Committee on Ministerial Ethics

Church pastors gathered recently at district events to develop their communications skills for parish ministry. Karen A. McClintock, co-author of the book Healthy Disclosure and nationally known clinical psychologist, consulted with conference leaders from the Committee on Ministerial Ethics to organize the training, which was supported in part through apportionment gifts from local churches throughout the Iowa Conference.

“Information management is both a technical process and a spiritual undertaking. Leaders need the ability to spiritually discern, not just intellectually decide, the solutions to congregational dilemmas.”

Her book was distributed to all participants for them to read in preparation for the training. The author came to Iowa earlier this year to work with conference staff and record videos of her presentations that were used in the district events. Topics included discussion of information that is appropriately kept private as well as the various stages of disclosure that are important for maintaining proper respect for one another.

The events were well received. Participants left the training with practical ideas for nurturing healthy communication in their churches and communities. One pastor commented, “I wished I’d heard about this 20 years ago.”

Immigrant Communities of Faith

Numerous new communities of faith have begun in Iowa, worshipping God in their native languages from Spanish to Chuukese and more.

A “Pentecost group” of leaders from many of these communities of faith met last Friday and Saturday in Des Moines for a discussion about ministry partnerships. They coined the name for themselves based on the Pentecost story from Acts 2, when people gathered from all over the world to worship God.

One of their hopes for the day was to discover their unity in diversity by the Holy Spirit. They witnessed to this experience by sharing prayers, songs, and scriptures in many languages throughout the weekend.

They discovered new relationships among people from many different parts of the world who have settled in Iowa. A group from the Micronesian island of Chuuk now worships in Atlantic, for example. Immigrants from Burundi and the Congo are among the Africans that have settled in some of our Iowa cities. At least two groups of Burmese refugees from Myanmar worship regularly in Marshalltown and Columbus Junction.

Participants were led by Dave Odom and Cheryl Stokes from the Faith and Leadership educational program at the Duke University Divinity School. Several Iowa Conference groups provided funds from apportionment gifts to make this gathering possible, including the Commission on Religion and Race.

Shesler Hall, Sioux City

Shesler Hall in Sioux City is a home for women in need, giving housing, meals and a full range of comprehensive services.

Their Emergency Shelter Program serves homeless or near homeless women who have no means of paying the fee. These residents may stay for up to thirty days or longer at no cost, depending upon their situation.

Their Transitional Housing Program offers these same services for a period of two years or less to women who have a medical diagnosis of chronic mental illness and are preparing to live on their own.

Their Long-Term Housing Program gives a home to women with special needs for an indefinite period of time. These residents have truly made Shesler Hall their home. Most have a medical diagnosis, but others simply require a community living environment.

Shesler Hall is housed a lovely, graceful building where they offer residents a completely furnished room with bed and bedding, a dresser, nightstand, desk and desk chair. Two meals are provided each day, including a hot supper prepared with the help of residents.

Shesler Hall is one of about 100 national mission institutions under the umbrella of the General Board of Global Ministries. Learn more at their website www.sheslerhall.com.

School for Ministry

Conference leaders gathered in Des Moines to discuss evangelism in our modern society at the Iowa School for Ministry.

One of the presenters, author Brian D. McClaren, reminded the group of a shocking trend in all faith groups from Christians and Jews to Muslims and Hindus: Worldwide more and more people are asserting their religious belief in nothing in particular. He identified challenges that Christians must overcome to develop relationships with skeptics. He proposed that the heart of authentic Christian belief can be summarized in the phrase, “Because I follow Jesus, I love you” no matter what our differences may be.

Dr. Elaine A. Heath, the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, focused on emerging trends in outreach that break down barriers between people of diverse backgrounds. She asserted that evangelism is never coercive, exploitative, violent, manipulative, or for profit. Rather, evangelism is the “holistic process of initiation into the reign of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, anchored in the church for the transformation of the world.”

Many local church pastors were able to use their continuing education funds made available by their congregations to attend this training event. In addition, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry provided support for continuing education credits that were offered to all participants.

Standing Committee for Mission Personnel

A missionary who is trained as an immigration attorney serves in Iowa as a part of our shared United Methodist outreach to persons in need around the world.

The Iowa Board of Global Ministries has a Standing Committee for Mission Personnel. Two years ago they provided financial support for Brynne Howard as she became a staff attorney for Justice for Our Neighbors in Iowa.

Her case load has included clients from countries such as Bangladesh, Burundi, Laos, Nepal, Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, Somalia, Peru, and Equador. During 2011 more than four hundred new clients were welcomed at Iowa’s JFON legal clinics.

Clients have various immigration status conditions. When legally possible, they are helped to complete requirements to become permanent residents of the United States in Iowa.

In 2012 a fifth legal clinic site was established in Ottumwa at the Wesley United Methodist Church. Enthusiastic JFON volunteers, who are the heart and soul of the ministry in every location, embody the biblical mandate to welcome the strangers in our midst.