Showing posts from May, 2012

at least one guaranteed appointment!

the united methodist general conference met a few weeks to discuss matters related to the church. i am thankful for our faithful north texas conference delegates, clergy and laity, who worked very hard, and endured unbelievable frustration, on behalf of the church. watching online was painful; i can't imagine what it would have been like in person.

one of the unfortunate outcomes of the general conference was the removal of so-called "guaranteed appointments" for united methodist elders. this was one of the benefits of full-time leadership in the church. an elder in full connection was guaranteed to be appointed somewhere, unless circumstances made an appointment impossible. there were disciplinary steps in place to assure accountability among pastors in the annual conference. but the general conference felt these steps did not go far enough. the judicial council, the church's equivalent to the supreme court, will rule this fall whether this decision violated united …

Love Never Ends: A Message on Marriage Equality

Last week I received an email from a guest who was here last Sunday with his partner and his partner’s mother for Mother’s Day. He was very upset that on Mother’s Day we would discuss political matters, and made it very clear that he would not be back today for marriage equality—he assumed that since we are a church and we’re speaking on the issue it would be hostile. I invited him back, assuring him we would take a broader approach, that if Christians do not speak about issues in the world it leaves only the loud, obnoxious ones to speak for everyone, but never heard back from him. I hope he’s here somewhere!

I intentionally formulated the issue today as marriage equality, as opposed to homosexuality in general, for several reasons. The primary reason is this: homosexuality, as I understand it, is not an issue to be debated—we’re talking about people here. There are all sorts of theories and ideas about homosexuality—where does it come from? Is it a choice—a lifestyle—or is there some…

"Here Is Your Mother." A sermon on immigration, May 13, 2012

Immigration Study Guide

The sermon will be delivered May 13 at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church.
According to the Pew HispanicCenter, immigration from Mexico has stalled—even retreated—over the last few years: “The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico.”

What factors have led to the decline?

States such as Alabama and Arizona have installed harsh laws aimed at enforcing immigration (Arizona’s is before the Supreme Court now). Why have religious groups, including United Methodists, been opposed to them? What are the theological/moral issues of immigration?

Why does the Bible—particularly the Old Testament—make such an emphasis on welcoming the stranger? Why are the Israelites told over and over again to remember they were slaves in …

"Not Even Death!" A sermon on capital punishment, May 6, 2012

Yesterday's sermon, delivered at Oak Lawn, from the "Holy Conversations" series.
From time to time I have created an all-time favorite movie list. At the very top, etched in stone, never to be removed, stand the first two Star Wars movies, A New Hope(1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980). But then an interesting thing happens. #3 on the list, possibly also a permanent fixture, is 2008’s The Dark Knight. I am eagerly—and I mean eagerly—awaiting the release of the next installment of the Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises, which opens July 20, only 75 days away. The Dark Knight is a special movie in so many ways, but what I want to point out is a scene that plays out near the end of the film—Batman and Joker are not in the scene. If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight, I’m sorry about the spoiler, but it’s been four years, and I have never spoken of this in a sermon. It’s time. Stop by Blockbuster on the way home.
Two ferries, crossing Gotham Harbor side by side, stall. Th…

Pastor Frank’s Sabbatical Plans

June 5 – September 2, 2013 Rationale: United Methodist pastors, per our Discipline, are entitled to take up to three months off (does not count as vacation time) for renewal or study after ten years of full-time service. I am finishing my 11th year. I am requesting time away, which will include some renewal time, but the majority of the time will be spent working on a sabbatical project.
Purpose: I believe Oak Lawn UMC has the potential to be a prototype congregation for urban ministry in the 21st century. We are intentionally inclusive and welcoming of everyone. We offer hands on service opportunities. We excel in the worship opportunities we offer. Our facilities offer spaces that invite hospitality, are beautiful, and point to the beauty of all God has made. I want to use these months to explore, interview, question, observe, and participate in churches around the country that have lived out a similar mission and purpose for many years. The ultimate goal, working through the Church C…

Capital Punishment Study Guide

Please note: this study guide accompanies the message to be delivered at Oak Lawn May 6.
What are the moral questions involving the death penalty? How does the Catholic “seamless garment” theology speak to an ethic of all of human life—from conception to childhood poverty to the death penalty? Do you agree with this “gospel of life?”
Does someone who intentionally takes a human life forfeit their own right to live? Why or why not?
Every General Conference since 1956 has opposed capital punishment—this year’s conference had not decided by publication time—yet a majority of United Methodists support the death penalty for murder. Should the church mirror the beliefs of its members?
Connecticut recently became the fifth state in the last five years to abolish the death penalty. California will consider abolition this November. Why are states reconsidering their positions on this issue?
Data from the Pew Research Center on Capital Punishment (September 2010): Americans continue to express su…