Reflections as One Celebrates 50 Years of Teaching


      Reflections as One Celebrates 50 Years of Teaching

I am retiring from eleven years of teaching as a Senior Scholar at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (where I retired and became Professor Emerita in May of 2003). I’ve taught several intensives on campus and a few independent studies but most of my teaching has been the “on-line” section of a two year (four semester) course called “Vocational Formation and Church Leadership.” It is the academic component that is taken in conjunction with field education.

Most of my students lived and/or served in congregations at too great a distance to travel to the seminary weekly or they had work obligations that made it impossible to be on campus on Wednesdays when the on-campus sections are offered.

What I love most is sharing in the lives and ministries of my students—listening, helping them claim their own authority and voice, and asking questions that invite them to journey with the others in the class and with me as they

  • engage in collaborative teaching and learning.
  • claim their identity as persons called to be leaders in the church.
  • clarify the call God is making on their lives.
  • create a vision and strategies to embody their own calling into ministry.
  • develop leadership skills.
  • focus on developing and practicing spiritual disciplines.
  • attend to self-care.
  • find new ways of viewing and responding to conflict.
  • struggle with life in imperfect institutions.

Whenever I teach, I seek to develop a learning/teaching community that engages the whole person (both teacher(s) and students)! We establish a covenant of confidentiality so that what is shared stays within our group. Together, we create a safe space where feelings and questions are welcome and can be shared.

Journeying with students as they seek to discern and understand the claim God is placing on their lives is holy work. It is work that requires deep understanding and compassion as well as rigorous expectations that have consequences. Laughter and tears are welcome in my classes!

On-line classes offer opportunities for a weekly check-in, a blog-like thread where students are able to share what is happening in their lives, their prayer requests, and sometimes, to vent! Some amazing sharing has taken place across the years.

For example, the year of Katrina, one of my students worked in the only hospital in New Orleans that stayed open. Everything on the ground floor of her house was destroyed and her family lived in a FEMA trailer in their “back yard” for months. She said, “I would have lost my mind without this class!” And those of us in the class learned so much about how disasters affect the everyday lives of people and the kinds of stress such disasters put on churches and those who serve in them.

Students have found a caring, supportive place to be when they experience difficult decisions that impact their lives and vocations from judicatories and the seminary. Those students who are already working as professionals in ministry find a safe place to test their perceptions about difficulties they find in their congregations or other ministry settings. I believe all of us in these learning/teaching communities (called seminary classes) have both been blessed and have had opportunities to be a blessing to others! In general, the deepest sharing seems to take place in my on-line classes (which have some Google + Hangout engagement where we can be together both visually and verbally).

As I reflect back on fifty years of teaching in a college, in local congregations and in a seminary, here are a few of my most important convictions:

  • Creating a teaching/learning environment that is hospitable and safe is a task that requires a commitment from everyone in the group. Teachers have to be willing to share power.
  • It is possible to create safe space where confidentiality is honored.
  • Collaborative learning means that everyone has opportunities to engage and explore their own work and the work of others in the class. Self-critique and engaging in appreciative inquiry about the work of others is important.
  • There are three significant components in every class—the students, the teacher/facilitator, and the content. When the teacher and the content are merged into one, the possibility of critically engaging the content is greatly diminished. Teachers need not promote or defend any course content!
  • Key components required of good teachers are:
  • having clear goals and clearly stating expectations.
  • learning how to create and facilitate good processes.
  • making use of teaching/learning strategies that honor multiple intelligences.
  • setting boundaries and providing resources that both challenge and foster growth  intellectually and spiritually.
  • inviting students to explore their assumptions without fear of being asked to change them.
  • recognizing that teachers are midwives—students need assistance in developing their own theologies and skill sets which may be quite different from their teachers.
  • offering timely and constructive feedback to student work as well as creating ways for the students to respond helpfully to each others’ work.
  • finding new ways of viewing and responding to conflict.
  • praying for each student and the class.

