Tell us about: Being Christ’s Witness in the World

324.9.o:  You have agreed as a candidate for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness to the gospel, and in consideration of their influence as ministers, to make a complete dedication of yourself to the highest ideals of the Christian life, and to this end agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God. What is your understanding of this agreement?

Continue reading Tell us about: Being Christ’s Witness in the World

Tell us about: Being Inclusive

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

 

¶324.9.n:  Describe your understanding of an inclusive church and ministry.

The world is constantly telling us we are not enough, we do not own the right shoes, or drive the right car; we do not have enough Facebook friends or Twitter followers. An inclusive church says the world is wrong.  As United Methodists, we invite all to the table because we know it is God’s table not ours. When I look someone in the eye, hand them a small bite of bread and say “The body of Christ given for you,” I am reminding them that they are already enough. They do not need better shoes or more Facebook friends; they are already a beloved child of God. When I hand someone a small cup of juice, and say “The blood of Christ given for you,” I am saying, “Someone loves you enough to die for you.” If our story tells us that Adam and Eve hid from God because they were afraid they were not good enough, then the inclusive church lives out of the belief that every human being is loved by God and offered God’s grace, no matter their economic, physical, social, political, or emotional location.

 

An inclusive church lives out of that belief by removing barriers that prevent people from experiencing God’s love. We enable all persons to participate in the spiritual life of the church by providing space for worship and community. We provide emotional space, a place of healing, and honoring every person for who they are. We provide the physical space for people by providing accessible worship space to all peoples. An inclusive church is open, accepting, and supporting of all people.

 

I believe an inclusive church is welcoming but more than that, I believe an inclusive church is always reaching out beyond its walls. An inclusive church is one in which the members pass by a homeless person sleeping on a park bench and see a human being. An inclusive church is one in which the members sit with disadvantaged children to help them learn to read; where holding the door for someone, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic struggles, is second nature; a church whose members gather to feed homeless teenagers, make blankets for kids pulled from their home, and get to know names of less fortunate people in their neighborhood…that is an inclusive church.

Tell us about: Ordination

¶324.9.m:  What is the meaning of ordination in the context of the general ministry of the Church?

Continue reading Tell us about: Ordination

Tell us about: Diakonia

¶324.9.l:  Describe your understanding of diakonia, the servant ministry of the church, and the servant ministry of the provisional member.

Continue reading Tell us about: Diakonia

Tell us about: Tiffany

¶324.9.k:  How do you perceive yourself, your gifts, your motives, your role, and your commitment as a provisional member and commissioned minister in The United Methodist Church?

Continue reading Tell us about: Tiffany

Tell us about: United Methodist Polity

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

¶324.9.j:  Discuss your understanding of the primary characteristics of United Methodist polity.

The primary characteristic of United Methodist polity is connectionalism. We are connected globally, through our history, and the way in which we share authority. We are a globally connected denomination, “We are a worldwide denomination united by doctrine, discipline, and mission through our connectional covenant.”[1] The General Conference, which has “full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional” is re-created every four years.[2] Laity and pastors from around the world come together at the General Conference, officiated by Bishops, to determine the content of the Book of Discipline, the governing document of the United Methodist Church. The General Conference shapes the Book of Discipline which regulates the organization of local churches, annual conferences, and general agencies. It also determines the policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property and judicial procedures.[3] This is the only official voice of The United Methodist Church.

We are connectional through our shared history. The Book of Discipline was determined by the General Conference, which was determined by the one before them, and the one before them, to the beginning of Methodism, always reflecting the traditions of the church and the changing diversity of the body. The Book of Discipline has come out of this long line of governing documents created by United Methodists, Evangelical United Brethren, Methodists, even John Wesley himself. We are connected to those that came before us; we do not stand without John Wesley, Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, the congregations that chose segregation, nor those that chose integration. We remain rooted in our history, we stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, acknowledging the imperfect choices they have made, and the powerful legacy they have left us.

