Monday, April 30, 2012

Pastorgraphs: “The Gray Church”

E-Vangel Newsletter
April 30, 2012
Pastorgraphs: “The Gray Church”
When I entered the United Methodist Church in 1988 my mentor told me, “One third of our Ordained Elders will retire within the next five years”. (It was good to be viewed as a “young clergyman” at age 40.) At every Annual Conference since, I have heard variations of that same forecast with its implied alarm that soon we will run out of active clergy.
I have a new perspective on this, having joined the ranks of retired Elders at age 63 last June. In many ways, I retired so that I could do MORE! So do millions of people each year.
Last week, I was able to watch sessions of our General Conference in Tampa, Florida via the web. (General Conference meets once every four years to provide guidance and order for the United Methodist Church.) One session dealt with the issue of our aging clergy and membership, urging us to make a concerted effort to recruit and enlist young clergy. Less than 5% of the 16,000 Ordained Elders in the UMC are 35 years of age or younger. I’m all in favor, and have tried to do my part in encouraging young adults to consider their calling.
However, it occurred to me there may be a silver lining in “the graying of America” for the church. While watching a documentary on KPBS this weekend, I saw examples of how retiring “baby boomers” are finding ways to re-invent themselves in dramatic ways that are blessing their communities. For example: an African-American woman, born in Mississippi, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and worked as a school custodian, is now in retirement the CEO of a program to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Most of the bank presidents in Cleveland know this woman by her first name, because she advocates refinancing homes rather than allowing them to default and become a blight on the neighborhood (which profits neither the bank, the homeowner, or the community).
My own 90-year old mother is a good example. Martha Jenkins worked hard all her life raising seven children. Then she had a career as a teacher’s aide. In retirement, she volunteered at the hospital and the church. When I spoke with her Saturday, my mother said her doctor told her the new pacemaker is good for another eleven years! (Note to file: Mom needs to get her pacemaker replaced at age 101 – for another dozen years!) I like the way Mother thinks! And the way she serves. Although she cannot get around as well as she once did, Mother volunteers to help in any way she is able: sewing, cooking, calling, and praying for others.
So maybe there is a word of hope in this for the church. Alongside the dire warning of our aging clergy, please hear the potential in the prediction that millions of Americans will retire each year. Many of these baby boomers, who did not “have time for church” during their careers, will seek opportunities to serve in retirement. If the church is wise, we will provide opportunities that encourage and facilitate these retirees in connecting with their calling. And 99.9% of them will not be ordained.
There is an old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” We should not throw out the “gray hairs” either, for in them lie a wealth of experience and opportunity.
We pick up a wisp of anxiety among the first generation of Christians as they saw the disciples dying off. John, the last of the original disciples, told the second generation to fear not and simply continue to ”love one another” in the work of the Lord. Every generation since has worried what will happen once the “old saints” are gone. An amazing rebirth always arises as God continually calls out clergy and laity for service.     
To come full circle, I predict another third of our active clergy will retire in the next five years. I predict the church will not die as the result, especially if we find ways to enable the maturing population, both clergy and laity, to serve. At the same time, young Christians, consider your calling. We need you, all.
Young and old, have you considered your calling? It’s never too late. Remember, Abraham and Moses did their best work after age 75.
Bless you, each and every one,  Brother Bill
From the Quote Garden
“Don't simply retire from something; have something to retire to.” 
~ Harry Emerson Fosdick
Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 284-9205

