Camp Tanako announces Confirmation Camp 2021


Confirmation Camp will be a Day Camp on May 1, 2021. Campers will rotate through 5 classes: What is Confirmation, The Trinity, John Wesley, The Sacraments, and Our Vow.  Classes are led by ARUMC pastors from around the state of Arkansas. Campers will rotate through outdoor classrooms for each topic, play camp games, eat lunch, and end the day with a worship service in the Outdoor Chapel. The cost for the day camp is $15 per person, and includes a workbook and lunch. Registration is open at tanako.org. For more information, call the camp office at 501-262-2600.

Covid-19 precautions are in place and the camp will follow the CDC guidelines at that time. Campers will go through temperature checks and wear masks, as well as be assigned to small groups, where social distancing will take place.

April 19 Webinar Will Explore Language’s Role in Race, Religion and Public Policy

DALLAS (SMU) – “Words Matter: The Intersectionality of Race, Religion and Public Policy”, a Zoom webinar, will be held at 7 p.m. on April 19, 2021. The event is sponsored by Perkins School of Theology’s Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions and the Department of World Languages and Literature at Dedman School of the Humanities and Sciences.

The webinar will host academicians as well as community leaders as they explore the power of language in the intersection of race, religion and public policy and will look at how that is reflected in the ways that different groups thrive while others remain marginalized. Participants will be invited to examine the impact of language – the power of words – through this lens.

Panelists include: Dr. Evelyn Parker, Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology, Perkins School of Theology, SMU; Dr. Alberto Pastor, Associate Professor of Spanish, Department of World Languages and Literature, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, SMU; Bill Holston, Executive Director, Human Rights Initiative, Dallas, Texas; Emily Timm, Co-Executive Director, Proyecto de Defensa Laboral/Workers Defense Project, Austin-Dallas-Houston; Rev. David Wilson, Assistant to the Bishop, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference; Shellie Ross, Executive Director, The Wesley-Rankin Community Center, Dallas, TX.

Two panelists – a linguist and a practical theologian – will offer new insights from their research. The other four panelists – all leaders of community agencies that empower marginalized communities for social change – will present human stories that highlight the impact of public policy that is shaped by the power of language used in religion, education, and community spaces.

Each panelist will offer individual comments, followed by a discussion between the panelists and a short Q&A.  Participants will also have the opportunity to offer reflections on the panelists’ presentation.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please register at https://smu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_jN_Ay036Q6OJsl6RZ5tGsg.

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Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Pastoral Music as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The Department of World Languages and Literatures teaches eleven languages, including Ancient Greek, ASL, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. It offers four majors and eleven minors and is part of the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, SMU’s school of liberal arts, which connects students with forward thinkers and global problem solvers through interdisciplinary education and partnerships that begin here, at the heart of the SMU campus, and extend globally.

Bishops Reconsider May 8 Special Session of General Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church met on Monday, March 22, 2021 in an additional meeting to consider pressing matters  related to the Council’s work.  After much conversation, the bishops reached a decision that in the best interest of the church at this time, they would cancel the Special Session of the General Conference which was set for May 8, 2021.

The bishops announced that they will dedicate their regularly scheduled April meeting to conversation based on results of listening sessions that are occurring and discern a possible need for a new timeline toward General Conference 2020 set for August 29 to September 6, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

At the April meeting, the bishops will also discuss ways to empower the work at the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. 

“Much has been learned over the past few weeks and the extended timeline will allow for even deeper listening by the bishops at the general church level but also in our residential settings,” said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president of the Council.  “We are thankful for the collaboration fostered with the Commission on General Conference and especially grateful for the work that had already begun in the planning for the Special Session,” Bishop Harvey added.

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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
www.unitedmethodistbishops.org

The Living Stone and a Chosen PeopleReflections on I'm Black. I'm Christian. I'm Methodist.

The Living Stone and a Chosen People
Reflections on I'm Black. I'm Christian. I'm Methodist.

i'm black i'm christian i'm methodist

By Rev. Rashim Merriwether

Special Assistant to the Bishop on Ethnic Concerns and Initiatives

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-6 New International Version (NIV)

Recently, I was blessed to take part in an open panel webinar sponsored by the United Methodist Foundation in partnership with the Arkansas Conference’s work on dismantling racism. The webinar centered on a recent book titled “I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist,” edited by the Rev. Dr. Rudy Rasmus. The panel consisted of a few of its contributors, Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, Rev. Dr. Lillian Smith, Rev. Justin Coleman, Rev. Dr. Erin Beasley, Rev. Dr. Tori C. Butler, and Rev. Dr. Vance P. Ross. 

I enjoyed listening to each of the panelists as they shared from their chapters in the book, and provided the audience with wisdom and reflective thoughts, spoken through the lens of each of their unique and insightful perspectives. I found the challenge to webinar participants, along with other individuals, communities, churches, and greater society, summed up in a few reflective questions: 

  • Are you merely looking for additions in pigment, content or prophetic leadership?
  • Are you willing to be? Are you willing to be the transformed Church?
  • What are you willing to offer to create positive black content in our churches?
  • Are you willing to support initiatives to include and strengthen black churches whether it means starting fresh or retrofitting existing churches to become positive, vibrant, essential black churches?

As the panelists asked these questions, I found myself reflecting on the title and its prophetic implication and reality to people like myself. 

Rev. Dr. Johnson, led the conversation, setting the tone and with extreme intention prophetically sharing some inescapable realities that need to be considered and kept in context as we made use of this and any future moments of reflection. We must realize we have a responsibility to hear the voices of the past, then learn and finally mature into the Christians, leaders, teachers we are supposed to be. Things like entitlement, whiteness, whichever way it is identified, is a reality in the landscape of our existence. It is as sure as each breath that there will be a residual deposit of countless years of oppression, hate, and systematic or systemic racist processes tethered to each moment lived. Understanding, identifying, and knowing this is the beginning of living into a transforming opportunity.

However, we are responsible for the narrative, the work, and the future of what the world and the Church will become. Honest dialogue to the ugliness of systemic racism and its impact on every level of society is important, but only half of the conversation. There also has to be intentional work to become prophetic witnesses. We are called to be reminders of how things were and how they ought to be. So, my blackness is not and should never be the issue, but the witness, perspective, and experience I have to share should be the focus. As Rev. Coleman began, he went a little deeper to address one of the underlying identities associated as a pre-curse maker to African American people in this country: “Blackness.” 

I was moved by how Justin identified and quantified the term “Blackness”; How his encounters and unique perspective challenge us to view “Blackness” as more than social identity. It is a statement of cultural, theological, and historical significance to both individual “Blackness,” and its contributory, irreplaceable part in the conversation of race and anti-racism. 

In short, “Blackness” is a gift, not a mark. When identified, expressed, and shared, it is a gift that adds to the development of a larger, brighter picture in the vision of self, community, and yes, especially the church’s life. The imagery of superheroes with a mission to use their powers of “Blackness” to protect, add meaning, and offer cultural, spiritual growth to every situation, every conversation, every collective that had the opportunity to experience the power of “Blackness” from these superheroes.

However, I saw the importance of keeping an eye on the ball. These days, real lifelong engagement is essential and a vital part of the equation for real transformation. Too often, as people face the reality of the ugliness of racism, it makes a person begin to question their trajectory, discussions, input, and longevity. But Rev. Dr. Smith says that engaging the issue is only one part. One has to allow themselves to lean into the uncomfortability which comes through this work. 

Then she said something I have had to bite a lip, close my eyes, kneel and pray over so many times: “Trust the process.” It is only in our resolve and “sold-outness” we can live out the expectation of answered prayer and transformation. Nothing can change if somebody doesn’t offer themselves as a holy living sacrifice to God. But this leads to some uncomfortable places and realities.

