Why I Chose United Methodist and Itineracy

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, ‘Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?’

He replied, ‘The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
— Acts 1:6-8, NLT

I went to seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary, which is not Methodist, but Wesleyan. United Methodists was the largest denomination present of the student population. I had classmates who were also from the Nazarene church, Salvation Army church, American Orthodox Church, Free Methodist Church, and many other Wesleyan traditions. One common question I got from people who weren't United Methodist was why I wanted to be an Elder in the United Methodist Church and be a part of the Itineracy system.

What is the Itineracy?

I'll start by explaining what the Itineracy system is. The Itineracy can be defined as:

a distinctive pattern of deploying clergy for service in United Methodist congregations.
— www.gbhem.org

In other words, it's our appointment system where Elders (or those of us who have accepted the vows to preach and serve the sacraments) are appointed to churches every year. The thing that is most commonly misstated is when a person's appointment is to a new church or charge, people say, "He/She was reappointed," when a person moves. That is true, but every pastor that year was reappointed.

You see, our Bishop appoints every pastor every year, whether it be to the church he/she is currently serving or to a different church. No matter what, the person is appointed. The language that is more accurate is that the pastor was appointed to a new church or moved.

Why Did I Choose this System?

For so many, when you look at the system from the outside, it seems stressful and it feels like there's no rhyme or reason to things. But, I love our system. The reason I love it is because our Bishop looks at every church in our conference and prays about where God is leading the conference as a whole and each individual church. Then, he asks God for direction in where pastors should be in the coming year. He then speaks to his District Superintendents (D.S.) about the churches and pastors in their districts and how they are all doing.

This system reminds me that my work in the local church is important, but it is also a part of something bigger. The vow I took at commissions is to go where God sends me, when he feels it is time. Our system relies on the lay persons in each church to help carry the spirit of the church through the years and to guide us.


Bishop Graves, our resident bishop, spoke these words in his message to our conference yesterday,

I know for those moving and for those churches receiving a new pastor, this can be a stressful time. But instead of allowing the anxiety to overcome us, what would it look like to focus on the opportunity we have to live into God’s call for our personal ministry and for our churches? Change is always hard but it also presents a unique chance to start fresh and positively impact our local churches.
— Bishop David Graves, Apr. 24, 2017

You can watch all of Bishop Grave's message here. I'm praying for my future and your future. I'm praying that God will bless Navarre and bring forth new leaders through this time of change, helping the church stay strong. Ultimately, I'm praying for God's Kingdom on earth.

Dying Well

Do you never think about [death]? Why do you not? Are you never to die? Nay, it is appointed for all men to die. And what comes after? Only heaven or hell. Will the not thinking of death, put it farther off? No; not a day; not one hour.
— Rev. John Wesley, "A Word to an Unhappy Woman”

This might seem to be a strange post for Holy Week but I think it's a perfect one, because the reason we, as Methodist, die well, is because of Christ's death and resurrection. Let me back up and explain.

Living Like You're Dying

The early methodists were known as people who died well. They had grace and assurance of God's love and forgiveness for them, so they did not fear death. Furthermore, John Wesley (the founder of Methodism), made it a point to share the stories of those who died and went on to glory. Wesley knew that if we are going to die well, then we must live well. We must live every day honoring God so that we are ok if it is our last.

The country song "Live Like you are Dying" has it right in the title, but wrong in the words. It's not about taking extra vacations (although you should spend plenty of time with your family). We should live every day in a way that if we were to die, we would be proud of the lives we lived when we stood before God.

Lent and Easter

If you read my post on Lent, then you know that Lent is really about a time for us to mourn Christ's death. If you go to an Ash Wednesday service, you'll hear something like, "From ashes you came, and to ashes you will return. Repent and you will be forgiven." The point of this is to remember that we all will die one day.

When Holy Week comes (the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday), we really crank things up. On Maundy Thursday, we relive Christ's last supper in different ways, then on Good Friday, many people go into mourning on an extreme level. Many churches cover the cross in their sanctuaries. The Catholic church always cover's the crucifix and it's the one time the Christ candle is burned out and the tabernacle is emptied. Christ has left the building.

But then, on Easter morning, Christ overcomes death and returns to life! For us as Christians, this is our reminder every year that when we die, our death isn't permanent. One day, we will be physically resurrected and rejoined with everyone we love in the life everlasting.

Ushering into Glory

A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure to usher a young girl, just a few years younger than me, into glory with her family. I always consider this to be one of the most unique honors I have as a pastor because it's a living testimony of this girl's life. I get to listen to her family share of the life she lived for God and we get to ask God to welcome her into his loving arms. In the end, we pray that he will care for her until we all get to meet her again one day.