I cannot conclude this reflection without giving thanks to those who have been my friends and have helped me always to become a better teacher:

  • my students, through the years and around the world
  • those teachers with whom I have team-taught, especially Dwight Vogel, Jack Seymour, Margaret Ann Crain, Lib Caldwell, Jim Poling, Lallene Rector, David Hogue, Reggie Blount . . .
  • my mentors, Ellen Oliver (a math professor at Westmar College) and Nelle Slater (Christian education professor who treated me like a colleague when I was a young, part-time undergraduate teacher of Christian education).
  • my beloved students who have become life-long friends (too many to name but you know who you are!).
  • my doctoral students who became my colleagues and who taught me much (especially Sara, Cheryl, Jeffery, Kimberly, Howard, Houston, and …).
  • those authors who have been seminal in my writing and my teaching—Tom Groome, Maria Harris, Bell Hooks, Mary Elizabeth Moore, Parker Palmer, Larry Daloz and so many more. . .
  • my wonderful friends and colleagues at Garrett-Evangelical—Jack Seymour and Margaret Ann Crain (both of whom could be in multiple categories here!); and all of the women faculty there, especially, Ruth Duck, Rosemary Ruether, Rosemary Skinner Keller, Lallene Rector, and Barbara Troxell.
  • my Deacon friends and colleagues in the United Methodist Church (especially Diane Olson, Sondra Matthaei, Ruth Ann Scott, Diane Eberhardt, Joaquin Garcia, Rosemary Davis, Martha Morales (who will soon be a deacon) and so many more.
  • My colleagues in the Christian Educator’s Fellowship of the United Methodist Church with whom I was privileged to serve as board president and my colleagues in APPRE and the North American Academy of Liturgy.
  • Sister Jeremy Hall, OSB, with whom I studied when we were on sabbatical at the Ecumenical Institute of Cultural Research at St. John’s Abbey and University and all the sisters at St. Ben’s.
  • Father David Fleming, SM, life-long friend, ecumenical dialogue partner beginning in 1963, travelling companion and so much more!
  • and, most of all, my beloved partner of 55 years who supported me through six years of graduate school, whose vocational path mirrored mine as we taught at Westmar College together for 20 years (we even shared an office!), served St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Dubuque, IA together (he was senior pastor and I was minister of education), who left this church he loved to join me in Chicago, and who ended up as Professor of Theology and Ministry and then Styberg Professor of Worship and Preaching and director of the seminary choir at G-ETS. He fathered our three children and has always been my best friend, my ardent supporter and always tells the truth in ways that help me grow!

Aging Is . . .


Pilgrim Place is publishing a book of poems by pilgrims on aging (we are all experts!!!). I am posting my reflections on aging at age 74 here:

AGING IS . . .

Aging is a universal human experience.
It is often said to be better than the alternative.
But my grandma told me when I was a little girl,
“Don’t ever grow old!”
While my aunt told me that “age is a state of mind.”

One of my students said “OLD is five years older than me.”
So to a five year old, a ten year old is “old”!
My ninety year old friend in the nursing home
points and says she doesn’t want to be with
“those old ladies over there!”

I find that “aging” brings both diminishment and wisdom.
It brings perspective and a sense of mortality.
Aging creeps up on me
and surprises me in startling ways!
My body sometimes says, “You want me to do WHAT?”

One looks back and remembers. . .
while facing the future with hope for a better world.
It brings both sadness and joy as I reflect on the
gifts and liabilities I am leaving to those who follow.
And I journey on in faith, gifted with each new day!

Eastertide, 2014




 The following article excerpt (italics and bold are by me) is not easy to read,  but I believe it tells the truth. Because I care deeply about my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and, in fact, about all of the earth’s inhabitants (humans, plants and animals), I feel compelled to continue speaking unpopular truth as I understand it. A deacon’s role is to build bridges and to advocate for those without a voice and that is what I must do! 

We taught in Bangalore, India for six weeks during the time of the Kyoto Climate Summit (you may remember, the U.S. did not participate) in the spring of 2007. There was a two inch high, bold, black headline in the Bangalore newspaper that said; “EIGHT YEARS TO SAVE THE PLANET.” Already, deforestation, water shortages and other abnormal weather patterns and events were causing serious disruption in that highly populated country. 

The blatant reality is that the poor around the world are already paying a hugh price for our impending social collapse. How can we continue to tolerate CEO salaries in the United States that are 425 times higher than the average employee in their company? How can we as citizens of the richest and most developed nation in the world (or so we are told) accept an infant mortality rate that ranks us in 34th place (UN Population Division: 2005-2010) among the world’s nations? How can we continue to compromise our water and air quality by refusing to deal responsibly with fracking, and with drilling and transporting fossil fuels? How can we continue to invest so little in rail transportation when we know that is the most ecologically responsible way to transport goods and people? How can we tolerate !% of our population  increasing its income by 400% between 1979 and 2005 while the income for the middle of the income distribution rose only 21% (according toPaul Krugman in a New York Times oped which cites a 2005 Congressional Budget Office report.)?

 I could go on, but you get the picture. The collapse of institutions and cultures is not pretty. I believe, along with many scientists, economists and other thoughtful folks, that this perhaps immanent (and I don’t know how many decades this may take, but If we don’t take drastic action, I do not believe it will be centuries away) collapse of civilization is fast approaching. Please, read this article:


NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It’s Not Looking Good for Us

 The report, written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National SocioEnvironmental Synthesis Center along with a team of natural and social scientists, explains that modern civilization is doomed. And there’s not just one particular group to blame, but the entire fundamental structure and nature of our society. [To learn more about the NS-ESC go to:]

Analyzing five risk factors for societal collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy), the report says that the sudden downfall of complicated societal structures can follow when these factors converge to form two important criteria. Motesharrei’s report says that all societal collapses over the past 5,000 years have involved both “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor].” This “Elite” population restricts the flow of resources accessible to the “Masses”, accumulating a surplus for themselves that is high enough to strain natural resources. Eventually this situation will inevitably result in the destruction of society.

Elite power, the report suggests, will buffer “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners,” allowing the privileged to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.”


Charges against Bishop Melvin Talbert, Prophet and Faithful Minister of the Gospel


I am trusting that the Western Jurisdiction will be faithful to those parts of The Book of Discipline and the baptismal vows that every baptized United Methodist makes to “resist evil wherever it is found.” There seems to be no way to avoid bringing these charges but there are good ways to bring about a just and Gospel-mandated resolution to such charges. My prayer is that inclusion and compassion and love for ALL God’s children will be the outcome!


Formal complaints filed against Bishop Talbert

March 13, 2014 By  5 Comments

Bishop Melvin Tablert

Bishop Melvin G. Talbert

DENVER – Complaints have been filed against Bishop Melvin G. Talbert alleging he has violated the sacred trust of his office.  Acting in accordance with United Methodist church law, a supervisory response has been initiated by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of Denver.

The Council of Bishops requested that complaints be filed against Bishop Talbert, of Nashville, Tenn., after he performed an October wedding for two men in Alabama.  The bishop of the region, Debra Wallace-Padgett, had asked him not to perform the ceremony.  The Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops also made this request.

Bishop Stanovsky, president of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, has been assigned to guide the confidential supervisory process according to the provisions of the Church’s Book of Discipline.  Bishop Talbert is a member of the Western Jurisdiction, where he served before his retirement in 2000. Church law requires that complaints against bishops be heard in the jurisdiction where the bishop is a member.

The supervisory response is a review of the bishop’s ministry which “shall be directed toward a just resolution” of the complaint.  The supervisory team consists of two bishops working in consultation with one clergy and one lay member of the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy.

The supervisory team carefully maintains the confidentiality of the supervisory response, as guided by the Book of Discipline.  “We find that confidentiality protects the integrity of the process and provides the best hope of the parties reaching a just resolution and offering healing to the Church,” Bishop Stanovsky said.  “We need the whole Church to respect the supervisory process and uphold it in prayer.  Everyone involved takes their role very seriously and is working for a just, healing and faithful outcome.”

For relevant positions of The United Methodist Church go to: 

UMReporter Staff


The Struggle Continues


Bishop’s office offers clarifications on Ogletree Case

March 12, 2014 By 

Rev. Robert Walker

Rev. Robert Walker

WHITE PLAINS, NY — The Rev. Robert Walker, assistant to Bishop Martin D. McLee of the New York Area, issued the following statement today as a means of providing clarification to what he characterized as “inaccurate reporting” regarding the resolution of the charges filed against Dr. Thomas Ogletree:

There has been some confusion and inaccurate reporting following the March 10 press conference announcing the Just Resolution in the case of Dr. Thomas Ogletree.  The following will hopefully clarify the terms and outcome of the Just Resolution in the case of Dr. Ogletree.

First, the charges against Dr. Ogletree were not “dropped.” Rather they were “resolved” by a just resolution process as outlined in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The judge of the court, Bishop Clifton Ives, accepted the agreement between the Church and Dr. Ogletree as provided by United Methodist law.

Secondly, this Just Resolution applies to this case only and not to all present or future cases. The Statement by Bishop McLee seeks a new way forward by calling for a non-juridical process for resolving complaints against those performing same-gender weddings in favor of “theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.” This does not equate to a blanket dismissal-in-advance of every complaint filed against those performing same-gender weddings.

Thirdly, every Bishop is bound by the United Methodist Book of Discipline to follow the complaint process, which has a clear preference for just resolution over church trials. Bishop McLee will continue to follow the “Administrative Fair Process” as described in Paragraph 363 in the Book of Discipline which outlines the steps of the complaint process, just as he did in the Ogletree case.

We continue to pray as this journey toward what some describe as “a better United Methodist Church” continues.

Ogletree was accused of performing the same-sex wedding of his son, which is prohibited by the United Methodist Book of Discipline. 

Rev. Walker can be reached for futher information

A Positive Response on Homosexuality and Marriage


Perhaps the United Methodist Church is beginning a new way of dealing with the terrible pain and and the spiritual conflict that arises because of The Discipline’s statement that UM clergy cannot perform marriages for GLBTQ persons. Those of us who believe that being faithful to our baptismal vows to “reject all that is evil, repent of your sin, and accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” [The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 100 [The Baptismal Covenant II-A] leaves us no choice but to choose to live our baptismal vow by not discriminating against any of God’s children who are seekfing to covenant together in holy marriage.

Church trials were never intended to bring charges against clergy for performing the sacraments and rites of our church. That some bishops are now speaking out against such trials may move us toward a more compassionate way of dealing with the deep disagreements about homosexuality and marriage that exist in our society and in our church. I pray it may be so!

I am equally committed to the right of all persons called to be pastors and deacons in our church to be judged on the basis of their gifts and graces, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I pray, too, that we will allow boards of ministry to do their work without discriminating on any basis.

See this press release below:

Terms of a Just Resolution in the Matter of The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree




The Rev. Dr. Thomas Warren Ogletree presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20, 2012. The service took place at the Yale Club in New York City. Subsequently, The Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and the Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, a retired pastor in the New York Annual Conference, filed a complaint against Rev. Ogletree after his son’s wedding announcement appeared on Oct. 21, 2012, in The New York Times. The complaint triggered a supervisory process conducted by Bishop Martin McLee of the New York Annual Conference and an attempt to find a just resolution among the parties.  When this process failed to yield such a resolution in the time period specified by the The Discipline of the United Methodist Church, Bishop McLee announced that he would refer the matter to a Counsel for The Church for further investigation.

Bishop McLee appointed the Rev. Timothy J. Riss, pastor of The Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church and an elder in the New York Annual Conference, to represent the Church’s interests in all further proceedings.  Rev. Riss reviewed the facts in the case and eventually determined that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a charge being filed against Rev. Ogletree for violating ¶2702.1b of the Discipline, which prohibits United Methodist pastors from officiating at same gender marriage ceremonies.  He drew up a bill of charges, consisting of a single charge that Rev. Ogletree had violated the provisions of ¶2702.1b and presented his findings to Bishop McLee.  Bishop McLee accepted Rev. Riss’s recommendation to proceed to a trial and then appointed retired United Methodist Bishop S. Clifton Ives to preside over the trial.  He also scheduled the trial for March 10, 2014 at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, CT.

On January 29, 2014, at the first meeting among the counsels and Presiding Officer, Bishop Ives, in keeping with Disciplinary guidelines, made the decision to return the matter to Bishop McLee for a further attempt at just resolution.  This was done with the concurrence of Rev. Riss and the Counsel for Rev. Ogletree, the Rev. Scott Campbell, pastor of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, MA, and with the agreement of Bishop McLee.  A meeting was fixed with Bishop McLee and the other parties for the morning of February 6.  At that time a verbal agreement on the general terms of a just resolution was achieved.  The details of the agreement were subsequently communicated, refined and agreed upon by the Church and the respondent via email and conference calls.  The terms of this agreement follow.

Agreement for a Just Resolution

After a process of dialogue spanning nearly two months, the persons signing this document have entered into a Just Resolution Agreement in the matter of the Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree and the New York Annual Conference.  The comments of the Rev. Randall C. Paige and the Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, the original complainants, were received and considered as part of the just resolution negotiations.  They are entered as a part of the record of this process.  The terms of the agreement are:

1.  Dr. Ogletree agrees to forego his constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial by his peers.

2.  Dr. Ogletree agrees to make himself available, health permitting, for at least one public forum to be convened by the office of Bishop Martin McLee to reflect theologically, spiritually and ecclesiastically on the nature of the covenant that binds us together in the United Methodist Church.

3.  Bishop McLee calls for and commits to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies and instead will offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.  His statement is attached to this document. [below]

4.  Bishop McLee will convene within six months a public forum dealing with matters of human sexuality and the United Methodist Church.

a. The purpose of this forum will be to contribute to healing within the body and greater understanding among those who are affiliated with the New York Annual Conference.  The Bishop intends that persons would listen deeply to one another in an atmosphere of Christian respect.

b. This forum shall reflect a variety of different opinions and understandings.

c. Dr. Ogletree, representatives from MIND (Methodists in New Directions), the Wesley Fellowship, and other such parties as the Bishop shall determine shall be invited to participate in this forum.

d. The Bishop shall report on his plans for this forum and the results of this forum to the Committee on the Episcopacy of the New York Annual Conference.  This Committee shall have the authority to modify the timeline for this forum if necessary.

5.  The Parties recognize that certain limited third parties involved in legal consultation may be privy to the circumstances and terms of the Just Resolution proceedings.  Notwithstanding those limited disclosures, the Just Resolution negotiations themselves are to be considered confidential.  It is understood that the parties with whom such limited disclosure is shared are bound by the same confidentiality as the signatories to this agreement.


For the Church:

Bishop Martin D. McLee
New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
Rev. Robert Walker
Assistant to the Bishop
The New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
Rev. Timothy J. Riss
Counsel for the Church
Rev. Lynda Bates-Stepe
Assistant Counsel for the Church

For the Respondent:
Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree
Rev. William Scott Campbell
Counsel for Respondent
Rev. Paul Fleck
Assistant Counsel for Respondent

Entered this tenth day of March, 2014

Bishop S. Clifton Ives
Presiding Officer
Rev. Dr. William S. Shillady
Secretary of the Court


Statement by Bishop Martin McLee of the
New York Annual Conference

I am grateful to report that the matter concerning the Reverend Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree will not result in a church trial as a just resolution has been achieved. The just resolution provisions of the Book of Discipline are clear in voicing just resolution as the preferred response in Judicial Administration. Church trials produce no winners. While many insist on the trial procedure for many reasons, I offer that trials are not the way forward. Church trials disrupt annual conference life, they drain dedicated Episcopal and staff time. Church trials result in harmful polarization and continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The burdensome cost of trials combine to negate any benefit in the ongoing debate on matters relating to human sexuality.

As the Bishop of the New York Annual Conference, in consideration of my responsibility to provide spiritual, pastoral and temporal oversight for those committed to my care, I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation. I understand that nothing in this agreement deprives any clergyperson of his or her constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial.

In the next few months I will invite the Reverend Dr. Ogletree to join others from varying perspectives to a public forum on the true nature of the covenant that binds us together. Clearly there continues to be multiple perspectives on matters of human sexuality and the response of the church. While this forum may not resolve this ongoing challenge, it will provide an opportunity for healing and a chance for open and honest dialogue.

God bless us all as we seek to be light and life in a time of theological challenge.

