A COVID-19 Update from Bishop Gary Mueller

August 14, 2019

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

I continue to thank God for your ministry in the midst of the challenges of Covid-19. You have been creative, innovative, positive and willing to adapt to a reality none of us were prepared to face. Thank you for all you are doing.

I have worked diligently to keep you up to date since the earliest days of the pandemic. This letter is another attempt to be current in my communication with you.

  1. We remain in ARUMC Stage 2, which means my basic guidance has not changed. I will wait until early September to determine whether it is time to move beyond Stage 2. We need to see how the reopening of schools and Labor Day Weekend impacts the number of cases.
  2. The one change in previous guidance that I am making concerns congregational singing. I believe recent data makes it clear that it is safe to have congregational singing if social distancing is occurring and masks are being worn. Let me be clear, wearing masks is imperative because singing without them greatly increases the spread of the illness. Having said this, I understand that some of you may still choose to refrain from singing for the immediate future.
  3. All Charge Conferences will be held by Zoom this fall in order to be cautious during a time when health professionals indicate Covid-19 may be spiking again. Any exceptions to this will need to be arranged with your District Superintendent.
  4. Conference Staff continue to carry out the majority of their work remotely. However, a ‘rolling schedule’ has been established where staff are spending limited time in the office. I am so proud of all of our Conference and District Staff who have worked long and hard to support you in this crisis. I hope you find a way to take the time to let them know how grateful you are.

I remain in prayer for God’s healing of Covid-19, your congregation and those in the mission field as you continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

God bless you!

Gary E. Mueller
Bishop

Nothing Can be Changed Until it is Faced

Nothing Can be Changed Until it is Faced

By Rev. Rashim Merriwether

Ethnic Faith Communities, Arkansas Conference

James Baldwin once wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced”

These words written many years ago have not lost their relevance or intuitive foresight as we are faced with addressing the issues of systemic racism. I would even submit it is applicable to my own process of reflective discernment as a Pastor, Christian, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, and Human. I struggled with James Baldwin’s words because it revealed the rawness of the overwhelming situation, I and others like me are forced to deal with each day.

We are directed to find ways to navigate the structures, systems, mechanisms, and unfortunate moments with a divine measure of grace and understanding. Our pain is real, our suffering irrefutable, but we are told that we must wait for permission to be heard, pray for understanding, and be patient because this is not convenient or the right time. We must not cause too much of an issue, because it could harm connectional status or our acceptance by our peers. Or one of my favorites, “It’s not what you think, but just part of the process…” But, my response to all these things is this, “Whether Pastor, Christian, Husband, Father, Son, Friend or Human, are all identities which I can affirm or withhold at my own discretion, but the one thing I will never be able to deny is the melanin in my skin, and it is that which becomes the precursor to my existence. I am identified as the Black ____, always reminded first of my color rather than the content of my character.

As society has come full circle, it has once again come face to face with the ugliness of its historical record on systemic racism against people of color in this country. The world has been called to give just cause or reason for the countless acts of racism that have been committed overtly or covertly. Whether by admission or acts of neutrality, it all becomes couplable actions that allow the problem of systemic and systematic racism to survive through the next generational cycle reinventing itself into politically correct attitudes and terminologies, filled with micro-aggressive acts and recasting itself into something palatable till the next George Floyd incident.

It is with this earnest understanding, I believe James Baldwin’s words speak prophetically to the world, our nation, society, and the church that we are all creations made in the image of God. I have chosen a few books which help illuminate the issues surrounding systemic racism, how it works; how it survives; how it changes, and how only love can conquer the system of hate.

“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo

“Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation” by Derald Wing Sue

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander

“Strength to Love” by the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Each of these authors brings honest, intuitive thoughtful conversation to the issues of systemic racism. Their collective words have foundations in science, theology, psychology, sociology, and the human condition. It is in the honest dialog; each author helps the reader to identify systemic racism at its core. These books challenge the reader to be reflective, proactive, and intentional in processes which are focused on self-transformation and dismantling the structures and systems of racism.

Unless we are willing to face the truth that systemic racism is a reality and identify its entrenched connections within the fabric of society, we will not be able to take responsibility and make this a transformative moment. We are called to be disciples, who make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the community and the world.

Matthew 22: 37-40 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, begins to process the definitions, structures, systems, and nuances of systemic racism let us govern our minds and hearts with these three simple questions:

  • What is at stake?
  • Where is Christ in this conversation?
  • How does this restore, foster, and create an accountable relationship with God, and others?

For more on the Arkansas Conference’s Dismantling Racism Initiative, visit arumc.org/dismantling-racism-initiative/.  

Let Your Neighbors Know You’re Here by Adding Your Logo to Your Church Vehicle

Let Your Neighbors Know You’re Here by Adding Your Logo to Your Church Vehicle

By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

You may think that church vans are sitting alone in empty church parking lots out in the hot summer sun. Of course, we are not using them to pick up and deliver children, youth, and adults to our buildings or events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so why would they leave their parking spots?

It would be easy to think that those reliable church vans and buses could not possibly be used again until the church returns to building use. The pandemic has required people to get creative with online worship and lessons. But some have pressed to think outside the normal walls and WiFi use in ministry which has led to porch visits, food delivering, dropping off Bible lessons supplies, and celebrating a masked milestone in a driveway. It has been amazing to see the church working in the community; but how did those ministry teams get out into their communities?

Tiffany Jones from Beebe shared, “When using our own cars, it created expensive mileage costs.” They also found their loads of goodies that they were taking to family’s homes fit better in the van during their multiple stops each day.

When they drove down long driveways or came unannounced, people always knew it was the church when they saw the church van logos. Tiffany also shared, “They would see us and immediately come to the porch to greet us. Many commented they knew it was the church as soon as they looked out the window.”

Well, you know who else looks out the window: neighbors! Neighbors saw that the FUMC van was making a visit. Neighbors asked what was in the Vacation Bible School box that they saw delivered to the front porch from the church. Neighbors saw masked church staff and volunteers driving the van to bring faith, hope, and love to members during the quarantine.

arumc decal

Church vans need to be used for everything you do in ministry now as a way for others to witness that church is happening outside the church walls. They may want to be part of a church that they can see delivering weekly faith, hope, and love. When people see that church logo driving through the neighborhood, they see the hands and feet of Jesus in their neighborhood.

I know that not all churches have the luxury of a church vehicle, but you can very cost-effectively purchase Church Logo Door Magnets. When a church staff or volunteer drives their own vehicle with a church logo driver door magnet, neighbors know this is not just a friend stopping by for a visit.

You can contact Digital Print & Imaging Mike Burnett at 902 Cumberland St., Little Rock, AR 72202, 501-376-2200, 501-376-2202 (fax), or mike@dpilr.com for a 12×18 Church Logo door magnet. I purchased two for $60 and had to pay postage. I think that is a great deal for any church!

Beebe First UMC’s church van

Bishop Gary Mueller Issues Updates To ARUMC Stage 2 Safety Guidelines

MEDIA CONTACT:
Amy Ezell
amy.ezell@arumc.org
501-324-8000, ext. 30

July, 29, 2020 – Little Rock, AR:  In accordance with the guidelines issued by Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the Arkansas Department of Health and the CDC, Bishop Gary Mueller has issued updated guidance for ARUMC children’s, youth and campus ministries effective immediately.

“With the COVID-19 numbers continuing to stay dangerously high, the Arkansas United Methodist Churches will remain in ARUMC Stage 2 and follow all guidelines that were provided in June 2020. With assistance from my task force, it was deemed necessary to update the ARUMC Stage 2 guidance for three particular ministries,“ stated Bishop Mueller. “Again, due to safety concerns, I want to urge all churches to continue to go slow with reopening and meeting maximum gathering numbers.”

The updated guidelines for ARUMC Stage 2 for ministries with children can be found here. The updated guidelines for ARUMC Stage 2 for youth ministries can be found here. The updated guidelines for ARUMC Stage 2 for in-person campus ministries can be found here.

Upcoming Webinar: Generosity in the Digital Age – Are You Prepared?

Registration link coming soon.

One of the far reaching impacts of the COVID-19 crisis is the rapid acceleration in changes that were already taking place in our culture.  For the church, the most obvious impact has been the shift from a reliance on in-person worship to one that is digitally dependent.  The pivot has been so well received by church attenders, that most churches now face a post-pandemic future in which to thrive they must provide excellence in both in-person and online worship.

Much like in-person worship, most churches today are still dependent on giving strategies that were largely developed for the church that existed over 40 years ago.  The result has been a steep decline in the percentage of household giving going to the church.  The Covid-19 crisis is likely to accelerate this downward trend in churches who fail to shift their approach to generosity.  In this webinar, Horizons CEO Joe Park and SVP Richard Rogers will overview of the current realities in church giving and introduce a framework for successfully funding your ministry needs during and post pandemic.  A time of questions and answers will follow the presentation.

If you are not able to attend the live webinar, those who register will have access to the recording and materials.


Speakers

Joe Park

JOSEPH W. PARK – CEO
Joe leads a team of 38 dedicated Ministry Strategists and support staff at Horizons Stewardship, whose mission is to help churches and faith-based non-profits grow disciples and fund ministry. The Horizons team has assisted churches in raising over 7 billion dollars in capital funding and uncountable amounts of annual and planned giving. Joe has consulted and taught extensively on implementation of best practices in generosity, strategic planning and change management.

Prior to joining Horizons in 2002, he served as CEO of Community Financial Group with banking, insurance and investment presences in seven different cities. He was named one of Arkansas’ Outstanding Business leaders by Arkansas Business Magazine, was a recipient of the Sam Walton Business Leader Award and was selected by the Secretary of the Air Force as a Civilian Leader representative to the Air War College. The Community Financial Group received the prestigious Arkansas Governor’s award for Most Outstanding Mid-Sized Company for Community Service.

Joe earned a degree in Finance and Banking from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Boston University. Joe and his wife, Rev. Lisa Greenwood, live in Dallas, Texas.

Richard Rogers

RICHARD L. ROGERS – Senior Vice President
Richard brings a unique blend of business savvy and passion for the local church to his work with Horizons. Working with pastors and church leaders, Richard’s aspiration is raising levels of generosity in the church to enable God’s vision to become a reality. In his early career, Richard worked as a manager for a Fortune 500 company. A response to a capital campaign prayer led him into ministry to serve as a Church Administrator with additional responsibilities over Discipleship and Stewardship. During this time, he directed a church campus relocation project and several capital campaigns for building programs. Throughout Richard’s tenure in the local church, his leadership and focus on faith development helped his congregation experience a 70% increase in giving to the annual ministry plan.

Most recently, Richard has focused his stewardship teachings on electronic giving through his book, The E-Giving Guide for Every Church: Using Digital Tools to Grow Ministry (Abingdon Press, 2016). In his book, Richard discusses the evolution occurring in the philanthropic community from paper money and check transactions to electronic giving. The E-Giving Guide is a resource for churches to help them navigate into the electronic age of giving. Breaking down high-tech jargon and the myriad of confusing options, Richard offers a plan to easily and effectively incorporate e-giving into the daily life of the church.

A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Richard and his wife, Jennifer, have six children and reside in Arkansas.