As the sour economy and aging buildings wreak havoc on church budgets, United Methodists are trying to get ahead of the problem and assess the health of their congregations in a bid to reverse declining fortunes.
Geoffrey Black has completed his first year as president of the United Church of Christ at a time when the UCC has been emphasizing youth and technology as well as theology and social justice. Like many mainline denominations, the UCC’s membership has continued to decline in numbers. Black is the second African American to lead the UCC.
In a familiar routine, mainline Presbyterians at their biennial General Assembly voted 373-323 to lift a ban on partnered gay clergy, sending the proposed change for the fourth time in nearly a dozen years to the denomination’s 173 regional presbyteries for ratification.
My grandmother was 14 years old and living on a farm in Michigan when she made an appointment with her Presbyterian minister to tell him that she felt called to the ministry. “I’m sorry, Emma,” he said. “You must be mistaken. God doesn’t call women into the ministry.” A day or two later her father went to see the minister.
Max Villatoro, 41, came to this country in 1995 from his native Honduras. In 1999 he was arrested for drunk driving. He turned his life around, got married, had four children, and became a Mennonite pastor in Iowa City. Despite trying for years to get legal status, he was recently taken into custody and sent back to Honduras, separating him from his family and congregation. Villatoro’s lawyer, who has worked many similar cases, says he has never seen so many people petitioning for one of his clients. The advocacy didn’t stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement from going against President Obama’s commitment to deport “felons, not families” (KCRG.com, March 20).