Imagine No Malaria

Unlike many other diseases that are awaiting a cure, malaria was eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria continues to kill a person every 60 seconds. But there is hope! Imagine No Malaria is part of a global partnership and together with our partners, our generation can beat malaria once and for all. Jewel Lake Parish will receive an offering for Imagine No Malaria during our worship gathering on May 10.

See also: last year’s appeal from Bishop Grant Hagiya.

More information about malaria and pointers to other projects combatting it is available from the Gates Foundation.

One Great Hour of Sharing

Some people have asked why we didn’t receive an offering as part of the One Great Hour of Sharing back during March, and if we still plan to do so.

The answers are “by accident” and “yes.”

The Evangelism and Mission committee has been doing some really great planning this year. We have any number of ways to be part of the great things that God is doing in our neighborhood, our community, state, and around the world, and in the excitement about that planning, we simply overlooked One Great Hour of Sharing.

One Great Hour of Sharing goes back to the work that Protestant churches did during and immediately after World War 2 for relief and reconstruction. Both the PC(USA) and UMC participate in the One Great Hour of Sharing. Jewel Lake Parish divides the OGHS offering equally between the two denominational programs.

So on the principle that some things are “better late than never,” we will receive the offering during worship on May 3 and (as is our practice) send half of the total received to each of the two denominational programs.

Same-Sex Unions

As you may have heard, at its 221st General Assembly last week, the PC(USA) approved same-sex marriage both by authoritative interpretation and by a proposed change to the constitution. Here’s an article from the Religion News Service, and a blog entry from More Light Presbyterians (pro) and a pastoral letter from Presbyterians for Renewal (con).*

I — Pastor Luke — am studying these measures to understand the logic behind them, but my initial impression is that the authoritative interpretation is gimmickry designed to work around the clear words of the constitution, as evidenced by the proposed changes to the constitution which accompany it.

Sadly, the PC(USA) is not alone in misusing church processes to achieve extra-constitutional ends. The UMC has reinstated Frank Schaefer after previously defrocking him for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. I previously posted about the UMC situation here.

As a citizen of the U.S., I believe that civil rights should be recognized equally for both straights and LGBTs. Indeed, that is (for me) a bare minimum, and I go well beyond it, as I have posted before.

The case for calling same-sex unions marriage in the theological sense is weak, however, and the Church, however, is not free to make things up.


* I won’t sport with you by pointing you to the PC(USA) website for information. There’s an article there, but it can’t be linked, only downloaded. (Seriously! in 2014!)

Methodists and Same-Sex Unions

From an unlikely source comes a surprisingly good (fair) explanation of the situation in the United Methodist Church regarding same-sex unions:

(The source is non-sectarian public-policy think tank, and I think they should be congratulated for wading into a theological argument to try to help explain it. Their position seems to be pro-SSM but they are reasonably fair in explaining, or at least briefly summarizing, the anti-SSM position.)

(Cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)

Vital Congregations

I received the conference books from the Alaska Methodist annual conference earlier this year. I wasn’t able to participate this year, so I didn’t know as much about the conference as I did last year. For example, the conference theme this year was “Disciple is a Verb.”

That reminded me of the United Methodist “Vital Congregations” initiative. Rather than imposing a directive from the top down, Vital Congregations attempts to describe vital congregations in sufficient detail that less vital congregations would have something to emulate, if they are looking for help. That means there is a lot of depressing information about how few congregations are truly vital, but it’s not just numbers. Here are the “big three” takeaways. Vital congregations are:

  • Spirit-filled, forward-leaning communities of believers that welcome all people (Gal.3:28)
  • Places where Disciples of Jesus Christ are made through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:18-20)
  • Communities that serve like Christ through justice and mercy ministries. (Micah 6:8, Luke 4:17-21)

But the Vital Congregations initiative also describes what discipleship looks like (which is what got me started on this train of thought). According to Vital Congregations, disciples:

  • worship regularly
  • make disciples of Jesus Christ
  • grow in their faith
  • engage in mission
  • give to mission

That’s kind of vague, so I prefer Michael Foss‘ “six marks of discipleship,” which says disciples:

  • pray daily
  • worship weekly
  • read the Bible
  • serve at and beyond their local congregation
  • be in relationship to encourage spiritual growth in others
  • give of their time, talents, and resources

Chapel Without a Cross?

I’m not a Methodist, so I don’t claim to understand how their system of colleges works, but this does seem odd: Claremont School of Theology contemplates removing the cross from its chapel:

… As part of this “hospitality,” Claremont has chosen to share its own chapel with the Jains, Buddhists, and Muslims. But it is challenging for leaders in these non-Christian religions to conduct their services in a space prominently featuring a cross, which represents a gospel which they reject. So the seminary is now considering ostensibly how to accommodate non-Christian sensitivities. The Claremont official claimed that perhaps “the best way to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and take up our cross may be to take down the cross” from the seminary chapel, lest it violate Claremont’s bedrock commitment to religious pluralism.

Note: the article quoted is not (and does not pretend to be) a neutral perspective. For all I know, that site (juicyecumenism.com) is a bunch of cranks. Lord knows the mainline denominations have their critics, perhaps as many within as without.

Still, Claremont has responded:

When this discussion is reduced to “taking down the cross,” it misses the point. The Christian cross is and will continue to be a part of CST’s worship space; but the goal is to be able to easily rearrange the space for use by other traditions.

To me, that sounds like the cross will come down, at least when the facility is being used by adherents of other religions. I suppose that could be hospitality. Paul preached in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. On the other hand, he did so because he didn’t want to compete in the synagogue with those who spoke against the Way.

Vital Churches

Being Presbyterian myself, I don’t always keep up with Methodist initiatives as well as I ought. I was interested to learn about the UMC Vital Churches initiative, which appears to align well with the work our Council has been doing lately.

Vital congregations are:

  • Spirit-filled, forward-leaning communities of believers that welcome all people (Galatians 3: 28)
  • Places where Disciples of Jesus Christ are made through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28: 18-20)
  • Communities that serve like Christ through justice and mercy ministries. (Micah 6:8, Luke 4:17-21)

A Vital Congregation has:

  • Inviting & Inspiring Worship
  • Engaged Disciples in mission & outreach
  • Gifted, Empowered & Equipped Lay Leadership
  • Effective, Equipped & Inspired Clergy Leadership
  • Small Group Ministries
  • Strong Children’s & Youth Ministry

(See this list of 16 drivers of vitality.)

The congregations include disciples (Matthew 22:36-40) who:

  • worship regularly
  • help make new disciples
  • are engaged in growing in their faith
  • are engaged in mission
  • share by giving in mission

Methodist Appointment Security Upheld

From the UMC Connections blog:

The top court of The United Methodist Church has upheld church rules that ensure security of appointment for elders and associate clergy members, striking down legislation passed by the denomination’s lawmaking assembly last spring.

Since I’m a Presbyterian, I won’t comment except to say it seems fitting for a decision like this to come down before Reformation Day.