Wholeness for our Clergy, Congregations, and Communities
As we all know, in the early morning hours of Sunday morning, June 12, a horrible tragedy took place at the Pulse nightclub on South Orange Avenue in Orlando. On Tuesday evening, June 14, an interfaith worship service was held at First UMC Orlando and I was honored to be asked to speak in that service. I'm sharing the text of that message as my column for our district newsletter this month. Please continue to be in prayer for all those affected by what happened on June 12 and for our community as a whole as it seeks ways to pull together for healing in this time of grief and loss.
What Do We Say?
What do we say? What words do we use to address what we're facing here tonight? As a former college English major I find that sometimes it's the words from classic literature that say it best in challenging, unspeakable times.
Words from Tennyson's In Memorium come to mind, written as he struggled with the death of a
very close friend:
But what am I?
An infant crying in the night, an infant crying for the light,
With no language but a cry.
Sometimes crying is all we can do.
Or, as Shakespeare tells us in the final lines of
The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel and not what we ought to say.
Speak what we feel: sadness, anger, confusion, fear, rage . . . Did this really happen? It's so surreal. Can it really be true? Surely, this is just a bad dream. And then we see the photos and we read the names: Peter, Enrique, Amanda, Edward, Christopher, Juan, Eddie, Stanley, Eric, Kimberly, Luis, and on and on they go--49 of them, not including those who were injured.
British author J.K. Rowling mourned the death of Luis Vielma in a touching tweet after learning that he worked at the Universal Orlando Resort ride inspired by her Harry Potter series. Sharing a photo of Vielma sporting a red and gold tie and a gray sweater vest, Rowling wrote simply,
Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal. I can't stop crying.
Rowling is an accomplished author who had no words to summarize this particular story.
Jeanne and I were in Tallahassee for a friend's retirement celebration over the weekend. We had been to a party in his daughter's home on Saturday night, had gone back to our hotel room and gone to bed.
I woke up about 4:15 Sunday morning and felt wide-awake. I picked up my phone from the nightstand and there was a text message from one of my news subscriptions that read,
"20 people dead and 20 more injured in gay nightclub . . . " and I immediately thought, "Oh no, not another mass killing!" But I have to admit with some embarrassment that initially it was as if such news had become routine to me. After all, a senseless massacre had happened in Boston and Lancaster County. It had happened in Charleston and Blacksburg and Newtown, in San Ysidro, in Austin and Littleton. It had happened in Binghamton and Fort Hood and Edmond and San Bernardino.
And then in the darkness of our hotel room four words suddenly stood out on the lit screen of my phone:
"gay nightclub in Orlando." I read those words again and again and again. Four times I read them before I accepted that those really were the words that finished the headline:
20 people dead and 20 more injured in gay nightclub in Orlando. And soon we knew that the combined total was well over twice that number. And I began to wonder how many of those folks might I know. How many of them were friends of mine or friends of friends of mine?
So what do we say?
We gather here tonight in our differences. We're different shades. We're different cultures. We're gay and we're straight. We're of different religions and we're of no religion. We're young and we're old and we're middle aged. We're different and yet, we're the same: we're all part of the human family. And with our differences we gather tonight in a house of worship and right now, here together, we are much more the same than we are different.
The late Rueben Job, a pastor and author and bishop in my faith tradition once said, "Everyone is God's beloved child. God does not make the distinctions that we do."
My friend whose retirement celebration Jeanne and I attended over the weekend said in his final sermon that "one of the functions of a religion has always been to define the boundaries of the tribe - who is in and who is out, who is friend and who is enemy."
It's true, isn't it? We religious people are good at that. Often we act as if we have a corner on the market of eternal truth and we set ourselves up with an "us against them" mentality; rather than being in conversation with one another to learn where truth may be present beyond the artificial boundaries that we have set. Perhaps if we were to do that, we would find that in the end, light is stronger than darkness and love is stronger than hate.
What happened down the street early Sunday morning is being called a hate crime because that's exactly what it is: it targeted a certain group of people. Specifically, it targeted gay and lesbian people. And make no mistake about it: religion, with its often-impenetrable boundaries, has been a force that has fueled that hatred toward LGBT people in this community and around the globe. More specifically, my own faith tradition has been a force that has helped to fuel that hate.
And you know what? Though what happened early Sunday morning appropriately is and will always be known first and foremost as a horrific hate crime toward LGBT people, in the end it is not only about gay and lesbian people, it is about all of us. It is about you, whether you are gay or straight, and it is about me, because any crime of violence against a targeted and persecuted group of people is a crime of violence against all of humanity.
