Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Fulfilling our ministry ‘received in the Lord’


The Apostle Paul penned his letter to the Colossians as he sat in a prison cell.  People have a lot of time to think and pray while they are in prison.  Paul wrote inspiring words to edify and encourage early believers during his long periods of imprisonment.

His epistles typically end with a seres of personal greetings and admonitions. The letter to the Colossians is no exception.  But I was captured by Paul’s imperative words to Archippus: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

We don’t know much about Archippus. Paul was specifically calling him out in this letter, perhaps because he was procrastinating.  We believe that he did heed the Apostle’s words. Church tradition teaches that Archippus later became the first bishop of Laodicea in Phrygia and was martyred for the faith.

Paul’s words can be directed to all of us as well: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”  Be it a church ministry or any service rendered anywhere for the Lord, your own unique call is a gift from God to be pursued and fulfilled.

This Sunday, November 25, churches will receive our annual United Methodist Student Day offering that enables many students to receive higher education and pursue their future careers in Christian leadership. Nothing could be more important for us as a church than to prepare our now and next generations of leaders.
Student Day offering scholarships are crucial
The scholarships your Student Day offerings provide are crucial to fulfilling the hopes and dreams—indeed, the call to serve—of countless college students. Many of them are seeking, striving to fulfill the ministry they have received in the Lord.

Please give generously to this special offering because it touches a future that is full of God’s faithful promises. And as you do, prayerfully consider the ministry that you have received from the Lord.
What do you need to pursue the ministry that you may have been putting off, like Archippus? May you find it and fulfill your call with true faithfulness. And please know this: God will equip you and stand by you always.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Quest for justice, mercy should be One Size Fits All

By Bishop Peggy Johnson

My son Gabriel appeared in a recent Facebook post donning a Halloween costume in which he is dressed as a cactus.  It is quite clever, and perhaps he chose this outfit because he works as a botanist at the Smithsonian Science Lab and loves plants. 

When I asked him about it, he said he purchased it at Walmart, and it is labeled “One Size Fits Most.” He said I could borrow it anytime I wanted to dress up like a cactus.  This is likely not going to happen. 

First, I don’t like plants all that much and secondly, “One Size Fits Most” never works for me. They are always too big. I can just imagine falling down steps in this unfitting cactus costume that my six-foot tall son fits into quite well.

Does one size fit most?  It is an important question to ponder as we consider our social issues in the world today. Is there a place for uniformity, or is it important to recognize our differences with respect and grace?  Yes and no.

When should ‘One Size Fit Most’?

The General Board of Church and Society is working on a revision of our United Methodist Social Principles. These can be found in our Book of Discipline in Paragraph 160-164.They include many important statements that we as United Methodists believe about social justice. However, one size does not always fit all in the global context.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Believing and being there for domestic violence victims

October is Domestic Violence & Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Month (Also known as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month)
By Bishop Peggy Johnson


She came to the United Methodist-sponsored DeafBlind Camp*, this young woman with a small child. Her husband dropped her off. She could neither see nor hear. But faithful volunteers interpreted for her, making tactile deaf signs in her hands. And they led her from place to place during the week of camp activities. 
I was running the camp; so I did not have much contact with “Audrey.”** The woman who served as her support service provider (SSP) sensed that she was burdened with something; but the nature of it was unclear.
Being deaf and blind comes with huge daily challenges. God bless this volunteer helper! After camp ended she went to visit “Audrey” at her home, and they formed a bond of friendship. 
It was through that bond that the terrible truth about Audrey’s husband came to light. He would beat her and kick her and put things in her way, so she would fall and hurt herself. This was unbelievable cruelty behind closed doors. 
Thanks to much intervention and support, the volunteer helped Audrey escape from this abusive environment, move out of the state (with her young child), endure divorce and custody court proceedings, and begin a new life. It all started with a relationship and the simple fact that the volunteer believed her story and then did something about it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

History Revisited

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)
Every October when I was in grade school we sang the same song: “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” I learned about this brave sailor, who challenged the thinking of the time that the earth was flat and if one went too far west they would fall off the map.

I marveled at his tenacity. When he could not get Italian supporters for his voyage, he went to King Ferdinand of Spain and his wife, Isabella. (I especially liked hearing about Isabella since most of my history lessons in school had very few women of prominence. Betsy Ross sewing a flag in Philadelphia was the only other woman I remember.)

I was taught that Columbus “discovered” the new world and brought Christ to the heathens. I actually wrote a newsletter once at my first parish saying that the name “Christopher” meant “Christ-bearer” and that he was spreading the faith to those who had never heard.

Then I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and visited a large, modern museum of history, where I learned of Columbus’ brutality and the genocide of the indigenous Taino people. He instituted slavery and engaged in horrific acts of inhumanity.

According to an article in the Philadelphia Tribune (9/2/18), “Council Must Stop Celebrating Columbus Genocide,” by Michael Coard, “the atrocities of Columbus were so bad that Governor Francisco De Bodadilla arrested him for his many crimes and sent him back to Spain in shackles.” So much for my “Christ-bearer.”

Friday, September 14, 2018

Postcards from McAllen, Texas:  An Immersion in Immigration Realities

A tour provided by the General Board of Church and Society, Bishop Robert Schnase and support  personnel from the Rio Texas Annual Conference – August 22-24, 2018

By Bishop Peggy Johnson*





McAllen, Texas, is located in the Rio Grande Valley and it borders the country of Mexico. It is one of the poorest areas in the United States.  The average income is $34,000 and 29 percent of the people have no health care services.  This is a place where many people cross the border into the United States, and the dynamics of this are highly complex. United Methodists are found in this area, serving and ministering with the poor.



Bishop Robert Schnase, who serves in the Rio Texas Annual Conference, explained that the church strives to find safe places and spaces for migrating people to be processed and engaged, to offer compassion and civility, to build relationships, to teach people about the border experience and to be constantly in prayer. Radical hospitality is the always the goal.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Place at the Table


The United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities met at Gallaudet University for a three-day conference for the purpose of education, advocacy and support (August 1-3, 2018). The theme was “Taking Our Place at the Table: DisABILITY Leadership Academy.”

The event included a number of speakers: the Rev. Stephanie Remington from Wesley Theological Seminary’s Lewis Leadership Center; the Rev. E. Michelle Ledder from the General Commission on Religion and Race; the Rev. Jackson Day from the General Board of Church and Society; and the Rev. Anthony Hunt from the Baltimore-Washington Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Back, Left to right: Rev. Ruthann Simpson (Pen-Del), Rev. Dave Goss (EPA), Rev. Bill Downing (Pen-Del), and Rev. Paul Crikelair (EPA). Front: Bishop Peggy Johnson.

Leadership development was the key component of this event; and the group strategized about how to promote more opportunities to be in leadership and inclusion in the UMC. People with disabilities, even those who are ordained or commissioned, often find themselves talked about but not present at the table.

Jesus understood the importance of table ministry. Much of his ministry included gatherings around meals and tables. It seemed like he was always doing radical acts of inclusion at the tables where he sat.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Turning as delight


In 1848, Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. (1797-1882) a member of a sect known as the Shakers, located in Alfred, Maine, wrote the words and the tune to “Simple Gifts.”


‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, ‘tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.

 And when we find ourselves in the place just right, t’will be in the valley of love and delight.   

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend, we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight, till by turning, turning, we come ‘round right.” 
1

This was originally one of the dance songs of the Shaker sect, whose full name was the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.” Their founder was a prophetic figure known as Mother Ann Lee. 
The group began in Europe (first France and then England) and eventually moved to the New York in the 1700’s.  The Shakers were basically Christian in their beliefs, following the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus. They lived together in communities with a strict rule about celibacy, and they held all property in common.  The movement swelled to 19 communities across northeastern parts of the United States in the 1800’s; and at its heyday they had more than 6,000 community members.