I’m in the United Methodist Church. We’re doing a Change the World project. I love Twitter. How could I not reblog this? Join the movement…

Tweet to Change the World

How can you get involved with #CtWTweets?

  1. Join our prayer team. We’re looking for people to pray for Change the World events for 48 hours on May 19 and 20. Sign up for our prayer calendar and our prayer team will send you information!
  2. Tweet about events you are participating in and share pictures, using hashtag #CtWTweets. Don’t have an event? Find one.
  3. Make a donation to Imagine No Malaria, an initiative of the United Methodist Church to provide education and mosquito nets to those who need them. No donation is too big or toosmall. Use this online form. Please designate your gift In Honor of CtWTweets. (This will help our team know how much was given in response to this effort)
  4. Tell your friends. Share a link to this page on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Pinterest. Or heck, share it on all of them!
  5. Pray…

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Guest blogger: Pastor Jim responds to Ministry With

A few weeks ago I wrote about the new UMC resource, Ministry With* the Poor  I hope you’ve checked that out by now and at least watched the introductory video. If not, I encourage you to do so now.

One of the fascinating things about Ministry With* the Poor is the collaborative effort bringing it to life. You may recall I was a bit overwhelmed by all the boards that make up this task force. I’m happy to say Rev. Dr. Jim Galbreath, Lead Pastor at our church, writes to offer some clarification and education about all those boards!

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Pastor Jim Writes

OK, so you read Pastor Dave’s excellent column dated June 3, and you were impressed with the “Ministry with the Poor” initiative and the great video clip.  (If not, click here right away—it’s less than 3 minutes.)  BUT you were a bit overwhelmed by that list of United Methodist groups, wondering “what are they all for?” (Enough of a Methodist structure to give a good Baptist like Dave a bit of a migraine!)

Well, you’ve asked a good question, and I’ll try to break it down a little.  (As to the question of lines of communication and flow charts, I’ll touch on that in a moment.) The word “General” in each of these names refers to the fact that these bodies serve and are responsible to the whole United Methodist Church, not some smaller section of the church’s geographical divisions.

•       General Board of Church and Society
This group is responsible for helping the church become aware of issues of social justice and designing ways for the church to respond faithfully to areas of need for empowerment and witness.  Often confronts controversial issues and speaks up for the voiceless.

•       General Board of Discipleship
This group provides liturgical and devotional resources for worship and spiritual growth.

•       General Board of Global Ministries
This group trains and sends missionaries around the world and supports ministries of healthcare, agriculture, and mission schools. Often works in areas of extreme need.

•       General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
This group examines and certifies relationships with colleges which claim connection with the United Methodist Church, and it manages the overall standards and materials for working with those seeking to enter the ordained ministry. It also supports Africa University.

•       General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits
This group handles clergy pension benefits for tens of thousands of United Methodist clergy, as well as managing the health benefits for them. Because it has a massive investment pool of several billion dollars (There are a lot of UM clergy!)and operates under strict guidelines for socially responsible investing, it has been able to invest over $775 million for the creation and preservation of affordable housing and other community development facilities.

•       General Commission on Archives and History
This group conserves an amazing archive of United Methodist heritage writings and artifacts, reminding the church of its origins and consistent work with and among the poor.

•       General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns
This group provides a vital link to the wider Christian community and facilitates and encourages interfaith dialogue.

•       General Commission on Communications (UMCOM)
This group tells the church’s story, both through internal resources (websites, videos, brochures, etc.) and through resources aimed at the world beyond the church (press releases, web resources, advertising programs, etc.)  It also arranges for churches and church-related programs to obtain software and computer hardware at substantial discounts.

•       General Commission on Religion and Race
This group has the responsibility to monitor racial and ethnic inclusiveness in the operations of the church structure and to provide resources for raising awareness of such issues in the life of the church.