Who knows what was going on inside that young man? Lots of people think they do, think that they have it all figured out. They point fingers to another tribe instead of looking within their own tribe and wondering where in their group--religious or political or otherwise--lies some of the blame.
Do those of you familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures remember what was the first commandment given by God recorded in those Scriptures? Listen to these words from Genesis, Chapter 1 and you'll hear it:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
"Let there be light," God's first commandment. Biblical scholars believe that these verses of Scripture originated during Israel's exile period, a time of hopelessness and despair stemming from the reality that the country had been plundered, the temple ruined, cities destroyed.
In the beginning, says this text, all was night, darkness, a "formless void." And it was into this context that God said,
"Light," and there came light out of darkness, there came order out of chaos.
Turn out all the artificial lights in this huge room. Close the shades to keep out all signs of external light. Then light a candle in here, just one candle, and suddenly the light outshines the darkness. I wasn't downtown last night for the candlelight vigil in the square across the street from here, but it was clear that in that sea of light, the love amidst a sea of differences was what prevailed.
Angelica Jones, who introduced herself as a transgender entertainer at Pulse, was working in the club on Saturday night and interviewed on television last night. In talking about the killer, her last words were,"We can't let him win."
I would re-word her statement a bit this way: We can't let hate win. We can't let darkness win. We can't let narrowness win. We can't let arrogant self-righteousness win.
LGBT folks are devastated by this blatant act of hatred against its own community.
Hear me, though, my friends: this is not finally about one person, or one group of persons, or one way of life, or one political expression, or one religion. It's about all of us who are part of the human family.
May God have mercy upon us.
Grace and Peace,
East Central District
A Statement from the Bishop and the Cabinet of the FLAC
The following document was presented to the Annual Conference and received an overwhelming endorsement from the full body of the Conference:
A Statement from the Bishop and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference
of The United Methodist Church in Response to the June 12, 2016
Violent Crime of Hate against the LGBTQ Community in Orlando, Florida
II Corinthians 5:19--
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
We as the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church recognize with deep sadness the blatant act of mass murder that happened literally in our neighborhood. This was a hateful act of violent slaughter of 49 and the serious injury of 53 persons, most of whom were LGBTQ and Latino, at the Pulse Nightclub in downtown Orlando. We have been witness to the effects of this crime of hate on the lives of those who have lost loved ones, and we grieve deeply with them.
On behalf of the Florida Annual Conference we publicly denounce this act of violence against our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and acknowledge how this act deeply affects and diminishes each of us as individuals and the entire human family.
We are grateful for our connection and the witness of our churches in the greater Orlando area, around the Conference, and in the larger Connection, in providing a loving response through prayer, counseling, and a variety of practical means. We also affirm that the need for those responses will be ongoing.
In addition, we call upon all United Methodists to claim our witness as Wesleyan Christians to stand against such hateful violence. Toward that end we affirm these words found in the Preamble to our Social Principles:
Grateful for God's forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirming our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the Gospel, not alone to the ends of the earth, but also to the depth of our common life and work.
(Book of Discipline p. 104)
It is our deep hope that our response to this act of violence and evil will be lived out in our common life and work in our churches and in the larger community in ways that reflect the reconciling love of Christ. We unequivocally stand against words and deeds, and our complicit silence, that do harm to anyone anywhere, and particularly to those in the LGBTQ community.
We pledge ourselves to the demonstration of love to all of God's children, and invite all clergy and laity in the Florida Conference into that same pledge.
Many of us have been shocked and heartbroken by the Pulse shooting and have wanted to know how we can help. Every church and extension ministry in the East Central District is encouraged to join the #OrlandoUnited movement.
Let's get together and help the victims, their families, and all others affected by this tragedy. We are all uniting by collecting financial contributions and/or gift cards to be distributed by the Orlando clergy to the communities around them. You can make your contribution at
A Message from Alice Williams, District Lay Leader
Greetings EC District: We've just completed our 2016 Annual Conference with the theme "Leading Like Jesus." I wonder if the FLUMC AC Planning Team had any idea how relevant this year's theme would be when they started work on AC 2016? It is a catchy phrase after all, and I'm sure they knew it would be a way to challenge us as leaders within the FLUMC to model Christ's leadership. But who could have imagined that we would be gathering together in Central Florida at a time when the surrounding community would be so shattered? And who could imagine the ways in which the UMC and our East Central District churches would rise to the occasion to bring hope and healing? I like to think the theme this year was no accident - it was simply providence.
I hope you were able to take in at least some of AC 2016 via the web if you were not able to be there in person. The worship and music were amazing and the preaching moments were outstanding! The outpouring of love and support for Orlando and the LBGTQ community were both poignant and heartfelt. AC 2016 held moments that truly demonstrated the best of who we are as Methodists. I encourage you to visit the FLUMC AC 2016 to catch what you may have missed. I enjoyed and found something profound in the message of each of the guest speakers. In particular, I encourage you to listen to Bishop Adam Richardson's reflections on the shooting at "Mother Bethel" Church in Charleston, SC and Bishop Janice Riggle Huie's message, "What Does It Take To Lead In The Midst of Change?."
And we did accomplish some business of the church too! If I counted correctly, we ordained 32 new Clergy, 10 Elders, and 3 Deacons, and commissioned 8 Provisional Elders and 4 Provisional Deacons. We elected an amazing new Lay Leader, Paulette Monroe, who is no stranger to the East Central District (she and her husband, Rev. Walter Monroe have served at a church in the EC District). Paulette, is best known as the former President of the UMW and Rev. Walter Monroe is DS for the South Central District. Please join me in welcoming Paulette as she helps lead us as laity!
Next month, the FLUMC delegates head to Southeast Jurisdictional Conference in Lake Junaluska, NC to elect 5 new Bishops. We are hopeful Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, North Central District DS, will be one of those elected. Please continue to keep the FLUMC delegates in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to engage in the kingdom building work of the UMC!
Wishing each of you a great summer and a great 4th of July!
2016 Annual Conference Highlights
"Leading Like Jesus"
About 1,455 Florida United Methodists, including 660 clergy and 795 lay voting members, gathered June 16-18 in Orlando. Below are some quick links to highlights of AC2016:
Bishop Carter's reflections on AC2016:
Lay Member Summary Report for the local church:
for the AC2016 Website.
to purchase a hard copy of the AC2016 Journal. Once it is completed it will be available to download at no cost from the bottom of the
Welcome Our New Clergy July 1st!
Let us all be in prayer for our churches, our pastors and their families as they transition. Click HERE for a list of ways to welcome your new pastor.
(Associate) - Mike Luzinski
- Andrew Miller
- David Carefoot
- Merrill Frailey
- Dianne Henry Davis
Covenant, Port Orange
- B.J. Foster
- Matt Findley
First, New Smyrna Beach
- Larry Wilson
(Associate) - Shelly Denmark
- Brian James
First, Winter Park/NCD Residency
- Craig Blocher
FL UM Children's Home
- Deacon - Madeline Luzinski
- Tim Farrell
- Arch Fisher
- Raphael Dessieu
- David Lumberry
- Jacquie Leveron
- Jose Carrion
Attention all clergy with new appointments in the ECD:
We have a new clergy orientation meeting on Thursday, August 18th from 10:00am - 1:00pm at Asbury UMC in Maitland. This meeting is for all clergy with new appointments in the ECD.
Summer Servant Leader Equipping Event
July 15-16; First UMC - Oviedo
acked with 10 hours of action-oriented learning
followed by weekly online E-Lessons, Encounter is a highly interactive, participant-centered leadership development workshop that exposes common leadership misconceptions and offers a practical model based on the greatest leader role model of all time, JESUS! Facilitated by Master Trainer Jim Boesch, this workshop is open to men and women who want to become effective in their leadership roles.
for the Event flyer.
LOCATION: First UMC; 263 King Street; Oviedo, FL 32765
TIMES: Friday, July 15: 6:00-8:30 pm and Saturday, July 16: 8:30 am-4:30 pm
REGISTRATION FEE: $60 per person; $110 per couple
To Register: Call Jim Boesch at
Lay Servant Gathering
August 6th; 9:00am - 12 Noon - Ocoee Oaks UMC; 201 S. Clark Road, Ocoee
NOW I AM a Lay Servant, oh dear, what do I do?
You have asked, you queried and we listened! Please join Jim Boesch and Lynn Campbell on Saturday, August 6, from 9 am to noon at Ocoee Oaks United Methodist Church, for a time to TALK! We will share in worship, fellowship, some refreshment and much conversation. Pastors will join us as part of a panel to share their experiences, expectations and how we can together serve better in the vineyard.
Come with ideas, what worked and what hasn't worked before; what you would like to see happen; come as we work on some "how to do" things. Come for tips on how to improve YOUR spiritual life as you continue to make Disciples and be Disciple Makers.
Jim and Lynn would love to see you on that Saturday as we come together to serve you. We are already in prayer for each of you who would attend and spend time discussing this Ministry of the Laity!
Please know that while this is NOT a training event and there is NO CHARGE, we do encourage you to register as early as possible so that we can plan accordingly. CLICK HERE to register online.
Jim & Lynn
The Global Leadership Summit (GLS)
August 11-12, 2016 - Pine Ridge Fellowship, Deltona
The Global Leadership Summit is a two-day event telecast LIVE in HD from Willow's campus near Chicago every August to hundreds of locations in North America. You are invited to join an expected 305,000 people committed to getting better as leaders in 2016. Throughout the fall, Summit events take place at an additional 675+ sites in 125 countries and 59 languages.
Click HERE for a flyer.
Pine Ridge Fellowship
in Deltona is a host site. Questions? Contact Yvonne at Yvonne@prfchurch.org.
Bishop's Town Hall Meeting
September 22 - St. Luke's UMC
You are invited to join Bishop Carter and other clergy and laity from around your region for an evening of conversation.
- Call for Unity
- A Time for Questions and Answers
- Highlights of Key Future Initiatives
The evening gathering will be preceded by light appetizers.
Click HERE to register.
Volunteer for the Pasco County Recovery Team
Carmon Ungaro, disaster team leader from First UMC Deland, is going to Pasco County to repair homes damaged by the floods last summer and he needs team members! If you can go for a day, a couple days, or the week - he welcomes your help!
WHEN: July 10th - July 16th
Housing is provided at no charge.
Invitation to Prayer 2016
Pray for the Work of the Jurisdictional Conference
Greetings, Sisters and Brothers in Christ!
With the 2016 General Conference and our Annual Conference now behind us, we now turn our attention to the important work that will be accomplished in Jesus' name at the SE Jurisdictional Conference in July where we will elect bishops to serve our Church. As General Conference demonstrated, the work of the gathered delegations from around the Jurisdiction has great significance as the next class of Bishops is chosen. Though there is no time where the mission of the church is not critical, certainly the need for strong, visionary leadership is of particular importance as the next guadrennium unfolds. That being said, this is an invitation to each of you (and your churches) to enter into a time of intentional prayer for the work of the Jurisdictional Conference, the delegates who will gather from the fifteen annual conferences, the delegation from the Florida Annual Conference, the thirteen Episcopal nominees, as well as the nominee from our conference, Rev. Sue Haupert Johnson. CLICK HERE to continue reading.
Assimilation of Members and Making Disciples
August 30th; 9:30am - 2:30pm - First UMC - Port St. Lucie
We invite you to be a part of this exciting Clergy meeting led by Rev. Dale Locke, Pastor of Community of Hope UMC, the second fastest growing church in our denomination. He will be speaking on assimilation of members and making disciples.
Pastors and persons in their churches who deal with these subjects are welcome to attend.
36th Annual Clergy Mates 2016 Retreat
|District Calendar of Events
July 4: Independence Day Holiday - District Office Closed
July 7 - 10: EC District UMW Mission U, Bethune Bookman University, Daytona Beach
July 15 - 16: Candidacy Retreat, Lakeland
August 6: Lay Servant Gathering - Ocoee Oaks UMC, Orlando
August 11-12: Global Leadership Summit - Pine Ridge Fellowship UMC, Deltona
August 18: New Clergy to ECD Orientation - 10:00am - 1:00pm, Asbury UMC Maitland
August 25: EC dCOM 9:00am-4:00pm, Asbury UMC, Maitland
September 5: Labor Day Holiday - District Office Closed
September 17: EC District UMW Mission Study Sampler, Sanlando UMC, Longwood
September 22: EC dCOM 9:00am-4:00pm, Asbury UMC, Maitland
September 22: Bishop's Town Hall Meeting - St Luke's UMC, Orlando
October 14 & 15: Lay Servant Training - First DeLand
October 22: EC District UMW Annual Meeting, First Winter Garden
October 25-26: Clergy Gathering - LEC
October 27: EC dCOM 9:00am-4:00pm, Asbury UMC, Maitland
November 5: UMW Conference Annual Meeting - Life Enrichment Center
November 11: Veteran's Holiday - District Office Closed
November 17: EC dCOM - 9:00am - 4:00pm Asbury UMC, Maitland
November 24 & 25: Thanksgiving Holiday - District Office Closed
November 28: SPRC Training - 6:30pm - 8:30pm Tomoka UMC, Ormond Beach
November 29: SPRC Training - 6:30pm - 8:30pm Asbury UMC, Maitland
December 15: EC dCOM 9:00am-4:00pm Asbury UMC, Maitland
January 13 - 14: Candidacy Retreat, Lakeland
February 4: Called to Serve - First UMC, Oviedo
June 8 - 10: Annual Conference - The Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa