Swanson says men need new Christian identity

by Rich Peck*

NASHVILLE, Tenn.––“Men are in search of a new Christian identity.”

Bishop James E. Swanson, chair of the General Commission on United Methodist Men

That’s what Mississippi Area Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. told the General Commission on United Methodist Men, at the conclusion of their Sept. 6-7 meeting in Nashville.

Serving as chair of the 20-member commission, Swanson said that men are seeking to find genuine and passionate ways to express God’s call upon their lives. “This new identity must not be wrapped up in a grab for power or position; it is simply a response to the opportunity to serve God by serving humanity and the Church,” said the bishop.

“We hope to be seen as fulfilling our call to aid in the renewal of the church without being viewed as a threat to anyone or vilified for our deeply felt passion to see the United Methodist Church offer Christ to men, children and youth.” said Swanson. “We’re trying to do this cautiously because we don’t want to offend anyone, but I believe God is calling us to hasten our pace. This calls us to struggle with what this new Christian man identity should be.”

The bishop also urged the commission not to measure success by the large stadium events of the past. “It may be a watershed event even if only 100 men show up. God may be using the event to plant a seed that is bold, wonderful and new.”

During the business sessions, the commission:

  • Created a Susanna Wesley Award to recognize the special achievements made by women in the United Methodist Church. Named for the mother of John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church, the award will cost $500;
  • Agreed to investigate the possible building of a storage facility adjacent to the commission’s office on Music Row in Nashville. Construction costs will be provided from reserve funds;
  • Tabled a request from Faith United against Gun Violence in order to gain additional information;
  • Learned that United Methodist Men contributed $20,908 in the first eight months of 2013 for the Upper Room Prayer Line. The ministry of the Upper Room receives an average of 22,000 each month;
  • Learned that the United Methodist Men Foundation is considering employing a part-time person to lead efforts in planned-giving. Assets currently total $2.28 million;
  • Learned that gifts from United Methodist Men to the Meals for Millions program of the Society of St. Andrew have increased each of the last three years to $180,000 in 2012;
  • Agreed to change the process for men’s ministry specialists so they must seek an interview before they can complete the application process;
  • Agreed to raise $20,000 to help with travel expenses for people rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy;
  • Celebrated a successful National Gathering of United Methodist Men in which 800 people participated;
  • Learned that 1,500 copies of Strength for Service to God and Community were given to first responders in Boston, Newtown, Conn., West Texas, and Nashville; and
  • Agreed to allow non-United Methodists to receive Torch Awards, making that award similar to all other scouting awards.

*Rich Peck is the Communications Writer for The General Commission on United Methodist Men

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