TENNESSEE CONFERENCE REVIEW August 24, 2007
+“Know your disease, know your cure….” article by Dr. James B. Scott and Dr. Molly Davis Scott outlining major points in their book Restoring Methodism. The Scotts will be providing leadership for the Nashville Area Bishop’s Convocation on Church Renewal, November 12-14th. Restoring Methodism will be the text for the event.
+First Event in Learning for Discipleship Series, September 21-22, “Teaching the Mission of Jesus.” The event is presented by the Cal Turner Jr., Center for Church Leadership at Martin Methodist College
+Interview with Emily Snyder and Steven Miles, founders of “Strangers No Longer,” two Vanderbilt Divinity students put their faith into action by creating an organization aimed at educated people of faith about immigration and immigrant’s issues.
+ Two Young Missionaries from Tennessee Conference are Commissioned-- Christina Kretchik (St. Johns United Methodist Church) and Michael Jordan (Belmont United Methodist Church)
+ UMC assigns Dunlap to Martin Methodist in US-2 program. Martin Methodist introduces the Tennessee Conference to Mariellyn Dunlap
+Restorative justice advocate Harmon Wray dies – but the seeds of his special ministry continue to grow.
“Know your disease, know your cure….”
This article is the second in a series of three articles by Dr. James B. Scott and Dr. Molly Davis Scott in which they will summarize the themes they discuss in their book Restoring Methodism. The Scotts will be providing leadership for the Nashville Area Bishop’s Convocation on Church Renewal, November 12-14, 2007, Montgomery Bell State Park.
In the 1700s, the first insurance company formed in America was the Presbyterian Ministers Fund. It was initially created to provide benefits to surviving spouses and children of clergy. Ministers Life was formed shortly thereafter for the same purpose. From the 1700s to the 1960s, these two companies enjoyed a unique advantage in the insurance business: Clergy lived longer and experienced fewer health claims than other individuals or any other group of insureds in the United States. Therefore these companies were able to offer to individuals and judicatories (Conferences) exceptionally low rates and significantly higher dividends on life-insurance policies. Since the 1960s, that trend has been reversed.
Clergy now have one of the worst—some actuaries say the worst—health history of any identifiable group in the insurance business. As a result, Presbyterian Ministers Fund and Ministers Life no longer exist.
The Reverend John Wesley was fond of saying, regarding the human predicament, “Know your disease, know your cure.” So what is the disease clergy are facing now and what is the cure for clergy? We affirm with Mr. Wesley that there is a cure for our current situation.
Every one of us knows how important it is that we correctly diagnose the real situation in order to apply the correct solutions. So it is with us clergy now.
We have taught in the Doctor of Ministry programs at three seminaries over the past eighteen years. In all that time, we have identified only one candidate who, in our opinion, clearly did not have a legitimate calling to ordained ministry. Without exception, every other minister unarguably demonstrated a faithful call to ministry. These people, whom we came to know intimately, truly felt called. They loved Jesus Christ and sincerely wanted to be led by His Spirit and serve the Kingdom of God. In a number of cases, they had made tremendous sacrifices to pursue their calling and were willing to suffer whatever the cost to serve Christ and His Church.
James B. and Molly Davis Scott
However, in spite of all the faithfulness we have witnessed, clergy report having many difficulties in ministry today. Almost all clergy have come to realize that ordained ministry must be done differently—in some major ways—than we have conducted it the past 40 to 50 years. Change is necessary not just because we are now in the 21st century; change in the ministry was necessary decades ago, when we first began to experience a declining and aging membership. However, many of the changes that were made then were the wrong changes and brought worse results.
Returning to a Former Way of Ministry that Produces Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical Health
1. Clergy focusing on their salvation and calling as the top priority brings peace of heart and mind.
Whatever happens to the Church in the United Sates, or whatever course The United Methodist Church takes, we the clergy must not be deterred from nor distracted by non-priority issues. Then we will be able say that we have been found faithful to our salvation and calling. On the day we stand before Jesus the Christ, we will be able to say we have tried our utmost to serve Him and His Kingdom and have endured to the end. We never gave up; we finished the race of life well.
2. Holiness of heart and life will improve spiritual health.
Spiritual health is a gift of grace. It is incumbent upon us to participate with God in that gift by using our graces, gifts and expertise to do those things that we are gifted and equipped to do. When we are performing ministry that we are gifted to do and that we enjoy, we will feel worthwhile and be successful—and we will be happier and healthier.
