General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Launches New Brand Campaign: “Nurturing Leaders. Changing Lives.”

NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 4, 2019 – A new branding campaign of The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) of The United Methodist Church (UMC) expresses the agency’s commitment to sharpen its focus on the ways that it resources, coaches, trains and consults with lay and clergy leaders throughout their lifetimes, as they discover, claim and flourish in their callings.

“Nurturing Leaders. Changing Lives” articulates the agency’s mission to expand and re-envision the ways that the UMC identifies, trains and provides continuing enrichment for its leaders.

“Well prepared and supported leaders strengthen the church’s effectiveness in growing disciples and spreading the gospel to the world,” said Rev. Dr. Kim Cape, GBHEM’s general secretary. “To assist the church in meeting its central mission, we are providing exceptional tools and opportunities to help gifted leaders make a difference.”

Drawing on extensive research with United Methodists from across the church, GBHEM is proactively developing new resources and services and reshaping existing ones to enhance lay and clergy leaders’ ministries in their contexts and cultures.

GBHEM is reframing itself as a “leadership center” that will disseminate best practices, training, coaching, consultation and thought-provoking publications from leadership experts. It is also working toward offering demographic data, trend analysis, an online “virtual toolbox” of leadership resources and forums for examining and discussing leadership issues and challenges.

Among the new resources and events that GBHEM will introduce this year:

  • The United Methodist Leaders’ Summit, September 23-25, Orlando, Florida. Key denominational leaders will gather to discuss leadership concerns facing the church and strategize goals for growing and sustaining leaders for the church and world.
  • The Awakened Life. An eight-week curriculum to help collegiate ministers address issues of emotional, mental and spiritual well-being among students.
  • Effective Ministry 360. EM360 helps pastors and staff/pastor-parish relations committees identify areas of ministry effectiveness and guides congregations in establishing a formation plan to ensure that ministry and mission goals are met.
  • “Truth-Telling in a Post-Truth World.” This book by D. Stephen Long, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at Perkins School of Theology, explores questions such as, how can we recognize the truth when everyone follows their own perception of it? When we accept and expect lies, is civil society possible? If everyone has their own moral compass, is there any compass at all? It identifies ways for private citizens and people of faith to practice truth-telling, for the common good.

Learn more about the agency’s new direction in this video.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

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United Methodist Higher Education Leaders Gather to Enhance Their Influence on the Church

NASCUMC Meeting January 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., January 4, 2019 – Representatives from United Methodist higher education institutions are gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona, Jan. 3-4 to discuss how the values of the church’s higher education ministry could inform the denomination’s mission. Attendees include university presidents and senior leaders from the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church (NASCUMC).

This month’s gathering is the most highly attended in a decade, demonstrating the organization’s continuing influence. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), The United Methodist Church’s leadership development agency, initiated NASCUMC which has grown in its work to enhance United Methodist higher education as a ministry to the church and world.

“The history of the United Methodist movement has been defined by its deep commitments to education,” said Colette Pierce Burnette, president of NASCUMC and of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. “At the same time, I expect that the future of this denomination will be equally defined by the relationship maintained between the church and its educational centers going forward. United Methodist colleges and universities are the most important gateway to the church for young adults.”

NASCUMC leaders will discuss the importance of maintaining that educational gateway for all students and its relevance to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.

One of the co-facilitators of the Way Forward Commission, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, West Virginia Episcopal Area, will describe the various proposals that the upcoming General Conference will examine. Rev. Dr. Thomas Wolfe, president of Iliff School of Theology, in Denver, Colorado, will speak about the importance of the historical connection between the church and United Methodist schools, colleges and universities.

NASCUMC members will also address the association’s international relationships.

“The leaders of many Christian denominations speak about their church-related colleges, but ours is certainly a college-related church,” said Mark Hanshaw, associate general secretary for GBHEM’s Division of Higher Education. “The mission of United Methodism in the world has been defined by the church’s commitment to education and educational accessibility.”

