Category: News

Friday Afternoon Session- Strategic Vision to Budget to Celebration

Goodpasters-400The afternoon was full of business and visioning, and it closed with celebration, tears and surprises.

Strategic Vision

After the lunch break on Friday, Annual Conference business resumed with the Strategic Vision Plan for 2016-2020.

Bishop Goodpaster reviewed his eight years as leader of the conference, the financial challenges of a changing economy and our mission to “Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, and Transform the World.” In the past eight years, the conference has attempted to align resources to keep the mission primary.

Rev. Amy Coles presented the success of the Missional Network emphasis that emerged in the conference over the past four years. The body heard reports of networks across the conference and stories of churches working together to serve Jesus in our schools, communities, and regions.

Persons sharing their stories from the floor included: Cindy Lunsford, George Coates, Lucy Robbins, Paul Brown and Nina Wynn. [PowerPoint Slides]

Coles then introduced the conference to the new leadership team that will begin service in July.  Rev. Kim Ingram will continue as the Director of Ministerial Services, Caroline Wood will add to her current position and become the Director of Missional Engagement and Connectional Relationships. Dr. John Boggs will become the new Director Vital Discipleship.

The new Church Vitality Strategist (CVS) Team was introduced to the gathering.  These persons will have responsibilities in the eight districts and work directly with the superintendent, and within the general work of the conference.  These persons are: Stephanie Hand (Metro), Carroll Harris (Uwharrie), Maria King (Northern Piedmont), Tim Roberts (Appalachian), Sherrie Schork (Smoky Mountain), Kim Shockley (Catawba Valley), and Rene Wilt (Yadkin Valley).

Bishop Goodpaster then gave a further introduction to Dr. John Boggs, who took a few minutes to share his vision of his new role.  He sees himself as a “Dreamer, Cultivator (disturber of the soil), Collaborator, Communicator.”

He reflected on the deep Wesleyan roots of revival that include “gracious accountability” while learning and partnering with visionary groups like Fresh Expressions US, the Missional Wisdom Foundation as well as seminaries and other Annual Conferences.

He said that his vision is to explore the relationship of the Baptismal Covenant and the General Rules of Methodism, stated this way:

To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teaching
Through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Coles then introduced Dr. Lynn Sorrells, who will be beginning a new position as the Director of The Vitality Project.  This position is funded through a grant from the Duke Endowment, and will focus on helping churches to become all that they are called to be.  He introduced his associate, Rev. Angie Hollar who will assist with leadership.  They will work together along with other partners to help increase the number of vital churches in the conference.

Rev. Rob Webb was introduced and gave the report of the Duke Endowment. He used the analogy of one of the riskiest plays in baseball- stealing home, to bring home the point that with some risks, come great rewards.  He told the conference that what the Endowment wants to do is focus on making significant impacts, and focusing money on projects that will “steal home plate.”

Financial Concerns

Following his report, Laurie Guy, President of the Council of Finance and Administration brought their report to the conference. (The written reports can be found on pp. 16-22 of the Supplement).  Petition 1 (p. 17-19) was presented to the conference (2017 Conference Funds and Financial Policies).  It was adopted with no debate.

Then the 2017 budget (pp. 20-22 in the Supplement) was brought up for consideration. After some proposed amendments, discussion, and debate, the proposed budget of $16,404.665 dollars (a slight decrease from 2016) was adopted.

After a short break, Laurie Guy introduced Dr. Mark King as the new treasurer for the Western North Carolina Conference.  King will move back to North Carolina and begin the job in July.

Goodpasters-2-400Retirement Celebration

After a short break, the business resumed with a couple of items of business, and greetings from a guest from Cambodia who witnessed to Bishop Goodpaster’s leadership in Southeast Asia, we moved to an order of the day: The Committee on Episcopacy Report.

Rev. Mary John Dye, the chair of the committee led the conference in a celebration of the past eight years of Bishop Goodpaster’s service.  Both he and his wife Deborah were honored with gifts and applause, and we greeted his daughter Amy and her family who came from Atlanta to share in the celebration.  Their daughter Lucy was in Montgomery, AL celebrating through the livestream.

Rev. David Snipes announced that $70,000 dollars had been raised through an appeal for this retirement gift that will go to Imagine No Malaria. (The equivalent of saving 14,000 people from death and disease-many of the children).

Then a litany of thanksgiving, that included dozens of people building a pyramid of plants on stage, with the refrain: “Today we give thanks for Bishop Goodpaster.”

A final prayer over the Goodpaster family ended with a surprise visit by the Junaluska Singers who sang, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

A reception for the Goodpasters is scheduled for 7:30 pm on Friday evening between Stuart Auditorium and the Harrell Center.

Ken Carter Video | Retirement Video

Friday Morning- Business sandwiched between worship

commission-400The Conference gathered early on Friday morning, June 17, 2016, in Stuart Auditorium.

The first service of the day was  the Commissioning Service where we recognized clergy who were elected as provisional members of the conference at Wednesday’s clergy session, and those who are newly licensed local pastors.

Worship PowerPoint | Pictures of Provisional Members | Photo Album

Following a short break, the conference moved back into business.

