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Disaffiliation Disputes
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The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks about his opposition to the war in Vietnam at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, in New York. Faith leaders took turns reading his speech, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," on the 55th anniversary of its presentation, with author and activist Shane Claiborne observing that King's assertions remain true today. (RNS file photo by John C. Goodwin)

Days before Holy Week begins, The United Methodist Church embarked on its own way of sorrows as disaffiliation disputes occurred against a backdrop of newly uncovered war atrocities in Ukraine.
 
The question of whether annual conferences can leave the UMC took on heightened urgency as the Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Conference adopted a resolution withdrawing from the denomination to join the Global Methodist Church when it launches May 1. Bishop Patrick Streiff (at right) of the Central and Southern Europe Area issued a statement April 7 expressing regret that the conference chose not to follow procedures in the Book of Discipline. Whether the Bulgaria-Romania Conference’s action is valid remains to be seen. Bishop Streiff indicated a willingness to work with the conference on a “respectful” departure.
 
The disaffiliation process itself came under heavy discussion in a series of blog posts. The Rev. Chris Ritter of “People Need Jesus” blog kicked off the debate with “The Deficiencies of Disaffiliation.” The Rev. David Livingston responded with a post disputing Ritter’s version of General Conference 2019 actions that set up the disaffiliation process. Then the Rev. Beth Cook refuted Livingston’s version of events with her own article, which includes a list of the different ways in which Paragraph 2553 is being applied in different annual conferences. Their serial exchange appeared to affirm yet another commentary from the Rev. Bill Lawrence that the UMC isn’t splitting but is in fact splintering into multiple versions of Methodism.
 


In contrast to the disaffiliation kerfuffle, the Rev. Steve Harper foresees a brighter future for the UMC if it holds true to its historic principles including a Trinitarian theology emphasizing love and a reignition of mission “to spread scriptural holiness across the land.” Dr. David W. Scott took a more global view of a possible UMC culture shift by examining how the African concept of ubuntu, described in the Christmas Covenant (see cover photo above), transformed his understanding of the Wesleyan idea of sanctification.
 
Following on the heels of United Women in Faith’s rebranding announcement, United Methodist Men announced a “modern way” of approaching both men’s and Scouting ministries. Like UWF, the men’s ministry dropped “Methodist” in favor of “UNITED Men’s Ministry” (sic) and unveiled a new website, UnitedMensMinistry.com, with the official launch set for May 1.
 
As word of war atrocities in Ukraine came to light, two faith-based commentators examined humans’ penchant for violence. Author and activist Shane Claiborne marked the 55th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech “Beyond Vietnam” lamenting that violence still reigns over American society and politics (see photo at top). Laura Ellis of Baptist News Global remarked on actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony, asserting that Christians need to embrace a broader definition of violence in order to overcome it. In similar context of war and pestilence, Insight Editor Cynthia B. Astle highlighted an article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on how to talk with children about the world’s crises.
 
In preparation for the celebration of Holy Week, the writers of “Memorandum for Those Who Preach” offered three substantial helps for sermon development:  With everything else going on in the world, bloggers still found time and energy to delve into faith's deeper aspects:  

Lauren Przybyl, an anchor at Fox4 News in Dallas, and the Rev. Arthur Jones, senior pastor of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, host a March 21 benefit concert for Ukraine at the church. Since Russia's invasion of that country six weeks ago, more than $5 million has come into the United Methodist Committee of Relief for Ukraine-related humanitarian aid, and the total grows daily. (Photo by Jenny Skinner.)

Standing on the brink of Holy Week, we find ourselves pondering how this year’s observance will be marked by the horrors being uncovered in Ukraine, where evidence is mounting that Russian soldiers committed atrocities that stagger the imagination. As we wait for new political efforts to stop Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, we’re bolstered by Sam Hodges’ story of how United Methodists are collecting funds to aid millions of refugees and those who stayed behind. At Insight’s sponsoring congregation, St. Stephen UMC, our online prayer group raises daily supplications on Facebook that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will end soon.
 
We hope your Holy Week proceeds through our current sorrows toward the joy of Easter.
 