NASCUMC is the second-largest denominationally-affiliated network of schools in the United States. It includes 119 member institutions. Among these institutions are 13 United Methodist seminaries, 11 historically black institutions and several private secondary schools. NASCUMC is supported by GBHEM’s Division of Higher Education.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

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New Year’s Message from the Moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  As we turn to the new year and the approaching February meeting of the called Special Session of General Conference, the moderators would like to encourage delegates to the General Conference, as well as all spiritual leaders in The United Methodist Church, to read and consider the report of the Commission in its entirety. There are key values which ground the report which can be found in both the theological and missional statements included in the report and we commend this work to you for study and reflection. The report includes an important narrative that sets the context for understanding the three plans included in the report, legislation for three different plans, and four appendices.

Following the release of the Commission’s report in July, there have been focused conversations, articles, commentaries, and blogs in a variety of venues primarily about the One Church and Traditional plans.  We would like to remind the church that there are three serious plans included in the report.  The Commission on a Way Forward worked for more than a year on two of the plans – the One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan. In consideration of the spiritual work and leadership of the Commission members, we encourage the church to wrestle seriously with the fact that God does make all things new and not set aside the Connectional Conference Plan as too complicated or too different. Instead, we invite the church to study and consider the Connectional Conference Plan, as well as the One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan, for what the Church might be able to learn from all that has been shared for consideration and discernment.

Additionally, we would invite the church to read the One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan alongside the Judicial Council ruling # 1366 on the constitutionality of these two Plans.  The Judicial Council could not rule on the Connectional Conference Plan because the plan itself calls for constitutional amendments while the other two plans do not call for constitutional amendments.  The Judicial Council rulings do not change any of the three plans, however, their rulings enable delegates to do their best work by helping delegates know where the plans potentially need to be amended and why.

Amid the reading and study of the entirety of the report and the judicial council rulings, we continue to invite you to daily prayer for each of the delegates and for the global United Methodist Church.  Prayer connects us with God, who loves us so much that God sent Jesus so that we all might have life through him.  Prayer also connects us across the denomination, no matter how geographically far or close we live from each other. God’s mission continues, and we can trust God to be God as we continue to pray for a new direction the triune God may have in store for The United Methodist Church.

Peace,
Bishops David Yemba and Sandra Steiner Ball
Moderators, The Commission on a Way Forward

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga mmulenga@umc-cob.org 202-748-5172

Council of Bishops’ letter to the global LGBTQ community

To the People of the United Methodist Church:

Grace and Peace to you in these days of Christmas, and at the conclusion of a calendar year.

At the fall meeting of the Council of Bishops at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, bishops approved a motion to send a pastoral letter to the Global LGBTQ community. A writing team, composed of a bishop from each central conference and jurisdiction, completed this task, on behalf of the Council. The letter follows.

We share this letter with you as an expression of our desire to strengthen the body of Christ. We confess our participation in the harm we have done to one another and to the LGBTQ community. In offering this letter we bear witness to the light of Jesus Christ, which enlightens everyone and is coming into the world (John 1: 9). And we pray that in the days ahead we will, with him, grow and become strong, that we will be filled with wisdom, and that the favor of God will rest upon us (Luke 2: 40).

The peace of the Lord,
+Ken Carter
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

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Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Friday, December 28, 2018

To our Global LGBTQ Kin in Christ,

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church recognizes the ways in which the convening of the Special Session of General Conference creates a time and space of harm for you and members of your family. To be the focus of attention, discussion and debate is hurtful.

Demeaning and dehumanizing comments and attacks on LGBTQ persons in conversations related to the upcoming February Conference are a great tragedy and do violence to hearts, minds, and spirits. When you suffer, the whole body of Christ suffers. Together, we need to work to resist hate, violence, and oppression of persons. In these attitudes and actions, great harm is done throughout the community, to the offended and the offender.

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12: We cannot say to a part of the body, “I have no need of you.” We belong to each other. In our Baptism, we are incorporated into the Church, the body of Christ, and made one in Christ. The Church pledges to every baptized member: ‘“Your joy, your pain, your gain, your loss, are ours, for you are one of us.”’ (The UMC Book of Worship, pg. 83). Our Book of Discipline clearly states that all people are of sacred worth.

As leaders of the church, we are brokenhearted by conversations that dishonor, objectify and dehumanize. We confess, as Bishops of The United Methodist Church and as we attempt to honor our convictions, that our actions and words have not always been life-giving or honoring of the LGBTQ community. Amid our sorrow, we seek to learn and grow in grace. To that end, we commit ourselves to helping people who disagree with each other to have conversations that include, honor, and respect people with different convictions. We are a diverse group of leaders—conservative, centrist, progressive—however, we are unified in our commitment to work together in ways that will give you and all God’s children strength, comfort and hope for better and more merciful tomorrows.

As the Special Session of General Conference approaches, we pray that the Holy Spirit will draw us together. May we see the image of God in one another, treat one another with tenderness, and love one another fiercely. Bearing Christ’s love in these ways, we pray to be God’s faithful witnesses.

The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church

mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172

Two retired bishops die on same day

Bishop Benjamin Chamness (left) and Bishop William B. Oden (right).

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church regrets to announce the deaths of two retired bishops, Bishop Benjamin Chamness and Bishop William B. Oden.

Bishop Benjamin Chamness

Bishop Benjamin Chamness died Saturday, December 22, 2018 in Huntsville, Texas, with his wife, Joye, and family by his side.

Bishop Chamness was elected to the episcopacy by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in 2000 and assigned to the Fort Worth Area.  Bishop Chamness served as the resident Bishop of the Central Texas Conference and the Fort Worth Area. He retired from the episcopacy in 2008.

Bishop Benjamin Chamness will be buried at Rehobeth UMC (126 Co Rd 207, Carthage, TX 75633) on Saturday, December 29, 2018 at 2 pm. His memorial service will be at First UMC of Huntsville (1016 Sam Houston Ave, Huntsville, TX 77320) on Friday, January 4, 2019 at 11 am. Clergy who attend the memorial service are invited to wear robes with white stoles and sit as a group. Clergy spouses who are present are invited to sit with their spouses.

Condolences may be sent to:
Mrs. Joye Chamness
319 Elkins Lake
Huntsville, TX 77340

Former Council of Bishops President Bishop William B. Oden.

With his family surrounding him, Bishop William B. Oden passed away on Saturday, December 22, 2018 in Highlands Ranch, CO.

Bishop Oden was elected to the episcopacy by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in 1988; he served the Louisiana Area (1988 -1996), and the Dallas Area from 1996 until his retirement in 2004. He served as Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops from 2004-2008.

Bishop Oden was president of the Council of Bishops from 2000-2001.

Please keep his wife, Marilyn, and their children in your prayers.

Condolences can be sent to:
Mrs. Marilyn Oden
3091 Mill Vista Road #1214
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

Funeral details are still being planned.

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172

Christmas greetings from Bishop Carter and the Council of Bishops

In a Christmas message to the people of The United Methodist Church on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Council president Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., encourages us, with a message from Isaiah 11, to be a sign of God’s peaceable Kingdom.

Read Bishop Carter’s message below or at this link:

A Peaceable Kingdom in a Divided World

The Prophet

Living eight centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah had a vision, which over time was given a name:  the peaceable kingdom.  It’s a compelling vision:  A shoot will come from a stump.  A stump is a tree that has been cut down and destroyed.  But the hope is that life would come out of destruction.  We often place our hopes on a new leader, and so an ideal king would be enthroned, and would come from the family of David.  A new political order would fulfill the hopes of the people.   This passage may have been read on inauguration day, with the prayer that the Spirit of the Lord would guide and govern the leader.

Then Isaiah’s vision shifts from political science to art, to the creation, a vision of a new heaven and a new earth:  the wolf and the lamb will lie down together; no one shall hurt or destroy on God’s holy mountain.   Paradise will be restored.  All nature will sing in harmony.  Isaiah is painting a picture:  this is what peace looks like.  This is the peaceable kingdom.

In the United Methodist Church, we have reflected on what it means to have a heart of war and a heart of peace.  In seeking a way forward, we have been honest about the ways we have seen each other as issues to be discussed, problems to be solved and obstacles to be overcome.  And we have seen the image of God in each other and listened with empathy to one another.  We know what violence looks like, the harm we do to one another and the harm that we experience.

