Seminary vantage point
Wesley Seminary’s Ministerial Education Fund (MEF) distribution was mentioned in the January/February Good News article: “Money Well Spent? The Future of Theological Education.” I want to share the perspective from my institution. The revised MEF formula is weighted toward both the number of ordinands (based on a three-year average) and the number of United Methodist students who have become Certified Candidates. To begin to understand any school’s distribution would require looking at both the number of ordinands and the number of students. But this mathematical analysis is insufficient. Here’s the bigger picture.
Wesley gives preference in our scholarship program to our United Methodist students and, even as the MEF distribution has declined, we have increased our financial aid to them, totaling $783,958 last year. The UM Church is the principal beneficiary of our Lewis Center for Church Leadership, under the direction of Lovett Weems, with a budget of $533,000. We chose last year to spend $341,000 on programs to prepare United Methodist pastors from the Central Conferences, at the request of their bishops. And we have expanded our offerings in the Course of Study. By comparison, our total MEF distribution was $1,354,000 last year.
Beyond that, 60 percent of our full-time faculty are UM, as are all the members of my senior executive team. At least 66 percent of the members of our Board of Governors are required to be United Methodist and our chair is a pastor who leads the Virginia Conference delegation. Each of us serves the church at all levels and we work closely with Cabinets and Boards of Ordained Ministry.
Committing resources to programs like these – offering preferential scholarships, hiring faculty and staff, and recruiting board members – are all long-term investments that we are able to make because of the surety of MEF support we receive from the church which established us, and to which we are responsible. I know the other 12 proprietary schools of our denomination have similar stories.
Wesley Theological Seminary
Let me begin by saying how much I have appreciated the past few issues of Good News. The November/December issue continues to call attention to the aging and thinning of our congregations.
Dare I suggest that we should examine again our Mission Statement. So long as we focus on “transformation of the World” we will be kept in constant tension – and contention. Our recent national election demonstrated how polarized the citizens of our great land have become.
Our church is divided on similar issues. Our efforts are expended on utopian ideals of social justice regardless of scriptural support, or using Scripture to avoid caring for a hurting society. We can neither ignore clear commands of Scripture regarding abortion, sexual impurity, and homosexual practice, nor can we afford to ignore the commands both under Moses and in Paul’s instruction to the Church to care for the less fortunate.
If we cannot agree on what the goal of the world’s transformation should be, we are spinning our wheels, digging ever deeper into the mud.
I suggest our mission is rather to “make disciples of Jesus Christ totally committed to intimate, obedient fellowship with our Lord and Savior.” Only then will the Holy Spirit’s sovereign will transform our church and have, then, any hope of influencing the unbelieving world in which we live. Perhaps we would do better to remember our first mission statement, Matthew 28:20, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
Our goal is too small. We are, or should be, seeking to partner with our Sovereign King.
The article, “Will Our Church Go Off the Cliff?,” by Thomas A. Lambrecht in the November/December 2012 issue was excellent. I showed it to my pastor and asked if it could be copied and given to everyone on our Leadership Team. I applaud the efforts of Good News to try to get the UM Church back to its Scriptural roots but sometimes when I come home from some of our meetings I do wonder if the denomination is already too liberal and too infiltrated with the world to be brought back.
I realize that the pastors are urged by the district superintendents and superintendents are urged by their bishops to do everything the bureaucracy sets forth, but at the same time, I wonder why they can’t seem to see (or acknowledge) what is happening.
My first question concerns how we can have “Vital Congregations” without teaching and discipling the present congregation? Possibly over half of our congregations are what many would term “pew-warmers.” They don’t have a vital, growing relationship with the Lord themselves, therefore, they aren’t interested in any reach-out programs. So much emphasis is being put on numbers and “doing” and too little on “being.”
I appreciated the article on John Wesley in the January/February issue. I can’t help but wondering what he would think of what the UM denomination has become today.
Keep doing your best for Him. It encourages me to know there are still some United Methodists out there that believe the Scriptures are the Word of God and are to be obeyed.
Rose M. Doubrava
Not Civil Rights
Bishop Sally Dyck was quoted in the January 14, 2013 edition of Perspective sent out from Good News: “Marriage equality is a civil rights issue; it provides for all what is afforded to some. … Because I believe in marriage, it’s my belief it will be a benefit for this law to pass.”
I was very disappointed in the response to the Dyck statement that no one challenged her statement that “Marriage equality is a civil rights issue.”
Have we like the frog in the frying pan become so acclimatized to the hue and cry of the “progressives” that we no longer react to the erroneous statements made by the progressives?
Were this issue a purely humanist issue, I would not now be commenting. I would have to agree that according to humankind’s laws passed by a culture that largely ignores God and passes laws to replace God’s will, marriage equality is a civil rights or at least a rights issue of some sort.
There is one huge problem that prevents this from being so. God! God created the marriage institution, mankind did not. God defined what constituted marriage, mankind does not get to do so (at least not permanently). God has provided from the beginning the precepts and concepts man is to live by. Mankind should not supplant those God given conditions and definitions. Having tried to replace God all these many centuries, mankind should not be surprised when God changes all of mankind’s meticulously crafted laws that supplant God’s will.
It really doesn’t matter if humanity deems some issue from the Lord, “not fair.” We don’t get to make that judgment against our Lord. Our job is to follow him, not question him.
His responsibility is to “direct our paths” if we will allow by our free will, for him to do so.
Therefore because God’s perfect will supersedes human law and will, “marriage equality” for people who choose marriage outside of God’s institution, is not a civil rights or any other rights issue. Would that Good News had said so.