The Annual Meeting of the Membership of the United Methodist Foundation of WNC, Inc.was called to order, and the Rev. David Snipes and members of the staff at the Foundation gave reports of their work and programs.

Report PowerPoint | Video

This was followed by the Board of Health and Pensions Report led by Lynne Gilbert. The conference adopted  Petitions 2A and 2B (pages 25-28 in the Supplement) that were brought to the body by the board.

The Conference Board of Trustees gave their report and spoke about a resource for local churches to review their insurance plans.  This  resource will be made available on the Conference website in the coming weeks, so please be on the lookout on the site, and through ENews.

Near the close of the business session, Bishop Goodpaster introduced a Missional Offering Video, featuring members of the cabinet talking about how our offerings during last year’s Annual Conference were used in the districts.

After a short break, the conference reconvened to celebrate the ministries of those retiring clergy.  Among the 34 retirees, they had served a total of 955 years in ministry. Giving the address for the retirees was Rev. Jock Ollis, and Rev. Julia Trantham gave the address for the ordination class of 2016.  She is the first deacon to have this opportunity in our conference, and it is during the 20th anniversary of the new order of deacons.

Service PowerPoint | Photo Album

 

 

Dr. William McClain- Friday Morning Commissioning Service

MClain-400SO, NOW,  WE GO…

by

William B. McClain
Mary Elizabeth Joyce Professor of Preaching and Worship, Emeritus
Wesley Theological Seminary
Washington, D.C.

Texts:  “…and as you go,  preach the gospel…” [ Matt. 10:7].

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,  and of the Son and of  the Holy Spirit… and lo, I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matt. 28:19-20].

I am honored and humbled always to preach at commissioning and Ordination services.  I find that it is an opportunity for me to renew my vows made at my ordination in the Central Alabama Conference in the  racially segregated Central Jurisdiction on a hot June day in my home church: Sweet Home Methodist Church in Etowah County in Gadsden, Alabama.  I am the last person living from the class of ordinands in that Annual Conference.  I invite all of those who have been commissioned and/or ordained to do the same: to renew the vows you made before the Lord in whatever place you made them.

Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant Reformer-theologian, used to offer some advice to his preachers that is probably especially applicable to Sermons at Annual Conference.  Luther told his preachers:

“#1. Stand up!  #2. Speak up!  And, # 3. Shut up!”

Well, over the years I have offered my students some advice which I hope I can practice today myself.  I have said to them:

Start low; go slow;

Rise high, strike fire;

Sit down.

 

There are at least two recordings in the Gospel of Matthew of where Jesus commissions his disciples “to go.”  One in Chapter 10 and the other in the closing words of the Book of Matthew in Chapter 28,  which we just heard read today.  In verse 7 of the tenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says “Go  to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, [PAUSE],  and as you go, [PAUSE],      preach the gospel…” [PAUSE]   And in the 28th chapter we hear the words of the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all I have commanded …;”  and then he adds a promise of his continuing presence in these words: “And remember, I  am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

We will not tackle the hermenuetical problem of whether the first commission was an exclusive “missionary command” to preach to the House of Israel and the second, a universal “Great Commission, ”  and whether the former was rescinded and consumed and replaced in  the latter…  I am satisfied that both commands and commissions came from  the same Jesus, [PAUSE],  “SO, NOW,  WE GO…”

 

We do not go because we know the world is desperately and anxiously seeking to know what happened to the Jebusites and where Pamphyllia and Phrygria are located,  and whether 100 angels can stand on the head of a pin, but rather we go because we are called,  commanded, and commissioned to go by Jesus and we know that the people come asking: “What word is there from the Lord today that speaks to my conditions, my hurts, my problems, my conflicted soul and spirit? We go because the people still ask “is there a word that speaks to our world and all of its desperate  needs, the ethical decisions with which I and those around me are struggling to make?” We go because people still ask “Can the Gospel that you preach, teach, and live bring peace, love, and  justice to a troubled soul and a world filled with ambiguities?  and a world in which the currents of history are churning into rapids, sometimes sweeping away the long familiar places where the anchored floats used to mark the safe and navigable channels for our lives.   “In times like these,” “ they ask can you speak to the deep yearning and wonder of my soul for an anchor that grips a solid rock?

 

Well, that is what I have been about in theological education  all these years  I have spent at Wesley Theological Seminary:  to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts through an academic, spiritual and social search to discover more of the ways of God, and the way God is in the world.  And to discover and interpret what we have found  in a world that is more complex, more intercultural, more interreligious and more interconnected than ever before. It is also a world besieged by war, xenophobia, violence, race-baiting, bigotry, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and so many other attitudes and actions that divide and violate God’s beautiful rainbow creation whom God called “the children of God!”  God blessed all of creation and said it was good.

The goal in my ministry in theological quest has been to enable my students  to go from the Seminary being able to say as the blind man said after encountering Jesus and getting a new perspective: “I was blind, but now I see. “ And,  SO, NOW,  WE GO…AS ORDINANDS and we go to help others to see WHO and WHAT we have seen.  In the words of Jesus in the Matthew text:  “…teaching them to observe all the things I have taught you…” [Matthew 28:20].

