Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A New Bishop for Iowa

Iowa's new episcopal leader will be Bishop Laurie Haller.  She was elected on ballot 13 at the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference on Thursday, July 14.

 Bishop Laurie Haller has served in the Michigan area since 1982.  She was serving as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Birmingham in the Detroit Annual Conference when she was elected to the Episcopacy on July 14.   

Prior to her appointment to First UMC, she served six years as district superintendent of the Grand Rapids District in the West Michigan Conference, where she led a campaign to raise $500,000 plus a $500,000 matching gift to build the 24-bed Ubuntu Retreat Center at Africa University in Zimbabwe.  Her previous appointments were as co-senior pastor of First United Church in Grand Rapids for thirteen years, pastor of Aldersgate and Plainfield UMCs in Grand Rapids, pastor of Hart United Methodist Church, associate pastor of Ludington United Methodist Church, and pastor of Ogdensburg United Methodist Church in Traverse City.   

Bishop Haller received a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she spent her junior year studying sacred music at the Berliner Kirchenmusikschule in West Berlin, Germany.  She also received a Master of Music degree in organ performance from the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music, and a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. 

  During her years at Yale, Bishop Haller was the director of music at Stratford United Methodist Church in Stratford, Connecticut.  She was ordained in the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1982 and transferred her ordination credentials to the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1987.   

Bishop Haller served eight years on the Board of Ordained Ministry in the West Michigan Conference, including four years as chairperson.  Prior to her election as bishop, she had served on the Michigan Area Committee on the Episcopacy.  

Bishop Haller was elected as a General Conference delegate from the West Michigan Conference in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004 and 1996 (alternate), and as a Jurisdictional Conference delegate in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1996.  She is a trustee at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, was a director of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry from 2000-2008, and, until her election served as a member of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference Committee on the Episcopacy.    

Bishop Haller has been a Bible Study teacher at the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference (2015), a preacher at Lakeside Chautauqua in Ohio (2015), preacher at Epworth Heights in Ludington, Michigan (2009, 2004, 1997), and a preacher and lecturer at Bay View Assembly in Petoskey, Michigan (2010, 2002).  She was chosen to participate in the Academy of Preaching and was the recipient of a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment in 2000.  

Bishop Haller is a prolific writer whose essays and articles have appeared in the Michigan Christian Advocate, Worship Arts, United Methodist Reporter, Ministry Matters, UM Insight, the United Methodist News Service Daily Digest, MIConnect, and Faith in Action.

- See more at: http://www.iaumc.org/newsdetail/meet-bishop-laurie-haller-5366726#sthash.8WagCkdM.dpuf


A New Bishop for Iowa

Iowa's new episcopal leader will be Bishop Laurie Haller.  She was elected on ballot 13 at the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference on Thursday, July 14.

 Bishop Laurie Haller has served in the Michigan area since 1982.  She was serving as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Birmingham in the Detroit Annual Conference when she was elected to the Episcopacy on July 14.   

Prior to her appointment to First UMC, she served six years as district superintendent of the Grand Rapids District in the West Michigan Conference, where she led a campaign to raise $500,000 plus a $500,000 matching gift to build the 24-bed Ubuntu Retreat Center at Africa University in Zimbabwe.  Her previous appointments were as co-senior pastor of First United Church in Grand Rapids for thirteen years, pastor of Aldersgate and Plainfield UMCs in Grand Rapids, pastor of Hart United Methodist Church, associate pastor of Ludington United Methodist Church, and pastor of Ogdensburg United Methodist Church in Traverse City.   

Bishop Haller received a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she spent her junior year studying sacred music at the Berliner Kirchenmusikschule in West Berlin, Germany.  She also received a Master of Music degree in organ performance from the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music, and a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. 

  During her years at Yale, Bishop Haller was the director of music at Stratford United Methodist Church in Stratford, Connecticut.  She was ordained in the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1982 and transferred her ordination credentials to the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1987.   

Bishop Haller served eight years on the Board of Ordained Ministry in the West Michigan Conference, including four years as chairperson.  Prior to her election as bishop, she had served on the Michigan Area Committee on the Episcopacy.  

