Friday Night/Saturday Morning in London: Life, Death, and Hijacked Airplanes

Family time here in the Friday night/Saturday London adventure. Adriana, after cooking her usual three meals a day plus snacks all week plus cookies for a bake sale at the school, deserved a night off in the kitchen last night. Jonathan ordered in Thai food from his favorite restaurant. I happened to be in the room when he phoned them–he didn’t even tell the person who answered his name or address–they know him so well that they recognize his voice (or his American accent) and know where he lives. Such a nice sense of welcome that connection gives. A bottle of wine…

Three Months, Twenty-Nine Days

I woke, way too early with a memory-flooded mind on what should have been a leisurely, sleep-late, relaxed, slow-waking morning. A friend has recently asked me to offer some happy memories of my years as pastor as I do this pre-retirement journaling.  I agreed to do so. As I began that task, however, I found those memories all tinged with some sadness and a lingering, inescapable sense of failure. I suspect part of that failure-flavor comes from my own tendency to melancholy places. But I think more comes from facing the reality that we as clergy work with impossible job descriptions.  I…

Portrait of a Pastor

I received a gift this morning.  A gift so full of love and hope that I am still nearly breathless. Several years ago, Vicki Attaway made her way to the church I serve, having heard that there was a female pastor there and that she might find it welcoming and comfortable.  Within a short period of time, I discovered that Vicki, as am I, is a graduate of Rice University. An immediate and unbreakable bond formed. There are few of us and even fewer women of our generation who can say that. In time, Vicki’s love for God and willingness to serve…

A Modern Take on Luke 15–Probably Heretical, Possibly Shedding Fresh Light on a Shocking Story

The Complaint A group of VERY IMPORTANT church leaders began to grumble about Jesus.  “He ignores us, the movers and shakers, the ones divinely given the leadership of The Church. Instead, he takes his meals with people who don’t even give $5 a year to our coffers, haven’t partaken of the sacraments in years AND even support gay marriage and homosexuals as ordained! The church will decline in numbers even further if they get their way.  Why isn’t he dining with us in the hotel conference room so we can form a new strategy on how to build growing, vital, money-generating congregations…

Local Shopping, Personal Service, the Power of Connection, and the Art of Discipleship

A few weeks ago, in a need to do something that I could start and finish, I cleaned the stove. When I took off the light cover from the stove vent hood so I could wash it, it promptly broke. “No problem,” I thought.  “I’ll just get another one.” Placing the broken on in the car, I decided that the next time I was near one of the large, big-box, home improvements stores, I would get a replacement. A few days later, I the opportunity, so brought it with me and began to look for assistance.  After a long wait to flag…

The Consumer-Driven Church Model, Part Three

Note: this is part three of a three part series. Part One is here; Part Two is here. Three Things to Keep in Mind First: not all growth is good growth.  When effectiveness is measured only by numerical growth, we make the fatal mistake of assuming that just because something grows rapidly, it is doing so under the blessing of God.  All gardeners and physicians know this:  rapid growth doesn’t necessarily mean good, healthy or desired growth. Second:  the process of making disciples is a long, slow, and often painful one.  A disciple is one who is actually willing to walk the…

The Consumer-Driven Church Model, Part Two

Note: this is the second of a three-part series.  Part one is here; part three is here.   The Church is In Crisis I suspect everyone agrees that The United Methodist Church, as a world-wide organization, is in crisis.  Our membership grows older and the death tsunami looms. Few churches see a vital future. People in the US church, who have been the principle financial support of the worldwide church, are moving away from denominational religious structures. The crisis leads to pressure to have numbers that look good. We’re no different in that sense from any business that must please its stockholders…

The Consumer-Driven Church Model, Part One

I recently walked out of a local electronics store in some frustration.  I have an older inkjet printer that needed new ink cartridges.  Now, ink cartridges are some of the biggest consumer rip-offs ever devised, so I wasn’t in a great mood when I walked in.  My irritation grew when I realized that my aged printer does not have its exact model number indicated on any of the multitudes of printer cartridges available. Two different sales staff tried to help; each came up with a different solutions.  Both admitted that if I bought a cartridge, put it in the printer and it…

Judicial Council Decisions: The Emperor Has No Clothes

The United Methodist Church cannot be re-formed. It’s over for us with our current structure. The Judicial Council’s decision to revoke the involuntary retirement of Bishop Earl Bledsoe over issues of violation of procedural minutia found in the Book of Discipline (not over the question of his effectiveness, which was not being ruled upon) has forever made this clear. It is over. It’s easy to get frustrated with the Judicial Council for the rulings of the last few months. Their work has thoroughly reversed decisions made by General and Jurisdictional Conferences. However, I think that would be a mistake. They’ve done the United Methodist…

Dead Soil Produces Dead Souls: Thoughts on the Toxic Church

I hear the word “toxic” bandied about all the time, both applied to people and to churches.  The word means poisonous, of course.  Poison is “a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health” (from dictionary.com).  So if we are in a “toxic” relationship or toxic church, we are in a situation that promotes the opposite of what most of us want to experience, which is life and health. Not too long ago, this question popped up in an online discussion board primarily for United Methodist clergy: “Why do so many conferences allow problem churches to continue…