I’ve been in the United Methodist ministry since 1975. At various times I’ve been active in the United Methodist camping ministry, Emmaus, Chrysalis, Conference Youth Council, Lay Speakers training, and various other involvements. My ministry has been well received over the years, in the places where I have served. The things I’ve enjoyed about pastoral ministry are: (1.) The opportunities to preach the Gospel; (2.) The opportunities to teach the Bible and the Christian way of life; (3.) The privilege of being with people in important moments of joy and sorrow in their lives.
I'm one of those evangelical United Methodists that identifies with the goals and purposes of the "Confessing Movement." I believe the United Methodist Church is in need of "doctrinal renewal." I believe that renewal will not come until we learn again from our own evangelical and socially progressive and revivalistic roots. In it's beginnings, Methodism emphasized (a.) justifying faith, (b.) holiness of heart and life, (c.) reform of society, and (d.) having an educated faith (thus: Wesley’s Christian Library, the early “Methodist” commentaries and works of theology, Watson's Theological Institutes, etc.). Over the years, in my opinion, this synthesis fell apart.
Why do you blog?
I started blogging as a means to an end: I was seeking to build a website that would be a resource for people exploring the Wesleyan perspective on the Christian life. I've been involved in Internet discussion for many years, first in the Usenet newsgroups and then also in some Yahoo! groups and in the Bridges Across the Divide discussion board
What has been your best blogging experience?
I'm still pretty new at this. So, I don't have a lot of experience from which to draw. I've written two very personal posts (see above) that I never expected to write. I realize that the process of writing was helping me to think through my life, and the things that are important to me. So, those posts mean a whole lot more to me than they would to anyone else. One was about the day when I decided to get rid of most of my theological library. The other was about my involvement in Conference Youth Ministry.
What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Figure out why you're doing this and what you've got to say. Hang in there.
If you could only read three blogs a day, what would they be?
But, here goes: (1) Ben Witherington
Who are your spiritual heroes?
John Wesley, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Wolfhart Panneneberg.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by Vox Day. There are also several others I've been slowly working through: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright, The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesley's Theology by Kenneth J. Collins, Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Jerry L. Walls & Joseph Dongell, But Is It All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth (Paperback)edited by Alan G. Padgett & Patrick R. Keifert.
What is your favorite hymn and why?
When I was just a young Christian I learned an old Gospel Song called "Higher Ground" whose words have stayed with me all these years. And, what that song talks about is still what I'm seeking.
I'm pressing on the upward way,
New heights I'm gaining every day
Still praying as I'm onward bound
"Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith on heaven's tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind?
I've become a bit more politically liberal over the years, but it's been a slow process. My views on the Bible have changed, as I've come to see more and more value in a critical & historical approach than I once did. I tend to change my mind about things very slowly and incrementally.
What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
I don't know that it's a "philosophical thesis" exactly, but the idea that has always been most important to combat is Legalism. We are saved by grace, and the power of love is what frees us from sin, not more & better rules, better enforced. If I had to choose a second one it would be the notion that faith and science are at odds with one another: they aren't.
If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
Our policies need to be constructed with the poor and the powerless in mind first of all - not as an afterthought. Insuring that the rich get richer will not benefit society as a whole.
If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
We need to recognize and live by our very extensive doctrinal commitments. We need to once again become an organization committed to making true everyday Christians, whose life & witness will impact the society around us.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Follow Christ. There are amazing and unexpected blessings along the way.
What, if anything, do you worry about?
I'm a true worry-wart, but I'm not currently obsessing about anything. When things start to go "wrong" (from my POV) in the local church I'm serving, the worry-thing kicks in big time.'
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
I would not stay in the United Methodist Church. Many years ago, when I received my third appointment, I knew that I should leave the UMC, but I had a family and we were in debt, and I wasn't willing to take a risk. Guaranteed appointments can be a trap in more ways than one. I really got involved in the Conference & once saw myself as (in a small way) an advocate for the UMC. Right now, all of that seems really stupid. For many years family & friends have told me that I ought to get out of the ministry, but I hung in with it. Now I'm listening.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
I once thought of moving to Arizona, but I'm not sure I would still want to do that. I liked the desert and I liked the different eco-systems, terrains and environments that could be found within that state.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Reading, gardening, listening to jazz, Internet, video games (a little), tropical fish.
What is your most treasured possession?
Currently it's my iPod. I would have said my Palm hand held computer (or "PDA" just to use that awful term), because I use it constantly, but I'm afraid these are becoming a thing of the past, & at some point I'm going to have to "move up" (or "over" anyway) to a smart phone I like - probably the iPhone at some point. Sad.
What talent would you most like to have?
I'd love to be able to play the piano. I love music, but only as a listener. With the piano you've got both the melody and the harmony. It's a bit easier to comprehend the concept and theory of music.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner, who would they be?
I find this a very difficult question because many of the people I admire, past & present, might not really make very good dinner guests. John Wesley wouldn't stay very long. John Coltrane, the great jazz musician wouldn't talk. Neither would Thelonious Monk. Charles G. Finney would be too overbearing. And, as for Fyodor Dostoevsky - well, who knows what he would do! I'm thinking maybe Tolstoy would be a vegetarian, so I wouldn't invite him either.