Dear St. Luke’s family,
Many of you have seen the news reports about the called session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church to deal with issues around same-sex marriage and ordination. The conference, which concluded Tuesday evening, passed an amended version of the plan called “The Traditional Plan,” which continues the current United Methodist position that same-sex weddings cannot be officiated by our clergy or in our churches, and self-avowed practicing LGBT men and women may not be ordained. This was passed by a margin of 53% – 47%. The passage of this plan changes nothing substantively for individual local churches. It does add increased accountability for bishops and boards of ministry in enforcing this covenant, although many of the components to increase that accountability already have been ruled in violation of the United Methodist constitution, so may not be enforceable going forward.
I have heard from many of you how painful this was to hear. Folks in our church family have shared how they feel rejected by a church they love because of their sexual identity. Many of you have friends and family members who feel judged and are turning away from the church because of the message, and you are hurting along with them. Others of you agree with the Biblical interpretation on which this decision was based but feel compassion for those who are hurting. There’s been lots of pain and tears.
There are two things it is important to communicate here. These are the same things I have tried to emphasize over the last few weeks.
First, I want you to know that St. Luke’s is a church for all of God’s children. All of us are created in God’s image. All of us stand in need of God’s grace. All of us are called to be a part of God’s work in the world. St. Luke’s will love and serve everyone, and we will include everyone in the full life of this congregation. This means all people, regardless of their sexual identity, their politics or ideology, or any other of the classifications the world likes to put on people. If you are LGBT, we not only welcome you in any of our ministries, but we will love you and embrace you as a full and equal part of us, and work with you to grow God’s kingdom. While we are a covenant-keeping church – we are a part of a larger denomination and we will keep our covenant to refrain from same-sex weddings – we will continue to study together, worship together, and serve the world together. Moreover, we have Bible-believing, Jesus-following, loving people who are honestly seeking God’s will and who have reached different conclusions about the Biblical message on this specific issue. We have differing understandings even among our clergy, each with our own nuanced views. But at St. Luke’s, we strive to respect one another’s viewpoints and learn from one another, choosing to believe the best about the motivations that have led us to our positions. We live in a world that is quick to demonize those who disagree. In a culture which is deeply polarized, our witness to the world is that we can disagree about some things and still love one another and work together.
Second, we will continue to focus on our common vision, “a city transformed by the love of Jesus,” and our mission, “to equip families and individuals to live and love like Jesus.” I have used the image of St. Luke’s as the International Red Cross. In the midst of the world’s cultural battleground, our charge is to bring the healing and saving love of Jesus to everyone, and to invite them to follow him. While we do care about the larger United Methodist Church, our primary focus is on who St. Luke’s is called to be, and we are clear on that. We will continue to keep the main thing the main thing.
I know you will join me in prayers for the larger United Methodist Church, but most of all with prayers of both gratitude and intercession for our beloved church.
The Called Session of General Conference of the United Methodist Church
A special called session of the General Conference of the United Methodist denomination will be meeting in St. Louis from Saturday, February 23 – Tuesday, February 26. The purpose of the session is to make decisions regarding whether United Methodist churches or clergy are permitted to hold or officiate at same-sex weddings, and whether Annual Conferences can ordain self-avowed, practicing homosexual men and women. Ordinarily, the General Conference of the church meets every four years, with lay and clergy delegates from Annual Conferences around the world. In the regular session of the General Conference in 2016, a special commission (The Commission on the Way Forward) was appointed by the Council of Bishops to bring recommendations to this coming called session. The Texas Annual Conference elected nine lay and nine clergy delegates to the General Conference at our annual session in 2015. None of them are members or clergy of St. Luke’s.
At this General Conference, three plans will be presented, and one or none of them may be adopted, or there may be some amended plan adopted. If none are adopted, then the position of the United Methodist Church will remain as it is now – United Methodist churches or clergy cannot hold or officiate at same-sex weddings, and self-avowed, practicing homosexual men or women may not be ordained. However, enforcement of these policies has been left to different jurisdictions and different annual conferences, and this has created concern about accountability and covenant. If you would like more information on these plans, or if you would like to follow what is happening at the session of General Conference, you can find that information at https://www.txcumc.org/GC2019. The sessions will be livestreamed through www.UMC.org.