We are connectional in that authority does not lie with one person, at one point in time, or even within one consistent body. The connectional structure of the United Methodist Church means that no single entity holds a disproportionate amount of power over the church. Although we have Bishops, they are not ordained bishops but elected by jurisdictional conferences, they oversee the General Conference but do not vote, and they appoint clergy but do not select who is ordained and who is not. Ordained clergy are appointed by Bishops in our iterant system, they are members of Annual Conferences rather than a local church, and are guided by the local Staff Parish Relations Committee made up of laity. Laity votes at the General Conference, Annual Conference, and Church Conference, sit on committees and boards, and support the church in its mission. There is not one person, or committee with uneven power in the United Methodist Church. The General Conference which creates the Book of Discipline is made up of laity and clergy from all around the world.  We are truly a connectional denomination.

[1] BOD, ¶101

[2] BOD, ¶16

[3] UMC.ORG – http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8038525/k.D58F/How_General_Conference_Works.htm

Tell us about: The Church

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

¶324.9.i:  Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

When I first started writing the answer to the nature and mission of the Church, I thought my answer would be “a light on a hill,” a beacon so everyone in the dark can see the way, something for people to look towards in their time of suffering and trials. After prayer and reflection, I think this is answer falls very short of what God calls us to be in the world. The church is the hope in the midst of darkness, a light that destroys darkness wherever we find it, not a beacon standing on a hill, somewhere outside the darkness.

According to the Book of Discipline, the church does three things, “Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the church seeks to provide for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world.”[1]  First, the church provides for the maintenance of worship. It creates a space where the “real” world breaks into our broken, ordinary world. It points toward God with unusual rituals that do not make any sense: a piece of bread to little to nourish our bodies, a cup of juice, a few drops of water, a prayer, a place to give to people that have less, a place we call a stranger “sister” or “brother.” Worship is the place the church tells the broken world that it has not won. Worship is also the place where believers find nourishment, along with the ordinary means of grace, spiritual disciplines, and “other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing.”[2]

Second, the church edifies believers. Sanctifying grace draws us toward the gift of Christian perfection and toward continued growth; throughout our lives, we learn how to love and be loved. The church, working with the Holy Spirit, is called to “encourage people to grow in the knowledge and love of God through the personal and corporate disciplines of the Christian life.”[3] The church seeks to provide a place for people to grow in the love of Christ and neighbor. Finally, with the Holy Spirit the church seeks to redeem the world. The United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The edification of believers and personal salvation “always involves Christian mission and service to the world.”[4]

After about a year-and-a-half in the church, I felt a call into missions. It was a message of “you have been fed, now go feed.” I came into the church with a starving soul and the church did an amazing job of feeding my soul through Bible study, prayer, community, and worship. At some point, I was no longer starving and my focus turned towards others. I believe a heart fed, a soul that is loved, is drawn beyond the walls of the church to the redemption of God’s creation. The church feeds people so they can feed others wherever they go. The church shows up in the darkness…in places of oppression, injustice, suffering, and pain, the church shows up. This is the mission of the church: to seek out darkness and walk alongside those it finds there. The church provides a place to see that God’s reality is surprising through worship; it grows people in love, by feeding the bodies, souls, and minds of all it comes in contact with; and it shows up in the darkness, wherever the darkness appears.

[1] BOD, Part I Preamble

[2] BOD, ¶122

[3] Our Distinctive Heritage as United Methodists, Part III, ¶102. Section I

[4] Our Distinctive Heritage as United Methodists, Part III, ¶102. Section I

Tell us about: The Quadrilateral

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

¶324.9.h:  The United Methodist Church holds that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. What is your understanding of this theological position of the Church?

Scripture, tradition, personal experience and reason are our source and criteria for continued theological reflection in the United Methodist Church. Scripture and tradition are external forces that act upon us and shape our understanding of God and the world; the second two, personal experience and reason are internal, our thoughts, our history, our hopes, our being. Together, Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason, these shape our understanding of God and the world.

 

Scripture, through the Old and New Testament, reveals God’s work in this world and contains everything we need to encounter God’s grace. As we read Scripture and examine ourselves in light of what we read, the history of the Church, our experiences of God’s grace, and with the knowledge of continued theological study, we allow the biblical message to change and shape our lives. The role Scripture plays in knowing God is one of stability and constancy through time. The biblical text itself changes extremely slowly, which brings a sense of order and predictability to the Christian faith.[1] Scriptures are a consistent and stable foundation on which our faith has been built. They are the common history used through time, space, culture, and peoples.

 

God’s work in the world did not cease with the writing of the New Testament.  “Christianity does not leap from New Testament times to the recent as though nothing were to be learned from that great cloud of witnesses in between”.[2] God continued and continues to work in the lives of people and communities, through which we can encounter God’s grace. Traditions are ideas and actions repeated by a community, which shape the community. Whereas Scripture is stable and consistent, tradition is not, instead it is redefined with each generation; communities often begin new traditions, return long-lost traditions to a place of importance, and remove other traditions from community life. Because traditions are not consistent through time, it is important that we are theologically mindful of the traditions we allow to shape the communities in which we find ourselves, we must remember that the history of Christianity contains within it “ignorance, misguided zeal, and sin.”[3] Therefore, we continuously return to Scripture, with our personal experience and growing wealth of knowledge, to guide our search for God’s grace in the traditions of the Church.

 

The church points us towards God’s grace through tradition and Scripture, which are inseparable. They are now, and always will be in communication with one another. The writers of Scripture lived in a community with traditions, those traditions formed Scripture, and Scripture formed new traditions. Today, the way in which communities read and translate Scripture find its shape and form in the traditions of that community. They are in conversation and relationship with one another. Together they are the external forces that act upon us and shape our understanding of God.

 

Personal experience and reason also shape our understanding of God. God’s grace is brought to life in our lives through our personal experience. Our experience of grace, prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying, allows us to claim the Christian tradition as our own and to participate in God’s continuing work in the world. Experience helps us see God’s grace in the world, “We read Scripture in light of the conditions and events that help shape who we are, and we interpret our experience in terms of Scripture.”[4] As we experience God’s forgiving and empowering grace, we learn to have faith in the truth revealed in Scripture and illumined in tradition, and allows us to claim the Christian faith as our own.

 

The living core of the Christian faith also holds reason as a way to know God. “By our quest for reasoned understanding of Christian faith we seek to grasp, express, and live out the gospel in a way that will commend itself to thoughtful person who are seeking to know and follow God’s ways.” [5] By thoughtful study and continued learning, we seek to know God better through Scripture, tradition and experience. Through reason, we can clearly articulate our faith, which allows us to be a witness to God’s work in the world with clear intent and understanding of our faith. Through reason, we become thoughtful Christians living out our faith with a total view of the good news that we know to be true. Through thoughtful reason we can know God more fully and live out the gospel by seeking know and follow God’s ways.

[1] The text does change, sometimes the make-up of the text (I.E. the removal of the Apocrypha), sometimes through the change in words, (I.E different translations), and through the interpretation done within a community that lives the Scriptures.

[2] BOD, ¶104

[3] BOD, ¶104

[4] BOD, ¶105

[5] BOD, ¶105

Tell us about: Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

¶324.9.g:  How do you intend to affirm, teach, and apply Part III of the Discipline (Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task) in your work in the ministry to which you have been called?

I intend to affirm, teach, and apply Part III of the Discipline in my ministry by living it, using the materials provided by the church, and teaching our Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task to congregation members. First, I acknowledge the power of shaping my life around the Doctrinal Standards and Theological Tasks. “Our theological task is essentially practical. It informs the individual’s daily decisions and serves the Church’s life and work…Our interest is to incorporate the promises and demands of the gospel into our daily lives.”[1] I believe in this denomination, in the power of the tradition handed to me, and in the way the United Methodist denomination points towards God and God’s presence in the world, even though it is itself imperfect. Because I believe in the Doctrinal Standards and our Theological Tasks, I affirm, teach, and apply them by living them and by setting an example for those I serve in my ministry setting.

