Author's details

Name: UMJeremy
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Echoes of Jim Crow in the United Methodist Church — September 8, 2014
  2. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Christian blog spam is getting wicked smarter — September 5, 2014
  3. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Is the Simplest form of Church just a Dinner Table? — September 4, 2014
  4. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: 3 Ways the #UMC gets Progressive Methodism shockingly wrong — September 1, 2014
  5. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Only days remaining for Worldwide Nature of #UMC Survey — August 27, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Holding the #UMC Hostage 01 – The Setting — 5 comments
  2. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: About that UMReporter Article…[response] – A Methodist Church United for our Daughters — 2 comments
  3. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Restricting Marriage is a Justice Issue — 2 comments
  4. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Time is Ticking on #UMC Tipping Point — 2 comments
  5. Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Defeating the Dark Side of Church Metrics #UMC – Measuring transformation or accumulation? — 2 comments

Author's posts listings

Sep 08 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Echoes of Jim Crow in the United Methodist Church

Original post at

Progressive pastors who support full inclusion of LGBT persons in the United Methodist Church have a lot in common with racially-inclusive poll workers and restaurant owners in the 1900s.

A Tradition of Social Engagement

Ten years ago, I was a seminary student in Boston, Massachusetts. Three times I visited Union United Methodist Church in downtown Boston, which was the first predominantly black Reconciling church in the country (it was pastored at that time by the recently-deceased Bishop Martin McLee). And on one of those times, I might have worshipped next to Rev. Jay Williams, a former congregant who is now their senior pastor.

Rev. Williams recently penned an article at that frames the LGBT discussion in a way that I hadn’t considered before. Williams’ church has a story filled with engagement with social concerns and embrace of people hurt by oppression:

Ministry is more about people than policies.

Although the people of Union are not all of one mind, there is something that all of us have come to know: our DNA is made up of the double helix of biblical faith and social justice. Since the congregation’s beginnings in 1796, we have been abolitionists, de-segregationists, women’s rights advocates, civil rights activists, anti-apartheid protesters and economic-equality seekers.

All these issues are tied up in Christ’s invitation for us to be reconciled and set free. So as we struggle to find our way forward as a congregation, we have covenanted to stay at the table as we seek a table for all. We gather as broken vessels around a broken loaf as one people.

The Church has been through a lot and even though the congregation has found itself on opposing sides on many issues, they saw themselves as fellow human beings and stood with one another when the going got tough.

Echoes of Jim Crow…

It is in this tradition of engagement that Williams frames the situation in the United Methodist Church. Williams’ church and conference supports full inclusion of LGBT persons, and yet he is told by his denomination that he must not provide marriage services to his same-gender parishioners.

As an African American, here’s what it feels like to be told these contradictory things:

Walking this road as Union’s pastor has been challenging, complicated and occasionally contradictory. The painfully ironic thing is that I have been appointed by the general superintendent to a “reconciling church” and then ordered by the denomination not to pastor all my people fairly. As a black man in the United States, I know that the “separate but equal” thing simply does not work.

So I’ve decided not to be a “Jim Crow” pastor. I simply do not know how. As the pastor of a historic, justice-seeking congregation in Boston’s South End — the city center of queer life — I am simply doing what I must do.

You see, I do not know how to discriminate against my own members because I vowed in my ordination “to seek peace, justice and freedom for all people.”

It’s a framework that I haven’t considered before because we (rightly) usually focus on the African-American experience of Jim Crow rather than the white activist side. But in Williams’ framework, he indicates that the white poll workers and restaurant owners, folks who were not racist and did not see other races as inferior, were forced to discriminate.

It was the law to have separate rooms for races, to install separate water fountains, and for poll workers to ask license questions. Regardless of one’s personal convictions, they had to follow an unjust law and treat people as inferior because of the color of their skin.

…Reverberate in the United Methodist Church

In the United Methodist Church, we affirm that “LGBT persons are of sacred worth” and are not to be discriminated against…except when it comes to ordination and marriage. While people lift up this sentiment as compassionate orthodoxy or the middle way or even a very progressive position, for non-LGBT persons who support full inclusion, being unable to offer or support persons is an unconscionable position to be in, leading them to decide what to do when the Church is wrong.