Monday, April 23, 2012

Child Sex Abusers in Our Midst

Where We Stand
How fellow Christians should respond.
A Christianity Today editorial | posted 4/20/2012 08:58PM
He loved children.
The man and his wife had parented 75 foster kids in their suburban home encircled by a white picket fence. He worked in marketing for three Chicago ministries, going on to establish a support network for foster-care families.
"Long before we got married ... we agreed we wanted to have large families," the man told a Christian publisher in 2009. "We thought it would be fun to have a lot of children."
And then, the man was arrested and held on charges of sexually assaulting two of his foster children, one 6, the other 12 at the time. This winter, he confessed to police of many nights spent drinking before coming home to commit literally unspeakable violations against these and likely other children.
We at Christianity Today recognized the mug shot. For nine years, he was our coworker in a non-editorial role.
The story came to us right before another: a Wheaton College Christian education professor arrested for hoarding and trading thousands of child porn images.
And now today comes another tragedy, with the news that Voice of the Martyrs executive director Tom White, a source, partner, and friend to several of us here, apparently committed suicide to avoid an investigation into an accusation that he had molested a young girl.
These events brought a sickening dose of reality to our hallways. While the stories don't signal a trend, they do mean that all faith-based institutions can no longer afford to assume that predators are somewhere "out there," over the clean Christian rain-bow. They are not just in college locker rooms and Catholic rectories either. They are on our evangelical faculty and work in our community nonprofits, and we must respond to them in a way that bears the judgment—and mercy—of the gospel of Christ.
To this end, with the counsel of experts in sexual health, we offer two principles for the Christian community in responding to child sex offenders and preventing such offenses.
First, we must prioritize protecting innocents. In recent years, we've witnessed a movement among churches discerning how to include ex-offenders into the community of faith. No doubt many lives have been transformed in the process. Still, when the well-being of children and the inclusion of offenders conflict, we believe a gospel-shaped community should prioritize protecting the most innocent among us, whose violation invites drowning by millstone (Luke 17:2).
"There is something about exploiting children that even our sexually permissive culture gets: that you don't touch children—even murderers in prison get it," observes William Struthers, a neuroscientist at Wheaton College. Our culture's prevailing response tells us something true about child abuse: Not only is it biologically abnormal (prepubescent children aren't capable of relating sexually), it's devastating for those who endure it.
Faith-based institutions can no longer afford to assume that predators are somewhere 'out there.'
Practically speaking, all this will require more proactive preventive measures than many ministries are used to. Parents can help children develop clear physical boundaries, recognize inappropriate behavior, and strengthen that feeble "no" into a shout. Faith-based institutions are wise to develop a strategy of, "If an employee reports observing danger signals from a coworker, here's how we will respond." A clear policy for network and computer scans is wise. Background checks for all who interact with minors are obvious. Most important, it means teaching that working with children is not a "right" or an unchecked "calling." If a former abuser insists on ministering to children, their request should be denied. "The truly repentant person is not likely going to apply to be restored, because he doesn't want to fail again," notes Mark Laaser, who works with abusers at his Minnesota-based recovery ministry. "If a person is humble, the restoration question becomes moot."
But how we answer the restoration question is paramount to our theology.
Second, we must extend the gospel to child sex abusers. This is a monumental task. A 2011 Slate report titled, "Are molesters really the most hated people in prison?" answered, simply, "Yes. Convicts who have committed crimes against children, especially sexual abuse, are hated, harassed, and abused." Even Christians instinctively feel that child abusers should "rot in jail" when they imagine a fellow Christian fondling a child or masturbating to such images. So when we begin preaching that such "monsters" are known and loved by Christ, it will horrify the watching world. And even us.
Yet if we let the gospel seep into our imaginations, we have no other choice. "Christ died for the murderer and the thief—did he not also die for the child molester?" asks Struthers. "Or am I going to create categories of people who are no longer able to be saved by the blood of Christ?"
Hear us rightly: Restoring molesters doesn't mean full or automatic inclusion in community life. It certainly means jail time, psychological testing, and an intensive recovery program. It should mean complete barring from children's ministry. But for the gospel-shaped community, it will, by God's grace, also mean holding on to hope that the lives destroyed by the molester—among them his own—will be made new on the Final Day by the loving judgment of Jesus.


Pastorgraphs: “Balm of Gilead”
April 23, 2012
Is it possible? Could the prayers of a handful of people help someone facing heart surgery, cancer, or any disease?
Research focusing on the power of prayer in healing has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.
Harvard scientist Herbert Benson, MD, conducted studies on prayer. He focused specifically on meditation to understand how mind affects body. “All forms of prayer evoke a relaxation response that quells stress, quiets the body, and promotes healing,” he told WebMD.
Mitchell Krucoff, MD, Duke School of Medicine cardiologist, added, "All of these studies, all the reports, are remarkably consistent in suggesting the potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions."
We are beginning a new ministry at Christ Ministry Center called “Balm of Gilead”. Healing and wholeness involves both the body and the spirit; linking wellness to the best of medical and spiritual care.
Balm of Gilead is a free, personalized ministry to help anyone realize health and wholeness using the Biblical principles of prayer, faith, hope, love, laying on of hands, and anointing with ointment (Balm of Gilead).
At Christ Church, we have had dramatic examples of prayer’s effect on healing. For example, two members diagnosed with advanced (Stage 4) cancer, who received the best medical care available, also received the intense prayers of our congregation. Both are in remission, living full lives years after their poor diagnostic prognosis. There are others; “walking miracles” who are doing better than anyone expected.
From my own journey through prostate cancer, surgery and radiation, I was reminded how important the spiritual aspect was to my healing. I have the best doctors in the world, men of faith! I thank God for them. My insurance company even counseled me to call upon my “inner spirit” to speed the healing process, as studies have proven. It worked.
Will everyone seeking a healing miracle find one? Not necessarily. God in His Wisdom knows what is best for us. But there is scientific evidence prayer does play an important role in healing and wellness. It certainly will not hurt!
A quick background: The land of Gilead, a mountainous region east of the Jordan River, was known for its medicinal balm (ointments) from early Biblical times. Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery to a caravan on its way from Gilead carrying “balm” for trade in Egypt.
An old African-American spiritual puts it into poetic verse.
“There is balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
“There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.”
The hymn points back to Jeremiah 8:22: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (New International Version). So, Balm of Gilead speaks to “spiritual” healing.
Let me tell you what our Balm of Gilead ministry is NOT. It is not hocus pocus, snake oil, and what some have distorted as “faith healing”. It is a “free” outreach of Christ Ministry Center.
Also, this is not just for the “church going” or religious people. It is for both “saints” and “sinners”, whom God loves without bias.
And it is not just for the physically ill. If you have hatred in your heart, an addiction, or anything that is holding you back from the Lord’s blessings, and being healthy in body and soul, we will pray for you. You may have even “given up on God”, but God has not given up on you. He loves you.
The Balm of Gilead ministry is an opportunity for ANYONE to have a minister pray for you, and be upheld in a journey to  spiritual wholeness and healing. Church membership or religious affiliation is not required. The goal is not to make more Methodists, but to help folks of all faiths (or no “religion”) achieve health and wholeness in their lives.
Is it just for “the sick”? No, the Balm of Gilead is as much preventative as it is remedial. However, it certainly is appropriate for anyone facing a medical crisis. It is an adjunct to professional medical care. And yes, we make home visits for those who are not well enough to travel. For those outside San Diego, I will be most pleased to extend this ministry to you by phone or the Internet.
What does it involve? We set up an appointment. I will listen to your need and pray for you. Simple as that. For those who desire it, you have options for “laying hands” on your head as I pray, anointing you with Balm of Gilead ointment, and serving you Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper (an often neglected aspect of wellness). Your request may be private between you and me, or with your permission extended to our Gilead Prayer Team. Your privacy will be respected. So, if you want a private, single prayer, that is okay. Otherwise, we will pray for you daily over a set period of time. This may involve a single visit, or if you wish, regular appointments, such as in preparation for an upcoming surgery, as you work toward wellness and wholeness in body and spirit.
Does it cost anything? Only a few minutes of your time and a willingness to let God mend your broken body or spirit. It costs no money.
So I extend an invitation to you, your family, friends and acquaintances. If you are interested in setting up an appointment for personal prayer for your physical and spiritual wellness, please call me (619) 723-1371 or Jeannetta at the church office (619) 284-9205. As this ministry grows, I will be calling upon the Rev. Perry Sproat, who is gifted in this form of ministry, and the pastors of our congregations to join me in the Balm of Gilead ministry.
Bless you, each and every one, Brother Bill 
Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 284-9205
From the Quote Garden
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
~ World Health Organization, 1948

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Brother Yun will be returning to San Diego on 
Friday, April 20th at 7:00 pm - hosted by the Abiding Place.
Brother Yun has preached the gospel of Jesus throughout China. At the age of 17 he gave his life to Jesus Christ. The first year he was saved he won over 3,000 people to Jesus. He has been arrested over 30 times for preaching the gospel. He has spent more than 3,700 days in prison in which he was tortured daily.
The book "The Heavenly Man" is the true story of his life in China, it is a modern day book of Acts. Mark your calenders.You don't want to miss this event.
You can read more online about Brother Yun at the Back To Jerusalem web site.