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Greenville Offers Next Justice Ministry Pilgrimage Course

FullSizeRender-1Following the success of May’s travel-based Justice Ministry course, Greenville University’s School of Adult Studies and Andrews Chair for Christian Unity announce a second course, “Justice Ministry: Immigration, Exploitation, and Kingdom Economics” from May 15 to 21, 2019. Renowned Christian leader Lisa Sharon Harper will again lead the experience.

This course on immigration is part of a series centered on effective ministry offered through Greenville University in collaboration with Freedom Road LLC. Each course focuses on a pressing issue about which discerning Christians have something distinctive to say and do.

“Immigration, Exploitation, and Kingdom Economics” includes readings, lectures, discussions and a weeklong tour of historic locations in Texas and Arizona that help tell the story of immigration policy, exploitation and labor in the United States.

Participants choose their depth of study by electing to take the course for continuing education credit, undergraduate credit or graduate credit. This opportunity is appropriate for pastors, justice ministers, worship leaders, leaders of nonprofit organizations, justice advocates, social workers and students who have completed at least 90 college credits.

Harper is the founder and president of Freedom Road LLC and the author of “The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right.” An internationally regarded Christian justice leader, Harper co-founded New York Faith & Justice and served as its executive director from 2007 to 2011. She then served as chief engagement officer with Sojourners from 2011 to 2017. Her work has taken her to Croatia, Australia, Germany, Ireland, South Africa and, next year, Brazil.

Apply online for the May course, or email Ben Wayman at for more information.


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In Celebration of Life


As a reminder to all people who call themselves Free Methodists, we celebrate and recognize the sanctity of life and worth of all persons. Freedom Sunday is fast approaching on September 30, and we urge everyone to support efforts such as those led by the Set Free Movement. We must work aggressively to end slavery and everything that degrades people.

Similarly,  all persons, whether slave or free, from conception until death, are of inestimable worth and are image bearers of God. That includes the unborn. We remind everyone who has been engaged in recent national conversations on matters pertaining to the right to live, that the Free Methodist Church is clear on such matters. As we state in our Book of Discipline, Paragraph 3222 B., and reaffirm here, “The intentional abortion of a person’s life, from conception on, must be judged to be a violation of God’s command, ‘You shall not commit murder,’ except when extreme circumstances require the termination of a pregnancy to save the life of the pregnant woman.”

According to the Book of Discipline, “Induced abortion is the intentional destruction of a person after conception and before delivery by surgical or other means. Therefore, induced abortion is morally unjustifiable except when the act has been decided upon by responsible and competent persons, including Christian professional counsel, for the purpose of saving the life of a pregnant woman. Abortion, when it serves the ends of population or birth control, personal preference or convenience, and social or economic security, must be considered as selfish and malicious.”

We understand the complexities of these matters and understand divergent views but remain committed to the celebration of life God created in his own image. Though some no doubt disagree with us on these matters, we nevertheless are resolutely committed to and reaffirm our love for God and all persons.

Board of Bishops, Free Methodist Church –USA

Matthew A. Thomas, David W. Kendall, David T. Roller

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Call and Response to Unite and Equip African-American Christians


sept_newsSometime in 2016, J.R. Rozko, who directs the efforts of Missio Alliance, asked me if I was interested in doing a workshop at their upcoming conference in Alexandria, Virginia. I agreed and when he asked me what issue I wanted to address, I said that I wanted to talk about black Christians. Had the question been posed a year ago, my reply might have been different. I was knee deep in doctoral studies at that time and might have suggested some obscure element of Pauline theology, but when he called, we were nearing the end of what I now call “The Bloody Summer” when it seemed as if every week there was another story of a black person being killed or mistreated by police and civilians. We were not safe at pools, convenience stores, traffic stops, or playing with toys in our neighborhood.

I realized that if my scholarship did not touch directly on the concerns of black people, then the long journey to become an academic was meaningless. Those deaths were not about me, but they were about families who lost loved ones. They were tragedies in their own right, but they reminded me of why I began the journey that has occupied much of my adult life. I wanted to help our people function and serve the Lord in a culture that was often hostile. The questions that would lead to the Call and Response Conference then filled my mind before the election later that year that reconfigured the Christian landscape and left many people of color questioning their place in the church and the culture.

I wanted to speak about black Christians because I noticed a few trends. First, there were questions within the black community concerning the continued relevance of the black church. Groups like the Black Hebrew Israelites and radical black nationalist organizations were questioning the ongoing need for the black church. Furthermore, some elements of the Black Lives Matters movement said quite openly that this was not your parents’ civil rights movement. The church would not take the lead. There was also the reality of black millennials leaving the church. I grew up in the black church and love her still. But I thought that it might be helpful to have a conversation on ways that we may renew her.

