Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Last Word on Underwood

I've done something today I've never done before -

I've pulled my previous post on Underwood's merger with Colonial Park.

I was not forced to do this. I appreciate the comments on both sides of this issue that have been posted. I appreciate the calls and emails of support that are not posted.

The amount of traffic on that post indicated to me that it was becoming something I never intended. Here I thought my mama and a few of my friends checked out what I had to say about life, the church, the Tigers....who knew?

What I say, or comment on, about something that has occurred is not what this is all about. Based on the feedback I was getting, it was becoming clear that my post was becoming an issue and not that to which my post was attempting to point.

And I cannot let my comments on the process of this merger divert the necessary care that needs to be shown toward the good people of Underwood who are gladly merging with the good people of Colonial Park, or, and especially, the folks who have been spiritually injured and marginalized by this process who need a particular level of care from the church that they are not getting but deserve.

I was also motivated to give voice to key figures in my life from Underwood who felt theirs were silenced, or, in the end, didn't matter. It was not something they asked me to do - but something I felt I owed those who walked the journey with me in the initial days of declaring my call.

I do still very much have questions about the process - I think we all should have questions.

Mergers and closures are no small thing. And they need to be owned by the totality of the church. A Church Conference, not a Charge Conference, is the best way we have in our polity to guarantee that. A Charge Conference is the most politically expedient way to get a sought for end. A Church Conference is harder to make something happen, and it ought to be - but that which passes represents best the God inspired imaginations of the people who worship there, because it requires "conferencing" in the Wesleyan tradtion, and discernment of the Spirit of God from the whole.

It's a point to be reflected upon, because more than a few Churches in the city need to be honest with themselves about the future vitality of ministry in their current context amidst the prospects of new ministries in other places in need of being planted.

What greater witness have we, as we end our time in a given place, than to give ourselves away for the sake of the Kingdom?

It is how we do this that states most clearly our character as people of God. We cannot let the way it was done here be the template.

As it was in the first post, it is the "process" that I'm calling into question, nothing and no one else. You don't have to like that I've commented, you don't have to agree with it.

Get your own blog and knock yourselves out.

Oh, and I'm still voting against it - if you're wondering.

In the end, I'm thankful for that Church on that corner, and for those devoted people of God who are intregal to who I am. God bless, Underwood.


Anonymous said...

If you read the Discipline, only a Charge Conference is provided for. A Church Conference was not provided for. The Charge Conference Church leaders present voted by the majority as provided by the Discipline. Also, are you aware of the financial straits of Underwood and that it could not really pay it bills and stay open until June? The decisions were made with much prayer and tears. All had correct information the day of the vote!


Rev'd Dr. Jonathan L. Jeffords said...

Thankfully, "Anonymous," you make my point better than I ever could. Well done.

Anonymous said...

If it was your point to attack the Discipline's "process" of Church merger you failed. What you ended up insulting, yea attacking, was a hard-working group of people who followed the dictates of our Church's Discipline of how two congregations should explore and merge. The timing of the first worship is based on trying to cauterize wounds, including financial ones. It will start a time of renewal of the Spirit here at Easter. A resurrection of sorts for both congregations that is sorely needed. You should have been looking beyond your nose to see all that is there to see! This is from laity to clergy.

Rev'd Dr. Jonathan L. Jeffords said...

I pray you're right, "anonymous," and that unity can emerge, and that the new Colonial Park is a vital faith community for years to come, made possible even more by the infusion of Underwood into the bloodstream.

I truly do wish that, and if my comments have not communicated that well, then that's on me.

My concern, though, is processes that leave many feeling exiled and without voice and vote over matters of ultimate importance. What the Discipline allows and what creates the best outcome are not always the same thing.

Many more congregations than Underwood and Colonial Park will have these questions to answer in the months and years to come. We must find a way to do this that does not harm those who, if nurtured and given opportunity to sit at the table and make the idea theirs, would not feel it such a painful thing and more a sign of joy and new life.

As you celebrate a new day with the unity service, be in prayer for those who cannot yet do the same because their spirits have been harmed through this process.

I know that, in my worship, I'll be praying for both.

And with that, I'm done on this matter.

jjeffords37 said...

This has been such a painful situation for those of us who have a deep love for Underwood. This church had a role in my life as well as yours and I was extremely proud when you stood before the Charge Conference to be recommended for the candidacy for ministry. I agree with you that the process appears to be rushed and don't understand why the merger could not wait until June. If the financial situation was so bad, the District and Conference could have helped the congregation make it until June. This would have given those who feel their voices weren't heard to come to terms with what was probably something that had to be done.

I know that the Book of Discipline requires that a Charge Conference is the body that approves the merger of two congregations. Yet, following the letter of the law isn't always the best course of action. It is the timing of the merger that I really call into question. I know the people who made the decision feel that they were doing the best thing for the church. But it appears that a larger portion of the congregation were not yet on board with the idea. Given more time, I believe many more of those who feel that didn't have any say in the process would have come around. But I also know there are some who would have never approved such an idea.

Through my years in the ministry,I've made several bad decisions. So I'm not blaming anyone for what has happened. I just hope that we can learn from what has happened. It is always best not to rush a process, no matter what the situation may be. What is done is done and it can't be undone. It is time to pick up the pieces and go on. It is time for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

My pray is that the contribution that Underwood made to the life of this Conference won't be forgotten. Underwood has touched the lives of many people and it has nurtured and sent into the ministry a number of clergy who have made and or making a significant contribution.

May God bless the merger of these two congregations.

Jerry Jeffords