Big Announcement, Part 2: Moving Out West

New Appointment in the #UMC

Hello HackingChristianity community,

Sorry to be so quiet these past two weeks, and for getting off-schedule of our Lenten Book Study. Thanks for your messages and wonderings of “where are you?” during this time.

But I have a good reason…As you know, I am currently serving a church in my home state of Oklahoma. It’s the best church in the conference with the friendliest people and the greatest youth group in the state. And I’m not biased at all!

Here’s my second part of my big news: It was announced this past week that I will be taking a new appointment come July 1st.

I will be appointed to First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon.

That’s right, Oregon.

For the Methodist nerds out there, I’m leaving my South Central roots in Oklahoma for the Western Jurisdiction. You know…the part of Methodism where churches are shrinking, where their entire jurisdiction has as many delegates (and thus Methodist population) to General Conference as Virginia or North Georgia, and where heathen theology comes from the likes of Claremont seminary?

Why would I leave the world of suburban prosperity and big megachurches and friendly rural churches and Methodist powerhouses for…this?

There’s some personal reasons for sure–My spouse and I are expecting our first child and want to be closer to her side of the family. But for my blog readers who know how my mind works and where my passion is, there’s another reason that I’m excited about this move.

In her article on the Pacific Northwest, Christian Century contributor Amy Frykholm called the Northwest the “None Zone”:

 25 percent of Northwesterners claimed to have no religious identity—compared to a national figure of 14 percent.

By checking “none” on a survey, however, Northwesterners are not necessarily signaling a lack of interest in religion or religious activities. They are indicating, says Patricia Killen, a historian and dean of Pacific Lutheran University, that they do not think “religious identity is connected to a historic religious institution or faith.” In other words, Northwesterners are in the process of redefining what it means to be religious.

From 1648 to 1970, we had essentially one idea of what it means to be religious in the Western world,” said Killen. “To be religious was to be engaged with a religious institution. Now, and especially in the Pacific Northwest, people are seeking different, more individualistic and more fluid ways of being religious.”

In short, if you want a glimpse at what the whole church and culture may look like in 20 years, then this part of the world is where to go.  The biggest challenges for this part of the world are (a) relating Jesus to an increasingly secular context and (b) encouraging affiliation with the historic institutions like the United Methodist Church as the denomination addresses issues of peace and justice that are beyond the means of local congregations.

As regular readers of this blog know, both of these challenges are topics I’ve addressed on this blog for years. I feel called to serve this part of the church, as I’m most interested in the edgy initiatives, the upside-down approaches, the theologies that resonate with the next generation of followers of Christ. They are doing some wicked creative stuff out in the Northwest that aren’t showing up on the Church Metrics yet…and I’m excited to go and be a part of it.

To my Oklahoma friends, this is not a criticism of our culture. I love my state and it is heartbreaking to leave it. What it means is that when this “none” culture reaches Oklahoma (probably the last state standing), by the grace of God, my affinity groups and colleagues will have figured out the context a little bit better…and my Okie friends will be better off having journeyed with me through that process on the blog and on the digital world. The Body of Christ is a worldwide body, and when one part gets stronger, the whole Body gets stronger. So I’m still serving the Oklahoma conference but in a different capacity.

As far as the church goes, my new role is to be a Minister of Discipleship, which is an Associate Minister position. From that position, I’ll be focusing on discipleship and outreach activities, and helping to plant a new worship service for the congregation. All exciting stuff. The church already shares a lot of my values of progressive theology and social outreach and is looking to get guided to the next level. It will be excellent to be sharing in that journey

So prayers are appreciated for my endurance to finish the race well in my current church, and prayers are appreciated for our transition in the middle of June as well. Thanks.

LINK: Bishop’s Letter at FUMC Portland

(Photo: Sanctuary at First UMC, Portland, OR)
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Comments

  1. says

    Jeremy, we will gladly welcome you over here in the West. I moved up to Alaska from Indiana, for a four-year commitment, 15 years ago and I’ve been the only ordained clergy person in a mountain town for 12 years. This is not the type of ministry I thought I’d be involved in when I was first ordained as it’s broken a lot of the traditional molds…much more service-oriented, more missional, more community involvement, much more ecumenical (most folks who attend aren’t UMC), and less authority for the traditional pastoral role than I experienced in the midwest.

    Blessings on your journey and your expanding family. I look forward to following what you do down in Portland. The West is truly an exciting place to be in ministry.

  2. says

    That’s cool. Now, we have another thing in common Jeremy, besides the geeky Star Wars Avatars. My parents live in Newberg, just south of there, and attend the UMC there. Maybe a meet up when I’m out there next, whenever that happens. Blessings.

  3. Kirk says

    Jim, you’re from Indiana? Small world. I was born and raised in Ft. Wayne before going west to Iliff then east to DC

    • says

      Kirk — Ordained in (North) Indiana conference. Served three years there. Been in Alaska for 15, 12 at present church. Used to go to Ft. Wayne for basketball regionals in High School (I watched, didn’t play).

  4. Clay Andrew says

    Jeremy,

    Welcome to the Northwest!

    Having come to Oregon from the South Central Jurisdiction myself (North Texas, specifically), I can say that you’re in for a treat. It is great up here (out here? over here?) and you’ll love it.

    A few bits of unsolicited advice/input:

    1) It’s true about the rain. And you do sort of get used to it. It helps to focus on the greenery (lots of green all year round) instead of up at the gray sky. And on those occasional sunny days – oh sweet goodness is it beautiful in a spectacular way.

    2) Portland, as you may already know, is an awesome city. And it’s even more blessedly weird than they say.

    3) No matter what anyone tells you, there are not great barbeque places up here, at least not like what you’re used to. People may want to give take you to ‘great’ barbeque restaurant. Go. Eat the barbeque and tell them that’s it’s really quite nice. It is usually decent. But the native Oregonians will never get that barbeque here can never be the same as barbeque in the south. (Also, they’ll try to apply the word ‘barbeque’ to smoked salmon. Do not let them.)

    4) We’re going to be neighbors, so if you need good barbeque or get an urge for Tex-Mex (the Mexican food here is good, but different), we can make arrangements.

    5) Last but not least – thanks for not coming to save the Poor Wayward Church of the Northwest. You’d be surprised at how often I hear folks who suggest that they might come to Oregon to bail us out of our trouble, like they’re the last missing ingredient for a Third Great Awakening.

    Looking forward to welcoming you in person. Blessings on your good-byes and your packing.

    Clay Andrew
    Hillsboro, OR UMC

  5. says

    Hi Jeremy,

    We are looking forward to meeting you at Portland’s First Church. And regardless of what anyone says, there are lots of fine BBQ joints here. As a transplant from Texas myself, I am always on a quest to find the best (and lots of folks at the church have joined me on various occasions!)

    It does take a little adjustment to realize sometimes BBQ includes vegetarian options though.

    So when July gets here, I’ll make sure and take you to some of our favorites!

    thanks
    —>PAul

    • says

      Idk actually. I think I’m on loan for two years, and then if I “prove myself” then I can transfer.

      Will be glad to have you out here! Jurisdictional gatherings will be all kinds of awesome.

  6. says

    Let me add my welcome to Oregon-Idaho! I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time (but somehow missed this announcement and didn’t make the connection when I saw Donna before Easter!). I’m serving Coos Bay, which is on the south Oregon coast. Clay’s assesment is correct! I’ll only add that when it is sunny GO OUTSIDE! Modern technology helps with this, but I cannot emphasize enough, when it is sunny, drop everything and go outside.

    We have a big parsonage (with lots of toys, since we have a toddler) so if you ever want a coastal break, give a jingle!

    Will you be at Annual Conference?

    Again, welcome and traveling/moving mercies,

    Laura Beville

    • says

      Hello Laura! I’m hoping to be at Clergy Session…we move in the day before AC, so lots of packing during that week! If so, I hope to see you. Blessings.

  7. Paul Cho says

    Jeremy,
    Welcome to the western jurisdiction and congrats!
    I look forward to hearing/reading about your ministry up north.
    Your Claremont colleague is rooting for you.

  8. Dana says

    Jeremy there is a very long B U tradition at that church. When I preached there about a year ago, they played the old STH hymn as sermon lead in. . . “give tongues of fire to preach thy word.” The family that endowed my chair attends that church. It seems a wonderful place to be. You’ll love it, and you’ll be continuing the STH tradition. Get in touch with our wonderful alums Todd and Laura Bartlett.

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