Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NEVER GIVE UP ! Five (part two)

The Pillars of St Paul is where Paul was flogged and had 39 lashes by the governor of Paphos because of Paul believing in, and following Christ. The governor later relented and became a Christian himself!

I visited Cyprus 11 times during my last 4 years living in Russia. And, the pillars of St. Paul became a special and holy place to meditate for me. I was often the only visitor. My spirit sought to grasp and emulate that which enabled Paul to press on; to never give up. Undoubtedly it was a trial that, by living through it, made Paul even stronger and prepared his mind for the next onslaught.

You have heard it said, and experienced it, as I have. In seeking to identify some year of the past that might qualify as the best I believe we'd discover that the best years were those in which we learned to lean on God, seeking His strength in our resolve to never give up. It was in the pressing on that we grew.

St. Paul gives us many assurances, promises we and other Christ followers have taken to heart for almost 2,000 years, a favourite being. “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind”. It is in the present passive infinitive, which from the Greek translates, “Go on being renewed every day,” and since it’s in the passive, it’s something that’s done to us rather than something we achieve.

How do we combine these two faculties then — the spirit and the mind? Many new and even more mature believers wonder what is the spirit of the mind? A favourite preacher some years ago (Lloyd Ogilvie) defined it this way; "Well, if the mind is the seat of the intelligence, the thinking brain, and if the spirit is the point of contact of the spirit of God with our spirit, then the spirit of the mind is the way the Living Christ enters into and channels His power in the thinking process of our life." That’s why I say we can have a new mind every morning.

 I shared another favourite in an earlier blog article, also from the Apostle Paul said, “Have in you this mind which was in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2::5. And in Romans 12, he writes (Christians/Saints) Do not be conformed into this world’s ideas, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. We all know the old adage, 'you become what you think about most of the time'. (R W Emerson)

I'm convinced that by allowing Christ to transform our minds we can control both present and future circumstances; it’s the spirit of the mind. “ ... the spirit of the mind,” is that the character of Jesus Christ can be transformed in us. I have experienced this transformation especially these last few months; a peace and acceptance. "You will keep whoever's mind is steadfast in perfect peace, because he trusts in you", Isaiah 26:3, words very familiar to, and taken to heart by Paul.

More of Paul’s teaching is found in Ephesians chapter 4, the 23rd verse, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind,” is nestled in between two other admonitions that happen to be in the past, the aorist tense. “Take off the old and put on the new,” — These words of Paul were written when he was well immersed in Christ- his Christology was entering a fourth decade. Paul speaks from experience when he says, “take off the old nature” and begin the new life. I liken it to the Jungian theory of projection; the Holy Spirit projecting and empowering us to become more like Him. The only way we do that is one day at a time making the day, week, month and year ahead the best one yet.



I pray with Wilberforce:

For tomorrow and its needs,
I do not pray.
But keep me, guide me, love me, Lord,
Just for today.

And the answer to that prayer is the transformation of my nature into the nature of Christ.

Our SA doctrine declares that in Christ Jesus of Nazareth, there was the human dimension, and the divine, perfectly blended together in the incarnation. Paul in the 13th verse of this 4th chapter says that we can grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. An aging Saint said; 'Holiness can't be rushed', and to which I would add, 'I'm not what I was yesterday, and far short of what I seek to become in my tomorrows...'

GUIDE MY MIND AND THINKING OH THOU GREAT JEHOVAH, THIS AND EVERY DAY…

Sven Ljungholm
Former officer active soldier
Exeter Temple Corps
UK

NEVER GIVE UP - Five ! (part one)

THE OLYMPIC VICTOR'S CROWN

Since my stroke, now 4 months ago, I have reread some of my favourite sermons, all by others I hasten to add. One shared, ' I recognize the stark truth that our lives are divided into yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows'. Prior to the stroke it was often the unfulfilled promises of my yesterdays and worries over the daunting realization that tomorrows were ever fewer and consequently was robbing me of living my potential to the fullest. So what’s left? Today!

Another sermon reminded me that it's a matter of how to make each day a creative beginning; explore God’s promise that we can receive a new mind and strength every morning. These were necessary reminders.

Just a few days subsequent to my stroke a visitor to my hospital bed prayed these words, ‘Sven I pray for your physical recovery and may the year ahead be the best of your life!” A year(?), when what I really felt was best for me was often; “take me home”. The best (?) , when hospital staff were overheard whispering, “he was lucky to make it, but he’ll never walk again”! Well, with God's help, and the assistance of a group from Exeter Temple Corps, and family back home I was determined to prove them wrong, and let the actions and activities that followed be a witness to His daily promises and provisions.

Since then, in the four months of my forced immobility, I have shared in driving almost 3,000 miles, flown across the Atlantic twice with another two crossings in a few weeks, and boarded/flown 11 flight sectors ranging in distance from a few hundred miles to several thousand. And last week completed teaching 14 various nine week classes in international marketing and concurrently. business ethics classes. And in 4 weeks I plan to drive across much of Europe. Yes, I still have a wheelchair but it's been in the boot of the car since my arrival here 3 weeks ago, and used only twice!

I share the above not as some example of uniqe strength, but rather resolve found deep within and buoyed by the strength of the Lord. In fact it pales when I compare my stats with others of and beyond my age. Did you know that of the 38,000 competitors that completed the grueling 26 mile NY Marathon last year, hundreds of men and women were aged from 65 to 80?! Granted, not all were stroke sufferers but there were no doubt many who ran simply to prove that thet had overcome the odds.

My father wrote a songster piece some years ago and the words of the chorus are;

PRESSING ON, WE’RE PRESSING ON,
IN THE MIGHT OF THE LORD PRESSING ON,
LEAVING OLD THINGS BEHIND AND NEW VICTORIES TO FIND,
PRESSING ON, WE’RE PRESSING ON.

Major Sven Ljungholm (Musical Salvationist)

The Apostle Paul put it this way in Philippians, chapter 3:13-14; "Brethren,I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Paul knew that glorying in success and thinking 'well, when I was young...it was this way for me, or when I was back in the earlier days, I did this and this and this.' Paul could have done that for he was quite a success; a noted scholar with a degree from the University of Tarsus, a famous orator, member of the Sanhedrin, and colleague of the famous Gamaliel, and a member of the freedmen's Temple; a freed slave! Nor did he get hung up on defeats and past hurts... we can assume from his station in life and as a Rabbi he would have been married and have had at least one child. One ought not argue from silence, but we can assume that both had been lost through some sad circumstance. Yet he kept pressing on each day toward living it with the desire to become more like Christ seeking new victories to find.
________________________________________________________________
I just took a short break during grading student’s final essays to watch interviews with winners and, well there are no losers in the ‘special Olympics. What struck me is their universal determination to complete their mission; press on to finish the race.. As I listened I was struck time and again by the words, "complete", "finish", and "victory".

My mind went to a competition in which I had great interest, the annual New York City Marathon, one held back in the 1970s to be exact. Finnair was the official sponsor, and I was the airline’s Regional Manager USA.. The organizers of the marathon and I met many times over a period of two years, to coordinate all the details of the event. The final number of runners exceeded 20,000, and there were many highlights that these many years later live in my memory.

The Finish line (spelled Finnish for that particular race due Finland’s national airline being the major sponsor) was in Central Park. Thousands of New Yorkers lined the 26-mile marathon route cheering the runners, with a good number of them crowding the sidewalk along Central Park West, about 25 miles into the race, which borders the park. Thousands more were waiting inside the park itself. As you can imagine, there was great excitement among the throng of people as the first runner made his entry into the park nearing the finish line. The roar was deafening, camera shutters clicked, TV crews jostled for a better angle, and the Mayor of New York was escorted to the dais ready to crown the victor.

As the winner neared the tape I could read the number pinned to the front of his shirt, and I quickly scanned the program to see who he might be; others did the same. Then there was an audible gasp; the winner was a total “unknown”… He broke the tape, slowed, and made his way to the dais, and there, in front of thousands watching live, and millions by TV, the Mayor placed the victor’s crown on his head. The victor was ecstatic as the crowd roared its praise for this hitherto unknown marathoner. Soon other runners crossed the line, but the roar of the crowd was now less frantic....

It was less than 5 minutes later that a buzz stirred in the official’s tent. There was something amiss. Then the loud speakers announcement came; “THE WINNER IS DISQUALIFIED! HE DIDN’T PASS ALL THE CHECK-POINTS”! All along the marathon route were stationed check-points, and there the marathon officials were placed to monitor and make certain that each and every runner had completed each stage of the race. Well, it turns out the "winner", shortly after beginning the race had dropped out, donned a trench coat handed to him by a friend, went to the nearest subway station and boarded the uptown train and stepped off near Central Park. There he waited until the advance runners were in sight, discarded the trench coat, and then set off running again, and came in “first”.

It was in the evening, some 12 years later and my wife and I were now serving as Salvation Army officers in mid-town Manhattan that I went out for ice cream with my children on 2nd avenue. The children were aged 10, 12, 14, and 16. Our corps, which is also where we lived, had served as an unofficial rest station for Salvationists and others as the building was approximately half way through the course. As we exited the candy shop we saw some distance away, a legless man, with some sort of rubber devices strapped to his knuckles, slowly and painstakingly making his way north on the side walk, on the stubs that were his "legs". That in itself was rather strange, but more so was the fact that he was wearing an official NY Marathon contestant’s number on his sweatshirt. As he was about to pass us I asked the man if I could speak with him for just a moment, introducing myself as a former chief spokesperson for the official sponsor of the NY Marathon. We chatted for a few moments and I learned that he had flown in from California to compete. I then asked him rather sheepishly, how far did you manage to “run”? I assumed he had made it several hundred yards at least. Without hesitation he replied, “Well, I’m still running, and I figure I’ll cross the line tomorrow afternoon sometime, assuming we don’t chat for too long”! We both laughed and off he went…Immediately on my return to the quarters I contacted the local and national media to alert them to a story that I believed everyone would want to follow. It didn’t take them long. When the 10:00 pm news was broadcast a few hours later, every station in New York led with the story; cameramen had located him some blocks up the street from where I spoke with him. And the next day, three days after the "winner" crossed the line, another winner did the same, this time a true winner! And again, the media and the Mayor were present.

While some seek to take a short cut in life, others, those stronger, with resolve, honesty, discipline, and delayed gratification push on. And this late arriving hero was the perfect example

All will know the name Dag Hammarskjold, a Swede, and who was the UN Secretary-General. He died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961. I will leave you with two of his quotes. They are from his book, Markings, a copy of which my father gave me some years ago. I often turn to it for inspiration...

"Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road", and, "The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others."

In a search for ultimate values, one high on the list must be a respect for the dignity of all mankind. As Christians we have established checkpoints and among them are constant reassessments of our values. They are what set us apart from the world, raise our awareness of responsibilities, and move us ever closer to the goal; the victor's crown! John H W Stott shared in a conferencce I attended 'that the greatest indictment that can be levied against the church (the Army) is that we are no different than the world.' The world needs to see a difference. Commissioner Christine McMillan, director of the recently established SA Social Justice Commission, now headquartered in the Corps building I refer to above. said in an interview in this week's Salvationist that we can effect a difference in the world by living our values, 'It's learning to have a different lifestyle ... It's now looking out into the world and living not only from a point of moral righteousness but also looking at the world from a moral deficit'. It's running the race not only with the purpose of winning the race, but completing it and making a difference by maintaining integrity throughout; no shortcuts, no pushing others aside, no moving the finishing line.

"...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39

(part one)


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former SA Officer
Exeter Temple Corps UK

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What is the ordained minister's pastoral task in an age of uncertainty? (PART TWO)

With the greater part of society existing outside the organised life of the church, there appears to be a growing need for across-cultural presbyterial ministry grounded within the congregational of the faithful but able to communicate the gospel in incarnational terms. Through such a ministry, substance is given to the latent Word found within all humankind. The example of this can be plainly seen in the life of Jesus Christ, who was able to naturally cross the cultural barriers and frequently accompany people at every level of society.

For the Non-stipendiary Minister engaged in some other work there are two aspects of pastoral care distinct from those engaged in full-time stipendiary ministry. The first is the process of enabling the laity to share with others the problems and achievements of their working or community life. Greenwood suggests that 'in order to be able to fulfil their vocation with awareness, the scattered church members need an ordained ministry that recognises the value of their task and actively promotes an internal church life that sustains them as agents of the world's potential in God's name.' He continues by advocating that the presidency of a Non-Stipendiary ‘priest’ at the communion service has a strong contribution to be made in this area. I recall a stipendiary minister of many years service speaking of a growing gulf between him and his congregation. He knew that his existence was secure, compared with many in his congregation who faced efficiency targets, vulnerable security and all too often, redundancy. The Non-stipendiary Minister faces the same predicament as his/her congregation and in this sense can be truly representative and a focus of ministry with, through and by the Christian Community.

The Pastoral Task in Action
The second aspect that I feel needs liberating within the Non-stipendiary Minister `s ministry is that their day-to-day employment is not merely the means of earning a living but forms an integral part of her/his ordination. There is a need to end what could be termed, ministerial schizophrenia, where the identity and integrity of a Non-stipendiary Minister is brought into question.

The tension within the pastoral setting is often due to the way a local community of faith understands its existence, its dynamic and its locus of operation. This is also true as to its expectation of the ordained ministry, albeit paid or unpaid. Croft expresses this in terms of six church models.

Church Type Av. Mem. Ordained Ministry
1. Family 1-50 Minister as chaplain to the family.
2. Pastoral Church 50-100 Minister as pastor to everyone
3. Programme Church 100-300 Minister resources programmes
4. Multiple Church Minister Minister serves 1-7+ churches
5. Nurturing Communities Church Max 250 Minister supports leaders and carers
6. Transforming Communities Church Unlimited Minister Devolves mission to members

Depending how a congregation views itself, the expectation of the ordained ministry will often underlie how a Non-stipendiary Minister will be able to integrate and view her/his ministry in holistic terms. If we take a simpler approach to categorising the way a church operates in terms of what has been called the sheep farming models of Britain and Australia we will have a clearer picture of the scope of pastoral care for the ordained Non-stipendiary Minister. The British model is of an enclosed sheepfold with definite boundaries and capacity. Here the pastoral care is inward looking and subject to a gate-keeping mentality. This model leaves little scope to operate flexible patterns of ministry. Within the Australian model there are no boundaries as the ‘flock’ is centred on a well with scope for variety of mission and extended ministry. However, oversight can become difficult within this model.

In simple terms, we naturally define pastoral ministry in terms of care for the flock. However, to which model of church does this care apply and how is it exercised when applied to the sheep farming models outlined above? Howcroft, describes three inter-related aspect of pastoral ministry as pastoral care - a ministry shared by the whole Christian community, pastoral work - particular tasks allocated to individual's be they lay or ordained and pastoral charge, usually the task of the ordained. He defines pastoral charge as the responsibility of the whole church in the exercise of its ministry but particularly focused in the presbyterial ministry. Howcroft is also at pains to stress that the presbyter, as a member of the whole Christian community, shares the responsibility of pastoral care and concern but also has a particular pastoral work, whilst not distinct from, is a particular expression of ordination. However, I wish to re-emphasise that tent-makers fulfil their ordination as much through their day-to-day work as through the ministry of word and sacrament, for surely presbyterial ministry is sacramental living and an embodiment of the word both in the community of the faithful and the world. If the presbyterial ministry is the gift of God to his church and the church in its institutional form within the context of Northern Europe is contracting, surely we are limiting that ministry unless its care is pastorally active beyond the certainty of building or institutional boarders. It is this institutional bias or comfort blanket of our congregational exclusivity that limits pastoral task within a world of uncertainty.

An Uncertain World
I question whether the uncertainty of this age is any more severe than that of previous generations. There are numerous occasions where pastoral need has challenged the status qua and led to the reordering of the church. The rise of denominationalism owes as much to the lack of pastoral concern for whole groups of society, as it does to doctrinal or structural disenchantment. Whether it was Wesley's working class member's access to sacramental ministry or Booth's submerged tenth unable to find a place within the institutional church, the need for pastoral invention was a necessity. The difference with today's pastoral necessity is that it seems to be affecting all established churches and the reordering or creating a new order of the church that has to be more radical and definitely more contextually orientated. Tony Rogers, a Roman Catholic Priest suggests that 'Rooted in Christ we are set free and liberated.. to take risks and to innovate daring all things for him. With such an openness of heart and mind we become a church on the move, a church living and growing, serving sensitively and wholeheartedly the world of our time."

Ordained Presence
How is all this expressed in terms of the ordained minister’s pastoral task? The Lutheran Church, through it’s ‘Vision Expectations’ document ” emphasises that ordained ministry is a privilege granted by God through the call of the church and that those who serve in this ministry are accountable to the Word of God for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ordained ministers are called to faithful preaching and teaching, to be examples of the Christian life, and to lead and equip the baptized for their ministries in the world.” In other words the emphasis is the ministry of Word and Sacrament expressed through holy living and enabling ministry in others. For the Non-stipendiary Minister this has to be expressed through a sense of presence and purpose within the community of the church, its wider field of mission and the context of daily employment. John Mantle writing about Britain’s first Worker-Priests speaks of such a presence in the pastoral sense as being an organised presence, an articulate presence and a prophetic presence. In his book he tries to answer the question “What did a worker-priest have to offer in the workplace that a layman did not?” by saying that the simple answer might be an understanding of human and pastoral problems, substantial theological comprehension and a human face for a distant institution whose clergy he represented. Whilst acknowledging the differences between a worker-priest and a Methodist Non-stipendiary Minister, there is a similarity of where pastoral ministry is exercised. Mantle questions why leadership, in the presbyterial sense, is restricted to the church environments. He argues that the traditional role of the pastor is seen as exclusively within the 'fold', whilst the laity are those who venture into the world of work is an inappropriate model.

There are, however, those who would advocate the need for the ordained minister to have a sense of separateness in order to fulfil the pastoral role. I feel that this is primarily a misunderstanding of what it means to be set apart. Yes, there is a need for a presbyter to disengage in order to reflect upon her/his engagement both in the world and community, but unless the pastoral task is focused on care and development of the body of Christ, it will become impoverished and itself ineffective in ministry. Gordon-Taylor puts the church's task as ministering "to the community by reaching out to it as it actually is, rather than passively expecting a sudden active Christian commitment from people before anything else can be done. Being with people, where they are making the Incarnation known in the community" is surely true pastoral ministry.


Conclusion
For me the ordained Non-stipendiary Minister’s task in an age of uncertainty is to truly underpin the life, ministry and care of the whole people of God. This work has to be truly incarnational in essence, participatory in nature and holistic in expression. Whilst individually focused, the pastoral task has to project the all-embracing representation of Christ, with, through and by the whole people of God and as such is in, through and beyond any human institutional limitation.

`The presbyter ‘ says Richard Barrett, … `is both engaged and disengaged from life, an inhabiter of the margins, a dweller of the verges the mass experience, at least in the mind of many of those she/he meets; yet perhaps because of that very dislocation is able to see the whole…. wandering her/himself, she/he is used to discerning signs in the topography of the lives of those who either frequently or momentarily find themselves before her/him, seeking direction.’

I wonder how other formers now view their ordination beyond a defined commission?

Bibliography
• General Synod Board of Education, All Are Called, CIO Publishing, London 1985,
• Lesley Newbiggen, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, SPCK London 1994
• Norman Wallwork, the gift of ordination - Epworth Review, Vol. 8 No. 3 September 1991
• Wilhelm Herrmann, The Communion of the Christian with God described on the basis of Luther's Statements, SCM London 1971
• Robin Creenwood, Transforming Priesthood - A Mew theology of Mission and Ministry, SPCK London 1994
• Michael Harper, Let my People Go, Hodder & Soughton London, 1977
• General Synod Board of Education, All Are Called, CIO Publishing, London 1985
• Paul Johnson, Pastoral Ministrations, James Nesbit and Co.
• Anglican - Methodist Unity - The Scheme, SPCK London and Epworth Press 1968
• Nathan Niles
• J Calvin, Institutes, Meinena Delft 1956, Book 1 Chapter III,1
• http://www.pres-outlook.com/mckelway_ficca.html
• Kenneth Howcroft, I'm in Charge!, Epworth Review Vol. 24, No. 3, July 1997
• Tony Rogers, The Pastoral Ministry of the Church - A Roman Catholic View, Epworth Review Vol.9, No. 1, January 1982
• http://www.elca.org/dm/candidacy/vision_ordained.html
• John Mantle, Britain’s first worker-priests, SCM Press Ltd, London, 2000
• Benjamin Gordon-Taylor Ed. George Guiver, Priests in a People's Church, SPCK London, 2001
• Richard Barrett, The Priest as Artist, New Blackfriars 1999,

Friday, September 19, 2008

What is the ordained minister's pastoral task in an age of uncertainty? (part one)

A Renewal of the Tent Maker Tradition

What is your image of an ordained minister? No doubt you picture someone employed full time by the church as a leader of a congregation, with pastoral and pulpit responsibilities. But was this always the case and is it the only mode of ordained ministry? As a former, I struggled for many years to redefine the seat of my ordination outside officership until I realised that ordination was far greater than the constraints of denominational constraints. Currently I am an ordained non-stipendiary minister within the British Methodist Church with pastoral care of three congregations as well as the Principal of an Independent Specialist College for young people with leaning difficulties. If you like, I am a minister of the tent maker variety.

Dual Vocation
Tent Maker ministry is a relatively renewed ‘order’ within the church, although the term itself comes from Paul's insistence on supporting himself whilst conducting his mission of proclaiming the gospel to the gentiles. The idea of a professional elder-ship, wholly supported by the church, took some time to become a regular feature of the emerging Christian community of the first century.

Although the subject of much discussion, I am concerned that this renewed mode of ministry is often seen as financial expediency rather rediscovering a particular mode of ministry. Whilst much of the official rhetoric gives ascent to non-stipendiary ministries as equal importance within the church, in reality it is often seen as second best by both ordained and lay members. An example of this surrounds my own circumstances where people have asked, "so you are going to be a part-time minister", or “ will you ever see yourself going on to be a proper minister?” I want to challenge the popular view that Non-stipendiary Ministers are only ordained for the time spent in 'church' work as this seems to point to a suspect theology of ordination and an impoverished view of the ministry for the whole people of God.

The use of the term secular work in respect of a Christian's day to day employment would seem to indicate that there are ‘no go areas’ in which the faith and ministry play a secondary role. Ruth Ethchells, former principal of St John's College Durham, described a true layperson as one 'whose centre is outside the Church, in the world'. If we further expand this idea to include the strongly held concept within the Methodist Church of the priesthood of all believers, there would appear to be ‘no place where pastoral ministry cannot be exercised’. Placing this concept within the context of non-stipendiary pastoral ministry exercised through day-to-day employment gives a renewed emphasis to ordination.

The Priesthood in Context of Presbyterial Ministry
The priesthood of all believers is the framework through which all ministries, whether lay or ordained, are exercised within the context of the church and its ministry in the world. Central to this ministry is making the gospel credible and thus enabling people to believe that 'the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross.' Newbiggen further advocates that the only hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it. If the location of this priesthood is considered to be the church in the world and that being the church, whether at work, play or worship, is its reason for existing, is it not also true that the presbyterate should be assessable, enabling and sustaining this work?

Central to ordination within Methodist Church is what the Statement on Ordination (1974) that calls the focal and representative nature of this ministry. Wallwork says that through ordination the ministry of the whole people of God is focused and represented. Whilst I go some way in agreement with this concept I do not feel that this belongs exclusively to the ordained ministry. After all the word minister, often translated as presbyter in the New Testament, has also been translated as huperetes meaning under-rower. Paul used this to describe himself in Romans 1:1 signifying that ministry is wider than leadership in the traditional sense.

The concept of the representative, focus and priesthood is often misunderstood when applied to ordained ministry. Depending upon a Christian's tradition, the image of the priestly office will differ greatly. Cranmer understood the word priest to have its root in the word presbyter and this word became interchangeable with ‘prester’, possible after John Prester, a legendary Christian King and priest of the Middle Ages. Through usage, the word Prester eventually became Priest. Michael Harper urges the need to drop the term priest and restore the presbyterate to its rightful scriptural position. The presbyter’s ordination does not in itself indicate a greater degree of holiness but through Christ's call given in a particular gift, further enables the whole church to exercise the common priesthood. Of this Patrick Rodgers argues, 'if it is Christ's ministry (royal, prophetic, priestly, serving) which is to be pursued in the world, it does not seem probable or in accordance with his own attitude towards 'lay' humanity, that a mere fraction of the membership of his body will do it justice.' He also questions '... if the clergy do not teach, do not pray, do not love and endure, do not recall Christ, what are they there for?'

Defining Pastoral Care
The Deed of Union of the Methodist Church uses words as such Steward, and Shepherd to describe the call, vocation, life and responsibility of the Presbyter. This is very much in line with Wesley's sermon based up Hebrew 13:17 where he speaks of "pastors... who guide and feed a part of the flock of Christ." The words steward and shepherd, deeply rooted in Jewish thought, also reveal something of the nature of a ministry of word and sacrament. This task is the care of souls , the conduct of worship and the oversight of church order . Wesley continues by considering the presbyter as having a dual role of both ‘under-rowing’ and oversight expressed in terms that the steward employs all that she/he has through ‘the poor, whom God has appointed to receive by looking upon ourselves as one of that number of the poor.’

For Paul Johnson, such pastoral care is "a religious ministry to individuals in dynamic relationships arising from insight into essential needs and mutual discovery of potentialities for spiritual growth." But how is this dynamic expressed through the presbyterial ministry? Ordination has been described as the setting apart of an individual for the task of eldership. However, the concept has led to a false understanding of the ordained being somehow, separated and removed from the people. If presbyterial pastoral care has a hallmark it is surely incarnational in essence and participatory in practice. The 1968 Anglican/Methodist unity report spoke of ordained ministry as " ...distinctive...a special form of participation. It is in this way that the priesthood of the presbyter should be understood... as both Christ's ambassadors and the representatives of the whole people of God."

Defining what is meant by the whole People of God is perhaps the most difficult aspect of this statement when considering what it means to be incarnational in terms of the ordained ministry. Nathan Niles suggests, "becoming incarnate in society is moving onto a group's "turf" - its social territory and living fully among people in a way that they can understand".

The Pastoral Task Beyond the Fold
Throughout Church history, many attempts have been made to identify and define the essence of human spirituality, the seat from which humankind can begin to realise the incarnate Word of God. Justin Martyr spoke of the logos spermatikos, the germinal logos, as that which potentially unites humankind to God. It gives the potential to realise the divine and that this same seed potential is found in all. Calvin described this as the “sensus divinitatis” (sense of divinity) found in the nature of everyone and Karl Barth speaks of "other lights" that might, unseen by us, appears in other religions. He was careful to say that all, irrespective of belief structure would necessarily reflect the "one great light" of Jesus Christ. In 1886 William Herrman suggested that 'the only God that can reveal Himself to us is one who shows himself to us in our moral struggle as the power to which our souls are really subject'.

Rev’d Paul Collings BTh
Former
Exeter UK

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Abe, are we Self-employed or Indentured Servants?

"Let me start by saying thank you for the opportunity to write. This will be a very technical posting. I have pulled information directly from the IRS.gov website. I will be responding intermittently throughout. My comments will be surrounded by asterisks *Hello*. This posting is specific to tax law in the U.S.A. but I welcome responses from others as well to get your opinions.

Obviously I am not a tax attorney, but I can read and I have a better than average IQ. I now ask you...As TSA officers in the United States were we truly self-employed?
From "http://www.irs.gov/faqs/faq12.html".

How do you determine if a person is an employee or an independent contractor?

The determination is complex, but is essentially made by examining the right to control how, when, and where the person performs services. It is not based on how the person is paid, how often the person is paid, or whether the person works part-time or full-time.There are three basic areas which determine employment status:

* behavioral control
* financial control and
* relationship of the parties

For more information on employer-employee relationships, refer to Chapter 2 of Publication 15, Circular E, Employer's Tax Guide and Chapter 2 of Publication 15-A (PDF), Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide. If you would like the IRS to determine whether services are performed as an employee or independent contractor, you may submit Form SS-8 (PDF), Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. *This form is very straightforward. At the beginning it gives you the ability to put into your own words why you are even trying to figure out whether you were self-employed or not. Then it has specific questions under each of the three topics listed above.*

Unless you think you were an employee, you should report your nonemployee compensation on Form 1040, Schedule C (PDF), Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship), or Form 1040, Schedule C-EZ (PDF), Net Profit From Business. You also need to complete Form 1040, Schedule SE (PDF), Self-Employment Tax, and pay self-employment tax on your net earnings from self-employment, if you had net earnings from self-employment of $400 or more. This is the method by which self-employed persons pay into the social security and Medicare trust funds. *Obviously as officers we were directed and instructed to report our earnings as self-employed on our annual tax returns and pay the quasi-quarterly estimated tax advance payments mentioned in the next paragraph.*

Generally, there are no tax withholding on this income. Thus, you may have been subject to the requirement to make quarterly estimated tax payments. If you did not make timely estimated tax payments, you may be assessed a penalty for an underpayment of estimated tax. Employees pay into the social security and Medicare trust funds, as well as income tax withholding, through payroll deductions.

*The Salvation Army provided the quarterly tax payments and we were expected to pay them immediately and were told that we would be terminated (even the use of that term intones employer/employee relationship) immediately if proof was found that we had not used the money for its intended purpose, a la embezzlement. My wife and I paid most of our tax payments, but actually got behind because our life was falling apart (details in the future) and used it to keep our family glued. It DID work and my wife and kids are doing well, but we now owe taxes to the government. We owe enough that we actually were scared...of the IRS and The SA. We brought it to our DC's attention thinking there would be some kind of help because of our special circumstances (we weren't binging on food or toys or anything). He said he would check and get back to us. We also specifically asked if my wife could work at a part time job just to pay off the debt. We were emphatically denied. We were trying to do the responsible thing by working off our own debt. Instead they kept us in debt... indentured servitude ...another indication that we were not in control of our employment as 'self-employed contractors'.*

If you are not sure whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, complete Form SS-8 (PDF), Determination of Employee Work Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. For more information on employer-employee relationships, refer to Chapter 2 of Publication 15, Circular E, Employer's Tax Guide, and Chapter 2 of Publication 15-A (PDF), Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide, and Publication 1779 (PDF), Employee Independent Contractor Brochure. For information on the tax responsibilities of self-employed persons, refer to Chapter 2 of Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.

*I believe that if enough officers and former officers signed a petition with a description of their officership and filled out form SS-8 the law would immediately change, no matter how many tax lawyers The SA has on retainer.

Here are the facts as I see them: officers cannot negotiate where they work; they cannot negotiate how much they are paid; and they cannot negotiate how much they work. Those three items seem to take care of the three conditions listed above.

Now it's your turn. Tell us your stories about tax payments and whether you believe (according to the definition) that you were actually self-employed or an employee.*

References:

* Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax
* Tax Topic 762, Independent Contractor vs. Employee
* Tax Topic 407, Business Income
* Tax Topic 355, Estimated Tax
www.irs.gov
Source: www.irs.gov

Former Officer
USA

Thursday, September 11, 2008

MY 9/11 (shared with my 120 university students today; Course: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS)

I am putting aside the grading of the assignments due today for a few moments to reflect on 9/11. It's a date that will regrettably have to live in infamy... There are singular events in the life of each person that remain as clear as the hour it occurred. No doubt each of us can recall exactly where we were when we first learned of 9-11, and our immediate reaction.

Perhaps your 9-11 week, seven years ago today, began as mine did, watching TV and seeing the Twin Towers cascade into rubble? Frankly, I doubt that anyone could have missed it.

Last fall every TV network and cable channel massed their crews at Ground Zero again, this time to broadcast yet another memorial tribute. To me it seemed more a cause for celebration! Celebration might seem a strange word for me to use, however, that is how I viewed that event. It was a celebration of a nation resolute in an unfailing commitment to freedom. More importantly though, it was a celebration of life. It was a celebration to honor the thousands of innocent persons who perished in New York City, in Washington, D.C. and in a pasture in rural Pennsylvania. And, we also celebrated the police and firemen, and others who so valiantly risked and lost their lives in their attempts to rescue fellow Americans and those of other nationalities.

I was in my in-law's apartment in Moscow, Russia, where we were enjoying our vacation. I was up early that morning and went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and switched on the television. My Russian language skills are rather poor, but what I witnessed didn't need an English narrative; the US was under attack! I immediately woke the family to watch with me and to translate the newscast more accurately. Following the newscast we all sat in silent stunned disbelief...

My wife and I were due to return home to the USA, via JFK Airport in New York, the next day. We immediately took the subway into central Moscow and went to the USA Embassy, as all Americans were instructed to do via an Internet message (there is a special website to which Americans can turn when traveling abroad to receive instructions in the event a national emergency).
Hundreds of Moscow policemen surrounded the Embassy, ordered there to control the large Russian crowd that had gathered. Thousands of Muscovites congregated outside the embassy bringing flowers, wreaths and lighting candles, which they placed solemnly as a tribute to America’s loss, along the entire perimeter of that immense building.

Our return home to the States was delayed by several days due the closing of all USA and Canadian airports. We passed the time with other ex-patriots in Moscow watching CNN and the BBC at the Embassy or restaurants catering to foreigners. On the 17th of September we were finally on the 10-hour flight home. As the aircraft circled New York on its approach to land at JFK it passed over the southern tip of Manhattan. And yes, every passenger on the aircraft strained to look out the small windows to see what was below us at 5,500 feet. And there we saw, where once had stood the majestic Twin Towers, the smoldering remnants of twisted steel. The tears flowed freely inside the cabin; the spirit of people from many nations coming together as one. There were many persons from the Middle East and they too wept openly.

Following an unusually lengthy inspection of luggage and passport control on arrival at JFK, due the heightened security, we made our way to the long-term parking lot to locate our car to begin the drive north to our Connecticut home. As a reminder where I had parked our car in that vast parking lot I had written down the car's location on the parking ticket. Yet, I had real trouble locating the car because strangely, all the cars looked very similar, all were the same color, a darkish gray. I then realized that the cars were not really gray at all, but were instead all covered with the soot that the wind had carried from the carnage in Manhattan. I located our car, brushed off the windshield and we set off with much of the dust being wind-swept from the car as we drove through Queens, the Bronx and north into Connecticut. Not much was said during that three-hour journey... On arrival at home, and as we exited the car, I noticed that the car was still very dirty.

It was several days later that my wife suggested to me that it really "was time" for me to get the car washed. I usually take the car down the road to have that done. This time though I felt that somehow it would be wrong, improper, to have high pressure water combined with cheap soaps and waxes, assisted by mechanical brushes to clean my car of soot. The fact is, of course, that it wasn't really just ordinary soot…

What remained on the car was the combined effect of a great many things that had been carried airborne from Manhattan to the parking lot at JFK. The soot consisted of sheet rock dust from offices housed in the Twin Towers, papers on which were written inter-office memos, love notes not yet mailed, childrens' cartoons to a parent employed on the 4th or 90th floor, anniversary presents and flowers to be carried home at the end of day, bank notes, Bibles, the Koran and other religious texts, photos of loved ones that adorned desks and bulletin boards, and much more. Not least though, on my car, were also the ashes of those who perished. I sensed that I had to somehow honor their memory; to celebrate their lives! I did so by hand washing the car... slowly, with reverence...

I have never been much of a gardener, but each spring, since the 9-11 tragedy, when our flowers begin to bud and bloom in our Connecticut garden, I am convinced that I am observing an extraordinary celebration of life... the flowers seem to bloom in particular abundance and beauty in the spot where my tears and waters from a garden hose brought to rest the dust from the Towers.

I do not expect you to respond, however, you are free to do so. I simply wanted to share how this immigrant son, arriving in this great country at age 10, experienced 9-11 and the days that followed. By the way, in mid-March, buds begin to sprout in my garden where no bulbs were ever planted or seeds ever sown... perhaps it's a reminder that, for those who perish there is the hope of an eternal, ever-lasting life. Celebrate Life!


Sven Ljungholm PhD
Faculty
Ljungholms@CCSU.EDU
(860) 529-0863
EDT, USA