There is the temptation in such  questioning  and disorderly and frightening times, and especially when fear-mongering seems more important  than facts and saber rattling seems easier than  an effort at just peace,  for theologians and persons in roles of religious leadership to simply accommodate the people who want their answers clear, clean and easy.  But it is not the task of those whose  eyes have been opened to offer easy answers and quick, unexamined,   slick and glib slogans,  and easily-remembered “sound bites.”   Not just to offer  simplistic answers that represent a rearrangement of the facts of life which will inevitably lead to disenchantment and despair.  As my late friend, William Sloan Coffin,  used to say to his students at Yale: “Answers that begin by explaining all too much end up always by explaining all too little.”

My teacher and mentor at Boston University, Howard Thurman,  used to always remind us that we must speak to the heart and to the mind.  In other words, don’t ask congregations to check their minds at the door because we are in church!  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to warn us about ‘softmindedness” in religion.  He used to say such leaders in the church have re-translated the Beatitudes to read: “Blessed are the pure in IGNORANCE; for they shall see God.”

The people whom we are called to go and serve and with whom we minister need  priests to stand  with them as well as prophets to stand over against them.  Prophets to speak truth to power as well as priests to nourish their souls and to help to heal their hurts and pain.   [PAUSE] .   Our generation and our church need priests who preach like prophets and prophets who serve like priests.  The challenge before the church and this Annual Conference  is to raise our voice as a trumpet in the discordant  sounds  of the public square,  and  to be the voice of conscience that  speaks truth to the power of the state, the market, and the body politics, even as it speaks peace to the troubled soul,  and preaches good news to the poor  [paraphrased from Allen Dwight Callahan, an unpublished paper on ordination presented at Harvard University Divinity School, 1997].

The Great Commission  is to GO!  “And so now,  you go,  feed my sheep, tend to my lambs, hold  together my flock.  Preach the gospel.  Teach.  Baptize. Make disciples.”

And, now, we go, not because we have reached  perfection, but we are  trying; so, we go, and you go,   not because you will have a degree behind your signature and you will have a title in front of  your name as “Rev. or Doctor,” but because you have been  called to be a servant leader for the people; so, you go,  not to be pampered and served, but you go because you have been called, commissioned, prepared and sent from this place as “workers who do not have to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

And Jesus had no rose-colored, overly romanticized notion about the world to which we go.  He  was very realistic about the world to which you go.  He knew that there are serpents who will threaten to poison your  blood stream and wolves out there who will try to tear you apart limb from limb and devour your flesh, and he warned that some will be close to you as brothers and sisters, and thus he warns that when we go we must be “wise as the serpents, and harmless as doves.”  I learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. long ago when I was in Alabama with him that that means that we must have the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove,    —–  having “a tough mind and a tender heart”  [MLK, Strength to Love, “Tough Mind and a Tender Heart,” p 13].

There is a commission to go, but there is also a promise in this Great Commission.  And I know a little bit about making a promise.

I made one more than  60 years ago in Alabama, that I would give my life and my gifts and such talent that I had to the church and the Christian ministry and to preach the Gospel. [PAUSE].

When I went to teach at Wesley 36 years ago I made a promise to Wesley Theological Seminary that I would give the best of my service to teach preaching and worship and be a  scholar and  leader in theological education.  That  institution believed me and granted me full professorship and tenure many years ago and installed me as their first endowed professor [and by the way, that endowment came from a woman from Reidville, North Carolina: named Mary Elizabeth McGehee Joyce.  Just about 13 years ago when there was talk of retirement,  I promised the President of the seminary that I would teach and serve Wesley Theological Seminary  until I was 75 years old – that occurred 3 years ago.  I’ve tried to faithfully keep those promises as best I could, but I know It was  not always  as unfailing and as sure as it ought to have been about these promises.   The Lord knows I  tried.

But the One who makes the promise in this text has never faltered or failed: “… and lo, I will be with you ALWAYS, even until the end of the age.”     The PROMISE OF THE NEVER-FAILING PRESENCE OF CHRIST.  “I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS!”  Which means there is the promise of always being there!

Always means “All    the    days…”   The days when the sun is shining  and the days when it’s cloudy; the days when there is a large crowd and the days when they are few; the days when the people are on your side and the days when all seemed arrayed against you.  The days when there is plenty and the days when the budget is hard to meet.

The ministry can be a lonely profession.  There are times when, in the words of the old Black preacher, we seem to have to “tread the wine press alone,”  but we are not alone, he promises never to leave us alone! No never alone!

I’ve seen the lightning flashing,

I’ve heard the thunder roll,

I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing,

Trying to conquer my soul;

I’ve heard the voice of Jesus

Telling me still to fight on:

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.

Refrain

No, never alone, no, never alone –

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.

I am willing to stand on his promise, not on a partisan platform, but on his promise; not on a fleeing and fleeting philosophy, but on his promise; not on an ideology, but on his promise; not on an unwavering and changing theological position, but on his promise.     When the howling storms of doubt come, I’ll stand on his promise.  When the assailing fears come, I’ll stand on his promise!  When the world crushes me down and my enemies assail, I’ll stand on his promise!   I’m standing, standing, standing on the promises.

A promise is as good as the one who makes it.  I’m standing on the promise because I know the One who made the promise.  He’s never failed me yet!  as I told you yesterday morning:

I’ve come too far from where I started from.

Nobody told me that the road would be easy.

But I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me.

[Curtis Burrell]

And he will  not leave you, either!

 

The One who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.  Morning by morning new mercies I see.  Great is God’s faithfulness!    But my hope is built on nothing less…

So, Now,  GO! Go into all the world, and as you go, PREACH THE GOSPEL!  Not simply a FULL Gospel, but preach “the whole counsel of God” BUT PREACH TO ALL THE WORLD AS YOU GO!  In season and out of season, in fair weather and in foul; in the cities and in the country; in large steeple churches and in clapboard way stations.  In the words of the old Isaac Watts hymn the AME Church still loves to sing:

“Go preach my gospel” saith the Lord,

Bid the whole earth my grace receive.

Explain to them my sacred word;

Bid them believe, obey and live.

[Isaac Watts, 1674-1748]

 

 

Dr. Bryan Collier-Thursday Evening Worship

BryanCollierAs Those Who Know Him Best

John 15

June 16, 2016

Dr. Bryan Collier
The Orchard
Tupelo, MS

Introduction

On my last visit to North Carolina, I was asked to preach at a church which was preparing to launch their associate pastor out to plant a new church.  I arrived on Saturday, spent some time with the new church planter and then with the Senior Pastor as we prepared for Sunday’s service.  We talked details, music, order, scriptures and then he said “I need to tell you about Cowboy.”  I need to tell you about Cowboy because I don’t want you to be distracted.  The conversation then went something like this—“When you stand up to preach tomorrow, there on the front row about 4 feet away, will be a man in a cowboy hat, with a long gray beard—like the guy in deliverance, (now he has my attention!) and with him he will have his pet squirrel.  A stuffed squirrel?  A toy squirrel?  Nope—a live squirrel; but don’t worry he has it on a leash!  Now sometimes the music freaks that squirrel out, but if it does he will slap that squirrel and it will settle down.  And (there’s an and?)…he wears a loaded revolver, AND he brings his wife with him (Oh this ought to be good)—well her ashes in a pouch—which is a whole other story.  I remember thinking, “I am so glad you are telling me because there is no way I am going to be distracted by an elderly gentleman who has a beard like the guy in deliverance, with a cowboy hat and a pet squirrel and a revolver and his wife’s ashes in a pouch!”  Then the pastor friend corrected me and said, “oh he doesn’t look like the guy from deliverance—he IS the guy from Deliverance—he played that character!”  Now I am distracted for a wholly other reason—I am a backpacker and I am thinking “how cool is that!”  Distractions of every kind, everywhere!  But what I was really thinking was, “FINALLY a unique story I can tell about a unique person from somewhere other than Mississippi!”

My pastor friend didn’t want me to be distracted and the context of our reading tonight is that Jesus is trying to help the disciples focus as they enter the greatest days of distraction they will ever know.

And so Jesus, knowing what is just ahead gathers them in an upper room and prepares them for a time when he will no longer be with them in body—so that they may be faithful to the mission he has begun in the coming days of great distraction.

I don’t want to begin in chapter 15 where Jesus begins; before we get to where Jesus begins and ends—I want to point out that in the face of enormous distraction Jesus issues a…

Clear Call (16)

Right in the middle of chapter 15, Jesus says simply, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you to go and produce lasting fruit…”

Jesus obviously uses multiple metaphors to call the disciples to his mission in the world.  The one of this annual conference, “Go Light your world” is one of them as is this call to bear fruit. 

I have been partial to this chapter and this fruit-bearing imagery for the last 18 years, not only because it is the place from which we draw the name of the church I serve, but also because the word fruit if very instructive throughout the New Testament.  If you look at the word fruit throughout the New Testament, it occurs about 43 times (depending on translation) but those 43 uses gather up nicely into 3 baskets—people who are introduced to Christ; people who by the work of the Holy Spirit grow up to be like Christ, people who go out into the world to act like Christ.

And so when Jesus says to the disciples; I have appointed you for this—to go bear fruit! He is calling them to introduce people to Him; teach and help them to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow up to be like Him, and to go out into the world to act like him.

In a day of distraction…a clear call.  But Jesus warns them at this point that there will more than distraction.  There will be…

Clear Opposition (18-26)

Jesus uses one word 7 times in 7 verses—that word is hate and it is used to describe the reception that the disciples and this message of Jesus are going to get from the world.

Jesus could have used a softer word, or a different word, but he used the word hate.  Do you know what this word in the original language is—to detest or to pursue with hatred.

Makes you wonder if we are announcing the message of Christ when the world embraces a message our Lord said the world would hate.

We don’t have time, but Jesus points out in verse 21 that some hate the message and messengers out of ignorance and some hate the message and messengers out of conviction.  I think Jesus explains this to the disciples so that they will not be surprised that, for any number of reasons, the world’s reception of the message and them as messengers will be hatred—detestable, pursuant hatred.

But Jesus (26) promises them the power of the Holy Spirit in order to remind and strengthen them in the face of this opposition.

That the work of ministry is difficult and opposed is not surprising or new to many of us.  When it is, we are in the company of Jesus and the disciples, and in the company of our forefather, John Wesley.  I keep taped in the back of my Bible, a copy of one page of John Wesley’s journal that records a particularly difficult stretch—and I read it during particularly difficult stretches.

A single page from the journal of John Wesley:

  • Sunday a.m., May 5 – Preached in St. Anne’s; was asked not to come back anymore.
  • Sunday p.m., May 5 – Preached at St. John’s; deacon’s said, “Get out and stay out.”
  • Sunday a.m., May 12 – Preached at St. Jude’s; can’t go back there either.
  • Sunday p.m., May 12 – Preached at St. George’s; kicked out again.
  • Sunday a.m., May 19 – Preached at St. Somebody Else’s; deacons called a special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
  • Sunday p.m., May 19 – Preached on the street; kicked off the street.
  • Sunday a.m., May 26 – Preached out in a meadow; chased out of the meadow when a bull was turned loose during the service.
  • Sunday a.m., June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town; kick off the highway

When we preach and live the message of Christ there is clear opposition.  But…Jesus also marks for the disciples in every age a…

Clear Path to Faithfulness (and Fruitfulness) (1-7, 27)

And that clear path is not the next program, or emphasis, CEU opportunity, special Sunday or (excuse me bishop) episcopal initiative.

The clear path to faithfulness of mission in the face of opposition is simply this—an ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus.

And this is true no matter what Scriptural image for the mission of God that we connect too.  We cannot Go Light our World if we are not connected in an ongoing intimate relationship with the Light of the World.  We cannot share living water if we have not drunk deeply ourselves.  We cannot bear fruit if we are severed from the vine. 

Jesus chooses the word abide in our text and by it he means intentional, ongoing, vibrant relationship.  He goes on for 7 verses about His being the Vine and we being the branches and includes both a warning for being disconnected—fruitlessness and uselessness and being discarded and a promise for remaining in him—bearing much fruit.

But there is a verse, the very last verse, which ties both the mission and the path to faithfulness together perfectly (27)—“And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.”  My favorite translation of this verse says it this way, “You must tell others about me as those who know me best.”

Tell others about me.  And do it as one who knows me best.

The world is full of distractions—programs, emphases, causes.  Our one call is this—tell others about Jesus.  Our message must be singular and our living no less.  I am not suggesting that we lay aside programs, emphases and causes—but the Gospel must drive us to the cause and not the cause drive us to the Gospel.  We are called to tell others about HIM.  That is clear.

And to do it as those who know him best—This is the difference between me telling you about MY wife and Bishop Goodpaster’s wife.  I have known Debra my whole life—and yet I know her in a decidedly different way than I know my wife Wendy.  I have no idea what Debra’s favorite color, or food, or hobby it (though I might guess it has something to do with grandchildren).  But my wife loves pink, boiled peanuts and shopping—where else do you find that combination except in a Mississippi woman?  I know her exceedingly better than I know Debra. 

We are invited to tell others about Jesus as those who know him best and because of this call–we can not be a church distracted by what we want, wish, hope or prefer that Jesus do or say.  We cannot be a church that tells others about him as those who knew him or heard of him or met him once.

Your church and my church and our church (UMC) must recapture the priority of an ongoing vibrant relationship with Jesus or there will be no fruit—because apart from him we can do nothing.  And this must begin with out pastors and leaders because what we want to see in the world, we must first see in the church and what we want to see in the church we must first see in our leaders and what we want to see in our leaders we must first see in our pastors.

Jesus marks out a clear path to faithfulness—relationship with him out of which there is a…

Clear Result—Fruit. (8)

In the spring of 1998, I was finishing up a 1-year residential Doctor of Ministry program and I was in a class called Anthropology for Christian Missions.  As a church-planter-to-be it was a very helpful class but one assignment was particularly interesting.  We were assigned to do an ethnography—a study of a sociological system—in this instance a church.  We had to study and write a report about things like, who did they say was in charge as opposed to was actually in charge and how did they say they made decision compared to how they actually made decisions.  There was one caveat, you had to choose a church that was unlike any you had ever been a part of; so my study partner and I got out the yellow pages and looked through the churches and decided on The Greater Soul Deliverance Apostolic Tabernacle and Revival Center in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.  We came to find out that it was named The Greater Soul Deliverance Apostolic Tabernacle and Revival Center because there was already a Soul Deliverance Apostolic Tabernacle and Revival Center—this one was clearly the greater one.  GSDAT was a Multi-racial, Jesus only congregation led by Bishop Booker and First Lady Booker.  There are lots of stories I could tell I want to tell you just one.  My study partner and I showed up for prayer service on Wednesday night and we walked into the back of an old downtown sanctuary that seated about 400.  We couldn’t see anybody, but we could hear everybody because they were all on their knees, elbows on the pew seats praying out loud at the same time.  You know the Korean way of praying outlined in the back of our hymnal where we all pray out loud together at the same time and we do it in respectful, considerate voices?  Well it was nothing like that!  They were all praying loudly, at the top of their lungs at the same time.  So this was about the time that I knew I was headed back to Tupelo to plant a new church and I had been working for the better part of a year on a vision or goal and so I found my way down the aisle and knelt down like the others on one of the first pews and said to God, “I have a vision for you God, I have an offer.  What if in the first 5 years of this new church we had 500 people who have come to faith in Christ or back to the church after being far away from you.”  I thought that is a pretty big deal!  That is a pretty awesome offer.  Not literally, but you imagine me sitting down across the desk from God and sliding my offer sheet across the desk to him, sitting back, folding my arms and saying, “How do you like that?”  And as audibly as I have ever heard the voice of God, he said to me, “Is that all?”  Is that all it is going to be about Bryan?  What you can do?  How many you can count?  What you can manufacture?  OR, OR, OR could I do something so amazing that when people see it they say, “That has got to be God because it isn’t that guy”?  And I repented and said, God I will never talk to you about numbers again, I want to be in an ongoing conversation about what it means to be faithful.

