The Christian Methodist Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 4

July 2006

Leaders believe Sunday school can revitalize church

[Note: This is an interesting commentary on one way to revitalize the church. We offer this article to show that our United Methodist Church is in need of revitalization – the very purpose for which Concerned Methodists exists. Often we encounter denial of the problems that exist in our denomination. In order for us to be revitalized and start growing again, we must face and admit our problems so that we can formulate solutions. This article illustrates an innovative way that may offer promise. We in Concerned Methodists believe that we have more fundamental issues that need to be addressed. Nevertheless, let’s examine these ideas. -Editor]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If you are not part of a Sunday school class you may be missing out on a great "combo deal."

"Sunday school is the place where you are known at church," said Chris Jackson, Christian educator at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. "Worship may be glorious and inspirational, but you cannot create discussions or develop interpersonal relationships while sitting in the pews," he noted. "Sunday school is the 'combo meal deal' at church!"

Jackson is one of 13 speakers trained by the United Methodist Publishing House to go out and talk to congregations about the "promise of Sunday school." A list of speakers and contact information is available on the Web site, Sunday School-It's for Life, at Other resources available to promote Sunday school include posters, certificates of appreciation, post cards, door hangers and business cards. By Aug. 1, a video workshop written by Bishop Scott Jones of the Kansas Area will be available for churches interested in revitalizing their Christian education and Sunday school classes.

"Beyond the Roll Book: Sunday School and Evangelism" explores the history of Sunday school, gives churches an inventory to use to access their classes and offers how-to tips on developing an action plan. To accompany the video, the Rev. Diana Hynson, director of learning and teaching with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, has written a leader's guide.

The original intent of Sunday school was evangelistic, Jones explained. "Sunday school ought to be a place where unchurched people can come and find that community, that exposure to the Bible, that willingness to be in relationship with real Christians that will give them an opportunity to enter into the faith. "We need once again to reclaim Sunday school as a great opportunity, a great tool, for helping to make disciples of Jesus Christ," he said. "Many people say Sunday school is dead," said Gerald Chambers, project leader for Sunday School- It's for Life, "but it is really the best opportunity for churches to show Jesus Christ to people."

True believers

The 13 speakers trained by the United Methodist Publishing House are true Sunday school believers. "It was my Sunday school teacher in second grade who left that year to be a missionary in India who had the first real impact in my life, so much so that I remember announcing in sixth grade that I was going to be a missionary when I grew up," said Corinne Van Buren, a United Methodist deacon and director of the Christian Education Fellowship. "Sunday school, for me, has really been a place for life-long learning, support, and faith growth," she added.

Each of the speakers has a vision for Sunday school and is willing to share that story with congregations. They address some of the problems that may be barriers to having active classes. "The ties that bind can sometimes become the ties that exclude new faces," said Pamela Deck, a member of Spindale United Methodist Church, Rutherfordton, N.C. "Think back on your first time in a class. What did and did not make you feel welcomed? Use those insights to make your class easier to walk in to."

Liz Lippoldt, a United Methodist certified director of Christian education at College Hill United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kan., agreed. "Make your room inviting; create a worship center, arrange the room so newcomers can easily slip in," she advised. "Be open to people about who you are, how the class operates and what they can expect to receive by participating."

Jackson urged Sunday school classes to share the joy. "Because a class is so valuable to others, why wouldn't you want to invite newcomers to experience the joy you have? But, knowing this is difficult, perhaps six leaders from an established class would agree to 'parent' a new class along for a year. They could be 'on loan' from their existing class, for leadership, and then go back to their old class."

Being part of a class is important, according to Deck. "Small groups are so important to your faith walk. Keep visiting a variety of classes to find the best fit." Those having trouble finding the right class might talk to the Sunday school superintendent and be willing to help start a new class if needed. "I see Sunday School as an exciting 'filling station' at the end of a demanding week," Deck said. "Sunday school is a welcoming place of learning and support for children, youth and adults. It is a safe, engaging place where people can open up, learn, feed and be fed for their spiritual journey."

