Wednesday, August 24, 2016

As we begin with the mission study themes for this coming year, we must explore their complexity and our roles and connections to them.  Consider God’s creation as a great banquet table filled with people from our churches, communities, family and world.  Who sits with us?  Who doesn’t?  What are the challenges we face as we meet and welcome others?  Who's backs are against the wall? We will approach these questions and more with exploration, discernment and prayer giving us hope and direction.

The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift
 By Ellen A. Brubaker
 Leader’s Guide By M. Garlinda Burton
Janice Nightingale-Study Leader

The 2016 Spiritual Growth study invites us to explore the complexity of the biblical text and our varied understandings of it in light of human sexuality. We will also examine the influence of theologians and church leaders throughout thousands of years of JudeoChristian history. Finally, we will consider the influence of family systems, heritage, and changing gender roles, along with the impact of race, class, age, ethnicity, and orientation and how each of us was reared and instructed in our Christian faith. Talking about Sexuality and the Church Whether you agree or disagree with the official stances of The United Methodist Church, it is important to be conversant about them. It is important to be aware of your own beliefs, feelings, biases, and understandings because this self-awareness leads to conversation and understanding. Sexuality is not an easy topic for most of us. Many Christians have confusing and complicated notions of human sexuality, the Bible, our personal beliefs, and what the church should and should not teach and require. It is Good The good news, says Ellen Brubaker, is that human sexuality “is part of who we are as human beings, created by God and called good.” Sexuality, at its best, is a divine gift meant to enhance and strengthen relationships and draw us closer to our partner, she explains. And there are many citations in the Bible that point to the good gift of sexuality, explicitly and implicitly, beginning with the creation stories in Genesis. Finding a Loving Response The world is watching and waiting for a relevant, compelling, loving, challenging, and cogent word from the Body of Christ. Our silence or simplistic “thou shalt nots” are no longer adequate for the people in our care—for those who claim church membership and those who need and seek spiritual community. We are sexual beings. God made us that way. Sexuality can be celebrated and it can be exploited; it can draw us closer to the one we love, or it can divide whole communities of faith. Yet, we are called to be the Beloved Community of healing, wholeness, reconciliation, and love. How we help one another make sense of the beauty and complexity of sexuality is the purpose of this study. Open your minds and hearts, and let’s wrestle together. Adapted from the Leaders Guide by M. Garlinda Burton 
Climate Justice: Call to Hope and Action
 Edited by Pat Watkins
 Leader’s Guide By Anna Rhee 
Debra Gerrish-Study Leader
Climate Justice: Call to Hope and Action will deepen your understanding and awareness of climate change and its impact on God’s creation. The study highlights justice, peace, and integrity of creation as important dimensions of partnering in God’s mission today. It offers participants biblical, theological, and ethical insights as the basis of their advocacy on climate justice in churches and in the public sphere. Deepen Understanding Learn not only about climate change, but also about the justice concerns raised by the drivers of climate change and the communities affected by it. Participants in this study will also learn how their own actions contribute to climate change and what they can do to positively affect the environment. Equipped with this information, they will be able to share their knowledge, be intentional about living a sustainable lifestyle, and learn how to support those who suffer because of climate change. Diverse Perspectives Each chapter gives a different perspective of climate justice through the eyes of eight diverse authors. Participants will study:

  • the ways God has asked us to care for the earth; 
  • the perspectives of those who are currently affected by the realities of climate change;
  • the meaning of climate justice and the perspective and priorities it requires; and
  • the rich resources available in the life of the Church and beyond to address these concerns.

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