it easy for local churches, annual conferences, general agencies and other denominational entities to adopt more unified branding across the connection.

The Cross and Flame, the official logo of The United Methodist Church was created in 1968 when The Methodist Church joined together with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The trademarked insignia has become an instantly recognizable symbol for The United Methodist Church worldwide.

Yet research shows that only about 65 percent of United Methodist churches currently use the Cross and Flame mark. Some use different flames and different crosses, as well as miscellaneous hues, even though the Cross and Flame has specific standards regarding its use. Those standards have recently been updated. 

An online toolkit is now available to help all United Methodist entities easily implement the unified branding in their own organizations, while maintaining their own identities. This free toolkit includes standardized colors and fonts, logos, social media graphics, and stationery templates—yet provides flexibility and choices for churches to integrate their own components and preferences. 

“Connecting with the United Methodist brand in a more consistent way promotes visual harmony and reduces confusion,” said Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “As with any strong brand, unified identity also allows churches to get the full benefit of consistency across denomination-wide communications. A brand is ultimately a promise, and in our case this promise is the Wesleyan faith that is core to our identity as United Methodists to share the love of Jesus Christ and to serve the world around us.”

Logos of agencies, annual conferences and other ministries have varied greatly in the past. To date, seven general agencies and five annual conferences have adopted the new brand standards, as well as the Nigeria Episcopal Area and the Philippines Central Conference. 

Learn more at umcom.org/brand.


Work for Equality Should Extend to All

BY BRUCE LAMB
Associate Minister, St. Mark’s and Mt. Calvary UM churches 

1 John 4:20–21 tell us, “If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and goes right on hating their brother or sister, or friend thinking nothing of it, they are a liar. If they won’t love the person they can see, how can they love the God they can’t see?”

The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. 

In August, the Reconciling Ministries Network and the Methodist Federation for Social Action hosted their bi-annual convocation, called “Gather at The River,” in San Antonio. More than 600 United Methodists from all over the United States attended, including many New York Conference clergy and laity. Featured speakers including Methodists In New Directions’ (MIND) New York chair, Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy; retired UMC Bishop Melvin Talbert, California-Pacific Conference Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, and Rev. Peter Storey.

Tweedy preached on how we can truly gather at the river with all God’s children in the United Methodist Church, noting that, “The United Methodist Church does not have the authority to put conditions on God’s grace.”

The United Methodist Church is made up of people from all walks of life with many different complexities and struggles. As the late civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

In this spirit, the UMC’s work for equality for all God’s children is intersectional. We can’t untangle one’s race from one’s sexuality, or from being differently abled, or being transgendered, as it is all connected. Addressing this intersectionality has taught us that all of our different moving streams come together—and in doing so, they form one mighty river. 

Throughout the gospels, Jesus continually welcomes people that society deems as outcasts. As the United Methodist Church, are we going to continue deeming LGBT people as outcasts, even “incompatible with Christian teaching?” As we read in Scripture, breaking down barriers and welcoming people in was not just a side project for Jesus or just a moral hobby, but a central part of His ministry. It still is today.

As a church carrying out this work, we need to make inclusion a central part of our ministry. “In your next pastoral transition, insist on having a queer person appointed,” Rev. Tweedy said, calling for a national clergy coming out day. “When people see our beloved pastors and teachers are queer, with few exceptions, love wins.” 

As a church, let us come together: working for equality for all in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, working towards truly welcoming LGBT people in the United Methodist Church, feeding the hungry and going out and healing as Jesus did. Let us recognize a truly abundant gospel where all have a place at the table. If we do this, we will truly have “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds.” We need to be extravagant in welcoming new ideas, new visions and new understandings of what it means to be people of God—and we need to stop hurting God’s children. While we debate how to proceed, real people are suffering real harm.

We are not called to practice an exclusive ministry as United Methodists, but an inclusive ministry. What does this look like? It means being unapologetic that hatred and intolerance are incompatible with Christian teaching. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

Lamb is on the steering committee of the New York Methodists in New Directions (MIND).


Online Ordination Ends UM Clergy Candidacy

(UMNS) By getting an online ordination through another denomination, a United Methodist clergy candidate has dropped out of the ordination process and abandoned her church membership, church leaders said.

Michigan Area leaders offered that explanation in a September 9 statement about Ginny Mikita. Using credentials from the Universal Life Church, Mikata officiated at the same-sex wedding of the Rev. Benjamin and Monty Hutchison.

The leaders said they wanted to set the record straight after multiple social media posts said the church had “excommunicated” Mikita.

“Neither bishops or district superintendents have the authority to excommunicate lay persons from the church, nor to remove individuals from candidacy for ministry,” Michigan church leaders said, citing the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book. Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey leads the Michigan Area, and the Rev. William Haggard was Mikita’s district superintendent.

“In choosing to become ordained in The Universal Life Church, Ms. Mikita elected to change denominations.” That means, the leaders said, she also relinquished her status as a certified candidate to be deacon.

Nevertheless, she can rejoin the denomination at any time, the leaders said.

Mikita, an attorney, said she knew that by officiating at a same-sex wedding, she was putting her clergy candidacy at risk but she said her love for her friend, the Rev. Hutchison, made it worth the risk.

However, she disputes that she surrendered her church membership. “I did not and still do not believe my actions equated to an automatic forfeit of my membership or the processes—both in letter and spirit—outlined in the Book of Discipline.”

She said she is in discussion with clergy, counsel and others regarding possible courses of action going forward.

The end of Mikita’s clergy candidacy is the latest development since Hutchison, an African Methodist Episcopal elder, was removed as pastor of a United Methodist congregation. Nine ordained United Methodist clergy in Michigan are also under complaint for helping to officiate at Hutchison’s wedding.

The Book of Discipline since 1972 has proclaimed that all people are of sacred worth but that the practice of

homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Church law prohibits “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy from serving United Methodist churches and bans pastors from officiating at same-sex unions.

In saying Mikita removed herself from church membership, church leaders cited another part of the Discipline. Paragraph 241 states, “If a pastor is informed that a member has without notice united with a church of another denomination, the pastor shall make diligent inquiry and, if the report is confirmed, shall enter “withdrawn” after the person’s name on the membership roll and shall report the same to the next charge conference.”

However, Mikita said she alerted her pastor and the chair of her district committee on ordained ministry of her intentions ahead of the Hutchison’s wedding. 

To rejoin the denomination, the Discipline says she will need to transfer her membership back to The United Methodist Church. If that’s not possible, she can be restored by reaffirmation of her baptismal vows.

She can reapply to the candidacy process after a year of leadership in her local church.

The Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, also has taken up the question of when a clergy member’s association with another denomination crosses the line into a membership shift. 

In Decision 696 from 1993, the court ruled that a man could not be simultaneously a United Methodist pastor and lay member in the Roman Catholic Church. The court said becoming a lay member in another denomination constitutes termination of United Methodist Church membership.

The same principle applies to online ordination, writes Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson in an October 2013 blog post. She specifically addressed the issue of lay people and licensed local pastors purchasing ordination certificates to officiate at weddings.

“The integrity of our process and Wesleyan heritage is diminished when people purchase ordinations for the sake of convenience,” she said.

The bishop’s pastoral letter offers solid advice, said the Rev. Robert F. Zilhaver. He is a member of Associates in Advocacy, a United Methodist group that offers advice to pastors under complaint

and seeks to ensure the church’s due process is followed.

Zilhaver saw no violation of due process in Mikita’s case. As a clergy candidate, she is more like a job applicant and does not have the same protections as ordained clergy.He sees the prohibition on dual membership as a protective measure for the church. “This protects the church from people trying to split it and saying we can pull it away from the accountability of the church,” he said.

That concern applies to more than just the church’s ongoing debate about homosexuality but also to other areas of theology, he added.

Bottom line, he said, online ordinations cannot be used for an end run around the denomination’s ban on blessing same-sex unions.

Mikita told Reconciling Ministries Network, which first reported her removal, that her commitment to The United Methodist Church has not changed. The network is an unofficial United Methodist advocacy group that seeks full inclusion for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and queer or questioning individuals in church life.

