Mar 26, 2010

The Bugaboo We Call Health Care

I was in the midst of a three part series on vision and direction of our church, but have been interrupted in mid-stream by several of our faithful members who have wrongly heard information about what our church’s stance is on the current health care legislation. We UMs do not have an official stance, but rather a bunch of un-official stances from a bunch of random sources.

As several people have asked me, I want to respond with a collage of voices from our United Methodist Church. "Item One" comes in part from our Central Texas Annual Conference, the United Methodist News Service, and a quotation from Gregory Palmer, president of the UM Council of Bishops. "Item Two" comes from the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, and the last item comes from the senior pastor at FUMC, Houston. Thus represented in what follows is a wide swath of our church leaders.

1. Reactions to the health care reform legislative continue to circulate around the nation and our Central Texas Conference. It is important to recognize that The United Methodist Church has been fully involved in this conversation since John Wesley’s time and certainly over the past 8 General Conferences, always affirming the need for comprehensive health care that extends to all. We are a diverse people with many perspectives on most every issue — including health care. The UMC’s position is not for or against any political party or the specific bill passed late Sunday by the U.S. House of Representatives. It is simply in support of health care for all.

From a UMNS story released Tuesday: An attack on U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (a UM clergy elder in the Missouri Conference) — who was spat upon and called a racial slur by protesters outside the Capitol—offers an opportunity to model civil discourse and point to a different path. “It saddens me, the acrimonious debate both in Congress and in the public at large. We have failed to carry on serious debate without personal attacks and name-calling,” said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, president of the UM Council of Bishops and leader of the denomination’s Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference. “My hope is that the church would do such an effective job at managing its own difficult conversations that we might be a model for how the world can manage difficult disagreements,” he said.

2. The health care system in the United States is in need of serious systemic change. We call for legislation that will provide universal access to quality health care with effective cost controls.

John Wesley was always deeply concerned about health care, providing medical services at no cost to the poor in London and emphasizing preventive care. The first Methodist Social Creed (adopted in 1908) urged working conditions to safeguard the health of workers and community.

Through its many hospitals and health-care facilities around the world, as well as public-policy advocacy for health, The United Methodist Church continues to declare its commitment to quality and affordable health care as a right of all people (ADOPTED 1992, AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000; from The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church).

3. To our church family,

Friends, this is an unusual email, but something a bit unusual happened during the recent health care debate. The statement was made that the United Methodist Church had endorsed the health care bill being voted on by Congress. This statement was incorrect.

The United Methodist Church has long been on record as desiring adequate health care for all people on earth. We believe that is the desire of God. How that health care can best be provided, though, must be determined by the people and their government. The United Methodist Church has not endorsed any particular plan.

Now, on this question (as you would expect) United Methodists have many different opinions, and some groups within our denomination have been supporting the bill. We believe all United Methodists have the right to say what they believe. However, only the General Conference can speak for our Church. It last met in 2008 and did not endorse this or any bill.

Please join with me and others in your First Methodist family in praying God’s guidance for our leaders as they make decisions for our country and world.

God bless, /s/ Steve Wende

As you can see all this business about Nancy Pelosi thanking the UM Church for their support of this week’s health care bill was slightly misleading. We support health care for all and have for 240 years. But although we have many diverse stands on a wide variety of ethical issues, we rarely endorse a specific political party, agenda, or ideology. Stay tuned.

Mar 19, 2010

Evangelism after Five Years

After I had gotten my feet under me at FUMC, Arlington back in 2005 and as many of our business people like goals, I developed three broad targets at which I thought our church could aim. These objectives had to do with 1) evangelism, 2) missions, 3) worship. For the next few weeks as we move toward the Easter Festival in 2010, I would like to re-visit these objectives and see how we have done.

Our first objective had to do with evangelism which means simply “sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.” An evangelist named Hudson Taylor once said: “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” So you don’t have to look it up, the great commission is when Jesus said to the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you . . . ” (Matthew 28:18-20). Many Christians believe that to follow this Great Commission is the best way to be faithful to God’s claim on us.

Earlier in 2005 I suggested that “if we expand our membership a mere 3% of, then we would include 150 new members. If we invite co-workers, family members, or those who do not have a church home from among our acquaintances, this ‘150 new persons’ is a remarkably achievable goal.” So Judy looked up the new member numbers for me:

2005—150
2006—150
2007—132
2008—102
2009—107

Thus for two years we met our aim precisely—and now I throw the challenge down again. Rev. Estee Valendy works to help guests and others looking for a church home feel welcome. But as glowing as Estee and the rest of our church staff is, it even so takes an entire congregation of loving people to make a warm, hospitable, and friendly church that someone might want to call his or her home. We can do it as we proved in 2005 and 2006. Now we need to pray that God’s spirit can breath into us a little enthusiasm for God’s work here in our own congregation as we reach out to a world in need.

Sincerely, your friend [and pastor],

David N. Mosser

Mar 12, 2010

AFTER FIVE YEARS

After five years, I recently looked back and saw something that I wrote (and was not read by many I am sure), but nonetheless gives us some perspective on our journey the last five years. Thus I offer you “Some Things to Ponder for 2005” and let you decide whether or not we have been faithful to our call at FUMC, Arlington, Texas.

Several weeks ago I mentioned from the pulpit some of my personal goals for our congregation. Several members have asked for these items, so I share these in The Chimes for those unable to attend worship that Sabbath.

The first objective I would like to see us achieve is evangelistic. Evangelism means simply “sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.” One way we might quantify our gospel outreach is to embrace new members to our church family. For a 5000 member church, if we expand our membership a mere 3%, then we would include 150 new members. If we invite co-workers, family members, or those who do not have a church home from among our acquaintances, this “150 new persons” is a remarkably achievable goal. I urge us also to diligently make our newest members quickly feel that this is THEIR church, too. Thus, we help assimilate our newest members, as well.

A second goal or objective is to continue to grow in our mission giving and do so on a church-wide basis. We have many dedicated stewards at FUMC who assist our congregational mission outreach in remarkable ways. I would pray that we could continue to swell this group of stewards/disciples. My mental picture is for us to offer many occasions for our entire membership to play a part, and as widely as possible, in mission giving as a full congregation. We do well, but there are many needs in our world today. For here the saying holds true, “Many hands lighten the load.” Let’s keep up the good work!

Last, I would trust that we as a congregation would take with utmost seriousness our attention to worship attendance. It is in worship that we most nearly come together as a large congregation. Clearly, no one can have perfect attendance, but I would hope that those who attend only seldom or intermittently might help our worship experience by attending more devotedly. We will soon have a full-time Minister/Director of Music in place and nothing encourages those who lead more than tempered zeal from those who have selected them as leaders. Likewise, worship is a place where we reenact the story of salvation in meaningful and holy ways. Worship has always been the cornerstone of the faith community. Nehemiah 10:39 reminds us, as it did those in Israel: “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

As we begin our second year together as congregation and pastor, I cannot thank you affectionately enough for having made my family and me welcome among you. I pray we continue on the path which we have begun, and with God’s providential guidance, perhaps we can continue to become a community of love, a place of forgiveness, and a beacon of hope.

Sincerely, your friend,

David N. Mosser



About our goals I will share over the next few weeks how we are doing in my estimation and where we are heading in our “Going the 2nd Mile Campaign.” Pray for me as I do you.

Mar 6, 2010

Repent: Not Stylish

From Ash Wednesday onward the time of Lent is about repentance and putting our spiritual houses in order—in order to receive the good news of the gospel. Lent is a time to make our journey toward Easter. Lent offers those who take the journey seriously an opportunity to experience the authentic joy of Easter. Just as Jesus overcame the grave at Easter, Lent helps us take stock of the things that we may overcome in this life, by God’s grace, in order to be more devoted to God’s summons.

The United Methodist Book of Worship describes Lent this way:
“Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means ‘spring.’ The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians” (1992, p. 320).

Thus, Lent affords believers a time of self-examination, prayer, meditation, and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to instruct new converts for baptism, although in some of the earliest communities, people prepared for baptism for up to three years. This is a modestly different than the mother who calls and says, “Pastor you do not know me as we don’t get by the church as much as we should, but Johnny and I just had a baby a few months ago and his mother is nagging us to get the baby dedicated.” We interrupt at this point: “Ma’am we baptize infants here as well as dedicate them.” Her response, classic: “Really?—whatever . . . .” The conversation devolves from there. What would she have said if the church told her that we instruct parents for three years and then we talk about baptism?

In our modern times, for those who are old-fashioned enough to observe the Christian year, we focus on our relationship with God most intensely at Lent. Some churches encourage people to give up something for Lent, while many households of faith typically encourage volunteer work and giving ourselves to others for Christ’s sake. These forty days (excluding Sundays) represent Jesus’ time in the wilderness—where Jesus strove against the tempter. People sometimes ask why the church excludes Sundays from Lent’s forty days. Lent’s forty days exclude Sundays because the Sabbath represents a “mini-Easter” observance of God’s victory over sin and death through the Jesus’ resurrection.

Two things we note here: First, some churches disdain ashes and penitential services noticing that Jesus said, “ . . . whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites . . . but when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others” (Matthew 6:16-18). Second in the world of today that seems so Hades-bent on blaming someone somewhere for whatever goes wrong, ironically no one is really responsible for anything anymore. Thus some religious people think repentance is too dismal and others more secular folks think it out of place to their circumstance.

In our country we believe in standing up for the right, so I suggest that if you believe God can forgive your sin, then fall on your face and take God’s grace like a Christian.

 
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