 

Second, I believe that I shape the communities that I have been called to by using the tools that we have been given. For example, I believe our Book of Worship, United Methodist Hymnal, John Wesley’s sermons, the Book of Discipline, and the resources offered by the general boards and agencies are tools given to me by the church to affirm and teach our Doctrinal Standards and Theological Task. If I am intentional about filling my ministry toolbox with resources from the United Methodist Church, I will be teaching others how and when to use these tools also. For instance, asking the congregation to follow along in the hymnal during communion, they are utilizing a tool that helps shape our community. If I request members of the Administrative Council or other councils to understand their duties as it they are stated in the Book of Discipline, I am allowing the denomination to shape the mission and purpose of committees and the individuals serving on them. I believe these resources are aligned with the Part III of the Discipline, and as such, are powerful tools in sharing our tradition and our beliefs with the United Methodist community of faith.

 

Finally, I intend to affirm, teach, and apply Part III of the Discipline by passing on our Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task it in class settings, sermons, and teaching its content in church meetings. I believe that members want to hear about our beliefs, our history, and our traditions, and given the opportunity, they will choose to learn about, and apply the teachings of the United Methodist Church. I believe that many of our youth and young adults will faithfully take up our theological task and apply it to their generation, “every generation must appropriate creatively the wisdom of the past and seek God in their midst in order to think afresh about God, revelation, sin, redemption, worship, the church, freedom, justice, moral responsibility, and other significant theological concerns.”[2] My hope is to pass these standards and tasks on to the next generation and remind the current generation of the long history to which they belong. I intend to affirm, teach, and apply Part III of the Book of Discipline by living the beliefs and standards set forth in these pages, by using the tools provided to me as a minister in the United Methodist Church, and by teaching doctrine directly through teaching and preaching.

[1] BOD, ¶105

[2] BOD, ¶105

Tell us about: The Kingdom of God, Resurrection, and Eternal Life

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

¶324.9.f:  What is your understating of the kingdom of God; the Resurrection; eternal life?

I believe that the Kingdom of God, the Resurrection, and eternal life are present and future realities. The Kingdom of God is a present reality, “Wherever person are being made new creatures in Christ, wherever the insights and resources of the gospel are brought to bear on the life of the world, God’s reign is already effective in its healing and renewing power.”[1] The Kingdom of God is rooted in the heart of the believer; it is the Spirit working in us, assuring us of God’s love for us, drawing us to love our Neighbor, and confirming our hope in the fulfillment of God’s work in the world. The Kingdom of God resides in the act of feeding the poor, freeing the oppressed, loving God, and turning away from idols. Rooted in the heart of the believer, grown in the community of faith, and reaching out to bring healing to the broken world, the Kingdom of God is not only a present reality but also a future hope. The hope that one day, the world will no longer be broken, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; morning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4). The Kingdom of God is among us and it is to come.

 

The resurrection is a mystery and a promise. The resurrection of Christ is the greatest of all mysteries; calling the whole of humanity to ask itself the meaning of love, death, and life. Can God’s love for us be so great as to beat death itself? The resurrection is also a promise, a promise of life after all suffering. It is a promise that spring will come, that death does not win. It is the greatest hope; a promise that when all hope seems lost, God will show up, “[The risen Christ] was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31). The resurrection is the promise of a future beyond suffering and because “Christ is risen,” resurrection is the affirmation the Christ is alive, risen, now. “Christ is risen” is a present reality and a future hope.

 

In Christianity, the focus is often on the word eternal. But for many people eternal life is not a promise but a threat. In Christ, we are promised not just eternity, but life, abundant life, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Life is more than breathing, moving, and thinking but living fully in God’s hands, with peace, joy, love and grace. The promise of eternal life is a promise of abundant life, here and now, with God’s love which is greater than our fear of not having enough. The promise of eternity is the promise that death does not win. Beyond death there is life, the whole of creation is built on a pattern of life, and death, and life beyond death. In the promise of spring after a long winter, in the promise of renewed relationships, at in the last moments of a life we find the promise of life after death. Eternal life is a promise of eternity but just as important is that it is a promise of abundant life.

[1] BOD, ¶102