This is the hope of our faith. It's the most beautiful thing to watch people, who in their grief, still see God at work. I want to live my life in a way that people will look back on it and know that I spent every day dedicated to God. This was one of the things Wesley wrote in his death accounts, and I hope someone can say it about me when the Lord takes me home:

She was a woman of faith and prayer; in life and death adorning the doctrine of God her Saviour.
— John Wesley

60th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women

This year is the 60th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Methodist tradition. It was such an honor to be commissioned as a provisional elder on such a momentous year. In honor of the 60th Anniversary, I thought I would share some of the histories of Methodism and women with you, and when Methodism came to the point of ordaining women.

Susanna Wesley

Susanna Wesley

From the beginning of the Methodism movement, women always played a significant role. I believe it was rooted in John Wesley's (the founder of Methodism) mother, Susanna. Susanna Wesley spoke English, Greek, Latin, and French, and educated all 17 of her children. Her girls were required to read the same number of hours a day as they did house chores. Susanna was strong minded even in politics, and often did not agree with Samuel, her husband.

In 1770(1), Mary Evans Thorne was appointed to lead a class meeting in Philadelphia. She is believed to have been the first woman class leader in America. Class meetings were much like our small groups or Sunday School classes today. They were the foundation of the Methodist movement and the place where people came to know Christ for the first time.

In 1781(1), John Wesley shocked his peers when he authorized Sarah Mallet to preach saying that she must "proclaim the doctrines and adhere to the disciplines that all Methodist preachers were expected to accept." Notice that he did not ordain her, but he authorized her. She was allowed to preach, but she was not given authority with the sacraments.

Pheobe Palmer

Pheobe Palmer

In 1835(2), Pheobe Palmer was leading prayer meetings out of her home in England. She became transformed by the prayer meetings, and her husband Walter and herself started to preach throughout England. Pheobe and Walter traveled preaching, but Pheobe was the better known of the two. Pheobe was also a writer. Her best-known book was The Way of Holiness, which is considered the foundation for the Holiness movement. She also inspired the temperance leader Frances Willard and the co-founder of the Salvation Army Catherine Booth.

Rev. Maude Keister Jenson

Rev. Maude Keister Jenson

In 1956(3), the General Conference of the Methodist Church adopted the full clergy rights for women. Maude Keister Jensen was the first woman to be ordained. Maud was a missionary to Korea(3) and a member of the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference. Before this General Conference's approval of full clergy rights for women, women were ordained as "local preachers" and appointed as supply pastors, but were not giving voting rights in the annual conference nor were they guaranteed pastoral appointments. She died at the age of 97 in October of 1988.

It's interesting to note, when we lay the history of women in Methodism alongside the history of the United Methodist Church, the ordination of women predates the official beginning of the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church started in 1968 when the Methidst Church (1939) and the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1946) merged. That means that the United Methodist Church has only been in existence for 48 years.

1. The United Methodist Church http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/timeline-of-women-in-methodism

2. General Commission on Archives and History http://www.gcah.org/history/united-methodist-church-timeline

3. United Methodist News Service http://archive.wfn.org/1998/10/msg00122.html

Images: Used according to Creative Commons License.

Being a Methodist Means Being in a Small Groups

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
— Matthew 5:48, (ESV)

Do you know what a disciple is? James Harnish defines a disciple as a follower of Jesus, whose life is centering on loving God and loving others.  That seems simple enough.  That’s what the church has been trying to do from its beginning.  The New Testament is filled with stories of people giving up their lives to follow Jesus or become part of his church.  Why then, has our society struggled with being like Christ so much?  Our founder, John Wesley, felt that small groups were the way that a person became more like Christ.  He is credited with being the first to form a small group. 

It started out with his own small group in college, called the “holy club.”  He named it so, because those attending wanted to be “holy.”  Another way to explain it is, they wanted to become more like Jesus everyday and were committed to helping each other.  Wesley grew so much through the experience that he started “holy clubs” everywhere he went to preach.  People were radically transformed.  These groups were not about intellectual learning, but about soul transformation. 

God made humanity to be in relationship with one another.  We seek people out who have the same interests as we do, or who are in the same stage of life.  We form families when our biological family is too far away.  We seek relationships.  Wesley realized that what the church was missing in the day-to-day activities of life.  I call it, living life together.

Our society today does "church" much the same as it did in the 1700's.  Many people come to church on Sunday morning, and then have no connection with the church until the next Sunday.  To be a Methodist means to be in a small group.  Only in a small group, can a person live life as the church, everyday and everywhere.

I challenge you to become involved in a small group.  Find a place where you can grow closer to Christ.  Together we will start you on your path to being engaged and nourished, just as our founder, John Wesley did.  God loves us so much that he wants us to be the best we can be.  He wants us to be holy.