March-April 2012

Editorial: A prayer for a problem unseen

By Rob Renfroe
As you can imagine, everyone has their concerns. The boards are worried that they will lose much of their autonomy (and their budgets). Others are hesitant because they suspect that with a smaller board of directors there will not be proportional ethnic and gender representation. Others fear that having a bishop as the denomination’s “CEO” will put too much power in the hands of the Episcopacy. Pardon me, if I repeat Mr. Chesterton. “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem.”

Christ as a leadership crisis

By William H. Willimon
This summer our church will elect bishops, those who will lead our church in the ministry of oversight. Everyone agrees that we currently suffer a “crisis of leadership.” Our numbers indicate that we have been under led, or led in the wrong sorts of ways. Our indicators of institutional health say that we need to do some things differently. But I remind you that the first and most enduring “crisis of leadership” is named “Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ not only assaulted our definitions of “God” and “Messiah,” but also disrupted and challenged our notions of leadership. From the first he predicted that the people in charge would reject him. Those early predictions are quickly validated by the response of the authorities to Jesus.

Church leadership and restructure

By Thomas Edward Frank
The approach of General Conference, with many proposals on the table for significant change in the church and reform of our practices, brings to the forefront again our responsibility as faithful United Methodists to ask questions — good, searching, critical questions — that will help advance our church in directions we want it to go. So I want to pose two kinds of questions for conversation about plans for restructuring the general church, arising out of my teaching and research about UM traditions and polity and more broadly in the field of church leadership and administration.

Churches reach out after swath of storms

The twisters that ripped through the Midwest February 28 and 29 ushered in another barrage of severe weather March 2 that killed at least 39 people in five states. But even as United Methodists mourned losses, they continued to reach out.

UMW membership continues dramatic decline

By Liza Kittle
United Methodist Women (UMW) membership has continued its decades-long annual decline, according to 2010 local church statistics just released by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). UMW lost 24,608 individual members and 509 local units in one year. The previous year (2009) saw a 54,000 member decline.

Statistics: What do they really tell us?

By Thomas A. Lambrecht
In 1891 Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke came up with the phrase “there are three degrees of untruth — a fib, a lie, and statistics.” Statistics can be very valuable, but one must be careful about the conclusions one draws from statistics.
This is nowhere more apparent than the latest issue of the Flyer put out by the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. The headline reads, “Women and U.S. people of color lose representation at General Conference.” If that were true, it would most certainly be worth our attention.

Book review: How we lost our blush

Review by James V. Heidinger II
More than a decade ago, Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, wrote that the “sexual revolution will possibly prove to be the most destructive revolution in history.” After reading Karen Booth’s new book, Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution (Bristol House, Ltd., 2012), I am convinced Kreeft was right.

Speaking to teenagers: Express yourself

By Duffy Robbins
Here’s an assignment: go stand in front of a mirror and express the following phrases using only your face:
1. “Are you sure it’s triplets?”
2. “What does it mean when my screen goes blank, and smoke appears from the left rear corner of the computer?”
3. “What do you mean there’s another husband I don’t know about? I don’t care if he’s a great guy.”
4. “Why, yes, I have experienced entire sanctification.”

South Sudan: Ministry in a new nation

By Reed Hoppe
The world’s newest nation is reveling in independence, but still desperate for peace. South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011 after 99 percent of southern Sudanese voted to separate from Sudan. Sudan was home to Africa’s longest civil war. Fighting began in 1955 when the southern army officers mutinied. There was a brief respite during a peace agreement from 1972 until 1983, but then the civil war resumed.

Taking heaven by storm

By Steve Beard
According to Bangs, McKendree “was absorbed in the interest of his subject; his voice rose gradually until it sounded like a trumpet. The effect was overwhelming.…The house rang with irrepressible responses; many hearers fell prostrate to the floor. An athletic man sitting by my side fell as if shot by a cannon ball…Such astonishing effect, so sudden and overwhelming, I seldom or never saw before…There was a halo of glory around the preacher’s head.”