Indeed, they might see much in common with racially-supportive persons in the Jim Crow era who were forced to discriminate or face retributions themselves. I would imagine that late 19th century poll workers and restaurant owners who did not see other races as inferior had to make choices that sound awfully familiar to progressive clergy who offer marriage services to all their congregants:

  • Do they revolt against the unjust law, open their doors or voting booths to all people and risk being punished?
  • Do they move away and go to a new state and abandon their positions to people who take full advantage of the way how the system is stacked up for their benefit?
  • Do they use their position and work within the system to provide havens of help or muddled legalities to help people even if true systemic justice is decades away (and then only through the courts)?

It’s important to note that I am not calling United Methodists hateful or violent, as the term “Jim Crow” conjures up an era of lynchings and violence to African Americans (though violence against other races and LGBT persons alike happens daily). I am pointing out the predicament that people of faith who support full inclusion find themselves in in an institution that does not value people the same way by its actions.

Love in an Unjust World

Williams closes with a reminder that his convictions come not from secular nonviolent resistance training but from his call as a pastor:

This is not so much the position of an activist, but rather of a pastor who answered a call. My call and my vow are “to lead the people of God to faith in Jesus Christ.” The folk in my pews, who sing in the choirs, and place hard-earned money in the offering, are searching for unconditional love in a world full of broken promises.

As a church, when we baptize a child, we promise and covenant to support them. It lifts my heart when I baptize that child of a same-gender couple and I see in the couples’ eyes an earnest hope that their child will grow up in a better Church than the one they have now.

  • Will you join with that family and stand against the echoes of Jim Crow laws in our Church?
  • Or will you go along and by inaction allow the unjust polity reign unchecked?

The choice is yours.


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Sep 05 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Christian blog spam is getting wicked smarter

Original post at

computer-coding-catArgh. Over the past 48 hours, there’s been an onslaught of spam that has slipped past the filters.

Each of them almost looks like a good comment, except the backlinks and links put in the text are very bad. Some reference Methodist weddings, one referenced young clergy on a young clergy post, and all-in-all they look like good comments because they almost match the content.

Today, I got a comment on an old post that blew my mind. And it helped frame what is going on.

Here it is (stripped of the HTML):

I want to just point out that less than full-time appointment is at the bishop’s initiative, but it still requires the agreement of the clergy member. In other words, I don’t believe a person can be appointed less than full-time against their will. (see the second sentence in Par. 338.2). To me, the issue is the bargain made by clergy to have very little say in where they are sent, in exchange for being assured of a place to be sent. Eliminate one half of the bargain, and the other half needs to fall, as well. The way to get rid of guaranteed appointment is to get rid of the bishop’s authority to appoint regardless of the agreement of the clergy person or the congregation.There is already in place a process to deal with ineffective pastors. Let’s use it.

Wow. It references clergy, bishops, and even a line from the Book of Discipline for The United Methodist Church.

So I googled a quote from it and low-and-behold: it’s a direct copy of a comment from Rev. Tom Lambrecht on Rev. Teddy Ray’s blog post here.

I googled a few others and found other website comments that people were posting on my site but lifted them from other Christian blogs.

Wow. Spammers (or some alogarithm has gotten really smart to make copies of comments, inject bad links, and then post them on similar Christian/Methodist blogs. Most impressive.

Two things for webmasters to do who use WordPress.

  1. Get an email of the blog comments instead of just reviewing them (you can set it in the “Discussion” tab of the WP dashboard). When I get the email, it includes the backlinks and the HTML which you don’t see as easily when you review comments on the dashboard. That helps me immediately see the bad links and can delete the content.
  2. Set your comments to be moderated until Akismet or whatever figures out how to shut down this algorithm. We’ll only be doing #1 at HX, as moderating comments is just annoying, but it can be helpful to others.

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and blog spam. Thankfully, there’s some temporal help for the last one, some eternal help for the first one, and the middle one, you are on your own.

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Sep 04 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Is the Simplest form of Church just a Dinner Table?

Original post at

A new church start in New England gathers around a dinner table instead of rows of pews. And I wonder if this is a portent of the future of church.

A Simple Church outside of Boston

Zach Kerzee is the pastor of a new church start without a steeple or a worship space: Simple Church (FB) which sees church as a big family dinner. Zach is a United Methodist and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, which is a distant second to my alma mater of Boston University School of Theology across the river, but let’s not hold that against him.

After Zach had this idea for a novel use of a neglected church parsonage, he heard about St. Lydia’s dinner church in New York City and studied their process to inform his model of church: a simple church that meets for dinner.

After reading more about Zach’s work, I’m really entranced by two aspects of Simple Church.

First, I’m inspired by Zach’s living out of his convictions by making his own life simple. In a profile in the local paper, he really walks the walk: he has sold most of his possessions and lives simply (almost a new monastic, perhaps). Can this church bring an aspect of monasticism to the masses? I don’t know, but a dinner table is a good place to start.

Second, I’m stoked about the participatory aspects of the worship service:

Worship [entails] preparing the food together within a liturgical context full of prayers, a candle-lighting ceremony, and a blessing of the food, followed by the meal and a short sermon meant to start discussion. There will of course be music, but not traditional hymns…[afterward] there will be time for the kids to come and play while the grownups gather for coffee.

I think so often we expect church to be a product that we consume and enjoy the fruits of other people’s labors (writing liturgy, practicing the choral anthem, etc). Instead, worship that involves everyone pitching in–be it cooking, prepping, cleaning, setting the table, or just watching the kids–brings a deeper co-creative aspect to worship. Wow.

Simple Church has an official launch on September 18th. If you are in the Grafton, Massachusetts area, stop on by and let us know how it went.

Why Dinner Matters

Dinner matters because food may be one of the holy moments that reaches across all the lines that usually divide us.

I recently went to a conference and sat next to Sarah Harmeyer who runs My Neighbor’s Table in Dallas, Texas. Sarah has a 20-seat dinner table in her backyard (literally, of her house) where she regularly hosts people to eat–at last count, I think she has had over 1,000 guests. That’s at a dinner table in a backyard, not a restaurant!

Two things jumped out at me from Sarah’s secular project (or at least it’s not overtly faith-oriented). First was the reaction from some guests at one dinner:

Sarah, who is the founder of Neighbor’s Table, went around the room and introduced everyone. I was so impressed! She remembered pretty much everyone’s name and was able to tell a brief story about each of us. She said a blessing over the food and we all got to dig in and eat.

Second is from when she hosted a dinner party for a cookbook kickstarter and here’s what the author said about the experience:

The love I received that night is not something that can be easily forgotten. It not only confirmed my belief that gathering people to connect around the table is vitally important, but it has challenged me to love extraordinarily. To not worry so much about what I say or what I accomplish, but how I make others feel. That’s what matters.

Identity, belonging, and transformation–these people received from a dinner table what I hope they receive at a worship service in a church with pews.

Taking on Post-Christendom

Last in our brief survey is Rev. Tom Arthur, pastor of Sycamore Creek Church just outside of Lansing, Michigan. Since October 2012, SCC added a second site to his appointment called “Church in a Diner” where they…have church in a diner. Check out this video:

It looks just like a typical weeknight at a diner, though with a walking sermon, music, and people packing out a place for something other than dollar tacos. And even better is how the pastor frames this taking of church out of the designated building and into the community:

“We live in a post-Christian culture where Sunday morning is not reserved for church. The question is: are we going to adapt to it, or are we going to stay stuck complaining about football and soccer games, dance rehearsals being scheduled on Sunday mornings? Are we going to go to those places where people are already gathering?”

SCC is a very different model than Simple Church because it transplants the traditional church experience into a new wineskin, rather than distilling the worship experience down to its bare essentials.

However, I admire that instead of whining over the loss of Sunday morning sacrosanctness, the church chose to change along with culture and go where the people are. When you are wandering in the wilderness, it’s best to follow the pillar of God’s fire, rather than watch it grow dim as it moves away from you.

The Future is Big…or Small.

I believe the future of church will leave the middle and creep towards the extremes: the megachurches that offer everything to everyone, and the microchurches that offer deeper community and personal relationships (which will compete with megachurches that are multisitethat’s interesting). Our clergy will feel a pull towards one of those extremes.

As we learn the best practices from the megachurches, we would do well to also support and study these smaller communities who are refining the basics of community and conversation that leads to transformation. The Church had its start in an upper room where Jesus shared bread and cup with his friends who he knew by name: maybe there’s something there for us to remember and bring back to our consumeristic world.

Sound off:

  • What are your thoughts on dinner churches or faith expressions that are primarily found in the sharing of a meal?
  • What other dinner churches are in your area that you want to make note of? Have you attended and what was your experience?

Thanks for your comments!

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Sep 01 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: 3 Ways the #UMC gets Progressive Methodism shockingly wrong

Original post at

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Not-Einstein

A blog reader sent in a recent Faith Street article entitled “4 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Get Progressive Christianity Shockingly Wrong.” I loved it, and this is my version of it based on my persistent frustration in online conversation about the United Methodist Church.

#1 – Progressivism leads to decline.

Rev. Tom Lambrecht, an occasional commenter on this blog, recently considered the quantitative metrics of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and concludes:

The numbers show that an agenda of radical sexual permissiveness does not help the church grow, but instead contributes to its decline.

In harmony with the above, Dr. Christopher Ritter, proponent of one of the schism proposals, recently commented in the 4,000 member United Methodist Clergy group on Facebook in this way (no link as he deleted the thread):

Is there any place where [progressive views on human sexuality] don’t also coincide with advanced decline?

As a counterpoint, Rob Rynders, co-founder of a progressive UMC church plant in Arizona, refutes that linkage and points to our own denomination’s report here:

[W]e learned from the Towers Watson report that measured characteristics of church vitality…that theology and/or particular stances on social issues are not the key factors that drive church growth or decline. What the report did find, however, is that “vitality” is increased through a number of organizational factors such as quality of leadership, preaching, diversity of worship styles, numbers and types of small groups offered, missions giving, etc…

It’s past time that we stop using the “my church is bigger than your church because we take a X stance on X social, political, or theological issue” argument, once and for all.
Progressive congregations that are in decline aren’t in decline because they’re progressive. They’re in decline for the same reason that many conservative congregations are in decline: organizational dysfunction/brokenness and general shifts in cultural attitudes/behaviors (a.k.a. the move towards being a “spiritual but not religious” nation).

To compare the growth of a conference right in the middle of the None Zone and a conservative conference in the Bible Belt and claim the difference is because of LGBT inclusion is erroneous and disregards our own denominations’ (very expensive) report on the topic.

Progressivism is often painted as a poison pill for Methodists: if localities adopt progressive stances, they will lose members, unlike the evangelicals. In reality, the numbers show that the evangelicals were merely able to stave off decline longer than progressives: the Southern Baptists are in their third year of decline. I wonder how they’ll get to blame progressivism for that one?

#2 – Progressives can’t sustain themselves.

The Via Media Methodists, a conservative Methodist group blog, recently depicted progressives in this way (main post and selected comments):

For all the pious grandstanding from the far left about how “this is our church, too” I genuinely think they know that [progressives] don’t have the ability to start their own church from scratch.  Where are the progressive megachurches and healthy progressive denominations?

…The progressive strategy for decades has been to agitate and advocate for change from within, rather than take an entrepreneurial approach, because they are quite aware that they have no ability to build something from the ground up.

…I am well aware that the UM left has no interest in creating a new denomination, because they couldn’t do it if they wanted to.

These comments about progressive’s inability in empire-building misunderstand a basic tenet of progressivism: we are about transformation of the world, not just parts of it. Creating a progressive separate-but-equal institution is not the goal or desire of many progressives. While Via Media Methodists say that means we lack an entrepreneurial spirit, ability, or sense in empire-building, the reality is that if you are committed to justice, reconciliation, and sustainable holistic spirituality, many progressives ethically cannot leave entire segments of Christendom in the outer darkness. If you are judging progressives because we have heretofore not been into empire-building, then you are judging progressives on a quality we aren’t seeking to exhibit anyway.

In the best case scenario (to my view), there will not be a progressive denomination because there will not be a need for one. The best institutions absorb the gains of the movement. The power of the United Methodist Church is in its twin arms of evangelical zeal and progressive political theology, and whichever one is the institution at the time should consider how to absorb the movement’s successes, instead of cutting them off.

The important point is that neither side can cede a quality to the other. Conservatives are not the only ones with an entrepreneurial zeal: progressives are too, just in different ways. Likewise, Progressives are not the only ones concerned about justice: conservatives are too, just in different ways. But to label one side as completely lacking in a quality is to fail to recognize that you’ve defined a quality in a way that presupposes the answer.

Side note: Glide Memorial Church is one of the Top 10 United Methodist Churches in the world (by attendance) and they are unapologetically progressive in the heart of San Francisco.

#3 – Progressives don’t do discipleship.

I hate to point at one group twice in a single blog post, but sometimes the content writes itself. Even when the Via Media Methodists try to include progressive voices, they include ones that parrot their own talking points. Case in point from a token progressive that has recently been exhibited on their website:

Where Progressives fall short is that too often than not conversations on politics and culture tend to crowd out other substantial discussions such as mission, ministry and discipleship.  It’s important to talk about the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, but if we aren’t also talking about how to keep churches healthy, how to make disciples, there may likely be no churches that have opened God’s tables to LGBT folk.

The promotional tagline for this post was “seeking a via media in his own church.” Thus, the “via media” is depicted as between activism and discipleship–as if they are mutually opposed.

The truth is that progressives have a strong theological link between activism and discipleship as they seek ethical living in diverse communities. Rev. Roger Wolsey, a UM campus minister in Colorado, outlines as much in his book Kissing Fish (which is an excellent Facebook page too):

Many progressives believe that Jesus “returns,” and God’s Kingdom is manifest, whenever we feed the poor, heal the sick, stand with the oppressed, seek to end their oppression, and love our neighbor. I might suggest that the return of Christ could be said to have “fully returned” and that the “fully realized Kingdom of God” could be said to have taken place when we eventually come to a place where a critical mass of the world’s population comes around to thinking and acting in these ways.

Living “in Christ” and living in Kingdom ways doesn’t make for an easier life. It is certainly far more challenging than merely making do while passively hoping for Jesus to come down from the clouds. In fact, this way of being Christian, intentional deep discipleship, may seem much more challenging. It creates yet another reason for many people to passively go along with the teachings of conservative Christianity.

I don’t think Wolsey is trying to say that being a conservative Christian is easy. What he is trying to say is that discipleship in the progressive tradition involves much more communal aspects than scripture memory or worship attendance or whatever other false proxies are classically defined as “discipleship.”

Indeed, this very blog holds up a higher articulation of discipleship than many conservative churches. You can find those posts–shockingly–in the Discipleship section of the website. In particular, the BaptismFAIL series (1) (2) (3) shows how cheapening aspects of Baptism is prone to error. If you are looking for a shallow definition of discipleship, you won’t find it here: you’ll find the progressive definition that doesn’t separate the individual from the community.

What should Progressive Methodists Do?

For starters, progressive Methodists should quit yielding the field to the conservative Methodist bloggers as the de facto voice of Christianity. We have an articulation and should promote it.

Secondly, so much of the above is pointing out that the “other side” is using terms that they have defined. It is always better to show how Progressives have defined discipleship, evangelism, entrepreneurial zeal, and other terms and how they are living into those definitions–then contrast the two. That leads to helpful discussion and ceases Progressives being judged on a term they disagree with anyway.

Finally, Progressives would do well to point out that all of the above critiques are about church growth. Whether it is a winnowing of the church ahead of us or a New Great Awakening, there are widely shifting times ahead for the church, and it will take all of our creative efforts to find a way through it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad to be in the None Zone now as I want to be part of the great experiments to figure out the church before the creeping secularism hits the Bible Belt and demolishes it.

In these endeavors, progressive Methodist must be humble and seek to find the truth in whatever situation we are in, hand-in-hand with the “other side.”

But we can no longer be timid.



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Aug 27 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Only days remaining for Worldwide Nature of #UMC Survey

Original post at


I believe one of the most critical (and far-reaching) points of conversation for United Methodists is the worldwide nature of the church.

The United Methodist Church is different from other denominations (not unique, but very different) because it has a global democratic polity. This differentiates us from most Protestants who have America-only democratic polity, and the Roman Catholic church which has a global but not democratic polity (ie. the Pope makes most of the decisions and chooses the decision-makers). While it’s not a proportional representative polity, it’s the best we got.

This unique place in Christendom comes with great joys and some great challenges.

US-dominated polity for a worldwide church…

Rev. Jim Parsons, a clergy member in Western North Carolina, articulates why he recently found this to be an important topic to talk about in an epic post (quotes formatted for readability – he’s the only conversation partner for this post)

The UMC is truly a global denomination that is trying to figure out how to order, run, and grow that denomination in a global society. Our current Book of Discipline is centered on how to run the UMC in the US.

  • The polity of District Superintendents and the local churches are focused how we do things in America…
  • The Trust Clause is essential [to] the UMC in America because the denomination holds the deeds to all property and makes us, or forces us to be connected. Yet not all countries allow a denomination to ‘own’ property. So how does a UM Church exist in a European country that doesn’t allow it to own property?
  • Clergy educational requirements are another example. How can we hold other clergy to the same educational requirements as we do for US clergy when they may not have access to that type of education? Do we stop ordaining people in Africa or parts of Asia because they don’t hold a Bachelor’s degree and Masters of Divinity because the nearest place to get that type of education is a continent away?

These are quick illustrations of the problem that is uniquely United Methodist.

In short, in our big book of polity is a ton of stuff that really only applies to the U.S.-based church. We spend days and millions of apportionment dollars at General Conference to vote on issues that only affect less than 56% of Methodism.

There’s got to be a better–and more equitable–way.

A Two-In-One Discipline?

What are the proposed solutions? Jim recounts one approach of two books of Discipline: a worldwide applicable one (Global Book of Discipline) and one that articulates policies for a particular region voted by that particular region (Books of Discipline).

The point of a Global Discipline would mean that the essentials of what makes a UM church can be held up around the world. Yet how the local churches/regions then are ruled, governed and so forth are left up to those areas.  The idea of a Global Discipline would free up local churches in the central conference to figure out how to be the best UMC in their part of the world.

One of the primary forces of dissension to this plan comes from Traditionalists who are willing to have an unjust polity if it gets them what they want: continued rejection of LGBT persons. Here’s Jim one last time:

One concern our table had (during our discussions) is that this would seem like a ploy from the liberal movements to get rid of the African vote at General Conference and push more inclusive stance on homosexuality within the America’s UMC. This cannot be further from the truth. The idea of a Global Discipline has come from the central conference, those churches outside the US. They want more freedom to in order to organize their local churches with what makes sense for their part of the world…

But the bottom line is…

The bottom line is we are attempting to do something that is not currently nor ever been done before. We are bridging, building, and growing a global denomination run by democratic polity.

We are unique and we should take pride in this fact.

We should also recognize that if we want to succeed at this task, then it will take changes to our sacred Book of Discipline.

In short, this is an important topic, and I’m glad the UMC is asking for more feedback about it.

Fill out the Survey…like today!

One of the ways to give feedback into this process is to fill out a Worldwide Nature of the Church survey by August 31st. The survey has been out since May but I only recently noted it because up until now, I thought it was only for delegates to General Conference. However, I’ve got the official word that anyone can fill it out: just don’t check that box!

After the demographic questions on the first page, page 2 is the main topics. While they don’t ask about a two-book of Discipline, they do ask about having a conference over only the USA. They ask: “Where shall the UMC in the US “confer” on US-related matters for greater effectiveness in the mission of the church?”

  1. As at present on the worldwide level of the general conference?
  2. In establishing a central conference for the US (as other regions in the world)?
  3. In establishing a new structure, e.g. a joint meeting of all US jurisdictional conferences?

Anyway, the questions are accessible, it’s only 13 questions, and they have something for everyone Methodist.

Take a few minutes, give some feedback (whether you agree or disagree with Jim above) and give the Connectional Table more data to consider for their November meeting in Oklahoma City (which is actually a joint meeting with the Council of Bishops as well).


Thoughts? Respond in the comments!

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Aug 22 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: #UMC resources about #Ferguson for churches

Original post at


There’s several official resources out that offer some content and starters for clergy and congregations who are choosing to preach or teach or organize on an upcoming Sunday on the topic of Ferguson and the killing of Mike Brown.

Together, these should be helpful for a congregation willing to engage the topic, and I appreciate our United Methodist agencies being relevant to the issues at hand.

Naming the Reality?

That said, I gotta say that there’s a distinct chasm between the two documents specifically about Ferguson from the GBOD and the GCORR.

  • The GBOD document mentions race only once, plus mentioning the composition of the police department and targeting of minorities. We’ll call that 3 mentions of racial issues, while mentioning acts of vengeance (looting and violence) an equal number of times.
  • The GCORR document mentions race nine times, plus many more mentions and articulations are in the linked documents (especially Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey’s at UM Insight).

I’ll let you decide which one is speaking more about the hard truths of the situation.

I believe preachers are called to name the reality and to build a narrative that links reality, Scripture, and the hearers’ own narratives.

While the preaching document is more about bringing up topics for preachers to consider, the bulk of the article hinges on the people’s response to injustice instead of naming the reality of the greater unjust system or systemic racism. Preaching about hospitality is an act of justice, yes, but dancing around that the hearer likely benefits from a racist society isn’t helping seeking justice, in my opinion.

As the preaching document concludes:

How do we advocate for all involved and support just resolution and not supporting acts of vengeance, while at the same time not abandoning God’s call upon us to care for the lost and the least?

I think we’ll do better advocacy and lack of abandonment by starting with the systemic inequality rather than starting with how the people have responded to it. Charitably, though, for any preacher, holding in tension both justice and mercy is a tricky one, isn’t it?

Other resources?

Like we said on Thursday, we cannot ignore the topic, no matter our social justice cred in other areas. If you have any other specifically United Methodist resources to share, please leave them in the comments and I’ll update this post as appropriate.

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