“My membership in The UMC represented my sacred and holy commitment, made by public profession of faith during worship, to remain loyal to Christ through The UMC and to do all in my power to strengthen its ministries by my prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness,” she said.

Matt Berryman, the executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network said the group understands the actions taken against Mikita may be in line with church law.

“However, we remain deeply disturbed by the reality that such harmful and unfruitful actions can be justified by our own policies,” said Berryman, the group’s executive director. “To say that we must be comfortable with such actions simply because they are in line with church polity is like asking Jesus to sanction the suffering of a fellow human being because Scripture forbids healing on the Sabbath.”

The relationship among gay individuals and The United Methodist Church “has been the source of intense emotional debate for decades,” the Michigan Area statement said. “Faithful members of The United Methodist Church represent a diverse spectrum of belief on all sides of these matters.”

Only General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, has the authority to change church teachings and governance. General Conference will next convene May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.


OBITUARIES

Shirley F. Truran

Shirley F. Truran, 86, died August 21, with family at her side. She was the widow of the Reverend Kenneth Truran. Rev. Truran served congregations in Peekskill, Hobart and Margaretville. He retired in 1976 and died in 2003.

Shirley Truran was born in Dry Brook, N.Y., on May 28, 1929. She grew up on a farm in the Catskill Mountains and moved from Arkville, N.Y., to St. Augustine, Fla., in 1982 with her late husband. She enjoyed nothing more than helping others, spending time with her family and friends and being “Mama” to her two cats.

Truran is survived by sons, Keith Valk of Oneonta, N.Y., and Kevin Valk of New Kingston, N.Y; daughters, Suzann Maass of St. Augustine, Fla., Sandra Valk of Fleischmanns, N.Y., and Stacy Valk Boice of Pomona Park, Fla.; grandchildren Paul Maass, Orion and Chamberlain Hinkley, Kaleb and Justin Valk, Charity Valk Mack and Thaddeus Valk; and eight great-grandchildren. Shirley is also survived by her brother, Allen Fairbairn; daughters in-law, Gail Valk and Priscilla Valk; sons-in-law, Clayton Boice, Ken Maass, Tim Hinkley, Franz Edlinger, and Ray Ploutz, and two nieces and one nephew.

A memorial service was held August 28 at the St. Augustine Shores United Methodist Church. An informal graveside service was held September 12 at the Clovesville Cemetery in Fleischmanns, N.Y.

Donations in Truran’s name may be made to the St. Augustine Humane Society or Feline Canopy of Care, St. Augustine, Fla.

Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile

Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile, 85, a respected elder of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, died August 21. Haile offered a welcome from the Shinnecock Nation and blessing at the Act of Repentance Service during the 2015 New York Annual Conference.

Born in Southampton to Shinnecock parents, Haile earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York at Oneonta Teachers College, and a master’s degree in recreation education from New York University. In 2002, Ms. Haile received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the former Southampton College.

For the past five decades, she wore several different hats as a dance teacher, a consultant in Native American studies, and an active member of both the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist Church of Southampton, now Hamptons UMC.

She was also a founding member of the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, and for many years opened the annual Shinnecock Powwow with a ceremonial dance. Additionally, she served on the Shinnecock tribal council, land defense committee, cultural center and museum board.

Haile, 85, was married to Richard Haile for nearly 60 years and together they had four children, Scott, Holly, Christina, and Benjamin. In addition to the children, she is survived by sisters Edythe and Grace; brother Frederick; 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She had a love for cultural dances and met her husband at an international folk dancing class in Schenectady in 1952.

The viewing for Elizabeth Bess Chee Chee Thunderbird Haile will be held on Tuesday, August 25 from 11am until 2pm at the Hamptons United Methodist Church in Southampton, NY, The funeral service was held August 25 at the Hamptons UMC in Southampton, where Rev. Leslie Duroseau is the pastor.

Memorial donations may be made to Padoquohan Medicine Lodge, Inc. at PO Box 5078, Southampton, NY 11969.


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