All my prayers,
Bishop Martin McLee

Statement by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree

In recognition of Bishop Martin McLee’s publicly stated intention to approach the matter of marriage equality in a non-juridical manner, but instead to offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical reflection, I hereby relinquish my right to a trial on the charge that has been brought against me for officiating at a same gender wedding ceremony. I further agree to make myself available, health permitting, to participate in the above-mentioned Forum that Bishop McLee will convene.

Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree

End of Just Resolution Agreement

Download media packet as a pdf file

Rev. Dr. Thomas Warren Ogletree
Rev. Dr. Thomas Warren Ogletree
Retired Elder, NYAC,The United Methodist Church

Rev. Randall C. Paige
Rev. Randall C. Paige
Elder, NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen
Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen
Retired Elder, NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Bishop Martin D. McLee
Bishop Martin D. McLee
Episcopal Leader,NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Timothy J. Riss
Rev. Timothy J. Riss 
Counsel for the Church,
Elder, NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Bishop S. Clifton Ives
Bishop S. Clifton Ives
Presiding Elder of the Court,
Retired Bishop,
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Scott Campbell
Rev. Scott Campbell
Counsel for Respondent,
Elder, New England Confreence,
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Robert Walker
Rev. Robert Walker
Assistant to the Bishop,
Elder, NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Lynda Bates-Stepe
Rev. Lynda Bates-Stepe
Assistant Counsel for the Church,
Elder, NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Paul Fleck
Rev. Paul Fleck
Assistant Counsel for Respondent,
Provisional Elder,NYAC, The United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. William S. Shillady

Rev. Dr. William S. Shillady
Secretary of the Court,
Elder, NYAC,
The United Methodist Church

Downsizing (Again!)


ImageDownsizing (Again!)

 Since retirement in 2003, I’ve been teaching a class or two (intensives and/or on-line) each year. I’ve loved my students and staying in touch with the seminary community. Ten good years!

But the time has come, I realize, to lay it down. Awareness dawned—it’s more a burden than a joy! Change comes;

  • New requirements from a faculty mostly new since I left!
  • Google + Hangouts at 6:00 am (Pacific Time) with students in all four time zones!
  • Grading timeliness as much as quality of their work for students overloaded with family, church, other jobs, and school!
  • The joy of teaching (for the first time ever) morphing into duty!

As Patient Advocate Coordinator of an amazing program here at Pilgrim Place—now with 80 trained advocates who accompany another through the maze of medical appointments and tests and hospitalizations—one becomes aware both of the amazing grace and the frustrating loss of brothers and sisters in this intentional community as age advances and diminishment lifts its head!

Our community values necessitate downsizing when a couple becomes a single and their living space is more than 1,200 sq. ft. We have loved our home the last 9 ½ years—1,600 sq. ft. We are still in the “go-go” years but if one looks around, one becomes aware the “slow-go’” years will come! Why not, we asked ourselves, move into a smaller condo-type unit now when we can have fun fixing it up together and then, when that time comes (we hope, many years from now!), one will not be left to downsize alone? Why not share the joy and excitement of making one more Nest together?

So it is, that we are on the list to move into an apartment in one of two, newer LEED gold-certified units here at Pilgrim Place. When one becomes available (who knows when, because our community is at capacity and has a waiting list), we will move.

Yesterday I began cleaning out the file cabinet (we’ve ascertained that we need to go from seven drawers to three!). And that is what prompted these ruminations! Already, we’ve figured out what furniture can go and what we will leave behind. We’ve even weaned lots of books from our shelves (having each already given away over 1,000 books when we moved from Chicago to California!). The art is hardest but we think we’ve figured that out as well—at least we’ve prioritized it so however much has to go away, can go.

So I wasn’t prepared for the sense of loss/finality yesterday when I started putting files filled with syllabi, lesson plans and teaching resources into the recycle bin! Now I haven’t taught most of those courses for ten years, and lots of what was there is still on my computer, so why the feeling that I am somehow losing part of myself???

Now I know (heart and head) that I am not what I do. So why this feeling of loss? I have always claimed my primary gift and calling is to TEACH! I love teaching! Empowering students to birth their own gifts and insights is what I do.