Rev. Dr. Beasley reminds all that these wounds run deep. To begin the process is also to take ownership of your part in this conversation. No one is immune or excused from the conversation. Each person has a role and a responsibility; that is a fact. Rev. Dr. Butler continues this conversation by calling for people to lament and be intentional in the work on “self” and how we stay true to the honesty of the story. To make sure that this is not a checkmark box moment, but one of true transformation. All the things spoken, the lenses and the thoughts made for a real watershed moment. But I think some of the last ideas shared that day were important; ideas that take place after all the identifying, naming, and processing are complete.

Rev. Dr. Ross called everyone exposed to the issue of racism, its history, its forms, its constructs, and presence in our current narrative to a greater call and responsibility. That role will never be easy to accept, but as a doctor explains the health status of a patient and offers a prescription to foster healing, recovery, and transformation in the patient’s future health, so too must the church receive the prescription for healing and future health. 

“Receive, take and commit to the prescription…” This idea means dedication to the processes and changes to assure the future health of the church. This is our call, this is our responsibility, and this will become our legacy.

The Water Is Wide and DeepWesleyan Small Groups Serve as a Tool for Deeper Engagement

The Water Is Wide and Deep
Wesleyan Small Groups Serve as a Tool for Deeper Engagement

By Rev. Eva Englert-Jessen

Program Director, Hendrix College Center for Calling & Christian Leadership

I can’t name a specific moment when I began to take seriously the question, “Am I brave enough to say this out loud and over coffee with a friend or colleague, just as I am to post it on Instagram?”

Like many of us, I continue to learn all the time about how to navigate the weird and connecting world that is social media.

Social media is the space where boundaries in space and time are made invisible; where we are drawn closer to one another in shared stories of struggle, joy, and celebration. It is also a space where, in my experience, we can be pulled away like oil and water as our immense differences in life experience, religious and political affiliations, and values become condensed into faceless quips in the form of comments and angry emojis. And in the midst of a pandemic and multiple reckonings with crises around mental health, racism, and fragile democracy, these media have been our primary way to stay engaged.

I am so grateful for the moments when enlightening learning or conversation does occur on social media. I’m also simultaneously haunted by a perpetual question nearly every time I interact with it: Is this powerful tool also inviting us into deeper engagement as disciples of Jesus Christ? Are we asking tough questions about the power and influence that social media companies wield over our lives? Are we pairing our online courage (which we know can sometimes feel performative) with flesh-and-blood conversations that might ask us to be vulnerable or even uncomfortable? Are we creating and entering spaces to be in awe of one another as God’s creatures—not just consumable objects?

I wonder if our own Wesleyan heritage might offer us some meaningful tools. Small groups are embedded in Methodist DNA, especially in the Methodist movement’s early days in 18th century England. Small groups of about 12 people from a similar neighborhood, called classes, would gather weekly in covenant discipleship. They gathered to share their souls and to be held accountable in community to their own spiritual growth, which included not only their private devotion to the Christian life but to service and engagement in the wider community. And stuff got real: people shared their struggles in their marriages, with addictions, and in remaining connected to their neighborhoods.

Sound familiar? I wonder where our churches are already home to small groups of grace-filled accountability and Christian community such as those experienced during John Wesley’s ministry. I wonder where spaces with that kind of loving honesty can dwell even more expansively; not in opposition to online community (which is vital), but alongside of it. If we affirm as Methodists that we will be made perfect in love by God through sanctifying grace, then perhaps a deepening of small group discipleship can be part of this journey. What a gift that such a tool is part of who we are.

As we journey closer to the cross in this holy season of Lent, a season that asks us to ponder God’s love in our lives and to confront the ways in which we have yet to live in ways that reflect that love, I’m feeling the Spirit’s invitation to ask these hard questions of myself. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Create in us hearts of courage, gentleness, grace, and mercy.