The United Methodist Reporter is offering the latest headlines in the RSS format.
UNITED METHODIST OF THE YEAR: Young girl puts spotlight on global health Mary Jacobs, Dec 26, 2008
UMNS FILE PHOTO BY MIKE DUBOSE
Katherine Commale, from Hopewell United Methodist Church in Downington, Pa., has helped to raise more than $85,000 for the purchase of insecticide-treated bed nets to protect people in Africa from mosquitoes that spread malaria.
By Mary Jacobs Staff Writer
For being the symbol of the grassroots United Methodist movement to combat poverty-related diseases, Katherine Commale, of Downington, Pa., who has helped raise over $85,000 for Nothing but Nets, is our 2008 United Methodist of the Year.
Katherine, a second-grader, turns 8 on Jan. 4.
She was nominated by Rich Peck, former editor of the Daily Christian Advocate, and the Rev. Kathy James, a congregational specialist in the South Carolina Conference, who wrote, “She gives an image of what ‘social holiness’ can look like in today’s world.”
Ms. James added: “She also reminds us to come before the throne of grace with the wonder of a child and inspires hope for the future of United Methodism. ‘And a little child shall lead them . . . ’”
Methodist leaders, authors and achievers in the national spotlight—as well as less famous pastors and laypeople who have worked quiet miracles in their own corner of the world—were also among the 2008 nominees for United Methodist of the Year.
But Katherine stands out as the shining example of youthful energy and commitment to making a difference as a United Methodist.
She also represents, of course, the larger involvement of United Methodists across the country who provided insecticide-treated bed nets for families in Africa through the Nothing But Nets campaign. So everyone who’s dropped a $10 bill in an offering, take a bow!
We like the fact that nobody fought over who got the credit in the Nets campaign. We like the way that the grassroots initiative managed to bypass bureaucratic obstacles, denominational fiefdoms and territorial struggles—and just got done.
We like the simplicity. Ten bucks, save a life. Any questions?
We like the way it had former Christian-disser Ted Turner praising the work of the United Methodist Church.
We like the fact that it brings a small token of Methodism into thousands of homes in Africa, in the form of something that’s life-giving, that surrounds those who are vulnerable and keeps them safe while they sleep at night.
And we like the way it got young people like Katherine excited and involved. So congratulations, Katherine, on being a shining example to the rest of us.
Here are the other nominees for United Methodist of the Year, not as visible perhaps, but each quietly and faithfully also doing the ministry of the church.
Nominee: The Rev. Ira Williams, retired United Methodist pastor, Albuquerque
Retired United Methodist pastor Rev. Ira Williams “has tirelessly dedicated his energies to the United Methodist church for over 65 years,” according to Charlie and Vanessa Blaine, members of First United Methodist Church in Albuquerque.
In the middle of World War II, Mr. Williams, then 16, was licensed to preach in the Oklahoma Conference. Pastors were in short supply, as many had enlisted to serve as chaplains. Mr. Williams’ duties included visiting on horseback the families within 10 miles of the church.
Since then, Mr. Williams has served churches in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, growing membership and developing strong urban ministry and evangelism programs. In recognition of his pastoral leadership at First United Methodist in Albuquerque, he was awarded a doctor of divinity degree by McMurry University.
Most recently, he served as volunteer director of development for Grace Park, a United Methodist camp outside of Albuquerque. Mr. Williams, 82, and his wife, Marilyn, have four grown children.
—Nominated by Charlie and Vanessa Blaine, members of FUMC-Albuquerque
Nominee: Eddie Fox, World Director of Evangelism, the World Methodist Council
For his position advocating the retention of the existing United Methodist Church language regarding homosexuality, Richard Hearne nominated the Rev. Eddie Fox, a delegate to the General Conference and director of World Evangelism for the World Methodist Council (WMC).
Delegates to the 2008 General Conference meeting April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas, adopted a minority report that retained language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline describing homosexual practice as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
A majority report by the legislative committee recommended deleting the incompatibility sentence and adopting the statement, “Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness.”
In presenting the minority report, however, the Dr. Fox said United Methodist statements on human sexuality should be “clear, concise and faithful to biblical teaching.”
“I have seen and experienced the pain and the brokenness in parts of our global movement whenever our church has failed to hold fast to this essential teaching of the Holy Scripture,” he said.
“Whether you agree with his position or not, he was the ‘rock’ who was relied upon by those who wished to maintain the current language in the Discipline,” said Mr. Hearne.
—Nominated by Richard Hearne, a 2008 General Conference lay delegate and sales director for UMR Communications.
Nominees: David Braden and Audrey Krumbach
Two young people—David Braden and Audrey Krumbach—were nominated for their work in leading the denomination toward “a different, more inclusive future.”
“Mr. Braden is the kind of leader that most congregations dream of having,” said Susan Dal Porto of the Northern Illinois Conference. Raised in the United Methodist Church, and active in UMYF, Mr. Braden, who is under 30, is working on social justice and advocacy as a career. He has worked in international missions and is very involved in his local congregation, serving as a lay leader and small group leader.
Mr. Braden was an alternate delegate to Jurisdictional Conference and is a board member for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. “David Braden is a deeply committed United Methodist, and he is gay,” Ms. Dal Porto said.
Ms. Krumbach, who recently received her master’s of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago, is currently the outreach coordinator with Young Adult Emphasis and a candidate for ordination in the Northern Illinois Conference.
She served a year’s internship with the Reconciling Ministries Network, organizing its young adult extension ministry MoSAIC. Dressed in black, Ms. Krumbach read the “Silent Witness” statement drafted by gay rights advocates during the 2008 General Conference.