I still remember a student from the 1970’s whose theology was (in my mind) limiting rather than expanding. I challenged her, often raising questions about some of her assumptions. I was in my office the day she stopped by the outer office to pick up her final paper with her course grade on it. She couldn’t resist picking up the office phone (no cell phones back then!) and calling a friend as she exclaimed in a loud voice, “She gave me an “A”!  I hope that she learned that day that one should not have to agree with a teacher to earn an “A”!

Being midwife to students (thanks, Maria Harris, for this insight!) so that they experience new ideas, gain new skills and become all they can be is the greatest calling I can imagine! I will always be a teacher—but perhaps never again in an academic, for credit setting. Saying, “It is time,” and stopping while those who supervise me are sad to see me go (I’ve never wanted to stay so long that students and colleagues think, “When is she ever going to retire?!”) is a good thing, I think! So, having already said this will be my last year to teach at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (where I taught for 17 years plus the first ten years of my retirement), disposing of files (the first word that came to mind was “dumping files”!) becomes a ritual act. It is, I am discovering, an act that is bitter-sweet! And that is also a good thing!

Knowing when “it is time” to begin another chapter in one’s life, to accept God’s call to a new and challenging job even when one loves the job one has, to move across the country to an intentional community in Southern California, to downsize and move to another home–these are all the kinds of decisions each one must make. I pray that Dwight and I will continue to recognize  good paths in good time and choose to take them!

                                                                Linda J. Vogel       12/23/13

A Prophetic Invitation


The Bishop in the Cal-Pac Annual Conference (so the bishop of the annual conference where we live) has made a prophetic invitation to the defrocked Pastor Frank Schaefer.  Here is Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño’s statement:

Brothers and Sisters,

At our annual conference session earlier this year we celebrated the visionary leadership of Bishop Gerald Kennedy who in 1963 invited to come to the West 8 Methodist pastors from Mississippi who had been condemned and ostracized by Methodists and others for standing against racial discrimination.

Among the 8 who came from Mississippi to become a part of the ministry in what is now the California-Pacific Conference were the Rev. Inman Moore and the Rev. Ed McRae. We rejoiced when these two surviving pastors stood among us this past June and shared with us a word of deep witness of what it meant to be supported and welcomed.

I want you to know that on this day following in the footsteps of Bishop Kennedy and with the support of his bishop, Bishop Peggy Johnson, I invited the Rev. Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference. At this moment Rev. Schaefer and I have agreed that he will enter into a time of prayer and discernment with his wife Brigitte and their family about whether God is calling him to life and ministry in our conference.

While I recognize that our brother Frank has been defrocked by those in authority in his conference, I believe that those who have acted in such a way have done so in obedience to the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, an imperfect book of human law that violates the very spirit of Jesus the Christ who taught us through word and deed that all God’s children are of sacred worth and welcomed into the embrace of God’s grace. I believe that the time has come for we United Methodists to stand on the side of Jesus and declare in every good way that the United Methodist Church is wrong in its position on homosexuality, wrong in its exclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and wrong in its incessant demand to determine through political processes who can be fully members of the body of Christ. Frank Schaefer chose to stand with Jesus as he extended love and care to his gay son and his partner. We should stand with him and others who show such courage and faithfulness.

At our 2013 annual conference session you the lay and clergy members of the California-Pacific Conference determined that you would be biblically obedient, excluding no one from our care or ministry, and committing to work to eliminate any barriers that would prohibit anyone from being included in our covenantal life together or our witness to Christ Jesus. You declared that you were acting out of the belief that God’s grace and love are available to all persons. This decision of the conference was challenged. As the presiding officer I had the responsibility of issuing a ruling of law in response to the challenge. I ruled that the conference had the right to express the hope of many in The United Methodist Church that the day will come when inclusion and justice will be extended to all God’s people. I further ruled that the conference had the right to give witness to the belief that The United Methodist Church is in error when it states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. My ruling of law was upheld by the Judicial Council of our denomination. In inviting Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry and witness, I am choosing to stand with you and to lead us in being biblically obedient.

I acknowledge that I do not have the authority to restore the ministerial credentials that Frank Schaefer has lost. Only a board of ordained ministry can recommend such a reinstatement of credentials, and only the ordained clergy of an annual conference can determine whether a person will be credentialed for ordained ministry. What I can do, however, is invite and welcome others to love and serve Christ Jesus among us, accompany those who choose to be faithful, and exhort us all to be biblically obedient. This I will do for as long as God gives me breath.

