The Methodist Pope?

CBS News reports that Pope Francis affirms the United Methodist Church’s position on the ordination of gay clergy:

When questioned on what his response would be upon learning that a cleric was gay, though not sexually active, the Argentinian-born pontiff said he wouldn’t judge gay priests and explained, “You can’t marginalize these people.”

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said.

I’m sure the news outlet’s failure to mention that the Pope’s position on this question mirrors the UMC was an editorial oversight.

Cokesbury closing inspires local church

Jim Parsons announces a bold new step into the future inspired by Cokesbury’s decision to close all of its stores.

John Wesley: Defender of pickles

From John Wesley’s preface to a medical tract that he included in the works collected and distributed for Methodists:

Another instance of exaggeration we have, in what he says concerning pickles. It may be allowed, that they are not wholesome to persons of a delicate constitution. Perhaps, too, the using of them in large quantities may impair a good constitution. But still I cannot commend the condemning of them universally, as no less than poison. I really believe a man of a firm constitution might use a small quantity of them daily, yea, for forty or fifty years together, without hurting himself at all.

I call for a resolution at the next General Conference commending the eating of pickles to those of a strong constitution.

Generational divides

My wife and daughter on the phone today remind me why I am not well equipped to reach the young adults of today

(The following is my reconstruction of the conversation told to me second hand, so as they say on Law and Order: The following is fictional. Any resemblance to people living or dead is a coincidence.)

Daughter: I found out who my roommate will be next year. She lives in my building already.

Mom: Great, you should go find her room and introduce yourself.

Daughter: I already sent her a friend request on Facebook.

Mom: Why not just go knock on her door?

Daughter: That would be weird.

John the Baptist and the ministry study

The clergy were all in an uproar. The latest report from the Committee for Issuing Endless Reports had come out, and it was calling for changes in the way the clergy guild keeps shop.

It had all kinds of high sounding words in the beginning about “calling” and “God” and “mission,” but they’d long since learned to zip past those pages. You had to get back a ways to get the meat of things and see whose ox was being gored.

Of late, The Committee had made things hard on the clergy. It had started speaking in a foreign tongue not taught in seminary. Some of them would have been able to scratch up a few words of Hebrew or Greek, but this business-speak was another matter entirely.

After several minutes, they finally decided that these “leaders” the report kept speaking of were them. This was confusing. The great teacher had taught them to be servants and called them to be followers. He said to feed the sheep and spoke ominously of being tied about the waist and led where they did not want to go. But he had not spoken much of them — the clergy — being leaders. That, he had always more or less suggested, was his job.

But, nonetheless, they pressed on.

They liked the bit in there putting local pastors in their proper place again, a parasite on the order of elders. But they were none to pleased with what else they saw.

Missional appointments instead of appointment security? That was just dirty pool using the word “missional” like that. It stacked the deck, especially when defenders of the current system were painted in the corner of defending “security.” How many sermons had they all preached about danger and risk? Yes, those practioners of business-speak were dirty chaps. Tricky and too clever by half.

The crew was just getting up to high form when shabby Yohannan walked in. He was dirty as ever. That hair coat trapped dirt and dust something awful. More than once the assembled elders had suggested someone take old John, as they liked to call him, out back and beat him with a rug beater.

John strode into the room and coughed out a few curses. They’d heard it all before. The honey on his breath did not make his words any sweeter.

“Confess!” he implored them.

“Every first Sunday right before the Great Thanksgiving,” Bill said back with practiced timing.

They’d had this talk before.

And John shambled off to the highways and hills. What the crowds saw in him, the clergy could not understand. Go two minutes past an hour and their flock started checking their watches. But those people, John’s people, they’d walk barefoot through a desert for three days to find him. It was like they were thirsting for what he had to offer them. It was like they were driven by something dark and powerful inside.

About all that ever seemed to come out of their people was the odd ill-timed belch or fart during the pastoral prayer.

But John’s passing would not distract them too long. They had a report to discuss, dissect, and dispatch.

“Does it say anything in there about the pension?” one asked.

And they riffled the pages in search of an index.

“Curse the Committee,” said another. “They mean to vex us by leaving out a topical index.”

And they all said “Amen” to the brother’s pronouncement.

Fantasy church ball

With fantasy football drafts eating up huge amounts of time and mental energy, I was wondering if we United Methodists were missing an opportunity.

The wonderful side benefit of our new dashboards is all the great statistics they produce, and statistics are the life blood of fantasy sports.

Here’s the basic idea. Players would be organized into “circuits” rather than leagues. In each circuit, you’d get to choose a number of churches. To add some wrinkles, we’d let each player “start” a limited number of churches in various size categories. You might have one megachurch, two large churches, 3 or 4 medium-sized churches, and 8 or 10 small and very small churches. Players would have a bench of churches that are not in play any given week and could trade or pick up churches from the waiver wire. If a church closes or burns down or the pastor gets caught in a scandal, it could be placed on injured reserve.

Each week, players could score points based on worship attendance, small group attendance, apportionment payments, and other stats. Working out the proper stats to use is a task to be assigned to that odd cult of church sabermetricians who collect and argue of such arcane figures like BPS (baptisms per Sunday) and calculate the value of having a senior pastor preaching rather than a utility associate pastor.

With a little marketing and development, we could have geeks all over the country hanging on the developments in the local church.

“Looks like rain in Huntsville this week. That’s gonna hurt First’s worship numbers. Maybe I should play Hope Memorial. They got a new worship leader last week.”

I wonder if the bishops had this all in mind when they started the dashboard movement.