UMC no longer making disciples [mission.hack]

A mission.hack is defined here. We look at mission statements or at mission initiatives and examine different ways of expressing them. Hacking them...if you will.

The United Methodist Church at General Conference 2008 just voted to no longer make disciples of Jesus Christ.

In other words, the mission statement of the UMC was previously "to make disciples of Jesus Christ."

Now the UMC's mission statement is "To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World."

This is a good mission.hack. Why? Because it is utterly Wesleyan in that our discipleship leads us to act. We are not a passive people, we are a people with a blessing that requires that we pass it on. Like a cup overflowing with God's love, now our mission statement reflects that discipleship must bubble up out of us in acts of mercy and justice.

May all congregations adopt this mentality of connecting faith with action. Bravo for the GC2008!


How to Reconcile "narrowly passed" doctrines [G2008]

At GC2008, I got two flyers today: one from a renewal group and one from a caucus group. I was struck by two very similar statement from these very different groups.

From the renewal group regarding abortion:

After the 1972 General Conference narrowly approved legalized abortion...
And from the caucus group regarding gay inclusion:
In the 1970s, General Conference narrowly, and at the last minute, changed the language regarding homosexuality to that we have today.
We all know that General Conference is 50% + 1 for passage into the United Methodist Church. However, why do we use the language "narrowly" when it applies to legislation that we disapprove of? I can think of two reasons:
  • Such statements are used to discredit the language that is in the Discipline by emphasizing how narrow the "win" was.
  • Such statements are used to nuance that the Discipline is a political document. Most every line is the result of political wrangling.
It is important to emphasize the politics so that people don't see our polity as sacrosanct. However, to use language like "narrowly" evokes images of people claiming a 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to discredit the decision. While it can be evoked by caucus groups to promote how controversial their issue is when pushing delegates at General Conference, but I feel it has limited benefits outside those contentious times.

But I guess I would question if it is really necessary to continue emphasizing narrow "victories" (see post on militaristic language here) of the other side to give credence to your issue's viability. Such language is meant to divide and question, not bring unity through diversity.

There has been a movement the past two GCs that I've been to that desires to put in "we are not of one mind" into certain areas of contention (abortion, gay rights, etc). That gets shot down by delegates who demand polity to be an instruction book with no nuance. I think this is a mistake because it does not speak to the divides to bring comfort to those who are not of "one mind" with the church. Perhaps by giving language that reflects the "unity in diversity" that so often permeates the Discipline decisions, we would find more cause to discuss them in civil natures, not relying on the language as the final word.

Any thoughts on this? How can we resolve language of "narrow" triumphs with "not of one mind" language...while balancing the need for doctrinal authority?


What I'm Reading 04/28/2008


PhoneGate at GC2008: free cellphones? [bad.hack]

A bad.hack (read more about it here) is a manipulation of a Christian system either using illicit means to achieve an end, or achieving goals that leave the system worse off and less open than before. Read on for the hack!

MethoFolks, listen up. This is a big post. I've got plenty of links and information regarding the PhoneGate at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, a controversy surrounding the gifts of cell phones to African delegates from a Renewal group with an implicit exchange for their votes.

Read the UMNS news service report today on a Renewal Group handing out free cell phones to delegates with guides on who to vote for for Judicial Council.

Delegates and church officials attending General Conference are wondering if democratic processes have been compromised because a renewal group provided some African and some Filipino delegates with cell phones.

The Renewal and Reform Coalition created myriad conversations among delegates, church leaders and visitors after they learned that the Confessing Movement, Good News/Renew, Transforming Congregations and UMAction provided free cell phones to more than 150 African delegates to use during the General Conference.

Some delegates and officials expressed concern that the coalition is trying to sway the votes of African delegates who are typically more conservative than their U.S. counterparts. They fear the coalition might use the phones to offer suggestions on how to vote on particular issues.
INCREDIBLE!! They purchased cell phones and gave them to delegates, "no string attached."

I'm with GC Blogger in that this just smells fishy...and not good cooked fish, but raw stinky fish. And yes, Jim...FAIL.

I'm not the only one smelling the stink. Here's a relevant response from an ethics monitoring team:
A joint monitoring team from the Commission on the Status and Role of Women and the Commission on Religion and Race said the giveaway “is inappropriate behavior and it destroys community. We have gathered for Christian conferencing, which requires trust, honesty, openness and respect. Whenever there is an imbalance of power relationships with the expectation of reciprocity, this behavior gives the appearance of paternalism, manipulation, exploitation and of course, racism."
However, it seems to get much worse!

The GC2008 blog linked to the Daily-Kos affiliated blog StreetProphets post with video and images of the offending incidents that claims the cell phones came with a list of people to vote for, and information that who to vote for will be text-messaged to delegates during conference.

Here's the video (from StreetProphets):

However, StreetProphets erroneously credits the IRD solely with this scheme, but it was a joint effort among all the Renewal groups. I was handed a Good News written response to the controversy which claims "a cell phone is just a cell phone."
It is demeaning to the African Delegates to think that a gift of a cell phone would change their vote. They are highly educated, aware of issues, and supremely principled in their beliefs; and to think that the gift of a cell phone would change their view is demeaning to them. ...the Rev. James Heidinger, president and published of Good News, [said] "We believe that equal access to techno0logy helps create a more just and equitable playing field."
Finally, Will Green, a delegate from New England, also mentioned this:
Another member of the New England delegation - Ralph - was granted the floor for a moment of personal privilege and requested the Commission on General Conference form an Ethics Committee to address such crises as this. It was seconded and passed by a hand count (in other words, it wasn't close)!
That sounds brilliant. You need an established body of people to decide whether censure or condemnation is needed in an official capacity. Personally, I think it should have happened at GC2004 when the renewal groups said the UMC was splitting and that they speak for the church....

But I digress. This is hacking Christianity, right?
So, what kind of hack is this?
  • An offering of hospitality to delegates whose international citizenship would make it difficult to purchase a cell phone?
  • Or a gift with no explicit strings attached, but with the means and method to influence votes at General Conference?
I guess I'm troubled mostly by the text-message thing: to send text messages on the floor to delegates while they are supposed to be in Holy Conferencing and listening only to the Spirit of God seems really antithetical to the whole thing.

