banner

Bishop's Blog Archive


professions of faith carousel.jpg
A Key Sign of Spiritual Health and Disciple-making Vitality ©

I returned home from a month of renewal leave last Monday (Aug. 19), and quickly found myself re-immersed in the regular routine of the episcopal office. There were predictable emails awaiting me about this initiative or that problem. A slew of ...

el+paso+crossses.jpg
A Still More Excellent Way ©

The recent spate of mass shooting leaves me (and I believe most of us) reeling. Texas has been my home for virtually all of my adult life. I have lived and pastored a church in the Rio Grande Valley (Wesley UMC in Harlingen). Our daughter was born ...

Spiritual Warfare, the Crisis on the Border and the Wrestling of My Heart ©

John Wimber There is an urban legend about John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Church movement and professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. The story goes that after his conversion to Christ, he started to attend a local church in his area. ...

New Faith Communities, Missions and CTCYM ©

While I am on renewal leave, I have invited Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth to share a guest blog.  This report was originally published June 19, 2019.  Bishop Mike Lowry At ...

Calling for Swift, Non-Partisans Solutions ©

Today, I joined my fellow active bishops of Texas, as well as several retired bishops living in the state in calling on our state and federal officials to set aside party politics and deliver a solution for the ongoing humanitarian crisis unfolding ...

Summer Reading and the WIG ©

As a part of my summer reading, I have enjoyed 8 Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches. With our focus on the WIG – the Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world – the words leaped off the page: ...

The Importance of Time Off ©

I returned to work the first of July after a week off in Northern Virginia with our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. While the grandchildren (6 and 3-years-old respectively) left me exhausted, it was a good kind of exhaustion. For a ...

As the Storm Rages: Part III ©

This Blog is part three of a three-part blog series pulled from my 2019 Episcopal Address delivered on June 11 to the lay and clergy members of the 109th Annual Meeting the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. To view the video ...

As the Storm Rages: Part II ©

This Blog is part two of a three-part blog series pulled from my 2019 Episcopal Address delivered on June 11 to the lay and clergy members of the 109th Annual Meeting the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. To view the video of ...

As the Storm Rages: Part I ©

This Blog is part one of a three-part blog series pulled from my 2019 Episcopal Address delivered on June 11 to the lay and clergy members of the 109th Annual Meeting the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. To view the video of ...

Living with the Bible ©

Dean David Watson of United Theological Seminary will serve as the Guest Teacher for the 2019 Central Texas Annual Conference meeting. At the 109th annual gathering of the Central Texas Conference, we have the special privilege of having one of ...

The Centrality of Worship ©

This coming Sunday night we will open the 109th gathering of the Central Texas Conference at First United Methodist Church in Hurst. Worship is central to who we are and what we are about. The Psalmist writes... 1 Shout triumphantly to the Lord, ...

Amid the Fluid Chaos ©

For those following larger issues in the United Methodist Church in America, it is an understatement to assert that this is a time of fluid chaos. Conversations, and even threatened action for or against the recently concluded General Conference, ...

Q&A from Reflections and Response to GC19 Meeting ©

On May 1, Bishop Lowry and the CTC Cabinet met with the Central Texas Conference clergy and lay leadership to reflect on and respond to the decisions made at General Conference 2019 and the subsequent Judicial Council rulings on those decisions. ...

Vital CTC Laity Event ©

I want to emphatically encourage every church in the Central Texas Conference to send at least two people to the Laity Summit planned for 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sunday June 9 (just before the start of Annual Conference 2019). Mike Ford, our outstanding ...

On the Road Again ©

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 4th) opens a period of activity that comes around with all the regularity of blooming, perennial spring flowers. I will fly to Chicago to participate in the regularly scheduled spring meeting of the Council of Bishops of ...

Easter Reflections ©

The fire rages. The steeple consumed in a reddish-orange blaze topples. Unrehearsed, a collective gasp erupts from the watching crowd. A great symbol of the Christian faith, Notre Dame Cathedral is gutted. On Easter morning itself, seven ...

The Cross ©

It is sign and symbol. It towers over the religious landscape of our day even in a post-Christendom world. It remains both an offense and a glory. The cross of Christ looms before us on Good Friday. Before we arrive at Easter, we must first stop ...

The Entry ©

'How do you imagine the Savior enters the Holy City? Images abound. Some are famous and others merely prosaic. We have an artist's rendering hanging in our front hall at home. I like to stop at it periodically and ponder. The Lord's entry into the ...

A New Thing ©

After the called General Conference in St. Louis, I (along with others) was asked to write a brief article for Circuit Rider, an online magazine put out by The United Methodist Publishing House. The writers were asked specifically to not re-argue or...

The Question Lingers ©

The question lingers from a sermon delivered by Dean David Watson. “When people look at your Facebook page or your Twitter profile, do they know you are a Christian? Okay, you say, I have repeatedly posted Bible verses with colorful, flowery ...

Iglesia Jeme or Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing ©

We now have a house church in Italy, Texas worshipping 8-10 regularly in Spanish. This narrative, which was shared during our latest Cabinet meeting, slipped in almost softly behind the continuing upheaval caused by the recently concluded General ...

Lessons from a Christian Hero ©

It is the morning after St. Patrick’s Day and I find myself musing about what this great Christian hero would teach us. I invite us to get past green rivers, green beer and the wearing of the green for there is a towering Christian who stands both ...

Anchored to the Cross ©

“Every sailor knows you set the anchor before the storm hits.” Those words spoken to me by my spiritual guide (a long time Navy Chaplain) in Tuesday morning’s prayer time brought me back to a profound truth. It is a truth I know well but find easy ...

Breathe Deep, Jesus is Still Lord ©

Dear Friends in Christ, I write to laity and clergy of the Central Texas Conference in the aftermath of the recently concluded Called General Conference held in St. Louis. In the wake of a bruising struggle over the United Methodist Church’s ...

Wrapping Up General Conference 2019 ©

At the end of a very long and trying final day of General Conference 2019, Bishop Lowry and Dr. Tim Bruster come together and share their impressions of GC19 as well as their hopes for the church and the Central Texas Conference going forward. ht...

Reflections of Day 2 of General Conference 2019 ©

Before heading to dinner and some rest following a long day General Conference 2019 Legislative Committee Session, Bishop Lowry stopped and summarized the days events. This was a day that saw WESPATH and dissolution resolutions and the Traditional ...

A Report from Day 1 of General Conference 2019 ©

Bishop Lowry stops on his way out of the Dome in St. Louis to summarize the events of the first full day of the special called General Conference - a day of "surprise to some" delegates, a day of disappointment for some and "cautious approval" by ...

Reflections on General Conference 2019 Day of Prayer ©

Bishop Lowry shares his thoughts following a powerful day of prayer and preparation at General Conference 2019, as well as reiterates his call for a 30 day period of prayerful discernment following GC19. https://vimeo.com/319249501

A Call for Calm, Peace & Discernment during & after GC19 ©

As a long day wound to its end on the eve of the Special Called General Conference 2019, Bishop Lowry stepped away from his busy episcopal schedule of meetings and trainings to record a quick video message to the people of the Central Texas ...

Intended Consequences of a WIG Focus ©

Later this week, Bishops and delegates to the Special Called session of General Conference 2019 will gather in St. Louis. It is not an understatement to assert that this General Conference will have a crucial role in determining the future of the ...

The Holy Spirit at Work ©

As I write, it is a Sunday afternoon and I have just returned to my office from sharing with Mooreville United Methodist Church in worship. While with those good and faithful people, I saw the Holy Spirit at work. But I am ahead of myself. Though ...

No Mercy, No Justice, and Faithful and Fractured ©

Two books have come across my desk recently which I believe are worth sharing. I must confess at the outset that I have only read a small part of the first - No Mercy, No Justice. The second book Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy ...

Stay Focused ©

When I began writing my blog back in 2010, I entitled it This Focused Center based on a version of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 from The Message (a paraphrased translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson) “Our firm decision is to work from this focused ...

God in Action ©

Gil Rendle in his newest book, Quietly Courageous, poses the question of whether many of us operate from a stance of functional atheism. That is, do we believe in God in some vague intellectual sense but engage in ministry as if God does not ...

Important Wespath Pensions Information on the Way Forward

Late last week , the Bishops across the United Methodist Church received an important communication from the General Secretary of Wespath (previously known as the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits) Barbara Boigegrain. General Secretary ...

Living the Christian Difference ©

As we watched the evening news together (as is our custom), Jolynn and I were sitting together on the couch holding hands. Halfway through the broadcast, Jolynn shook her hand loose and asked, “Are you upset?” Her question was spot on. I was ...

New Supervisory Plan for the East District ©

It was with sadness that I released the following announcement to the clergy and lay leaders of the Central Texas Conference on Dec. 28, 2018. I have received a complaint against Rev.  Ben Disney, East District Superintendent based on ¶2702. 1 of...

A Message of Joy for Christmas ©

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10 KJV) In his annual Christmas message to the Central Texas Conference, Bishop Lowry reminds all to set aside the hustle...

District Sharing’s on the Way Forward ©

Over the fall season, I made a total of 10 presentations (two in each geographic district of the CTC) on the upcoming called Special General Conference 2019 to be held Feb. 23-26. This General Conference will receive and act upon the report of the ...

Trust the Greater Vision ©

I confess that I am stuck. I come to Advent (the time of preparation for the Savior’s coming) with a deep awareness of the chaos around us. The darkness feels like it is closing in across the world. Conflict rages in the Baltic Sea and the Middle ...

A Peaceable Kingdom in a Divided World ©

As we move into the season of Advent in preparation for the birth of our Savior, I offer the Council of Bishops Christmas letter as a guests blog. The letter is written by Bishop Ken Carter (The Florida Episcopal Area) President of the Council of ...

Advent and Doctrine ©

I confess that I have been unreasonably impatient to get Thanksgiving over and get on to Advent and Christmas. (I readily admit that one of my ongoing sins is a lack of patience.) The ancient words from the close of the Holy Scriptures have settled ...

Keeping Focus ©

The title of my blog site is This Focused Center. It is taken from The Message translation/paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He...

Report from the Council of Bishops ©

I’ve just returned home to Fort Worth after spending a week with my fellow bishops of the United Methodist Church at the twice-yearly Council of Bishops meeting. The meeting, which began with a memorial worship service on Sunday, Nov. 4, was held at ...

Unashamed of the Gospel ©

On Saturday, Nov. 3, I preached the opening sermon at the 2018 Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association held at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia. Below is the text of the sermon. It was entitled “Unashamed!” and ...

Knowing Who We Are ©

  Thursday morning, November 1st – All Saints Day, Jolynn and I will leave Fort Worth for ten days. Two of those days are taken up with travel. The first event is a day spent in Georgia attending the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) Global ...

"We Need More Water"& Pie With the Pastor ©

Our Wildly Important Goal as a Conference (what we call the - WIG) is the very mission of the church – “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It leaps off the page of Holy Scripture as the closing paragraph of the ...

LIFE AT A GATHERING © I am about a month into what is usually one of my busiest times of the year. Despite have worked assiduously to get off various boards and committees, I feel like I am constantly on the road traveling to another meeting, ...

Healthy Christianity #2: Beauty and the Beast ©

The great, classic story of Beauty and the Beast tells of a blossoming love between a beautiful young woman and hideous beast. In Disney’s 1991 film version. the title song “Beauty and the Beast,” was written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composed by...

The Importance of Healthy Christianity #1 ©

The unsigned letter was found with the bodies. “If nobody understands, it does not matter. I am ready to die now. Darkness settles over Jonestown on its last day on earth.” (from the RollingStone article: 13 Things You Should Know About Cult Massacre...

A Christian Identity Built on Grace-filled Faithfulness ©

A Christian Identity Built on Grace-filled Faithfulness © As I conclude a five-part blog series built around the issue of Christian Identity as something that transcends political persuasions, identity politics, nationality, gender, ethnicity, etc. ...

Spiritual Disciplines as Identity Shaping ©

Imagine for a moment that you are asked to represent your country in a long distance run at the next Olympic games! With exultant pride you commit yourself to a rigorous training regimen. But … activities have a way of intruding and every time you ...

Recovering the Fullness of the Christian Story ©

Come with me back to a primordial time of deep cultural change where the supremacy of human rulers was challenged at its very core. Caesar ruled the Roman Empire which towered over the Mediterranean world. The Emperor Augustus Caesar had “declared ...

Recovering a Christian Identity ©

The Oscar winning movie Chariots of Fire captures a crucial aspect of Christian identity over politics, country, race or other claims to be a Christian’s primary identifier. The great Scottish Olympic runner Eric Liddell learns that the trials for ...

The Identity Dilemma ©

Two stories highlight the critical issue of Christian identity. Both come from incidents in my pastoral ministry. In the first instance a young adult found himself involved with a mission ministry reaching out to the homeless in our community. He ...

Beyond Political Identity: Grounding Ourselves in the Word and Way of God ©

Next week, I will be on renewal leave for a time of study under Dr. Kenneth Collins, Professor of Historical Theology and Wesley Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. For some time, I have been concerned that for many American Christians (and ...

Texas Bishops Invite All to Write to Reunite ©

Dear Friends, my fellow bishops of Texas and I took a few moments away from our duties during this week’s 2018 South Central Jurisdiction Bishop’s Week to reiterate and reinforce our collective call for compassion and care for and the reuniting of ...

Insight on Seeking a Way Forward ©

In the second part of my Episcopal address last week at Annual Conference, I tried to offer some insight on seeking a way forward for us as a larger church. This came at the end of three separate presentations (one by Lay Leader Mike Ford, the 2nd by...

Immigration and the CTC

Members and Friends of the Central Texas Conference: On June 13, the Central Texas Annual Conference overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the current U.S. "zero tolerance" policy on immigration's practice of separating children from their ...

Two Important Task Forces Established (c)

At the recently concluded meeting of the Central Texas Conference, as resident Bishop of the Central Texas Conference I shared the important news of the establishment of two task forces to examine and make recommendations surrounding issues of clergy...

The Wildly Important Goal Heading into Annual Conference ©

As we head into Annual Conference (starting Sunday night, June 10th), I offer some wonderful stories of what God in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst. These are the narratives of churches engaging in the ...

Dancing in a Hurricane ©

I love the phrase “dancing in a hurricane.” It is evocative of what it is like to live in these tumultuous times. In the United Methodist Church, with the dispute over LGBTQ+ issues (same gender marriage, ordination of ministerial candidates in a ...

Not My Will, But Yours Lord ©

The news of the latest school shooting swept over me with a sense of despair. Somewhere in my watching I heard one of the high school students say something like, “I’m not surprised. Sooner or later it was bound to happen here.” My heart staggers in ...

In Christ, the Importance of Gender Equality Before the Lord ©

Near the conclusion of the spring Council of Bishop’s Meeting (May 4), the council received the ballots from all the United Methodist conferences for five constitutional amendments that had been approved by 2016 General Conference. You can see a ...

Breathe Deep, Jesus is Still Lord! ©

At Noon Friday (May 4), the Council of Bishops (COB) finished our Spring meeting. Our gathering was bathed in prayer and saturated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Together we engaged in deep, honest, tough conversation. As we head home, I ask ...

Act Now to End Racism ©

Recently we as a nation celebrated the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King on the 50th Anniversary of his assassination. Last fall I asked the member churches of the Central Texas Conference to, in their own appropriate way, commemorate Dr. King’s ...

Council of Bishops Spring Meeting ©

On Saturday, April 28, Jolynn and I will fly to Chicago for the regular spring meeting of the Council of Bishops (COB) of The United Methodist Church. The agenda is packed with significant items coming before the worldwide gathering of bishops. ...

Evidence of the Resurrection ©

I witnessed a miracle when I was an intern minister (Minister-in-training) at First United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. For years, the balcony of the church had been closed off but Dr. Jack Heacock, the senior pastor, had insisted that it be ...

He is Alive! ©

No more singular proclamation rings out over the Sunday (Son’s Day!) we call Easter than the claim, “He is alive!” The challenge of the Angel messenger greets us as we flee the cemeteries of our day. “Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in ...

Entering Jerusalem ©

On the edge of Holy Week the following story grips my heart. It was sent to me Thursday morning, March 22nd by Rev. Amy Anderson, Pastor of Mart United Methodist Church. I share it (with permission) as sent to me. The additional commentary is my own....

The Journey to Jerusalem ©

If Lent is anything, it is a journey with Jesus to Jerusalem - to the cross and beyond. If Lent is anything, it is a journey of faith. Recently, I have been reading Matthew Bates probing book on New Testament theology Salvation by Allegiance Alone: ...

Paragraph 122 and the WIG ©

Frost United Methodist Church is a part of a two point charge (with Blooming Grove UMC). The town itself has a population of less than 700 people. Rev. Kevin Diggs, the pastor of Frost UMC, was invited by some local folks at the Party Barn to share a...

A Single Minded Awareness of the Presence of Christ ©

As I move through Lent, my days are crowded with appointment-making, struggles around the future of the church, the ever-present paperwork required to keep a large organization (i.e. The Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church) going ...

Discipline, Discipleship and the Journey to the Cross ©

Take a quick test. What comes to your mind when you roll the word “discipline” over in your head? I submit that it is easy (even at the new age of 68) to remember the times of discipline for bad behavior at school. The phrase “in need of discipline” ...

Commission on A Way Forward Report Update

The following was released by the Council of Bishops late in the afternoon last Friday (Feb. 23). As I share it with you here, I ask that you continue to pray for the Council of Bishops and the Commission on A Way Forward, especially this week as the...

Signs of Hope, Help, and Home ©

It was Herb Miller, an executive in Evangelism for the Disciples of Christ and prolific author on the subject of faith sharing, who wrote that virtually everyone comes to church for one of three reasons (if not actually a combination of all three) – ...

Acting Boldly - A New Video Bible Study Series from Bishop Lowry

The following is a Guest Post by Vance Morton - Director of Communications for the Central Texas Conference The days in which “the church” has a favored status in society are over. The time of “Casual Christianity” is no more. This is now a time for...

Turning to the Cross and Beyond ©

Tomorrow begins the season of Lent - the forty days of journey to the death of Jesus on the cross for our redemption and the triumph of Christ in the resurrection for our salvation. Historically, this has always been a time for Christians to follow ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #15 ©

Our Present Prospects An old story ascends the dim recesses of my memory. Back prior to World War II a guy living in a small town is noted for being what we used to simply call a “bad hombre.” He is perennially rude and mean-spirited towards others....