As Senior Pastor at St. Luke’s, I want to emphasize three things:
- We don’t know what will happen, but whatever happens, we will work through it in a healthy way. Some have asked me why I haven’t been preparing the congregation for something ahead. I really don’t know what to prepare us for, and it may well be that there is no change. My intention has been to keep anxiety low, because I know we can deal with whatever comes with grace and love. When the General Conference is over, we will get up the next morning and do the same things we have always done – we will pray and worship, study the Bible, make friends, tell our stories, and give ourselves away in generosity and service (our five Inside-Out Habits.)
- Luke’s always has been, and will remain, a church with committed, Jesus-following believers across the theological spectrum, with diverse views on a wide variety of social issues. We have always been willing to work and worship with people who disagree with us on various questions, holding fast to the essential issue – God is saving the whole world through the grace of Jesus Christ, received by faith, and put to work in love. On issues of human sexuality and many other issues of Biblical interpretation, we have pastors and leaders with differing views, each with his or her nuanced convictions. Our bishop has called us to “convicted humility,” in which we express our understanding and convictions, with the humility of knowing we may be wrong. Most importantly, we are all committed to welcome all people gladly, and we will love all people with both heart and hand. I have adopted an image that has been helpful for me to understand where we stand: someone asked me “so are you like Switzerland – just neutral?” My response is that we are not like Switzerland – Switzerland just wanted to stay out of the war. Instead, we are like the International Red Cross. We live in an increasingly polarized time, and our calling is to be right in the middle of the cultural battle that rages in the world around us, rescuing, caring for, and loving all, regardless of how they feel about this and many other things. “And when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
- We will continue to keep the main thing the main thing. Last week, we launched our new vision statement, common to every ministry center in St. Luke’s Family of Ministries – St. Luke’s Church, The Story Houston, The Gethsemane Mission, Nick Finnegan Counseling Center, St. Luke’s Day School, After School and Summer Camps, and Bridges Academy – we all are working to bring about “A city transformed by the love of Jesus.” Each of these ministry centers has its own mission statement, its particular mission to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to bring about this vision. This vision is our north star, and it will be the focus of our conversation and work in the days, weeks, and years ahead. We will always concentrate on making a difference, rather than simply making a point.
In the worship services February 17 and 24, we will pray for the session of General Conference, that God’s will, not our own, will be accomplished. I ask you to join me and pray personally to that same end. And then we will trust God with the result.
St. Luke’s Family Reunion | Church Conference Recap
January 27, 2019
St. Luke’s Family Reunion | Church Conference Recap
January 28, 2018
St. Luke’s New Church App – Our Member Toolbox
Want to pay bills, shop, get social, check scores and even do Bible study? Yup -there’s an app for that. And now St. Luke’s has an app!
See it as your member tool box; easy buttons that can get you what you want to access fast. Easy. Fast. Shareable. Get in the know, real time.
Search St Lukes UMC Houston in the app store to download.
Remember— the cool thing about an app is that it’s not just real time information and media at your fingertips (which is pretty cool on its own) but even more, it’s all about sharing with a friend, taking notes, adding events to your calendar, or even hearing from us once in a while through push notifications. Stop by every Sunday in February—no appointment needed!
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The Life of Jesus in Israel – A Holy Land Tour
Led By Dr. James Fleming and Hannaniah Pinto and Hosted by Dr. Linda Christians, St. Luke’s UMC
October 10- Oct. 21, 2018 | $ 5500.00 per person | Round trip from Houston
Explore the settings of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospels as Jim Fleming and Hannaniah Pinto weave the context of Scripture through history, geography, archaeology and theology. Discover the time, places, customs and physical settings into which Jesus was born. Follow Jesus as His ministry unfolded around the Sea of Galilee and as He turned His face toward Jerusalem.
Israel: October 10- Oct. 21, 2018 | Jordan Extension: Oct. 9 – 12, 2018
Oct. 10, Wednesday – Depart Houston
Oct. 11, Thursday – Arrive in Tel Aviv.
Jesus’ Early Ministry
After leaving airport, we will stop for lunch. On our way to the Sea of Galilee we will visit Nazareth and the Church of Annunciation. View Tel Cana and discuss Jesus’ early ministry. Dinner and Overnight in Ein Gev Kibbutz B/D
Oct. 12, Friday – Megiddo and Caesarea Maritima
Visit Megiddo, a major Old Testament city, to walk the water tunnel and a New Testament city, Caesarea Maritime, the capital port from where St. Paul departed on his missionary journeys. We will visit the theater, stadium, Cardo road, harbor and the Crusader Castle. Dinner and Overnight in Ein Gev Kibbutz B/D
Oct. 13, Saturday – Jesus’ Ministry Around the Sea of Galilee
Visit Capernaum (synagogue and the Octagonal Church). In Tabgha, visit the Church of the Multiplication, the traditional location for the feeding of the 5000. Visit the ruins of Chorazin. You will stand on the Mt. of Beatitudes where Jesus’ delivered his Sermon on the Mount. A St. Peter’s fish lunch will be provided followed by a relaxing boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Dinner/Overnight Ein Gev Kibbutz B/L/D
Oct. 14, Sunday – Jesus’ withdrawal from Galilee
Drive to the Golan Heights to view Gamla, a Zealot stronghold. View the border between Israel and Syria to talk about the road to Damascus and St. Paul. Visit Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Optional Gamla hike to visit the synagogue. Dinner/Overnight Ein Gev Kibbutz B/D
Oct. 15, Monday- Romans, Tax Collectors and Zealots
Stop at the Jordan River, near Jericho, to remember Jesus’ baptism by John. Visit the ruins at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Walk Ein Gedi waterfall then drive south to Masada (Jewish stronghold against the Romans). Optional hike to upper waterfall. Dinner/Overnight David Resort at Dead Sea B/D
Oct. 16, Tuesday – Matriarchs and Patriarchs
Drive to Negev Desert to visit Tel Arad and Tel Beersheba, descend the water channel. Continue to the hotel on the shore of the Dead Sea for a swim (float 33 percent salt). Dinner/Overnight David Resort in Dead Sea B/D
Oct. 17, Wednesday – Jesus’ Birth Place and Nativity Stories
Tour Bethlehem Basilica of the Nativity. Enjoy shopping in local shops for olive wood carvings and other treasures from local Christian artisans. Optional hike to the top of the Herodion, the palace built by King Herod the Great for his burial place. Dinner/Overnight Mamilla in Jerusalem. B/D
Oct. 18, Thursday- Jerusalem Temple and Palm Sunday
View the mosques: Al Aksa and the Dome of the Rock. Visit Bethesda Pools and St. Anne’s Crusader Church. You’ll walk along the Via Dolorosa, visiting Antonia Fortress, Stations of the Cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Stand on Mt. of Olives and view the Old City. Walk the Palm Sunday route, visiting the Church of Dominus Flevit (our Lord Wept). Visit the Garden of Gethsemane’s “Church of All Nations”, remembering Jesus praying in the garden. Receive communion in the Garden Tomb. Optional hike back to hotel via Kidron Valley. Dinner/Overnight Mamilla in Jerusalem B/D
Oct. 19, Friday – Museums in Jerusalem
Visit the Israel Museum, the Shrine of the Book (home of the Dead Sea Scrolls), the Holy Land Model of Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum and the Menorah at the Knesset building. Go to the Western Wall (Kotel), for prayer [bring your written prayers to insert in wall] and the southern wall excavations. Dinner/Overnight Mamilla in Jerusalem B/D
Oct. 20, Saturday – Jewish Inquiries and the Last Supper
Visit the Old City of Jerusalem, starting in the Jewish Quarter, the synagogues and the Cardo. Visit Peter at Gallicantu (believed to be the house of Caiaphas), Zion Gate, Church of the Dormition, and the traditional Upper Room. Dinner/Overnight Mamilla in Jerusalem B/D
Oct. 21, Sunday- Depart Tel Aviv
Included in Price
- Round trip airfare from Houston to Tel Aviv
- Accommodations for 10 nights in selected superior 4-star hotels with modern comforts
- 4 optional hiking opportunities
- Breakfasts, dinners and one lunch on Oct. 13
- Tour bus for all transfers to/from airport for all visits in the itinerary
- All entrance fees to sites on itinerary
- All tips to hotels, drivers, porterage
Not Included in Price
- Any items of a personal nature, such as laundry, drinks or coffee with/after meals
- Travel insurance (recommended)
- 3-night Jordan extension
- Israel single supplement: $1700
- Jordan single supplement: $250
Tour Conditions & Payment Schedule
- Deposit of US $500 per person due with registration form completed and mailed to Linda Christians (address below).
- Cancellation: All cancellations for any reason and at any time must be received in writing and will be subject to a $100/person administration fee.
- Cancellations between 66 – 90 days of departure will be subject to additional loss of some non-recoverable sums from independent providers of land and air services.
- No refunds available within 65 days of departure. Full refund will be issued if Biblical Resources withdraws the offer of the program. Air tickets once issued are non-refundable. However, they may be used within a year of the travel date in accordance with airline’s policy.
- Rates are based on a minimum of 20 participants. Prices quoted are in US Dollars and are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect as of July 2017.
- These rates are subject to change without notice until tickets are issued.
- Program cost based on group rate. We cannot use frequent flyer miles or upgrade individual tickets. Program is reduced by $950 per person if you are arranging your own flights. Please note: we must be notified immediately if you are making your own flight arrangements.
About the Tour Leaders
Dr. James Fleming, is a lecturer, director of Biblical Resources, LLC and the CEO of Biblical History Center, a museum of daily life in biblical times, located in LaGrange, GA. He has lived and worked as an archaeologist and educator in Israel since 1974 and has taught classes in the School for Overseas Students at Hebrew University and the Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. He has developed courses in historical geography and biblical history, uniquely tying the studies with biblical text, with an emphasis on theological implications. He is the author of several dozen notebooks and teaching materials that are an excellent help to pastors and leaders. He obtained his Ed.D. degree from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX.
Hannaniah (Oliver) Pinto lived in Jerusalem, Israel from 1983 – 2004. He is a licensed Israeli tour guide fluent in four languages. currently directs study programs at Biblical Resources, and co-leads tours to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. He is also the Chief Program Officer at Biblical History Center, a museum featuring the daily life in biblical times, headquartered in LaGrange, GA. Hannaniah’s teaching is focused on archaeology and the Jewish background of the Bible.He helps groups understand the remains of biblical towns, connecting them to stories in the Bible in a new and exciting way.His published book, Jesus’ Last Night with His Disciples, a Study of the First Century Historical and Archaeological Setting of the Last Supper, provides insight into journeys to Israel.
Dr. Linda Christians feels blessed to be able to combine her spiritual journey with her leadership role as Executive Pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Linda came into ministry following a nursing career. She received her call to ministry during a Footsteps of Jesus study tour in the Holy Land in 1997 and feels her faith being strengthened with each successive journey. Linda graduated from Perkins School of Theology with a Master of Divinity degree in 2002, and received her Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2010. Linda and her husband, Doug, have two grown children, Zach and Emily.
For reservations or information contact:
Dr. Linda Christians
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
Houston, TX 77027
Thoughts about Charlottesville
by Dr. Tom Pace
August 20, 2017
I was wrong.
Last Saturday, when the white supremacists marched at Charlottesville, I thought the best response was to ignore them. I urged us all to pray, but also sought to deprive them of the attention they are craving. I refused to let a bunch of haters and a murderer set the agenda for my heart or my church. They are a fringe group, I thought, way out on the edge, and their brand of overt racism is not the real issue in our culture. I still think that part is true. But I have come to believe that their kind of hate is like the little creatures in whack-a-mole. It keeps popping up, and it is up to the whole community to whack it right back down as soon as it pops up. Of course they have the right to speak and say what they want to say. And those of us in the rest of the world have the right to shout them down. And I am so grateful that, pretty much universally across the spectrum of theology and ideology, the world has said “no!”
When extremist murderers attacked innocent people in the name of the Islamic faith, I asked my Muslim friends why some of their own leaders remained silent. They responded just like I did on Saturday: “Those people aren’t us. They don’t represent us. That isn’t is Islam. They aren’t really Muslims; they are terrorist fanatics.” “Yes,” I responded, “but the rest of us need to be reminded of that by you.” And so many Muslim leaders do remind us of that every time it happens. Similarly, those who are targets of white supremacist racism need to be reminded that those people marching with torches don’t represent us, and that what they do is anathema to everything we believe. We shouldn’t have to say it, but it is nonetheless necessary. So, late to the game, I add my voice to the overwhelming chorus. The world has spoken. You are both wrong and destructive to the very fabric of our culture.
The real issues, of course, are deeper than hateful slogans and chants, and more difficult to recognize. The most pervasive racism is built deep into every one of us. It is subtle and deceptive, and just like with most sin, we sinners remain in denial that it is there at all. It is intertwined with so many other issues we face: poverty and crime and violence and history and education and economics and culture and values and opportunity and a dozen more. The church’s job is to acknowledge that sin, and let the love of Jesus Christ work within our hearts to bring about repentance, as well as both personal and social transformation. In the church, we call that “sanctification.” I pray that in the months and years ahead, God will show us ways to do just that. The change won’t come through a triumph of the left or of the right. Nor will it come with the kind of violence and hatred that bubbles up in response to torchlight marches. Jesus always chose to love the people everyone else loved to hate. I believe it will come through a change in the hearts of women and men, through the power of God at work within us. It sounds naïve, but I do believe that “perfect love casts out all fear.”-1 John 4:18. And Jesus is that perfect love.
More from the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church here.
All initiatives proposed at the Church Conference were passed.
June 25, 2017
Board of Stewards Meeting
May 24, 2017
Fellowship Hall Proposed Renovation
The Fellowship Hall Building Study Committee has been working collaboratively over the past several months. The committee is comprised of leaders from St Luke’s Executive Committee, staff, clergy, volunteers, Encounter band, Building Committee as well as Design, Acoustical, Audio/Video/Lighting, and construction consultants.
Our goal has been to bring forth a design that not only takes into account the interior of Fellowship Hall, but beyond that, includes the infrastructure and acoustical needs of a space that will be a multipurpose room that could welcome and host events, meetings, receptions, performances, small groups, Children’s Ministry events, as well transform into a worship space for Encounter on Sundays.
This space was St Luke’s first sanctuary, and over the years the room has been modified into Fellowship Hall, which was renovated back in the 80’s. It has always been our committee’s commitment to honor the space and allow it to come to life for the purpose of growing the Kingdom, while remaining true to St Luke’s Georgian style, heritage and architecture.
Our focus has taken into account the past, present and future of Fellowship Hall. The specific areas included in the design components are; ceiling, back wall, proscenium wall, stage, side walls, refurbished floors, upgrade mechanical, electrical, fire alarm, wood work, audio, visual and lighting.
The renderings pictured here will help you see the space and look beyond.
We look forward to hearing from you and any questions that you may have. Contact Larry Moore at [email protected]
Long Range Planning Committee Aims at Ambitious Goals
St. Luke’s Long Range Planning Committee has been at work seeking God’s preferred future for St. Luke’s ministry. The committee has established eight initiatives as part of our vision for the next five years. By the end of 2023, St Luke’s will:
- Overhaul systems for hospitality, engagement, and leadership development
- Expand strategic communications for traditional worship and all of St. Luke’s ministries
- Enlarge St. Luke’s outreach ministry, including our work in the Gethsemane parish
- Grow the Story Houston as an integral part of St. Luke’s mission
- Strengthen and grow our Encounter worship community
- Build a strong financial foundation for growing ministries
- Improve technology, including a new church management system
- Restructure our governance for more doing and less reporting
Specific strategies are being developed for each of these initiatives, along with objectives and ministry owners. The plan will be presented at a Church Conference on June 25 at 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. All are welcome! If you have questions or comments, please contact committee co-chairs Kristin Tillman [email protected] or Nick Erwin [email protected].
New Governance Structure Proposed
As part of the plan for the next five years, the Structure sub-committee of the Long Range is proposing a new governance structure for St. Luke’s. The purpose of the change is to move more people into ministries of “doing” on teams, and fewer people on committees, whose primary function is simply oversight. The specific recommendations are that St. Luke’s:
- Replace our current Board of Stewards with two all church conferences each year, for the purpose of communications.
- Create a new Church Council with 17 members, serving the same function as our current Executive Committee.
- Create an Executive Committee of seven officers of the Church Council.
- Reduce standing committees to 4- Lay Leadership, Human Resources, Finance & Operations and Advancement; all have 9 members
- Merge Audit Committee into Finance & Operations; merge Executive Nominating into Lay Leadership
- Replace Discipleship, Worship and Outreach Commissions with enhanced participation in ministry teams
- Involve representatives from all worship communities in governance bodies.
The committee believes that these changes, consistent with United Methodist Book of Discipline, along with specific charters for each of our committees, will make volunteering at St. Luke’s far more productive, and increase volunteer participation across the whole life of the church. If you would like to talk more about this new structure, please contact structure subcommittee chair Vicki Keiser [email protected].