•       General Commission on Status and Role of Women
This group works to monitor and advocate for full inclusion of women within the structure and life of the United Methodist Church and lifts up women’s issues.

•       General Commission on United Methodist Men
This group works to revitalize the church’s work with men, and to encourage men to find ways to express faith through Christian outreach and service.

•       General Council on Finance and Administration
This group is the budgeting arm of the whole church and handles the details of administrative order and financial planning and accounting.

•       United Methodist Publishing House
This unit of the church handles printing and distribution of resources and items used in the life of congregations in education, worship, music, signage, church furniture, etc.

As to the significance of this list of agencies and commissions working together on the initiative of  Ministry with the Poor, a graphic might be helpful.  This represents the way many groups tended too often to see their relations to each other:

 

 

 

 

 

This  Ministry with the Poor initiative is changing that vision to more closely resemble  the image below:

Hallelujah!  Looks like the church is heading in the direction Jesus would expect!

Blessings!

Sunday’s coming

16th century Russian icon of the Descent into ...
Image via Wikipedia

It’s Saturday night. That means you’ve made it through Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. For us pastor types it also means it will soon be time to share cogent, coherent thoughts in the form of an Easter Sunday sermon! That’s the mounting pressure, anxiety-inducing meaning of “Sunday’s coming.”

If you’re still figuring out what to share tomorrow, let me (one last time) commend The Hardest Question to you. What is that all about?

It’s a blog done midrash style. It’s curator, Russell Rathbun, describes it like this:

Questioning the text is important, because the Bible is the witness to the Living Word of God. We are called into relationship with God through Jesus the Christ, The Word. Relationships, at their best, are dynamic, growing, deepening, revelatory, generative and transforming. A primary way we pursue relationship with the Living Word is through the study of scripture, so it must be taken seriously, approached with a robust confidence and a passionate vulnerability.

We ask the text the hardest questions because we can. It does not break, it is not offended, and it does not judge our desire for understanding. The ancient rabbis say that when we study the Bible we release God’s mercy into the world. It is important to question the text, because the world needs as much of God’s mercy as possible.

As I’ve written a couple of times, I’ve had the honor of being the guest blogger there this week providing thoughts on the Easter texts.

Easter. Resurrection. God demonstrating to the universe that death and oppression do not have the last word, but rather the last word belongs to God and that Word is Love and Life. And that’s the other meaning of “Sunday’s coming.” It’s the back half of the famous refrain, “It’s Friday, but…”

If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to click on over to The Hardest Question for Scooby-Doo and Temple of Doom references, some Easter eggs and to read what lead me to these hardest questions:

Regarding the Acts text: How am I subverting God’s subversion of exclusivity?

As for the Gospel text: Why is it still so hard for women to get equal pulpit time in so many churches?

How do you read?

Bizarro Shaggy and Scooby?

I hope you’ll forgive the continuing shameless self-promotion…

I’m pleased to be a part of the fun, interesting, good work going on at The Hardest Question, the blog that seeks to:

move Bible preachers and teachers creatively away from hermeneutical cliché, so as to ignite both weekly preparations and insightful conversations for the sake of the communities they serve.

In other words, it’s modeled after the Jewish midrash. I’m guest blogger this week, meaning you can read my posts on the Revised Common Lectionary texts for Easter Day. Here’s a taste of my thoughts on the gospel text, John 20:1-18:

John and Peter are like bizarro versions of Shaggy & Scooby: they take off toward the spot of the mysterious sighting and, zoinks! they, like, can’t get there fast enough. They must see it with their own eyes!

Read more…and tell us how do you read?

It’s Sunday, but Sunday’s comin’

As a follower of God in the way of Jesus, today is Palm Sunday. And it’s Passion Sunday. Which, at my church, meant it was Palm/Passion Sunday. We’re just all hip mashup like that. Today marks the beginning of what we call Holy Week. That is, the week leading up to Easter. Today we remembered and celebrated Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The rest of this week we follow Jesus around, remembering and reenacting major events like his last supper, his trial, conviction, crucifixion and death.

It’s a lot to cover in one worship service. At least if you want to keep the gathering to about 60 minutes. Which we do. So the temptation is to skip the Passion part, rationalizing that we’ll get to that on Thursday and Friday this week. But lots of our people won’t come to those worship gatherings. So for them, they’ll just go right from triumphal entry to triumphal Resurrection. As my friend, Sean Ferrell tweeted today: “Christianity is meaningless sans cross.” Including the Passion was necessary today.

Now I’m about to violate everything I’ve just said. I want to skip ahead and talk about Easter. And engage in some shameless self-promotion while I’m at it.

I am the guest blogger of the week over at The Hardest Question, a blog that is “a weekly foray into the hardest questions of the week’s lectionary Bible texts.” I have the honor of offering some thoughts about two of the lectionary texts for Easter Sunday. They’ll go up sometime today and be up all week. I hope you’ll click your way over there, read and react with a comment. The Hardest Question is also on twitter and Facebook.

Hope to see you there!

Hey, Dave!!: The Nation of Hopeful Wanderers

Bruce Springsteen (with Max Weinberg in backgr...
Image via Wikipedia

Note: Here it is! The return of Hey, Dave!!, wherein my good friend, Ryan Hilligoss waxes poetic about, well, about whatever is on his mind.

“Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times.”- Gustav Flaubert

In light of the looming election, I would like to address the rise of an insidious line of thought now pervading our national discourse, or lack thereof. To begin, below is part of a speech given by the modern American poet, Bruce Springsteen, in accepting an award from the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award earlier this year alongside Dikembe Mutumbo and others for their contributions to American life. The award honors Americans whose families came through the Port of New York and Ellis Island.

With all the immigrant furor out there, it’s good to remember that we’re a nation of immigrants, of hopeful wanderers. And we cannot know who is coming across our borders today, whose story will add a significant page to the American story. Who will work hard, who will raise a family, whose new blood will strengthen the good fabric holding our nation together.

So I am proud to be here today as another hopeful wanderer- a son of Italy, of Ireland, and of Holland- and to wish God’s grace, safe passage, and good fortune to those who are crossing our borders today. And to give thanks to those who have come before, whose journey, courage and sacrifice made me an American.

Fine words spoken that I wholeheartedly agree with and believe we all should hold dear. As unless your family was here on this continent prior to European settlement, we are all a nation of hopeful wanderers. My own family’s history, on fraternal side, can be traced back to Germany from which the first Hilligoss crossed the Atlantic and entered the country through the Philadelphia immigration office. Further investigation reveals some of our descendants originally resided in France but were driven from their homes due to their involvement with the early Protestant Church. These early family members were part of the exodus resulting from the French Huguenots. I am sure many of you have similar stories in your backgrounds if you cared to look. Many of your families came to this land looking for a better life, religious or political freedom or simply, just a second chance.

What concerns me is the current level of resentment leveled at many individuals or groups of immigrants, whether they be Latinos, Africans, Polish, or from any other country, religion or ethnicity. Especially the recent spate of hatred towards Muslims centered around the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate which I addressed in my prior post. It is not surprising that a great majority of the criticism comes from those who identify themselves with the Tea Party. The ideology of the Tea Party brings to mind another xenophobic movement in our nation’s history. The Know Nothing Party.

The Know-Nothing movement was a nativist American political movement during the 1840s and 1850s. It centered on popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to Anglo-Saxon Protestant values and controlled by the pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, it strove to curb immigration and naturalization, though its efforts met with little success. Members were mostly average regarding education and wealth. The term Know Nothing came from the idea that if a member were asked about the activities or thoughts of the group, the member was supposed to reply, “I know nothing.”

The movement peaked in the middle of the 1850’s when they won several elections in the northern states. However, the movement quickly disintegrated as the nation moved towards the civil war. How does this relate to modern America?

Many of our fellow citizens feel the country is being overrun with immigrants, whether legal or illegal, whom some believe are taking jobs from legal citizens, using our national or state funds for “free healthcare” or setting up some type of religious fundamental training camp to one day take over the country. And many of the “leaders” of the Tea Party have begun using Know Nothing tactics in their political campaigns. Sharron Angle in Nevada has taken to not speaking with the press at all to avoid bad publicity. Rand Paul in Kentucky has now either totally changed his stance on many topics to avoid “negative reporting” or is refusing to speak on some topics. And here in Illinois, the Republican candidate for governor, Bill Brady, has plainly stated, that he will not disclose his plans to correct our devastating budget woes until after the election!!!

To the Know Nothings, the enemy and the root of all their woes were Catholics and other immigrants. Then it was the Chinese. Then it was the Germans during WWI. Then the Japanese during WWII, and on and on down the list including, oh my, that Catholic with the secret cable direct to the Pope, John Kennedy. And now it is Hispanics and Muslims. Why is there always some bogeyman who some feel is responsible for their problems in life? It is dangerous thinking and completely anti American, isn’t that ironic?

To tie this all together, back to Mr. Springsteen for a moment. In 1978, after enduring a struggle for his own artistic freedom with his first manager, Bruce wrote a song called “The Promised Land” from the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. Whether directly or indirectly, it shared the same title of a song written by one of his, and countless others, musical heroes, Chuck Berry. A man from a poor family living in a segregated St.Louis, Mo. Chuck’s version, written in 1964 (and possibly influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963), was about a poor southern boy dreaming of a better life in California and struggling to make his way across the country in search of that journey. In the later stage of his career, Elvis Presley, himself a man from a poor southern family, who also drove a truck for Crown Electric before setting the world on fire, recorded Chuck’s song and turned it into one of his last great rock recordings. Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, in my mind, share the titles of the fathers of rock and roll, one of America’s greatest exports to the world in the 20th century and one of the great unifying forces in modern America life and one that greatly influenced the civil rights movement. Elvis’ first recordings took place in a small Memphis studio called Sun Records which, ironically enough, was situated at 706 Union Ave. We could use a little more unity in our communities, in our states, in our country and across the world today.

The sooner we can all recognize the need for understanding our common problems, discussing them in an intelligent and fair manner and attempting to find some common ground, the sooner we can start living up to the ideals our nation stands for. The ideals that caused so many to risk it all, to make that journey across the water so they could start their hopeful wandering.

Oh, I believe in the Promised Land.

Stop, stop, stop hurting the world! Part 1.1: Guest blogger!

Exciting news! In what I hope will become a regular feature here at All That I Can’t Leave Unsaid (and, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t take much to become a regular feature here. So far the only truly regular feature is inactivity!), I offer for your reading pleasure some thoughts from my good friend, Ryan Hilligoss, aka Hill, for obvious reasons. (Actually, that should read “oka Hill”, as in “ONLY known as.” Whenever someone calls him ‘Ryan’ all the rest of us start looking around, wondering who they’re talking about.)

If this goes well, I see us as the new Statler and Waldorf. If it doesn’t, well, then I suppose we might become the new Paula and Simon. And not in the good way.

So, Hill, whatcha got?

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Hey Dave!!! Or Is that all you got, George? by Hill

Hey Dave!!!! This is what I would like to call my segment on your blog as in “Hey Dave!!!” “Dave’s not here man…go home” in honor of an old Cheech and Chong bit and in the spirit of a point/counterpoint format.

Or my other title would be, “Is that all you got George?” in honor of Muhammad Ali who uttered these words to George Forman right before knocking him out during their  historic Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire in 1974. Ali used the now famous tactic of lying against the ropes and letting George Foreman pummel him for the majority of 8 rounds in what is now called the Rope A Dope. Foreman was used to getting in the ring and knocking his opponent out in first few rounds with brutal power. Ali brilliantly decided to let Foreman wear himself out and then make a move. For 7 rounds, Ali lay against the ropes and Foreman wailed away, punching Ali’s forearms while doing little damages to Ali’s body. The crowd and commentators all thought Ali was losing badly and were just waiting for him to fall down. In the middle of the 8th round, Foreman was getting tired and leaned in against Ali while punching and Ali said to Foreman, “Is that all you got George?” To which Foreman stopped and thought for a moment and simply replied, “Yep” At which point Ali spun out of the ropes and quickly punched Foreman several times in the jaw and knocking him out of the fight.

I hope to play the part of Ali by laying against the ropes and being beaten with unreasonableness, illogic and incivility and then replying with the facts to defeat the enemy that afflicts us all here in America and throughout the world. I keep hoping the facts will make a difference in our general conversations and truth will win.

[Dave here: Hey! Who are you calling “unreasonable, illogical and uncivil?” The readers and commenters here? Ha! There’d have to be some first before they can be accused of such chicanery!]

While the debate on the Ground Zero mosque rages on both sides, I would like to list some statistics for you:

  • Fredericksburg, Va- 17,962
  • Chancellorsville, Va- 30,051
  • Seven Pines, Va- 11,165
  • Petersburg, Va- 20,967

Do any of these city names ring a bell to anyone? Maybe somewhere back in the recesses of your memory? Maybe from a history lesson in high school while you dozed at your desk? Above reflect some of the battles fought during the Civil War between 1861-1865. The numbers attached to each are the amount of casualties suffered by both sides during each battle.

What is interesting is that on each of these historic sites, thousands of Americans “gave the last full measure of devotion,” in Abraham Lincoln’s words. What is also interesting is that on each of these battlefields, currently stand the following (in order of listings above): a condo complex, housing development, highways and strip malls, a KFC, and a K Mart shopping center. The list goes on and on in excruciating fashion and can be seen in an incredible book of photos taken at many of the battlefields, Killing Ground: The Civil War and Changing American Landscape by John Huddleston.

While the debate rages on the New York City mosque and Islam in America in general, a debate is being fought in Gettysburg, Pa right now between citizens of Gettysburg and the town council and a company that wants to build a casino/hotel complex within ½ mile of the woods where Pickett’s charge began. During the battle of Gettysburg, combined casualties totaled over 50,000 including 26,000 dead, the most Americans ever lost in one military campaign. And some company wants to build a casino right over it? Where is the moral outrage? Where are the protestors? Where are all the political leaders on both sides of the aisle weighing in on this travesty?

I understand that 3,000 Americans died on 9/11/01 and this is an incredibly sensitive issue for all of the families affected by the events of that tragic attack, as it should be. Nor am I comparing one hallowed ground to the next or stating one life is more valuable than another. But is this just one more example of a topic being misappropriated by some for political expediency? My concern is the awful whiff of hypocrisy I am detecting.

The “Ground Zero Mosque” reminds me of a historian describing the Holy Roman Empire as being neither holy nor Roman nor an Empire. The debated project is 4 blocks from ground zero and it is a community center which would have 13 floors of gyms, classrooms, activities, etc in addition to worshipping centers for Christians, Jews and Muslims. There is one other mosque in the area that has been in operation since the late 70’s with no incidents or concerns from the community. There are strip clubs and bars all over the area and the proposed site used to be, no kidding, a Burlington Coat Factory. Is this really hallowed ground or is it another ploy by some to conquer and divide?

Or in other words, the next time I travel with my dad to see the sights on our annual road trip across America and we stop in to see a Civil War site, I will make sure to stop at KFC before visiting the tourist center. The only question I need to ask myself is if I like regular or extra crispy?

Just for your edification, below is text given by Abraham Lincoln during his speech before dedicating the site at Gettysburg as a national cemetery for the battle’s fallen:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.