The prophet asks a different question: “What does peace look like?”  This vision of the prophet Isaiah has always been inspirational.  You can see it, and, of course, that is a part of what makes it so compelling.  In the 1820s, almost two hundred years ago, there was a deep separation within the Quakers living in the United States over slavery.  It was a church fight.  Some of us have been through church fights.  Conflict is present in many of our local churches, in many of our communities, in our nations, and in our global denomination.  There are deep divisions within the people called Methodist as the year 2018 concludes, over our polity in relation to the LBGTQ community and the interpretation of scripture.

The Painter

Edward Hicks lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and was a Quaker minister. To make extra income he painted, mostly responding to the needs of others.  He painted tavern signs, farm equipment, whatever was needed, and he was good at it.  Although he was self-taught, he had a gift.  He began to make a fair amount of money, and this upset his Quaker congregation, who felt that he was violating their customs of simple living.  Finally, he became enmeshed in a church split, between those who wanted to live more frugally, and others who did not see a problem.  He gave up painting and took up farming, but he was a terrible farmer. Later he gave up the preaching ministry too, and transitioned back to the craft of painting.

Soon enough, he came to discover that he could use his painting to express his faith. He began to draw oil paintings based on Isaiah’s prophecy:  The wolf shall live with the lamb, a little child shall lead them (11.6). He drew the same painting over and over again, and there are now over one hundred versions.  We know it now as the Peaceable Kingdom, and it is his best-known work.  One version of the painting is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; another is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; another, which inspired the composer Randall Thompson, is in the Worchester Art Museum in Massachusetts; and, another is in the Reynolda House,  a few miles away from one of the congregations my wife Pam and I served, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In most of the paintings the predators and prey are together.  There is a bull, a lion, a lamb, a bear, a child.  They are most often to the right of the painting, congested together.  For the artist the animals reflected something of our temperaments–the lion was anger, the bear was calmness.  To the left there is often a separate scene, William Penn conducting a treaty with the native Americans, the first peoples.  A river flows toward them, and light shines upon them.  The spirit, the light placed within us by God, helps us to dwell together in peace, despite our animosities and our differences.

It could be that Edward Hicks was inspired to paint this picture, over and over again, because he was obsessed with a vision of peace.  Perhaps it was due to the growing division in America between North and South over the practice of slavery.  Perhaps it was due to the conflict that was present in his own community, over the teachings of his church and his lifestyle.  Perhaps it was due to the inner turmoil within, over what exactly God wanted him to do with his life.

The Theologian

Thirty-five years ago, in 1983, Stanley Hauerwas published a book entitled “The Peaceable Kingdom.”  His earlier works had been collections of essays in the field of Christian Ethics; this was an attempt to write an introduction to his discipline, from the perspective of character, virtue and narrative.  The title was taken from Isaiah’s prophecy and the introduction included a discussion of the painting of Edward Hicks.  In time, Hauerwas would become one of our most influential theologians.

In “The Peaceable Kingdom,” Hauerwas suggests that Christians are called to bear witness to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, noting that “this world is the creation of a good God who is known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus” (15).  We believe this to be the truth of the gospel, and yet we cannot use violence in the advancement of this truth.  Instead we have trust and confidence in the ultimate victory of God over the forces of evil, sin and death.  In a fragmented and polarized world, this is crucial:  Christians with liberal and conservative convictions are tempted to use coercive strategies for the sake of an end they believe to be just, and Christian leaders mimic the practices of our secular counterparts in seeking strategic gains through actions that are not consistent with our covenant promises.

At our best, we understand that leaders never cease being disciples.  The formation of character and conscience takes place through immersion into the Christian narrative and participation in the Christian community.  We discover that we are sinners, that we have a continuing capacity for self-deception.  To be a Christ-follower is to move beyond individualism to see the persons God has called us to serve; in so doing we discover the needs of others to be the pathways to our freedom, as they remove the greatest obstacle to freedom, namely our self-absorption (44).