Mission and the Way Forward in the Season after the Epiphany

The moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward (COWF) are urging all United Methodists to engage in a time of reflection on missions in the UMC. Specifically, they are asking us to reflect upon where each of us sees mission at the heart of the ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #14 ©

Practical Christianity Last Saturday I was sitting at the First Steps: How to Big Your WIG Journey gathering in the Fellowship Hall of University UMC. The gathering wrestled with the goal of how we reach out to a new generation. The WIG (Wildly I...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #13 ©

Faith Sharing The story is well known and speaks to the heart of the Wesleyan Way. Roger Ross relates it as follows: On April 2, 1739, at age thirty-five, Wesley took the plunge: At four in the afternoon I submitted to ‘be more vile,’ and proclaimed ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #12 ©

The Union of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy or Holiness of Heart and Life Reconsidered As we move into the new year, I want to pick back up on a theme, a series of blogs, I started early last fall. I wrote on the subject “Reclaiming the Heart of the ...

In Honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I sent this letter via email from our Conference database on January 10th to all the local church congregations and lay members across the Central Texas Conference, but I also wanted to share with you. May we continue the groundbreaking work done by ...

Transformation and the WIG: An Update Report ©

Last September Mart United Methodist Church launched a new faith community built around what they call J.A.M. (Jesus and Me). The new faith community is focused on serving pre-K through 6th grade children in the Mart ISD. Pastor Amy Anderson shares ...

Praying Our Way Forward ©

  It is a famous story and even more famous poem, yet both the story and the poem bear repeating. In the early days of the Second World War, King George the VI gave a Christmas address to the British Empire. In the address he quoted a poem authored ...

Heading Into the New Year or When the Camel Dies ©

Yesterday, I closed the Year of our Lord in great joy, praise and thanksgiving. Our youngest grandson, Adam Amittai (Jonah’s father’s name; it means “truth;” otherwise he is known as “Awesome Adam” to me) Gabrielse-Lowry was baptized. In this sacred ...

The Fourth Sunday in Advent ©

Today, I offer a liturgy for the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles for both the fourth Sunday in Advent and for Christmas Eve. Traditionally (and usually) those are different days. This year, they fall on the same day. In the Methodist traditions...

A Message for Advent 2017 ©

Bishop Lowry shares an Advent message of hope for a bruised and battered world - a hope that comes in the form of a baby at Christmas. Please share this with your church, small group, friends and family by clicking either the share icon (second top ...

The Third Sunday in Advent ©

Today, I offer a liturgy for the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles. As I wrote in my blog “The Advent Wreath,” for our family, the lighting of the Advent Wreath and the sharing of the accompanying liturgy around the kitchen table became a central...

Advent Gratitude ©

Each Advent season, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, we go into overdrive deciding on who we need/want to get a gift. In my better moments, my energy to find gifts is driven by gratitude. As I reflect on the people who have especially ...

The Family Advent Wreath

While serving at Asbury United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, the Rev. Monte Marshall and I regularly put together an Advent Devotional Booklet. At the beginning of each week in the devotional booklet we wrote a short, lectionary based ...

Recovering Doctrinal Greatness Through Advent/Christmas Hymns ©

Even when announced and printed in the bulletin, as I turn in my hymnal to #211 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 211), the words from this great hymn slip in on me and catch me by surprise. They manage to be at once both a...

Encountering Jesus on the Journey ©

In the church, we make much of the journey to Bethlehem. The tale is framed by the simple phrasing of verse 4 in Luke’s second chapter: “Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to ...

Settling for Less ©

I drove down to Kerrville, Texas for our family Thanksgiving gathering wearing my “Chicago Cubs World Series Champions 2017” jersey. That’s right; the shirt read “2017” not “2016.” It was a gift from Howard Martin back in early September at the ...

Reflections on the Council of Bishops and the Way Forward ©

As I write, I am finishing a week of work at the Council of Bishops (COB) meeting in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. The COB (all United Methodist Bishops around the world, both active and retired) met Sunday night through Wednesday noon. The Active ...

A Texas Tintern Abbey ©

William Wordsworth's famous poem "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" drifted back into my mind through my musing at the close of a recent trip. Sunday, October 29th, Jolynn and I had the joy of sharing with Ferris Heights United ...

Is It Only About the Number?

Recently Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism and Church Growth wrote a concise article which was printed in the Smith Center online newsletter. It is an outstanding summary about why numbers matter (each number ...

Why an Emphasis of Christ at the Center?

The words of the great hymn ring out in many a church. The church's one Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is His new creation, by water and the Word; from heav'n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, ...

Escaping the Stranglehold of Fear ©

Somewhere in my wanderings and travels this past summer I ran into a powerful new song, "No Longer Slaves" (written by written by Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case and put out by Bethel Music). The lyrics are: You unravel me, with a ...

The Vatican and Christian Unity ©

"I pray that they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me." (John 17:21) Saturday, October 30th, I found myself with a group from the Central ...

RECOMMENDED! Scripture and the Life of God ©

Periodically, I am asked read a book pre-publication and write a brief promotional blurb for the book. I have had the pleasure of doing this for a number of books including (but not limited to) Leadership Directions from Moses by Olu Brown, A ...

HURRICANE RESPONSE: Great Faithfulness in the Face of Disaster ©

The Apostle Paul famously called for a special offering for the Jerusalem Church and Christians suffering in hard times during a famine in the 40s A.D. Those words of almost two thousand years ago are easily echoed today in response to the great ...

WORSHIP AND THE WIG ©

John Wesley is purported to have said that “worship is the first and primary duty of the Christian.” This crucial act of biblical discipleship is clear. In his decisive interchange with the woman at the well, Jesus says, “But the time is coming - and...

The Hunger Among Us ©

Recently a friend pointed me back to an article written a number of years ago about The Beatles and spiritual hunger. In their meteoric rise from obscurity to fame, The Beatles quickly discovered that fame and fortune were not everything it was ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #11 ©

Reclaiming a Doctrine of Salvation Last week Dr. Lisa Neslony, West District Superintendent in the Central Texas Conference, wrote in a perceptive email, "What if Christians sought the spiritually lost the way volunteers have been seeking people in ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #10 (C)

Amazing Grace! Few Christian doctrines have overtaken The United Methodist Church as the doctrine of grace. One could almost argue that the song "Amazing Grace" has become the unofficial anthem of the church. The words ring out: Amazing Grace, How ...

Responding to Harvey ©

Prayers, Patience, Donations and Cleaning Kits Needed in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey With so many of you, Jolynn and I have watched the news of Hurricane Harvey (#HurricaneHarvey) with deep interest. For us, it is very personal. We lived in Corpus ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #9 ©

A Community of Holiness In a casual conversation recently, a clergy colleague commented to me, "We used to fight over doctrine now we fight over behavior." I am struck by the insight offered in that comment. Churches are to be communities of ...

The World is Our Parish ©

Periodically I am asked, "Should our work in missions (love, justice, and mercy) be focused at home in the communities in which our churches are located or should they be in extended mission work across America and the world?" My answer is always ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #8 ©

Struggling with Sin Back in my seminary days one of the big intellectual fads that swept across America was a form of psychotherapy called Transactional Analysis (TA). It was built on the foundation of acceptance and appreciation of both yourself and...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #7 ©

Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience: Understanding the Quadrilateral in Wesleyan Theology This blog picks back up on an extended summer blog series entitled "Reclaiming The Heart of the Wesleyan Way." In part five of my blog on this series, I ...

Summer Reading ©

I returned from summer vacation on July 25th toting a stack of books that I had taken with me on our travels east to see the grandchildren (along with their parents). In packing a few weeks before, Jolynn had raised her eyes at me and querulously ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #6

A Movement of the Holy Spirit Professor David Hempton opens his marvelous history of the Methodist movement (Methodism: Empire of the Spirit) with the recounting of an incident which took place at Oxford University in the early 1880s. Hugh Price ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #5 ©

Embracing of Our Doctrinal Core A focus of the great historic questions for ordination in the United Methodist Church centers on embracing the doctrinal core of United Methodism. Consider this brief listing of questions put to candidates for ...

A Time for Courage: Part III ©

The following blog posting (“A Time for Courage: Part III) is the third and final section of my Episcopal Address given to the Central Texas Annual Conference on June 12, 2017. Part I was posted June 19th and Part II was posted June 21st. I remind ...

A Time for Courage: Part II ©

The following blog posting (“A Time for Courage: Part II) is the second section of my Episcopal Address given to the Central Texas Annual Conference June 12, 2017. Part I was posted on June 19th. --Bishop Mike Lowry, Resident Bishop of the Central ...

A Time for Courage: Part I ©

The following blog posting (A Time for Courage: Part I) is the first section of my Episcopal Address given to the Central Texas Annual Conference on June 12, 2017. The rest of the Episcopal Address will be shared in subsequent blogs. -- Bishop Mike ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #4 ©

Methodism at Conference Sitting on a shelf above my computer is a little ticket which reads: “Methodist Episcopal Church, Founded A. D. 1784, Quarterly Ticket.” The following quote from Romans 8:16 is printed on the face: “The Spirit itself beareth ...

Iona Interlude ©

I am pausing my “Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way” series to share a brief word on a pilgrimage in leadership development. By the time this is posted, I will be in Iona, Scotland with a group of young adults from the Central Texas Conference....

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #3 ©

Being Methodical – Embracing Spiritual Disciplines The great Christian theologian and spiritual mentor Dallas Willard opens his epic book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, with a profoundly insightful tragic story. He ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #2 ©

Enthusiasts – God as a Subject Many of us are aware that the title “Methodist” was originally meant as an insult. Those called Methodists were considered methodical fanatics in the way they followed Jesus (i.e. through in bible study, prayer, ...

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #1 ©

Two incidents frame the beginning of a series of blogs I have tentatively entitled “Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way.” First, an incident that happened a couple of months ago. Jolynn and I found ourselves in another community worshipping at a...

The Challenge of a Global Church ©

Thursday morning, May 4th, the Council of Bishops held its usual opening worship service. Often during our worship we are led by newly elected bishops. This is one way of getting to know them. Thursday morning five newly elected bishops (four from ...

Reflections on the Recent Judicial Counsel Ruling ©

As you have most likely already read, the UMC Judicial Council released its ruling on the validity of Bishop Karen Oliveto’s election and consecration by the Western Jurisdiction. In its decision – Decision 1341 – the Judicial Council ruled that the...

Council of Bishops Meeting and Courage ©

Later today (April 28, 2017) I will drive to Dallas for the beginning of a week on Council of Bishops business. Saturday we have a joint meeting of Bishops and Conference Chancellors. (Ken Adair is CTC Chancellor and Wilson Woods is CTC Associate ...

Reflections on the Upcoming Judicial Council Decision ©

On Tuesday, April 25, Mike Ford, Central Texas Conference Lay Leader, and I sent the following letter (via email) to all the clergy in the Central Texas Conference currently under appointment as well as the Lay Leaders of our local churches. We'd ...

Of First Importance ©

I confess that the words caught me off guard Easter Sunday morning. They shouldn’t have. Scholars argue that the passage read is an early creedal statement of the newborn Christian movement. I had gone to Sunday worship in Boston at a non-United ...

A Easter Church ©

I used to tape a quote of the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter to my pulpit so I could see it every time I rose to preach: "I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” Somewhere along the way I stopped doing so but the ...

A Hill to Die On ©

As I write it is Monday, April 10, 2017. Yesterday, I worshipped on Palm Sunday with my wife. The children paraded through the sanctuary waving their palm branches. It was glorious; a joyous expression of the faith! I was sitting on the aisle and as ...

Christ and Culture in Today’s Chaos, Part 4 ©

Allow me to step back into the narrative of a four part series of posts entitled Christ and Culture in Today’s Chaos. If reader has not read the previous three, I urge him or her to do so before reading this particular blog. Part 4 is based on and ...

Christ and Culture in Today’s Chaos, Part 3 ©

As Francis Asbury (the first Methodist Bishop in America) began his great missionary work of sharing the gospel and spreading the Methodist/Wesleyan way of being Christian across the continent, he faced a monumental clash between Christ and Culture. ...

Christ and Culture in Today’s Chaos, Part 2 ©

Near the close of John Ortberg’s delightful book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, he tells the story of Robert and Muriel McQuilken. An accomplished college President, Robert left his job to care for his wife Muriel as she slowly slipped...

Christ and Culture in Today’s Chaos, Part 1 ©

“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” (Romans 12:2) “Dear friends, since you are immigrants and ...

In a Mirror Dimly ©

Lost in one of the truly greatest passages of literature ever written is the phrase, “now we see in a mirror dimly.” It occurs in the famous love chapter of I Corinthians 13. We all know how the 13th chapter, the 13th verse ends, “And now faith, ...

St. Patrick's Day

Here's a little levity from our friends in the Lutheran Church, as presented by Donall and Conall of LutheranSatire...           Enjoy, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saint Patrick, Shamrocks and the Trinity ©

A year ago I wrote a blog in honor of the great Irish Saint name Patrick. St. Patrick wrote a number famous prayers including one on the Holy Trinity. It opens with the line: “I rise today in power’s strength, invoking the Trinity, believing in ...

We Are Lost (c) Guest Post by Rev. Frank Briggs

I have been out of the office since February 28th with a follow knee “revision” surgery on the knee replacement I had done in October of 2015. I hope to resume activity on a regular basis next week. In mean time, Rev. Frank Briggs, Senior Pastor of ...

Guest Post from Rev. Frank Briggs

Below is Rev. Frank Briggs', Lead Pastor at Lighthouse Fellowship, Day 6 of Lent, which he posted March 6th. He is posting on Facebook a Lenten devotional to help and guide us through this season of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus for all. ...

Conference Core Team Focuses on the WIG ©

Sunday afternoon, February 26th, the Central Texas Conference Core Team gathered to continue our work determining the WIG for the Conference’s future. I have written briefly on the concept of WIG before. The acronym WIG, in this instance, means the W...

Learning Together (c)

Recently I found myself participating in a fascinating discussion at the United School of Theology Board meeting in Dayton, Ohio. As we wrestled with the rapidly changing landscape of theological education, strategic issues and questions dominated ...

Prayers for Cabinet Inventory Retreat ©

This morning I drove down to Stillwater Lodge at Glen Lake Camp and Retreat Center. We begin a three-day Cabinet Inventory Retreat. Our first activity is worship and prayer. With our foundation and focus built on God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ...

Living the Big Three ©

For last 7 years as bishop of the Fort Worth Episcopal Area, The Central Texas Conference, I have stressed the critical importance and centrality of what I call the “big three” as the focus of our work as a Conference “energizing and equipping local ...

Celebrations and a Loss Observed ©

I sit at my keyboard and launch this blog on "Celebrations and a Loss Observed" mindful that today is Valentine’s Day. While flowers, candy and cards abound, I invite us to pause and remember the original Valentine. He was a Christian martyr and ...

Alternative Facts? (c)

On returning home from Kenya, I read in my local paper the next morning about a dispute between officials in the Trump Administration and those who officially report on the size of the crowd at Presidential inaugurations. Personally, being out of ...

Return and Reflections ©

Someone once said that life is what happens to you on the way to something else. There is an element of honesty in such a reflection, which I discovered while in Kenya to my regret. On Wednesday, January 18th, I stepped into a good sized meeting room...

Conclave and Kenya ©

Like many of you, my year has begun with a full slate of ministry activities. It began January 3rd with a day and a half in the office to answer emails and plow through paperwork accumulated from the Christmas – New Year break time. The afternoon of ...

Pride and Integrity

by Rev. Mike Ramsdell Rev. Mike Ramsdell served for 21 years as Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Mansfield, Texas in the Central Texas Conference. He is currently the North District Superintendent. Mike has a clear grasp on the many...

Into the New Year of our Lord Two-Thousand and Seventeen ©

As we pause on the edge of a New Year, I hold stubbornly to the conviction that every year is still A. D. regardless of what a politically correct culture asserts. Please don’t get me wrong. This is not an excuse to be rude to non-Christians (friend ...

Time to Ponder ©

The line is stuck there at the close of Luke’s Christmas story. In truth it is often ignored or simply skipped over. “Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully” (Luke 2:19, CEB). I like the clarity and grasp of biblical ...

It’s About the Baby: Revelation on the Nature of God ©

I confess I can’t wait for Christmas Day. We have the whole gang coming to our house. My 92 year old mother and twin brother are coming up from Kerrville, Texas. Our son Nathan and daughter-in-law Abigail are flying in from Boston with our middle ...

The Holy Family Leaves Aleppo ©

I am hopeful the title of this blog caught your attention. I want to invite us as Christians to connect two seemingly disparate events: the journeys of Mary and Joseph first to Bethlehem and then on to Egypt with the newborn baby Jesus and the ...

The Coming of the Faithful ©

I readily acknowledge that one of my favorite Advent/Christmas hymns is “O Come All Ye Faithful” (No. 234, The United Methodist Hymnal). John Wade’s (ca. 1743) clarion words combined with the soaring music (credited to Wade and a number of others) ...

Cry Glory! ©

Sunday morning I went to worship with my wife. As usual the sermon was excellent, the liturgy challenging and the fellowship a blessing. What towered above the rest, as is often the case at this time of the year, was the music. The Hand bell Choir ...

Have Mercy! Mary and Joseph in Junction, Texas

It’s Tuesday morning, December 6, as I write. I am in Junction, TX as what we call “The Peer Retreat.” A group of us has been meeting together for forty years. Most of us went to Perkins School of Theology together, and over these forty years, we ...

Moving into Advent ©

So now that we are moving into Advent, what Advent devotional is guiding you? It is really an easy question. How are you spiritually nurturing yourself in advent anticipation for the coming of Christ? Think and pray carefully because griping about ...

Come to the Light ©

Happy New Year! No, I’m not a month plus ahead of schedule. This coming Sunday, November 27th is the first Sunday in Advent. Many of us know that the advent comes the Latin adventus or coming. “This season proclaims the coming of Christ in the birth ...

Deep Calls to Deep ©

Tuesday, November 8, 2016, our world tilted and ground shifted - wherever you stand on the political spectrum in the United States, whether or not it be far right or far left or anything in between or above or below. On November 9th we awoke to a new...

Using Social Media in Ministry ©

Three or four months ago, I approached Rev. David Alexander (who has been a mentor for me in using social media – the improvements are due to his coaching, the persistent errors are a reflection of his students fumbling) to write a guest blog on ...

Reports and Observations from COB & the Extended Cabinet Summit ©

Late last week I returned home (Saturday, November 5th) from a week at the Council of Bishops (COB) meeting and the Extended Cabinet Summit held in Jacksonville, Florida. In the midst of trying to catch up on working that was waiting for me to return...

