"We are not a “united” Methodist Church at the moment and focusing on program and structure when the relationships are damaged and the connection is broken promises nothing but disaster. The problem is, were we to use our General Conference time to clarify what it means to be United Methodist in the 21st century, to reframe and clarify our theological task in contemporary culture, to codify and commit to our Social Principles, and to recover the missional/evangelical foundation that defined our heritage, it would draw a line in the sand and every living, breathing United Methodist would be forced to answer the key question: do I want to be a United Methodist or not. And, being perfectly honest, we would probably lose a third to a half of our membership no matter which way we turn."and
"We are not “one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” We are a poster child of dysfunction and we tolerate egregious bad behavior. We communicate poorly — both in content and style — and use information as a weapon more often than as a tool."one more line that caught my attention
"We have been a service-provider church for so long that the concept of becoming a disciple-making church is overwhelming."Be sure to check out the full article. A couple weeks ago I was in conversation with some colleagues about reclaiming the "radical center" in the church, the time for these political divisions has to come to an end so we can really move forward into building the church of today and tomorrow, instead of rehashing the bitter battles of the past century. The radical center isn't about more wishy-washy ambiguity around identity and direction, it's about drawing on the strengths of both camps - vital piety and social holiness, and moving ahead; offering grace to those who can't travel with us. (Of course it's a lot easier to throw these words up on this stupid little blog than to be in the position to make some of those hard decisions).
[I wrote those words above a couple weeks ago, I haven't quite changed my mind since then, but I do find myself feeling nervous about how this "radical center" I speak of will ultimately be understood and defined. There still needs to be room for debate and diversity... it just needs to be done in a better way. If the radical center ever becomes a call for homogeneity in thought or practice, I'd probably have to count myself as one who won't be able to move forward into this new future.]
I was back in Iowa this last week and saw a few articles from a series the Des Moines Register is doing on East High School. I was really struck by the comment by Ruth Ann Gaines that teacher morale is the lowest she's seen in nearly 40 years of teaching, as well as the numbers - 70% of students are on free or reduced lunch, the drop-out rate is around 29% and East has the highest numbers for student absenteeism in the city. Back when I was there it was a somewhat "rough" school - I knew there were kids coming from difficult situations, and just making it to graduation was an accomplishment for them, but it never seemed as bad as what's being portrayed right now (my guess is the situation has gotten worse, but imagine I was also pretty blind to all that was happening even when I was there). I'm not sure what I can do from 600 miles away, but I've had the whole situation on my mind for the last couple days. There are a couple teachers still on staff from when I was a student there, and if nothing else I think I'll be sending them long-overdue thank you notes for their work.
I've posted this before, but it's worth watching again - Taylor Mali on "What Teachers Make" (warning: some objectionable language and a hand gesture).
Not much really stood out over the past couple weeks, just a couple of posts that caught my attention:
Jay Voorhees on Pastoral Accountability.
Seth Godin on When You Criticize My Choices.
I got hung-up trying to figure out a good song to put up this week... eventually went with Derek Webb, "This Too Shall Be Made Right" - seems like a good song that captures the anticipation of Advent - Luke 1:46-55