If that proves true, then I would call this a bad.hack, one that uses a system of acceptable gifts and abuses those acceptable gifts to influence delegates while they are supposed to be listening to the Spirit of God. There's some more debate of this here on Matthew Kelley's blog.

But still, giving of "gifts" especially to those from third-world (hate that term) and developing nations (better) just reeks of, in the words of the UMNS article, colonist mentality that gives gifts with an implicit exchange of reciprocity. That sort of mentality has no place in a global Methodist church.

Sigh. I'm torn. What are your thoughts?
  • Is a cell phone just a cell phone? A gift of hospitality to our overseas friends?
  • Or is a cell phone an abuse of a system that seduces good Christian people to listen to a cell phone rather than the Spirit of God?


Language of Insiders? [worship.hack]

a worship.hack (defined here) is a proposed change or question of the way worship typically works to open it up to more people, either in substance or in style. Read on for relevant critiques of worship!

I took two very dear friends to their first Reconciling worship was the one at General Conference. They enjoyed themselves, but had an interesting comment for me that hits pretty close to home.

My friend said this:

I really enjoyed the service, but one thing stuck out to me. With all the discussion about including gays and lesbians, minorities, non-able-bodied people, and singing about including everyone in worship together...well, I felt left out. I don't fit into any oppressed category, but I simply didn't know any of the names they were dropping. Gil Caldwell? Tracy West? Karen Oliveto? The woman given the yoke of Christ at the end whose story was not shared? All those insider knowledge I knew nothing about.
That's a tough critique. How often in our worship services do we use the language of insiders that is comfortable to us on the inside, but unknown to those on the outside?
I hear what he said: I knew all the names because of my familiarity, but even the woman at the end was unknown to me. So to see the glazed look in my friends' eye and the names being scribbled down for me to give the story about later...well, I realized that the language of insiders can be inhospitable to outsiders. We can drop non-name insider words as well. Words like "prevenient grace" in UMC churches can glaze over newcomers' eyes (and old-timers as well!).

But at the same time, we like inside jokes. We like inside comments that are the language of insiders, and then we feel like insiders. The joy of realizing what they are talking about is a valuable worship experience.

I don't know..what do you do in your worship services that opens up the language of insiders to others? How do you, as a receiver, want to know about the language of insiders? Would a glossary in the bulletin work?



Slow updates y'all

There's much more at GC to feel passionate about and actually have hands on time with than there is time to blog about it. Oh, and I lent my camera to a friend who will actually take pics with it. When I get more time, I'll blog more.

However, Monday's post is a DOOZIE. Alreday written, but no pastors will pay attention on a Sunday morning, so Monday is it. Check back then. :-)


Stop the Military Language in Committees [mission.hack]

A mission.hack is defined here. We look at mission statements or at mission initiatives and examine different ways of expressing them. Hacking them...if you will.

An important and refreshing change happened in the first minutes of the UMC's General Conference with radical implications for our local church committees and ecumenical business gatherings. It is that important.

From lay delegate Will Green on the ground at GC:

[A] member of the New England delegation, my friend We Chang, asked the Bishop to change her language around a motion being "defeated" so that we don't use war and violence language. The Bishop loved the suggestion and it got applause from the gallery!
Thus, for the whole of GC2008, measures are not "defeated" they are "rejected."

It started me thinking:
  • How often do your church committees "defeat" measures? Reading through a church's committee minutes can sound at times like armies swathing across Europe.
  • How often do you vote with "ayes" and "nays?" Hearing it like two opposing sides can seem like there are only two areas, black and white, no shades of gray, reinforcing the opposing sides mentality.
Perhaps a change in language will assist us as we grow in mutuality towards each other? Maybe examine your own committees and see if the very language we use promotes combative relationships and "winners" and "losers."

Thoughts on this?


What I'm Reading 04/25/2008


What I'm Reading 04/24/2008

  • tags: no_tag

    • I'm for open-source, but not THAT open-source. Link has some language and perhaps NSFW images, but the outrage at the objectification of women's bodies is real. Nerds, nerds, why are we so awkward? - post by umjeremy

    • Women's bodies: Just like open-source software!
  • tags: no_tag

    • Where have all the Smiths gone? Well, we haven't left...just been put in other categories... - post by umjeremy
    • In 1984, according to the Social Security Administration, nearly 3.4 million Smiths lived in the United States. In 1990, the census counted 2.5 million. By 2000, the Smith population had declined to fewer than 2.4 million.
  • tags: no_tag

    • For those of you that live under a rock and don't know what facebook is, this has some good tips for pastors (including what NOT to do) on facebook. Applicable to myspace too, but myspace is SOOOOooo 2007. - post by umjeremy
    • fb4pastors.jpg
    • How to build relationships and connect with people using the most popular social network on the Internet. This 31 page e-book will help Pastors and other ministry leaders make the most of this great networking tool.


What I'm Reading 04/23/2008


General Conference Coverage

So, General Conference starts today. All your favorite bloggers are there (or will be there...I don't get there until Friday). Out of all the updates and commentary by bloggers, pundits, and John Wesley himself, what can you expect here at

For those of you that are not Methodist or are solely interested in the concept of hacking Christianity, please forgive the next 10 days. However, if you stick with me, you'll find many applications of the concepts of this blog onto the UMC. Ya might learn somethin'!

During General Conference

  • There's gonna be plenty of hacks and opportunities abound! Here's what I'll be doing...
    • posting and reviewing copies of renewal group publications (mostly bad.hacks I'm sure).
    • reviewing written statements by the UMC-affiliated agencies and handouts (our famous mission.hacks)
    • Pictures, pictures, pictures!
    • Coverage of advocacy events and responses!
    • Praying for peace.
    • Crying and celebrating with my brothers and sisters in Christ (I'm sure there will be much of both!)
Post-General Conference
  • There's plenty more to process!
    • Review the changes to the Discipline
    • Review the responses and media-whoring by the renewal groups
    • Review the witness and advocacy events of the caucus groups
    • Sleep. Maybe.
Life after General Conference...
  • There's several posts to look forward to that I'm holding off on until after GC...since that's all on everyone's mind anyway!
    • What the UMC can learn from Wikipedia [4-post series]
    • User-submitted mission.hacks from their communities (contribute by emailing me here)
    • And more whittling through the list of future blog posts.
Enjoy! Looking forward to the week ahead, and pray for safe travels!


What I'm Reading 04/22/2008


General Conference and General Motors

I was asked on Sunday the following:

Why do Methodists love their committees so much that they would gather for a full week of committess? It seems like that many Methodists could do good works and charity instead of sitting around and talking.
Indeed, the questioner is correct, we could take that week and thousands of people and do good works and acts of charity. But we wouldn't be getting all the jobs done that are required of us as the Church of Jesus Christ...

How is that? To parallel why General Conference for the United Methodist Church matters, we have to compare it to another General: General Motors, that is.

It's been said that the car company General Motors has two jobs.
  • The obvious one? To make cars.
  • The other one? To be a company.
This car company has to focus not only on getting cars made, but also how to conduct themselves and interact as a company of people dedicated to Job #1.

We could then say that the Christian church United Methodist Church is like that. We also have two jobs.
  • The obvious one? To make disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • The other one? To be a church together.
This Christian church focuses not only on creating disciples, but every four years we come together and decide how to conduct ourselves and interact as a fellowship of believers dedicated to Job #1.

May we these next two weeks come to a working arrangement and a grace-filled polity as we work on Job #2 in order to better pursue Job #1.


Humor for Breakfast

Well, good humor, I think, rather than haha-funny-humor.
There, doesn't that make you feel better?


Stop Being a Friendly Church [mission.hack]

A mission.hack is defined here. We look at mission statements or at mission initiatives and examine different ways of expressing them. Hacking them...if you will.

Yesterday, I attended a presentation by Doug Ruffle, PhD, of the New Jersey area of the UMC who came and did a presentation on church growth and tools for evangelism. He said (at least) one thing that really stuck with me and reminded me of many UMC Mission statements. He said this:

Stop being a friendly church.

Seriously...stop it.

  • A friendly church is not what God calls us to be.
  • We are called to be a church where people can make friends.

Dr. Ruffle writes...
My mother had to move over 10 times during her first 12 years of marriage. My father worked as a salesman and the companies he worked for were constantly assigning him to new places. We asked my Mom how she had managed to pick up everything and move with a family of five to a new town or city where she didn’t know a soul.

“I would find a Methodist Church,” she replied, “because there I knew I could make a friend.”

I thought it interesting how she worded her response. She didn’t look for a “friendly church,” but rather a church where she could make a friend. There is a big difference.

The difference was underscored for me recently upon hearing of a colleague who moved to a new town and sought out the closest United Methodist Church. He found a “friendly church.” People were kind. They smiled at him. Some greeted him during the after-worship fellowship hour. But, he wasn’t making any friends. He even went so far as to invite some of the church members he met to his home — to try to build a relationship — but they couldn’t find the time to come over. My colleague had found a friendly church, but not one where he could make a friend. He has given up trying and now is attending a church of another denomination where within two weeks of his first visit he was invited over to a member’s house for dinner.
To me, this is not mere hospitality, but a discrimination issue too. Too often we are only "friends" with people similar to us, and "friendly" to people who are not similar to us.
  • You know...those people.
  • The ones who you will talk to in coffee hour, maybe even wave back on the street, but otherwise outside the church walls you aren't connected to their lives.
  • The ones of a different race or, perhaps more likely, economic level than you.
We are called to be friends and accountability partners, not just "friendly" people who greet you with a smile, but keep you at arms length.

The statement on a plaque on the front steps of my church says this: "A friendly Church in a friendly town." I'd rather it say "A Church where you can make a friend."

But maybe friendship isn't what you are looking for. Perhaps you are one of those wounded ones who just wants Sanctuary, a time alone with God. Emphasis on alone. That's fine too, and churches that take "to make a friend" to borderline-stalking are out of the loop too.

So, where is the sweet spot between being "friendly" and "making friends" that churches welcoming and hospitality committees can address? And how can pastors and laity alike help move their church from being friendly to actually treating one another like the brother and sister in Christ that they are?

Ruffle concludes his talk with this nugget:
My mother taught me a valuable lesson about the difference between a friendly church and a church where you can make a friend. It's a lesson of which our churches need to be reminded.
When I see the words "a friendly church" that just reminds me to be friendly. If I instead saw "where you can make a friend" I might remember, hey, that's ME. I might be the one making a friend today.

Mission.hacks examine what effect mission statements have on people, and what our mission statements betray about us. Perhaps the "country-club" stigma of the UMC could be a bit more eradicated if we stopped being "friendly" and started trying to offer to be "friends."

Thoughts? Other "friendly" manifestations that you want to note of?



Don't Question a Preacher who knew Jeremiah Wright AND MLK

This Fox News reporter got *spanked* by a priest regarding the Jeremiah Wright controversy. But that's what you get when you talk to a priest who knew both MLK and Jeremiah Wright and call Liberation Theology racist.

Anyone else spot the most annoying part? The cameraman hides the black man behind the white man for most of the shot. Classy.


What I'm Reading 04/19/2008

  • tags: no_tag

    • Great words to lead into GC2008 with...thanks Andy. - post by umjeremy
    • I read last week (don't remember where) that there is room in the church for disagreement, but not division. I think that is an important distinction to make.
    • It starts with one person deciding not to buy into the divisiveness myth, and grows outward from there. It starts with one delegation saying, "Not this year," and setting a hopeful tone that will trickle over into the delegations sitting around them. It starts with one delegate relinquishing their fear and asking another delegate with whom they know they disagree about something to have a cup of coffee and talk about their favorite hobbies or sports or something.
  • tags: no_tag

    • A well-written post that discusses some of the issues with the incompatibility clause. - post by umjeremy
    • We could agree that since we all have to exist on this same planet and in this same society together whatever we can do to foster mutual respect and consideration is all to the good. Insults, misrepresentations, generalizations, etc. will not help in this effort. Neither do efforts to silence or oppress people because someone doesn’t happen to like their ideas or “lifestyle choices” or religion or whatever. Neither do efforts to misrepresent the things people are saying just to score some sort of rhetorical point.
    • We could agree to a common commitment to respond to individuals as individuals rather than simply as members of a particular group. So if I know a person is a “Christian” or a “Moslem” or a “homosexual” or an “atheist” this may or may not tell me what they think about various issues. I need to communicate with them as an individual and not simply as a member of a particular “species.” Generalizations about people-groups (even when fairly accurate) tend to foment division rather than heal them.


Christian Digg? Anyone?

Went to add a "digg" button to my arsenal of web pandering, and realized something odd: there is no religion/spirituality section on, the popular link-sharing website. Politics and news, certainly, but no religion/spirituality. I even searched the offbeat section to no avail.

So, I figured someone else musta done something about this, wrote a "Christian Digg website" and I found three versions of basically the same thing:

  • GospelShout looks the best themed, but the picks are few and far between. The blog hasn't been updated in a year, either!
  • Blogs4God looks very similar, but has less new posts and more votes for them. The latest comment was 36 days ago.
  • FaithTag is ugly and covered with ads and the news are ads too. Hey, I just write what the Holy Spirit told me to say, and she said it was ugly.
More after the break...

Two other pages of note from my googloogling:
So, near as I can tell, there is no dedicated Christian Digg system. If Christians read a story or...ahem, read an amazing blog post, they don't have a captive audience to send it to.

It seems like if all three of the above apps would join together, there would be enough synergy to really make it work. As it is, they are all irrelevant because they are in their own camps. I don't know who came first, but really, this is pretty sad.

Is there some fantabulous Christian Digg website out there? Am I missing something? Or is this another case of Christians who disassociate and then ghettoize themselves from their "competitors" instead of working together to solve a common need?


I see your Transformers redub...

I see John the Methodist's redub of Transformers, and raise him these redubs of the G.I.Joe PSAs that floated around a few years back. Oh, the memories.

There are two I've chosen to post, one before the jump and one after.

(youtube link)

(youtube link)

There are more if you check out the related videos on youtube. Be warned, though, that most of them have very naughty language, so perhaps preview them before you play them on the big screen at church...


Humor for Breakfast: Best Colbert Report Ever

I gotta say, last night's Colbert Report was the best one ever. A ridiculous number of guests, all three top Democratic candidates, and they all took over the regular columns and shticks that Stephen does.

Check it out: Colbert Report 4/17/08

The best one is from John Edwards...follow the jump to watch it.


Blips on the MethoRadar

There's been two blog posts here that have gotten much ballyhoo the past few days. That's a pretty good return for being new to this niche of the blogosphere and really not on anyone's read lists yet. These Methobloggers and Facebookers are friendly and talkative folks!

So, what of mine blipped on the MethoRadars this week?

First, a satirical take on analyzing the mission holiness of seminary mission statements, got 29 comments and a ridiculous number of linkbacks of people writing about it:

Second, a serious take of a Freakonomics new motto for the USA ("Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay") and applying that motto to the United Methodist Church, landed not many comments, but rather a mention in UMNexus and further (and better discussion) and a linkback from John the Methodist.
A NEW MOTTO? Check out Rev. Jeremy Smith’s blog, “Hacking Christianity.” Smith takes the winner of a recent motto contest, “Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay,” and applies it to the UMC, with some surprising results. One of the best Methodist blogs, “Locusts & Honey,” in referring readers to Smith’s blog, draws a cogent comment from Jeff the Baptist, just in time for General Conference. (By the way, look over “Locusts & Honey’s” excellent blogroll. Great mix of people and views!).
Not too shabby for my first two weeks, eh? In fact, these two pages alone accounted for 60.5% of my page views the past two days! Ha!

I'm sure writing a post self-congratulating myself won't go over well in the blogosphere. But as a pastor who rarely or only slowly sees the fruits of his labor, instant gratification is sometimes a welcome guest.

So, thanks to everyone! More new content tomorrow!


What I'm Reading 04/17/2008


Theologies must explode in my head...

Here's a quiz I just took, found it on John's weblog via the methoblogosphere. The paragraph below is THEIR words, not mine.

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Modern Liberal




Reformed Evangelical




My top three must have a Celebrity Deathmatch in my head most nights.

What's your theological worldview?


Mission Holiness Rankings of UMC Seminaries

John and Andrew have both noticed that Claremont School of Theology has a new mission statement that they both have difficulties with: there is no mention of Jesus Christ or God or the UMC in it.

That makes me fuming angry! (HULK SMASH)
As a United Methodist Institution, should not our schools reflect the mission of the United Methodist Church: To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ? (THROWS PULPIT)
We have to be explicit with our mission statements, right? (THROWS CHALICE)
No wishy-washy nuanced academic words like Faith, Spirituality, or Religion will cut it! (CATCHES CHALICE..whew!)
Words with nuance are not expressive of the simple tenets of Christian faith! (SITS IN ASHES)

I propose that we determine who is the holiest of all UMC institutions.

Since we applied it to Claremont, let's use this clinically-proven formula of analyzing mission statements and apply it to the variety of mission statements from the 13 United Methodist Seminaries and see how they nuance things.

We are armed with the scientifically lab-tested and proven Mission Holiness Index (MHI), which gives scores to holiness words, and subtracts for wishy-washy words. Let's keep score!

  • 5 points for explicit mentions of Jesus Christ, God, Christian, or the United Methodist Church
  • Minus 1 point for wishy-washy academic words like faith, spirituality, religion, etc...words that indicate they are about God, but without the maracas to actually say it. Even "church" is here because they aren't paying homage to the UMC...the true faith.
NOTE: I took what was EXPLICITLY their mission statement. Some of them are longer, but only the parts that are explicitly stated as their mission statement are included.

Boston University's Mission: (not on website...pansies...taken from this official paper here)
The purpose of the Boston University School of Theology is to pursue knowledge of God, to cultivate leaders for communities of faith, to enrich the academy, and to seek peace with justice in a diverse and interconnected world.

As the founding school of Boston University and the oldest United Methodist seminary in North America, we are a professional school within a cosmopolitan research university that is itself committed to “learning, virtue, and piety.” Rooted in the Wesleyan traditions and drawing from the Christian traditions of the world, we strive to equip ministries and vocations whose aim is both personal and social transformation, whose orientation is diverse and global, and whose vision expands the prophetic legacy of this historic School of Theology.

5 point Words: God, UMC, Christian
Minus 1 point Words: faith, Wesleyan, ministries, prophetic, Theology,
TOTAL: 10 points
Candler's Mission:
Candler School of Theology is grounded in the Christian faith and shaped by the Wesleyan tradition of evangelical piety, ecumenical openness, and social concern. Its mission is to educate—through scholarship, teaching, and service—faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.

5 point Words: Christian
Minus 1 point Words: Evangelical, ecumenical, faithful, church's, ministries, Wesleyan
TOTAL: -1 points
Claremont's Mission, the school in question...
"An ecumenical and interfaith institution, Claremont School of Theology seeks to instill students with the ethical integrity, religious intelligence, and intercultural understanding necessary to become effective in thought and action as spiritual leaders in the increasingly diverse, multi-faith world of the 21st century."

Scoring Words: None, nada, zip.
1 point Words: ecumenical, interfaith, religious, spiritual, multi-faith
TOTAL: -4 points
Drew's Mission is:

The Mission of Drew Theological School Center for Continuing Education is to:

  • Equip clergy and lay leaders to effectively address emerging and ongoing issues in ministry by providing relevant leadership education programs, including courses developed in partnership with Annual Conferences and agencies of The United Methodist Church.
  • Provide advanced theological education beyond the structure of degree programs by opening some graduate courses to non-degree participants, and partnering with Annual Conferences and local churches to provide alternative educational opportunities that embrace multiple learning styles.
  • Strengthen the spiritual lives of all people through deep Christian study and reflection that is characterized by a commitment to justice, ecumenism, and respect for the integrity of creation, and is supported by theology that is responsible to the complex social realities of our interconnected world.

    Scoring Words: Christian, United Methodist Church
    Minus 1 point Words: clergy, ministry, annual conferences (x2), churches, spiritual, ecumenism, creation, theology.
  • TOTAL: 1 points
Duke's Mission is:
Duke Divinity School’s mission is to engage in spiritually disciplined and academically rigorous education in service and witness to the Triune God in the midst of the church, the academy, and the world. We strive to cultivate a vibrant community through theological education on Scripture, engagement with the living Christian tradition, and attention to and reflection on contemporary contexts in order to form leaders for faithful Christian ministries.

5 point Words: Triune God, Christian (x2)
Minus 1 point Words: spiritually, witness, church, Scripture, ministries
TOTAL: 10 points
Gammon's Mission is:
The mission of Gammon Theological Seminary, a historically African American institution, in partnership with The Interdenominational Theological Center, is to recruit, support, and educate pastors and leaders for The United Methodist Church.

5 point Words: UMC
Minus 1 point Words: Interdenominational, pastors
TOTAL: 3 points
Garrett-Evangelical's Mission is:
The core purpose of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is to know God in Christ and, through preparing spiritual leaders, to help others know God in Christ.

The seminary enacts its mission through:

  • Preparing women and men for ordained and lay ministries;
  • Preparing qualified students for seminary, church-related college, and university teaching in the theological disciplines;
  • Providing theological research and reflection for the church.

    5 point Words: God (x2), Christ (x2)
    Minus 1 point Words: spiritual, ministries, theological, church
    TOTAL: 16 points
Iliff's Mission is:

The Iliff School of Theology is a graduate theological school of the United Methodist Church. Its central mission is the education of persons for effective ministry in Christian churches and other religious communities, for academic leadership, and for the cultivation of justice and peace in local and global contexts.

Iliff affirms its United Methodist identity and its liberal Christian heritage, grounded in scriptures and traditions, critical thinking, and openness to emerging truths, including those derived from science, experience, and other faith traditions. In a world fragmented by religious and ideological conflicts, Iliff promotes theological scholarship and dialogue to foster transformative possibilities for humanity and nature.

5 point Words: UMC (x2), Christian (x2)
Minus 1 point Words:ministry, religious, scriptures, faith, religious,

MTSO's Mission (well, their stated Purpose Statement) is:
Our Purpose
Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides a vibrant learning environment for the preparation of skilled, passionate transformational leaders for churches, religious institutions, emerging faith communities and the wider world. We attend to the theological, spiritual, and vocational formation of a diverse group of students involved in a wide range of pursuits. Expecting active participation in our community of learning, we maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect and openness, teaching how to engage in conversation with the past and with others so that new and faithful perspectives may emerge. Our graduates demonstrate a deep understanding of the heritage disciplines of religious study, are highly competent in areas of practical theology, and show evidence of thoughtful reflection. We take seriously our responsibility for stewardship of the intellectual life of the church and our commitment to a just and sustainable world.

5 point Words: NONE
Minus 1 point Words: churches, religious, faith, spiritual, faithful, religious, theology, church.
TOTAL: -8 points
Perkin's Mission is:

The primary mission of Perkins School of Theology, as a community devoted to theological study and teaching in the service of the church of Jesus Christ, is to prepare women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry.

Perkins School of Theology affirms its relationships to the community of learning that is Southern Methodist University, to the universal church (inclusive, ecumenical, and global), the The United Methodist Church specifically, and to its particular geographical and cultural setting in the southwestern United States.

These relationships are sources of strength and avenues of service for the school as it pursues its twin tasks of theological reflection and theological education to the glory of God.

5 point Words: Jesus Christ, Christian, UMC, God
Minus 1 point Words: church, ministry, church, ecumenical, theological (x2)
TOTAL: 14 points

Saint Paul's Mission is:

Rooted in the Wesleyan tradition

and committed to inspiring passion for ministry

in diverse Christian bodies,

Saint Paul School of Theology

educates leaders

to make disciples for Jesus Christ,

renew the church,
and transform the world.

5 point Words: Christian, Jesus Christ
Minus 1 point Words: Wesleyan, ministry, disciples, church
TOTAL: 6 points

United's Mission is:
United Theological Seminary is a Christ-centered graduate school of The United Methodist Church that equips leaders for the church in a pluralistic world through the nurture of piety, the love of learning, and the pursuit of justice.

5 point Words: Christ, UMC
Minus 1 point Words: church, piety
TOTAL: 8 points
Vanderbilt's Mission is: (dude, what's up with no mission statements on websites? This is from their catalog)
The Divinity School seeks to fulfill the following objectives: to engage
men and women in a theological understanding of religious traditions; to
help persons, both lay and ordained, re-envision and prepare for the prac-
tice of Christian ministry in our time; to encourage individuals in their
spiritual and intellectual growth; to prepare leaders who will be agents of
social justice; and to educate future scholars and teachers of religion.

5 point Words: Christian
Minus 1 point Words: theological, religious, ordained, ministry, spiritual, religion
TOTAL: -1 point

Wesley's Mission is:
The mission of Wesley Theological Seminary is to prepare persons for Christian ministry, to foster theological scholarship, and to provide leadership on issues facing the church and the world. Our aim is to nourish a critical understanding of Christian faith, cultivate disciplined spiritual lives, and promote a just and compassionate engagement in the mission of the church to the world.

5 point Words: Christian (x2)
Minus 1 point Words: ministry, theological, church, spiritual, church
TOTAL: 5 points

So, there you have it. Here's the scientifically proven ranking of the UMC Seminaries:

Mission Holiness Index Rankings

  1. Garrett, 16
  2. Iliff, 15
  3. Perkins, 14
  4. Duke, 10
  5. Boston U, 10 (BU tied with Duke, but since they used "orientation" they obviously support the HomoLiberalAgenda, and thus are in 5th place)
  6. United, 8
  7. St. Paul, 6
  8. Wesley, 5
  9. Gammon, 3
  10. Drew, 1
  11. Candler, -1
  12. Vanderbilt, -1 (they tied with Candler, but since their mission is not on their website, they get negative points for making our team of monkeys work)
  13. Claremont, -4
  14. MTSO, -8
Well, we have the results, and they are unquestionable.
  • As suspected, Claremont had the second lowest Mission Holiness, and are almost least holy.
  • Surprise loser was MTSO in Ohio, with very low Holiness due to their lack of maracas to mention holy words even once in their Statement and fill it with nuanced academic fluff.
  • Garrett, Iliff, and Perkins unquestionably take the top tier of Mission Holiness and are most holy.
  • Perkins does get honorable mention for being the only school to use ALL Four of the MHI's "Holy Words." They get an A for Affort.
  • Incidentally, but without influencing these results, Andrew goes to Duke, and Jeremy went to BU. Since they are tied in the MHI ranking, then this MHI is fair and balanced. The fact both their schools are in the top 5 means nothing.
Oh, and for fun, let's see where Asbury Theological Seminary (NOT A United Methodist Institution) ranks, just to ensure the MHI is accurate and fair:

Asbury Theological Seminary was founded “to prepare and send forth a well-trained, sanctified, Spirit-filled, evangelistic ministry” to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world. The contemporary form of this mission commits the Seminary to maintain a multidenominational, multicultural community which:

  • Pursues the union of sound learning and vital piety through excellence in graduate, professional and continuing studies for ordained and lay ministries and provides resources for scholarly leadership in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition;
  • Nurtures men and women called of God for parish ministry and other forms of servant leadership in the experience and practice of personal and social holiness as defined by Scripture and Wesleyan theology;
  • Encourages its members, in their teachings, scholarship and service, to live out the witness of a Spirit-filled life formed by the authority of Scripture; and
  • Prepares women and men for prophetic ministries of redemption and renewal in an increasingly urbanized and secularized world.
5 point Words: God
Minus 1 point Words: sanctified, Spirit-filled, evangelistic, ministry, scriptural, holiness, ordained, Wesleyan, ministry, holiness, Scripture, Wesleyan, theology, Spirit-filled, Scripture, prophetic, ministries
TOTAL: -12 points
It's official. Asbury has the most negative point words. In fact, it has a 17:1 buzzword to real mission word ratio. So, out of all the schools, Asbury is the least holy and uses the most lukewarm words to real mission words.
(No wonder they aren't United Methodist)


Thus, it is concluded. It follows that if you want to go to a good school, go to one of the top schools of the MHI rankings, not one of the bottom ones. They are lowest of the low in Mission Holiness, and that translates to the Holiness and Salvation Level of their students and faculty.

So, that ends our analysis for today.
Hopefully in the future, we will have more examples of the MHI Index.
Thanks, and come back again someday.

(EDIT Apr.16 @ 5:08pm EST :: edited Wesleyan to Wesley and corrected the math on Asbury's section per comments)
(EDIT Apr 18 @ 7:45am EST :: added Vanderbilt Divinity to the results! How could I forget Vandy? Silly monkeys...)


What I'm Reading 04/15/2008

  • tags: jott

    • I set up a special email account, just for mileage. Put that contact into Jott.
      Now, I get into the car and call Jott, say "Mileage" and read off my current mileage. Jott takes it from there, transcribing and sending to my email account a record of my mileage.

      I got this idea from this article on using Jott to keep a medical diary.


Humor for Breakfast : The Shining [humor]

Tuesday's evenings are always meetings for my congregation. While I love committees, sometimes they are death by a thousand paper cuts. So, if you are anticipating a long day, enjoy this light-hearted movie that sounds fun for the whole family!


John 10 - From Gatekeepers to Pasturekeepers [bible.hack]

What better Scripture to inaugurate the bible.hacks label than this past Sunday's Lectionary? Read it here: (Easter 04, Year A) John 10:1-10, Jesus says "I am the Gate." Read on for a bible study on John 10 and a call for Churches to cease being Gatekeepers and instead tend the pasture for whatever sheep come our way.

One of the contemporary understandings of hacking is based around permissions:

  • Hacker break into a computer system that they do not have permission to access.
  • Hackers often obtain these permissions by fraudulent means
  • Hackers spoof their permissions and gain access by impersonating someone else.
Gateways grant entry only to those with permission.To combat hackers, computer architects create gateways: one-stop places where you have to authenticate yourself to gain access. You use gateways everyday to login to your email, to view a website that you have registered for, your PIN on an ATM, your voicemailbox code, etc. Gateways grant entry only to those with permission. All the data or resources are locked behind closed doors until you authenticate yourself.

In the first section of the Scripture, Jesus is the gatekeeper. Jesus keeps out those who are thieves (those who steal others' permissions). Jesus declares "thieves" those who attempt to enter the safety of the gated safe haven by other means other than through himself. One has to have permission to enter the safe haven; permission is given only to those who know Jesus' voice.

That's the contemporary understanding, perhaps you heard it this past Sunday in church. But this is a bible.hack, let's hack that understanding by offering new ways for the bible to be used and understood in our contexts.

Gateways also filter how insiders view outsiders.There is a second understanding of gateways. Just as gateways keep people out, they also are an entrance to the outside world for those who are inside. Gateways filter how the insiders view the outsiders. Think of anti-spam or parental censoring software on your computer or cable: only those with permission can view the content. If a child surfs to a porn website, they will be blocked by the gateway. Nuclear researchers are denied cell phones and must pass all information through controlled gateways. All the information in the outside world is controlled via the gateway for those inside the system.

In the second section of the Scripture, Jesus is the gate for those to come in and out of the safe haven. Jesus opens the gate, and the sheep follow his voice to green pastures. By Jesus' voice, Jesus guides the sheep to where they should go. Jesus is the gateway, then, and by listening to His voice we are confident and secure that Jesus would not steer us wrong.

By all indications, Jesus is against hackers: those "thieves" who would cause mischief in the safe haven by improper means, or those who would spoof and steer you wrong in the outside word. And rightly so: the Christian community needs a safe haven to be vulnerable to one another as they grow in discipleship.

The Way of Jesus Christ is opposed to worldly powersBut hear this: Jesus hacks the system. Jesus knows there is contemporary wisdom, there are codes of conduct written by the powers and principalities of the world, telling us how to live. Jesus is the gateway: Jesus offers His voice in opposition to the outside world and shows His followers how to be in the world. There are worldly ways and Godly ways...and ways that profess to be Godly by spoofing the Christian identity, but are not Christ's ways. By allowing Jesus to be our gateway, we are offered sure guidance in a world of TMI: too Much Information.

Problem: How to Hear Jesus in a world of TMI?However, Jesus is not here in the flesh to guide us. In contemporary culture, there is information overload. We have access to SO MANY ways and paths in the world that we are unable to filter and process all of them. The varieties of worldly ways are immense: Advertising driven by psychology, school curriculum agendas, Hollywood depictions of violence and sex...and the ability for anyone to open a web browser and find out about anything in the world via Google or Wikipedia. The green pastures for spiritual growth and edification are no longer a choice between three or four paths, but three or four hundred.

The Church replaces Jesus as the gatekeeper.Here's where the Church gets it wrong. We in the church censor information. Just as we create our own echo chambers of news and views, the church often will selectively teach or create policies that keep out unwelcome facts or opinions. We have replaced Jesus as the gatekeeper with the Church leaders as the gatekeepers of information. Consider these real-life examples of information-censoring by church leadership:
  • In sex education classes, churches teach abstinence-only, ignoring birth control methods.
  • In so-called pregnancy crisis centers (often faith-based!), more resources are given to women who want to continue their pregnancy, while offering little to women who do not.
  • In pop-culture preaching, churches proof-text Scripture as remedies to society's ills without proper biblical investigation and edification.
  • In the Lectionary, we preach a bit more than 2/3rds of the Scripture and ignore contextual continuities between scripture passages (especially in John!).
By censoring and protecting our children, women, and parishioners from information the church deems harmful, we have replaced Jesus as the gatekeeper. We justify this by claiming that some information is the worldly way and should not have a place in Christian community. Information can function as a "thief" which offers a seductive path of self-justification to those the church deems "not ready" to discern right from wrong...especially teenagers and children in Christian education.

But Jesus has other sheep we have not considered.But hear these words: Jesus is the gateway. The followers of Jesus hear His voice and will go where Jesus calls them. Following up on the aforementioned frustration with the Lectionary, by reading a few more sentences past the Lectionary we see Jesus say "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold."

..............Wait, what? Verse 10:16: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold." There is more out there, there are more sheep that are not of this fold, there are more followers of Christ who may not graze in the pastures we are comfortable with.

Christ alone judges what should be censored.Christ reminds us that Jesus is the gate: Jesus alone bears judgment of who is righteous to be included in the kingdom of God, and Jesus alone bears judgment of who or what is a thief to our discipleship. While there are reasonable limits to how information is presented or taught in a Christian context, prayerful discernment must be given to each aspect of the Christian life, even those your grandparents don't want you to teach.

Mission: Not Gate-keepers, but Pasture-keepers.To the church, the mission is simple: give the gatekeeping up to Christ and become open to sheep not of your fold. We are called to tend to the pastures, to plant what comes our way, and if it grows and edifies, integrate it, and if it seeds death and discord, root it out! We are to prayerfully discern, not dismiss out-of-hand, what new sheep might be coming to your church doorstep.
  • These may be sheep that are walking wounded by abusive exclusionary theologies from another faith community that need safe haven and to be shared the Love of God.
  • These may be sheep that have alternative theologies to your own that will challenge and strengthen your community.
  • These may be sheep that have radical ideas for evangelism that God may be placing before you.
  • These may be sheep that seem too young or old to really contribute, but are disciples of Christ nonetheless.
  • These may be sheep who view Jesus from their cultural perspective, which may seem offensive to Anglo congregations, but will give rich imagery to our faith journeys.
To all these sheep, the gate is wider than we may want. Christ calls us to be hospitable and be open to those ragged-looking sheep, empowers us to remove the sheep who truly do siphon off creative energy in the church, and reminds us to leave judgment up to God. We must allow our gates that we construct to be opened, to allow our eyes to see beyond ourselves, and allow ourselves to be enriched by the entire breadth of communities of faith and cultures.

From Gated Communities of Christ to Open Pastures.In any system, diversity gives strength, but also trepidation as the gateways become wider. We are given the commission to break through the echo-chambers in our own congregations and allow the Spirit, to give the disturbing Spirit the freedom to flow freely through us and upset our rigid codes of conduct and teachings. Maybe God will offer new life today.

May the God who gives us strength and wisdom lead us from gated communities of Christ to life abundant in the green pastures of the Kingdom of God.

- the Process and Faith Lectionary for inspiration for this blog post
- the Oremus Bible Browser for Scripture passages (all from the NRSV)


What I'm Reading 04/14/2008

  • tags: no_tag

    • Grassroots efforts to reshape the gospel need collaboration and education, especially for those house church pastors who do not have seminary educations. Any grassroots help we can offer those who are looking for educational resources? - post by umjeremy
    • 'm a little surprised at the lack of house church media. The large criticism of house churches is the lack of expert teaching. It just doesn't work logistically to have a pastor trained in theology, the original languages, and who has the time to prep to teach in each house church. Expert teaching via video is something I assumed I would find, but I didn't.

      Am I missing something or is there a gaping hole in technology for house churches?

  • tags: no_tag

    • Google-gangers are people of your same name on Google. Given the name "Jeremy Smith" really doesn't make my name google-marketable. There's tons of me, even in school. Sigh. Good luck making your name google-unique! - post by umjeremy
    • The New York Times has a cute photo (above) of a group of women who are all called Angela Shelton with an article headlined Names That Match Forge a Bond on the Internet.

      Everyone goes "name surfing" from time to time, so all the Angela Sheltons bump into what other Angela Sheltons are doing. Sometimes they find each other, and one of them (a superhero Goddess) has written a book about it.
  • tags: rss

    • I oversubscribe to EVERYTHING!! Then if I want a topic, I search through google reader for it! - post by umjeremy


Six-Word Motto for the UMC

Freakonomics recently did a six-word motto contest for the United States. It had tons of ideas, responses, and votes. And looking at what they ended up with, I thought it was very relevant for the United Methodist Church.

No surprise there. Our three-branches system reflects the US Government, our denomination grew up as our country was growing up, and our denomination split right before the civil war. Today, the UMC is seen as a bellweather for social issues affecting America. So, a six word motto for the USA...perhaps it can describe the attitude of the UMC (while never, of course, explaining our mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ...hey, that's six words too!).

So, what were the results? The unofficial six-word motto for America?

Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay

That's neat, huh? Even those people who rail against America prefer to actually live in it. This is true of people on all sides of the political aisle: we have a freedom to speak freely, and even though we rail against America, we still love it.

It made me think of the United Methodist Church. We are meeting in two weeks in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about divisive issues again. We talk about them for years, then resolve them all to everyone's satisfaction in one week. Right. There are always lively discussions about polity within the UMC. Why?

Because Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay

This motto is significant in light of a UMNS commentary written by Steven Webster:

Some have described the church’s long dialogue over these issues as "a thorn in the flesh." Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 that he endured a painful "thorn in the flesh" that would not leave him even though he pleaded with God to remove it. God’s answer to Paul applies to us: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

We feel weary and weakened by this long dialogue over homosexuality, a dialogue in which I have actively participated in many ways these past 36 years. The faith that sustains me is that God intends to perfect us through these trials, and we, the people of The United Methodist Church, look forward to a real peace which is, in King’s words, the presence of justice and not merely the absence of tension.
Some don't want to talk about the issues. The Connectional Table sends out an email to delegates outlining four goals and seven paths, and none of them have to do with some internal divisions within the UMC. It's almost like if we focus outside ourselves, then we will have peace.

My friends, that's a donut mission: focusing outward without healing divisions internally leaves a hole in the middle where our soul should be.
  • The Six-word motto of Jesus Christ at the Ascension was: "To Make Disciples of All Nations" means to work on our own discipleship and our own willingness to reflect on how our actions and corporate policies reflect our discipleship.
  • The Six-word motto of Jesus Christ at the beginning of his ministry was: "Repent! God's Kingdom is At Hand!" Repent means to examine where we have failed and heal those wounds so that we CAN bring forth the kingdom of God.
  • The Six(ish)-word motto of John Wesley could be: "Do No Harm, Do Good, Love God" The "Do No Harm" section certainly means examine how within the church we are doing harm to one another.
My friends, in the UMC, Our Worst Critics Prefer to Stay. Unity in diversity is the best way forward to be forced to examine the issues. Breaking apart and schizm leads us to our own echo chambers where we will not have to deal with diversity again. And for the sake of our own discipleship, keep on these divisive issues, because by ignoring them, our outward appearance is happy, but our souls are rotten.


What I'm Reading 04/12/2008

  • tags: no_tag

    • 1. What gospel are we feeding kids?

      She says that a lot of what students are fed is a guilt based gospel—what Dallas Willard calls the “gospel of sin management.” Powell compared it to a diet of Red Bull. It’s fast, energetic, and easy, but not very nourishing. And after the rush is over you deflate. We’ve fed students a gospel of rights and wrongs, but nothing nourishing that they can internalize and grow from. No wonder they fall away shortly after graduation. The buzz is over.
  • tags: no_tag

    • Uh, even though this is a ridicuolous show, I really don't see this as an attack on the Jews. It's a parallel to Jerry Springer. The crowd chanting "Sammy" the woman rushing the stage and being held back by security. This is a play on talk shows in general, not an anti-jewish segment. Even all that said, still a waste of 3 minutes of my life. - post by umjeremy
    • Christian TV: "Bibleman" vs. a New York Jew


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