This time of year, the music of the late, great Nat King Cole's "(Roll Out) Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer"
plays in many memories. For The United Methodist Church, late July 2022 has been hazy, crazy and just a little lazy.
Youth from First United Methodist Church in Dallas help repair a roof in 105-degree heat during their recent summer mission trip to San Antonio. Nick Janzen (left), construction manager for Blueprint Ministries, works with Vivian Winston and Wesley Stoker of the Dallas church. (Photo by Anna Bundy-Hagler.)
The extreme heat that has engulfed much of the Northern Hemisphere has affected many church activities, as Sam Hodges of UM News writes in Blistering Summer Challenges Churches
. Congregations and church camps have adapted to the weather, intensified by the global climate crisis, by cutting back on outdoor activities and even canceling some events including worship.
Political heat also has intensified over the rolling split in the UMC. Insight Editor Cynthia B. Astle collected intelligences
from annual conferences and local congregations about disaffiliation efforts. For example, Arkansas Bishop Gary E. Mueller reported that his conference has fewer than 10 percent of its 634 churches have entered into its disaffiliation process, which is fashioned on Paragraph 2553. The North Texas Conference likewise is basing its exit process on Para. 2553, with Bishop Michael McKee reporting that so far only 10 of the conference's 301 congregations are engaged in the disaffiliation process. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Smith)
Meanwhile, the Wesleyan Covenant Association is promoting four exit avenues
, according to a recent blog post by its president Jay Therrell. The four alternatives are:
- Paragraph 2553, provided it's a "clean" option where the annual conference doesn't impose additional requirements that Therrell calls "punitive."
- Paragraph 2548.2, a provision enacted in 1948 that allows congregations "to move to 'another evangelical denomination' under a comity agreement," Therrell wrote. However, this option is now being reviewed for its validity by the UMC's high court, the Judicial Council, since no "comity agreement" exists between the UMC and the GMC.
- Paragraph 2549, in which a church can close, transfer its assets back to the annual conference, and then negotiate to buy back the property – provided the conference is willing. However, under the trust clause the conference could keep the property outright.
- Pursue litigation, as in the Florida case where 106 congregations are suing the Florida Annual Conference to leave without having to pay the "exit dues" required by Paragraph 2553.
Other straws in the hot summer wind of break-up:
The Revs. Alla Vuksta (left) and Yulia Starodubets check on people displaced by the war in Ukraine who are staying in the sanctuary at Kamyanitsa United Methodist Church in western Ukraine. (Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News)
- Dr. David W. Scott of UM & Global recommends reading the statement issued by the WCA's Africa Initiative, based on its May meeting in Nairobi. Reiterating its refusal to any accommodation with LGBTQ-friendly forces in the UMC, the group calls for episcopal elections to be held in the three Africa central conferences by the end of the year.
- The Rev. William C. Trench rebuts a recent blog post by retired Bishop Robert Hayes who advocates leaving the UMC to join the Global Methodist Church based on Bible verses the bishop says are "dictates of God," a conclusion Dr. Trench disputes.
- The Rev. Chase Crickenberger's previous article alleging that both progressives and traditionalists are captured by a contemporary form of Gnosticism drew a riposte from the Rev. Wes Magruder, who contends that Rev. Crickenberger's definitions of Gnosticism are inadequate both historically and in relation to the UMC's divisions.
- The Rev. Jeremy Smith offers his "United Methodist 10" outline for introducing new members to the UMC, based on his 16 years of teaching church theology and polity.
- The Rev. Ben Gosden proposes that the UMC split offers an opportunity to re-tool existing churches to meet new needs of their communities and to start congregations in new ways and places.
Beyond UMC politics, Joey Butler of UM News documents how United Methodists in western Ukraine are caring for their fellow countrymen
escaping the Russian invasion in the east. Editor Astle writes of ongoing UMC efforts to dismantle racism in "Do-it-yourself Rallies Support Racial Justice."
The Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter encourages us to pursue the spiritual renewal of time spent in nature in "Clear Skies, Clear Minds."
Citing Methodism's history of caring for the health of families and children, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe urges contacting congressional representatives to advocate for public policies that will shore up health care for all
On the national front, the threat of Christian nationalism continues to draw warnings from religious leaders. Robert P. Jones of Public Religion Research Institute and Eboo Patel of Interfaith America suggested that the U.S. history of fighting bigotry provides guidance for today in "What the History of 'Judeo-Christian’ Can Teach Us About Fighting Christian Nationalism."
Meanwhile, the new president of Interfaith Alliance, the Rev. Paul Brandeis Rauschenbush, contends that Christian nationalism "is a threat to the American way of life." (Photo courtesy of Glendale UMC, Nashville, Tenn.)
We regret that we can't offer an uplifting closing this week, due in part to the summer doldrums and in part to a death in our family. The Astles' beloved Border Collie, Sheena (at right), passed away on July 25 after giving us 17 years of devotion. While some might think that mourning for a pet is unseemly, our grief is comforted by John Wesley's view of the renewal of all creation, interpreted for us by Mark K. Olson in "From the Beginning to the End: John Wesley's Doctrine of Creation,"
published on the website, The Wesley Scholar: "All aspects of creation were seen as so interrelated that the well-being of the entire created order depended on the faithfulness of each being (link) to fulfill their special calling." Sheena's special calling was to give us unconditional companionship for nearly two decades, and ours in turn was to give her the love and care she deserved. With Wesley we believe that God in Christ will redeem all of creation, from angels down to minerals and including animals, and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4). We thank God for our canine companion whose pain is over and whose memory is a blessing.