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United Methodist Social Principles: Rights of Children

Iowa has recently become embroiled in a debate over school vouchers. I should clarify, the most recent iteration of the debate around education in Iowa has centered around Educational Savings Accounts (ESA’s) that would use tax dollars to fund students who choose private school, online learning, or homeschooling to receive their education. You can read the bill here https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=HSB651  Part of the argument in favor of this bill is that it will create a market environment where public schools will have to do better to compete with the other options. The irony of this argument is, of course, that they will have to be better with even less money, and our public schools have been losing funding for years now.

I’m excited to say that the Iowa United Methodist Conference Lobbyists all declared themselves as against the ESA bill. (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/lobbyist/reports/declarations?ga=87&ba=HSB651)

In light of these events, I have become convicted about the fact that I don’t teach from the Social Principles enough. You see, in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, there are at least two Social Principles that address the education of young people.

Section III, subsection C Rights of Children contains this:

Thus, we support the development of school systems and innovative methods

of education designed to assist every child toward complete fulfillment as an

individual person of worth. All children have the right to quality education, including

full sex education appropriate to their stage of development that utilizes the best

educational techniques and insights.     

Section V, subsection E Education has this sentence:

In society, this function can best be fulfilled through public policies that ensure

access for all persons to free public elementary and secondary school and to post-

secondary schools of their choice.

Now, I’m going back and teaching my people about these Social Principles that call us to ensure access to public education for all kids. This means supporting our public schools, especially since our rural students do not have easy access to private schools. We could argue about the online or the homeschooling option, but this privileges parents/guardians who are able to stay home with their students instead of working. (Because who the heck can leave a kid alone to teach themselves all day?? At best, you’d come home to a destroyed house and a kid who still hadn’t done their homework…)

We, as United Methodists, believe in the ability to reason as a powerful tool for understanding the world and, more importantly, for understanding God. It makes sense that we would advocate for our entire population being educated so that we can all reason together. Let’s be honest, there are a lot of issues and conversations we are facing as a world that we need to be able to reason through. Sharing the ability to think through these issues and act accordingly, benefits us all. Even if you have chosen to not have kids, or if your kids have already finished schooling, the education of the people around you will affect your experience of the world. (Imagine someone taking care of you in the nursing home that does not have even an elementary school education??)

I know this started as a discussion about an Iowa problem, but according to Education Week, our US Schools are C-average at best. You can see the rankings here. https://www.edweek.org/ew/collections/quality-counts-2018-state-grades/report-card-map-rankings.html  Which means, at least according to this source, the entire country is struggling when it comes to education.

It’s time for us all to become United Methodists, and start advocating for the education of our young people…not just here in the US, but all over the world.


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Alexis Johnson is a mom of two, married to a seminary student/new clergy, an Ordained Elder in the Iowa UMC, and feeds three furry mammals. So busy. Alexis is busy. But she is passionate about God and passionate about people. She is always up for good conversations and connecting, especially if there is coffee or wine involved.

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Facebook Prayer Time

Rev. Katie Bishop

It is 8:30 pm on Thursday night and I am sitting on my living room couch. My iPad has the latest Upper Room devotional open and my laptop computer is open to a post from my Facebook feed. In the palm of my hand, my phone is open and after a deep breath, I press “Go Live.” It is Thursday night. Prayer time.

About six months ago, amid some real struggle in our broader community – real heartbreak – I started this Thursday night prayer time. Out of a desire to speak HOPE, I flipped my phone’s Facebook app open and started to pray. As people gathered to watch, the movement of the Spirit was palpable. Tangible. Powerful. Even across the screen.

Since then, I have posted an invitation soliciting prayer requests on my Facebook page every Thursday morning. And every Thursday night – sometime between 7 and 10, I hop on Facebook Live to gather God’s people.

We start with the Upper Room’s daily scripture reading and then move into the prayer requests that people have posted on my feed. People are invited to add requests to the Live Feed, and most do. To finish our time, I remind people why we pray.

First, prayer helps align our hearts to God. We step outside of ourselves and center ourselves in God’s Spirit.

Second, prayer activates the Big God Family – the community of believers. As we lift up prayers and concerns, we can witness the ways God has blessed us, testify the power of resurrection in our lives, and stand with each other in brokenness. This has been one of the greatest blessings about Thursday night prayer. Since we have been praying overtime, we have been able to celebrate how God is work in our world. We have celebrated answered prayers. We have celebrated changed expectations. We have celebrated God’s grace even in the brokenness.

Finally, prayer witnesses God’s action in the world around us. We recognize that God is not done with us yet. That God is still moving in the world around us. That God uses us as God’s hands and feet to usher in the Kingdom.

After I speak these truths out loud, we pray. I pray with words, those watching pray with me. Comments continue to fill the screen as a chorus of “hearts” and “likes” join the words that are uttered. We pray. Across phones and iPads, computer screens – we pray. Sometimes by ourselves – sometimes with others.

And when I say “Amen,” a chorus of Amens join in.

I remind everyone they are loved – and it is done.

In total, most weeks, it is about 5-7 minutes. Sometimes – if I have more prayer requests, or if my two daughters “help” then it is longer. But really, it is just a few minutes – across screens for prayer.

The big question is – why?

And for me, it gets back to my Methodist roots. Wesley, when starting a movement of revival in England, went to where the people were. Why do we, as the church, wait for people to come to us? Wesley went to where the people were, “submitting to be more vile” – a quote from his April 2, 1739  journal – so that people would come to know God’s love and grace.  He was willing to meet them in their brokenness, in their everyday, in their ordinary, in their heartache. Why do we, as the church, refuse to move to where the people are?

Facebook – it is where people are. And love it or hate it, there is a huge segment of our population that are always on Facebook. It is where we share stories of our greatest joys and our greatest struggles. It is where we “connect” – however inauthentic or authentic it may be.

And taking time every Thursday to pray, seeks to meet people where they are, resurrecting the brokenness, the heartache, the ordinary.

It is not much – by any stretch of the imagination. It is very simple. It takes hardly any time and very little effort.

But it is powerful. It is Spirit-filled. It is resurrecting.

So, if you are feeling a burdened, or broken, lost or weary… If you feel like you need some Family time… If you have seen God move and can’t keep it to yourself… come and join us some Thursday. We are but a click away.


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Katie Bishop is a United Methodist pastor serving in Frederick County, Maryland. She is married to Chris, also a pastor in the UMC, and they have three children- Eden (10), Bethany (5) and a son they are waiting on from Haiti.

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Thankfulness in the Ups AND Downs

As I reflect upon the last several weeks, we as people have experienced a lot of grief, fear, devastation, and tragedy.  There have been earthquakes, hurricanes, shootings, political decisions, day to day struggles, loved ones have succumbed to illness, others have started treatment for cancer, and the list could go on and on and on.  As we approach the holiday season when we are supposed to be thankful and cheerful we may find it hard.  Do not feel guilt or shame because you find it difficult to be thankful and find joy this season.  There is a lot going on in our world near and far that makes our hearts weigh heavy.

On the other hand, there is a lot to be joyful about this season.  Despite all this is going on in the world, our lives have brought us hope.  There have been opportunities for healing, to see family and friends, maybe even starting new projects or jobs that are life-giving.  I am hearing stories from people across the country that in the midst of tragedy they are finding hope.

My encouragement for all of us this season is that we take a cue from the Psalms. When we read the Psalms we find there is often great lament for the heavy heart.  There is an outpouring of grief and pain.  In this season if this is you, please pour out.  Please grieve, please name your pain.  In this outpouring remember that the Psalms teach us with an outpouring of grief, comes an outpouring of thanksgiving because we have opened our hearts up to healing and with healing comes hope and thanksgiving.  Don’t forget to pour out in thanksgiving as well.

Life is a lot like a rollercoaster.  There are ups and downs, twists and turns, anxiety, anticipation, fear, joy, excitement, and sometimes we get off the ride and our stomachs hurt, others times we can’t wait to ride again.  No matter where you find yourself, in the ups or downs of life, God is always there.  God is there in the ups standing with you.  God is truly there in the downs, reaching out a hand to help you up. Psalm 138 is a great outpouring of thanksgiving and in its conclusion reminds us that Gods faithful love endures forever.

No matter where you find yourself this season, up or down, grieving or joyful, God’s faithful love endures forever.


22366779_10155962606633694_6767176542225626637_nZach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians, as well as a Husband, Father, Pastor, an avid Colorado Rockies fan.  In his free time, he enjoys hiking and being in the mountains.  You can listen to his sermons and find out more about his church at http://www.umchoteau.net.

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Never Too Young For Mission

This summer was a humbling one and one that opened my eyes to the important things in life. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to both Honduras and Guatemala. These trips were very different and yet they both humbled me. While on Honduras our team worked at a children’s home with orphans and helped with projects and a medical clinic on the property. We participated in a feeding program alongside a highway where children and families live in shanties. We were blessed to play with children, feed them, and show them love through our smiles and our presence.

In Guatemala, we stayed in host homes and were engaged in on going outreach programs I the community. This trip was extra special because I was able to have my husband and 10-year old son join me. This trip was focused on relationships and authentically engaging the community we were in along side the long term missionaries and local leaders. I learned to sew from the women who were learning the trade in hopes of making money for their families. My husband and son engaged the children of various communities in a new start up sports ministry visiting schools and local officials. We ate around the table with our host family every morning and night. Watching my son experience this cultural awakening and realize that the world is bigger and looks much different than his day to day life was the most humbling part of the entire summer. Watching him play soccer along side children who could not afford to go to school despite the language barrier and to learn enough Spanish to find out their name and age was a privilege I will never forget.

So often we in ministry and in our churches find it hard to find a place for children in our work and outreaches. They belong in their Sunday school classes, in the youth activities, in the children’s worship service, but having them in the larger church body seems like a burden. This could not be farther from the truth. Children have so many truths to remind us and to show us. Even Jesus said in Luke 18:16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. We wait until youth to engage children in mission trips and we divide families up by ages. This is not how we build up the mission of God, for even children have gifts that God can use. Family mission trips are a wonderful way to expose our children to missions while also modeling the importance of serving along side them. It doesn’t have to be an international trip but our children are not too young to start. Studies show that children in the pre teen years are making decisions for Christ and about the church. Waiting until youth or adulthood to engage them in missions is missing a critical time when their hearts are open.

I encourage families and churches alike to consider what it would look like to engage children of all ages in the mission of God that we are all called to be a part of regardless of age.

 


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Sara Lattimore is Serving as Director of Missions and Outreach at First United Methodist Church in Lubbock Texas. She has served in full-time ministry for the last 10 years in Children’s and Family Ministry, Camping Ministry, and now Missions and Outreach. She is currently also attending seminary at Iliff to obtain her MDiv. Sara is following her calling in full-time ministry building relationships and emphasizing the importance of family, but she also has another calling, her family. Sara has been married to Aaron for 12 years and together they have 2 children Carson 10 and Kennedy Grace who is 4.

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Silence Is Not An Option

As I sit and reflect upon the hateful and fearful actions that took place in Charlottesville this weekend I can’t help but be heartbroken. As more and more video surfaces littered with hate, racist slurs, and violence my heart breaks more for my brothers and sisters who live in fear because of the backward belief that one human life is more important or special than another human’s life. I have to hold back the urging of my privilege that says “You are geographically far away from this, it does not affect you.” That is a lie from the pit of hell. This does affect me. It affects my children. It affects my community. This affects you. Regardless of where you are in this country and across the world violence and hate affects us. I can no longer hide behind excuses of any kind. I can no longer hide behind the color of my skin, gender, religion, education, money, geography, and I will not continue to hide behind my silence.

Many have made statements on Facebook, produced videos, preached sermons from the pulpit and used whatever microphone they have to speak out against this evil. The statement that caught my attention was one I’m sure you have seen it by now. Jimmy Fallon made a statement yesterday and he talked about our responsibility as human beings to stand up against racism, hate, and evil. Not only did he encourage ALL of us to take a stand against it but he made a call to action of just that, action.

Silence is not an option, it has never been, and it never can be. When we are silent we take a giant step backward in history and humanity. People are being killed because of silence. Because of apathy and fear. Because we are scared that we might offend someone or lose a friend or actually have to have a real conversation with someone. I confess that I am guilty of silence. I CAN NOT LONGER REMAIN SILENT. YOU CAN NO LONGER REMAIN SILENT. No more. The church cannot remain silent due to apathy. White people, you cannot remain silent out of fear or whatever holds you back from saying something. Our brothers and sisters are out there dying and we are sitting back watching.

If silence is no longer an option where does that leave us? Do we speak up today and become silent again tomorrow? I pray we don’t. I pray that we continue to speak up against those who use hate, fear, and violence to belittle and degrade our fellow humans. In many instances using our voices will not be enough, with breaking silence we must act as well. Not using the same fear, hate, and violence that we are against, but the actions of love, compassion, and justice. Those are not just words. They cannot be rhetoric that we say from behind keyboards and pulpits, they must be actions that we model day in and day out as we break the silence. We break the silence by actually living into love, compassion, and justice. It means we act before asking questions of why or if it is deserved. We do not qualify our actions, that is exactly what leads us to silence. We act because we can’t help it, because love, compassion, and justice are what changes the world around us, not hate, fear, and racism. Those are actions of the selfish. Those are actions of evil. Those are the actions someone who is so deeply broken they need what we have to offer. Those people marching against and harming another human being because of their skin color, sexuality, gender, or any of the other garbage reasons people have prejudice, are the actions of someone who is deeply broken and hurt. Just as our brothers and sisters that are on the receiving end, these broken humans love, compassion, and justice too.

Stand up, speak out, and act against hate, fear, violence, and evil especially when it is most inconvenient for you because there will be a day when you are praying and hopeful someone with stand up, speak out, and act for you and with you.

Do no harm! Do good! Stay in love with God! Love your fellow human! Silence is NOT an option!


15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_oZach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians and Pastor of Choteau, Brady, and Dutton United Methodist Churches in the Northern Plains of Montana.