This is what Jesus means in 15:8 when he says, “By this my Father receives great glory; that you bear much fruit. 

This is The Orchard’s story—I could have never imagined what God had planned AND God wants to do something so amazing in your place and my place and our church that when people see it they say, “that must be God.” 

And lest you think I am simply talking about numbers of people here I would remind you that fruit is people introduced to Jesus, people growing up to be like Jesus, and people going out into the world to act like Jesus—so they can introduce people to Jesus.

This is what fruit looks like and it is the promised result when our church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, on mission, in the face of opposition, from an ongoing vibrant relationship with Jesus tell others about him as those who know him best!

Conclusion

We live in a World full of distractions…but in this age of distraction we must return to the clear call of Jesus.  We did not choose him, he chose us to go and bear fruit!  Hear the words of John Wesley in one of his 12 rules for preachers: “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work.

We live in a world of opposition to the message of Christ; in the power of the Holy Spirit we must faithfully persevere–Permit me to finish what I started earlier…one more day from Wesley’s journal—it started as all the others started and ended…

  • Sunday a.m., June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town; kick off the highway
  • Sunday p.m. June 2 – Afternoon service, preached in a pasture; 10,000 people came.

[pause]

In this age of distraction, answering a clear call, in the face of clear opposition, by walking a clearly marked path to faithfulness—so that we may tell the 10,000 people who show up about Jesus as those who know him best. 

When we do that, we will once again be a faithful, vibrant, Kingdom instrument in the hand of God.  Not before.  Not until.  Amen.

 

Opening Business at Annual Conference

Quilt-400Thursday afternoon, after the lunch break, the business sessions of Annual Conference began with the singing of “And Are We Yet Alive.”

We were welcomed by Jack Ewing, the Executive Director of Lake Junaluska who called the Western North Carolina Conference, “Easter Sunday at Lake Junaluska.”

Bishop Goodpaster and Rev. Kim Ingram led the conference through opening business that includes procedural matters, elections, a plan of organization and rules and the report of the Committee on Nominations.

This was followed by a report from Brett Loftis, the new CEO of The Children’s Home (See Video from The Crossnore School and The Children’s Home).

Carroll Harris, who works with Camping Ministries for the conference shared her update on camping ministries (Video shared on Thursday afternoon).

After the break, the conference heard a series of reports:

At the end of the afternoon session we were introduced to Dr. Elaine Heath who is the new Dean of Duke Divinity School.  She was a guest teacher at our 2013 Annual Conference.

 

 

Rev. Dr. James Howell Endorsed as Episcopal Nominee

JamesHowell-194x300Members of the 2016 Western North Carolina Conference voted unanimously to endorse the Rev. Dr. James Howell as the episcopal nominee.

He will be considered as an official candidate for bishop at the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference scheduled for July 13-15, 2016 at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Howell has been the pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C. since 2003.

Prior to Myers Park, he served twelve years at Davidson UMC in Davidson, N.C., five years at Plaza UMC in Charlotte and five years at Wesley Chapel UMC in Misenheimer, N.C.

He completed his Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Carolina in 1976, his Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in 1979, and his Ph.D. in Old Testament from Duke University in 1984. He is currently an adjunct professor of preaching at Duke Divinity School.

He was ordained a deacon in the Western North Carolina Conference in 1980, and ordained an elder in 1983.

His service within the conference and denomination includes being elected as a General Conference delegate for the past three quadrennia, and as a Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference delegate since 1996.  He has served as a member of the General Board of Church and Society since 2008, and has served as a representative of Methodism in the Methodist/Episcopal Dialogue on Full Communion in 2015, and a representative in the Catholic/Methodist Dialogue on Justification (2009-2012).

He is currently a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry for the Western North Carolina Conference, and has been a leader in the conference and in his local community in a variety of roles.

The Rev. Kim Ingram, the Conference Secretary, said,  “James has provided visionary leadership in the churches where he has served and they have experienced significant growth under his leadership. James has a passion for connecting the church with the community and for nurturing leadership.”