Your Sister in Christ,

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño


Another Bishop Speaks Out


The defrocking of Pastor Frank for presiding over the wedding of his gay son is shameful. May god forgive the umc  for its hateful behavior to those who seek to follow the prince of peace, and lead us into ministry with and for the poor, the marginalized and then lead us, with all people who seek the common good, to bring hope, hospitality, compassion and justice into our hurting world!

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague: An Open Letter to the People Called United Methodists

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

SpragueCJosephStanding outside the Statement of the Council of Bishops [COB] regarding Bishop Talbert’s celebration of the marriage of two gay United Methodist men, whose baptismal names are Bobby and Joe, I embrace the words of Christian mystic, Meister Eckhardt, “People ought not to consider so much what they are to do as what they are; let them be good and their ways and deeds will shine brightly. If you are just, your actions will be just too.”

The issue before us is not Bishop Talbert’s “undermining the ministry of a colleague”, as the COB’s Statement asserts. Rather, it is our church’s failure to follow Jesus in being just and thus doing justice with minorities, in this case gay and lesbian human beings, too often marginalized by the majority’s fear and insensitivity. The Statement’s call for another study of homosexuality and its generic reference to real pain are evidence of institutional protectionism and insensitive duplicity, co-mingled with the privilege of the majority. None of this constitutes either a guidepost for a saintly church, or a pathway for a visionary COB that is called in Eckhardt’s words, to “shine brightly.”

  Therefore, this Open Letter respectfully suggests:

  • That, should any Complaint be filed against Bishop Talbert, the Western College of Bishops take no action on it;
  • That bishops, who are so persuaded by their considered application of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, stand in solidarity with clergy colleagues who celebrate weddings of lesbian and gay couples, when such couples meet the same pastoral requirements for a Christian wedding as do their heterosexual counterparts;
  • That all United Methodists dedicate ourselves anew to following Jesus by freeing children from poverty, liberating the captives, and working to eliminate violence, mayhem, and war; and,
  • That, rather than continuing to waste invaluable resources and hurting each other and the church we love, the people called United Methodists confess we are not of one mind and heart on this entire matter and, therefore, entrust to annual conferences, congregations, laity, and clergy the gift of being in such relationship with lesbian and gay sisters and brothers as the vital and dynamic experience of the means of grace determines and dictates.

May we proceed graciously knowing that what is required is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8b]

Grace and Peace,

Bishop C. Joseph Sprague

November 19, 2013


Nativity Creator’s Reflections

on CUMC’s 2013 Nativity Display

 There is no better time to reflect on gun violence than during advent, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born into a state of total vulnerability as an innocent, unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin.  The Bible tells us of a brutal massacre as Jesus was born.  King Herod slaughtered children under two years old around Bethlehem trying in vain to kill Jesus. Mary and Joseph celebrated their newborn baby at the original Christmas, but there were plenty of other parents in agony because their children had just been killed.  The holiday of today would have little in common with the tragedy that was suffered.

The rulers in Jesus’ world, just as in ours, provide that we must use violence to protect the innocent from violence – This myth of redemptive violence is the very thing Jesus came to help us un-learn through his commitment to nonviolence and his death on the cross.

Jesus life from birth as a homeless refugee to his violent execution was one of opposing violence, not with more violence, but with forgiveness, grace, and love.   There is a reason that we speak of “peace on earth” so much at Christmas and call him “The prince of peace”. 

The ideal that Christians identify with a victim of hate and a nonviolent, loving, forgiving victim is perhaps one of the most transformative and world changing assumptions of the Christian faith.

The lesson that Jesus taught his disciples is as relevant today as it was on the first Christmas. Hate will not rid the world of hate.  He consistently taught that we could disarm violence without becoming violent, and that we can rid the world of evil without becoming evil. I think we can add that more guns or teachers with guns will never stop gun violence.  So let us commit ourselves to Peace this Christmas in honor of Jesus, in honor of the innocents killed by King Herod and in honor of the innocents killed with guns today.   

John Zachary (Member of Claremont United Methodist Church)