A Christian Witness in a Bitterly Contentious Election ©

Upon being elected a bishop, I learned quickly that bishops usually cast absentee ballots in national elections. The Council of Bishops (COB) regularly meets the first week of November. This year, without giving it a second thought, I voted early. On...

Reflections on Rejection of Religion and Deep Desire for the Full Gospel ©

A series of recent readings have left me in deeper reflection about how we reach a new generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dean Craig Hill’s observation (taken from a professor of his when he was a seminary student over arches my reflections....

Membership on “The Commission on a Way Forward” ©

Bishop Bruce Ough, President for the Council of Bishops has announced the selection of membership on the “The Commission on a Way Forward.” He has noted in his press release that the Commission is made up of 8 bishops, 11 laity, 11 elders, and 2 ...

Observations from the Wesleyan Covenant Association ©

Last Friday, October 7th, I experienced the high privilege of participating in the first meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). It was my honor to preach at the closing communion service and share with my friend and colleague Bishop Bob ...

An Opportunity not to be missed ©

N.T. Wright, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews University in Scotland, author and retired Anglican bishop of Durham, England is coming to Perkins School of Theology at SMU November 15-17. Perkins ...

Statement from the United Methodist Bishops of Texas

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent press release regarding Texas’ intention to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program , the United Methodist bishops in the state of Texas have issued the following statement. You will notice in ...

Learnings and Sharings ©

This has been a great week of learnings and sharings around the Conference. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, we held our annual Fall Cabinet Retreat at Stillwater Lodge. As a part of our work together, we focused on team building, ...

Discipleship as Spiritual Formation

Last Fall Bishop Ken Carter, The Florida Conference, wrote a series of blogs on “Fresh Expressions of the Church.” Taken as a whole they are outstanding and well worth reading. As a part of my own recent writing about deeper discipleship centered on ...

Recovering the Methodist Movement ©

A while back a friend called my attention to a March 2013 article by David Brooks entitled “How Movements Recover.” A part of what grabbed my interest is the often repeated comment about the “Methodist” movement. Movemental growth in the church for a...

A Great Work of Justice ©

One of great ministries taking place in the Central Texas Conference is Methodist Justice Ministry (MJM) under the leadership of Rev. Brooks Harrington. MJM is an outgrowth of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, Texas. Their website (http://...

Beware of Nostalgia ©

Two pieces of reading and variety of reflective conversations with a wide and extremely diverse collection of people have caught my attention recently. As he commonly does, Gil Rendle offers insightful reflections on the challenge a nostalgic longing...

Flood Relief for Our Neighbors ©

The pictures and news reports are graphic. The flooding is historic in size and scope. The impact has been described as “catastrophic” by The Central Texas Conference’s Coordinator of Disaster Response Rev. Laraine Waughtal. Already the response by ...

On the Road Again ©

This week finds me on the road again for the greater United Methodist Church. Last week I preached at Winters UMC for their 125th Anniversary. This last Sunday (August 14th) I had the joy of teaching the Warm Hearts Sunday School class at the ...

Insights from Henri Nouwen ©

One of the insightful and delightful people I have had the privilege of getting to know in recent years in Scott Gilpin. Scott serves as Executive Director of Fund Development for Discipleship Ministries. Together we have worked on Fund Development ...

Sharing on the Future of American Methodism ©

In November of 2014 a young faculty member from Candler School of Theology, addressed the Council of Bishops on Christian Conferencing and the recovery of the Wesleyan Class Meeting. It was a fascinating deep address that unpacked his excellent new ...

Deep Discipleship ©

While we wrestle with deep divisions about much in The United Methodist Church these days, we are in strong agreement that our collective mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Such a great grand mission ...

Summer Sabbath

[caption id="attachment_2280" align="alignleft" width="300"] from abqhomeblog.com[/caption] A good friend recently sent me a beautiful picture of a full moon appearing over the New Mexico Mountains. Attached was a comment about taking time to ...

Breathe Deep, Jesus is Still Lord! ©

I returned home from the recently concluded South Central Jurisdictional Conference last night (Sunday, July 17). During the conference, we elected three fine new bishops – Bishops Ruben Saenz, Jr., Jimmy Nunn, and Bob Farr. I am blessed and honored ...

Follow the Prince of Peace ©

To read the official statement from the United Methodist Council of Bishops on the recent deadly shootings, please click here. This morning, Jolynn and I awoke to news of last night’s deadly shootings in Dallas as we prepared for the final leg of our...

A Truth to Remember ©

On this 4th of July I pause to invite us to reflect on a truth to remember. Consider the lessons of time some 70+ years in the past. In June of 1942 the islands of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands were invaded and occupied by soldiers from the...

Faith Sharing Exercises ©

At our recent Annual Conference meeting in Waco, we engaged a series of faith sharing exercises. They are simple tools or exercises that can be used in a Sunday School Class, a United Methodist Women’s group (UMW) or a United Methodist Men’s meeting ...

THE COURAGE TO MARCH © PT 4

Central Texas Conference Episcopal Address given by Bishop Mike Lowry June 6, 2016 PART IV – “A Time for Courageous Leadership” Leadership development for both lay and clergy remains and must remain a top priority. To this end two years ago we ...

THE COURAGE TO MARCH © PT 3

Central Texas Conference Episcopal Address given by Bishop Mike Lowry June 6, 2016 PART III – “The Sinews of Methodism and the Recovery of Evangelism” A second element in focusing on local congregations coincides with the importance of small group ...

THE COURAGE TO MARCH © PT 2

Central Texas Conference Episcopal Address given by Bishop Mike Lowry June 6, 2016 PART II – “A Relentless Focus on the Mission” As we move into a new quadrennium the pathway before us is clear. We must retain a relentless focus on our mission – “to ...

THE COURAGE TO MARCH ©: Part 1

Central Texas Conference Episcopal Address given June 6, 2016 by Bishop J. Michael Lowry PART I – “A New Thing” I am mindful what day today is as I stand to speak to you. This is the day is the 72nd anniversary of what is commonly known as simply ...

Responding to the Violence in Orlando

The news of another terrorist shooting and the tragic deaths of so many in the Pulse Nightclub rocks all of us with its senseless hate-filled violence. It addresses us all on so many levels – unchecked gun violence (examples are many: Sandy Hook, a ...

Statement to the Clergy Executive Session

of the Central Texas Conference Of the United Methodist Church Shared with Opening Plenary Session of the 2016 Central Texas Conference, June 6, 2016 As most, if not all of you are aware, the recently concluded General Conference of the United ...

Preparing for Conference ©

Today (Tuesday, May 31, 2016) as a spent time in my morning devotionals, one of the assigned texts for my reading was Matthew 7:15-20. 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves. 16 You ...

Council of Bishops Letter to the Church ©

[caption id="attachment_2220" align="alignright" width="360"] Bishop Lowry presiding over a plenary session at General Conference 2016[/caption] Members of the Council of Bishops delayed their leaving Portland, Ore. following the end General ...

A Strong Witness from Lay Leaders ©

Friday, May 13th, the Laity Address was given at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon. Listening to Lay Leaders from Upper New York, Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, Zimbabwe, and the Great Plains Conference, ...

Report from General Conference ©

The quadrennial gathering of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church began Tuesday afternoon. The opening worship was inspirational. With over 40% of the delegates coming from outside the United States, the diverse international flavor ...

We Are More ©

On May 10th the United Methodist General Conference will convene in Portland, Oregon. Quadrennially (every four years) General Conference meets as the highest ruling body of The United Methodist Church. General Conference alone can speak for the ...

In a Mirror Dimly: The Future of the United Methodist Church, PT 4

On April first of this year, I had the privilege and high honor of being asked to address a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. The address is ...

In a Mirror Dimly: The Future of the United Methodist Church, PT 3

On April first of this year, I had the privilege and high honor of being asked to address a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. The address is ...

In a Mirror Dimly: The Future of the United Methodist Church, PT 2

On April first of this year, I had the privilege and high honor of being asked to address a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. The address is ...

“In a Mirror Dimly”: The Future of the United Methodist Church, PT 1

On April first of this year, I had the privilege and high honor of being asked to address a gathering of the United Methodist Scholars for Christian Orthodoxy Conference at Armstrong Chapel United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. The address is ...

A Significant Denominational Report on Congregational Vitality

The United Methodist Church has been engaged in a committed emphasis on building vital congregations who “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Bishop John Schol from the Greater New Jersey Conference has been the lead ...

More than a Metaphorical Aside: The Good News We Dare Proclaim! ©

“They went to the tomb” (Matthew 28:1). How simply the Easter story opens in Matthew’s gospel. A tomb-ward journey is one we have all taken all too often. I can remember full well such a journey in my life as a pastor in Austin, Texas. He was young; ...

A WITNESS IN HONOR OF ST. PATRICK ©

“I rise today in power’s strength, invoking the Trinity, believing in threeness, confessing the oneness, of creation’s Creator.” Thus opens the full text of the famous Celtic prayer St. Patrick’s Breastplate. There is more, much more, to the prayer ...

Trust the Tradition ©

Last Tuesday I took an unusual trip. In one sense, it was a journey that had been decades in the making. In another sense I had the appointment on my calendar for about three months and my drive to Oklahoma City took about four hours. Tuesday, March ...

Our Gnawing Hunger and the Class Meeting ©

I readily confess that this blog is only half formed and invite the perceptive reader to engage in wrestling the intersection of our gnawing hunger and the call to spiritually walk with Christ. Allow me the space and grace to interconnect some of my ...

A Time for Prayer ©

This Sunday night, February 28, at 9:45 p.m., I will pause for a special set-aside 15 minutes of prayer for the upcoming General Conference meeting of The United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon in May. I invite others to join with me and with ...

The Cross Connection ©

Here we are partway through Lent and I find myself coming back time and time again to what I like to call the cross connection - that is the way we are connected to the Lord at the foot of the cross. After all, whatever you think of the cross, it is ...

A Message for Lent

Bishop Mike Lowry shares his annual Lenten message of hope and challenges all to pick up their cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ to Jerusalem and beyond. To view the message via the Central Texas Conference website, go to ctcumc.org/LentMessage...

Appointment Making ©

This week we concluded Inventory in the Central Texas Conference. This is a yearly exercise which Bishops and their Cabinets go through. The Cabinet Inventory Retreat is a time of assessing where the Conference stands on retirements, new people ...

Reporting In: Inventory, UMCOR-West and Tornado Relief ©

Sunday afternoon we started our yearly Cabinet Inventory Retreat. Once again we face a rising number of retirements. We are in the beginning states of implementing a new LASP (Learning Agility Sustained Performance) model for assessing clergy gifts ...

Class Meetings and Making Disciples ©

In November of 2014 while meeting in Oklahoma City, the Council of Bishops heard an outstanding address from a young Methodist scholar named Kevin Watson. Dr. Watson (who is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Candler School of ...

The Force at Skellig Michael ©

I first caught sight of Skellig Michael while on vacation in Ireland last summer. On a long dream of trip (over 10 years in gestation) with dear friends, we were driving the beautiful Ring of Kerry in Southwestern Ireland. The costal scenery was ...

The Sons and Daughter of the San Antonio Episcopal Area are Going Home ©

Rio Texas, Central Texas & the Work of a Bishop By now many regular readers of this blog are aware that I will be serving as one of four bishops providing episcopal supervision to the Rio Texas Conference until Sept. 1. Bishop Janice Huie (Texas ...

How Did You Spend Your Christmas Break? ©

Do you remember the typical first assignment for an elementary school student on returning to school in the fall? Growing up we often (virtually always) had to write a paper on “What did you do with your summer vacation?” It was a fun assignment. As ...

Living Christmas into the New Year ©

How do we embrace this joy from God which Christmas calls us to? We know, we surely know, that it is not meant to be a one day phenomenon. The shepherds guide us in living Christmas. The first principle of application is the most simple. They went. ...

A Baby Born for You ©

I readily and honestly confess I am into babies right now. After an important meeting at the Conference Center this week, I stood around with other grandfathers swamping pictures. Monday night, December 21st, we shall fly to Washington D.C. to spend ...

Music as Witness to the Heart of the Gospel ©

Over the past three weeks I have had the privilege of attending three different Advent worship services that were structured around hymns and carols, choral presentations and contemporary praise, full throated singing and quiet prayer music. Each of ...

Ministry and Mission Celebrations ©

Amid all of the bad news we hear, often the good news gets lost. Many of us have experienced the reality of two manifestations of the church existing side by side within the same Conference. On the one hand there are those places of shrinkage, ...

Lament, Challenge and Hope ©

I confess that I had initially written a different blog to share today. (It will be published on Friday instead.) However the tragedy of events in San Bernardino, California brought me to a halt. No doubt as with many of you, I watched transfixed to ...

Advent Slips In ©

After a great family Thanksgiving celebration, Jolynn and I went to church Sunday morning. I was still basking in the good family time; in the glory of holding my 4 ½ month old grandson (Simon); in the shared joy. I was unprepared for the Scripture ...

A Message for Advent

[caption id="attachment_2059" align="alignleft" width="540"] Click on the image above to access Bishop Lowry's 2015 Advent Message - a message that reminds that the Lord Jesus Christ was born in a time similar to our own - a time of political unrest,...

Risk, Fear, and Thanksgiving ©

“All who want to come after me must say not to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will be saved” (Luke 9:23-24). Reading various ...

Faith on Trial: Responding to Terrorism in Today’s World ©

Last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris and the subsequent actions seeking to bring the perpetrators to justice rightly captures our hearts and minds in a wide variety of ways. The sheer barbarism of the attacks spreads anxiety and fear among the ...

Training for a Job that No Longer Exists ©

I was ordained Deacon in 1974, graduated from seminary in 1976, and ordained elder in 1977. The church I entered was basking in the setting sun of cultural Christendom. As a newly minted pastor one of the primary points of my reference was my ...

Changing Central Texas Conference Leadership ©

I find myself slowly and impatiently (see my previous blog!) recovering from knee replacement surgery. I have just begun my second week at home dominated by physical therapy and much needed rest. As I do so, I hope to take some time to write a couple...

Patience for a Patient ©

Tuesday morning at about 9:15 a.m. I walked in the doors of Texas Health Resources Harris Hospital Southwest. As I walked up to the information desk where I was to report in for my knee replacement surgery, an elderly woman using a cane and wearing a...

The First Order Concern ©

Thursday evening October 22nd we returned home from our pilgrimage following the Apostle Paul’s 3rd and 4th missionary journeys. We managed to include a stop at the island of Patmos where John wrote Revelation. I have had the privilege of visiting ...

The Coming Victory

Tonight, October 17th, I was sitting in the Cabaret Lounge of the Azamara Journey cruise ship listening to the White’s Chapel UMC Choir (supplemented by a scattering of other choir members from across the Central Texas Conference) singing “Soon and ...

Musing on Run ©

I returned a week ago from a tremendous learning and sharing ministry in the Philippines. Together with Bishops John Schol, Rudy Juan, Ciriaco Franscisco, and Peter Torio, I was privileged to share in the COB Bright Spots Project on building vital ...

PHILIPPINES BRIGHT SPOTS

When the first George Bush (that is George Herbert Walker Bush) was President, he lifted up what he called for “1,000 Points of Lght.” President Bush urged us to focus on the better side of our nature by lifting up organizations (ministries) that ...

Reflections on the Visit of a Holy Man

I confess to being late to work this morning. I stayed extra half hour at home to watch the arrival of Pope Francis at the White House. The crowds gathered, the pomp and ceremony; the gravitas of press coverage, and the respectful public speeches - ...

New Room Report

For the last two and a half days I have been in Franklin, Tennessee attending the New Room Conference. I was warned not to go. I was told that the New Room Conference was a gathering to plan the schism of the United Methodist Church over the issue of...

Christ the Refugee ©

The words are so simple and common. They come at the conclusion of Matthew’s great story of the Savior’s birth. We read the story at Christmas but rarely focus on closing verses and still less preach on them. “When the magi had departed, an angel ...

Institutional Relationships and Faith Based Health Care

Thursday night (September 10th) I drove home from a very engaging and fruitful Cabinet Retreat. This morning (September 11th) I left early to attend a two day Texas Health Resources (THR) Leadership Conference focusing on the critical theme of ...

Whose Side Are You On?

The daily news of divisions assault us. I have been watching with many of you the nightly news of debate amongst the contenders for the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Are you for Trump or Cruz, Perry or Fiorina, Rubio or Kasich, Carson ...

The Crucial Role of Music in Faith Development

I have just returned from a month off for Renewal Leave. During that time period, I have been working on a possible book focusing on the need of the United Methodist Church to reintegrate the core essence of orthodoxy theology. I also spent some time...

Let Your Light Shine! Event

A member of the Evangelism Task Force passed on the following invitation to a special event in evangelistic training. I offer it as a guest blog while I am on renewal leave with a strong recommendation that readers consider attending. Dr. Tommy ...

What It Takes to Revitalize the Mainline

by Bishop Bruce Ough and Rev. Susan Nienaber [While I am out on renewal leave, I will periodically offer “guest blogs.” Bishop Bruce Ough is Resident Bishop of the Dakotas/Minnesota Areas and President-Elect of the Council of Bishops. Rev. Susan ...

Next Steps Workshop on the Exodus Project, Part II

Mike Bonem meets with Cabinet and Core Team © Before departing on a vacation to Ireland, Bishop Lowry invited Mike Bonem to be a guest blogger. Mike, the consultant leading the Exodus Project evaluation, met on June 17 with CTC’s Core Team and the ...

Next Steps Workshop on the Exodus Project, Part I

Mike Bonem meets with Cabinet and Core Team © Before departing on a vacation to Ireland, Bishop Lowry invited Mike Bonem to be a guest blogger. Mike, the consultant leading the Exodus Project evaluation, met on June 17 with the CTC’s Core Team and ...

Report on the Core Leadership Team/Cabinet Retreat ©

Last week the Central Texas Conference (CTC) Core Leadership Team and Cabinet met to begin work on the seven recommendations adopted by the Central Texas Conference in the Exodus Project Evaluation Report. With the adoption of the Exodus Project ...

A Christian Response to Hate-driven Violence ©

As I sit down to write my Friday (June 19th) blog, my heart is heavy with grief and sadness over the shooting that has taken place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. I had planned on ...

A New Church Being Called Forth by the Holy Spirit #8:

The Future Before Us I come now to the close of an eight part series on “A New Church Being Called Forth by the Holy Spirit.” I opened recalling how books on giving birth to one’s first child describe the emotional changes and feeling of an expectant...

A NEW CHURCH BEING CALLED FORTH BY THE HOLY SPIRIT #7:

Spirit Led This blog will be posted as we open the 2015 meeting of the Central Texas Annual Conference. We meet in a time of great opportunity and equally great peril. Facing forward with a focus on the local church, I invite us to seek the leading ...

Flood Waters, Tornados and the Connection ©

Wednesday morning I arrived back in the Central Texas Conference offices from Montgomery, Alabama. Jolynn and I had been gone for the previous three and a half days while I had the honor and joy of serving as the Conference Preacher for the Alabama- ...

A New Church Being Called Forth by the Holy Spirt #6:

  A MISSIONARY CHURCH Shortly before I was elected as bishop in the United Methodist Church, I stood with others, including two bishops, at a tiny country church in Leesville, Texas. A plaque was dedicated to Alejo Hernandez who had been ordained at ...

A NEW CHURCH BEING CALLED FORTH BY THE HOLY SPIRIT #5:

The Three Orthos at the Heart At the very heart of a new church being called forth by the Holy Spirit will be what I call the three orthos. At its core the healthy renewed Christian movement in American will be a combination of orthodoxy, ...

A New Church Being Called Forth By the Holy Spirit #4

The Building Prior to the Council of Bishops meeting in Berlin, I had been engaged in a series of blogs under the broad label “A New Church Being Called Forth by the Holy Spirit.” During the COB meeting, I took time out to share Bishop Warner Brown’s...

COUNCIL OF BISHOPS PASTORAL LETTER ON RACISM

While I have been in Europe attending the Council of Bishops meeting in Berlin, we as the world-wide Council have lived with the ongoing news of racial strife across the globe. One regular aspect of the nightly news here in Europe has been the ...

A Call for Prayer and Healing from the Council of Bishops

Once a quadrennium, the United Methodist Council of Bishops meets intentionally outside the United States, which reminds us that we are truly a worldwide church. As we gather in Berlin, I ask for your prayers, especially for those Christians ...

A NEW CHURCH BEING CALLED FORTH BY THE HOLY SPIRIT #3: Smaller. Bigger ©

Texas Wesleyan University has been engaged in an award-winning advertisement campaign for student admissions. The campaign is built around a clever and insightful slogan, “Smaller. Smarter.” The slogan is clever in that it is easy to remember. It is...

A New Church Being Called Forth by the Holy Spirit #2

Aslan is on the Move! © Few Christian writers and thinkers have had such a profound influence on the life of the faith & the church as C. S. Lewis. (Mere Christianity is basic foundational reading!) In his classic Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch, ...

The Cape of Good Hope ©

This Sunday I will be preaching at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Belton. I will be using the lectionary text for the second Sunday of Easter, John 20:19-30. As I reflected on the passage, my mind drifted back to an illustration used by Rev. ...

Peace Be With You ©

A straightforward CNN news story reports the following: “They were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and fellow citizens. They were students and dreamers, pursuing their ambitions for a better life. And on Tuesday night, Kenyans ...

The Easter Promise ©

On Sunday they had entered Jerusalem in triumph. On Friday, they were imprisoned by defeat. The fog of despair and hopelessness settled in. Thus the Easter story opens. “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and ...

Greetings this Easter

Please click below to view a video message from Bishop Lowry...          

The Way of the Cross ©

This week we are walking the way of the cross. Across the globe Christians traverse the week we call holy in a spiritual and powerfully symbolic journey from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the cross of Good Friday. It is both tempting and easy to ...

Jesus Takes Command ©

Palm Sunday is upon us. What a great day! The Savior’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem hits a high note in the life of faith. Notice first where the story begins. “When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of ...

Approaching Jerusalem ©

A couple of years ago Jolynn and I had the privilege of traveling with a group from the Central Texas Conference to the Holy Land. After a period in the northern region around Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, we traveled down the Jordan River valley ...

A Hard Truth that Saint Patrick Lived ©

The story of Saint Patrick is one of the most beguiling and illustrative tales in the Christian lexicon. As a young boy he was captured by raiders and taken to Ireland in the chains of slavery. While there he dreamed of freedom and found himself ...

A Blast from the Past ©

I have recently finished reading Christine A. Chakoian’s insightful book Cryptomnesia: How a Forgotten Memory Could Save the Church. I pause in my blog writing to focus on this unusual book. In particular I want to recommend that Sunday School ...

My Lenten Journeys

While the season of Lent is metaphorically a spiritual journey for Christians to the cross and beyond, for me as a bishop it is also a season of various journeys around my work on various boards and agencies. As a bishop I share with other bishops in...

Lenten Musings – The End of Casual Christianity

Casual Christianity as we know it is dying. For a good decade now carefully observant pastors have noticed people who typically would worship a couple of times a month moving to worship patterns that are more episodic. A variety of studies (Pew, ...

Progress on Imagining No Malaria, Prayer Missionary & Captives ©

One of the great Focus Areas of the United Methodist Church during the last eight years has been combating killer diseases. In particular, the United Methodist Church has focused on combating the killer disease of malaria through Nothing But Nets and...

Reflections on a Winter Day (c)

Like many of you, I found myself working at home on Monday, February 23rd. Outside the study window, both our driveway and the street are covered in a sheet of ice. Such winter days often leave me in a thoughtful reflective mood. I try to catch up on...

The Way of the Cross ©

Participating in Ash Wednesday services always re-focuses my attention on the cross. This was further emphasized for me in writing a devotional for United Community Centers of Fort Worth and preparing a number of sermons that I will be sharing in ...

CTC Cabinet work in Diversity, Mission Field Ministry and Inventory Retreat

As this blog is posted (Tuesday, February 17th), the Central Texas Conference Cabinet is meeting in its yearly “Inventory Retreat.” At our retreat, we look at the needs of the Conference for clergy deployment in the upcoming year. This starts with an...

The Challenge of Brokenness – Part 3 ©

Reporters covering the White House during the administration of President Calvin Coolidge had a tough go of it. President Coolidge wasn’t called “silent Cal” for no reason. On a Sunday morning, the story goes, President Coolidge went to church. ...

The Challenge of Brokenness – Part 2 ©

  I read the famous psychiatrist Karl Menninger’s semi-classic What Ever Became of Sin? 40+ years ago. Yet down through the decades the books resonates in the uncomfortable pit of my soul. One particular story lingers. It is as follows: On a sunny ...

The Challenge of Brokenness (c)

Stories which circulate on the internet are dangerous citations. Attribution is at best sketchy. Internet tales can take on an exaggerated life of their own. Any yet, I will venture where angels fear to trod by sharing a story passed on to by Rev. ...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness #7

  Moving Beyond the Church World © We stood gazing over the impressive “hemi” engine at the Good Guys Car Show located on the grounds of the Fort Worth Motor Speed Way. My cousins, Fred and Tom, peered intently inside the hood of the “hot rod.” ...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness #6

A Test of Love © I overheard the conversation; so too did others. In the setting you really couldn’t help it. The puzzled plaintive questioning in the voice was unmistakable and the dialogue surfed the edge of embarrassment. It involved a young ...

A Wow, and a Well-done, and an On the Road Again

Wow! A huge congratulations goes out to all the faithful saints and servants for our Connectional Mission Giving (commonly called “Apportionments”) in 2014. David Stinson, CTC Treasurer, notes that “2014’s payout rate of 95.95% is actually the second...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness #5

Evangelism as Mission © One of my treasured books is an old copy of D. T. Niles classic That They May Have Life (copyright 1951). D. T. Niles was a great evangelist, pastor, leader of the World Student Christian Federation, President of the Ceylon ...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness #4

First Steps at Recovering a Personal Witness© I have had the joy of serving a number of wonderful churches. On one occasion at Asbury United Methodist Church, we consciously geared up to teach evangelism and faith sharing. This was a congregation ...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness #3 The Challenge of Why Bother ©

This is the third in a series of “Epiphany” related blogs which deal with the foundational issue of faith sharing and evangelism. They spring from the understanding that among the very first to greet the new born Savior were a group of wise men who ...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness #2 ? The Dilemma We Face ©

Come journey with me towards an unknown future. Do what the poem bids: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” (“The Gate of the Year,” or “God Knows” by ...

EPIPHANY: The Light in Our Darkness 1

Happy New Year! And greetings in the name of the Lord whose birth we celebrate. With this first blog of 2015, I quite realize that Christmas is over and yet, based on hard biblical evidence, want to assert that it is not at all over! The Eastern ...

The Gate of the Year

"The Gate of the Year" is the popular name given to a poem written by Minnie Louise Haskins in 1908. The title given to it by the author was "God Knows". It is one of my favorite poems (despite its Calvinistic leanings), and I offer it as a prayer to...

As a Child of the Light

During this Advent time of preparation I find myself drawn again and again back to hymns and music, both ancient and contemporary with everything in between, as a way of expressing my faith. Dr. Shubert Ogden’s phrase – “we do theology in order that ...

The Greater Advent Desire

Recently I caught myself in worship singing with full-throated adoration the great Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” On this particular Sunday we didn’t just sing the typical first four verses but instead dug deep into verses 6 and 7, which are...

Ground Breaking for The Wesleyan Homes at Estrella

We have so many wonderful ministries in the Central Texas Conference that it is hard to keep track of them all. The list goes on and on! One of those outstanding ministries is The Wesleyan Homes. All the way back in 1953, leadership in the Central ...

A Critical Advent Sharing

One of the newsletters I read regularly is Update from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary. Dr. Lovett Weems is a very wise and practical writer about the American church scene and especially about the United ...

LIVING ADVENT

Last Sunday the reality of Advent enfolded us with comfort, hope and joy. I confess that I awoke Sunday morning feeling the worse for wear. The Amazing Grace (our 20 month old granddaughter) with her parents had visited for a week over Thanksgiving. ...

The Content of our Prayers – Some Unscientific Reflections

Thanksgiving always brings us to a time of prayer and reflection. It is a time of gratitude that gets expressed through our prayers. This is good and an important activity. As I engage in reflection, I have noted over the last year a pattern in our ...

Racism is Real!

In preparation for Thanksgiving my wife has decorated our house beautifully. If you step into the living room and look at the mantle over the fireplace, four elegant figurines peer out from the fall foliage. On the left are the classic looking ...

Reporting From the Mission Field

There a many great avenues of ministry taking place in the Central Texas Conference and around the larger church. One of them lies in new church development. It is important to remember that every church was at one point in its life a new church. ...

BEHIND THE SCENES

After the talk of schism and arguments over same gender issues settles, there is an emerging consensus over the importance of building vital congregations. This great consensus is built on the foundation of commitment to the stated mission of The ...

An Unfolding Work of the Holy Spirit

  On returning home from the Council of Bishops week-long meeting in Oklahoma City, I find myself slowly getting back into the issues of ministry in our local setting. Among the disagreements at the Council, the great sign of encouragement was our ...

Human Sexuality Statement from the Council of Bishops

The following statement was adopted unanimously by the Council of Bishops in the afternoon executive session on November 7, 2014: As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We ...

Acts of Repentance, Signs of Hope

Thursday afternoon we gathered to engage in an intensive time of follow up to Acts of Repentance for the Treatment of Indigenous People (which was a commitment out of General Conference 2012). It is a massive understatement to assert that the United ...

Life at the Council

The Council of Bishops (COB) meeting started early for me with a gathering of the Executive Committee of the COB. Actual activity had begun the day before through my participation in a live web-cast presentation on the church's response to the ...

On the Way to the Council

As I write this blog, I am sitting in a hotel room in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday October 29th. We have just finished the annual fall meeting of the United Methodist Publishing House Board. (Cokesbury & Abingdon Press are two of the better known ...

Church Typologies and Crucial Shifts

The great church leadership, administration and church growth guru of the late 20th century for mainline Protestantism was Dr. Lyle Schaller. Among the many insightful concepts he popularized was the notion of church typologies. Church typology is a ...

My Name is Elizabeth

Anyone who has taken an Intro to the Old Testament class in seminary quickly learns that in Hebrew tradition the naming of someone is critically important. It shares the essence and character of a being. To be named is to be important and ...

Anniversaries of Joy, Discipleship and Sacrifice

During the past 2 months I have had the joy and privilege of participating in the anniversary celebrations at four difference Central Texas Conference Churches. Alvarado UMC celebrated its 150th anniversary; Morgan Mill UMC and Cranfills Gap UMC had ...

Take My Baby

Our second day at Maua Methodist Hospital in Maua, Kenya, we split to various tasks. A part of our group went with the hospital chaplain on her rounds. As they moved from ward to ward, they came to the maternity unit. The ward did not have private ...

Re-Learning from John the Evangelist

In an earlier blog (September 26, 2014 – Medical Camp & the Ongoing Ministry of Ken Diehm), I wrote about the incredible experience of participating in a Medical Mission Camp near Maua, Kenya. We were among the poorest of the poor and engaged in a ...

Kenya and Habitat

Over the past three weeks much (though not all) of the focus of my work has been on missions and missional issues facing the church. By missional, I broadly mean engaging in deeds of love, justice and mercy. This falls under the broad theological ...

High Windows

A week ago Wednesday (September 24th) I stood outside the chapel at Maua Methodist Hospital in Kenya. The hospital conducts daily chapel worship every morning with the expectation that all hospital staff will attend. Graciously they had asked that ...

MEDICAL CAMP AND THE ONGOING MINISTRY OF KEN DIEHM

On Wednesday (and again today - Friday, September 26th), the Central Texas Conference Mission Team share with key personal in an incredible experience called "Medical Camp." Leaving after morning chapel at the Maua Methodist Hospital, we drove for ...

MAUA MISSION

The day opens with worship at 7:30 in the hospital chapel. The simple but pleasant sanctuary fills with hospital staff and we stand to sing. The music comes from an old British Methodist hymnal and is known to many of us. As the voices lift in song, ...

Math and Mission

One of the great gurus of church and conference vitality is Dr. Gil Rendle. Gil serves as Senior Consultant for the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF). He is the convener and guide for the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) Bishops Conclave (a bishops’ ...

For All the Saints: Bob, Blessing and Baptism

Today, Thursday, September 11, 2014, I went to the funeral service for one of saints of the Central Texas Conference, Robert H. Briles, Sr., “Bob.” Such occasions always lead me to reflect on life; its meaning and fragility. Bob went from being a ...

Six Critical Questions

For the past year and a half, the Cabinet of the Central Texas Conference has been working with the Lencioni organization (The Table Group) in assimilating and implementing lessons from Lencioni’s bestselling book The Advantage: Why Organizational ...

LISTENING TO FERGUSON

During the past week I have been out in Colorado (Grand Lake, near the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park) on vacation with my wife and some friends. During that, I intentionally exercised a “media fast.” Upon returning home, we reconnected...

That’s Path 1

At the recent meeting of the Path 1 Advisory Board in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rev. Martin Lee the new church developer for the Northern Illinois Conference shared a story of the start of a new church in Brookfield, Illinois (in the Chicago ...

Writing and On the Road Again

For five blissful days I had the opportunity to outline and then begin writing on a possible book about the church as it moves to a new future. A rough draft (or part) of the introduction goes something like this: As the waters of secularity recede, ...

A Writing Retreat

This coming Monday afternoon, I will be leaving on a 5 day “writing retreat.” I have been working off and on to write a book on what direction the church (especially the United Methodist branch of the Church Universal) should take. I have started and...

Faith, Hope and Clarity - and the Greatest of These is Clarity

When I was working on Doctor of Ministry degree (D. Min.), I had the privilege of studying under a marvelous preaching professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary named Robert Shelton. (Dr. Shelton later served as Dean and President at ...

Lessons from Jerusalem to Antioch to Central Texas

I am nearing the end of Michael Green’s book Thirty Years that Changed the World: The Book of Acts for Today. While the first edition was published over 20 years ago (1993) and the second edition was republished 12 years ago, I find its relevance ...

Reflections on the Evil One

Back in my seminary days one of the books that we read for our class on “Methodist History and Doctrine” (taught by the great theologian Albert Outler) was Organizing to Beat the Devil by Charles Ferguson. The lead image in the book is intriguing. ...

A Meeting in Chicago and Other Activities

This morning (way too early!) I fly out to Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately there will be no time spent at my beloved Wrigley Field (home of the once – 1908 – and future World Champion Chicago Cubs). Instead I will be in a meeting of the Council of ...

A Christian Response to the Border Crisis

The image of protestors angrily greeting three busloads of mostly women and children in San Diego is both vivid and powerful. Primal emotions were stirred. The victims were often terrified younger children. The great issue – immigration reform – is a...

Executive Staff Retreat

Former President and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower was once asked about the relationship of plans and planning for the great D-Day invasion. He is reported to have said something like “In preparing for battle, I have always found that ...

Reform the Continent and Spread Scriptural Holiness Across the Land

Do you recall the original vision for the United Methodist Church? “To reform the Continent, and especially the Church, and spread scriptural holiness across the land.” To my mind this is as good a vision statement for the United Methodist Church in ...

What Does Your Church Pray For?

In my readings, I recently finished Andy Stanley’s intriguing book Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. As usual in reading Stanley’s material, I found myself stretched and challenged. There are insights and ideas I ...

Blown Away

John Wesley famously wrote of his heart warming experience, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.” I currently serve on 14 agency boards and/or ...

Predictions for the Future

About a month ago, I ran across an article written by Jim Denison (www.denisonforum.org) on Thom Rainer’s "Fourteen predictions for American Churches for 2014." Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and known to many in the ...

The Most Important Issues facing the United Methodist Church

Fascinating and instructive poll results were published in a recent article written by Heather Hahn of the United Methodist News Service (UMNS) entitled “The most important issues facing The UMC today.” The poll was a survey “by email of 509 U.S. ...

Episcopal Address to the Central Texas Conference

EPISCOPAL ADDRESS TO THE CENTRAL TEXAS CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH June 9, 2014 By Bishop Mike Lowry © Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 ...

Off to Conference

As I write this blog we are finishing last minute preparations for the 148th meeting (counting all the various predecessors!) of the Central Texas Conference. Annual Conference is central to the notion of what Methodist’s are about. John Wesley, the ...

Insights from Upper New York

Last Thursday I flew to Syracuse, New York. Friday and Saturday mornings I made two separate presentations/bible studies to the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was a great time of making new friends, sharing and learning ...

A Time To Remember

As we come to Memorial Day, I invite us to pause for a time to remember and give thanks to and for those who has served in protecting our freedom. This is not light task but rather an honorable endeavor that often calls for the greatest of sacrifice....

Joy in the Journey

As we look together at intentional faith development, there is joy in the journey - a deep seated peace and happiness that transcends even tragedy. This was at least part of what John Wesley was pointing toward in his understanding of the doctrine of...

Facing the Demons

The words are rightly well known. They are oft uttered in heartfelt worship. Any genuine life of intentional discipleship rides on the wings of its application. What words are those? “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us ...

Critical Behavioral Change

Common wisdom is that we change our beliefs, then our actions follow. Reality is often different. Most of us act our way into a new way of thinking and believing. If we push hard on this distinction, the truth emerges that it is a both/and not an ...

Designing the Path

I can still recall the thrill of listening to Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, describe their mission well over two decades ago. “Willow Creek exists to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus ...

Annual Conference Focuses on Making Disciples

I am often asked, “What is the theme of this year’s Annual Conference?” For me, the answer is always the same. Our theme is “to energize and equip local congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The theme ...

Leadership and Hope as the Tsunami Engulfs Us

It has been almost 10 years since a tsunami engulfed the southern part of Indonesia and Thailand. Many of us remember scenes and stories from the event. One in particular that has stayed in my mind is the tale of young 10 year old Tilly Smith at ...

MISSION TO FORT WORTH

What comes to your mind when you think of a missionary? I must confess that my usual image is both anchored in the past and colonial in genre. I imagine Albert Schweitzer and pith helmets. Intellectually I know better. Here in Central Texas we are ...

In the King's Garden

The shouts of Christ’s rising slowly fade into the background. Another Easter has come and gone. The sardonic slice of my nature can’t help but remember the old joke about the fellow who only shows up for worship on Easter. Finally at the end of one ...

SIGNS OF EASTER

In life’s all too common journeys, we encounter small signs of a great victory. Those signs were there on that first Easter. The Bible says, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” (John 20:1). She does...

The Glory Road

What leads to human glory? Put differently what defines the path of great success? Or, what delineates the triumph of a life well lived? It is reported that Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. “He ...

An Inquiry on the Way to Taize

Saturday evening April 5th found Jolynn and me driving over to White’s Chapel UMC to participate in a special Taize “Pilgrimage of Trust” here in the northern part of Texas. Readers may well remember that the Central Texas Conference sponsored a ...

PRAYER AND ADAPT TO THRIVE

I had planned to write today’s blog on a new book written by John Flowers and Karen Vannoy entitled Adapt to Thrive. Life and death however have a way of intruding. The most recent tragedy at Fort Hood affects us deeply in the Central Texas ...

ENFORCED SABBATH

Last Wednesday I went to the hospital for arthroscopic surgery on my left knee. Dutifully I reported at 5:30 a.m. (Yes, despite my protestations that God is not awake at that hour, I still had to report at 5:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. surgery.) Suffice ...

Heading Towards the Cross: The Seriousness of Our Separation

As we continue heading towards the cross in our Lenten journey, those who claim to be Christ-followers traverse a landscaped called atonement. We cannot help but do so. We may argue at length with each other on just how a new relationship with God, ...

TAIZE IS AN INCREDIBLE BLESSING

This blog is a special plea and invitation for young adults ages 18 to 35 to sign up for the Taize “Pilgrimage of Trust” that will be held at Whites Chapel UMC, April 4-6! You may do so by going to the Central Texas Conference Website www.ctcumc.org....

The Cross Before Us

Last Sunday I preached from the opening chapter of I Corinthians. In my preparation I could not help but be struck again for the … hum…. maybe 300th time …by Paul’s insistence in pointing us to the crucifixion of Christ. Insistently he argues for the...

Reflections on The Discipline, Worship and Focus

At the Convocation of Cabinets (worldwide) held at Lake Junaluska in November 2007, Bishop Janice Huie gave a memorable address. At one point in her presentation, she lifted in one hand a Discipline from one hundred years ago. It was a small, ...

Taking the Podium – Congratulations to Barclay Berdan

In mid-February I wrote a heartfelt blog congratulating Bliss Dodd for receiving the Perkins School of Theology Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award. In part I commented, “I cannot help but reflect that it was only a couple of weeks ago that I attended the ...

Bright Spots and the Mosaic Model

"What are the bright spots in your congregation/Conference?" The question rings in my mind from our recently concluded Team Vital meeting. To briefly back up, Team Vital is a pilot project that has come out of the Connectional Table of the United ...

The Work of Christ and Pursuing a Denominational Strategy

This week finds me engaged with the work of Christ as it relates to our denominational strategy for the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That is a mouthful, and I’ve played with differing titles for ...

Bliss Dodd Recipient of the Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award

Roughly a decade ago, I slipped into a conference in an Austin, Texas hotel to take part in my first meeting as a member of the Grants Committee of the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF). Chairing the meeting was one of the saints of the Central Texas ...

Purpose and Identity

Periodically I am asked to review a book and write an endorsement for Abingdon Press. I just finished my latest – John Flowers’ and Karen Vannoy’s new book, Adapt to Thrive: How Your Church Must Identify Itself as a Unique Species, Modify Its ...

College and Cabinet

For the past week my time has largely been consumed by two meetings – the South Central Jurisdictional (SCJ) College of Bishops and the annual Inventory Retreat of the Cabinet of the Central Texas Conference. The South Central Jurisdictional College ...

Preparing for Lent

In the late 1970s I read a story that came from Punch (a magazine dedicated to humor and satire). As the story went, a woman went into a jewelry story in Sydney, Australia and asked to look at cross necklaces. The clerk dutifully brought a number of ...

The Importance of Reading

John Wesley required the early Circuit Riders (preachers) to read regularly. One of the preachers complained that he did not have the habit of reading. Wesley had little patience with a lack of inquisitiveness and laggardly learning habits. He is ...

The Prisoner’s Prayer

In May of 2008 Jolynn took a trip to Ethiopia with the group from the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio (where she was serving as a faculty member). The trip was led by a retired Lutheran Missionary whose place on the UIW faculty ...

Joyful & Triumphant - Really?

I realize full well that it is January 17th but I am still stuck on Advent and Christmastide and their resulting connection to Epiphany Season. The word “epiphany” means a manifestation, a making known, an appearing. For Christians in particular the ...

GREAT MISSIONAL GENEROSITY

Numbers never tell the whole story. At the same time, numbers (or metrics) do offer critical insight that must not be ignored. One yearly numbers (or metrics) ritual in the United Methodist Church is a year-end close out of Connectional Mission ...

CONSIDER WELL

"Good people all, this Christmas time, Consider well and bear in mind What our good God has done, In sending His beloved Son." With those opening lines from the famous Wexford Carol, I invite us to pause on this epiphany day. It is easy, right and ...

Journey into the New Year

In my last blog I invited us to walk with the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt. Let’s continue with Matthew’s post-Christmas journey, which is often called the flight of Holy Family. It is well that we remember that God entered this world in a ...

After Christmas Rejoicing

After Christmas, all you can say about Christmas is that it’s over. And as a Christian, holding the gospel story in your hands, all you can say about Christmas is that it’s not over. Now comes the return. Power ever threatened by the reign of God ...

GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY!

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph ...

The Perfect Christmas Gift

The perfect Christmas gift is given. It is not found under the tree but first discovered out in the stable. As the giver gives the gift, only one more thing is needed. Again the story found in Luke’s gospel is instructive. These low class, no account...

The Light Has a Name

Last January one of the many memorable experiences that took place on our trip to the Holy Land was a day spent in Bethlehem. I recall the Prophet Micah’s reference to Bethlehem. “As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least ...

Christmas Carols and Blaise Pascal

I confess that words of many Advent songs and Christmas Carols move me at a deep level closer to the Lord. Recently in worship we sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The verses swept over me as both a cry from the heart and prayer. O come, O come, ...

A Sign

As we approach Christmas, I cannot help but reflect on our time in Holy Land last January. We got to spend time in Bethlehem. Our visits to the Church of the Nativity were moving. For me, they were precious opportunities of reflection and sharing ...

Wrestling with Isaiah and John the Baptist

Recently in my Advent preparations I found myself reading Isaiah 35:1-10. It is one of the great classic Advent texts. The reader may well remember the lines. “The desert and the dry land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the...

Holidays into Holy Days

Thanksgiving is upon us (actually passed by the time this blog is posted) and the Christmas glitter already surrounds us. This year in particular for those of us who claim to be Christ followers (i.e. Christians), we almost cascade from Thanksgiving ...

Good News on a Great Connection

Amid reports on institutional angst and anguish (including the recent letter from the Council of Bishops) what is often lost is the great good news of tremendous ministry taking place through the United Methodist Connection. Friends, there are some ...

Big Hope Mentoring Program

The following is a guest post from Rev. David Alexander, Directing Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Mansfield. Two years ago our church started researching the possibility of launching a mentoring program for one of our local elementary ...

Statement of the Council of Bishops

Earlier today, The Council of Bishops released the following statement. Bishop Lowry, who is currently participating in the Council of Bishops fall meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C., has requested that the announcement be posted on his blog in its ...

Podcast with Dr. Stephen Seamands

This month’s edition of the Focused Center Podcast features an interview with Dr. Stephen Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine from Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Seamands is the author of numerous works including his latest book, Give them ...

To Know Christ and make Him Known

They lie as two half-crumpled sticky notes on my desk. One reads use John 17:3; the other simple records – Acts 20:24. Somewhere in my wanderings they came to me as messages from God. They’ve sat as notes on my desk for at least a couple of months, ...

A Flat Bottle of Soda or a Scary Thing

Recently I had the great joy of sharing in a Charge Conference Celebration for the East District. As we sang, prayed and heard incredible witnesses of service in the name of Christ from various congregations, I had this sense of the Holy Spirit ...

Stay Focused!

The Dictionary defines distraction as: “Having the attention diverted” or “Suffering conflicting emotions; distraught.” From an online Thesaurus the following notation was offered, “having the attention diverted especially because of anxiety.” I am ...

The Vital Connection of Vision and Obedience

Friday (October 25, 2013) I wrote a blog on Vision. In that blog I quoted Proverbs 29:18 in both the KJV translation and the CEB (Common English Bible) translation. Respectively the verse is rendered: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but...

Proverbs 29:18 for the Central Texas Conference

It is the old King James translation of Proverbs 29:18 that stays with me. Perhaps you recall it as well. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The new CEB (Common English Bible) translation renders ...

On the Road Again

Fall is my traveling season. (Well, actually all times are traveling times for a bishop in the United Methodist Church). In the past three weeks, I’ve been to Nashville (for Rev. Karen Greenwaldt’s retirement celebration), Chicago (for a Vital ...

Walter’s Membership and the Meaning of Discipleship

This year at the Central Texas Annual Conference we passed a motion to clean church membership. Entitled “Jubilee Membership Year” (page 271 in the Central Texas Conference Journal 2013) the motion reflects deeper theological commitments. In part it ...

Celebration and Reflection

Last Friday I flew to Nashville, Tennessee for a special retirement celebration. With many (including a large passel of bishops and General Secretaries), we honored Rev. Karen Greenwaldt for 32 years of service to the general church at the General ...

CORE STRATEGIES: Extravagant Generosity

The incident stands clear in my mind. It was mid-December of my first year at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio. Jim (I’ve changed the name and some parts of this story but NOT the essence of the tale to protect anonymity) called and ...

CORE STRATEGIES: Accountability

I was fascinated by the leadership advice offered in comment about his own organization, The Pittsburg Steelers of the National Football League. Head Coach Mike Tomlin commented, “We seek to have a no excuse culture.” The comment came back in 2009 ...

CORE STRATEGIES: New Churches

A remarkable event took place at the 2013 meeting of the Central Texas Conference. During the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth report, four specific initiatives related to our core strategy of new church development were launched. 1. Lance ...

CORE STRATEGIES: Ministry With The Poor

A critical central core strategy of the Central Texas Conference comes straight from the Four Focus Areas of the United Methodist Church – ministry with the poor. Two quotes come to mind. The first grows from the soil of Methodism in its original ...

CORE STRATEGIES: Clergy and Lay Leadership

The third major core strategy that we have in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church is to engage and develop clergy and lay leadership. This is both simple and profound in its essence. A church, any church, will not exceed the ...

CORE STRATEGIES: The Transformation of the Local Church

Tuesday morning I shared in my weekly time my spiritual guide. He lives in Lakewood, Colorado not far from the site of both the recent fires and current flooding. As we visited he shared some of their trials. I offered our prayers and so ask you to ...

CORE STRATEGIES: Wesleyan Spirituality and Theology

My recent participation in the 13th Oxford Institute for Wesley Studies has given me much reason to pause and reflect on the importance of our Wesleyan essence. With this blog I am beginning a series of blogs on core strategies of the Central Texas ...

CABINET COVENANT

September 8th through 11th the Cabinet of the Central Texas Conference gathered for our annual fall retreat. This is a yearly retreat wherein we re-gather, having been out for summer vacation trips and other activities. As a part of this event we ...

Representative Granger Working with Imagine No Malaria

Tuesday, September 3rd I had the privilege of visiting with Representative Kay Granger, Congresswoman for the 12th District in which I reside. On behalf of the other bishops of Texas (Bledsoe, Dorff, Huie and McKee) along with Bishop Tom Bickerton ...

Saint Aldates, A Vision Alive

It was Sunday morning, August 18th, and as we dressed to go to church the music floated in the open window at Pembroke College, Oxford University. The night before we had been debating whether to go to Wesley Memorial Methodist Church (think First ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #8

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #7

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Podcast with Rev. Lance Marshall

This month’s edition of the Focused Center Podcast features an interview with Bishop Lowry and Rev. Lance Marshall who was recently appointed as a new church start pastor in the 7th street area of downtown Fort Worth. To find out more about this ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #6

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #5

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #4

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #3

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Bishop’s Bible Camp for Adults

Please allow me a brief pause in my ongoing report on “Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment” – reporting and reflecting on a detailed study of trends in the Central Texas Conference put together by the Lewis Center for ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #2

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference. This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment ...

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #1

One of the absolutely crucial areas of concern for the United Methodist Church is leadership development. In a real sense, this is always true for any organization (church, business, military, non-profits, etc.) anywhere, at any time. The Call to ...

A Drop in the Bucket

I can’t take claim for the title of this blog. Rather, I write to lift up and celebrate the ministry of one of our adult Sunday School Classes. The Contemporary Forum class of First United Methodist Church in Georgetown, Texas is living the ...

In the King’s Company

This coming Monday morning (July 29th) I will be at Perkins School of Theology to preach in the chapel for the Course of Study School. A group of my heroes in ministry are licensed local pastors. The sacrifice is great; the commitment is high; the ...

Reclaiming a Robust Christology

Off and on for the last 3 months I have been working on paper that I will present at the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. The Institute gathers every five years at Christ Church College, Oxford, England where John Wesley studied. ...

Breaking Down the Dividing Walls

Since last Friday, I have been in Oklahoma with my wife standing by the bedside of my mother-in-law, Maxine Mitchell, as she slowly passed away (Monday morning July 15th). It has been a sad time for us as a family; as Jolynn put it, “not for what is,...

Podcast with Rev. Shea Reyenga & Dr. John McKellar

This month's edition of the Focused Center Podcast features an interview with Bishop Lowry and Rev. Shea Reyenga who is currently serving as a Path One Intern at Whites Chapel United Methodist Church. Shea is working their under the leadership of Dr....

VBS as Intentional Faith Development

As we move into what have been called the dog days of summer, it is hard to keep the excitement of Pentecost and Easter. They are almost distant memories of our faith and hope. We long for (I long for) some time off; preferably some place cool. And ...

Facing Death and Reading Love Wins

Over the fourth of July weekend I have had a time of reflection, prayer and thought. On the morning of July 4th I left Fort Worth to drive up to Oklahoma to be with my wife, Jolynn. Jolynn was in Oklahoma with her mother, who has been battling a ...

Taking Two Paths Simultaneously

Robert Frost famously wrote, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by.” The second of the two speeches I presented at Bishops’ Week (see the Blog entitled Steady in Purpose and Flexible in Strategy) on the topic of...

Steady in Purpose and Flexible in Strategy

June 20-21 the bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) held a traditional event in a nontraditional location and manner. For decades (with only occasional lapses) the bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction have sponsored a learning retreat...

Podcast with Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean

This month's edition of the Focused Center podcast features an interview with Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, faculty member at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr Dean, author of numerous books including Almost Christian, served as the Conference Teacher at ...

COME HOLY SPIRIT -- Report from Taize 4

Today [May 25] we left for Cluny right after worship. The great Cluny Abbey fills me with awe. It once was the “major ecclesia” – the largest church in Christendom. Cluny Abbey started over 1,000 satellite abbeys. Its influence spread far and wide. ...

COME HOLY SPIRIT - Report from Taize Part 3

I find myself fascinated by the way the Taize Community claims and proclaims a richly, powerfully, dynamic, active embrace of the Holy Spirit. In many of our churches the Holy Spirit is the last element of the Holy Trinity, tossed in as almost an ...

Lessons from the Dean

Beginning Monday, June 10th we will have the joy and privilege of having Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean as our Conference Teacher. She is renowned for her insight in ministry to youth and young adults. Significantly those insights translate beyond ministry to...

COME HOLY SPIRIT -- Report from Taize 2

I came to Taize immersed in appointment making, preparations for Annual Conference, and the numbing administrative burdens of the office of bishop. Mind you, I love what I do and I firmly believe God has called me to this place. I am further ...

COME HOLY SPIRIT -- A Report from Taize 1

I have been gone for the past 10 days on a Young Adult leadership development trip to Taize. Along with Rev. Larry Duggins (Director of the Missional Wisdom Foundation), Rev. Kyland Dobbins (Director of Mission Experience for CTC) and Leanne Johnson ...

Connection and Conference

Last night I watched the reports on the tornadoes that ripped through the Granbury-Cleburne area. I could not help but remember the devastation caused to St. Barnabas and Arlington a little over a year ago. Like so many, I took time to pray for those...

Faith, Hope and Clarity

Most of us know the great closing of I Corinthians 13, "And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:13). What many of us are unaware of is the old King James Version translation of love was ...

Report from the Border

This week I am at the Forum for Active/Residential Bishops in San Diego, California. The gathering is a continuing education event for residential (non-retired) United Methodist Bishops worldwide. It is a time for discussion and learning. Yesterday ...

Reclaim the Day! A Pentecost Community

The earliest Christians understood full well that the Church was a community of the Holy Spirit. It was born not by human will or effort but by an act of the triune God on Pentecost Sunday (which this year is to be celebrated on May 19th). The first ...

Is That All There is to It?

The night before the recent CTC Conference on Stewardship, the Cabinet met with Clif Christopher and Joe Park (the Conference teachers). Those of you who know stewardship and know Clif are aware that the subject is really spiritual formation, mission...

When Faith Kicks In

On Thursday morning, April 25, I travelled to West, Texas with staff leadership from the Central Texas Conference (Rev. Dawne Phillips, Rev. Kyland Dobbins, & Vance Morton) to assess how the Conference might best continue to respond to the tragedy. ...

“Yes, UMCOR is here!”

It is easy in our day to take the United Methodist Connection for granted. It is easier still to view “apportionments” as taxes. A variety of recent events not only challenge but also decisively set aside any sense that the connection is unimportant ...

Faith Facing Tragedy

Collectively this has been a hard week. News of the tragic terrorist bombing at the Boston marathon was joined last night by the massive explosion here at home in West, Texas. While Boston may be distant, we still reach out instinctively with our ...

Resurrection not Resuscitation

I am fascinated by all the movies and faux-science fiction books on vampires, zombies, ghosts and various other creatures. (Yes, I confess that as the avid science fiction reader that I am, I am offended to find such books in the science fiction ...

The Great 50 Days

Easter is over. As a pastor for 30 years I am aware of a sense of the life of the church moving on. We start looking towards the end of school, graduations, Mother’s Day, summer activities, Vacation Bible School, mission trips - the list is almost ...

Amazing Grace

Read the resurrection story of John 20:11-18. Enter the scene with Mary. Archbishop William Temple wrote, “gradually her sorrow becomes tinged with wonder of what it was that the two apostles had seen when they went into the tomb; so she too looks ...

At the Intersection of Pain, Sin and Love

“There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, ...

March Madness

How about Florida Gulf Coast? Or think about Harvard beating New Mexico. With many of you I’ve been following the NCAA “March Madness” playoffs. I confess that I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. There is no team that is a favorite for me. I just...

Preaching for Tips

The morning was beautiful with the midst slowly clearing the water. The sea was calm. Our excitement was noisy, exuberant, and expectant; somehow all three elements mingled in the joy of our gathering. We had left our embarkation point in two boats ...

Drinking from a Firehose

During the past week, I feel like I have been drinking from a firehose. Friday after work (March 8th), Jolynn and I drove hurriedly up to Oklahoma to be with my mother-in-law, Maxine Mitchell (for whom I ask your prayers along with prayers for ...

The Impact of Glen Lake

One of the truly great and impactful ministries of the Central Texas Conference is Glen Lake Camp (along with Stillwater Lodge). Two events have recently transpired that reinforce the crucial high impact ministry of Glen Lake Camp. First, last Sunday...

Outwardly Focused & Upwardly Witnessing

Allow me to begin with a story that comes from Pastor Steve Nance at Groesbeck First UMC. “The lady that runs our local housing authority office called the church some time back asking for clothing for one of her clients. She called nine local ...

Deep Data Mining’s 16 Drivers of Congregational Vitality

Recently I found myself in a conversation with some lay leaders about crucial issues involving church health and vitality. These lay leaders asked me, “What makes a church grow?” I offered a couple of points in reply. Almost immediately with no ...

Prayer

We begin our Cabinet sessions with a time of worship using The Upper Room Worship Book. This time is precious to me. I feel calmed and centered by singing, focusing on Holy Scripture, and sharing in prayer. It is here that I can feel the presence of ...

Focus on Christ

Lent at its best involves walking with Jesus. I find in devotional time that I am repeatedly drawn back to this journey with the Savior. As a part of my devotion time, I am reading E. Stanley Jones’ daily devotions from The Way. The devotional for ...

Focus on the Mission

As the Cabinet continues its joint ministry work, we wrestle deeply with how we stay focused on the mission. By way of reminder to readers, our mission as a part of the United Methodist Church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the ...

Sin – Ash Wednesday – Wesley

Wednesday night February 13th, the Cabinet traveled to First UMC in Cleburne to participate in worship. The worship service was both a blessing and an examination. The Youth Director Peyton Carter preached an excellent faithful sermon on sin and the ...

Inventory and Narrative

This past Monday (February 11th) the Central Texas Conference Cabinet began its annual four day Inventory Retreat at Stillwater Lodge in Glen Rose. Together we will sift through the myriad of personnel issues that are before us as a part of the ...

Still Spending the Power

In my old worn copy of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (a Christmas gift from my parents in 1974), she describes a scene of vivid illumination. “Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with ...

Church in a Time of Change

I find myself settling back in upon our return from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It feels good to be back in the routine of episcopal life in the Central Texas Conference. Wednesday afternoon I drove down to the South District office and met with...

Lifting Up Diversity as a Core Value

While on our recent pilgrimage of the Holy Land, we encountered impressive religious and ethnic diversity. I can recall a wonderful discussion with one of the guides who is a conservative Jew and another guide who is a practicing Syrian Orthodox ...

Gazing on Empty

Twice on our Holy Land pilgrimage I found myself waiting in line to gaze on empty. Despite the incongruence of my phrasing, "gazing on empty" was an activity I took part in with other Christian pilgrims in reverent silence. The first of these ...

Pilgrimage Reflections

I am a believer in spiritual pilgrimages. They focus the heart and mind on the Lord in a different, often experiential, way. All of the senses are engaged, not just our intellect. As I write this blog, we are in the midst of our pilgrimage to the ...

Musings on Heading to the Holy Land

Around noon Jolynn and I will board a plane and, along with about 200 other pilgrims from The Central Texas Conference, head to the Holy Land. As I go through last minute work details before being out for two weeks and finish packing, I find my mind ...

Offering Christ and Preparing for Lent

It is hard to believe that Christmas is gone and we are now into the season of Epiphany. It is worth careful remembering that this period is one in which we reflect the gospel coming to gentiles, non-believers. In all probability the wise men were ...

On the Way – Journeys in the Wilderness

The original identification of Christ followers was not the label “Christian.” They were called followers of the Way. By that, they meant they were following the way of Christ in faithful discipleship. As we met for the first Cabinet meeting of the ...

At God's Disposal

As we move into the New Year, my work opened with a Bishops' Conclave (a TMF clergy group consisting of the active bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction) meeting in Austin. We discussed issues facing the church and commitments/convictions we are ...

A Christian View of The Hobbit?

There is a phrase that I love to remember which describes our times. “Not all who wander are lost.” I believe the quote is attributed to Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We are a people wandering in the wilderness of post-modern, ...

The Miracle

I cannot help but share the following cartoon which was passed on to me. It is too funny, and yet I am reminded of the claim made by Martin Luther that Christmas is the greatest miracle of all. If we can come to the belief that God lies in the ...

Saint Nicholas Takes a Knee

A reprint of a treasured work of art hangs just inside my office entrance. It is Paolo Veronese’s painting of The Consecration of Saint Nicholas. I beheld the original in The National Gallery, London, England, while on renewal leave last ...

Savior of a Broken World – Connecticut, Afghanistan and Beyond

Friday evening we gathered as a Cabinet for our annual Christmas party. It is a time of festive, joyous relaxation. Yet for us, as for you, our mood was chastened. The news of the shootings in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School hung over us....

The United Methodist Witness and the Christmas Imperative

One of the more perceptive thinkers on the United Methodist Church in our time is Dr. Lovett Weems. He is a former President of St. Paul’s School of Theology and currently serves as Director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley ...

Great Gifts

The words are nestled in Matthew’s version of the Christmas story. No doubt you recall them well. “They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and ...

Our Homecoming

Sunday I had the joy and privilege of preaching at Watts Chapel UMC in celebration of their 120 anniversary. Using the Jeremiah 33:14-16 text from the Lectionary (yes, I do on rare occasions use the Lectionary!), I shared the thesis – “His (meaning ...

The Strangest Thing

For years I have enjoyed reading Circuit Rider magazine. The most recent addition focuses on mission and evangelism. It is worth perusing. I did so and ran into the following story from an article entitled “Evangelism with the Never-Churched” by Dr. ...

Approaching Advent

Well, how did you do? Did you survive Black Friday and Cyber Monday with your sanity intact? A friend passed along a story about a “woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and ...

????A Time for Thanksgiving

I have a little sticker I put on my note paper from time to time. It reads simply: “The first and last task of a leader is to say thanks.” I don’t know where I came across this statement (except that I am sure it is not original to me!). I think it ...

The Outlandish Claims of Radical Orthodoxy

It is right there in the great opening overture of the Gospel of John. “The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The phrase translated ...

A Different Kind of Christmas

Last Sunday we flew back into to DFW from the Council of Bishops meeting at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. The weather was cool (if not cold for Texas). Somehow with Halloween over, despite the fact that Thanksgiving has not come, thoughts turned to ...

A Sense of Perspective

One of the joys and privileges I have as a bishop is moving among an extremely wide variety of individuals and groups. In the Council of Bishops the worldwide nature of the church is always apparent. It is heart-warming to see the active compassion ...

A Time for Grace

I write this blog on Friday, November 2nd, four days prior to the November 6th elections. As I write, I find myself reflecting both in thought and prayer on the election, not only on the presidential level but all across the political spectrum. It is...

Responding to Sandy

We all watched with anxious hearts as Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. For us the anxiety was compounded by concern for adult children living in the Washington, D. C. and Boston areas and cousins living in the Hudson River Valley of New York. ...

Holy Ground

The scene was dramatically different from a year and a half ago. In April of 2011 I stood in front of the smoking ruins of Cedar Springs United Methodist Church with Ginger Bassford (DS) and Tom Beaty (Pastor). That Easter, just a few days away, ...

An Arch of Holiness

Few secular books have stayed with me at the depth of Robert Quinn’s Deep Change. I first read it over 11 years ago and still find myself going back to it for insight. Quinn’s central thesis is simple. We face the choice between deep change or slow ...

Rebuilding the Pipeline

This past week I have visited six seminaries – Chandler, Gammon (ITC), Duke, Asbury, Boston University, and Harvard. A seventh, Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. was to be included but could not be fitted into the schedule. Perkins, ...

Minor Disappointment and Great Celebration

This weekend Jolynn & I have experienced the joy of visiting our daughter and son-in-law in the Washington, D.C. area. Saturday I watched the University of Georgia vs. South Carolina football game. It was a disappointment – major for my son-in-law a ...

A Great Bible for Children

As I travel about the Central Texas Conference (St. Philips, Frost/Italy this past month, Chatfield last Sunday and St. Andrews, Arlington coming up in October – I’ll be visiting seminaries next week), I have the joy of coming into contact with young...

Gathering of Cabinets

This week found me on the road but in the Conference. Monday through Wednesday noon, I participated in a gathering of the Cabinets (Bishops, DSs, extended Cabinet) of the Texas and New Mexico Conferences (Central Texas, North Texas, Southwest Texas, ...

Wrestling with Vitality and the Necessity of Narrative

I keep remembering the old story of a guy who went fishing. That night he came home with no fish to show for his efforts. His friends questioned him about his efforts. He replied, “I didn’t catch any fish but I did influence quite a few!” People ...

Champion Sam-I-Am

How did you spend your summer vacation? It is a question asked thousands of school children every September. It is question adults also ask each other. In Rev. Carol Woods’ (West District Superintendent) case I heard one of the best answers I’ve ever...

Mission Strategists

Recently I met with the District Superintendents (Don Scott – Central, Bob Holloway – East, Ginger Bassford – North, Carol Woods – West, and Rankin Koch - South) to review the pioneering work we did on realigning the work of District Superintendents ...

Mission, Movement, and Church

At our Cabinet retreat Professor Ted Campbell offered some fascinating insight on the relationship between being a religious movement and an established church. Dr. Campbell reminded us that the original mission of the Methodist movement from the ...

Prayer, Justice, Teaching and Evangelism

The last part of this week has been fascinating. It is include much of the key elements of the Wesleyan way of being Christian in my life. Thursday morning opened with a breakfast with my prayer and accountability partner. It is a way I stay grounded...

BEYOND BAD RELIGION

You are invited! Monday morning September 17th I will be leading a breakfast discussion group Ross Douthat’s provocative new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. The Fort Worth Cokesbury Store is having a Grand Reopening ...

Evangelism and Social Holiness

In my travels and reading I constantly come across the deep Methodist Conviction that Social and Personal Holiness go together. In fact, Professor Ted Campbell (Perkins School of Theology) notes in his excellent summary Methodist Doctrine: The ...

Wrestling with Theology

Thirty years the pastor of a local church, I lived out of the conviction that the pastor should be the resident theologian of his/her appointed community of faith (local faith). Being elected bishop has not in any way changed that conviction. To the ...

The Challenge of Focus

The invitation came (I think from God) while standing at an entrance to the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. I was taking a picture of a coffee shop across the street with a long line outside its door waiting to be served. A young man (early to ...

The Importance of the Both/And

Recent reports on the state of the United Methodist Church in the United States shared data of continued decline. However, the news wasn’t all bad. There are signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work throughout the church. Significantly, the work ...

School for Congregational Development

After a couple of wonderful week of vacation (seeing family members and hiking in Olympic National Park), I came back to CTC refreshed and ready to go! I am truly thankful to God and to you, the greater Central Texas Conference family, in being ...

Guest blog: Schnase's Jurisdictional Address, Part 4

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of ...

Guest Blog: Schnase's Jurisdictional Address, Part 3b

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of ...

Guest Blog: Schnase's Jurisdictional Address, Part 3a

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of ...

Guest Blog: Schnase's Jurisdictional Episcopal Address, Part 2

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of ...

Schnase's Jurisdictional Address, Part 1

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of ...

TAIZE: DEVELOPING A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP

One of our vital strategic objectives is to develop a new generation of leadership. As the “baby boomer” pastors & lay leadership retire this becomes increasingly critical. We must be focused on forming and developing a generation of young disciples ...

Emerging from the Bubble and Coming Home

Last week it felt like we were living in a Methodist bubble during Jurisdictional Conference. Our attention was focused on the election of three new bishops, hard decisions about the future of the church, and where bishops would be assigned. Jolynn ...

Mike McKee Elected Bishop

Just a few moments ago, Dr. Mike McKee, senior pastor at First Hurst UMC was elected as Bishop in the United Methodist Church. It is with great joy that I welcome Mike McKee to the office of bishop in the United Methodist Church. With you, I offer ...

A Request for Prayers for Jurisdictional Conference

Tomorrow the quadrennial meeting of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference will formally begin. Today, Tuesday, July 17th, we are meeting as a College of Bishops (that is the bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction, both active and retired). ...

Cleaning Things Up in Preparation for Jurisdictional Conference

Much of this week I have spent on administrative details (with the exception of teaching a PLD group). Many things go under the rough heading of “cleaning things up in preparation for Jurisdictional Conference.” My wife asked me what I did at dinner....

Solitude and Sabbath

What were you doing four years ago? It is a trick question. I don’t expect someone to know. It is an element of my own history that I can remember exactly what I was doing four years ago (July 11, 2008). Then as now, it was a week before ...

Four on the Fourth: July 4th, Virtue and the Wesleyan Way

James Madison famous wrote in The Federalist No. 51 "if men were angels, no government would be necessary." What is often forgotten are the preceding sentences. "It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control ...

A GATHERING OF THE CLAN

Last Saturday I attended a gathering of the clan. The occasion was a Memorial Service in honor of Rev. Frank Leach. Frank had served (along with his gracious wife Barbara) honorably and with distinction for well over 40 years. Many remember with deep...

MUSINGS

As I worked through accumulated administrative details on my desk, the news of the Supreme Court ruling on the new health care law came in. The next morning, listening to various responses on the both radio and television I was struck again by ...

The Dog Days of Summer

With 100+ degree weather upon us, we are into what someone has called the dog days of summer. Time can seem to drag and life can feel hot and heavy. My wife tells me that when she was young she'd spend time lolly-gagging in the hammock reading ...

Extravagant Generosity and Vital Congregations

As I move through the accumulated paperwork of my office, many different items caught my attention. Two offer witness to living out of our missional purpose of “making disciples for the transformation of the world.” Rev. Dawne Phillips shared that ...

I SAW GOD

On Friday night our CTCYM Community Living Center shared in a moving, humorous and thought provoking worship service. Every team came forward & each CTCYMer was invited to share. As if in a cascading litany, young person after young person spoke the ...

RAMPING UP IN ARKANSAS

The words lay sterile on the page in the little read Book of Resolutions: "The United Methodist Church believes God's love is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot be just observers. So we care enough about ...

JOY AND BLESSING AT CTCYM

Today (Monday, June 11th) finished my first full day at CTCYM (Central Texas Conference Youth Mission). Our young people are a joy as they come together in mission and service! We are building a wheel chair ramp for an older couple in great need. ...

Bound for Waco

Tonight (Friday, June 01, 2012) I had the joy of participating in a rousing ordination service at the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. It was a Pentecost experience full of riotous praise and worship, fine preaching (from Bishop Sudarshanna ...

On the Road Again

Saturday Jolynn and I flew out to Philadelphia. We spent the Memorial holiday time with a cousin and her family in northern New Jersey. The family R&R was a welcome joy after the hectic schedule of recent weeks and a nice rest before the next round ...

A Great Sunday

My steady deep conviction over my almost 4 years as bishop of the Central Texas Conference has been that the Conference exists to “energize and equip local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This Sunday I...

Grounded in Discipline

In the midst of my sojourn in Florida (i.e. General Conference) and my re-immersion in the Central Texas Conference, I have kept up my reading. One of the recent books I’ve read is Gabe Lyons’ The Next Christians: How a New Generation Is Restoring ...

Guaranteed Appointment

Among the various actions taken by General Conference was an overwhelming vote (originally on the consent agenda) to end guaranteed appointments for ordained elders in the United Methodist Church. In brief, “under this new legislation, bishops and ...

Breathe Deep, Focus!

Looking back at the close of General Conference, a story about a couple of old moose hunters who went on a yearly hunting trip in remote northern Maine comes to mind. As was their habit, they hired the pilot of a little float plane to fly up to a ...

General Conference and the NFL Draft

How is the United Methodist Church's General Conference similar to the National Football League's annual draft? The answer is that, like the NFL, we won't know for sure what we really have for a couple of years. When NFL teams draft players, it ...

Broken and Glorious

The governmental structure of the United Methodist Church is broken and yet glorious ministry is still taking place (in spite of or around the broken structure). Observing the legislative committee process of General Conference one gains a deep sense...

Riding the Rollercoaster

When my son turned 15 we took him and a friend to Six Flags – Fiesta Texas in San Antonio in celebration. He couldn’t wait to try what was then the world’s largest wooden rollercoaster. Staring at this monster (called The Rattler), the friend decided...

Keeping Focus

As we go through the work of the Council of Bishops, we (the bishops) by necessity operate at a 30,000 foot level (leading a worldwide church). And yet I find my mind and heart going back to the hands on sharing of the gospel of Christ. On the ...

Learning in Austin and Gathering in Tampa

Monday morning I had the privilege of attending a TMF (Texas Methodist Foundation) Board learning session which focused on ministry with "Generation Y" (young adults). With leadership provided by a young clergy couple from Church of the Resurrection ...

A Conversation with Angels

Easter morning I found myself listing to the sermon in our son’s church in Arlington, Massachusetts. Preaching on the great resurrection text from John 20:11-18, the pastor commented that we are invited to overhear a conversation with angels. The ...

Thank God – the Connection at Work

The tree protrudes massively through the wall of the preschool classroom. Just before the tree’s impact in the swirling tornado winds, Pastor Will Cotton (with an outstanding Children’s Ministry and Preschool staff) had led 82 children to safe ...

Opportunities

Last Monday night I had the privilege (along with Dr. Luther Henry & Dr. Bob Holloway from the Cabinet) of meeting with a forward-looking lay leadership group from predominantly African American churches. In some courageous, faithful, and painful ...

A Coalition of the Willing

The more I live into the office of bishop the more convinced I am of the claim to work with those who are willing. We are building a coalition (or should I say coalitions) of the willing. Allow me to explain. Recently a District Superintendent ...

Remember the Future

At recent meetings with other SCJ bishops as we looked forward to General Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase called our attention to agenda for the first (“general”) conference of preachers under John Wesley. He noted a threefold purpose for such holy...

The Importance of Narrative

My recent blog entitled “Struggling with Appointments” has sparked an unusually high degree of interest and response. Overwhelmingly clergy have noted the dilemma of some members wanting no change while at the same time expecting to reach a new ...

Preparing for General Conference

General Conference is the quadrennial (every 4 years) meeting the ruling legislative body of the United Methodist Church. This coming April 24th the General Conference will open in Tampa Bay, Florida. For two weeks an equal number of lay and clergy ...

The Resurrection Legacy

In a recent conversation with Dr. Eric McKinney, consultant in Leadership Ministries with TMF, he shared with me some of things he looks at in church health as a congregation begins to examine its future. (He uses the learning tool Holy Conversations...

Struggling with Appointments

Art only wishes it could imitate life. You cannot make up some of the things said to District Superintendents while consulting on appointments. At a recent Cabinet meeting, a District Superintendent reported on a consultation with a church whose ...

Energizing and Equipping

The stated mission of the Central Texas Conference is to energize and equip local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches make disciples who engage (both individually and collectively) in world ...

Ministry With the Poor

Yesterday I was in Nashville preparing the presentation on the Four Focus Areas (New Places for New People, Leadership Development, Ministry with the Poor, and Combating Killer Diseases – Imagine No Malaria) for General Conference. As we worked, all ...

Reaching More People, Younger People & More Diverse People

“There is one looming adaptive challenge that we can address only through major learning, innovation, and the wisdom of everyone through Christian conferencing. The United Methodist Church in the United States has a future only to the extent that it ...

FOCUS!

Over the weekend I read Lovett Weems little book Focus: The Real Challenges that Face the United Methodist Church. I have long been a fan of Dr. Weems' work. His insight and leadership first as President of St. Paul’s School of Theology and now as ...

A Crucial Alignment of Resources

Monday, February 20th, it was officially announced that the Central Texas Methodist Foundation (CTMF) and the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF) have joined forces and resources. There is a detailed article about the joining of “forces and resources” ...

Everyday Epiphanies

John Milton wrote: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” Recently President Neil Alexander of the United Methodist ...

Sold Out on Purpose

In a recent conversation with Tom Locke, the President of the Texas Methodist Foundation, he made a comment to the effect that he had sold out on purpose. By that he meant that he placed great emphasis on the organization (in this case TMF) living up...

Inventory and Ministry Matters

I have just returned for the Cabinet’s annual inventory retreat. At this retreat, we take stock of coming retirements, incoming seminary graduates and new licensed local pastors, those pastors and or churches considering or requesting moves, etc. As ...

Monclova ’73

Wednesday I returned from our mission investigation trip to Monterrey with Randy Wild and Dawne Phillips. Reports of violence tend to dominate the news from Monterrey. Our trip was quite different. Under the gracious hosting and guidance of Bishop ...

Insights Worth Reflecting On

Currently I am in Monterrey, Mexico. The Central Texas Conference has an ongoing covenantal relationship with the Eastern Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico (an affiliated church). I will blog about our learnings on returning. In the ...

Celebration and Grief, Adventure and Change

Today (Friday, January 27, 2012) I have the joy of representing the Central Texas Conference and The United Methodist Church at the installation of Dr. Fred Slabach as the 20th President of Texas Wesleyan University. I believe the Trustees have ...

Tell Conference

A special event is coming up on faith sharing. Most readers of this blog know my deep passion for us to reclaim a Wesleyan way of faith sharing. One of the great leaders in this movement is Dr. Bob Pierson. Bob was a tremendously faithful and ...

Extravagant Generosity by CTC!

Way to go Central Texas Conference!!! At Thursday’s meeting of the CFA (Conference Council on Finance and Administration), we were able to fund our Connectional Mission Giving to the General Church (otherwise called apportionments) at 100%! ...

New Fields of Ministry

Just prior to Christmas, I had the joy and privilege to visit the Project 44 Farm. Many of you know about Project 44 which began as a ministry to refurbish donated cars and give them to those in need. That wonderful ministry continues to grow. Not ...

HONORING THE SABBATH ON CHRISTMAS DAY

This was one of those rare years when Christmas Day (and New Year’s Day) fell on a Sunday. In Methodist tradition our high celebration of the birth of Christ is on Christmas Eve. At least originally the notion of Christmas Eve worship was to greet ...

The Year of Our Lord (Anno Domini) 2012

As we step in the New Year I wish to challenge the assumption of 2012 as being in the “Common Era” – C.E. Please don’t misunderstand. As a matter of courtesy and the use of the phrase “C.E.” by Christians with others is often a matter of politeness ...

The Ministry of Chaplains at Harris Methodist (THR)

The following is a note passed on to me by Senior Chaplain Eric Smith of THR – Harris Methodist Hospitals and used with permission. May you look back with blessing on the past and forward with joy to the future. Christ is with us! -Bishop Mike Lowry ...

We Have Seen His Glory

The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 The amazing truth of Christmas is the Lord’s coming is our homecoming. The author, poet and Christian...

No Room in the Guestroom

Last Sunday (December 18th) I attended my wife’s Sunday School class (New Hope) at Arborlawn UMC. James Nader (the father of two of our pastors – Joseph and John) is the teacher. He does an excellent job and on the rare occasions I am able to go with...

The Advent Journey

During this time Jolynn and I are going on an Advent journey. In some sense beyond the physical, we are walking again from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The common packages of the time go with us. We have strung up lights and set a manger scene on the lawn....

A Special Gift

Yesterday I received a special gift from Dr. Michael Patison, chair of the Central Texas Conference’s History Book Committee. Fresh off the press, Michael handed me a copy of The Central Texas Annual Conference 1866-2010: At the Center of Texas ...

A Day of Celebration

We know December 7th as “a day that will live in Infamy!” Do you know what is special about December 6th? In a lot of ways, it is a much bigger day for Christians. December 6th is the feast day for a Bishop from Myra (a part of today’s nation of ...

Christmas Eve, Making Disciples and Church Growth

I have shared often how crucial Christmas Eve worship is as an opportunity to reach non- or nominal Christians. A recent article in Ministry Matters (www.ministrymatters.com click on “Articles”, it was posted November 28th) entitled “How Christmas ...

Well Done

This year we have continued our special emphasis on the Focus Area - Imagine No Malaria (INM). Nothing But Nets was step one in this mission, and last year we expanded our efforts to INM. We asked congregations to engage in special giving to this ...

Beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Thanksgiving was great! We had much to be thankful for as our extended family celebrated together. And yet, we couldn’t miss the stories of people camping out to shop on Friday morning. This incredible display of material addiction assaulted our ...

Living With Thanksgiving

The original Thanksgiving proclamation came at a request of both houses of Congress to President Washington. Congress had asked that President Washington “recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer be ...

God at Work

In my recent Kairos event at the Boyd Unit (Texas Department of Corrections), I was once again privileged to see God at work through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Love trumps evil. Sacrificial love can crack the hardest heat. At Boyd, this ...

Blessings at Boyd

A thin ribbon of dawn sliced the eastern skyline in glorious splendor but what drew our attention was the stark, sharp concertina wire forming a deadly lace of metal on the outer fence of the Boyd Unit Friday morning as we waited to enter a series of...

Time in Jail

I remember reading of a young mother who was so busy with work, home and kids (not to mention husband) that she commented, “Right now an hour spent in the dentist’s chair feels like a vacation!” It hasn’t quite been quite that bad for me, but the ...

Ministry Matters Making an Impact

At a recent meeting of the United Methodist Publishing House Board of Directors, we received a great report on a new online ministry. MinistryMatters.com (www.MinistryMatters.com) is the United Methodist Publishing House’s new ministry resource site....

Discipleship and Mission

This fall I am co-teaching with Reverends Joseph Nader and Megan Davidson (directors of the UT-Arlington and TCU Wesley Foundations, respectively) a study of The Forgotten Ways Handbook by Alan Hirsch. In our study we are learning on a deep level ...

Preparing for Christmas Eve

The lead article on the Central Texas Conference website is entitled “What are Your Plans for Christmas Sunday Services.” I want to strongly encourage pastors, directors of music, and other local church leaders to carefully read the article. ...

Loss and Opportunity

As we continue to live into the new world of the Exodus Project, I am constantly reminded that change is both loss and opportunity. We have to face with honesty our sense of loss in the known & comfortable. We have to embrace with courage the ...

Learning from Cluster Groups

As we live into the Exodus Project, I remain deeply committed to the Cluster Group concept as a central tool for learning together and moving forward into the new future the Lord is calling us to. One of the initial learnings has come from Cluster ...

Dr. Sidney Roberts

Monday I joined so many of the saints of the Central Texas Conference in paying tribute to one of the true giants of CTC – Dr. Sidney Roberts. Dr. Mike McKee, Rev. Henry Radde, and Rev. Randy Wild each spoke with grace and eloquence (intermixed in ...

GCFA Report on Finances and Generosity through Apportionments

Recently I received a letter from General Secretary Moses Kumar of the General Board of Finance Administration. I pass on a significant portion of that letter. It is good, for which I give you and God thanks! “The lingering effects of the recession ...

Meeting at the Bridge

Thursday and Friday I have been at a South Central Jurisdictional College of Bishops meeting at Lydia Patterson Institute. Lydia Patterson Institute is a mission of the United Methodist Church and more specifically of the SCJ to share the gospel of ...

Living with the Common English Bible

A particular delight in my devotional life during the last few months has been discovering the Common English Bible. The Common English Bible or CEB for short is a new translation encompassing the best of current biblical scholarship from across the ...

A Place to Detox

I read the words during my daily devotional time. “Our communities should be places where people can detox, whether that be from alcohol, tobacco, gluttony, shopping, or gossip. We long for a place that tips us towards goodness …” (Shane Claiborne, ...

Building Healthy Churches

I have written in a previous blog that as a Cabinet we went to a Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) workshop. As we continue to live in the “Exodus Project” we are consciously seeking to invest prayer, time, energy and learning to energize and equip ...

Formation into Christlikeness

This past weekend I attended a Renovaré/Aprentis Institute event with my wife in Wichita, Kansas. (It was her birthday present.) Entitled Formation in Christlikeness: The Process of Change, we drank deep from the well of learning and reflection. ...

Healthy Church Initiative

The first part of this week, I am at a Healthy Church Initiative workshop being attended by the Cabinet, some members of the Conference staff, and our Lay Leaders (Steve McIver and Kim Simpson). In major part, we are investigating a major tool for ...

Reggie McNeal and Congresswoman Kay Granger

Last Saturday’s Fall Summit with Dr. Reggie McNeal was a blast! As usual First UMC, Mansfield did an outstanding job of hosting (highlighted by an awesome witness in music). Reggie framed his presentation around the idea that it is our job to bless ...

Remembering 9/11

Do you recall where you were when the news first starting coming in about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001? I do. I was at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio (where I was serving as Senior Pastor). As the news came in, we ...

Carrying the Good News

I have come back from renewal leave with enthusiasm and hope for ministry in our changing (wilderness) time. Today, I am at a meeting of the Conclave (the name for the Texas Methodist Foundation’s clergy group for the 11 active bishops in the South ...

Missional Renaissance

It is great to be back from my renewal leave and family vacation time. As I turn my attention to the fall, I am tremendously excited about having Dr. Reggie McNeal with us on September 10th at First UMC, Mansfield for the Fall Summit. Dr. McNeal ...

Iona Reflections

I must confess that I came to Iona Abbey with a romantic notion of the Abbey Community. Somehow in my mind it represented a modern representation of a heroic past involving courageous Christian witness and daring Christian service. While still ...

Camp Iona

As we moved through our week at Iona Abbey, our time and activity took on the aspect of a church summer camp. One night as we watched the children (many families had come to be a part of the Abbey retreat) perform in a talent show (the word “talent” ...

Columba’s Bay

There is a strong sense of “pilgrimage” in the spiritual raditions of Britain. A “pilgrimage” is a spiritual walk (hike) of refection and prayer. Today it is often a venture into the past history of Christianity as a way of getting in touch with the ...

Community, Work and Worship

In 563 A.D. St. Columba set sail from his beloved Ireland to convert the wild druidic lands of what is today Scotland and Northern England. Exiled from Ireland for a conflict which he helped start and which led to the death of many, Columba sailed ...

Blog on Hiatus until September

We are currently at the isle of Iona for a spiritual life retreat. On the way we hiked along Hadrian’s Wall and spend time in Edinburgh (where I was a college student 40 years ago!). I will not be writing a regular blog in the coming weeks but may ...

Reflections on Worship at Hexham Abbey Church

Sunday, July 24, 2011 Jolynn and I worshipped at Hexham Abbey Church. With people of good will around the world, we joined in lifting up the people and nation of Norway in our prayers. Together we looked to God’s love and grace through our Lord Jesus...

Prayers for the People of Norway

I ask that all the churches of the Central Texas Conference – pastors and lay people join with me in lifting up the people of Norway in our prayers during this time of great tragedy. We pray that the Lord may hold the Norwegians and their country in ...

To Be Where the People Are

The last two days of our Wesley Heritage Tour with EO were exciting opportunities to look at the inception of the Wesleyan movement and seek insights for application to the current Wesleyan movement (more specifically through the United Methodist ...

Travels with John

Since last Thursday I have been on an EO (Educational Opportunities) Wesleyan Heritage tour. We have been visiting the hallowed sites of Wesley’s England. Our initial stop in London was at the great St. Paul’s Cathedral. From there we went to ...

Wesley's Rules for Preaching

In my reading as I prepare to leave Tuesday for our Educational Opportunities Tour of Wesley Heritage sites in England, I came across the following comment: “The best general method of preaching (in every sermon) was outlined: to invite, to convince,...

Scattered Learning

As I take some time for renewal, some engaging comments come across my line of vision. Take this one from Paul Nixon (epicentergroup.dc@gmail.com) as he began an address to an Annual Conference meeting. “Over the years, conference becomes an ...

Reflections on the 4th

Today I begin a 5-week period of renewal leave. It is a time to rest and recharge. It is a time to reflect and renew. I will be writing about my renewal leave more extensively in The Wilderness Way #60 (see the Central Texas Conference Website, ...

Focused Priorities for the Immediate Future

I have just returned from 3 days at Duke Divinity School as a part of the Episcopal Leadership Forum. We are a group of 22 UM bishops who meet twice a year in a continuing education context. One of the exercises they put us through was to reflect on ...

Extravagant Generosity and New Churches

As of Monday our Conference offering for Glen Lake is $39,379. This is a remarkable response of extravagant generosity far exceeding our goal of $23,000. In addition those at Conference also responded with great generosity in lunch giving to spring ...

Attempting to Untie the Gordian Knot of Metrics

This week I have been at Bishops’ Conference (formerly Bishops’ Week) on Mt. Sequoyah in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With Gil Rendle’s leadership, we have continued Extended Cabinet work on the theme “Leading in a Radically Changing Church.” Among many ...

Life on the Mountain

I am leaving Monday evening for Mt. Sequoyah, Arkansas. Traditionally the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) of the United Methodist Church holds an event entitled “Bishops Week” every June at Mt. Sequoyah. Rather than spending time on a broad-spectrum...

Battling Negativity

As a Cabinet we are reading The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz. It is a follow up to the book The Power of Full Engagement, which I have commented about in earlier blogs. Among the many insightful and stimulating observations, ...

Different Context – Common Underlying Issues

The last 10 days have been a whirlwind. I started by flying first to Seattle and visiting with the Pacific Northwest Conference’s New Church Development Commission. This was followed by a day long teaching in the Alaskan Missionary Conference and ...

Back on Tuesday

Bishop Lowry has been at a series of three different Annual Conference gatherings since May 31st. Once he returns to Central Texas, he will post an updated blog. Please look for that posting on Tuesday, June 14.

Off to Seattle and Alaska

Tuesday morning, May 31st, I will be flying to Seattle to meet with the new church development team from the Pacific Northwest Conference and then on to Alaska. While in Alaska, I will present a day long teaching on how the church confronts our new ...

Spring Storms

With so many of you I watched with dismay the news from Joplin, Missouri of yet another major storm causing life-taking tragedy. I ask that you pray for the people of Joplin as they begin the hard task of recovery. The United Methodist Committee on ...

The New Pharisees?

This week I find myself dealing with the Administrative run up to Annual Conference. Tuesday we held a Cabinet meeting to put the semi-final touches on appointments. (It seems they are never final! No matter how nailed down things seem, there are ...

Election of Delegates to General & Jurisdictional Conferences

As we approach Annual Conference, I am aware that this is an election year. We will be voting for lay and clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences. As the Bishop of the Central Texas Conference, I want to commend to all a prayerful ...

Changing the World

I am finishing reading Mike Slaughter’s Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus. I confess that it is one of those books I read ½ of and then put down. Picking it back up again, I am once again engaged in an ongoing theme that ...

Musings on Almost Christian

Since finishing Kenda Creasy Dean’s excellent book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, I find myself repeatedly going back to ponder its insights. (For those of you who follow my “recommend” books with ...

COB Sends Missionary to Nashville Area

I confess that I could not resist the above headline. Thursday evening at the Council of Bishops (COB) meeting, the Council on a motion from the South East Jurisdiction College of Bishops (SEJC) approved the assignment of Bishop Ben Chamness to the ...

From a Christendom Mentality to a Missional Reality

Monday afternoon (May 2, 2011) at the Council of Bishops (COB), we heard Professor Dana Robert of Boston School of Theology address the historic leadership role of the office of bishop from the 3rd paragraph of the Nicene Creed. “We believe in the ...

Spring Council of Bishops

Tomorrow morning, I will fly to St. Simons Island, Georgia for the spring meeting of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church. We, that is – the Council of Bishops or COB, meet twice a year (the first week in November and the first week ...

The Day After

A good number of years ago, a disaster movie came out about an ocean liner that capsized. The plot dealt the survivors climbing out of the capsized ship to the light of the new day. The theme song, “There’s Got to be a Morning After,” highlighted the...

The Journey of Holy Week

Sunday morning I began the journey of Holy Week to the cross and beyond. I was a husband that morning and joined my wife for her Sunday school class and then worship at her church (Arborlawn UMC). The worship – liturgy, music and sermon – was deep, ...

Possum Kingdom Fire

Many have followed the news of the Possum Kingdom fire (and other wild-fires) in Palo Pinto County. Saturday morning Dr. Ginger Bassford, Weatherford District Superintendent, called to inform me that Cedar Springs United Methodist Church (an open ...

Texas Wesleyan University

This morning I attended the Board of Trustees meeting at Texas Wesleyan University. I am grateful that, under the leadership of new President Fred Slabach, TWU is engaged in strengthening its connection with the church. There is a creative openness ...

When the Dogs are Barking

A good friend of mine, Bishop Paul Leeland, says, “When the caravan is moving, the dogs are barking.” As we have wrestled with appointments and are going through transition at the Conference office, I am reminded of Bishop Leeland’s pointed phrase. ...

Global Leadership Summit

I just returned from the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), a simulcast meeting across the world of lay and clergy leaders in the United Methodist Church. We (the Central Texas Conference) held two major sites for presentation and discussion (Fort ...

A Sacrificial Circuit Rider

Recently a dear friend died – Rev. Burney Cope. Burney was a member of the Oklahoma Conference. More personally, Burney served as my wife’s pastor when she was a middle school aged young person. Later, he served as the Ardmore District ...

Answering the Why

The recent tragedy in Japan lifts up again a perennial question as to why. This is especially a pointed question to Christians with our belief in an all-knowing and all-loving God. Years ago Rabbi Kushner wrote a bestselling work entitled Why Bad ...

Christian Unity

In the last two weeks, I have attended to different Episcopal (judicatory) ecumenical events. Texas Conference of Churches held a retreat at Concordia University in Austin. This past Monday and Tuesday, I was in Atlanta for a quadrennial meeting of ...

Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

Wednesday evening (thanks to the miracle of TiVo) Jolynn and I watched ABC news together. The tragic footage from Japan riveted our attention. Snow fell as rescue workers comb the wreckage. Our hearts ached as we viewed the scenes. Part way through ...

Prayer and Relief

With so many of you, I have watched and received the news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami hitting Japan. I am asking that we all join in offering our prayers and relief efforts for the people of Japan and others who are suffering because of...

The Great Commandment

In recent blogs I’ve written about the Conference’s apportionment payouts and the implications on Conference finances. More recently, I wrote about the Financial Leadership Forum and the fiscal crisis facing the larger church. Today, I head for ...

Financial Leadership Forum

This week along with a team of folks from the Central Texas Conference, I attended the Financial Leadership Forum. This was a nation-wide gathering of leaders with conference finances (Chairs of Pension, The Council on Finance and Administration, ...

Apportionment Payout as a Missional Priority

In a recent Cabinet meeting we looked at extensive data on our apportionment payout over the last two years. Apportionment Payout is a vital way we live out our collective, connectional, missional priority. Here is some of the data: “In the past 2 ...

A Time of Loss

An old professor of mine once said that most of us are in grief and loss most of the time. This is especially so for us this day. Saturday evening, First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, the Central Texas Conference and the greater ministry of ...

Imagine No Malaria

Currently the Central Texas Conference is engaged in a major emphasis called Imagine No Malaria. It is a passion for me and (I believe) for us as Christ followers. Such a great ministry springs from the larger connectional church of which we are a ...

Musings

As I packed to leave for the Cabinet Inventory retreat I found myself musing about the church. One of the most enlightening and stimulating things I have done in ministry was to visit every church in the Central Texas Conference when I became Bishop....

Inventory Retreat

Next week the Cabinet goes on its annual Inventory Retreat. It is a yearly trek for virtually all bishops and cabinets. We gather away from our various offices (in our case at Stillwater). We always begin with a time of worship and prayer, a time of...

Project 44

Recently Jolynn and I had reason to interact with Project 44. Project 44 is named for the 44th book of the Bible – the book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is an incredibly wonderful ministry that receives cars in donation, fixes them up, and through...

Learning from the Megachurch

I just finished reading Scott Thumma and Dave Travis’ book Beyond the MegaChurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches. It makes for fascinating reading. Perhaps the most significant insight is this: “We argue that the greatest ...

Missional Faithfulness

Today at Cabinet meeting we went over Conference financial reports for 2010. There is a part of us that makes a nod and moves on to such reports. Numbers can be numbing (pun intended). Yet … often our numbers represent missional faithfulness. Some ...

Streams in the Desert

Dallas Willard in his marvelously illuminating book, The Divine Conspiracy, opens with story of a pilot practicing high-speed maneuvers in a jet fighter. “She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent – and flew straight into the ...

The 85% Problem

Early in December I attended a regular learning group with other bishops that I am a part of – The Episcopal Leadership Forum at Duke Divinity School. While there, we listened to (among other great presentations – including our own Dr. Ginger ...

It Starts With a Baby

Recently I finished reading Gil Rendle’s book Journey in the Wilderness: New Life for Mainline Churches. I highly recommend it. It is deep in its insightfulness about the journey we are on in the United Methodist Church. Near the close of his book, ...

Christmas Eve Hospitality

The number 1 attended worship service by non- or nominal Christians is Christmas Eve. Put differently, many of those who attend Christmas Eve worship are not active Christ followers. A pastor and church have a (literally!) God-given wonderful ...

Route 122 Group

Recently I learned about a group of church developers who are wrestling on a deep level with the issues of congregational transformation. Interestingly, they named themselves the Route 122 Group. The group name is a reference to Paragraph 122 in The ...

New Readings

I am engaged in some reading that has both stimulated and reinforced much of my current reflection. As a part of my devotional life, I am reading Bishop Will Willimon’s new book Why Jesus? It contains the fresh (that is, seen from a different angle) ...

Informative Events

In the run up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I attended two informative events. While distinctly different from each other, each is evidence of the creative reflection taking place across the United Methodist Church. Saturday, November 20th I attended ...

Jerusalem and Athens

Friday, November 19th, I attended Texas Wesleyan University’s Board of Trustees meeting (one of two universities where I serve as a Trustee). It was a day of celebration as we elected Frederick G. Slabach the 19th President of the University and cut ...

Gratitude

Often the Apostle Paul opens his letters with a phrase like “I thank my God for you ….” I think I understand what he was feeling. I am constantly thanking God for the Central Texas Conference and more personally for the privilege of being bishop of ...

CIEMAL

After days of meeting in Panama (first the Council of Bishops – UMC, then the Conference of Methodist Bishops & Presidents – worldwide), today we began our last meeting. (I can’t help but remember Dr. Albert Outler’s irreverent aside to a class on ...

O For a Thousand Tongues

Last night (Sunday, November 7, 2010) we gathered for the opening worship of the Conference of Methodist Bishops (various titles are used) in Panama City, Panama. The stated purpose of the Conference (which is authorized by General Conference, ...

Our Adaptive Challenge

During the past two days, the Council of Bishops (COB) has worked extensively on the Call to Action Report. Yesterday we embraced the adaptive challenge as explicated in the Call to Action Report. (Adaptive challenge/work is change work that engages ...

On the Road Again

Today is a day for finishing up administrative details and preparing to leave. Sunday Jolynn and I will fly to Panama for the fall meeting of the Council of Bishop followed by two additional meetings (one for Methodist Bishop – UMC with Affiliated ...

Set Like Flint

I remember when my son took Texas State History in high school. Somewhere in that class he ran into a quote of William Tecumseh Sherman (the Civil War General and later Secretary of War under President Grant). The irascible Sherman said, “If I owned ...

Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses

I am nearing the end of a round of District meetings and other gatherings to both listen and share with laity and clergy alike on the future of the Church and the re-alignment of ministry resources in the Central Texas Conference. Earlier today I met...

Developing Pastoral Leadership

Today (Thursday, October 14, 2010) I have been visiting St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. They have been gracious hosts of the SCJ College of Bishops. (The South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops meets once a quadrennium with Perkins ...

Making Room for New Leaders

For the past two days I have been at a retreat sponsored by the Texas Methodist Foundation entitled “Making Room for New Leaders – The Third Path Dilemma.” With a wide spectrum group of Bishops, Board of Ministry Chairs, and various other leaders, we...

Clergy Age Trends

Recently a colleague passed on to me a summary of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership report on Clergy Age Trends. You can get the report at http://www.churchleadership.com/. Among other highlights the report noted that …. For the first time ...

The Spirit and SBC 21

I see the Spirit of the Lord moving among us as we struggle to engage the church we love in transformation. Over and over again, the call of a new day in the Lord beckons us into the future. Recently this conviction has come to me through a variety ...

Who Teaches You?

I saved a few vacation days and with my wife got away to the mountains of New Mexico. It was beautiful with the leaves turning gold on the aspen trees. The time to think and read was precious. As a part of my reading (and in preparation for an ...

Preliminary Report on Listening Posts

Last night I went to my fourth District “listening post.” (So far I have been to the Temple, Brownwood, Waxahachie, and Mid-Cities.) My basic schedule is an hour with the clergy, a meeting with the District Superintendency Committee and a little over...

Once Again

Today I renewed my acquaintance with an old friend. I try to meet regularly with a prayer partner for spiritual accountability. During the summer both of us were gone, and this practice had fallen by the wayside. I had on occasions met with the ...

The Leading Edge III

In the last two weeks I have reported on some of the things that came out in the “Leading Edge” meeting of the Senior Pastors of the 100 largest churches by worship attendance in the UMC in the U.S. with 32 active bishops. One of the constant ...

Leading Edge II

Last week I participate in a meeting of the “Leading Edge” group made up of the Senior Pastors of the 100 largest churches by worship attendance in the UMC in the U.S. I wrote about it in my earlier blog entitled “Leading Edge.” Out of that meeting ...

Tenth Street UMC

Sunday, September 5th, I had the joy and pleasure of sharing with the congregation of Tenth Street UMC in Taylor, Texas. Our celebration focused on the 110th anniversary of this wonderful Swedish Methodist Church. Originally the Taylor Swedish ...

Leading Edge

As I write, I am attending The Leading Edge meeting with active U.S. Bishops. The Leading Edge is an informal group of the Senior Pastors of 100 largest United Methodist Churches in the United States based on worship attendance. Thirty-two active ...

Understanding Orthodoxy

My August 12th Wilderness Way column sparked a number of responses and questions about the meaning of orthodox Christian belief. They raised questions relative to what I meant by theologically orthodox. While that is a long and deep subject, in ...

God at Work

Last Saturday I got to see God at work. Oh don’t get me wrong. I know that we all see God at work daily in the sunrise, the love of family and friends, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, etc. But Saturday I got to see God at work in a special way. I ...

Insights from Church Unique

While on vacation I engaged in reading some interesting books. (Some people are addicted to alcohol and drugs. I am addicted to books!) One of them was Will Mancini’s Church Unique. While written for the large regional church, it has great insights ...

Visiting Proximity Makes the Difference

I took Bob Weathers and Frank Leach out for lunch the other day to personally thank them for their interim work at University UMC in Fort Worth. They did a fantastic job. In the course of the conversation, Bob (who can’t help himself) shared the ...

I was in Jail

This past Sunday I was in jail. It wasn’t a permanent stay. Rather, I had the joy and privilege of preaching at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) of Fort Worth’s protestant service. It was a lively and joyous service. The music was led by a ...

Spiritual Vitality & Attendance

It has been a busy week getting back into the flow of ministry after time out for vacation and the School for Congregational Development. While gone I had the opportunity to engage in some stimulating reading: Jesus Wars by Philip Jenkins, Church ...

Canadian Worship Experience

We have recently returned from vacation in Shenandoah National Park and the Canadian Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia). It was a wonderful time with family and just special time away for us as a couple. ...

Missions = Hospitality

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I am at Duke for the Episcopal Leadership Forum. Yesterday (Monday) we heard from three outstanding presenters – Dr. Dana Robert, Dr. Gil Rendle and Mr. Gary Shorb. Each was insightful and challenging. Dr. Robert is on ...

Insights from Bishops' Week

It has been a stimulating time at Bishop’s Week wrestling with both our spiritual journey of faithfulness and the role of the Extended Cabinet (Bishop, Lay Leader, DS, New Church Development, Treasurer and Assistant to the Bishop/Executive Director ...

Bishops' Week Focus

Currently I am in Arkansas at our Jurisdictional Conference Center, Mt. Sequoyah. June 23rd is a day for the meeting of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. Wednesday, June 24th we begin Bishops’ Week with a decidedly different thrust. ...

The Holy Spirit and the Pension Crisis

Another Annual Conference is behind us and I find myself struggling with the paper work which any Conference generates. As I wrestle with an overflowing in-box of letters to answer, articles to write, and people to visit, some questions from ...

Like Christ

In getting ready for the Conference, I finished writing my Episcopal address and find pieces left over. I always feel a bit like Marco Polo who is reported to have said on his death bed, "But I haven't told a half of what I've seen." Here are quotes ...

Back to the Future

Tuesday, May 25th, I had the privilege of joining an ecumenical group for a Conversation with Leaders of the China Christian Council. Brite Divinity School graciously hosted the gathering along with the Tarrant Area Community of Churches. As I ...

Identify our Core Values: What I Learned in Meetings

Last Friday afternoon (continuing until noon on Saturday) I participated in a fascinating meeting that has remained on my mind and be lodged in my prayer life. (The previous 5 days were spent meeting as a part of the Council of Bishops (COB) in ...

Pray as We Examine our Faith Focus and our World

Starting Sunday evening, May 2nd, I will be at the Council of Bishops meeting and remain for an additional two days for a meeting of a Task Group of Bishops and General Secretaries on aligning our church with the Four Focus Areas: combating the ...

Liberal Arts Without Religion?

I sat through a discussion recently about whether a church-related college or university should require a course in religion as a part of a liberal arts education. Science classes, fine arts classes, language classes (to mention a few) are a ...

The Open Conspiracy of the Forgotten Way

The open conspiracy of the forgotten way of discipleship lifts my life and haunts my steps. That open conspiracy is to be, as the ancients put it, "little Christs." Alan Hirsch writes: "This notion of the imitation of Christ is one of the undisputed ...

The Cross of Life

For a couple of years my wife and I have attended Good Friday services at St. John the Evangelist Monastery (an Episcopal Church monastery located in Cambridge Massachusetts). The quiet contemplative service centers on an adoration of the cross. At ...

I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church

This past Tuesday morning I had breakfast with Paul Nixon. Paul is an effective and highly creative new church start pastor, consultant and coach. He is gifted in helping existing congregations embrace robust vitality for the mission of Christ. He is...

Forgotten Ways V

Tuesday I had the joy of sharing with our Residency (clergy in the commissioned process working toward ordination as a deacon or elder) group. I spoke on the topic of Rediscovering Apostolic Witness. My thesis is a farily simple one. Lay people ...

March 20th Saint Cuthbert Feast Day

Forgive a brief digression from my blog series on Alan Hirsch's wonderful book The Forgotten Ways. March 20th is Saint Cuthbert's Feast Day. Saint Cuthbert is one of my heroes. Cuthbert was a monk and bishop in Northumbria during the 7th century. He ...

The Forgotten Ways IV

Recently my son Nathan sent me an email link to the blog of Walter Russell Mead. Mead wrote in a March 14 blog “Sometimes mainline church leaders remind me of the Pope who showed St. Francis around the Vatican to see the many treasures of the church....

Rediscovering Forgottetn Ways III

I find that every page I read in Alan Hirsch's The Forgotten Ways deeply stimulates my thinking. One of Hirsch's concepts is the notion of what he calls "Apostolic Genius." By this he means "the total phenomenon resulting from a complex of multiform ...

Forgotten Ways II

In the first part of Alan Hirsch's book Forgotten Ways he tries to set the context for the missional church in today's culture. He notes that the Christendom model of cultural engagement (what he calls "evangelistic-attractional") is simply not up to...

Rediscovering Forgotten Ways I.

In an arresting article found in the October 2002 Atlantic Monthly Philip Jenkins (Penn State, author of The Next Christiendom: The Coming of Global Christianity and Lost Christianities) wrote: "As the media have striven in recent years to present ...

Beyond Indifferentism

I have been in a variety of meetings lately with institutions on whose Boards I sit by virtue of being a Bishop in The United Methodist Church. These include universities, hospitals, foundations and ministries. These various organizations are ...

SLOWING DOWN

Recently I was watching a rebroadcast of Ken Burn’s marvelous series on the National Parks. At one point the narrator shared insights from the great naturalist John Muir. Introducing what would become Yosemite National Park, Muir said, “You can’t ...

Connecting Head and Heart

Last night I had the joy and privilege of attending Perkins School of Theology Alumni Award Banquet. The receipent of the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award was Rev. Adam Hamilton, the Lead Pastor of UM Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. In a ...

Spiritual Renewal

The last two days, I’ve been blessed to be at the Clergy Day Apart (an annual one day retreat for spiritual nourishment of the Central Texas Conference). Tom Albin from the Upper Room (a part of the United Methodist Church’s Board of Discipleship) ...

Unity and Mission

Last night I spoke at the Tarrant Area Community of Churches along with Commissioner Roy Brooks (a member of Morningside UMC). I could not help but be struck by the fact that when I was a child such events were unheard of. Today they are so common ...

Pursuing Excellence

I recently read a fascinating article entitled "The Mundanity of Excellence" by Daniel F. Chambliss. Chambliss reported on a detaled study of excellence in swimming. The results are both surprising and facinating. They transfer to insights for other ...

The Hedgehog Concept

Last summer I read Jim Collins newest book How the Mighty Fall. It was a fascinating reprise to his marvelous earlier works Built to Last and Good to Great (including the added monograph Good to Great for Social Sectors). Recently I had the ...

This Focused Center

As I begin this Year of Our Lord 2010 (A.D.), I offer a new blog. I’ve entitled it This Focused Center based on The Message (a paraphrased translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson) version of II Corinthians 5:14-15. “Our firm decision is to work ...