Bishop Haller was elected as a General Conference delegate from the West Michigan Conference in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004 and 1996 (alternate), and as a Jurisdictional Conference delegate in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1996.  She is a trustee at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, was a director of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry from 2000-2008, and, until her election served as a member of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference Committee on the Episcopacy.    

Bishop Haller has been a Bible Study teacher at the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference (2015), a preacher at Lakeside Chautauqua in Ohio (2015), preacher at Epworth Heights in Ludington, Michigan (2009, 2004, 1997), and a preacher and lecturer at Bay View Assembly in Petoskey, Michigan (2010, 2002).  She was chosen to participate in the Academy of Preaching and was the recipient of a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment in 2000.  

Bishop Haller is a prolific writer whose essays and articles have appeared in the Michigan Christian Advocate, Worship Arts, United Methodist Reporter, Ministry Matters, UM Insight, the United Methodist News Service Daily Digest, MIConnect, and Faith in Action.

- See more at: http://www.iaumc.org/newsdetail/meet-bishop-laurie-haller-5366726#sthash.8WagCkdM.dpuf


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Message from District Superintendent Harlan Gillespie

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

 Bishop Ough, President of the Council of Bishops, has issued a statement on the election of Rev. Karen Oliveto of Glide Memorial UMC of San Francisco to the Episcopacy by the Western Jurisdiction. Rev. Oliveto was one of three nominees to the Episcopacy in two different jurisdictions who were described as openly gay or lesbian. This is the link to Bishop Ough's statement. I commend this statement to you so that we all might be better informed as to what this may or may not mean as well as to be in prayer for one another and for the church, the body of Christ.
http://unitedmethodistreporter.com/2016/07/16/council-of-bishops-president-issues-statement-on-oliveto-election/



The Good News Movement has released this statement about Bishop Oliveto's election and assignment:

http://goodnewsmag.org/2016/07/western-jurisdiction-elects-karen-oliveto-as-bishop/ 

 The Reconciling Church Network has released this statement about Bishop Oliveto's election and assignment:

http://www.rmnetwork.org/newrmn/bishopkarenoliveto/ 

 I offer these links to you not for the endorsement of a particular viewpoint, but as resources for you and for the conversations that may come about in the days ahead that will add to our continued conversations and prayers. I have been aware that some of our colleagues have not been able to receive information such as this in a timely manner.

 Above all, no matter your personal perspective, I encourage prayer an dialogue with God and each other rather than dialogue with God about each other in all matters of the church as beloved members of the body of Christ.

 Grace and Peace,

 Harlan Gillespie

 Conference Superintendent
North Central District
Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church
 515-975-6005
 harlan.gillespie@iaumc.org<mailto:harlan.gillespie@iaumc.org>

Honoring Your Still Small Voice by Stephanie Cramer

Honoring Your Still Small Voice

            The still small voice of God is one of my favorite ways of understanding how the Spirit leads us. The power behind the still small voice of God is that it forces humanity to turn inward for direction rather than outward where society is more than eager to give us direction. The only reference to the still small voice in Scripture comes to us following the grand story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. It’s a great story and I encourage you to read it again. You’ll find the story in 1 Kings 18:20-39 and you’ll find God speaking with Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-12. Pay close attention to the contradiction that occurs between the two readings: the great events of the divine battle between Elijah and the other prophets in chapter 18 and the following diminutive way that God interacts with Elijah one to one – the still small voice in chapter 19. Anytime you have such opposites in Scripture pay attention, it’s there specifically to grab your attention. God doesn’t need the bold gestures that the prophets of Baal (a false god/gods) and their followers needed to prove divine power and perfection; God’s full power is equally found in the smallest of things. If only we will learn to filter out the loud attention-grabbing noise of society and learn to focus inward, where God is continually speaking to us. Following that still small voice is just about as bold and as powerful as a person can get.

