April 02, 2020

From Around The UMC...

Input, articles, and material from our United Methodist leaders and Congregations
http://bishop.michiganumc.org/blog/ Monthly Words from Bishop Bard

What's Going on With The United Methodist Church?    Note from Pastor: Each month, I choose from a huge variety of articles to find one that will help us all become more aware of the larger activity of our worldwide denomination. If you see an article that you think would be helpful to the Trinity people, please let me know, and we’ll see about fitting it in.

The Michigan Annual Conference
927 W. Fair St.
Marquette, MI 49855
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Scott A. Harmon, District Superintendent
Diana Byar, Administrative Assistant
Re: Information regarding the Protocol announcement.

January 8, 2020

Dear Pastors and Churches of the Northern Skies District:
Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
      Following the release of information on the agreement (“the Protocol”) reached last week in the church’s struggle over human sexuality, there may be a sense of anxiety about what this would mean for local churches and their pastors. Allow me to share a few points for clarity:
l “The Protocol”* remains a proposal at this time, albeit with signatory support from leaders of the various constituencies. It must come before General Conference. At this point it is only one proposal among many, and General Conference alone speaks for the denomination.
l Bishop Bard shared an initial response last week, and can be anticipated to release a more-detailed follow-up in the coming weeks.
l As was noted by the Protocol FAQ information, the changes, if adopted, would not happen overnight, but would be anticipated to take up to four years, even given the agreement of the parties.
l The Protocol lays out the path for creation of a new Methodist denomination reflecting the traditionalist viewpoint. Annual Conferences would then have opportunity to choose between a post-separation UMC (using the Protocol’s language) and the new Methodist denomination.
l Pastors’ pensions would remain with Wespath, which would service both denominations.
l Bishop Bard has spoken in the past of a United Methodism which would be more inclusive, with the flexibility to minister in diverse contexts. Such an expression “could allow, but not require, (emphasis mine) clergy to officiate at same-gender weddings. It could allow persons, regardless of sexual orientation, who meet the requirements of The Book of Discipline, including celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage, to seek licensing, ordination, and appointment within the conference. Appointments would continue to be made with consideration given to the full range of contextual realities. Persons of differing theological perspectives would be welcomed and valued as part of the rich fabric of the conference (again, emphasis mine).” By this, no clergy would be “required” to minister in a way that violates his/her conscience, nor would churches be “required” to receive pastors that do not fit their contexts.
l Following the decision of the Annual Conference, local congregations would not be required to any take action. Churches would be aligned with the outcome of Annual Conference unless it is felt that they could not live in good conscience within the denomination the Annual Conference chooses. If desired, a vote may be taken (through an officially-called Church Conference, convened by the District Superintendent) by the local congregation to align with the denomination not chosen by the Annual Conference, retaining their building and assets.
      The Protocol, representing the separation of the church, enables conflicted groups to focus their energies on ministry in clear conscience. In the coming year, there will be much that we will further learn together, but hopefully this is helpful in understanding the proposal these leaders have in good faith negotiated and present before the church.
      In Christ, together.     Rev. Scott A. Harmon                   *Google ‘umc protocol’ for more information.

Pastor’s Ponderings   February, 2020
      In his first Joyful Journey blog of 2020, Bishop David Bard reminded me of a poem by Howard Thurman that I hadn’t heard in a long time called, “The Work of Christmas.”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
      Yes, we have started a new year and a new decade. And yet, there is nothing new about the ‘work of Christmas’ that Howard Thurman is talking about, is there? The lost and broken are always waiting for direction and healing. The hungry and the prisoners are ready to be fed and set free. The nations, Oh Lord, what about the nations that have been broken by corruptions, misuse of power, and misplaced military aggression? Rebuilding indeed. Add to that all the worried, anxious, exhausted people that I’m sure each of you know. There is no shortage of need for peace of mind, soothing words, gentle, heart-felt kindness.
      In this new year and this new decade…I encourage you to think about how you can do the ‘work of Christmas’ throughout the year. Not everyone is a musician, but Jesus showed us that loving our neighbors as ourselves does make hearts sing. Jesus taught us that we can find peace by forgiving those who distress us—as many times as it takes. Jesus wants us to continue to feed the hungry, and that is one thing we at Trinity really know how to do! The Community Meal is going strong. Two Feeding America dates for 2020 will be chosen soon. The ladies of the church continue to provide first-class funeral luncheons for the families of our sisters and brothers who go to be with God.
      The Church Unique group has identified (along with many other things) that we at Trinity have a heart for ‘Sharing the love of God with those who hunger.’ Let’s consider in 2020 that people hunger for many things…not just food. People who are lost…hunger to be found. Those who are broken… hunger for healing. Those living in limited and trapped circumstances…hunger for freedom.
      Let’s use 2020 as a time to reflect on how God may be calling Trinity UMC to go the next step beyond feeding the hunger for food in our stomachs. The Engaged Ministry Team is seeing people of this community who are hungry for home repairs, wheelchair ramps, new windows. In response to that, they are partnering with the local Habitat for Humanity group to see if Trinity can help with at least two projects this year. More information will be brought forward as time goes by. (See page 6.)
      I myself am aware of so many people who are confused, bewildered, and hungering for clarity around the confusion in our society and politics and denomination. (See page 2.) I am starting a ‘Wednesday Wisdom Hour’ once a month on Wednesday nights to gather and listen to various You-Tube speakers who have insights that may help us to find some peace in the face of so many disturbances. (See page 3.)
      The United Methodist Church is looking at the brokenness of our own denomination around the issue of human sexuality…the arguing, hurtfulness, and anger has been going on for a long time. There is a hunger for peace and justice. The Reconciling Ministries group at Trinity is meeting the second Sunday each month after the 10:30 worship in order to go through a process of listening and compassion building. Everyone is welcome. (See page 7.)
      The ‘work of Christmas’ goes on and on…by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Praise be to God who makes it possible for us to share love so grand with those who hunger. Peace and blessings, in the name of all that is Holy.     Pastor Geri

Filipino Bishops Back Church Unity  By Gladys P. Mangiduyos, September 11, 2019 | UM News
   The Philippines Central Conference College of Bishops has signed a resolution “intensely” opposing dissolution of The United Methodist Church. The bishops’ resolution recommended restructuring that would allow for regional autonomy to deal with divisive issues like homosexuality.

   “From the beginning of the church in the New Testament, division and schism in the church are to be avoided, and unity must be achieved and maintained,” the resolution reads. Meeting August 31 at United Methodist headquarters in Manila, the bishops agreed to submit the petition to General Conference. Bishop Rodolfo Alfonso “Rudy” Juan, president of the Filipino College of Bishops, said the Philippines Central Conference is totally against dissolution of The United Methodist Church. “We servant-bishops encourage our Filipino constituency to continually promote unity in our denomination,” he said…

   The resolution’s recommendation for restructuring The United Methodist Church into regional conferences is similar to a plan laid out by The Connectional Table in regards to a new U.S. structure. “With our proposal for restructuring into regional conferences, we can exercise some form of autonomy to meet contextual realities in our specific regions. We then will have a regional Book of Discipline,” Juan said.

   The resolution states that The United Methodist Church “will remain as one global church in which regional, central, annual, and local conferences are organic parts, but have the authority to decide their witness, mission, and ministry, thus, preserving locality and connectionality.” Regional autonomy will allow United Methodists from central conferences — the seven church regions in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines — to deal with the divisive issue of homosexuality, Juan said. “It is our prayer that with some form of regional autonomy, we can find a workable solution and remain a united global denomination,” he said.

         The resolution also called for the Council of Bishops to be retained for general and local oversight of The United Methodist Church. Bishops in Africa also recently resolved not to support any proposed legislation or plans that may result in a split or dissolution of the church.

   Retired Bishop Soriano, who had a prior commitment and could not attend the Filipino Council of Bishops meeting, talked to UM News by phone about the resolution. He said that being disciples of Christ is having one mission. “Whether one is for or against homosexuality, the mission remains the same: that is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I believe the church would be more effective if it is united in doing the mission. However, if it becomes unavoidable, I will accept it. History tells us that while schism is inevitable, the splinters continue to do the mission.”

Annual Conference Rev. Benton Heisler, Director of Connectional Ministries, Michigan Conference, recently wrote about Michigan Annual Conference:
   There is a parable of the pilgrim who asked the wiser one, whose wisdom seemed to be unmatched, “Is the small bird in my hand alive or dead?”
The wiser one answered, “The answer is in your hand.” The wiser one knew it was a trick. The pilgrim could release the bird or crush out its life. Indeed, the “answer was held in the hand.”
   There are any number of decisions that face us as an Annual Conference where we will be able to offer life or crush the spirit of those among us. What makes it even harder is that what may feel like “life” to one person, is experienced as a “crushing squeeze” by another. We will need a movement of The Holy Spirit among us all, as we spend these few days together.
   There is a lot of work to be done, ample time to do it, and we have an excellent worship, learning, and fellowship context in which to share in this work together… There are petitions and resolutions to be reviewed, biographies of lay and clergy candidates for General and Jurisdictional Conference to read, and pages of explanations and details that will assist us with doing our best work in the Grand Traverse Region.
   Please be praying for Bruce and Beth Clark and Pastor Geri as they travel and participate in this important gathering of Michigan United Methodists. Travel starts May 29, and the Conference is over on June 2. May all that is done and said and thought and voted on be for the glory and goodness of God. 
Camp Michigamme Day, Saturday, June 15, 9:30-3:30 Eastern time. Help Camp Michigamme kick off the summer season with worship at Hampton Chapel, followed by brunch.  There will be an auction, and all proceeds will go toward serving the campers of 2019. There will also be many camp activities going on for all.
is a great way for new campers and families to see what Camp Michigamme is all about!
RSVP to let them know you’re coming: (906)323-6521 or director@campmichigamme.org.


Pastor’s Ponderings  May, 2019

Back in 2017, at the Annual Conference meeting in Traverse City, I learned a new word: liminal. It’s a word used to describe ‘the time and space in between.’ In between the end of one era and the beginning of the next. The in-between time of winter, waiting for spring to emerge. Liminal actually describes the time, those three days, between the death of Jesus and his Resurrection. Something ended, and the future was not yet fully defined. But we know that something really great came out of a very brutal and difficult situation there.

The 2017 Conference offered us learning sessions on liminality with Rev. Susan Beaumont, who described it in terms of organizations. Specifically, we were looking at the end of the Detroit and West Michigan Annual Conferences, but we had not yet fully defined what the new Michigan Annual Conference would look like. There was some anxiety and fear and even resistance to the necessary changes and adjustments that were anticipated at that time. Those are standard features of the liminal season—for individuals and for human systems.

In Beaumont’s words at http://www.susanbeaumont.com/embracing-liminal-space/, we read: ‘Feelings of anxiety, skepticism or low morale are likely to surface. Attendance wanes and giving lags. The neutral/liminal zone is generally a time of confusion, quietness, vulnerability, and feeling exposed.’ Rev. Beaumont coached us back in 2017 on leaning into the reality of those uncomfortable feelings. She basically told us: Don’t try to deny the discomfort, but do provide a safe place in which to breathe through the awkward times. Use prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our congregations to assure people that God continues to be present with us. Proclaim the power of Jesus, who says, ‘Be not afraid,’ to his disciples even when the boat is being swallowed up in the dark wind of a storm.

Beaumont writes on her website: During liminal seasons it is important to revisit and shape the important vocational questions of the congregation: Who are we? Who are we here to serve? What is God calling us to do or become? What are our most important priorities and how might our priorities be shifting in this season?

How interesting. Look at the workshop information on page 3 of this Tower…Church Unique…explore what God sees in us…spirt-filled discussions and demographic information. Trinity already has a plan to revisit and remember and re-define who and how we are as God’s people here on the corner of Carpenter Ave. and E St. in Iron Mountain. How wonderful that Naomi Garcίa was already scheduled to come and be with us at Trinity…prior to any of those decisions that were made at the worldwide level in February 2019.

I don’t imagine that the Conference necessarily had a crystal ball in 2017 to know that two years later, 2019 would thrust our worldwide denomination into a liminal season, as we all try to grasp the events of General Conference in February. (See the April Tower, pages 1-2, for more details.) We are actually dealing with ‘liminality within liminality’ as we wait this week for a ruling from the Judicial Council. They meet April 23 – 26 in Evanston, Illinois to debate and decide on certain aspects of the Plan that was approved at the February General Conference in St. Louis. We are in an in-between zone as we wait to see what they say and then…seek to discern next steps for the Denomination, the Bishops, the Conferences, and the local churches. It could be big. It could be nominal. We just don’t know.

But what we do know is that God is with us. There are many, many ways for us to be faithful to God’s work—with each other and in the world—while we wait to hear how the people on the Judicial Council address the people’s work through The United Methodist Church. We, at Trinity, will be doing that liminal season work together at the workshops on April 27, May 11, and June 16. You can come too…and be part of moving through the end of one season in our life as a church and moving forward into the future.

No one can say exactly what that’s all going to look like, but that’s OK. We have each other for support. We have the power of God for strength. We have the love of Jesus Christ to guide us and guard us…that’s what Jesus does. And surely, the presence of the Holy Spirit is here among us. Always. Praise be to God.

--Pastor Geri