I also realized that black Christians were not all in the black church. Of the 79 percent of black Americans who are Christians, 53 percent are in black churches; 14 percent, however, are in evangelical churches. These black Christians also had their own issues to ponder. The election raised new questions about the relationship between evangelical understandings of the gospel and the historic black union of the call to personal conversion and social justice. For all the talk about an exodus from evangelicalism, it remains the second largest cluster of black Christians. We could not simply wish them away. They need our support too. But there were other black Christians still; 4 percent of black Christians are in mainline traditions (

A Corporate Response

It became clear that I lacked the knowledge base and the skill to speak to all these groups in the time allotted. We needed more time. As much I was happy to be invited to speak at Missio Alliance’s conference, I noticed that in many conferences where the majority of the people in attendance are white, people of color find themselves at the “conference within a conference.” That is, we are trying to find the workshops and speakers that speak to our needs within a wider gathering whose attention is directed elsewhere. We huddle at lunchtimes and coffee breaks attempting to share stories and build relationships.

A group of us wondered: What would happen if we did things differently? Lisa Fields, Natasha Robinson, Dennis Edwards and I (Santes Beatty would later be added to our number) dreamed about a conference that focused on the hopes and trials of black Christians no matter where they found themselves.

Most conferences are either black church conferences or black evangelical conferences or black mainline conferences. Rarely are all three groups together in the same space. Rarely do we get to talk and strategize together. The Call and Response Conference wants to pool the resources of African-Americans in different Christian traditions to think practically on how we might equip black Christians and those who minister to them for gospel work in our day.

When I speak about our vision in this way, people often ask me if they are allowed to come if they are not black. I answer a hearty, “Yes!” Christians of color have come for years to conferences when they were not in charge and found something valuable that blessed them. Furthermore, if you have black Christians in your congregation or in your community, it might be valuable to listen to the issues that they face. It is a time to learn. This conference is for black Christians and those who minister to them. Therefore, if you are in one of those categories, you are invited. Nonetheless, this conference is not designed to explain black culture to white Christians. It is a conversation within our culture about how we might effectively function as servants of the Lord in our day.

What can you expect at Call and Response? First there will be great speakers drawn from black churches, black evangelical spaces, multiethnic churches and mainline institutions. You can expect practical workshops on issues like: black apologetics, publishing, youth work, equipping women, blacks in academia, community development, and more.

Speakers will include Sho Baraka​, a hip-hop artist, philosopher and social-thought leader in contemporary culture; Santes Beatty, the director of multiethnic ministries for the Wesleyan Church; Amena Brown, a poet, speaker and author who was named one of Rejuvenate Magazine’s Top 40 under 40 Changemakers; Christena Cleveland, a social psychologist, public theologian, associate professor at Duke University’s Divinity School and the author of “Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart”; Charlie Dates, the senior pastor at Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, an affiliate professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an adjunct professor at Moody Bible Institute; Joyce Dinkins, the executive editor of Our Daily Bread Ministries; Christina Edmondson, the dean for intercultural student development at Calvin College; Dennis Edwards, the senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis and the author of “1 Peter” in “The Story of God Bible Commentary” series; Lisa Fields, the founder and president of the Jude 3 Project; Brandon Harris, the Protestant chaplain for the Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown University’s main campus; Michelle Higgins, the director of Faith for Justice and an organizer for the Leadership Development Resource Weekend; Nicole Hubb, the national director of events for GirlTrek; Doneila “Dee” McIntosh is the lead pastor of Lighthouse Covenant Church in Minneapolis and a founding member of Black Clergy United for Change; Marvin McMickle, the president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York; Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, the founder of Leadership LINKS Inc. and the author of “Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship”; Truth’s Table podcast hosts Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson and Ekemini Uwan; and me.

We will be led in worship by a powerful choir drawn from churches here in Rochester, New York. There will be concerts featuring artists like Brown and Baraka, but most importantly, we are hoping that God shows up and speaks a word to his people about the work that he has given us to do in our day. We hope to see you there.

You are warmly invited to join us Oct. 4–6 at Northeastern Seminary, 2265 Westside Drive, Rochester, New York, for this one-of-a-kind event. I encourage you to visit to get more information and register.

Esau McCaulley, Ph.D., is the assistant professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Northeastern Seminary, an associate member of the Association of Free Methodist Educational Institutions and an affiliate of the John Wesley Seminary Foundation. McCaulley has served across many professional and cultural contexts throughout his ministerial career and theological study, and he has dedicated his work in Christian higher education to instructing students on the proper interpretation and application of biblical texts.


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Free Methodists Stand Against Family Separation


The history of the Free Methodist Church is rooted in the biblical command to live in holy love. This love comes from God and is available to all. Receiving this love from our Lord gives us a renewed love for people who are marginalized, poor and disenfranchised. Our vision is to disciple every believer with the expectation that they would deliver the whole gospel to every man and woman, regardless of station, race or class (2015 Free Methodist Church Book of Discipline, ¶112).

Free Methodists are proud to be a part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, as their beliefs align with our own. The Evangelical Immigration Table explains “National immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a solution on immigration that: Respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects the unity of the immediate family, respects the rule of law, guarantees secure national borders, ensures fairness to taxpayers, and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.”

The Board of Bishops, along with hundreds of other evangelical leaders, have signed a letter to President Trump that embodies the above beliefs. To read the letter, click here. To view the list of influential signatories, click here.

We invite you to join us in bringing awareness to this important and controversial topic.

Read more about our stance on immigration and how our churches are engaging with migrant communities.

Free Methodist Conversations


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Women Clergy Revive in the Rockies

FMWHWCRevivegroup2More than 100 Free Methodists were among the 300 participants in the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy’s Revive conference April 12–15 at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The Free Methodist Church –USA had the largest denominational delegation at the conference, which the FMCUSA co-sponsored with the Brethren in Christ, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Church of the Nazarene, and the Wesleyan Church.

Julie Gray, the senior pastor of Aldersgate Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis, became the new president of the organization that supports women in ministry.

“We are about empowering, engaging and equipping women to lead in the church at every level,” said Gray, who is being succeeded by Soo Ji Alvarez — a lead pastor of California Avenue Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California — as the Free Methodist representative to the organization’s board.

Superintendent Alma Thompson gives the Revive conference’s opening message. | Photo by Jeffrey Purganan

Superintendent Alma Thompson gives the Revive conference’s opening message. | Photo by Jeffrey Purganan

Superintendent Alma Thompson gave the conference’s opening message and reminded the women clergy that “we are good figs” (Jeremiah 24) who are loved and called by Jesus.

“I have come to understand that I cannot afford to have a thought in my mind about me that is not in the mind of Christ,” said Thompson, who oversees the Ohio and New South conferences with her husband, Brent, who also participated in Revive.

FM Gathering

Revive allowed many opportunities for Free Methodists to connect with members of other denominations, but for two hours April 13, Free Methodists held their own gathering with lunch, an icebreaker activity that led to the sharing of hilarious stories, and a panel discussion that focused on serious challenges that women clergy face.

Superintendent Pam Braman (second from right) shares in a lighter moment on the Free Methodist Revive panel with Superintendent Alma Thompson (left), Free Methodist World Missions Latin America Area Director Delia Nüesch-Olver (second from left) and Superintendent-elect Amelia Cleveland-Traylor (right). | Photo by Jeff Finley

Superintendent Pam Braman (second from right) shares in a lighter moment on the Free Methodist Revive panel with Superintendent Alma Thompson (left), Free Methodist World Missions Latin America Area Director Delia Nüesch-Olver (second from left) and Superintendent-elect Amelia Cleveland-Traylor (right). | Photo by Jeff Finley

Thompson, Free Methodist World Missions Latin America Area Director Delia Nüesch-Olver, Genesis Conference Superintendent Pam Braman and River Conference Superintendent-elect Amelia Cleveland-Traylor shared their experiences as women in ministry.

Thompson said she was a pastor’s wife in a church that wanted to start children’s ministries and named her the director. As the children’s ministries grew, she eventually received a paid position and developed her leadership skills.

“It was in that role that I realized that I was called to pastoral ministry, because what I really wanted to do more than anything was to talk to people about Jesus,” Thompson said.

Nüesch-Olver got an unexpected start to pastoral ministry. “When I was single, I accidentally planted a church,” said Nüesch-Olver, who has since served in lead and associate pastoral roles, as a university professor, and in national and international denominational positions.

Braman grew up in a denomination that didn’t ordain women, but she attended seminary. She worked on staff at a large nondenominational church for 11 years, wrestled with her call to pastoral ministry, became a Free Methodist pastor and then was elected as a superintendent.

“The Lord has been so gracious at times when I wanted to pitch it all,” Braman said. “There have been people who have come alongside with words of encouragement — often not knowing how much I needed that.”

Cleveland-Traylor led Bible studies in high school and earned the nickname “Reverend,” but she didn’t see herself in a pastoral role at that time. She pursued a medical career and became an obstetrician-gynecologist.

“I held a lot of leadership positions in medicine,” Cleveland-Traylor said. “I was very comfortable leading there, but at church, I would always shrink back.”

After her husband and fellow medical doctor, Michael, became a pastor, she volunteered to be his associate pastor. “In spite of carrying the weight of the ministry with him, I continued to be his associate for a while, and then when I decided I was ready to be his co-pastor, that’s when we started running into trouble,” she said.

Opposition hasn’t stopped Cleveland-Traylor from realizing she does not have to serve as her husband’s associate, and she will begin serving this month alongside Michael as co-superintendent of the River Conference.


Several Free Methodists led workshops or appeared on workshop panel discussions. Alvarez led an interactive workshop for pastors and worship leaders on the “Worship Toolbox” that helped participants overcome obstacles in their “current area of ministry as well as learn how to cultivate a thriving worship and creative arts ministry that both touches the heart of God and develops and equips future generations of worship leaders to come.”

Deborah Somerville, the lead pastor of the Greenville (Illinois) Free Methodist Church, was one of three pastors offering different perspectives on a passage in the “Preaching Panel Discussion.”

Free Methodist Elder Rita Nussli, the associate director of Soul Formation — a nonprofit organization committed to the spiritual and emotional health of Christian ministry leaders — led the “Soul Care” workshop that helped participants listen together “to God, discerning the Trinity’s invitation for us and those we serve to make space for God’s grace to transform us.”

Gray; Joanna DeWolf, an elder in the East Michigan Conference; and Gloria Roorda, the pastor of family ministry at Northgate Free Methodist Church in Batavia, New York, were three of the four panelists in the “Mentoring” workshop.

Free Methodist educator Karen Longman, the Ph.D. program director and a professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University and a senior fellow and former vice president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, led the “Sticky Floors? Stained Glass-Ceilings?” workshop that drew upon her experiences as a woman in executive leadership.

“Anybody that knows the research about organizational effectiveness knows that the more voices age-wise, gender-wise, internationally at the top, the smarter organizations are,” Longman said.

Nüesch-Olver and Pastor Randi Shepherd of Every Day Church in Toledo, Ohio, were two of the four panelists in the “Church Planting” workshop. Nüesch-Olver, who grew up in Argentina, gave more details about her accidental church plant that resulted from connecting with a Cuban woman while serving an internship in Rochester, New York. Nüesch-Olver led the woman and family members to Christ, and they began leading others to Christ. “When we had some 60 new believers, we rented a storefront,” Nüesch-Olver said. “They started calling me pastor.”

Shepherd shared how she and her husband left stable jobs at a church in California to become church planters in Ohio even though she previously had a negative view of church planting.

“We see God’s miracles,” Shepherd said. “If you want to see God do miracles, put yourself in a place where God can do miracles, and put yourself at the end of your rope, or put yourself in a new place where you just say, ‘God, this is all about you.’”

Lived Experience

The conference included a screening of the new 37-minute documentary film, “Lived Experience: Female Pastors in the Free Methodist Church.” The documentary is based on the doctoral dissertation of Roberta Mosier-Peterson, the senior pastor of the Oakdale Free Methodist Church in Jackson, Kentucky. The Study Commission on Doctrine commissioned the documentary, which was funded through contributions from the Board of Bishops and other Free Methodist leaders. To protect the identity of women pastors who shared their sometimes painful experiences, filmmakers used actors to share the true stories of female pastors.

After the screening, Mosier-Peterson answered questions from the enthusiastic and appreciative audience. She expressed encouragement about the response from the Free Methodist Global Overseers Team that had watched the film earlier in the week, and she told the audience members — many who serve in other denominations — to share their voices. Questions included the impact of the #metoo movement on women in ministry.

“Your voice will be heard. I think that there are enough men in authority that are actually listening that we have a window of opportunity, and part of it is because of these cultural things that are happening now,” Mosier-Peterson said.

Visit to watch the documentary for free online.

New Leaders

Julie Gray, the senior pastor of Aldersgate Free Methodist Church, is the new president of the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy. | Photo by Jeffrey Purganan

Julie Gray, the senior pastor of Aldersgate Free Methodist Church, is the new president of the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy. | Photo by Jeffrey Purganan

Along with Gray now leading the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy, other denominational elders are playing key roles. Free Methodists on the Revive Conference Planning Committee included Communications Liaison Beth Cullison, the missionary personnel administrator for Free Methodist World Missions, and Worship Arts Liaison Diana Endicott, an assistant pastor of Northside Community Church in Newberg, Oregon.

But as excited as they are to see Free Methodists taking leadership posts within the clergy organization, Revive participants said they’re even more excited about the increased gender and racial diversity within denominational leader posts as demonstrated at the recent Global Overseers Team meetings in Indiana.

“Something in the atmosphere has changed,” Braman said.

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