Category Archive: Latest from the MethoBlogoSphere

Oct 24 2014

UMR: Horwood donates one million for theological education

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640_StanHorwood_Article_Img3_10_2014By Marcie Smeck

Lifelong United Methodist, Stan Horwood made a one million dollar gift to theological education in memory of his wife, Elizabeth. Horwood has designated the gift for theological students from the Rio Texas Conference who attend Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University or Asbury Theological Seminary.

Horwood, son of a United Methodist pastor, said, “I fell in love with United Methodist education, first as an undergraduate student at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and later at Perkins.” Circumstances caused Stan to drop out of Perkins after studying for a year and a half, and he then moved to Sterling City to be a part of the Elizabeth’s family’s ranching business.

“With deep gratitude, we announce this very significant gift to theological education. Stan and Elizabeth have been pillars, not only at First United Methodist Church in Sterling City but also in the district and their entire annual conference,” said Bishop James Dorff, resident bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference.

“I want to thank them on behalf of all the students in this annual conference who will benefit from their generosity,” Dorff continued. “Stan not only gave a very generous gift, but he took the opportunity to help send a message to others that theological education and training of leaders is so important to the church.”

The gift is split, $500,000 to the scholarship endowment at each school. Income from the endowments will provide scholarships to students from the Rio Texas Conference who are called to ministry and seek theological education. Horwood has asked that students be selected by each school’s scholarship committee based on need and demonstrated academic ability.

“What a great churchman Stan is; making this gift to the new conference shows he is aware of the strength in the connection and how he loves The United Methodist Church on every level,” said GBHEM General Secretary, Dr. Kim Cape.

Bishop Dorff also thanked Horwood on behalf of the GBHEM board of directors, where the Bishop is president of the board for this quadrennium. Cape thanked Horwood for offering GBHEM the opportunity to help him plan the gift, “and reclaim our roots as the General Board, promoting generosity towards theological education.”

The General Board of Higher Education & Ministry leads The United Methodist Church in educating, nurturing and preparing leaders for the church and the world.

Smeck is interim director, Office of Communications, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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Oct 24 2014

UMC Lead: Bible Study Kicks Ass

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God I love a good Bible study.

We’re reading Mark in my humble three-person Thursday night class at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church. It’s invigorating every time we meet. For the main component of the class, we read Mark aloud. Lemme tell ya, if you ain’t read Mark out loud, you ain’t read Mark.

In fact, there’s folks who perform the story from memory. It’s a well-told story. My two friends and I have spent the bulk of our class hours exploring the curiosities of Mark.

Why does Christ tell some people to proclaim his miracles and orders others not to say a word?

What’s up with his super healing cloak?

Why do some folks recognize him and others don’t?

We don’t always answer all of our questions, but it is in the quest for those answers, that is, in the discussion, that we come closer to the truth of the good news. Finding that together, as a wee group of three, is important. Taking this journey together is the church, isn’t it?

Why even do Bible study, really?

It’s gotta be more fun to play board games or something, anything. But no, we spend our hour together telling each other the story of Mark. Because that’s what we do as a church, we share the story and explore it together. It’s a story that should be explored as a group. Reading the Gospel should be a social exercise. We are hikers on a trail, trekking for no purpose but to stumble upon an occasional waterfall under which to bathe and together embrace God’s kingdom.

Today’s waterfall moment came when Jesus teaches about the tradition of the elders. He is confronted about his disciples eating with dirty hands. Can’t do that, that’s against tradition, and as far as Pharisees are concerned, that’s an act in defiance of the tradition of the elders, the ancestors who came through the desert with God. To them, the cleanliness of your hands, dishes, and other cooking utensils were a measure of your worthiness before your creator.

Jesus rebukes them, calls them hypocrites. They have honored tradition over God. He gives them an example of how people have been misusing the traditional offering to God as an excuse to deny financial support to their parents.

…thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this. Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile (NRSV Mark 7:13-15).