Freed from self-absorption, as individuals and congregations, we are given new life.  The call of God is, in Hauerwas’ words, “the confidence, gained through participation in God’s kingdom, to trust ourselves and others.  Such confidence becomes the source of our character and our freedom as we are loosed from a debilitating preoccupation with ourselves” (49).

The Present Moment

United Methodism, at the conclusion of 2018, has become a church infected by “a debilitating preoccupation with ourselves”.  Many of our congregations do not have the energy or will to be in mission beyond the walls of the sanctuary.  Commenting a few days after his election to the papacy, Pope Francis spoke of the “self-referential church”, which believes that “she has her own light”, and “lives to give glory only to one another, and not the rest of the world.”  At a denominational and structural level, we often reflect the systemic polarization of our political cultures; our social pronouncements, even those that advance values of inclusion, protection of the vulnerable, and seek peace, are often harsh and brittle.  Ironically, these pronouncements become louder as the church itself becomes more marginalized, fragmented and disconnected from the real world.

Our fragmentation, violence and disconnection are signs that “we have failed to be an obedient church,” in the language of our prayer of confession (United Methodist Hymnal, p. 8). In our individual lives, in our congregations, in the Council of Bishops, in our denomination, in our nation, we yearn for a right path, for a new and living way, for an alternative to the status quo.  In the language of the hymn, there are “fightings without and fears within.”

The way forward may be the rediscovery of our core mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world” (Book of Discipline, 120). Jesus is the embodiment of the peaceable kingdom.  To recall the words of the gospel about John the Baptist: “he was not the light; he came to bear witness to the light” (John 1. 8). The church approximates the peaceable kingdom as she stays close to the person and work of Christ. This is an act of radical self-denial.  The first task of a disciple, Hauerwas notes, is not to forgive but to be forgiven (89).  To confess our need for forgiveness is an act of humility, and one that calls upon the patience of God.  To confess that we need to be forgiven is to give up control, and to place ourselves in communion with God’s people, who are also imperfect and, yet, who are God’s chosen messengers of grace and acceptance for us.

The Question

And so, we gather under the cross and flame, in communities around the world, to discover anew the meaning and message of Advent and Christmas.    As we take the bread and cup into our hands we hear the good news:

Christ has died–making peace with God on our behalf (Ephesians 2);

Christ is risen–breathing on the disciples and saying, “peace be with you” (John 21);

Christ will come again–this is Advent….”Emmanuel–God with us–shall come to Thee, O Israel” (Matthew 1).

As United Methodists, the words of an eighth-century prophet, the vision of an eighteenth-century painter, and the writings of a twentieth-century theologian can guide us, for our questions and struggles remain the same.

How do we discover restored relationships?
Why is it so difficult for us to ask for forgiveness?
How do we most faithfully advocate for those who have been treated unjustly?
How do we accept God’s will for the future?
Where do we find the capacity to live in fellowship with those who differ from us?
What is our vision of peace?

The ruins and devastation surround the prophet Isaiah in the eighth century, but he remains faithful: he sits still long enough, listens closely enough, discerns carefully enough, and it becomes clear.  God paints a picture for him, and us.  It is a portrait of anger and calmness, strength and weakness, living together.  Could this vision exist, in the present moment: in our nations, in our denomination, in our local churches, in our families, within each of us?

Perhaps, in the words of Hauerwas, “we have the grace to do one thing” (149-151), meaning we live in community, we stay in connection and we engage in the basic practices of discipleship that make the forgiveness and love of God visible and tangible. This is the peaceable kingdom.

How can the United Methodist Church, in its global expression, become a sign of this peaceable kingdom?

At Christmas, if we sit still long enough, if we listen closely enough, if we discern carefully enough, all of this may become clear.  Let us open our eyes and our ears, our hearts and our hands, so that we might see the salvation of God.

The Peace of the Lord be with you!

Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Sources:
John Braostoski, “Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom”, Friends Journal, February, 2000.  Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom.  Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Hicks_-_Peaceable_Kingdom.jpg.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI.  Pope Francis, Speech to the Pre-Conclave College of Cardinals (America, March 27, 2013).  The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.  The United Methodist Hymnal.  The Anatomy of Peace (The Arbinger Institute).

Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172