Anyone who has listened to my crazy life story knows that my life seems very chaotic; like a quilt of experiences that a 5-year old has sewn together instead of a well thought out quilt crafted by an expert quilter where every piece fits perfectly, both physically and aesthetically. In order to fully appreciate my dedication to the still small voice that is meant to guide us through our daily lives, picture the 5-year olds’ quilt and know that sometimes it is here in the chaos that God molds us. Over the past 20+ years of my adult life I have bounced from job to job and place to place. I am the one in the family who seems untethered, without a plan, reckless and unstable. I came to terms with the realization that this is who I am on the outside, but not at all who I am on the inside and the chaos is what God is allowing in order to build my strengths. Why the change in focus, from outside appearances to inner reality? Simple…I appreciate and reap the benefits of a life almost completely guided by the still small voice of God; the still small voice leading me, rather than the noise of society trying to fit me into a “perfect” societal mold. As I embark on the next 20+ years of my life (slightly more goal focused and aware) I see how the diverse and ill-fitting pieces of my quilt have finally come together to form a piece of art that could only be divinely crafted. I understand and honor my commitment to the still small voice that I have followed for most of my life.

            When you scan back through your unique set of experiences what do you see? A beautiful award winning quilt, meticulously set on course through a plan you crafted in your early adult life? A plan that you stick with regardless of your personal happiness or misery? Are you so afraid to follow the promptings you receive from the still small voice that you feel paralyzed? Maybe you’re so outwardly focused that you can’t even hear the still small voice. Good news, you are not alone! Listen to those around you as they express deep unhappiness in the various aspects of their lives. See how overly scheduled our lives are and our need to keep busy to help distract us from our misery.  Look at the programs we watch on television, they often mirror the way society feels and what currently motivates us. Whether your personal quilt is perfect or chaotic the important question is: Does it honor God’s intentions for you?

            God’s intentions are often communicated through the still small voice, yet how do you hear the still small voice? How do you recognize it for what it is? Brother Lawrence, a Christian monk in the 17th century, heard it through everyday tasks, for he was a lowly dishwasher at a monastery. His life plan was to be a monk in the Carmelite tradition but he failed to meet the requirements. Focusing inward, Lawrence worked to find purpose and contentment simply washing the monks’ dishes for the rest his life; the entire time listening to the still small voice of God. Lawrence’s advantage over ours is that he was part of an extremely contemplative life that only focused inward, with unending periods of quietness; something that we find extremely difficult in our rushed modern lives. However, given our disadvantage today and even our fondness of distractions, hearing the still small voice of God is just as easy today as it was in Lawrence’s time and even in Elijah’s time. Sit outside and close your eyes. Just listen. Don’t think and don’t allow your mind to wander. Meditation and yoga are other great activities that can help you learn to quiet the mind and the outside world. Maybe you like to craft, quilting perhaps? Hiking. Fishing. Anything that promotes contemplation. Interior quietness, that’s the goal. That’s where God can be found.  It will take time, but eventually you will hear, maybe only feel, the still small voice. And once you connect with that voice (which we all have) it will make all the difference in the world to you. You will have learned how to fully connect with the Spirit, with God, with your divine indwelling through His still small voice.

With love and compassion to all who are distracted,
Stephanie Cramer

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Praying for Dallas

Praying for Dallas


I weep over these news reports that almost are unreal…but they are real.  I know Jesus weeps, even as he wept over Lazarus in Jerusalem.  I believe Jesus weeps at the loss of innocent lives, in particular police officers, sworn to serve and protect and are made vulnerable as they are trying to provide protection to whose who peacefully march, only to become targets of evil snipers.  It’s hatred at its worst.  It’s a sad day for all of the human family as we grieve.  Their wives are grieving.  Their children are grieving.  Their parents are grieving.  And the community is grieving at the loss of its police officers.

 I think we have to be unapologetic in our commitment to honor all people…to be peacemakers…to proclaim that violence is not the way of Christian living.  I think we also ought to pay particular attention to those in our communities – I think that I heard on the news that there is something like 15,000 independent police departments in the United States, many of them in much smaller communities than Dallas.  Every day men and women put on uniforms and go to work with the anticipation and the expectation that they will return home safely to their families and to their loved ones.

  I think, as Christians, and as United Methodists, we need to not only take time to grieve for the loss of life but to affirm those who are living and to support them in the work that they do on behalf of the greater good and the greater community.  We need to pray for an end to the violence that infects our society, that claims innocent lives and maims human beings and the whole of who we are as the children of a loving, living God

.In the love of Jesus Christ, 

Bishop Julius C. Trimble

Lord Have Mercy

Lord Have Mercy
Two more shootings of black men by white police officers and we probably would not even know these lives were taken were it not for video recordings.  The sad part is that the story line is often..." Armed black man shot by police." We accept that police are doing the right thing and people are only shot and often killed in the act of committing a crime. Not so. Citizens using phone cameras and social media have in recent years shed light on unarmed black men being shot and killed. How often in the last five years, or ten years have you heard of a white man, or teen being stopped by police only to end up dead leaving grieving family members and an angry community with unanswered questions.

 Baton Rouge Louisiana, Saint Paul Minnesota the latest on a long list of cities and towns where in my opinion state sanctioned executions are taking place. 24 hours in America and I ask you, “What's wrong with this picture?” Slogans are only aspirational and protest brings temporary attention to a much deeper problem. 

The loudest protest at our most recent General Conference was the interruption of one of plenary sessions by the "Black Lives Matter” marchers.  Some people were offended by this disruption, others did not understand the point of the protest, some people like myself thought they were a bit loud and went on too long.  Some people from outside the United States were left in the dark about the chants because this group was essentially the same group protesting full inclusion of the LGBT community.  Our default position is "All lives matter” and most police officers do their jobs without racial bias and reckless use of deadly force. Do we really believe we do not have a problem that the church must address?   Maybe the “Black Lives Matter” protest did not last long enough. Maybe our voices have not been loud enough.

 Are we really tied in a single chord of destiny?  I believe we must demand better of our public servants and better of ourselves. Are we making progress? The Jesus I worship weeps over lives lost which seem to point to a period in history that was 1857 not 2016. In 1857 one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history was made. The Dred Scott decision (regarding slavery and the ability of slaves to gain freedom) codified: " A black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect."

 We pray for families who grieve and police practices that call for federal scrutiny. We pray for transparency and honesty so those who do wrong can be held accountable. We pray for the day when rare is the occasion that we have a 24 hour period when in two different cities black lives are lost at the hands of police and few seem to care.

 Lord have mercy!

 Bishop Julius C. Trimble 


A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Jeff Blackman

Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
This weekend’s Gospel reading is Luke’s story introducing us to Mary and Martha, Luke 10:38-42.  The epistle reading is again from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  The passage about Mary and Martha is a familiar story to many of us—either as a Bible story or as a life experience.
This is the story in which Jesus comes  to the village in which two or three of his friends live.  The Gospel according to St. John names the village as Bethany and includes the name of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, though Luke does not name him.  The story presents a conflict.  The conflict has at least two levels.  Level one conflict:  Jesus is a houseguest at Martha’s house, she seemingly being the oldest of the three.  Younger sister Mary chooses to listen to Jesus speak rather than take up her job as hostess, helping to prepare the meal with Martha.  Martha becomes frustrated with her younger sister’s lack of help and entreats Jesus to make Mary help her.
This is not an uncommon problem in families.  Often things get divided thusly—one responsible for the domestic tasks, one not so much.  This always causes conflict because the one working feels the unbalance of it.  Many arguments could be made for any position.  In this story the conflict is not resolved, for Jesus takes Mary’s “side” and chides Martha.  It should be noted that he doesn’t rebuke her or scold her or get at angry at her.  Jesus simply puts a value more on what Mary is doing (listening to Jesus teaching) than on what Martha is doing.  He doesn’t say that serving is not good but, rather, says that listening and learning is “the better part.”  Martha might well still be frustrated at Mary’s choice, but the Guest has weighed in as requested.  Martha might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but people still have to eat!”  Mary might be thinking, “He’s here now, today.  Everyday we eat.  I’m not missing this chance!”  The conflict undoubtedly goes on between siblings.
So, what to make of this?  Most folk perceive this story is about more than siblings struggling with chores.  The Church has often seen this as a conflict between styles of spirituality.  Mary might represent the contemplative inclination and tradition while Martha represents the active service in the world inclination and tradition.  One might say that both are needed and valuable.  Perhaps the point is more about timing and opportunity.  As has been perceived and said countless times—the Church needs every Martha and every Mary; that both inclinations need to be honored and valued and each of us needs to enhance both aspects in ourselves to reach full discipleship in Jesus Christ

                                                                                                        Pastor Jeff Blackman