Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Noteworthy: Women in Leadership

I experienced two events over the weekend that I took for granted, but are actually very noteworthy. It is also noteworthy, I think, that I took them for granted. The two events were simple, routine ministry events. I did a wedding and sang at a funeral. That’s it, and the everyday-ness of them is an important part of their significance.

The wedding was held at another United Methodist church, and the pastor of that church graciously extended an invitation to me to preside. The funeral was also held at another United Methodist Church, and the pastor of that church similarly invited me to sing during the service.

(Side note: Neither was a previous church of mine, so we did not violate the UM policy about not returning to previous appointments.)

Here’s what I have realized is noteworthy about those two events – both of the lead pastors in these other congregation happen to be women. Now to me, and to United Methodists in general, this is no big deal. This is take-it-for-granted level stuff. Of course women are in leadership roles, and at every level of the church.

But in the mix of what passes these days for “public discourse” in America, the role of women in leadership happens to be a very big deal indeed. The current presidential campaign is shining a light on the topic, in fact. The sexist double standard that is being applied by many people is overt, easy to spot, and frankly appalling.

I am embarrassed and disgusted when I hear people dismiss derogatory, sexist language as just “locker room talk.” “Boys will be boys” is not a cute expression; it is stereotyping, demeaning, and contributes to a culture that excuses the abhorrent behavior of far too many men, far too often. Words matter, and cannot be minimized as being “only words.” There’s no such thing as “only words.”

Sometimes though, ugly words can yield a positive result. Of all that has happened this summer and autumn of 2016, one of the most profound has been the wave of women who have been empowered to publicly share their story (or stories) of being sexually assaulted. This was the silver lining to the otherwise dark cloud that was a recording of one man bragging to another about sexually assaulting any woman he wanted to at any time. Sexual assault statistics are staggering, and the women’s stories are dragging the issue to the surface, where it can be seen and confronted with honesty and righteous indignation.

What really gets me, though, is how many people are acting as if this phenomenon is a new thing, which is simply not true. Sexism was not invented in 2016. The objectification of women is not an innovation of this campaign season. A double standard has been applied to women in leadership roles for generations; why have so many people only just now discovered it?

I believe that our essential human unity is deeper than gender. I believe Scripture is quite clear about this point, in multiple stories. In fact I believe it is one of the foundational themes of Scripture, that ALL people, regardless of gender, are created in the divine image, loved without condition, and promised an abundant and everlasting life.

Which is why those two every day, ordinary ministry events last weekend were so noteworthy.  I experienced the excellent leadership of two pastors, both of whom happen to be women. There are denominations in which the gifted leadership of Lori and Laura would not be welcomed, simply because they are women. Likewise, there are people in America who think being a woman disqualifies a person from being president. There are people in our fair city who criticize a woman’s appearance when they disagree with her ideas (which rarely (if ever) happens to a man, for some reason).

So I’d like to take a minute to intentionally celebrate the leadership of two strong, gifted, smart, visionary, gracious, and Spirit-filled pastors, colleagues, and friends who just happen to be women. Please know that I would never dare take you for granted. You are awesome!

Maybe one day, after every glass ceiling has been shattered, after women receive equal pay for equal work, after women leaders are the norm rather than the exception ... maybe then it won't be noteworthy any more. But that day has not yet arrived. So everyone take note! 

Let it be known that Reverend Lori Lampert and Reverend Laura Murphy are amazing leaders in the church, and it is humbling to serve with them as a colleague in ministry.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

An Opportunity to Change the System

This morning, I submitted the following to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding a proposed rule change for the payday/title loan industry:
It is a question of justice, and lives are at stake. People who get caught in the cycle of debt that is perpetrated by the payday/title loan industry are victims of an unjust, unethical, and obviously predatory system. Reform of this system is imperative.
 A “full-payment test” before approving a loan is a common sense rule that would prevent countless numbers of people from entering into the cycle in the first place. I encourage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to please implement this rule.
 Furthermore, the rules for refinancing existing loans need to be reformed to make that practice much more difficult. Creating the conditions in which a customer has no choice but to refinance or even take out another loan to cover the first is the stated business model for many lending companies. This is, frankly, reprehensible.
 Families caught in the debt trap are driven deeper and deeper into desperate poverty by unethical business practices that are currently legal in our nation. I hope that the CFPB will hear their voices, and act to rectify the situation. It is a question of justice, and lives are at stake.
The public comment period ends October 7th, and I encourage you to add your call for justice to mine.

You may do so by clicking this link - CLICK THIS

You can read a summary of the proposed rule changes here - CLICK THIS

It is a question of justice, and quite literally, lives are at stake.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Who Ya Rootin' For?

I have for the past two years had a team to root for in the MLB playoffs. And this year, I’m happy that my Royals were at least in the mix for a while. But alas, their season is over.

So now, with the Royals and the Cardinals both sitting out the post-season, I’m back to my traditional method of choosing a team to root for - team salaries. When I’m not rooting for a particular team, I have looked at the roster salaries of the playoff teams, and rooted for the one spending the least. (Source: businessinsider.com)

Realizing, of course, that “least” is a relative term. The lowest playoff team salary is (only) $98 million, enough money to feed, clothe, house, and educate … well I don’t know how many but a whole lot of people, and for quite a while.

So with that said, here’s the list:

American League:
Cleveland - $98 million
Toronto - $140.6 million
Baltimore - $147.9 million
Texas - $161.2 million
Boston - $199.9 million

National League:
New York - $130.6 million
Washington - $146.7 million
Chicago - $167.4 million
San Francisco - $171.5 million
Los Angeles - $253.6 million

So basically, I’ll be rooting for Cleveland to beat New York in the World Series this year.

The American League total is $747.6 million. The National League total is $869.8 million. The total payrolls of all ten playoff teams is a staggering 1 billion 617 million 400 thousand dollars. That’s just the PLAYOFF teams, remember.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are spending more on their payroll than Cleveland and New York combined. The Dodgers spent more this year on just position players (meaning: excluding pitchers) than 26 other teams spent on their entire payrolls.

The New York Yankees spent $227.9 million dollars this year (second highest in all baseball), for the privilege of missing the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers spent $199.5 million to do the same.

So it goes.

As usual, whenever I do this little exercise, I end up feeling very conflicted. I love baseball. It is America’s pastime. It is the balance of team and individual, of mental and physical, grace and strength. I love it.

But holy moly, do we ever spend a lot of money on it!

Anyway, go Indians!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stopping Bible Abuse

A woman in Indianapolis beat her seven year old son with a coat hanger, severely enough to leave thirty-six dark purple bruises striped across his back and a hook-shaped bruise on his cheek. The abuse happened in February 2016. Her kids are safe now. (Story here.)

Legal documents filed in her defense quote Scripture to justify her actions.

Yes, please go back and read that again …

Her lawyer is arguing that something called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” gives this child abuser permission to abuse children. The child abuser said, “I was worried for my son's salvation with God after he dies,” and “I decided to punish my son to prevent him from hurting my daughter and to help him learn how to behave as God would want him to.” Even leaving aside the completely illogical and ignorant statement that hurting a child will teach them not to hurt another child, the horribly twisted theology ought to appall and anger every person of faith everywhere in the world.

And then, the second layer of the defense plan is to argue that cultural differences caused her to misunderstand the law, since harsh physical abuse is common in the woman’s culture of origin. Which is bullshit. Child abuse is child abuse in Myanmar as well as Indiana. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard,” and that standard is “something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behavior, and yet quite definitely real.”

And so, I will confess that a whole lot of emotion came to the surface for me when I read this story this morning. I’ve been working through a lot of that emotion in the back of my head all day as I’ve been working on other stuff. As both a foster dad and also a pastor, this story has kind of captured my attention.

Look, I know that interpreting Scripture to justify horrible things isn’t anything new. It is as old as Scripture itself, actually. As long as the Bible has been around, people have misused it to wage war, keep slaves, oppress women, commit genocide, discriminate against entire categories of people, and on and on.

So if it’s all the same to you, I’d really, really like us to stop doing that. In fact, here’s a list of simple steps that I think we ought to take, that will hopefully help us stop abusing the Bible.

1) If it is hurts another person, don’t do it, even if you believe the Bible says it’s okay.
2) Admit that you do not know everything there is to know about the Bible, much less about God.
3) Stop saying “The Bible says…” and start saying “I understand the Bible to say…”
4) Interpret difficult, ambiguous, or obscure passages in the light of the Bible’s central themes, like love, grace, justice, and peace.
5) And finally, if it hurts another person, even if you believe the Bible says it’s okay, don’t do it.

Just don’t.

The divinely inspired authors of the Holy Book of the church, the scribes who copied their words, the interpreters who took it from Hebrew and Greek and brought it to the world, the editors who so diligently pulled everything together – I’m pretty sure they weren’t doing what they did so that Indiana mom could do what she did.

And by the way, nor so that invading armies could eradicate native populations. Nor so that governments could deny equal rights for people of color. Nor so that husbands could consider wives to be personal property.

And while we're at it, nor so that bakers of cakes could discriminate against gay people. Nor so that a town in Midwestern America could call their event a Christmas parade. Nor so an employer could refuse to pay for healthcare for women employees. And so on.

Let's call it what it is. It is Bible abuse masquerading as religious freedom. It is incompatible with the Gospel. It's wrong, and it needs to stop.

So can we just stop please? It’s hurting people. And so we need to stop.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When Doctrine Hinders Mission

A woman called me a couple days ago. From the sound of her voice I would guess she is an older woman; she said she had attended worship, and she had a question for me about the congregation.

“What does your congregation believe about homosexuality?” she asked.

Earlier in my career, I would have hemmed and hawed a bit, trying awkwardly to figure out where she was coming from with her question. Was she “friend” or “foe?” Was I about to be the target of a homophobic lecture again? Was she going to unfairly associate me with the “official” denominational stance and chastise me for being so unjust?

But the time for hemming and hawing has long past, so I just answered her question honestly.

“I can’t speak for the entire congregation,” I said. “Some people here would like full inclusion of all people, and some think being gay should disqualify you from getting married. It’s a pretty diverse group. But as for me personally, I’m on the ‘full inclusion’ side of things. Meaning, I do not believe a person’s sexual orientation should disqualify them from getting married, or from getting ordained for that matter. And I know that there are quite a few who are on that same page.”

Her response made me smile. “Good,” she said. “I just couldn’t be a part of a church who didn’t include all people. I’ll be back!”

Our mission, church people, is non-negotiable. It is a given that our mission is to make disciples, meaning reaching out to offer people a relationship with God through Jesus as a part of a Spirit-filled congregation. And what is it that those disciples do once made? No less than “transform the world.” However you phrase it, our mission is to help people become followers of Jesus who are changing the world for God’s sake.

And so we talk about “the mission field,” which is a rather impersonal and businesslike way to describe the people I named above. We have other operational words like “unchurched” and “target demographic,” which are also helpful in encouraging us to forget that there are real actual people living real actual lives with whom we are called to live in real actual community. Nevertheless, whatever term you use, we are talking about people who are not a part of a church, for a variety of reasons.

Of that group, the overwhelming majority does not believe that being gay should disqualify you from getting married, not to mention impact how you are treated in the world in general. This isn’t my opinion; poll after poll backs this up. Or said another way, most “unchurched” people are like the woman who called me this week: they simply could not possibly be a part of a church that did not include all people.

So let me say this as clearly as I can. Pastors, congregations, and denominations who are opposed to marriage equality and who do not ordain people who are gay are stumbling blocks to the mission of the church. When the doctrine of the church excludes people based on sexual orientation, it makes it more difficult to accomplish the task given us by God.

Yes, it may very well be that people already in the church are opposed to fully inclusive marriage and ordination, but that isn’t the point, is it? The point is, the people we are supposed to be reaching are not.

I know the counter-arguments. “We would be condoning sin, and we just can’t do that” is one of the most common. The reasoning is this: Yes, all people are sinners, and all are welcome in the church. But we are supposed to stop our sinful ways and live like God wants us to. If we welcome and marry same-sex couples, we are not only not stopping the sin, we are approving of it.

There are a lot of people who believe this, and they are not hateful, they are not homophobic, they are loving and faithful and all that.

(To be sure, there are a lot of Christians who are absolutely hateful and homophobic, but I’m not talking about them today. Nor by the way am I addressing the “Scriptural authority” argument, as I have before.)

Thus for many the issue becomes the visibility of the perceived sin. For many Christians, a same-sex couple is an unavoidably visible representation of what they believe to be a sin, and they just can’t get around it. Of course, it is naive to believe that EVERY sinner stops sinning when they find Jesus, but for most of us you can’t really see it.

And so, the mission of the church is hindered. An enormous stumbling block is placed between thousands of people and a life-giving relationship with God, simply because some Christians are confronted with the evidence of one specific act that they believe to be a sin, and they can’t handle it.

For those of us who do not believe being gay is a sin, this is infuriating. I know how much my relationship with God has meant in my life, and I want more than anything else to share that with others. It makes me angry when something gets in the way of that happening, and it is embarrassing that what is getting in the way also happens to be the official doctrine of my denomination.

How many people are there in close proximity of our church building who are just like the woman who called me this week? Hundreds, no doubt. Thousands, probably. People are seeking a connection with the divine, a connection that fully embraces the whole self, all that makes a person a person, including one’s sexual orientation.

And yet many are never going to seek that divine connection as a part of a church, simply because the church’s mission is being compromised by the church’s doctrine.

But … some will. One did this week, in fact. And when she called, I was honest with her. And she said, “I’ll be back!” Thanks be to God.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

What's In a Name?

Within the United Methodist Church exist several unofficial groups, organized for various reasons. Two of these groups are named the “Good News Movement” and the “Reconciling Ministries Network.”

The Good News Movement exists to ensure that people who are gay are not permitted to be ordained or married. The Reconciling Ministries Network exists for exactly the opposite reason, to ensure that people who are gay are permitted to be ordained and married.

So, in our big tent of a denomination, it has become customary to identify people who belong to one or the other of these groups by using the name of the group. And so: “She is a Good News person” and/or “He is a Reconciling person.” Just hearing those words associated in any way with an individual in our denomination seems to immediately color one’s opinion of the person in question, often without even actually knowing them. Which is sad, but so it goes.

I want to talk about those names, strategically chosen to identify these two polar opposite ends of our United Methodist spectrum. “Good news.” “Reconciling.” Have these terms become nothing more to United Methodists than political identifiers?

Truthfully, I am a “Good News” person. And truthfully, I am a “Reconciling” person. And I want to be both of those things without having to explain that I don’t want to carry the bitterly divisive baggage associated with each.

I am a Good News person because I believe the Gospel. I believe God loves the world so much that Christ Jesus laid down his own life so that the world might live an abundant, everlasting life. I believe that the teaching of Jesus, the promise of God, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit are all inherently good news for all people, as well as for each person uniquely.

I am a Reconciling person because I take very seriously the idea that God has entrusted the church with the ministry of reconciliation. I believe that God’s desire is for unity, for people to be one community, to encourage one another and lift one another up. And I believe that God has called the church to make connections, build bridges, and heal broken relationships.

And I’d like to ask very kindly … can we have our words back, please?

No offense or anything, but I’d like to be able to use the terms without having to explain that I don’t mean either of those groups. (I feel the same way about the world “evangelical,” by the way.) I’d like to claim to be a person of the Good News without people wondering if that means I don’t want gay people to get married. I’d like to claim to be a minister of reconciliation without people wondering if that means I was protesting at General Conference.

And while I’m at it, let me share a couple other things that I’d like to be able to do.

I’d like to be able to claim that one’s sexual orientation should not be a barrier to ordination or marriage, without having my faith questioned, without someone accusing me of disobedience to God, without someone callously observing that I don’t take the Bible seriously, without someone assuming I am breaking covenant with my denomination.

And on the flipside, I’d like to be able to say out loud that change is happening in our church from the bottom up via a movement of the Holy Spirit; and I’d like to be able to affirm that the official legislation is going to catch up to that movement of the Spirit eventually rather than lead it, as it should be. And I’d like to be able to do that without being accused of not wanting justice now, without being compared to a “white moderate” of Dr. King’s day, without someone telling me I have somehow “sold out” and become a part of the system.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m a good news person. I’m a reconciling person. I’m an evangelical person. I’m a progressive person. I’m an orthodox person. I’m a social justice person. I’m a conservative person. I’m a peacemaking person. I’m a Bible-believing person. I’m a truth-seeking person. I’m a Wesleyan person. I’m …

I’m a Jesus person. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I try with everything I am to follow him as closely as I possibly can. And I get it wrong as often as I get it right, and I thank God for grace every single day.

I still believe, despite the anxiety in the system, that we can figure out a way to stay together as a denomination. I still believe that some on the edges will end up leaving as a result of the Bishop’s commission’s plan. And I know that some already have, pushed to do so by Bishop Oliveto’selection. Part of me grieves this; and another part of me is resigned to it. So it goes.

Some will say that our unity arises from our doctrine; if we do not ascribe to the same set of teachings, we should not be a united body. Others will say that our unity arises from the Holy Spirit; that we are mysteriously joined together with sacred bonds that transcend doctrine.

I find myself believing the latter; our unity is deeper than our doctrine. I’m a Jesus person, with all that comes along with that. And I trust, hope, and pray that the Jesus people who call ourselves Methodist will figure out a way to become the church that God is calling us to be.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Thoughts on Jurisdictional Conference 2016 - "Terrifying and Wonderful" - #scj16

My goal was to be coming home from Jurisdictional Conference excited about the future of the church.

I don’t know if “excited” is the word that best fits. I am excited / scared / embarrassed / happy / proud / angry / inspired / hopeful. What’s the word for that emotion? It may be "terrifyingly wonderful," but could also be "wonderfully terrifying." You pick.

So this will be kind of rambly, almost stream of consciousness. But somewhere in what follows will be the beginnings of my thoughts about what happened at the 2016 meeting of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. Here goes...

I’ll start with the Missouri Annual Conference’s new bishop, Bishop Bob Farr. Who, at this time last week, was Missouri’s Director of Congregational Excellence. He is a colleague and a friend to many in Missouri, and now he is our bishop. That dynamic is … unusual.

It is extremely rare for a bishop to be elected and immediately assigned to her or his home conference. It is not forbidden in our rule book, but it is hardly ever done. No one on the Missouri delegation could remember it happening before in our Jurisdiction.

I’m excited about Bishop Farr’s election and assignment for two reasons. First of all, it is an unusual situation, a new and different way to organize, and that’s what Missouri is all about! We are not now, nor we ever have been known for doing the same ol’ same ol’. Bishop Farr’s leadership will be innovative, just by its very nature. And secondly, I am excited that the South Central Jurisdiction has finally managed to elect a bishop who is not from the state of Texas. Not that that’s a huge deal, but it was starting to get kind of monotonous.

Bishop Farr is going to continue to focus on local congregations, and equip, encourage, and allow churches to organize for and engage in ministry that makes sense and bears fruit in the wide variety of diverse contexts around our state. He loves the church with all his heart, and loves Jesus just as much. I am happy and proud to call him my bishop.

With that said, I am embarrassed by the lack of diversity among the bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction. There is only one active bishop who is a woman, for example. Rev. Lynn Dyke would be a phenomenal bishop, and I was working to help her election happen until the moment she removed herself from consideration. Furthermore, Rev. David Wilson is a gifted leader, and would have brought a new perspective to the council of bishops, that of a Native American. Neither was elected.

There are ten bishops in the SCJ, and NINE of them are men, and SEVEN of them are white men. This is embarrassing to me, and not at all reflective of who we are as United Methodists. But it should be noted that across our denomination the other Jurisdictions have done a better job of electing bishops who reflect our diversity, including four African-American women.

With THAT said, the voting in the South Central Jurisdiction was neither sexist nor racist. Those making such claims are making some huge assumptions, often without actually being present during the conference. Both Lynn and David were in the thick of it on many ballots; David received over a hundred votes on one (ballot 24).

I am not naive, so I know that there were some individuals likely voting based on gender and/or race. But anyone who claims the final outcome was blatantly sexist or obviously racist would have a lot of explaining to do to back that assumption up. And based on my experience there, there were a myriad of other factors involved with the decisions the delegates made in selecting bishops.

(Um, isn’t that point a contradiction to the previous one?
Yes. Sure seems like it. Are you still wondering why my reaction is so mixed up?)

Next thing: The politicking made me angry. There’s no other way to say it. It makes me angry when a delegation huddles up, then the next ballot has a large number of votes for a random person who had zero on the previous ballot. Or two delegations get together and then on the next ballot one candidate who was running well has dropped while another one has bumped up. Deals are offered, bargains are struck, delegations “fish” for attractive candidates, heels are dug in. People campaign. And it’s politics. And I did it too. I was a part of it, in the mix. It is what it is, and that doesn’t mean I have to like it. If there’s a better way to do it, I’m all for giving it a try.

Then there was this: A surreal moment happened on Friday night. Simultaneously to the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, we in the South Central Jurisdiction were debating whether or not to send a request to the Judicial Council of the UMC for a ruling on the election and consecration of people who are gay to be bishops in the United Methodist Church. (FYI, Bishop Oliveto is gay).

It was well rehearsed, planned out in advance, and timed exquisitely. As the petition was read from the floor, slides on screen displayed the text. It was pretty obvious that it had been in the works for a while, to be initiated if it looked like a gay bishop was close to election.

The vote was close, but we voted to go ahead and submit the request. People who believe that sexual orientation is not a hinderance to ordination think that this move is an attack on inclusiveness. People who think being gay disqualifies someone from ordination think this move is simply trying to be obedient to the Book of Discipline. So it goes.

And then, immediately after the vote, my friend and fellow Missouri delegate Andrew Ponder Williams went to the microphone and asked that we stand and pray, specifically for all who had been “hurt by what just happened.” I know exactly what he meant, but the way he worded it, he may have meant hurt by Bishop Oliveto’s election OR hurt by the South Central Jurisdiction’s request. After some urging by Justin Coleman, essentially the entire room came and gathered around Andrew, who was by the way standing two feet in front of me. We connected hands on shoulders, hand in hand, reaching for whoever was closest.

And then Andrew prayed. And it was a remarkable prayer. Sensitive, passionate, grace-filled, loving. The Holy Spirit fell upon Andrew in that moment, and he prayed for us. It was amazing, and I will never forget it.

Rob Renfroe has said that the election of Bishop Oliveto has put us on “the brink of schism.” He was sitting just a few feet on the other side of the microphone from which Andrew was speaking. I am sad to say that I did not notice if he stood up to pray with the rest of the group, but I am assuming that he did. If he did, he was literally three or four people away from Andrew.

Several people have asked me what I think about Bishop Oliveto’s election and assignment to the Mountain Sky Area. I don’t know; I’ve never even met her, much less have any thoughts about her potential effectiveness as a bishop. What I do know is that she is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, she was nominated for bishop by her Annual Conference, and duly elected bishop by the Western Jurisdiction. I trust that process, and the people involved in it, in their discernment of Bishop Oliveto’s call to be a bishop.

And here is another thing of which I am certain. The gender of the person that Bishop Oliveto happens to love has no impact on the gifts and graces that God has given her to serve in ministry. Nor, by the by, does it have an impact on how we are going to do ministry at Campbell UMC in Springfield. I’m not going to obsess over that aspect of her identity, and I hope you won’t either.

One of the inspiring and hopeful parts of Jurisdictional Conference was meeting and getting to know some really cool people from around the South-Central Jurisdiction. It’s all about relationships, making connections with one another, and I had a lot of opportunities to do just that in Wichita. And by the wonder that is social media, it will be so much easier to remain connected.

I love being a part of a connectional church. I love the frustrating, beautiful, messy diversity that comprises our “big tent” denomination. I still don’t know what’s going to happen. People may leave now that we have a gay bishop. Other people may leave if the Judicial Council comes back and rules her election invalid.

I’m not leaving. I am Methodist, through and through. God has called me to serve in the United Methodist Church in this unsettled, uncertain season. The open table, the way of salvation, knowledge joined with piety, personal and social holiness together, grace upon grace upon grace - Methodism has something beautiful to offer people, and I’m all about offering it.

The Holy Spirit is so obviously at work in the church, in the nation, in the world, creating new expressions of church, deconstructing outdated ways of organizing, reviving old forms and practices in new and creative ways, tossing away old wineskins and providing brand new ones. What a truly terrifying and coincidentally wonderful time to be a part of the United Methodist Church!