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Monday, September 23, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “We Are Brethren”

E-Vangel Newsletter
September 23, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “We Are Brethren”

It seemed to me that we have been working on this for a hundred years. Then I learned it was actually 101 years. It has some very interesting connections, twists and turns. (Read to the end of this Pastorgraph and you might be surprised.)

“It” is that our Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Saturday to officially create Christ United Methodist Ministry Center. (I know, you thought that was a “done deal”.) When the California-Pacific Conference voted to “discontinue” (close) Christ United Methodist Church in June 2011, the Conference simultaneously created Christ United Methodist Ministry Center. Over the past two years we have meticulously considered our legal and Disciplinary options. Should we dissolve the old church “corporation” and create a new one? Should we seek our own 501(c)(3) designation (IRS tax exempt status)? What should be the relationship between the Ministry Center and the three congregations that were once affiliated with Christ UMC? I am glad we took our time, did not rush out and create something we would later have to dissolve. It has been a lesson in patience, and waiting for God’s timing.

It was in the May 23, 2005 Pastorgraph that I first proposed creation of Christ Ministry Center in response to an article written by Shane Stanford (who is now Pastor of Christ UMC of Memphis where I attended the Russian Mission Conference earlier this year. Shane and I were in the same ordination class in the Mississippi Conference.)

“The following article came to me from The Methodist Foundation last week. I find it to be an informative wake up call for urban churches. I also find it encouraging that we, at Christ UMC, have already begun to address the issues. Please read, with attention to the phrases I underlined.

Five Issues Congregations Must Face in the Next 10 Years
By Shane Stanford (2005)

The following are five issues identified as “rising Stewardship issues” for congregations over the next 10 years.

1. The “Graying of the Church”:  As the average age of congregations continues to rise, the financial implications for the local church are significant.  Increased focus must be placed on educating younger generations in terms of tithing and sacrificial giving.  Other implications include uncertain futures for corporate pensions, Social Security issues and personal financial behavior.
2.   Personal Financial Dysfunction:  The consumer and long term debt of Americans is rising, inhibiting faithful financial participation in the local church.
3. Technology Investment:  As the culture changes, so do methodologies…  As churches move further into the 21st century, an increase in technology will become important for effectively communicating the message and connecting the faithful.  This phenomenon will become an issue for smaller churches as well as larger ones.
4. Capital Investment for Facility Improvements and Maintenance:  In part referring to numbers 1 & 2, facility concerns will increase in the next 10 years as churches (especially those in transition) face increased capital costs for improvements and maintenance.  More creative use of facilities, including out/in sourcing of space will become more commonplace.
5.   The Other Stewardship Resource Development Question:  Time and spiritual gifts join money as the other crucial elements of stewardship and are also valuable resources in today’s world.  Churches must focus specifically on the calling forth, training and sending of volunteers in systemic ways to maximize the increasingly valuable commodity of a person’s time.

We have already begun to address items #1, #3 and #4. The new model for us is Christ UMC "Ministry Center", where four congregations, a half dozen weekday ministries for youth, women, refugees, and the economically oppressed, plus twelve step organizations who help people win victories over addictive behavior, unite to do far more together than any of us can do the honor and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Shane was prophetic, and we saw the handwriting on the wall. A month later (June 2005), we created The Ebenezer Fund to purchase a new electronic church sign with the name “Christ United Methodist Church and Ministry Center”. It was not an attempt to avoid “discontinuance”, but an honest experiment to transform an aging urban church into a bee-hive of daily ministries focused on feeding the hungry, quenching spiritual thirst, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and captives, and welcoming/befriending strangers as Christ taught in Matthew 25.

Our attorney sent me a copy of the original Articles of Incorporation filed May 1, 1912 with the California Secretary of State. The original name of the corporation was “First Church of the United Brethren in Christ of San Diego”. (Notice United and Christ were part of the original name.) The name has been amended twice since: (1) to First Evangelical United Brethren Church and then (2) to Christ United Methodist Church due to denominational mergers.

I am glad we decided to amend the original articles rather than dissolve that church corporation and start a new one. I want us to claim our United Brethren heritage. Did you know?

1.   The United Brethren in Christ denomination, created in 1800, is the first indigenous church formed in America. (All others up until that time were transplanted from mother churches in England and Europe.)
2.   The UBs and Methodists were always closely aligned in Wesleyan doctrine and polity. UB Bishops Otterbein and Boehm participated in America’s first Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury’s ordination, and Asbury in turn officiated at both Otterbein and Boehm’s funerals.
3.   Milton Wright (father of the Wright Brothers of Kitty Hawk fame) was a Bishop in the United Brethren in Christ Church.
4.   The beautiful original Greek Revival architecture building built by the United Brethren in San Diego in 1912 still stands at the corner of Third and Robinson. After the merger of 1946, it became a Free Methodist Church, later an art gallery, and finally was converted to apartments.

So everything old is new again. We will file the third amendment to the original 1912 articles of incorporation and officially begin the next chapter in what has been a rich legacy. The best days of Christ United are yet to come!

Finally, this Sunday, September 29, I will preach at Exodus Church (10:15 AM). My sermon will be “Why I am a Methodist” followed by a question and answer time. I invite everyone to this important service where we will discuss the possibility of forming a cooperative parish of several congregations, along with their relationships to The United Methodist Church and Christ Ministry Center. More about that separate new beginning next week.

Exciting times! To God Be The Glory.

Devotedly, Bill Jenkins

From the Quote Garden:
“Wir sind Brüder (We are Brethren).”
~ Bishop Philip William Otterbein to Bishop Martin Boehm, May 1800, Lancaster, PA
(thus forming the first indigenous American denomination (United Brethren in Christ) and helping start “The Great Awakening” Revival).

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center proudly traces our roots to the United Brethren in Christ!

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205 

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