Brandon Lazarus

Author's details

Name: Brandon Lazarus
Date registered: April 17, 2012
URL: https://profiles.google.com/111600363233769787986

Latest posts

  1. UMC Lead: And, how are ALL the children? — August 20, 2014
  2. UMC Lead: WWJD: Who Would Jesus Deport? An Interview With Owen Ross — August 8, 2014
  3. UMC Lead: Sharing Our Whole Story — August 4, 2014
  4. UMC Lead: I Am Better Than You: Confession of a WASP — July 8, 2014
  5. UMC Lead: Why Be Nervous? — June 27, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. La Lengua de Lazarus: 47 Percenter Seminarian: Christianity Teaches That ‘People Are Entitled To Food’ — 2 comments
  2. La Lengua de Lazarus: Accountability Does Not Lead To Trust — 1 comment
  3. La Lengua de Lazarus: They WILL Know We Are Christians By Our Love — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Aug 20 2014

UMC Lead: And, how are ALL the children?

Original post at http://umclead.com/and-how-are-all-the-children/


4929687589_6dd6b4ac53_bI finally got around to unpacking my final box from my move to Clover in June when I found a wristband that was given out at the South Carolina Annual Conference this year. I had worn it since annual conference but I took it off to participate Salkehatchie so I wouldn’t break it. I had forgotten about it until I discovered it in one of my boxes. The wristband reads,  “And, how are ALL the children?” This year at annual conference we had a book drive called the Million Book Effort. Although we came short of the goal of one million books by the closing session of annual conference, we did raise over 300,000 books as a conference. Our conference continues to focus on justice issues around children and education.

As I was reading the wristband I realized it’s a shame they ran out of room. Surely what the wristbands were supposed to say were:

And, how are all the children in South Carolina?All the children
or
And, how are all the children in your home?
or
And, how are all the children in the US?
or
And, how are all the children in your church?
or
And, how are all the children in your city?
or
And, how are all the children who look, think, and act like you?
or
Maybe they meant what they said and said what they meant:

“And how are ALL the children?” *FULL STOP*

            “And, how are ALL the children?”  is the question the annual conference asked of us and the question I now ask myself every time I look down at my wrist. If I am being honest, the answer to that question every time is “ALL the children are not well.” There may be children in my family, my church, or my town that are doing well, but the question isn’t about a particular group of children, it’s about all children.

ALL the children are not well because racism still exists.

ALL the children are not well because every 60 seconds a child dies of malaria

ALL the children are not well because over 400 children have been killed in Gaza.

ALL the children are not well because there are 1000s of minors at the US border.

ALL the children are not well because in South Carolina The Corridor of Shame still exists.

ALL the children are not well because 1 in 6 children in the developing world are underweight.

ALL the children are not well because nearly 100 million children have unstable living situations

ALL the children are not well because some of the numbers listed above continue to increase.

            After answering that question, there comes another one. The next question is, “So what are you going to do about it?” Quite frankly, it seems absolutely daunting. How is one person supposed to help millions of children that are not well and in need of help? The answer is simple. One person, on their own, is not going to help millions of children. This is a job that will need the church, it will need Christ, it will need the Holy Spirit, and it will need the Father of all of the children. We should start with prayer, then conversation, and ultimately lead to action.

Some of the links above will take you to blogs or websites that share ways to help out. You should also go to your local school district and ask how you can help. I assure you they will find a way to put you to work. You could volunteer teaching Sunday School at your church in order to show children your love and support. You can model for your own children the need to reach out to be in solidarity and support of your brothers and sisters. You can share with others that children are in need. You can find some way, big or small, that can contribute to the well-being of the children in our world. The one thing we cannot afford to do is nothing. While our children are hurting we must respond.

Most importantly, we need to ask ourselves each and everyday “And, how are ALL the children?” If we do not constantly ask ourselves that question then we will likely overlook the children in our world who are hungry, naked, homeless, sick, and hurting. We must continue to ask the question until the day that we can wake up and find that the answer to the question is:

“ALL the children are well!” *FULL STOP*

Featured image by Flickr user epSos. de. Used under Creative Commons License. Cropped from original.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/and-how-are-all-the-children/

Aug 08 2014

UMC Lead: WWJD: Who Would Jesus Deport? An Interview With Owen Ross

Original post at http://umclead.com/wwjd-who-would-jesus-deport-an-interview-with-owen-ross/


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I sat down with Rev. Dr. Owen Ross this week to interview him about his experience last week where he and over 100 other religious leaders were arrested for their demonstration at the White House. They were advocating for immigration reform and more specifically to stop deportations. Owen is the founding pastor of Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission which is a primarily hispanic congregation.

First of all, thank you for joining us at UMCLEAD. Can you start by walking us through last Thursday?

I take trips from time to time to DC to lobby. This is a part of my ministry, so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity again to lift up the power of witness. I want to say to my elected leaders that immigration is so important to me that I come to Washington for this purpose.

I first went to drop my bag off at the Methodist building. Some criticize the UMC for owning such expensive property but the building enabled me and others to do some great ministry and discipleship through bearing witness to our faith.

We returned on Thursday morning to gather for prayer and training led by an organization called CASA Maryland. I was the guinea pig that was brought up to show how to respond when being arrested. They taught us how to respond when being arrested and to never touch the police officers.

The training was important because all of this was preplanned in that the organizers had met with the police ahead of time so that the officers knew what to expect from us and we knew what to expect from them. If we acted outside of our mutual agreement then all bets would be off.

After the training we caught the Metro down to the White House where there were a ton of people, press, and media. There was a traditional rally going on with signs, prayers, blessing, and songs. It was an interfaith gathering with people from many different organizations and churches.

Protest

After a while we walked down to the White House for prayer. As we were praying the police came down to tell us we need to move and gave us our first warning. We didn’t move but instead continued to pray. They then came and gave us our second warning. When they could tell that we were not moving they began setting up a perimeter with officers on horseback, squad cars, and transportation vehicles and set up for booking. Next thing I knew they gave a third warning and said, “You are all under arrest. Do not attempt to leave the area.” They first started cuffing the women, and then the men. They would cuff us and take us out to the tent where they would take down our information, take a picture, and slap a wristband on us with a number. I was number 98 of 112 and am still have on my wristband at this moment and plan on wearing it until it falls off on its own.arrest

I was one of the last ones to load up in a paddy wagon with some of my colleagues from Dallas. The ride from the
White House to the jail was thrilling. They were riding us around like they had a carload of VIPs. The police had 4 police motorcycles clearing the pathway for us. They had traffic stopped, we
were driving on the wrong side of the road, I felt like President Obama himself going down the highway. You know, if it weren’t for the having my arms cuffed behind my back and not being able to scratch the itch I had on my nose riding in a hot paddy wagon, it would have been awesome.

They took us down to the jail where they had a “mass incarceration garage” that had long lines roped off like something you’d see at six flags. This station seemed clearly to be built for this very purpose. Once we got into the area the police were kind enough to take our cuffs off. The police were very professional and courteous doing their jobs as we were doing our jobs.

After they finished processing all of us we paid our fine and left. The organizers then had rides coordinated to pick us up and take us back to the Methodist building where food had been prepared for us by supporters.

I want to ask the obvious question. Why’d you do it?

I did it because my savior and his family had to go through crossing borders as a child. When I see what our immigrant families are going through I can’t help but respond with Christian compassion. I did it for the theological reasons. I go back and forth about the political reasons of is this action. Is this the best response and will this change anything? Do I expect it to change anything? I wrestled with that but finally settled on this was the right thing for me to do. I was what I was being called to do. I pray that God uses this in a way to bring relief to families that God cares about deeply.

What was the moment like as you were being arrested? Was there conversation? Was there joking? Was there just silence? Was there prayer? What was going on?

bishop

Rev. Eric Folkerth, Bishop Minerva Carcañο, and Rev. Owen Ross

All of the above. There was a moment when I had to get away from the group and be by myself. I reflected and prayed in an individual and personal way. There were then other times when groups of us were just having conversations with one another. Eric (Folkerth) and I were facebooking, we were posting, we were sharing up until the arrest. Then all of a sudden we all went silent. There was a moment in that silence when Eric told me what he was most worried about was his family back home wondering what was going on while we had gone silent. In those moment of silence we began to wonder how long are these children coming to the US were silent? How long do the families go without knowing anything? Our families knew we would only be gone for a couple of hours but the families of these children crossing the borders don’t know when or if they will hear from the children. I can’t imagine the desperation these parents must feel. They must feel the desperation that Moses’s mother was feeling when she placed her baby in a basket and sent him down a river. We had both these deep conversations and just collegial conversations with fellow pastors about mutual friends and what was going on at their churches.

Immigration is clearly complex but it seems that’s sometimes used as an excuse to do nothing. What are some steps that can be taken by individuals or the government to make this large issue more manageable?

Every president since Carter has given protective status to certain immigrant populations. This happened with Haiti, El Salvador, war areas, etc. These people were given a protective status to protect them from war or disaster areas. It was in our global interest and moral nature. What the president can do right now, while it is clear that congress is not going to do anything, the President can give protective status to certain groups. The pressure is on the White House to say to parents that we will not rip you from your US Citizen kids. He could also give differed action to the parents of children who have received deferred status. These are two simple steps that he could take to protect large masses of people.

He could even go so far as to say all non-criminal immigrants will not be deported. That’s what we really want him to do. He could say to these people who are responsible people who are in our country, “we want you to stay.” I’ve had church members who have had children or spouses deported because they have committed crimes. Although I feel for them, the ones I really feel for are those who are seeking a better future and contributing to our community but get stopped in the wrong town or are in a fender bender and next thing you know they are stripped from their families. We need to put pressure on the president to stop deportations because people may not realize this president has ripped apart more families and deported more people than any president in the history of the United States. I would encourage people to reach out to their elected officials and let them know you want the deportations to stop.

As for church people, I’d invite them to go to our website to see the verses in the Bible that address immigration. There is no other contemporary political issue that is addressed more in scripture than immigration. It was a political issue then and it is a political issue then but God has always responded with the same answer. Love them as your native born and remember that you were foreigners in Egypt. I would encourage pastors to preach this issue and for churches to study these scriptures. As frequently as it’s addressed in the scriptures, it doesn’t seem to be something that is of concern to Christians. If you were to poll non-Christians about what they feel Christians care about, I doubt immigration would make it in the top three.

If scripture needs to be at the heart of this conversation but clearly is not, what do you think is driving the conversation right now? 

The changes that are going on in the nation are driving the conversation. There are a lot of changes going on in our nation and people are afraid of them. There are people in this nation that are mourning the loss of their childhood home and they’re frustrated with the economy. I read somewhere that in the frustration of the economy the undocumented immigrant is the easiest dog to kick. If people start paying attention to the images media uses to portray immigrates they don’t show the people of Christ’s Foundry worshiping God and serving their community, they don’t show college kids walking around campus, they don’t show the people who are simply working towards a better life. Instead they show the criminal element. They flash pictures and videos of rough looking dudes that tell you to be afraid. They don’t show our beautiful high school students in our worship band. They get this false image of who the immigrant child is. They want to believe the myth that they are “line jumpers” as if a line even existed. If you could see the horrible atrocities they are witness to and the difficulties go through to get here you’d understand that if there actually were a line to get in they would gladly wait in such a line. Instead, the line is a myth that is continued by people who are either ignorant or deceiving, distorts the image of who these undocumented immigrants really are.

Has the recent political and media attention on the kids at the border changed this conversation?

Totally. I feel we were starting to make ground. Some of the elected leaders were starting to say maybe we can do something to help the kids, to help the DREAMers but now they have retreated. They are using this as an excuse to say, “see if we give any kind of amnesty people are just going to flood our borders. If we allow one child in then they are going to think we have to allow them all in.” With the arrival of the kids and the rhetoric blaming the president for giving amnesty to the kids it has scared many people. The tone has change. Many voters are now buying into the myth that people are coming into this country are not running away from the violence and oppression in their own country but are coming expecting the president to give them relief and a handout.

A few weeks ago we reran a post from Dottie Escobedo-Frank where Dottie shared ways that we could respond to the children at our border. Speaking more generally about immigration, what can the UMCLEAD readers do in response? 

We need immigration to become a Christian issue. There are so many on the religious right that say if you are a Christian you have to vote a certain way on certain political issues. There are far more scriptures focused on immigration than the issues they bring up yet we lack a unified Christian voice calling for a Biblical response to immigration. We hear people making Christian stances on things like Obamacare which takes a nuanced view of scriptures to fully argue yet we are failing lift up the issue of immigration which is clearly, frequently, and consistently addressed in Scripture. We need to get our churches activated and aware to make this a Christian issue. If we could do that then we could come together as the religious right and the religious left to address this. Instead, we aren’t hearing the whole gamut of scriptures on immigration in churches. We can go to the White House, but we need to start in our church houses and our Sunday schools, and with small groups. Go to the congressional town hall meetings prepared with scripture. When others want to spew fear and hate spew love based on the Word and bare witness to your faith. Share the story of Christ whose family had to illegally cross borders at night. This goes for laity, clergy, and congregations. Go against this swell of hate that is going against families that are like our Lord’s family.

Any final thoughts you want the readers to hear? 

The message I share everywhere I go is that there is no other current political issue that is more frequently and consistently addressed in scriptures more than immigration. It is a moral and scriptural mandate that we engage in this mission. When the Lord comes in all his glory to separate nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, one of the means with which we will be measured is by how we have treated those who have arrived. That is the message I seek to carry with me everywhere in regards to this ministry with and for immigrants.

All photos used with permission from Eric Folkerth

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/wwjd-who-would-jesus-deport-an-interview-with-owen-ross/

Aug 04 2014

UMC Lead: Sharing Our Whole Story

Original post at http://umclead.com/sharing-our-whole-story/


salkehatchie.jpg

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a Salkehatchie camp, a weeklong camp where youth from around South Caroline come together to help fix up homes. The renovations are done for those who cannot do it themselves because of financial or physical limitations. The jobs can range from repainting the house, to building a ramp, to reinforcing sinking foundations, or even to completely remodeling a bathroom to make it handicap accessible. In addition to the work, the youth also have nightly worship services and fun activities. There are over 50 camps throughout the state beginning the last week in May and continuing through the first week of August. The camps have as few as 10 people or as many as 160 people.

The camp I participated in was right here in Clover, where I serve as the associate pastor of FUMC. It was a small camp so we only worked on one house. The homeowner’s name was Rozetta Douglas. Miss Douglas’s trailer had a bad water leak, so much of her floor had to be torn up and reinforced. In addition to that, we also put in new cabinets, tore up the carpet to put laminate flooring in the whole house, repainted the inside, and tore down her front steps that were falling apart in order to put in a large front porch and sturdy steps. Miss Douglas has knee problems and is on a fixed income, so there is no way she would have been able to make the improvements to her home on her own. The work was rewarding, but it wasn’t the only purpose or reward for the week.

Like with any mission work, the most important aspect was not the rebuilding of the home but the building of relationships. When Salkehatchie was founded over 35 years ago, it was created not only to help those who are in need financially, but also to create a space where youth can get to know one another, grow closer to God, and create relationships with people they may not otherwise meet. In our case, that someone was Miss Douglas.

Miss Douglas is a wonderful woman with a strong faith and a kind heart. By the end of the first day, she had already broken out her tambourine in order to sing praises to God. In fact, she spent most of our week with her thanking us for the work we were doing and thanking God for the blessings she had received in her life. As we continued talking with her, she also shared about the times in her life when she was not so blessed. She shared about the abuse she experienced at the hands of her ex-husband and stepfather. She told the story of having to leave her home in order to live at a shelter for women in Rock Hill.

The moment that has stuck with me was when she shared of one instance of abuse in particular. She said that her stepfather was not physically abusive, but psychologically so. She shared about the time he bought a lock to put on the refrigerator door. As a child she was told by her stepfather that she could not eat because the food he bought was for his own children, not for her. In telling her story she stopped for a moment. With tears in her eyes she said “Oh dear Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus.” I was slightly confused as to why in that moment, while telling such a difficult story, she would burst out in thanksgiving.

Miss Douglas explained that she has not always been willing to share her story. She said for the longest time it was simply too hard on her and she didn’t want to impose on others. Through therapy and counseling she was able to make it past that point and to share her story. I asked her if I could share her story on this blog and she agreed because it’s important to share our stories with the world. It’s important to see how far we’ve come and even though we have more road to travel we should thank Jesus for our life and for our strength.

I’ve shared before that in my life I have not experienced great persecution, abuse, or oppression. We all, however, have experienced difficult times. Whether the difficulties have been brought on by ourselves or by others, there are times in our lives that we would rather forget. Oftentimes we indeed teach ourselves to forget because otherwise the pain would be too strong. Miss Douglas, however, taught me the importance of sharing about the difficulties of our past. The more we are able to talk about them, the more we can acknowledge the role they play in our larger stories. Trying to forget our past and forget our pain only serves to strengthen the control it has on our lives.

I’m in no way advocating that you share your whole life story with everyone you meet. Lord knows I’ve sat by that person far too many times on a long flight. Sharing too much can sometimes be just as bad as not sharing at all. What I am advocating for is that we acknowledge and live into our story, all of it. Maybe you can share your story aloud with a friend or a loved one. Maybe it seems too hard right now and you’d prefer to reach out to a pastor, counselor, or psychologist. Whatever the means, I hope that you can share your story with others and reach the point in your life where you can rejoice in not just the good but even in the bad. I hope that like Miss Douglas you can shout out, “Oh dear Jesus! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!” ***Tambourine Optional***

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/sharing-our-whole-story/

Jul 08 2014

UMC Lead: I Am Better Than You: Confession of a WASP

Original post at http://umclead.com/i-am-better-than-you-confession-of-a-wasp/


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I am a WASP, a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male. I also happen to be heterosexual, able-bodied, and from an upper middle class family. In addition to these characteristics I inherited at birth, I also have a bachelors and masters degree, a car that is completely paid off, a house that is about 10 years from being paid off, and only $6k in student debt. All of this is to say that I am better than you, or at least that is what our society has led some to believe. If I’m entirely honest, I too have sometimes been led to believe this whether consciously or subconsciously. The reality is that because of predetermined factors at birth I have privileges others do not.

I cannot think of a single minority category into which I fall. This has meant that never once have I wondered if I was given, or not given, an opportunity based on my race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Growing up I was one to deny that racism, sexism, heterosexism and nearly any other type of oppression still existed in America. To be fair, until I left for college I never saw any of that, or at least I wasn’t looking for it. The more I have stepped outside on my little WASP box and interacted with my brothers and sisters who are different from me the more I have learned how far our society really is from giving everyone equal opportunity.

If you do not believe that racism and oppression are still prevalent in our society then there is little I can do in a blog post to make you believe any different. Instead I would encourage you to read some James Cone, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, or watch one of the many TED talks about discrimination in our nation and in our world. More importantly I would encourage you to talk to a friend or acquaintance that is different from you. Sit down with someone who fits a minority population to which you do not belong and ask how they’ve experienced discrimination in their lives. Go out and find someone from an earlier generation. Ask them about the civil rights movement, about the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John F. Kennedy. Listen to their stories of pain, of struggle, and of fighting for liberty and freedom.

I full heartedly admit that I write this post out of ignorance. As I have already made clear, I don’t know what it’s like to experience discrimination. I believe, however, among people like me that admission is the first step in bringing about justice and equality. Those of us who are in privileged positions must daily live with that realization if we ever want to live in a society where neither oppression nor privilege exists. If we ignore our advantages then we too are ignoring the disadvantages that others experience. The very act of pretending that racism, sexism, heterosexism, and the like do not exist is something only afforded to those in privilege. Meanwhile, those who experience oppression must live with that reality everyday.

For this reason we cannot afford to use terms like “color-blindness” or “reverse-racism”. These are terms used by those in power in efforts to maintain and strengthen their power. If this were not such a serious matter it would be laughable that those terms have even entered into our vocabulary. No, instead we must bring to light the inequality that exists in our society. We must be willing to speak out when we see others mistreated or barred from certain rights or privileges because of the demographic they were born into.

How are we going to bring about full equality? I don’t know. I once believed that I could bring about equality. I figured since I am in such a position of privilege and power I ought to use that so that I can get ahead. After all, it would be better for a WASP who knows he’s a WASP to be in power than one who is unaware of his own privilege, right? The more I listen to my brothers and sisters who are different from me I learn how wrong I truly was, and am. Change is not going to come from white males in power talking with a bunch of other white males about how it’s wrong that only white males are in power. In speaking against the phrase “the end justifies the means” Martin Luther King Jr. said in The Trumpet of Conscience, “the ends are not cut off from the means… because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.”

King was speaking against using violence to achieve peace but the reasoning holds true with bringing about equality. The tree of equality as an end can only come from the seed of equality as the means. By this I mean that we cannot wield the power of WASPs to bring about equality but rather we must yield the power of WASPs to bring about equality. I once thought that I could help the fight for equality by infiltrating places dominated by white males in order to say that we needed more women and minorities in these places. I now realize that perhaps the greatest statement would be to turn away those opportunities until a more just and equal system was in place.

Perhaps this very post is an exercise in hypocrisy. UMCLEAD has a great diversity of bloggers yet here I am as a white male writing a post on oppression and diversity. I welcome your accountability, your comments, and your suggestions. I welcome my brothers and sisters who are Black, Asian, Latino, gay, bi, trans, female, poor, disabled, or of any other population to which I do not belong to chime in and offer your thoughts. I may not know exactly how we’re going to bring about equality and the end of oppression but I am certain that silence and inaction will never bring it about.

Photo from flickr user Steffern239 used under creative commons. Cropped from original.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/i-am-better-than-you-confession-of-a-wasp/

Jun 27 2014

UMC Lead: Why Be Nervous?

Original post at http://umclead.com/why-be-nervous/


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I sit here writing this post on the morning of my first day as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Clover, SC. Although I have participated in various forms of church leadership over the past six or seven years this will be the first time I am given the official title of pastor and the three little letters before my name, rev. Over the past several weeks and months since learning of my licensing as a local pastor and my eventual appointment I have had many people congratulate me and ask me various questions.

The one questions that I hear most often is, “Are you nervous?” I have learned that anytime anyone asks you a yes or no question they have an assumption of what the answer should and will be. I have also noticed that people are disappointed when they find out that their assumptions are wrong. This makes for a rather awkward situation when I tell people that I am not nervous. I can tell that my response often confuses them and disappoints them. “Well I mean surely you’re at least a little nervous,” they continue. I explain that honestly, I’m not nervous.

Now some think that my response is my trying to hide the truth. Surely I’m actually really nervous and I’m just trying to come off as tough, not so. Well if I’m not nervous then I’m a fool or simply overly prideful or arrogant. I admit that I can sometimes be a prideful or arrogant person. I don’t believe that is where my response comes from. Where my lack of nervousness stems from is instead my confidence in the education I received in seminary, my experiences in ministry over the years, and most importantly in my support system of wonderful teachers and mentors who hold me accountable to my faith.

When I say that I’m confident and prepared for ministry please don’t take this as me saying that I know everything and am prepared for everything that I will encounter. I believe one thing that separates a career in ministry from a career in accounting, mechanics, or law is that you can never actually be 100% prepared. The Holy Spirit, however, intercedes in order to fulfill the areas where we run far short. I don’t for one second think that I know everything nor know exactly how to respond in all situations. I am confident that my senior pastor, the supportive staff, and the loving congregation will let me know when I fail and will be there to help me as I continue to grow in faith and knowledge.

So today as I head into a new day, a new city, a new church, and a new chapter, I’m not nervous. Instead I am excited for the possibilities that are ahead. Last night I had the opportunity to attend the missions meeting for FUMC Clover. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my time here than hearing about all the wonderful missions this church is already a part of and hopes to be in the future. Methodist polity is set up in a way that the majority of the ministry of the church should be done by the church, not the pastor. I can see the calling placed on this church and I hope to lead alongside them for as long as I remain appointed here.

So I ask you to be in prayer with me, especially over the next few weeks and months as I settle into the life of First Clover. I too will be in prayer with you, wherever you are in your ministry, clergy or lay. I pray that we can be confident in Christ and confident in our own failures knowing sure and well that our brothers and sisters as well as the Holy Spirit will be there to pick us up. May we not be paralyzed by fear or nerves but liberated by God’s all encompassing love because if I am nervous about anything I am nervous that if I try too hard not to fail I will fail to see God at work.

Image from Flckr user Domiriel. Used under creative commons. Cropped from original.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/06/why-be-nervous/

Jun 10 2014

UMC Lead: The Answer Is A Question

Original post at http://umclead.com/the-answer-is-a-question/


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A little while ago I read something a friend of mine wrote and it troubled me. What troubled me was not so much what he said but how he said it. I found his tone to be angry, flippant, and demeaning. I wrote last time about my participation in Wesleyan class meetings and that accountability is important to me. I think the United Methodist Church would do well with less judgment and more accountability. Since he is someone I know well and we have practiced accountability in different fashions, I decided to reach out to him.

I sent him a message letting him know that his writing seemed more like an angry tirade than a desire for holy conferencing and conversation. He responded saying that although he appreciated the accountability, he wasn’t really in a good place. I went on to further explain how I interpreted his writing and told him he should have done more to encourage dialogue rather than shut down those who disagreed with him. He responded in a manner I initially thought to be defensive so I ended the conversation figuring I would talk to him later when he had time to think about it.

Brother, I know you are reading this and I have already said this, but I need to say it again. I’m sorry, I’m a hypocrite, and in trying to hold you accountable it turns out I was the one who needed to be held accountable. In responding to you in the way I did I failed to acknowledge who you are, how you felt, and how it was with your soul. Instead of talking to you, I talked about you. When I should have started with questions, I started with answers.

You see, I believe accountability is important, but when it comes to accountability I often find myself saying, “There is a fine line between accountability and judgment.” Frankly I say that a lot. I believe it, but I’m not sure I really ever knew what it meant or where the line was. In reflecting on this experience, I find the difference between accountability and judgment is the difference between questions and answers.

When I contacted my brother I started with an answer. The answer I gave him was that his tone was inappropriate and his writing did more to divide than to unite. The main problem with the answer I gave him is he never asked the question. Rather than sending him a text message with an answer he wasn’t looking for and wasn’t even right, I should have reached out to him with a question. A question like, “Brother, how is it with your soul? I read what you wrote, where is this coming from? How can I be in prayer or solidarity with you?” And most importantly I should have asked, “Do you want to talk about it?” Instead, I jumped in with what I thought was the answer he needed. My intent was to heal but my actions and words did otherwise. I responded in a way that did not show care for him, only in what he said and what I thought he should have said.

Accountability does not come through answers from without but answers from within. A healthy accountability comes from asking others questions so they can find the answers themselves. I find my greatest mentors ask me far more questions than they give me answers. They do not take me directly to where I want to go but rather walk along side me to where I need to go.

When we disagree with someone, whether it is what they say or how they say it, the best way forward is not to tell them how and why they’re wrong. Instead, approach your sister or brother with questions. Through your time of dialogue, maybe they will realize for themselves they were wrong. Or maybe, like in my case, you’ll realize it is you who is wrong and in need of repentance. Most likely, you are both wrong and your holy conversation will lead you both to the truth that can only come through the work of the Holy Spirit who calls us to reconciliation.

Brother, I am sorry for giving you all the answers (which were incorrect by the way) when what I should have come to the table with were questions. I promise to learn and grow from this experience and be a better brother in Christ. I promise to come to you not with answers, but with questions trusting full and well you will do the same for me.

 

Image from flicker user Stuart Farrell

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/06/the-answer-is-a-question/

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