- By Kathy L. Gilbert, United Methodist News Service (UMNS) #385; June 23, 2006.

* * *

Lobbyist for President Bush's Church Calls for Impeachment

The chief political spokesman for President Bush's denomination has called for the impeachment of Methodism's most prominent parishioner. "Impeach President Bush!" urged Jim Winkler, head of the Capitol Hill-based United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Winkler was speaking earlier this spring here in Washington, D.C., to an "Ecumenical Advocacy Days" rally for liberal religious activists. (IRD's report can be found at: c=fvKVLfMVIsG&b=391221&ct=2343983)

Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.Winkler declared, "Despite the President's insistence he was placed in office by God for this moment, there was nothing Christian in his response to September 11." The call for impeachment by Winkler showed up on several pro-impeachment websites recently across the nation.

The director of IRD's committee for United Methodists responded to Winkler's impeachment speech: "He would make a good spokesman for, but he does not represent mainstream opinion in the denomination for which he purports to speak," said Mark Tooley. United Methodism in the U.S. has 8 million members, including both Bush and Vice President Cheney.

In his impeachment speech, Winkler faulted Bush for an "illegal war of aggression" that was "sold on lies." He condemned "the war on terror" as a "a war of terror." The Methodist lobbyist also called U.S. intelligence agencies "the secret police," rejecting National Security Agency monitoring of phone calls and records as "unconstitutional." He advocated an 80 percent cut in U.S. military spending. "These are actions far more serious than a failed land deal on the White River or a sexual indiscretion with a White House intern," Winkler said (, implicitly comparing Bush to Clinton, whose impeachment was never urged by Winkler's agency. Had the Iraq War been led by John Kerry or Al Gore, Winkler surmised, the "Limbaughs and Gingriches of the world would be screaming for their impeachment."

Winkler called Bush's removal a religious imperative: "When I speak it is my desire to bring about the transformation of people and systems in order to advance the Kingdom of God even when it is painful."

IRD's Tooley concluded, "Most United Methodists do not look to a liberal church lobby office for political guidance. Instead, they expect their church to provide spiritual and moral guidance. Unfortunately, United Methodism has lost 3 million members in 40 years thanks in part to the misplaced priorities of agencies like Winkler's, which confuse partisan politics with the Gospel."

John Lomperis; The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), 1023 15th Street NW, Suite 601, Washington D.C. 20005. Phone: (202) 682-4131; Fax: -4136. May 26, 2006.

* * *

The Lord has a golden scepter and an iron rod. Those who will not bow to the one shall be broken by the other.

- Daily Walk, 4/11/97

* * *

Methodist Church in Mexico gathers for General Conference

PUEBLA, México (UMNS) - Mexican Methodists gathered recently at the rural church of El Mesías de San Juan Acozac to establish an agenda for the future. The 20th General Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico met May 19-27 under the theme, "Reform the Nation, Extending the Scripture's Holiness." The gathering was inaugurated by Bishop Raúl Rosas González, president of the School of Bishops. The Rev. Joaquín García, representative of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, preached in the opening service. He urged the delegates and participants "to claim our identity as sons and daughters of God and take upon ourselves the call of Jesus Christ to make disciples in all the nations, baptizing and teaching them." Judith Carro and José García presented projections of population growth. In 2027, the Mexican population will increase to 126 million - with 50 million living in poverty and 16 million in extreme poverty.

During the session, objectives were set for the area of Christian development, including developing cell groups to spread the gospel and promote spiritual growth and social action with testimony and experiences of faith, stewardship and mission work. It was also announced that, for the first time, the Methodist Church in Mexico is sending missionaries to other countries, such as Mauritania and Kurdistán, and maintaining its missionary work in Sierra Tarahumara and in Tepic, Mexico.

The Rev. Graciela Álvarez, bishop of the Methodist Church in Mexico for the past eight years, was preacher for the closing service.

- By Amanda Bachus, UMNS; Nashville {405}; Jun. 30, 2006.

* * *

To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.

- Robert Copeland

* * *

Missionary work - and image - becomes increasingly diverse

When you think of a missionary, what image comes to mind?

For many people, it might be the white, male, English-speaking hero in the Amazon jungle, as depicted in storybooks and in movies such as "End of the Spear," released earlier this year.

The "typical" missionaries of yesterday have given way to a diverse field of missionaries who can be found in a myriad of settings.


The percentage of non-U.S. missionaries serving through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in the United States and internationally is at its highest. In total, 32 percent of the board's 230 standard support missionaries come from countries other than the United States. Hundreds more people serve in mission through the board in categories such as deaconesses. While the diversity of missionaries has increased, so has the number of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. In 2005, about 135,000 UMVIMs served in 70 countries and in 48 U.S. states, making it the busiest year ever for the program. In comparison, in 2004, about half of the 2005 number - 68,204 - served in 51 countries and 37 U.S. states. The increase was driven largely by the volunteer response to hurricanes on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

- UMNS {375}; New York; Jun. 20, 2006.

* * *

The British Methodist Church will not bless same-sex relationships.

EDINBURGH, Scotland (UMNS) - That decision followed a lengthy and passionate debate on the floor of the denomination's annual conference which met June 23-29 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The ruling disappoints those who hoped the church would allow liturgical recognition of same-sex civil partnerships, legal in Britain since December 1994. Civil partnerships give many rights and privileges enjoyed by married couples - including survivor benefits, pension rights and paternal responsibility for children - to same-sex partners. The ruling also puts British Methodist pastors in a similar position to United Methodist clergy in places such as Massachusetts, California, Vermont, New Jersey and Hawaii where the state, in varying degrees, officially recognizes same-sex relationships but the church does not.

Pointing to a lack of consensus among British Methodists, many representatives who voted against the prohibition had hoped the decision would be left up to local congregations and pastors. The Rev. Barbara Duchars, who leads a church in an area of Blackpool, England, known as the "gay village" says she is not sure "where to go from here."

The culmination of two years of denomination-wide reflection, the "Pilgrimage of Faith" report concluded that no blessing ceremony of any kind should be undertaken by Methodist clergy on or off church property. During more than three hours of full plenary debate, both those supporting and those opposing the move to prohibit same-sex blessings voiced fears about people who will leave or split from the church over this decision. When commenting on continuing compromise, one representative observed, "we evangelicals don't have much more to give."

Others raised concerns that a prohibition of authorized liturgies will force pastors to operate in a "clandestine way." Still others predicted the blessing of same-sex relationships would compromise ecumenical relationships with other Christian traditions. Despite the diverse range of opinion shared, representatives voted to adopt the report in its entirety. The Rev. Paul Smith, who is a member of the working party that created the report, says it reflects a very accurate portrait of where the church is now. "We don't bless gay partnerships - we pray with everyone," explained Smith, who also leads the evangelical Methodist caucus group, Headway. He confessed the working party struggled with the report. "We knew we were talking about people, not theories." Fellow working-party member Cassandra Howes said the report is a "best effort" and believes it has helped the church address divisive and contentious issues in a less adversarial way. "We have given the church a process to get here."

Howes is the former head of Outreach, the British Methodist gay and lesbian caucus. She knows some gay and lesbian people will leave the church over this decision. "It's crucial to see the bigger picture. It's a long game," Howes told United Methodist News Service. "I have to tell people who are hurt and in pain because of these decisions, 'your pain isn't enough to change things.' We have to work to change the culture of the church." But for some, the possibility that things may change in the future is little consolation for rejection in the present. "I'm really gutted. This feels like a slap in the face," commented one gay pastor after the vote. Asking to remain anonymous, he said, "I thought we were going forward, but it seems it's one step forward and two steps back. Now I only have the letter of the law and a lack of love and grace to offer people. This sends the wrong message."

Adoption of the report also means that in two years time, the British Methodist Church Council will decide whether to reopen discussion of what is known as the Derby Resolutions. Created in 1993, the resolutions set out the British Methodist Church position on issues of human sexuality. Often cited for containing contradictory statements that both condemn and support gay and lesbian people, the Derby Resolutions have been formative in many controversial church policy positions regarding sexual practice and identity of both Methodist lay people and clergy.

- By Kathleen LaCamera, UMNS #399; June 29.

[Commentary: It is important to know what the Bible says on this when referring to "hurting" or "loving" actions. An action that fails to communicate God’s truth to people and reflect to them that they are not living in accordance with God’s standards of morality is not "loving" nor "open" regardless of who contends that it is.]

* * *

"Being a Christian means taking risks; risking that our love will be rejected, misunderstood or even ignored...But if you find yourself in a situation in which you believe God has put you, then accept the risk for His sake."

- Rebecca M. Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker &into the World, p. 115.

* * *

What's So Glorious about the Glorious Fourth?

Everyone should be a patriot. Whatever your country, whoever your people are, you should love your land and love your countrymen. And where does this love of country begin? That great English friend of liberty, Edmund Burke, said it began in the home. "We begin our public affections in our families No cold relation is a zealous citizen." So it's not surprising that we who stress the importance of the family in American life also foster the celebration of patriotism. Many countries have beautiful vistas, grand architecture, and stunning achievements to celebrate. As Christians in America, we have all that and more. We have liberty. The great contests of today are all about liberty. For some, liberty means they can burn a flag or put a virtual picture of an unclothed minor on the Internet. They think liberty means they can end a pregnancy or end a marriage--on demand. We hold to an older view of liberty. We believe that we are all created equal. And we believe that our Creator is the one who endows us with our natural rights. Today, that belief is challenged. In Europe, in Canada, and in America, a different view of human rights is advanced. This view says that our rights are those--only those--that we as a human community can agree upon.

Thomas Jefferson did not agree with the modern thought of "rights". He said "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." America's Founders agreed with Jefferson on this. And when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, he was not speaking only as one brilliant young delegate from Virginia. That document, he said, "was to be an expression of the American mind." We should not be surprised that the author of the Declaration of Independence thought that religious liberty was the first of freedoms, the foundation for all other liberties. That’s why, we believe, the First Congress put religious liberty first among the freedoms listed in the First Amendment. Jefferson went further. He said an attack on religious liberty was an attack on liberty itself.

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis--a conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are the gifts of God, that they are not to be violated but with His wrath?

* * *

Kids’ Stuff

I was leaning over the shoulder of one of my students, helping her with her math problems, when I noticed the pencil she was writing with. It had the Ten Commandments listed on it.

"I like your pencil very much," I told her.

"Yeah, I like it too," she said. "That’s why I stole it from my brother."

- Jennifer Ripple, Reader’s Digest, August 2005.

* * *

Thought for the Month

C. S. Lewis argued in The Abolition of Man that humans, unmoored from the restraint occasioned by fidelity to a transcendent moral order, would create a world of their own choosing. Humans think that by doing so they will be free to make of themselves what they will, but Lewis disagreed, noting "For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please."

* * *

The price of freedom is visible here.

– Sign in front of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina

* * *

Spiritually Speaking:

It is amazing how some "small thing" can have far-reaching results. Consider that –

- In 1855 a Sunday School teacher, a Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Christ.

- The clerk Dwight L. Moody awakened evangelistic zeal in the heart of Fredrick B. Meyer, pastor of a small church.

- F. B. Meyer, preaching to an American college campus, brought to Christ a student named J. Wilbur Chapman.

- J. Wilbur Chapman, engaged in YMCA work, employed a former baseball player, Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work.

- Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina.

- A group of local men were so enthusiastic afterward that they planned another campaign bringing Mordecai Hamm to Charlotte to preach. During Mordecai Hamm’s revival, a young man named Billy Graham heard the Gospel and yielded his life to Christ.

Only eternity will reveal the tremendous impact of that one Sunday school teacher, Mr. Kimball, who invested his life in the life of someone else.

* * *

Published by: Concerned Methodists, P.O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302. Tel.: 910/488-4379 FAX: 910/488-5090

Website: E-mail: