My Personal Thoughts on Division in the United Methodist Church

3 Sections

  1. Where I Am Coming From
  2. The Church and Our Divide on Scripture
  3. The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

Where I’m Coming From

God called me into the United Methodist Church only 10 years ago. I was reading a lot of John Wesley and had read a bit of the discipline. I had observed the polity and practical theology, and seeing that the movement was geared towards getting people into mission for Christ through a great network called Connectionalism, I joined the family. Being a history guy, I became fascinated by the movements of reform in Methodism and how it has continued reviving hearts; especially in the United States post Revolution and into the greater Pentecostal movements as great-grandchildren of the revival from the Anglicans. The doctrines seemed clear enough and I read the Book of Discipline 2012, delving into the continuing movement with wide eyes looking forward to contribute to this work of the Spirit stretching back a few hundred years.

Backing up a bit, I was baptized and came to faith in the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination emphasizing the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of speaking in tongues. I had never experienced the outpouring of these most visible gifts; but rather, in my reading of the Scriptures found other gifts of God in me for the eventual work of ministry. I found it refreshing that there isn’t a hierarchy or a “Queen of the Gifts” in Methodism. I believe this is more in line with the scriptures. I remember leaning into Mercy, Teaching, and Shepherding – all deeply embedded within and tested as a youth ministry volunteer then as a lay minister pre-ordination. I’d also discovered the issues with congregational government in the Pentecostal church, and the harm politics could inflict on a church at the local level. Later I would work at a “mega-church” in New England which had Wesleyan emphasis but also was congregational in government and without a wider connectionalism though with more of a global, theological, and historical lens. I noted the polity was still a bit harsh at times with meetings that could be condescending between “parties” who felt strongly about cultural issues.

When I entered the United Methodist Church, the polity didn’t feel so heavy and I could be Arminian, affirm women as Pastors and leaders, teach and experience robust Trinitarian worship and theology, have episcopal accountability in leadership, be focused on the work of the Holy Spirit in mission to all in a parish, and there were resources to do it across this network – it all was incredible! And as I breathed it all in, I was completely naive to the politics of the greater church as I joined. I started working as a Youth Director and joined the denomination on a literal island. The disconnection was good for the trenches of ministry, but I eventually entered the ordination track towards Elder. That is when the issues of the denomination began to percolate to my attention (especially human sexuality and marriage) and the modern world’s power struggles between liberal and traditional positions. I’d not known until I took my Methodist courses that the denomination had been experiencing battle after battle since the merger of the United Bretheren/Evangelical Association and The Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1960s –my eyes were opening.

This naivete was a great shield as I did ministry in the trenches as a youth minister on that island but as then I began to live stream the General Conferences starting in 2012. My eyes opened wide, and today, I’m an Elder at a 3 point charge. I’m responsible to people who have lived their entire lives as Methodists, some who have recently committed and are doing ministry with us, and some who are testing us out. I hear and feel their questions about what is happening at the larger institution and I pastor in a rural context yet incredibly adept at knowing every detail of what is going on – because they love their churches. The pain of the battles became more real and I have sought to understand so I might pastor well through these storms. I did a lot of research, and now I teach Polity for the District Lay School for love of this frail yet fascinating system that I believe God is still using in so many lives. In my own Methodist Studies courses for ordination, in the midst of the academic and personal study on the organization at the church, district, Annual and General Conference levels, I still believe what is practically built in Methodist Connectionalism is a great ideal for how we might govern ourselves in a way that Wesley intended. This Revival Movement that inspires, equips, then sends ministers for mission and equips the laity to own their common ministry as an outpouring of their baptism. I’m still in awe at the potential and on the ground in our churches I see how much life comes from the Spirit enlivening us. The faith within our people is robust. Then again, there is quite a bit of bloat in the structure, as anything that has been around for a while naturally gets “gamed”. Language gets learned and definitions change slowly over time. Sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. This is too true in our case.

I make my observations as a pastor mostly through my own experience with the ordination process and personal observation of the overall polity. I’ve read every news article I can about the nature of the church’s dilemmas as well as her celebrations and victories. I love data and have a deep seated belief that wisdom is essentially seeing patterns and making good decisions based on them, and that ultimately the Spirit gives us discernment and leads us when we begin to surrender and give God glory rather than glorifying our own system or our history or our own selves. I know, even as an outsider who came into the family, it seems that Connectionalism has broken down. It is a painful and a slow motion tearing of the parts and it is so excruciating to the connection because the relationships are the lifeblood of the Wesleyan – Global – Methodist – Holiness – Revival – movement/s. It is how the family tree helps grace to grow and gives life to its members – through accountability and the very connection that is now being ripped into pieces.

I also believe it will be the connectional strand of catholicity posited within Methodism by John Wesley’s own theology that might eventually be a balm for the pain. Perhaps when some sort of schism occurs, the connection will not be completely severed and the “Oneness” that Christ which calls us to in this emerging Post-Denominational world, will still be possible through our prayers, our presence and our service. We will all still be members of the world-wide body of Christ, though in deep disagreement with one another of how to live in fidelity to the Lord. There may be new ways to work out the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As rural kinfolk might – in households across the street from each other with mutual fields all around their homes. We have lots of family compounds like that in the agricultural areas of South Carolina, and though family members may disagree on many things, the common work and the mission to grow something that brings life remains the same. I do not believe those differences should be minimized or the truths conceded, but merely recognized and presented charitably when needed and when appropriate for differentiation of theological method, Biblical interpretation, and understandings of the nature of our mission have opened chasms that have us looking at one another as enemies rather than siblings in the household of God.

The Church and Our Divide On Scripture

I have slowly realized and watched this dividing and experientially have run into the reality that there really are several factions, but mainly there are two vocal and major tribes warring each other within the family called The United Methodist Church. This is obvious and I barely need to state it. Though I hate the terms, for brevity’s sake, they are called Progressive and Traditional branches of the tree. I’ve struggled with the meanings of these terms, and I recognize that there are people who associate with these camps but because of the depth of connectionalism and common love in the family, many are wary of associating with a “side”. These folks have been called Centrists, though it mainly means that they do not want to break up the family so they try to keep quiet or encourage both sides.

The last General Conference, as I’ve been grafted into this family, I’ve felt the pressure of being from a Residency group with friends on all the different angles on these issues. Having friends on the ends of the issue of sexuality has caused a lot of pain all around. Spiritually, mentally, even physically in some cases. Even as I prayed over General Conference, I saw the behavior of delegates at the microphone and the intentional chaos which was openly spoken by some caucus groups… my body became literally sick. I delved into prayer for this family that has welcomed me but I’m now in the midst of a civil war which I at once was not aware of but now actively have a stake in as a shepherd with a group of people who ask me, “What is going on up there? Do we need to do something?” I’ve done my best to encourage, teach, truth tell, speak from the scriptures, and be pastoral all at the same time.

I’ve had to wrestle with my own responses, and for full transparency, I fall into the “Traditional” understanding. I cannot minimize the importance of seeking to understand the entirety of scripture and I push back on those who say we all only “pick and choose” what portions of scripture we live out or teach. I may not know all things, but the goal is to be so thoroughly immersed in the study and reading of scripture, and then to live it out so fully, that we delve deeper into the life of God. In the wholeness of deep and time intensive hearing and responding, the Spirit transforms us as the text witnesses to the saving power of Jesus Christ – and our own frailty and sinfulness fades in the sanctification process. I do not see any evidence that we should not take the whole revelation of scripture as we grasp at it and apply all the themes and courses within it into the ordering of our spiritual, physical lives, and relationships.

On the issue of marriage from the beginning there is a purpose for sexuality which is to bond a man and a woman together for life-long commitment to one another. The redefinition and opening up this union to same-sex spouses is something from the greater culture and is nowhere in either the Old or New Testament portions of the canon. Scholar after scholar notes how many forms of sexuality were practiced in Egypt, Canaan, Rome, and this same spirit continues today. N.T. Wright, in a recent podcast clearly debunks the conception that our modern ideas of sexuality are completely novel by citing the “Symposium” by Plato, and Roman writings on Juveniles as sources that obviously show the kind of same-sex relationships we are seeing today. We don’t give the ancient people enough credit for dealing with the same issues humanity has always been dealing with. We simply should not drift from the revelation of God simply because we we want people to feel accepted. The truth is, they are accepted by God – salvation is free – but the sanctification process afterward asks all of us to put our conceptions of self including our own sexuality on the altar and to seek God’s plan for each of us called into the Christian community. This may not be what we had originally or conceptually intended in our own imaginations.

The desire to make sexuality primary in our identity (which should rest primarily in the Spirits work within us by Christ) is not new. Monasteries in the ancient church have had to address monks who were attracted to men, and they called those celibate people to reside in their identity in Christ. Of course they were celibate anyway but it has import for us in an incredibly sexualized material world. The Bible has one line of argument of what an ordered marriage is, that those not bonded in it are to be celibate, and that sexuality is not our chaos but part of the Lord’s grand design. Dr. Kevin M. Watson, Assistant Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, who in a debate with a former professor of his, Dr. Kendall Soulen, in a civil debate, stated;

“‘Simply put, the Bible is concerned with sexual ethics. Deeply concerned with sexual ethics. The well-known Jerusalem Council, where the early Church agreed to remove as many burdens as they possible could from Gentiles who were coming to faith in Jesus, particularly circumcision, so that as many people could follow Jesus as possible, still emphasized right living when it came to sex. The Jerusalem Council concluded: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.’ (Acts 15:28-29) The consistent concern expressed for sexual ethics in the Old and New Testaments from passages like Acts 15 cannot be cut away from the other passages in the Old and New Testaments that concretize what particular sexual practices Christian are to abstain from.”

Full video of this debate is on youtube here: https://youtu.be/XkNCmsatTlE

The debate was civil, and I enjoyed listening to the two take questions and answers from folks afterwards, both Dr. Watson and Dr. Soulen being very pastoral in all things – it was very Christian in nature – I couldn’t help but notice that Soulen’s positions on becoming more laid back on divorce were grounds for our continual cultural accommodation. Just “one more thing” [not his words, my summary of the ethos]. I don’t believe his framework and the foundation of many modern Christian’s view of Biblical interpretation are taking the revelation of the scriptures serious enough nor do they plunge deep enough into the depths of their context, morals, or teachings. This view doesn’t take into account that our hardness of heart to one another in divorce and the laxity on marriage in our culture is a condemnation of our modern world and should not be a virtuous rule! We should be repenting of the implosion of marriage in our culture because it is a covenant made before God. The evil which spouses have beat upon each other due to our sinfulness need corporate and individual acts of repentance rather simply losing all of our Christian ethics and then redefining what a marriage is.

Dr. Watson, grounded in the scripture, began with a deliberation of the passages in Genesis where man and woman are brought together to become one flesh and states, “the witness of Scripture regarding marriage consistently describes marriage in terms of a union of one man and one woman. And it never describes marriage as between two people of the same sex.” As I’ve delved into the texts, this is always apparent without much study and under scrutiny it holds up, which makes me wonder why the Methodist world is succumbing to the fallacy of losing all Christian teachings simply because they are from antiquity and they’re really hard to live into.

I don’t worship the Bible nor hold it up as an idol between the Lord and His ability to speak but I do hold it as the inspired Word of God. It contains God’s road map and revelation for us to be lead into salvation. It is how we come to know Jesus Christ in a very personal way and then are conditioned to hear His word by the Spirit which we have living within us. I also hold to the scriptures as a standard by which we can judge extraneous revelation, in which our experience and interpretations of the workings of the Spirit within us and without us must be brought into focus by this ruler, the Word of God, and of its plain understandings.

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

Overall, I was encouraged by some movements at General Conference 2019 to affirm the teachings of the church which at a point long ago had been codified in The Book of Discipline -long before I was even born. Recently I watched in shock and awe at our South Carolina Annual Conference 2019, and seeing not one traditional clergy going to General Conference (one to Jurisdictional). I saw how gamed the system was. Local Pastors wondering why they had no say in their denomination, computers with spreadsheets out analyzing coordinated votes, and realizing that the polity had simply moved the messiness of Congregational polity from the local church, to the higher echelons where the same pettiness reigns. It was a somber realization of the pendulum we are on and how our congregations are constantly being gaslighted by obvious political maneuvering. I’ve seen both sides consolidate a power base and retreat into echo chambers. I don’t necessarily condemn having groups for support – we are human and need to support one another. I am guilty myself of having stronger relationships with those I doctrinally align with. But the lack of charity is intense right now, and I really wish the power brokers would lay down their power, repent, and allow the streams of Methodism to be free to go their own way. Build a new connectionalism in a Global sense but lets let go of the vicious bear hug.

Personally, I feel strongly that there is a right interpretation of scripture, and I strive to grapple with that through the Spirit and in the accountability of community. I also desire that our denomination would continue to acknowledge the teachings of the church through the ages which are in line with the witness of scripture and connected to apostolic witness. My heart is still hurting and I feel the brokenness of the denomination even though I wasn’t born into it. I think the Holy Spirit as a person is bringing these pains to the fore in all of us because folks on the ground level are feeling all the stages of grief as we mourn what was and in a clumsy way, envison what might be – even though most like myself do not have the power to really guide us to a new horizon. We can simply keep following Jesus Christ and remain humble as we minister to those we are entrusted to do ministry among.

While I feel a separation is coming, I hope that those with power will be gracious with each other, speak kindly to one another, and stop the shame game and marketing that comes with this kind of warfare language. This is a major disagreement, but we are not enemies. This is not the way John Wesley would have us walk and talk. I’m new to this, but seriously, if I was making a call I’d say, “let’s make a decision and find a way to live with it.” That’s called leadership, and the world needs to see leaders stick their necks out and say what they’re thinking whether they lose their jobs and their pension or not. Actually, that’s why this mess has gotten so large. Some folks who think very differently than I do decided to lead. Unfortunately they’ll find a stand still until a real conversation about our differences and chasm of how theology is done is clearly on the table and because of the hardness of our hearts -a mutual separation is negotiated under truce. We need more transparency, more humility, more thinking and listening and less warfare on the grounds of the Holy Conferences. I’m praying for The United Methodist Church and I will keep my vows. Whatever happens we will all make our decisions. Let’s not manipulate ourselves into a dystopian future.

I think institutions as large organisms can be saved but the heart needs to be malleable. If a division occurs, may we send each other in peace. It seems the problems of Congregational Polity have found their way to General Conference. The system like any is gamed over time. I preached recently on King David’s census and the plague that ensued. It seems like we want the same sense of control David wanted and I fear that there is a path to failure if we fight over control, resources, and power. I’m still an outsider mainly because I’m still learning this whole system. I still know where I stand, which is in line with the Book of Discipline as it is today. My hope is that we continue to uphold the teachings of Christianity and find a way despite the current culture. I know that one “side” eventually will be discouraged enough to leave if the table doesn’t have good actors looking each other in the eye. It doesn’t have to be this way. If amicable division costs money, it is what it is. I saw a figure for an Annual Conference that it would cost $18 million dollars to deal with pension liabilities and then the line was “That’s impossible.” Are you kidding me. I know we are frugal, but if something needs to happen you make it happen. Are we fighting over treasure or releasing each other for fruitfulness in ministry? There is a way. It seems to me that we’ve just stopped talking to each other and are now trying to destroy the reputation of the opponent in order to take all the marbles. That’s not Wesleyan, it is certainly not Christian, and that’s not the way of the Spirit. I’m here to see what happens and I’m praying for wisdom in the years to come. But in the meantime – back to ministry! The trenches in this world need workers to preach and spread scriptural holiness. May I be faithful, and may the Lord bless our work. May we all be humble servants who wash each other’s feet and look at Christ and kneel. God is with us and always will be. May we be with the Lord. Amen.

A Great Speech: “Men Have Forgotten God” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest for worthy spiritual growth. Our entire earthly existence is but a transitional stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble and fall, nor must we linger fruitlessly on one rung of the ladder. Material laws alone do not explain our life or give it direction. The laws of physics and physiology will never reveal the indisputable manner in which the Creator constantly, day in and day out, participates in the life of each of us, unfailingly granting us the energy of existence; when this assistance leaves us, we die. And in the life of our entire planet, the Divine Spirit surely moves with no less force: this we must grasp in our dark and terrible hour.

Father’s Day: Sparring with the Spirits

DemoniacOn Father’s Day I was challenged and honored to preach on Jesus’ encounter with the Demoniac.  A man oppressed by a legion of evil spirits.  Jesus came off a boat into the area of the Geresenes, and immediately the encounter brought new life to the man.  The power of our Heavenly Father, God Almighty was made manifest through Jesus Christ.  In this sermon, I explore what that means for us today.

Click to Hear Rev. Griswold’s Sermon: “Sparring with Spirits”

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-19

The Gerasene Demoniac

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding [b]nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might [c]accompany Him.19 And He did not let him, but He *said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them [d]what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

Awesome Easter and the Resurrection

Easter Watercolor

If you’re like me, you’re physically tired after Easter.  The lenten journey can be a bit overwhelming and exhausting, but also spiritually invigorating.  This has been my first year being the pastor of three wonderful churches, and so this has been the first year I’ve been personally responsible for the season of Lent and all the worship experiences that point us to Jesus Christ.

We began as many churches do with Shrove Tuesday and we enjoyed fellowship and pancakes made by the Men’s Club at Trinity in Givhans.  We began with smiles, full stomachs, and a desire to be close to one another.

Next we journeyed to Ash Wednesday, and we remembered our mortality and our need for repentance.  The ashes were imparted and we began to evaluate our lives and began to ask ourselves, “What acts will prepare me for this season, and how can I walk more closely in the footsteps of Jesus.”  It was powerful, and we left with the heaviness of our sin but the expectation in our need for forgiveness and a new orientation.

Then our Sunday night Lenten Services began and we began to worship together ecumenically with many sister churches in our area.  We joined with various cultures and learned new ways to experience the Word of God.  I grew as a preacher as I sensed the Holy Spirit moving in the congregations and the ministers who presented as God lead them.  The songs, especially “Are Ye Able,” are still running through my heart and mind.  We experienced 6 Sunday nights on the journey together.

In the midst of the season, our charge held a “Healing and Wholeness” service, and we anointed those seeking healing for themselves and others, with oil as the scriptures call us to.  We placed hands on one another’s shoulders and tears and hugs brought us together as we lifted our pain and suffering before our Lord, who also experienced great suffering for us.

The “Revival” Bible Study also met on Thursdays (and one Friday), as we examined “Faith as John Wesley lived it,” giving special attention to what can happen when hearts are “strangely warmed” and people ignite and serve God with all that they have.  We learned that we don’t need to be perfect to be useful in service to Jesus Christ.  We really just need to be willing to place our whole being into His hands and seek what He’s calling us to do for the Kingdom.  We sang together, spent time with the three churches in community, and we felt the Lord calling us to new “Hard” things to do in His name.  We began to feel the revival that Wesley ignited so long ago.

Then came Holy Week, and we celebrated the joyful moments before the storm, when Christ entered Jerusalem and the crowd cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  We marched onward to Good Friday, when Christ, having had the Last Supper with his disciples, was then betrayed and placed before the Sanhedrin and Pilate – to be put before the crowd and then sentenced to death.  We walked the Stations of the Cross together, and experienced a deep connection with our suffering servant, who went before the powers of our world and evil itself and did not back down.  From the Garden to the Cross, we felt Jesus’ pain and suffering which was taken upon himself to show his love for all people and his dedication to our salvation.

In a small reprieve from darkness, we experienced an Easter Egg hunt for the children at the campground, and the rains stopped just long enough for us to send the children out to cover themselves in mud and to jump in puddles to receive delight and plenty of sugar filled colored eggs.  Families came together, and we enjoyed some sweet fellowship huddled away from the rains that came and went.

Then, Easter morning came and we experienced a wonderful Sunrise service together.  We sang, “Were You There” and began to consider what Resurrection means for our own lives. At each service, we began to realize more and more that Christ is Risen!  And we cried, “He is Risen, indeed!”  Families and friends came together and the rains stayed away just long enough for us to take pictures together.

The Easter Season continues this Sunday, and truly, I am personally thankful to all of our churches and our congregations who have given so much to make this season one of true discipleship and a deep walk with Jesus.  This Sunday, we come back together for Communion, and we will consider Life after the Resurrection in the Spirit which Jesus promised to us for the mission that would follow.  I’m personally excited about what God is about to do with us and through us, and I ask each person to search deeply within themselves, and ask the big question, “Where is God in all this?”  He’s there, do not fear, and prepare yourself for big things.  God is laying a foundation for some mighty and wonderful works.  Let’s get ready!

-Dan

“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Meeting the Need – Health Kits and Love Offerings

Health Kits UMC IMG_6947

After the rains came, and everything started to settle, it became pretty clear that things were going to be alright in much of Ridgeville, Givhans and the Lebanon Communities, but there are many places still dealing with water slowly leaving the state.  Churches and homes still getting rid of water, assessing damage, and beginning the slow process of putting life back together.

Yesterday I drove through Columbia, and it is clear with the bridges still out, and the road closures (and the water systems just coming back into full operation) that this has and will be a longer road than usual.  I’d like to say a few thanks to some of the amazing people I’ve seen helping.

(1) I’d like to thank the South Carolina UMC Conference, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, and the Emergency Relief Teams already engaged and working across the state.  We’re blessed to have so many people from so many places putting brotherly/sisterly love into action.  (By the way there is a training tomorrow if you’d like to join those teams).  Also, thanks to the Conference and our Bishop for immediately posting information on how to get things done.

(2) I’d like to thank the churches of the Ridgeville Charge.  We’ve already made up 60 Health Kits, which were brought to the Conference Office yesterday.  (See pictures above).  I talked with the ladies there, and they said that they are shipping them out to communities fast, and these health kits are in great need.  We should continue to send them if we can, and I’ll make sure that somehow they keep getting to the Conference Office as fast as possible (drop off in the Vestibule’s of any of our Ridgeville Charge Churches.  Also – thank you for already giving so much to the Canaan UMC church on Route 61.  There are ERT teams working there, and they are worshipping at their sister church Sand Hill UMC until the church is ready to use again.  Continue to be in prayers for them, and maybe check in with anyone you know in that area and see if anyone needs anything specific.  We’ll be giving their emergency fund a love offering after this Sunday.  Make sure to invite folks back out to church for worship, and to maximize how much we can send in aid.  I’ve seen SC people coming together in the name of God, and my hope and prayer is that this will continue.  God is good!

(3) To those areas outside the affected zone, and those places out of state who have come to help and have sent bottled water.  Thank you for your prayers and generosity.  God is doing amazing things here, and I believe by prayer you are doing the best thing possible.  God is giving us all we need, and the people of SC are strong.  Pray for those without homes, send funds if you can to relief organizations (see my previous blog for more information about giving and making health kits), and keep telling us you’re thinking about us as the work continues in our hardest hit areas.

My favorite scripture verse is: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for theLord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We have seen His mighty power, we have seen Him work through the love of so many, and our faith is putting our hands to work for our neighbors!  Blessed be the name of the Lord our God!

South Carolina Flood Response

 

canann umc flood

Flood Response

 

From Pastor Dan:  I’ve visited our three churches, and for the most part, our churches fared pretty well through the incredible storms this past weekend.  I’ve met with some of our folks and I haven’t received any requests for dire need so far.   However, we encourage you to check in on your neighbors and simply ask how they are doing after the storm.  Perhaps we can provide for some in a time of need.  There are others in our immediate area who are not as fortunate, and are in need of help.  I’ve talked with our Emergency Relief Coordinator, Toni Janis, about Canaan UMC on Rt. 61, and they are in dire need in many ways – not just the church but also members whose homes are under water.  
How can we help?  Here are four ways:
(1) Pray! first and foremost, for those who are in need across our entire state and those currently responding to all forms of need.
(2) You can donate funds to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), and we may take up a “Love Offering” Sunday in order to send some financial help directly to our neighbors on 61.    General donations to help in the aftermath of the South Carolina flooding should go to Advance #901670, U.S. Disaster, said Gregory A. Forrester, assistant general secretary, UMCOR  Disaster Response. You can go directly to the UMCOR website to give on-line: http://www.UMCOR.org 
(3) Volunteer: If you would like to volunteer to assist in the relief efforts following the historic flooding all around South Carolina, you must be training.
Please join ERT and help people recover from the flooding disaster in SC.
Training is Saturday Oct. 10 from 9am-5pm
Sharon UMC
3001 Shannon St. Sharon, SC
$35 (Lunch Provided)
(4) Health Kits: The NEW items needed for each kit include:
• 1 hand towel
• 15 x 25 inches to 17 x 27 inches;
• Kitchen, cleaning, and microfiber towels not acceptable.
• 1 washcloth
• 1 comb
• Comb needs to be sturdy and longer than 6 inches long;
• No pocket combs or picks please;
• Rattail combs and combs without handles are acceptable with a minimum of 6 inches of teeth.
• 1 metal nail file or nail clippers
• No emery boards, please.
• 1 bath-size soap
• 3 oz. and larger sizes only;
• No Ivory or Jergens soap due to moisture content;
• Do not remove from original packaging.
• 1 toothbrush
• Adult size only;
• Do not remove from original packaging.
• 6 adhesive bandages
• ¾ inch to 1 inch-size;
• Common household Band-Aids.
• 1 plastic bag
• One-gallon size sealable bag only.
• $1.00 to purchase toothpaste (UMCOR purchases toothpaste in bulk and monitors expiration dates)
Assembly Directions: Set the $1.00 for toothpaste aside to be included in a separate envelope. Lay out the hand towel flat on a table. Lay the washcloth flat in the center of the hand towel. Place all remaining items on top of the washcloth. Fold over the sides of the hand towel to cover all of the items. Fold over one end of the hand towel so that it covers all of the items. Grasp the bundle of items tightly and roll over the remainder of the hand towel tightly. Place the tightly rolled bundle in the plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal the bag.  See website for more information: https://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies/Relief-Supply-Kits/Health   (You can drop off Health Kits at all three of our churches in the Welcome Area (vestibule), and we will make sure they get to UMCOR for distribution).
As we seek to respond in a way that honors our Connection to others as followers of Jesus Christ, let us petition our Heavenly Father for all the needs of those who are affected.  He is with us, and cares deeply for us all, and He calls us to be hands and feet, and to be those who bring the Good News by our actions and by sharing His great eternal Love.
“We are a connectional church, and we are not alone as we seek to respond faithfully to communities in crisis,” said SC UMC Conference Bishop Jonathan Holston.

Daniel Griswold
Pastor, Ridgeville Charge, UMC
Trinity, Mt. Tabor, Cypress

OFFICE: 843-871-1287

A Bit of Sadness and a Prayer in Trust: Wesley’s Prayer and Committment

woman and candles

Today, I worshipped quietly at a funeral service for a well loved member of our community.  The music was beautiful, and I was glad to see so many wonderful people there to remember her presence and impact among so many.  I was reminded that we’re born, we live our lives with family, our friends and our communities, and live out our faith in a world where we are interconnected – often in a  winding and confusing but ultimately good way.  We are fragile though, and we age and see and experience the lives of those who’ve entered the world after us who bring change and renewal.  Then, inevitably (unless you’re like the prophet Elijah) we exit to return to our Creator, God, and those who remain feel the deep sadness of loss, but also the bittersweet memories that can be full of goodness and great joy.  I still feel the pain of losing my Grandmother Nancy Sampson, and my Great-Grandmother Alice  more recently as well.  The electric grip of loss still affects me years after these losses.  A few years ago, my wife remembered the life of her sister, who passed much too young, but left a deep and lasting impression on us all.   Also very confusing, but essentially part of being human.

When I returned to the office at Trinity today, I prayed for many people and made a few calls to visit with folks from our churches in the next week, but when I sat down at my computer, some immediate news hit me pretty hard.  I think that news, with the aid of technology always on, has begun to pang life with a constant stream of grief as we become reminded of the evils our world continues to face.  We haven’t made it yet.  This particular story, of at reporter and her camera man, being shot live on air hit me deep in the spirit as many stories lately have, and I walked out to the alter and stood in front of the cross, felt a shiver go down my body and soul, and I spent a moment without words sharing my deep sorrow with God.

In that moment, I knew God felt the same, but more so than I did, and it heightened my mourning over our inability to love one another.  It confirmed for me that God is deeply invested in us and that our work to make “Thy Kingdom Come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” is a mission worthy of continual and constant emphasis – and that the Good News – “euangelion” – The Gospel, needs fresh testimony among all people who are being pinged by the same reminders of evil in the world that we are.  By actively promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proclaiming a Kingdom where peace is possible inwardly, through right relationship with God, and through that inner spiritual transformation in the Holy Spirit, we bond together to form this amazing Kingdom without any geographical center, initiated by baptism in water, and through discipleship we’re slowly made whole.  This is the mega-polis where Justice and Peace are practiced (rather than merely preached, or politicized), and we are reminded that the depths of our selfishness and ability to self-destruct are temporary, and through grace and self-sacrifice, God will cap this age with the re-arrival of perfection in our affairs.  God will destroy evil once and for all.

All that and more. I surrender to this future reality, and I pledge to work towards it in my own life and to be more and more like Christ in His ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross.  So at the altar, now, I recommit myself, and I will pray Wesley’s Covenant Prayer because I can’t think of a better one for these times.  If you’d like to pray this with me, I would be honored and humbled:

“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

In all this, in God’s plan, I will not be afraid.  I will continue to celebrate what is good, I’ll mourn and feel these losses knowing that it is temporary, and I’ll actively seek to represent God’s joy and goodness when some desire to bring evil to us all.  Strengthen your people, Lord. Remind us of Your Presence.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  Amen, and Amen, and Amen.