In this moment, Jesus shows them the truth about sin: that it is “from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (NRSV Mark 7:21). He then shows them that all foods are clean, cementing his ministry as a gift to the entire world, even those who did not observe the traditions of the day. He then shows them that the root of sin is not in defiance of the traditions, but in one’s own heart and that “all these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (NRSV Mark 7:23) By telling us this story, Jesus prepares us for the inevitable debate over sinfulness, for our path as a church is fraught with conflict over who among us is and isn’t clean and worthy of full access to access to the body of Christ.

This week Pastor Frank Shaefer stood before the Judicial Council of the UMC in an appeal hearing. He had been previously defrocked in trial for officiating the marriage of his son to another man. At the conclusion of his first trial, he was given a choice: promise to uphold the Methodist tradition by never again officiating a same-sex wedding, or concede his ordination, his pastoral responsibilities, everything he knew and held dear.

Pastor Frank said in his testimony that he could not refuse ministry to any LGBT people and could not promise to never perform another marriage. Throughout the trial, his story was consistent: love inspired his action. This role he played, this essential ministry to two of God’s beautiful creation, was not some flippant, irrelevant act of defiance. This meant something.

When we, as a church, marry two people, it doesn’t always work out. But we keep doing it because, for better or for worse, the practice bears good fruit. The kingdom of God depends on our ministry bearing good fruit. We hold marriage so dear because we know it is an essential expression of our faith and hope for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The church will always be a place where people will look to get married, regardless of personal religious intensity. The church holds dear the responsibility to the sacred ceremony. Despite all cynicism, all weariness, despite the world, we still to this day make a big deal about marriage. The act transcends tradition. It’s a sacrament. That’s gotta mean something.

In Pastor Schaefer’s testimony, his meaningful intention, the truth, shined through with clarity and conviction. And it’s this truth that I witness each Sunday in my home church in St. Louis. It’s something revealed to me each Thursday night at Bible study. God’s will is for our church to cast aside its traditions regarding LGBT people. To embrace them, marry them, ordain them, and provide for full access to Christ’s bountiful table. The longer we wait, the longer we deny ourselves our true potential as a church.

There is much at risk, lest our application of tradition cause total retreat from righteousness. We must not burn the trees that bear good fruit. The more intense our response in upholding the tradition, the more we separate ourselves from the very people who so badly want to join our churches, lead our churches, sit with us in worship or Bible study and maybe, just maybe, touch the cloak of Christ and catch a glimpse of God’s kingdom.


Image by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899, is a photographic reproduction of a public domain work of art, published in the Wikimedia Commons free media repository. Cropped from original.

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Oct 24 2014

connexions: Hoot of the day (on the Rome Synod)

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“The conservative commentator Edward Pentin published an outraged piece in the National Catholic Register: ‘More and more there is talk in Rome that this synod is being engineered by groups intent on steering the Church in a heterodox direction, and increasingly evidence is coming to light that points to it.’ …. “The thought that a synod [...]

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Oct 24 2014

UMR: GBHEM General Secretary issues statement on the Ebola global crisis

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426DA0DEE2AE44D1A9AF9B7BDD428307_GBHEM_PreparingLogoHigher Education & Ministry promotes leadership development and seeks to transform the world through the power of education and the various ministries of lay and clergy leaders.

As we all receive information about an emerging global crisis due to the Ebola epidemic in various countries, we think about our sisters and brothers in the affected regions. We reaffirm our belief in God’s Word as “healing and health to all flesh” (Proverbs 4:22) and call for the solidarity of our connection. We need to respond with concrete actions that promote solidarity, healing, and preparedness. We need to move beyond our silos, exercise more communication, and share about the power and importance of education now!

What concerns me most is a deeper crisis, the fear epidemics, when people move so quickly from indifference to paranoia, instead of moving from solidarity to action. In Psalm 34.4 we read: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” I hope we can communicate with our communities and educate them to overcome unfounded concerns and be ready to act when needed.

I am in Africa this week, joining many others who are traveling to and from the Africa University board meeting. I sense the many concerns and questions. To dissipate them, I want to share with you some of the work we have been doing. It is important that staff at GBHEM, our partner institutions, the hundreds of institutions in our worldwide educational network, and The United Methodist Church at large help us in the work of educating people about the challenges and opportunities, trials and lessons that this current global health crisis brings us.

Let’s fight Ebola and global fear with the power of education!


Kim Cape

General Secretary

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Oct 24 2014

Incarnatio: Scripture & Culture in Wesleyan Perspective: New Podcast: Fully Focused on the Finish #ChristianPerfection #UMC

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When I read the letters of Paul, I often wonder whether he was a fan of athletic games - foot racing, at least. On several occasions Paul draws on the language of the races to illumine the nature of the Christian life. For instance, "Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it" (1 Cor 9:24). Similarly in Philippians 3 Paul describes the Christian life in terms of straining forward towards the goal to win the prize. It's hard not to imagine an Olympic runner putting all of his energy into crossing the finish line to win the gold. For Paul, the gospel worthy life is fully focused on the finish, and that means knowing what the finish line is, namely resurrection union with Christ, and it means leaving the past in the past - all of it. On top of that, Paul's racing imagery helps us get a better sense of what we mean when we talk about Christian perfection. Take a listen to find out what Paul means when he counts himself among the "perfect" in Philippians 3:15. If you receive this post as an email, click here to listen on the podcast page. Previous sermons can be found here

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Oct 24 2014

Mustard Seeds: 23 Blast: Blinded Teenager Learns To Play, Live Again (Movie Review)

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Travis Freeman, a real-life teenager from Corbin, KY., goes blind overnight, throwing his world into darkness and impacting the lives of those in his family, on his football team, and within the community. But this is a bigger-than-Hollywood kind of sports story, the kind even Disney couldn’t dream up, as Freeman (played by Mark Hafka) decides that playing it safe is not an option.

Dylan Baker, known best for his roles in the Tobey Maguire Spiderman films, The Good Wife, and Damages, makes his directorial debut, teaming with Bram Hoover, a Corbin, KY. native, who wrote the script about Freeman’s life and co-stars as Freeman’s childhood friend, Jerry. These two, along with a cast-against-type Stephen Lang as a good guy, motivational Coach Farris, take us on a story that uses humor and football to navigate through a story about losing it all and finding a new way forward. [Seriously, it’s amazing that there are some Scent of a Woman-like funny moments to a movie that is otherwise about

In addition to the dynamics involved with Freeman’s blindness, there’s an ongoing side story about how Coach Farris handles Jerry, who is the team’s starting quarterback, a troublemaker, and unable to remember the plays he is supposed to call! Farris grinds against the expectations of Corbin’s athletic director, Duncan (Timothy Busfield), and the Friday Night Lights-like pressure of high school football in the state of Kentucky. There’s a sense that if the two childhood friends are going to make it, they’re going to need each other.

Thankfully, they’re not alone.

Alex PenaVega (Spy KidsThe Remaining) plays Ashley, a fellow Corbin High student, who has admired Freeman from afar, and becomes one of the few people to seek him out in his recovery; Becky Ann Baker (the director’s wife) plays an advocate for those with disabilities and Freeman’s rehabilitation coach, Patty Wheatley, who refuses to let him stay down when he first goes blind. Both of these women prove to be steadying influences in the Freemans’ lives, even as Freeman’s parents (Baker and Kim Zimmer) find themselves incapacitated by their son’s struggle.

Most of us are going to find ourselves encountering roadblocks to our happiness, our way of life, and our hopes and dreams. 23 Blast asks us to consider how we respond to those challenges, and what we would do to overcome them. The fact that Freeman overcomes life and football makes this a feature film, but if Freeman can overcome blindness, what have you deemed too tough to overcome that you should be fighting? If you’re fully capable, what are you doing to be a support to someone who needs it? If you’re a person of faith, what witness do you share when you’re facing adversity?

23 Blast is entertaining, funny and poignant, but don’t let it fool you: it has a message that it wants you to hear loud and clear.

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