In his last two appointments he has seen tremendous growth in membership with a 40% increase at Myers Park UMC since 2003, and at Davidson UMC they grew from 400 members to 3200 over 12 years.

Howell is a prolific author with over 20 books published and numerous articles in journals and newspapers.  He has been a mentor to more than two dozen college students that have gone on to seminary under his guidance.

Jennifer Davis, the leader of the Western North Carolina delegation to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, remarked “James is a dear friend and a blessing to the local church.  I have felt first hand the gifts and graces he would bring to the office of bishop.”

He is married to Lisa Stockton, a community activist working for educational equity. They have three adult children, Sarah, a United Methodist pastor, Grace, and Noah.

Dr. William McClain- Opening Worship Sermon

McClain-400DO YOU LOVE JESUS: ANSWER OR RESPONSE?

by

William B. McClain
Mary Elizabeth Joyce Professor of Preaching and Worship, Emeritus
Wesley Theological Seminary
Washington, D.C.

Text: “… Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”…

John 21:15ff.

I am delighted to return to Lake Junaluska.  I was first here as a teenager 61 years ago with the Rev. Joseph Echols Lowery, the Rev. William Curtis Dobbins, Loretta Free, and DeWitt Dykes who was the next year my college roommate.  We were some of the first African Americans to come to Lake Junaluska after Junaluska  made the monumental  decision to practice integration.  It was even more monumental for my white male roommates — but a life changing experience for us all.  Nina Reeves from the North Alabama Conference made sure of that as she led us in moving and creative worship experiences  and then led  all of us into  square dancing — and I DO MEAN ALL! And that was truly a FIRST in more ways than one!

Because we are gathering as United Methodists on the Lake at Junaluska, long before I knew what the theme of this Conference would be,   I thought I would take us back to another Lake  — the Sea of Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee near the town of Tiberias where Jesus has his communion breakfast of bread and fish  with some of his disciples and raises three times that all important   and gut wrenching, probing  query  to Peter: “… Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  A matter which we all must face  — not just  fanatics, zealots, and right wing evangelicals, but a serious concern for all who would call themselves “Christians.”

Let me say before I begin that I am honored and humbled that your bishop and my friend would so graciously invite me to preach at this Western North Carolina Annual Conference.  Let me thank him for such a kind invitation.  But I wonder about his judgment, inviting a professor of preaching to preach!  Maybe he has hear what that old British wit had to say.  He said: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”  And I am a teacher of preaching at Wesley.  I have also lectured at every one of our United Methodist seminaries, taught at four other seminaries, and as best Jo Ann and I can do the math:  I have taught between 8,500 and 9,000 students who have gone into various aspects of the ministry.

I am retired after 35 years at Wesley, but as the old Gospel song says:

Lord, I don’t feel no ways tired;

I’ve come too far from, where I started from;

Nobody told me, the road would be easy,

But I don’t believe he brought me this far

To leave me.

Let us pray:

Now, Lord, despite the imperfections of this preacher’s

speech, and the glaring discrepancies in his character,

Grant that the monstrance of Your Gospel may be lifted up.

O Crucified and Risen Lord,

Give tongues of fire to preach your Word.

And the people said: A-MEN.

 

The communion breakfast is over after Jesus offered them fish and bread. As the Gospel writer records it: “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish…” [John 21:13].  But the event is not over.

Jesus breaks the silence as he must have looked over across those dying embers of that charcoal fire upon which he had prepared the communion breakfast and looked straight into the eyes of Simon Peter and called him by his whole name.  Now we know something serious is about to happen when your parents or your teacher call you by your full name, [William Bobby McClain!], so Jesus calls him the  name he had first called him on that same lake when he was first made a disciple. Or maybe he called him that former name because he was acting like his former self.   And so he says to Simon Peter:  “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Peter, assuming that that is a question gets ready to give an answer, but before he does, perhaps being at that same lake, that very spot where his life was changed,  brought back to Peter’s mind the first call.  Before he offers his answer,  maybe the coals of fire on which Jesus had cooked the fish reminded him of the coals on the fire in the courtyard where  he had denied the Lord.  In any case, he manages to get an answer out:  “Yes, Lord, you l=know I love you.”

What  did Jesus mean by saying loving  him “more than  these?”  Did he mean more than the fish, more than his nets and fishing equipment?  More than his occupation as a fisherman that he has returned to?  And that is a question we have to ask ourselves, too.  Do we love prestige and power more than we love Jesus?  Do we love the titles more than the tasks of serving?  I just wonder what could happen in our churches if we got rid of titles and offices and all of us saw ourselves as ministers.  And, instead of asking what office you hold, we asked each other: “How is your ministry going?” After all, to be baptized is to be called into the ministry.  St. Jerome said it more eloquently and succinctly  in the Fourth Century: “Baptism is the ordination of the laity.”

But I don’t think Jesus was asking Peter about things  — although he might have;  what I think he was asking Peter was whether he loved him more than the other disciples did.  Wasn’t that the claim that Peter had made earlier  that he would show more fidelity than the other disciples:  “they may leave you, Lord, but I will never forsake you. I will lay down my life for you” {John 13:36-38].    Well, Peter it is confession time!

Peter heard this statement as a question that he could glibly mouth an answer: “Do you love me  more than these?” and Jesus was really issuing a challenge: “If you love me,  feed my lambs”   It was not simply a question to be answered, but  a challenge requiring a response:  “Feed my lambs.” The role of the fisherman is transformed into the role of the shepherd. Take care of the children.

The most recent research I have seen tells us that three-fourths of those who personally and intentionally choose to embrace Christianity and the church do so before their 18th birthday!  Those are the lambs that Jesus is talking about —  and I don’t mind that we don’t use the label “Christian Education” anymore and use language such as Christian Formation as long as we are intentional in ministering to children and youth.

I believe that it is still true that “a nation is judged by how it treats its children.  Then why Is it  that  when cuts must be made, education is the first to go?  Is that  anybody with the money can go and buy AK.15 assault rifles and SIG Sauer MCX rifles?  Not to shoot deer or pheasants or wild turkeys, but children in schools  at Sandy Hook and San Bernadino, and children in theaters in Colorado, Our AME sisters and brother in Bible study and  prayer at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina a year ago tomorrow,  and 103 people enjoying their night life in Orlando, Florida.   What is the judgment on our nation that continues to allow assault weapons to be bought and sold to brutalize and  murder  our people?  Those who love Jesus more than  these should speak out and act or the rocks will cry out. I used to hear  Martin Luther King  say: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”  It is time for the church to speak out boldly and clearly less we betray that young and fearless prophet of ancient Galilee who continues to ask: Do you love me more than these?”

Peter was challenged  two more times and his answer is the same and Jesus” commission is the same:  If you love me, then “Feed my Sheep, Tend my sheep.” Peter is restored by God’s grace mediated in Jesus, the Christ and is told on the shores of the lake as he been before — for the Gospel of John begins with “follow Me” and ends with “Follow Me.”

If there is anyone or anything who or that is taking away our love of Jesus, then we love them more than we love him.  We cannot claim to love Jesus and continue to hate, to think we are superior to others who love differently and worship in a different style, and to claim special privilege.  He said it clearly:

“if you say you love me and hate your brother, you are a liar and  the truth is not in you!

But in the end, then, it not our love for Jesus, but rather His love for us, in that when we were yet sinners He died for us and became for us “Grace upon Grace”  — no cheap grace, but grace by cross of Calvary and the resurrection in that garden.

Marvelous Grace  of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mound outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

 

Clergy Session Notes

Ashley-Crowder-StanleyThe Executive Session of Clergy Members of the Western North Carolina Conference met at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2016 in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.

This includes all members of the clergy and the lay members of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

The session started with “singing our theology” with the Charles Wesley hymn, “Love Divine All Loves Excelling”, followed by a prayer by Bishop Goodpaster.

This was followed by a series of reports:

Sanctuary Counseling- see their PowerPoint

Brotherhood/Sisterhood- see their PowerPoint

Leadership Development- view the two videos: Leadership Development Promo and Peer Learning Promo

Big Sigh Ministries- see their PowerPoint

Rev. Ashley Crowder Stanley gave her report for the Board of Ordained Ministry.  She finished her term as president of the board for this quadrennium.

The session concluded with the traditional questions from The Discipline for the Executive Session, that includes approving the new classes of provisional candidates, the ordination classes and even those retiring.

 

Bishop Goodpaster speaks at Extension Ministries Luncheon Wednesday

Goodpaster-webOver 75 clergy gathered for the Extension Ministries and Beyond the Local Church Luncheon in the Kern Auditorium for lunch on Wednesday afternoon.

Bishop Goodpaster addressed the group for the last time before his retirement and he reflected on a number of personal and professional stories from the past and recently.

He mentioned that his very first appointment was in 1967 when he was a college student, and he did his very first funeral for the mother of the governor of Tennessee.  He remarked that the governor was very nice considering he didn’t know much about preaching or leading a funeral.

He completed his message talking about packing for the move to Atlanta in September, and how he and Deborah have discovered a number of old movies that they have collected over the years. Recently they have watched a number of them together.

He recommended two movies during his moments with the clergy for their relativity to working in the church.

“One Foot in Heaven” (1941) actually quotes from The Discipline and is set in a Methodist Church in the early 1900’s.

See the trailer below:

The second movie he recommended was Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938).

“You Can’t Take It with You is a 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, and Edward Arnold. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winningplay of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart,[3] the film is about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.” (Wikipedia)

Bishop Goodpaster spoke about playing the grandfather in a community theater adaptation of this story while he was serving in an appointment in Mississippi.

Here is a preview below:

 

2016-17 Clergy Appointments

appoinmentBelow you will find the projected appointments as of June 11, 2016.  They will be “fixed” by Bishop Goodpaster on Sunday morning of Annual Conference.  Any changes will be announced at that time. 

If you find an error in this list that needs to be corrected, please contact your district office.

2016-17 Western North Carolina Conference Appointment List (07/21/16)

The most recent version of the list will always be kept current on this page on the main site: