picture4If a government can shutdown, I wonder:  Can a denomination?

In a month and a few days, delegates from around the world will gather in St Louis to try to chart the course for the United Methodist Church.  At issue is how United Methodists respond to certain aspects of homosexuality.

There are “Traditionalists” who view homosexuality as a sin and want to make sure the church doctrine strongly reflects this.  There are moderate “One Church Plan” folks who advocate letting conferences and churches choose whether or not to allow gay marriages and ordinations.  There are “Simple Plan” folks who want to remove all restrictive language and any barriers for LGBTQ people all together.   There are any number of variations on these themes, represented by the 78 petitions delegates will have to examine at this February meeting.

What if they can’t make a decision? What if our delegates remain just as log-jammed as the rest of our denomination appears to be? What if there’s no consensus, or even a majority, and we’re just stuck?

This is a possibility, by the way, and I honestly don’t know what the Way Forward would be in such a situation.  Maybe we’d just…


You know?  Like the government?  If we can’t agree and can’t move forward, maybe we’ll just have a shutdown.  A partial denominational shutdown.

Can you picture it?

  • Churches would get filthy.  With no one to empty the trash, our sanctuaries would start to look like neglected national parks.
  • Ministries would be crated while people on opposite sides tried to compromise on what our priorities are supposed to be.  Until the higher-ups get things figured out, all our local churches could offer is fellowship time.  But no donuts.
  • Pastors and staff would show up for a week or so, but then we’d start calling in sick.  You’d see us taking temp jobs at coffee shops, trying to strike up a conversation about religion.  You’d drive through Taco Bell and find your preacher handing you your order, winking and tossing in extra salsa packets.

Ya think?

Nope.  No way.  I don’t know what we face in the next few weeks, but a shutdown is not in the picture.  Unlike our government, the Church doesn’t close.  Discipleship does not get furloughed.  Good News is not subject to a budget.

You or I may stumble, or change course, or lose our way, but the Church of Jesus Christ continues its mission.  Remember what Jesus says to Peter?

“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  –Matthew 16:18b

I take that to mean that we are, and will remain OPEN FOR BUSINESS.  The business of saving souls.  Transforming lives.  If we strain, we’re still open.  If we split, still open.  If things change…or don’t change, we’re still open.

Be sure to let people know that.  In your giving, and working.  In your loving and witnessing.  Christ’s work doesn’t stop, even when Christians argue, or worse.

See you on the job.

Maybe I’ll even bring donuts.


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Are you guilty of Supererogation?


A Sunday school class at church has been studying the Methodist Articles of Religion.  This is number eleven and it caught my eye:

Article XI — Of Works of Supererogation

Voluntary works—besides, over and above God’s commandments—which they call works of supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake than of bounden duty is required; whereas Christ saith plainly: When you have done all that is commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

Supererogation?  It sounds like someone who over waters their lawn.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the term before.  I had to look it up.  This statement, along with many of the other articles of religion, were written out of a Protestant response to Catholicism.

As best as I can describe it, Supererogation is over-doing it.  God expects X from you, but you do X2 hoping to keep the balance of your goodness in your own little spiritual bank account, that you can draw from on a rainy day.  (Or, to use to get out of doing penance for future wrong-doing).

Supererogation was one of Martin Luther’s main concerns when he launched the reformation.  His belief was that we’re called upon to do exactly what Christ requires of us — no less, no more.  To attempt to do more than is required is an act of impiety, going beyond Christs’s wishes in an arrogant way.

Although I’m fascinated with the Catholic perspective about this, I’m more interested today in how little this is talked about in churches I’ve been a part of.

I don’t think people are taught about supererogation.

In fact, I think we’re taught the opposite:  Serve Jesus till you drop!

The idea that Christ sets a limit on how much work you need to do would probably be a shock to several pastors I know, and church staff, and super-volunteers.

The whole Protestant work ethic prompts us to go-go-go!  That there is no end to the work we might do for Jesus.

In this article is the notion that Christ commands us to do only so much.  To do more than that is…excessive.  arrogant, even.

Maybe that is the main point.  There’s only so much we need to do.  There is no spiritual bank account to store your extra good deeds in.

There’s a reason for boundaries when it comes to work, even in Jesus’ name. Raise your hand if too much church work has ever burned you out before?

Perhaps you’re guilty of Works of Supererogation, driven by the notion that by working too hard you’re earning extra goody points. Don’t do that!

As the 4th commandment reminds us, life is about more than work.  Apparently Christ would have us discern that in our lives.

Don’t be lazy, of course.  And don’t be a workaholic, for God’s sake.

Just be a responsive, responsible disciple.

No less, no more.

Have a great week,




I would like to make a statement.

Two of them, in fact.

#1.  Not changing, because of fear, is bad.
#2.  Changing, because of fear, is equally as bad.

Or, if you’d like to reduce them down even further:  Fear is bad.

I’m somewhat of an anxiety sponge, and I’ll own that.

I can take other people’s fears and allow them to amplify my own.

Because of that, I wish Facebook had a “low anxiety” setting that I could employ, because lately I’ve been hearing a whole lot of fear about The Church:

“Open letters” to the dying Church.

How-to articles to lessen the hemorrhaging of local congregations.

There are some constructive pieces, to be sure, but so much fear!

Fear about statistics.

Fear about schism.  Fear about the future.

I wonder sometimes — do folks know how contagious this stuff is?

People can read this stuff, and despair. (And then for some unexplained reason, click “share”.)

I’d like to join a DO NOT FREAK ME OUT registry.

I’d even take a test to be allowed to sign up:

__ Yes, I know about the general decline of Christianity in the United States.

__ Yes, I know that our churches have to work extra hard to be vital.

__ Yes, I know that our denomination is perilously at odds with itself on the issue of Homosexuality.

There, I’ve checked off all three.  I care very much, and am committed to doing my faithful share.

(Can I get back to Buzzfeed quizzes and pictures of funny cats?)

The truth is, any system that is in a high level of stress will not be fully functional.

So instead retraumatizing ourselves with the considerable challenges we face, let’s take a few deep breaths, praise God who reigns forever, and continue the joyful work of being, and making, Disciples.

Have a great week,



Announcing: The UMFL!


–Lawrence, Kansas

In a surprise move, the United Methodist Church announced this week that it will launch a new semi-professional football league in time for the 2014 season.  The UMFL will begin in the newly formed Great Plains Conference, which encompasses all of Kansas and Nebraska.

Rev. Mitch Todd was one of the organizers of the league.  The idea, he said, came from equal parts frustration and innovation.

“2013 has been a fantastic year for Chiefs football (The Kansas City NFL franchise), but it’s definitely hurt our attendance.”

Once Todd and other area pastors recognized that Sunday football was the primary reason for the reduction of Sunday morning worshippers, they put their heads together, and the UMFL was born.

“Right now we have 16 churches signed up for next fall,” Rev. Todd said. “We invited any church to join.  Thankfully Church of the Resurrection (a 15,000 member mega-church in Kansas City) politely declined.  They already have several Chiefs on their rolls.  They would have wiped the floor with us.”

“Basically,” Rev. Todd explained, “we’d have football on Sunday mornings, instead of regular church.  We’ll start with tailgating, then have a short coffee hour, and then have the game.”

When asked about actual worship and Sunday School, Todd turned reflective.

“Oh yeah.  Worship.  Sunday School.”  He looked off into the distance, wistful for a moment, and then his smile came back.

“Did I mention that every church will come up with a crazy mascot to run around the sidelines?  The kids will love it.”

Rev. Todd says if things go off as planned, the UMFL will be a fun and economical sporting event for the whole family.

“I predict a 40% growth in attendance,” he announces.

While some see the idea as an effective way to bring more fans to church, others are skeptical about the loss of a regular opportunity to both reflect and act upon the presence of God in one’s own life and world.

God, when reached for comment, had this to say:

“I never miss worship.  It’s one of the high points of my week.  I’m sure Rev. Todd means well, but I would never want church to go away!  It’s where my children gather.  It’s quality time, with me.  I guess you could say it’s where we’re all on the same team.

“Now, I’m also a football fan.  Love it.  I don’t want to miss a single play if church runs long…”

“And that’s why I created…

the DVR.”


Have a great week,



. .


I’m not bashful when it comes to my position on homosexuality.

To me it’s a no-brainer.  I preach on a regular basis that Love is the most powerful force in the universe, that God’s Love can cross all boundaries and divisions.

So, love between two people of the same sex doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.  It’s Love.

This week, the Supreme Court of the U.S. is looking at California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

These are key laws that limit the rights of gays and lesbians.  The courts will be ruling on their constitutionality.  We’ll just have to see what happens.

I’m ready for these laws to change. How about you?


I am a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  We have our own set of laws that govern our behavior as churches.

Currently, our church laws prohibit gays and lesbians from being married in our churches.  And, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as pastors.

I’m ready for these laws to change, too. How about you?

In Romans, Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel…”  Nor am I.  The Gospel rocks!  The truth of Jesus is amazing!

But I am ashamed of our church’s stance on homosexuality.  We have misread The Gospel.

What will it take for us to change?  The answer is complicated.

We’re a global church, and the attitudes toward homosexuality vary from place to place.

We’re a methodical church, and things change very slowly.

We’re a divided church on many issues.

That’s part of what makes our denomination great — people with differing opinions on social issues can call each other brother and sister and worship the same God.

But, we are not treating everyone like full brother and full sister.  And that has got to change.

I’ve thought about leaving my denomination many times, because of this issue.

But I don’t WANT to leave it.

I want to CHANGE it.

Today I was planning to write a devotion about Holy Week.

About Jesus being betrayed and denied and condemned, and our complicity in allowing something so unjust to happen.


I think I just did.

Have a great week,