Words for Your Week

"If we think about salvation as a process of being restored to true humanity (as encapsulated in the image of God), then ubuntu suggests that true humanity must be interpersonal, not merely individual. We are persons through other persons, and so we become saved persons through the salvation of our relationships with other persons. It is not possible to be sanctified, and thus not possible to be truly saved, apart from our relationships with others. Thus, the concept of ubuntu highlighted for me the interpersonal and communal nature of salvation and sanctification."
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United Methodist Men Announces New Resources and Brand

By Press Release on Apr 07, 2022 04:10 pm
The General Commission on United Methodist Men is introducing a “modern way” of doing men’s ministry.
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Ubuntu and Sanctification

By David W. Scott on Apr 07, 2022 03:20 pm
The United Methodist leaders from Asia, Africa, and Europe behind the Christmas Covenant have identified three guiding principles: We are all children of God, ubuntu, and bayanihan. Two of these principles draw on non-Western cultural concepts.
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How to be Church and not a Sect

By Robert A. Hunt on Apr 07, 2022 03:20 pm
Real diversity within the Church of Jesus Christ requires that we take part in conversations that are uncomfortable and sometimes offensive and hurtful to ourselves and others.
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Holy Thursday: Maundy Means Commandment

By Jacqueline K. Thompson on Apr 07, 2022 03:20 pm
Jesus commands us to love God and to love others as we love ourselves … and then shows us what it looks like.  Jesus stoops to wash feet.  We are commanded to love as we have been loved by Jesus.
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Good Friday: Love’s Redeeming Work Is Done

By Martha Dalton Ward on Apr 07, 2022 03:20 pm
Our Good Friday scriptures speak for themselves, with little preaching necessary.  Even in the smallest congregation, all you need is a darkened worship space, some candles, a few good readers, appropriate hymns, and something to make a loud noise.
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The New UMC: A Future Filled With Hope

By Steve Harper on Apr 07, 2022 03:19 pm
The Rev. Dr. Steve Harper sees a hopeful future for The United Methodist Church "as we follow God’s guidance into the future with our theology in the Trinity, our identity in deep roots, and our mission in the mind of Christ."
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The Deficiencies of Disaffiliation

By Chris Ritter on Apr 07, 2022 03:19 pm
While the Protocol called for a wide and gracious door for separation, many U.S. bishops are pushing disaffiliation as the one and only pathway out, asserts the Rev. Chris Ritter.
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Hypocrites and the Golden Rule

By Beth Ann Cook on Apr 07, 2022 03:19 pm
The Rev. Beth Ann Cook responds to the Rev. David Livingston's recollection of General Conference 2019 actions that set disaffiliation in motion, also offering a list of the disparate ways in which Paragraph 2553 is being applied in conferences.
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Bulgaria-Romania Conference Withdraws from UMC

By News Report on Apr 07, 2022 03:19 pm
Central and Southern Europe Bishop Patrick Streiff issued a statement regretting that the provisional conference has chosen not to follow the Book of Discipline in its departure.
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We are Called to Listen

By Mary Lautzenhiser Bellon on Apr 07, 2022 03:19 pm
Have you ever had a plan that in your mind was just great but then someone warns you that it’s really heading into disaster? Like Jesus' rebuke of Peter, such warnings are meant to save us from injury or embarrassment.
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WCC Expresses Abhorrence at Reported Atrocities in Ukraine

By WCC News on Apr 07, 2022 03:19 pm
World Council of Churches acting general secretary Ioan Sauca, upon hearing reports that give stronger indications of grave violations of international law in Ukraine, expressed abhorrence at these reported atrocities, and called for investigation.
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How to Talk to Kids About Crisis

By Cynthia B. Astle on Apr 06, 2022 04:21 pm
From the war in Ukraine to the coronavirus pandemic and domestic troubles in the USA, there's plenty of crises in the world to make youngsters anxious. Here are some tips to help relieve their fears.
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Complicity

By Jane Ellen Nickell on Apr 06, 2022 04:21 pm
Our dependence on oil is fueling Russia’s war in Ukraine, providing even more reason to transition to renewable energy, writes the Rev. Jane Ellen Nickell.
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More than $90 Million Missing from AME Pension Funds, Claim Class-action Lawsuits

By Bob Smietana on Apr 06, 2022 04:21 pm
Retired African Methodist Episcopal Church pastors have filed at least three federal class-action lawsuits alleging the church mishandled tens of millions of dollars in pension funds. Last month, AME leaders stopped making payments to retirees.
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America is Exceptional — in its Addiction to Violence and War

By Shane Claiborne on Apr 06, 2022 04:21 pm
It has been 55 years, but Martin Luther King's historic speech, 'Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,' rings out as true as ever. To our shame.
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Sideways Christians

By Greg Weeks on Apr 06, 2022 04:21 pm
Looking up into the sky for divine edicts abdicates our responsibility, instead of equipping us to use mind and heart to help guide and inform our Christian duties. Better to look sideways for clues on overcoming our human differences.
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Palm Sunday Parade or Passion Sunday Death March

By M. Wayne Clark on Apr 05, 2022 04:34 pm
Most pastors love to preach the Palm Sunday message; however, if you dare to preach the Passion Sunday Death March, the marching band will not be playing a happy hand-clapping, foot-stamping tune. What you will hear is the melody of a dirge.
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What Is Your Anxiety Tolerance?

By Jack Shitama on Apr 05, 2022 04:34 pm
The thing about being a non-anxious presence is that you will still feel anxiety. The question is how you handle it.
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Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Celebrates 50 Years of Faith-based Shareholder Advocacy

By Curtis Ramsey-Lucas on Apr 05, 2022 04:34 pm
The organization began its work in 1971 when lawyer and founding member Paul Neuhauser, who spoke at the online gala celebration, drafted the first religious shareholder proposal with a social theme on behalf of the Episcopal Church.
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United Methodists Pass Plate for Ukraine

By Sam Hodges on Apr 05, 2022 04:34 pm
United Methodists are finding various ways to raise funds to help those displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. UMCOR has taken in more than $5 million already for aid to Ukraine and bordering nations that are dealing with a flood of refugees.
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From the War in Ukraine to the Slap in Hollywood, Violence Plagues Our World

By Laura Ellis on Apr 05, 2022 04:34 pm
It’s time we rethink our definition of violence. As the war rages in Ukraine, many people’s attention this past week shifted to the moment of violence at the Academy Awards. There are other forms of violence that are just as injurious.
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A History of Incompatibility, Part 1

By Charlie Baber on Apr 05, 2022 04:34 pm
The United Methodist Church has been debating homosexuality since 1972.  But most UM clergy and laity don’t know much about the history of this debate. The Rev. Charlie Baber recaptures an essential history on the topic.
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Stress, Burnout Afflicting Pastors

By Jim Patterson on Apr 04, 2022 04:09 pm
The life of a pastor is stressful under any circumstances, but the past few years have brought unprecedented challenges. As a result, many pastors no longer have fun in ministry, says one retired pastor who surveyed a few clergy about their experienc
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Food and Migration Mission

By Jack Amick on Apr 04, 2022 10:38 am
Conflict, famine, and refugee movements are interrelated. When human beings inflict these scourges on one another, there is no other way to describe it but pure evil.
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IPCC: Phasing Out Most Fossil Fuels Paramount to Limiting Climate Change

By Gabrielle Levy on Apr 04, 2022 10:36 am
Faith-based climate advocates should note the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the world is on a path to unsustainable warming; renewables and sustainable development can stop global warming and improve global equity.
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Mixed-up Memories of GC2019

By David Livingston on Apr 04, 2022 10:36 am
After reviewing video of the concluding session of General Conference 2019, the Rev. David Livingston refutes assertions made by traditionalists regarding the actions that led to the current disaffiliation plan.
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The Church is Splintering, not Splitting

By William B. Lawrence on Apr 04, 2022 10:30 am
Church historian William B. Lawrence asserts that the impending division of The United Methodist Church is more rightly described as a "splintering" rather than a split.
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