“By standing we reject the idea that homosexuality is a sin,” she read aloud. “We stand with those who’ve been forced out and who’ve never come in, who already affirm one another as beloved children of God, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
—Nominated by Susan Dal Porto, director of communications, Northern Illinois Conference
Nominee: George Holtin, layperson, Woodlands (Texas) UMC
George Holtin was nominated for his record of active service at the 8,200-member Woodlands United Methodist Church and its surrounding community in The Woodlands, Texas.
Mr. Holtin was recently named “Home Town Hero of the Woodlands,” said Mark Lewis, Woodlands UMC’s minister to senior adults. He is also a member of the Woodlands Rotary Club and sings in the Goldenaires Choir (a group of 50 seniors who sing at nursing homes and other venues).
At the church, Mr. Holtin sings in the Chancel Choir and also arranges programs, meals and games for the 125 or more people who attend the “Prime Timers” luncheon group at the church each month.
“He’s just outstanding,” Mr. Lewis said. “‘Service’ is his middle name.”
—Nominated by Mark Lewis, minister to senior adults, Woodlands UMC
Nominee: Retired United Methodist Bishop Rueben Job
For the widespread influence of his book, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, retired United Methodist Bishop Rueben P. Job was nominated by a conference communicator.
Bishop Job was formerly World Editor of The Upper Room publishing program. He has authored or co-authored many books, including A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, A Wesley Spiritual Reader and A Guide to Retreat for All God's Shepherds. He lives in Nashville, Tenn.
But Bishop Job’s most recent book, Three Simple Rules, has had the most profound effect, according to Neill Caldwell, editor in the Virginia Conference. The book “has captured a lot of attention in really simplifying our mission,” Mr. Caldwell said, providing laypeople with clear, actionable direction.
The rules? Do no harm; do good; and stay in love with God.
—Nominated by Neill Caldwell, editor of the Advocate, a publication of the Virginia Conference
Nominee: C. Sue Pennycuick, layperson, Mountain View UMC, Mo.
Missouri layperson C. Sue Pennycuick has been nominated because of “all she has done to exemplify living for Christ,” writes fellow church member Shelly Reed. “If you have been around the Mountain View United Methodist Church here in southern Missouri in the past 10 years or so, you’ve surely run into Sue. And if you have, you’ve surely not forgotten her.”
Ms. Pennycuick has shared her faith with everyone she comes in contact with, Ms. Reed said, and has also taught others what grace really means. Ms. Pennycuick also filled in when the church was without a pastor, preaching for a year and a half with no compensation.
“She’s been through quite a lot in her personal life, but she is still so hopeful and encouraging,” Ms. Reed said. “We should try to follow Sue’s joyous example! I feel so blessed to be called her friend.”
—Nominated by Shelly Reed, Mountain View UMC, Mountain View, Mo.
Nominees: Jason Gaston, Troy Russell
Two young laypeople who stepped in at a crucial moment were nominated by several fellow church members at First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas.
Jason Gaston and Troy Russell took on a job “that they are doing at a level only God can take credit for,” according to George Welch, a member of the church.
After the church’s full-time youth minister decided to leave a year ago, Mr. Gaston and Mr. Russell volunteered to lead the budding youth program started by the minister. Both men have full-time jobs outside of the church and families with young children.
Under their leadership the program has thrived and grown. “They have a lot of help from other adults but the bulk of the work and planning is left up to them,” said Mr. Welch. “It is just amazing how two young men, who are themselves so young in their Christian walk, could step up and do such a great job.”
—Nominated by George Welch and several other members, First United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Texas
Nominee: Jim Reuteler, retired pastor, Wisconsin Conference
The Rev. Jim Reuteler, part-time pastor of covenant discipleship for Grace United Methodist Church in Denver, Colo., is a “walking encyclopedia” on John Wesley and the United Methodist faith, said Karen Snyder, the church’s Christian education director who has worked with him for 11 years.
Though he was not raised in a church-going family, Dr. Reuteler has been passionate about the United Methodist Church since he had his own Aldersgate experience in his 20s.
He writes his own curriculum, and has taught every book of the Bible, as well as classes on books by Methodist authors. He is passionate about starting covenant discipleship groups as a way of getting back to the roots of the denomination. Dr. Reuteler serves on the Nashville Board of Covenant Discipleship and has written numerous articles for their newsletter.
He is also very active in Habitat for Humanity and started the Loaves and Fishes coalition in the metro-Denver area. Dr. Reuteler is even working on a Power Point presentation for his funeral: He wants Romans 8 read during the service.
“There cannot be anyone more deserving of this award than Jim,” said Ms. Snyder.
—Nominated by Karen Snyder, Christian education director, Grace UMC, Denver, Colo.
Nominee: Bishop Robert Schnase
Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase has been nominated for the positive impact that his 2007 book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, is continuing to have on the denomination.
Elected a bishop in 2004 in the South Central Jurisdiction, Bishop Schnase leads nearly 900 congregations with 175,000 members across Missouri. He is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He has also studied Spanish for several summers in Central America.
He has been recognized as a recipient of the Circuit Rider Award for Church Growth and the Denman Evangelism Award, and has served churches in the British Methodist Conference.
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, along with its companion materials for congregation-wide study and implementation, continues to gain traction across the denomination as a model for creating churches where individuals grow in discipleship.
The Five Practices terms—radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity—have become household words among United Methodist leaders.
—Nominated by Erik J. Alsgaard, drector of communications, Florida Conference