Monday, August 31, 2009

Evangelical Lutheran Church of American and The United Methodist Church in Full Communion

On August 20th the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America at their church wide assembly in Minneapolis, MN voted to be in full communion with the United Methodist Church. In 2008 at the UM General Conference the United Methodists voted for full communion and now with the vote on August 20th the Lutherans have also agreed to it. Full communion is when two denominations establish a relationship based on a common confessing of the Christian faith and a mutual recognition of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It also recognizes the ordinations of the clergy. This day was long in coming. The dialogs around this began 30 years ago. This does not mean that the United Methodists are merging with the Lutherans. It means we recognize either others faith statements, sacraments and ordinations. It can pave the way for United Methodist clergy and ELCA clergy to serve in each others’ churches. Most importantly, it is a call for all of us to work together with the ELCA churches in our neighborhoods in new and fuller ways.

When I was growing up there was a Lutheran Church in my neighborhood. My family attended the Methodist Church just down the street from the Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church building was much more grand and beautiful than the Methodist flagstone building. The Lutheran Church had gothic architecture and a large red wooden front door. Not understanding a whole lot about history or geography I remember hearing about Martin Luther and nailing the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany (the beginning of the Protestant Reformation). I figured that it happened at the Lutheran Church down the street and I looked at the door when we passed by and wondered why the 95 Theses were not there. Sadly we never really knew much about the Lutherans because their religion and ours in those days were kept separate. I never got to see the inside of the Lutheran Church until much later when as a young adult I helped teach a cooperative Vacation Bible School with the Lutherans down the street. How much more we could have been doing together all those years but our polity kept us apart. My little home town was poorer because of it.

We are living in a better day now. People of good will from a variety of denominations are freer to share ministries due to the ecumenical work of full communion. Religion divides but the Spirit unites. I see the Spirit at work here.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why I Love the United Methodist Men

My first encounter with the United Methodist Men was when I was 14 and I was the director of a children’s choir at my home church. The men voted to buy a set of rhythm instruments for my choir to enhance our program. It was quite an encouragement to me at that time. It was not until much later in life that I learned that the United Methodist Men’s goal was to be involved in Discipleship Ministries. They strive to organize men for ministry and outreach, especially to men but not limited to only men. They have many vital projects:
-Prayer Advocacy (Upper Room Prayer Center)
-Scouting Ministry (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire, 4-H)
-Mentoring children (Big Brothers and Big Sisters)
-Potato Project (gleaning small potatoes from farms and ship them to food banks)
-Hope for the Hearing (hearing aids for deaf children in Haiti)
-Bible Study
-Prison Ministry
-Athletic Ministries
-Strength for Service (devotional books and Bibles sent to our servicemen and servicewomen)
-Support of the children of incarcerated parents through “Amachi”
-Men’s convocation every 4 years

In addition many of our local units have additional kinds of local outreaches and ministries. Each unit has unique gifts and opportunities specific to its setting.
I wish that every church would have a United Methodist Men’s unit or if you have had one in the past that has become inactive, to get it started again. We are United Methodists. We have many wonderful programs and support systems to do many good works together. When we do our own thing separately we cannot be nearly as effective. RE-think United Methodist Men!

Why I Love United Methodist Women

I love all of the organizations of the United Methodist Church. This summer I was blessed to take part in both Schools of Mission from EPA and PDC and found them both to be an inspiration. I have long been associated with the United Methodist Women. I am even old enough to remember the Women’s Society of Christian Service at my home church. It was back home that I learned that it was all about missions, not about having pot-luck dinners or paying for church repairs. The women at my home church helped send me to seminary and to my first experience at the Consultation of Clergywomen (1979).
There are many things about United Methodist Women that are noteworthy:

They are an organization where women have a great opportunity for leadership development.
They do missions with a special emphasis on helping women, children and youth.
They intentionally include youth, young adults and people of all ethnicities in their work.
They are passionate about social justice, both locally and globally
They partner with many organizations to get the job done
They do practical ministry in the world that makes a difference
They encourage women to read, continue their education and to be all they can be
They teach about spirituality and encourage prayer and Bible study as the fuel for the work
They print wonderful, practical, interesting materials (in more than one language)
They have a wonderful world wide conference that is an inspiration to everyone who attends (The next one is April 30-May 2 in St. Louis, MO)
They have organizations all over the world.
They give away everything they have at the end of the year for missions

We are being encouraged to “Re-think Church” in our advertising campaigns. I would encourage you to “Re-Think United Methodist Women” if your church does not have a unit or your unit has been struggling. Contact your conference presidents for help in getting geared up. There are some new and exciting things happening. Give it a try! Support your denomination’s mission organizations…..they do GREAT WORK!!