From the Lay Leader

Support UMCOR’s Disaster Relief Efforts
With the potential of more catastrophic hurricanes approaching, giving to UMCOR has never been more important. GNJ has developed a Disaster Response page to explore ways you can help with relief efforts. Click here to find out how to donate, make relief kits, volunteer, take an offering, and download an UMCOR church bulletin insert. Click here to watch a response video. 

Serve Your Church 

Serve your church through ministries of leading, caring, and communicating by becoming a Lay Servant. Registration is open now for Fall 2017 Basic and Advanced Lay Servant classes. Click here to learn more and register.
Churchgoers Stand with Immigrant ‘Dreamers’ 

United Methodists are adding their voices to others calling for Congress to act on behalf of unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Specifically, they are seeking ways for “dreamers” to remain in the U.S., continue contributing to their communities and be on the pathway to citizenship. Click here to read.



An Open Letter to Jeff Sessions and All United Methodists

By Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe

This past weekend, the United States experienced terrorism at the hands of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Lives were lost and people were injured, all in the name of hatred, racism and xenophobia.

I have written a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions leads the Department of Justice – the federal agency charged with protecting the civil rights of all people in the United States. He also happens to be a United Methodist.

Read my letter to the attorney general here.

I encourage you to read this letter and to send your own letter to the attorney general here. We must call upon our leaders to reject racism and bigotry and to take up the mantle of justice and peace.

While we hold our leaders accountable for their work in the halls of power, we must also look inward at our churches, our communities and ourselvesThe United Methodist Church is not without complicity in the evils of white supremacy and racism, as past sins and present challenges remind us.

White Christians have a particular duty to be in conversation with and learn from our neighbors. We must also become allies with communities of color and religious minorities, and show up in the struggle for racial justice. As a white person, I take this to mean standing alongside and taking up the concerns of impacted people as my own.

The Church challenges “individual white persons to confess their participation in the sin of racism and repent for past and current racist practices” (Book of Resolutions, 3376). 

This work is not done in isolation. Being an ally means being in solidarity. 

I urge all congregations and conferences to stand with the communities closest to them who are threatened by racism. Racism is not only the expression of hate, but it is the perpetuation of economic injustice, enactment of discriminatory housing and education policies, implementation of unjust policing practices, infringements on voting rights and more. The sin of racism is not only a problem in Charlottesville; it is in our own home towns. If you do not know how racism is impacting people on your own block or in your own city, learn about it and take action:  

 

  • Engage civically at the local, state and federal level by advocating for reforms that will dismantle the systemic racism in U.S. policies.  
  • Invest spiritually, economically, and with other personal and public resources in people and communities experiencing racism.  
  • Finally, this is not simply a matter of policy; it’s a matter of people. Build and deepen relationships across racial lines. Among white Americans, 91 percent of our social circles are entirely white. We can and must do and be better. The General Commission on Religion and Race has numerous resources for churches and individuals here.

We must continue to pray and learn about white privilege, institutional racism and systemic bigotry. I urge all United Methodists to reaffirm their baptismal vows and recommit to resisting evil. 

This hard, but important, work of personal repentance, societal transformation, and fully embracing each other as vital parts of the body of Christ is for United Methodists across the connection. This work is not confined to one annual conference or one jurisdiction. People of faith from Charlottesville to Chicago and Seattle to Savannah share the burden and responsibility to engage. May we create space in our hearts, congregations, and communities for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Peace,

Susan Henery-CroweSusan Henry-Crowe

To view this letter online, click here.

 


Letter from the Bishop
bishop-letter-2017
Sisters and Brothers, grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Saturday evening the rulings of the Judicial Council regarding if a bishop may be a self-avowed practicing homosexual were released. Referenced in this case is Bishop Karen Oliveto. I have fully reviewed the 19 page decision and dissenting opinions of the Judicial Council which may be found here.

The Judicial Council ruled that no individual or church entity may violate, ignore or negate church law and it is not lawful to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual as bishop. It further ruled that self-avowed does not nullify the consecration of a bishop or remove the bishop from office, but is sufficient to subject the bishop’s ministerial office for review. The Judicial Council further ruled that a clergy person who has declared to be in a same gender relationship is a declaration that the individual is a self-avowed practicing homosexual and therefore their ministerial office must be reviewed.

In essence the Judicial Council upheld The Book of Discipline’s prohibition of gay and lesbian clergy and consecrating as bishop a self-avowed practicing homosexual, however, Bishop Karen Oliveto is protected by the constitution of the church and is in good standing (innocent) until proven guilty. Currently Bishop Oliveto’s ministerial office is under review in the complaint process.

These are difficult times for the church and we in GNJ feel frustrated, pain and even anger regardless of our view about LGBTQ people. I ask you to continue to pray for the church, Bishop Oliveto and the people of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah where the bishop serves.

The church largely is of two minds about homosexuality, and we in GNJ hold equally differing opinions.

One group says the Bible is clear about homosexuality and we should not ordain gays and lesbians or perform same gender weddings. They say:

“Disobedience to the scriptures is disobedience to God and is hurting the witness of the church and creating division within the church. Homosexuality is a sin. We love the people but hate the sin. We as The United Methodist Church debated homosexuality for 44 years and General Conference continues to come to the same conclusion that we should not be ordaining gays and lesbians. Further conversation should stop, The Book of Discipline should not be changed on this matter and we should focus on and move forward with the mission.”

The other group says the words of the Bible are the God-breathed scriptures for our salvation and living. They say:

“The Bible is to be read through a lens of the developing understandings of God and humanity, and that this is the continual work of the church. Today there are new understandings which have led us not to follow biblical commands about dietary laws, divorce, women in church leadership, slavery, head coverings, what clothing is to be made of, pierced earrings, and tattoos. Homosexuality should be looked at through the same lens that we have looked at these other biblical commands and that LGBTQ people are children of God who are called by God. We should change The Book of Discipline to Include the ordination of gays and lesbians and move forward with the mission.”

There are variations of these two understandings as well. Each variation agrees that we should move forward with the mission.

During these times, I will continue to be the bishop of the whole church and create space for all of us to be the church of Jesus Christ. The United Methodist Church is greater than any one disagreement and we are stronger together. Our mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ, ending malaria, rebuilding homes after Superstorm Sandy, calling and equipping spiritual leaders, making disciples, growing vital congregations and transforming the world is more powerful and effective being done together.

I will continue to trust our pastors and congregations to live the Gospel in their context. I will not make appointments to try to change a congregation’s values and beliefs. I believe the scriptures value diversity and difference in the church.

It is important for all of us to remain prayerful and non-anxious as we work through our difference. Many are watching the church and our witness is important. Will we keep moving forward in the midst of difference? Will we remain focused on the mission as we face our challenges? Will we love each other and be graceful in our relationship and work with each other? Essentially, will we be like Christ? I witness the people of GNJ to be a people of hope. We have and continue to treat one another with respect and as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been focused on the mission. We have talked about our challenges in ways God is praised. Thank you for being the church of Jesus Christ. You give me hope for the future.

Let us pray and remain faithful to our calling to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world. As in the first century church, let us care about those we disagree with and see each other as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thank you for your ministry and mission through The United Methodist Church. I look forward to our continued service together.

Keep the faith!

John

John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey