Monday, September 08, 2014

How I Feel About It ...


This morning I sent the following email to our friends and colleagues at the Missouri Conference Office. My goal was to express my feelings about a decision made recently regarding United Methodist church camping in Missouri. These are just my feelings - I claim them and I own them. And I want to share them with you...


Dear Friends,

I want you to know how I feel. Almost all of you know me, and know that I carry no agenda and bear no ill will. I simply want you to know how I feel about recent developments in our conference's camping ministries.

I feel like, if I do not say "I am excited about the new direction camping is taking," that I will be somehow judged as part of the problem.

I feel like the dismissal and eviction of some of my dear friends was presented as a calculated business decision, void of grace.

I feel like, if I offer my sincere critique of the "new direction" it will be casually dismissed with "well, change is always hard."

I feel like "land near the campus" on which we might have some "unique rugged experiences" is supposed to somehow replace a days-long immersion in the midst of God's beautiful creation.

I feel like a small group of powerful older people made a decision that impacts a large group of relatively powerless children and youth without hearing from those voices in any meaningful way.

I feel like you think just explaining the money situation again is a sufficient response to the pain of this moment.

I feel like I have nothing to offer the children and youth of my congregation, including my own children, when they ask me why this happened.

That's how I feel. It is important to me that I express these feelings to you, brothers and sisters. I think it is important for you to hear those feelings. And I thank you for hearing them with ears of grace and understanding. I do not need you to validate my feelings or affirm my response in any way. The opportunity to simply express them is enough. I am also planning to post these feelings on my blog, as another channel of expression and communication within the connection. Granted I am only a part of "the 20%" who utilize Missouri UM church camps, and thus in the minority, but perhaps my posting these feelings online will provide a venue for some others to express similar grief and pain, should it exist.

Finally, I feel as though this decision is pretty much finalized on your part, and the ongoing effort to "Save MO UM Camps" will be fruitless. However I am hopeful that the dialogue generated by that effort will be grace-filled and respectful. The atmosphere is fraught with emotion, which is okay as long as it does not degrade into bitterness and enmity. May the Spirit of God guide us always.

Shalom,
Andy Bryan, Pastor
Campbell United Methodist Church



My goal in posting my feelings here is not to create animosity or bitterness. It is simply to share publicly what's going on in my noodle at the moment, wondering at the same time if there are any others out there struggling with similar feelings today. If you are led to respond, I ask that your response be grace-filled and respectful, or I will ask you to delete it.

Thank you.

35 comments:

Mark Kastner said...

If one does nothing, than certainly nothing will happen. Your comments may open a door, start a dialogue, give hope for a change. Agree with you or not, well written.

Parson Paul said...

I too am for moving forward, but I'm seriously afraid we have thrown the baby out with the bath.

Paul Lathum
Former camper, counselor & camp director

Thank you for putting words to what others of us feel.
Sign me another of the 20%.

Tara Dameron said...

I feel that, this blog expresses my feelings perfectly. My son started crying about camp again last night. All I could tell him was, "I don't know what to tell you. I can't change what happened. I am so sorry."

amymoran said...

I am not one of the 20% yet, but intended to be. I was looking forward to my boys having a wonderful experience that I have heard so much about. Thanks for always speaking your opinion even when sometimes it is hard to voice.

ndrwcn said...

Thank you for writing this. Well said. I agree....

Pastor Dave said...

Thanks Andy. Well said.

Todd Brewer said...

Very well said...you summed up what the majority are thinking perfectly.

What I find troubling is that the 20% came from the entire state and 4 camps...I would venture to guess that number will drop to less than 5% given the travel distance to Fayette from the far corners of rhe state. My guess is that Fayette will only be considered by those who can make the trip in 2 hours or less...everyone else will be too far in mmmm y opinion. That represents thousands of kids...maybe hundreds of thousands. ..just sad.

Todd...another 20%'er

Jesse Owsley said...

From the statement on camping:
http://moumethodist.org/news/detail/948

(about 20% of our churches in the annual conference send one or more campers)

I used the following resource to help understand that metric:
http://archives.umc.org/Directory/ChurchDirectoryAdvanced.asp?mid=222

I would like to have a clearer understanding of the 20% participation rate.

A quick analysis from the link above indicates that here are 817 congregations in Missouri. Of those, 172 (or 21%) have average attendance of less than 20 people. 279 (or 34%) have average attendance of 20 – 49. That makes a total of 451 (or 55%) of congregations with average attendance of less than 50.

How many of these congregations have few or no youth?

There are a total of 26 congregations or only 3% with congregations greater than 500. How many of those did not send a kid to camp? If not a camp in the conference, how many utilized a camp facility outside of the four Missouri sites?

I believe this metric is misleading as it relates to understanding why the decision was made to discontinue a church camp institution that spans generations.

Jesse Owsley said...

I would add that the purpose of presenting that number in that way would be only for the purpose of shifting the focus away from those making the decision 'don't blame us for killing this when 80% of you don't even care enough to participate'.

Instead, we all had better focus on engaging children and youth or we will not be relevant as a denomination in two generations.

Kathy R said...

Well said Andy. I am sad about this; my two daughters had many great experiences at Camp Galilee. I understand the financial situation but am still sad that this wonderful camping experience is gone with apparently not much input from the average MO conference United Methodist lay member.

Anonymous said...

"I feel like a small group of powerful older people made a decision that impacts a large group of relatively powerless children and youth without hearing from those voices in any meaningful way" Evidently your requirement of "not to create animosity or bitterness" applies to others but not to you?

Sally Jones said...

What happened to the idea of a religious church camp? Why must church camp include sports and other curriculum outside the teachings of Jesus and our heavenly Father? Get back to the basics of church camp! Fayette is NOT the place for church camp. Thanks for letting me state my feelings.
Sally Jones

Anonymous said...

"I feel like I have nothing to offer the children and youth of my congregation, including my own children, when they ask me why this happened." Why do you not have anything to offer to your youth? If this news is so devastating, maybe, your church should start to reach out to youth. If your church can't offer youth anything why send them off to camp? If the kids you actually send off to camp come back with a life changing experience do you follow up with them? How does the discipleship process continue? Seems like there is a bigger issue here. Prayerfully ask God what You can do in Your church to help reach the "powerless".

Melissa Walaitis said...

I feel that by keeping this from us the last two years that it was always the "end game" to close the camps. If the outrage at this decision is any indication, we would have raised the necessary funds and we would have driven to those camps and helped perform those repairs ourselves. I am angry. I am hurt. I am no longer proud to be a United Methodist.

Rick Dawson said...

Only a coward would dispute someone's feelings and rational while hiding behind the name "Anonymous"...

Sharman Ebert Felton said...

God was speaking through you, Andy!!! Thank you for your words...it needed saying and you did it well!! God Bless the camps and we all should keep praying they can still be saved!

Teresa Bingham said...

We raised so much money for "No more malaria", yet were never asked to help those in our own backyard. Even Jesus went into the wilderness to pray...

Jennifer Butler said...

Andy, thank you for such perfect words. I cannot seem to wrap my head around the way people have been treated! I pray for the future spiritual opportunities for our children and hope others will open. I have no doubt your church feeds your young people more than most, anonymous from above obviously has never been to camp with you! I will say the way this was handles screams bad business and leaves a very bad taste in my mouth towards the conference "Christians" we have in charge.

Faye Chitwood said...

After volunteering many hours at Camp Jo-Ota and seeing the devotion and hard work of the Directors, my heart aches for them. The first evaluation of any Christian program should be how many changed lives with a Christ encounter has come from this program? Can a monetary figure be put on the one lost sheep that is found? Where is one closer to his Creator than in the beautiful outdoors He created?

Anonymous said...

The camps have been under pressure to be inclusive to UMC groups only. Outside groups...i.e. those we should be really reaching out to were questioned as to why they were taking UMC spots. Camps were asked not to make any major improvements, nor were they allowed to fund-raise for improvements. Even some UMC campers were not included in the finale tally of numbers because they did not register through the conference, they chose to run their own camping program at the site(s). This amounts to hundreds upon hundreds of campers not counted in what has been reported. This also does not include any outside groups using the site(s) because UMC's couldn't find leaders of their own to run camps. So if they were encouraged to not reach out, and to only self serve UMCs...how could they grow? The sites were asked for an assessment over a 10yr period. Immediate needs, 5yr needs, and 10yr dream list. These numbers are now being used against them. Most sites could come up with their needs on their own, without any doubt. I know 2 sites that could be self-sustaining right now. Being close to these sites has afforded me an ear to hear, and a shoulder to cry on for them. They cannot say much, because they are not self-seeking, but have a respect for those in charge of them, and those they serve. If 80% of the UMC congregations are in 20% of the UMC churches...what's next, to close 80% of the churches because they're draining funds and cannot self-sustain? Will only the big churches remain? And to what avail? And would something like this be able to happen as it has to the camps, behind closed doors, not on the conference floor, but by a few with a lot of control? These are some big questions about our conference. Where are we if we do not have a voice? The UMC youth counsels are formed so that the youth have a voice in what their groups do. Our camps have not had that voice in this instance. It was taken from them without warning. And now we cannot send our youth to a UMC camp. While using CMU is an option, what is it to remain in a typical college area, staying on campus, and call that a valid outdoor camp experience? Are bunks still bunks, no matter where they are? Why get rid of a true escape from society? Kids don't want to go to camp anymore? Parents are more and more fearful to send their kids away from home to unfamiliar church leaders. Kids have great difficulty relinquishing their electronics, and parents bend to their children's wills instead of parents enforcing discipline upon them. At camp the kids have the chance to be at 'church', in a Christian setting for 4-6 days straight. A community not met at a church building within the confines of a 45min Sunday school, 1hr worship/sermon, and 1hr youth group. Perhaps and usually all of which are inside. When Jesus wanted to get in touch with God, He left the trappings of man and went into the wilderness. A college campus is not the wilderness. And even the Christian colleges are still full of student bodies not walking with the Lord...whether we want to admit it or not. I am sad about how all of this came about. I am sad about how I heard about all of this. I am sad about how our leaders have acted towards their own. Most of all I am sad at what this may do to our conference. It is not they way to handle neither a business, nor to handle a church. The camp board alone needs to answer for their decision. Their excuses are misleading, and those that are new in the office are having to answer for them.

Anonymous said...

Hope this doesn't turn out like the veterans hospital scandal and someone's getting a kickback by playing god here-

Debbie Deneke said...

I have been struggling to express what my beliefs are about what has taken place related to camps and find someone else has already done it. Thank you Rev. Andy for what you have written.

Andy B. said...

Rick Dawson - I make it a point not to respond to (or even acknowledge) anonymous comments in any online venue in any way. I hope that you might consider deleting or editing your comment, which is not very helpful to fostering a grace-filled dialogue. Thank you.

waltburk said...

Our church is one of the 20% and we use camping as an outreach and "Open Door" for our congregation.
2011 we sent 21 to camp
2012 we sent 20 to camp
2013 we sent 16 to camp
2014 we sent 14 to camp
We have kids who were confirmed in our congregation that would we would not have reached if it weren't for church camp.

We are confused and hurt by this action.

Andy, I really appreciate the respectful tone you set here and thank you for providing the chance for dialog.

Jo Clark said...

I feel a little betrayed by those "in charge". I am not in any of "the loops" of the church and had heard nothing of the crisis in the camping situation until I somehow received an email Saturday. I attended church camp many years, first in junior high and continuing on as an adult with usually my own church's programs at either Epworth or Blue Mountain and providing camping experiences for my own children. How I hate to see this experience denied the Next Generation. Those camping experiences added a dimension to my discipleship that might not have come from any where else. As I approach my 80th year of life, I reflect on the many changes I have seen in how we believe disciples are made. With declining church memberships, I question whether we have it right.

Barb Davidson said...

Thanks for stating what I've been thinking Teresa. I know our church would have even been out there making repairs and raising funds. Our church has been devastated that 2 families from our congregation who have dedicated their lives to camping and children will be homeless come Jan. There are also so many other people from our church who work out there that have been affected. The "big" decision was unfairly made. It should have been brought up at conference that this was going on and at least let the people voice their opinions. I think there would have been mighty rejection. I've heard several families from here say that they absolutely will not take their young children to a campus for camp. Where is the solitude there? I hope you can go to the meeting in Liberty tomorrow evening. Most of us will be there.

Barb said...

I'm talking about Wilderness Camp & Retreat Center.

Brittanee Jacobs said...

Pastor Andy,

Thank you for sharing this. As I've read this posting multiple times, I find new parts which send me into an overload of thoughts. However, there is one line where I feel nothing. That's not exactly true. I do feel. I feel numb. Because no matter what I say or do, it won't take the pain away:

"I feel like I have nothing to offer the children and youth of my congregation, including my own children, when they ask me why this happened."

Although I'm not a pastor and I don't have children of my own, I do have my "camp kids" ranging from pre-K children to a few in college (yes, I'm that old now!). There is no worse feeling than that of disappointment, and how our kids feel about losing camp is the epitome of disappointment.

Thank you for sharing, Andy. I hope fruitful conversation can continue on this posting.

Dick Davidson said...

Andy, I read your blog on Geoff Posegate's FB page. I understand this is an emotional issue but I have to question your claim of calling for a "grace filled dialogue" when you clearly personally attacked the members of the Camp Council including calling them names and questioning their motives? Christians get criticized very often for being hypocrites. I was very disappointed in your blog being completely hypocritical in your attack on some really good Christian leaders who I am proud to call my friends while you were claiming to be calling for "grace filled dialogue".

Diana Griffiths said...

You did a marvelous job putting into words what most of us are feeling. I totally agree with Melissa W. There is something to be said about transparency and in an organization as big as the UMC, we would have stepped up to help save the camps if we had been in the loop.

I never went to camp but had an opportunity to go with confirmation classes and other retreats as well as sent my daughter.

I am sad that the people of the UMC were not given an opportunity to step up for the kids and youth.

Andy B. said...

Mr. Davidson, Thank you for your observation above. The people on the Camping Board are my friends as well. If you would kindly point out a specific time that I called them names or attacked them personally, perhaps I would be better able to respond. Thank you.
(If you wish, you may send me an email or call me at church any time. You may find my contact information on the Campbell UMC website.)

Dick Davidson said...

Hi Andy,

Your exact words were "a small group of powerful older people". Hardly words of grace and an indication that you were inviting a dialogue with these people? Perhaps you were talking about someone else but I clearly took this as a slap at the Council on Camping? If those few words had been left out of your blog I felt it was an excellent presentation of your feelings. Maybe I was most offended as I am older than either Ann Mowery or Ron Watts. : )

Andy B. said...

Thank you, Mr. Davidson, for your clarification. That is helpful.
The words "powerful" and "older" were not intended as "name-calling," and the members of the Camping Board with whom I have spoken this week did not seem to take them as such.
I suppose you and I may disagree as to whether that phrase is an "attack" or not. In my opinion, the terms are value-neutral, simply descriptive. The camping board is, in fact, powerful because they were able to make and implement this decision. And they are older because they were born before the majority of the people impacted by their decision.
Thank you for owning your feelings, and for allowing me to own mine. Shalom, my brother.

Dick Davidson said...

Hi Andy,

I think I may have mentioned it to you before but your grandfather give one of the best, if not the best, sermons I have ever heard in West Plains when he was here as guest speaker.

I also enjoyed visiting with your father when we were at GC together in 2000. We were East and West Conferences then and it was my first chance to really get to know him.

I feel I learned a great deal from these "older" men. : )


Shalom to you as well.

Bruce Blair said...

My personal view on this matter is that it is more serious than some seem to realize and may result in more damage than even the loss of the camps.

I do not pretend to know whether the decision handed down by Bishop Schnase will eventually result in more good than evil. I do know that the process by which it came about was not Christ-like.

Whether intentional or not, the camps have been largely ignored and repressed for some years now. Adequate funding was denied by the Conference through budget cuts. Political manipulation denied the camps adequate staff. The Conference made little effort to promote the camps among the churches and laity. The Conference made no fundraising efforts among the churches and laity while direct fundraising by the camps was discouraged. Finally, the Conference studied this understandably "troubled program" and decided that it was not worth saving.

The most troubling aspect of this process occurred when Bishop Schnase decided to act on this study by dictating his decision to the churches and laity in a Vatican like manner. No one bothered to ask, "What do YOU think?".

This troubles me greatly. If the United Methodist Church has come to this, then we may as well rejoin our Catholic brethren with whom we parted ways centuries ago, in large part to avoid such procedures. This situation needs to be rectified, and soon. It is more dangerous to the Church than any unfortunate incident in my memory.

May God help each of us to see His will in our daily actions and guide us in the way of Christ.

Bruce Blair