We grew up in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Even as adults in the early ’60s, we experienced the clergy dictum that “the morning is given to God.” The morning was spent in prayer, study and sermon preparation.
“My design was, not only to direct them [Methodist ministers] how to press after perfection, to exercise their every grace and improve every talent they had received….” John Wesley
The motivation was that the clergy desired what Wesley wanted out of all his preachers, whether ordained or lay: “holiness of heart and life.” In fact, Mr. Wesley continually associated holiness with happiness. With holiness or perfect love abiding in our hearts and minds and souls, we become the spiritual leaders we are called to be. The laity can see, feel, experience and know if that manifestation of “holiness of heart and life” is abiding in us. That is the primary desire and hope of laity for their clergy. It is also the beginning of leadership.
3. Empowering laypeople for front line ministry will relieve the leadership strain on clergy.
There is an expectation out there that is killing us clergy. It comes from senior leadership, and it comes from the laity. The interpretation of the expectation—“Take thou the authority”—is that if a church is to grow, it is the clergy’s responsibility. We constantly hear the refrain “It is all about leadership.” Whether by innuendo or verbal declaration, this is the expectation of many members of our senior leadership.
That expectation has been grafted into the minds of our laypeople. They say, “Let’s wait until our new preacher comes and see what he/she wants to do. Let’s see what they can do.” This is an impossible expectation! And it is a formula for failure. The rising trend in too many of our churches—that we “hire and fire our preachers”—is not Methodist.
Another expectation that developed in the late 1960s revolved around a reinterpretation of the nature and purpose of the Church. Suddenly and unexpectedly we began hearing that the role of the Church was to meet people’s “needs.” That expectation has been a driving force in the Church in America since then. It is also a bottomless pit. Noticeably Jesus did not come to meet people’s needs.
Most laypeople in Methodism love their clergy. Admittedly, some do not, but these are the minority. Admittedly, sometimes that minority gains control of a congregation, but that is a separate issue.
In the ministry situation to which we wish to return, the lay leaders will themselves—with few exceptions—resolve the problem with destructive members. The new life begins when clergy learn to be “leaders among equals.” The new relationship arrives when lay leaders enter into full and front line ministry. When lay leaders are thrust into the responsibility of full ministry and experience the complexity of it, they realize—as clergy do—their desperate spiritual need, their need for partnership and cooperation in ministry, and their need for training.
Suddenly and genuinely, there is an elevated and real appreciation for clergy and for the graces, gifts and expertise that the clergy bring to their ministry. At that moment, everything changes.
When we prepare and train lay leaders to become spiritual leaders and to do full ministry, both clergy and laity experience the righteousness, peace and joy that we are all called to experience.
We clergy will have a more loving and genuine relationship with our laypeople, especially lay leaders.
4. With these changes, there will arise the best opportunity for growth—growth that is permanent.
Historically, one of the supreme strengths of Methodism was that we kept what we won. A steady stream of people flowed in the front door, and only a small dribble escaped through the back door or were dismissed from membership.
It is the ministry of lay leaders that will not only bring people to faith in Jesus Christ but will keep what we have – the members, the strong faith, the growing, the action. Not only is this the best formula, it is the only formula for bearing fruit, and fruit that lasts.
5. Our spouse will be happier.
Our spouse will be happier because we are happier. We will be more fulfilled, enjoy what we are doing, experience significantly fewer conflicts in ministry, resolve those conflicts differently, and spend more quality time with our spouse. In many situations, our spouse will be more inclined to participate with us in ministry. All of that improves our health and lifeline.
6. Our children and grandchildren will have a greater likelihood of becoming committed Christians.
The dropout rate and the rate of casual participation of the children and grandchildren of clergy, whether our own children or the children of friends in ordained ministry, worries all of us. What children see, feel, and experience when they look at us will become the model for how they love and serve Christ.
7. Clergy and laity will deeply enjoy being in ministry together.
There are a multitude of books that describe Conferences during the first two hundred years of Methodism. The clergy and laity shared a dedicated and genuine love and affection for each other. Conferences, especially Annual Conference, were the highlight of the year. It was anticipated with enthusiasm and joy because it would be a week of spiritual blessings, renewed friendships, and advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Reclaiming our Methodist heritage would restore that depth of love and affection and comradeship among the clergy. It would be the end of competition, suspicion, and improper back-stabbing and gossip.
8. We will make decisions on the issues that are most likely to bring these results rather than focusing on secondary issues.
The fundamental organizational system of historic Methodism does not need to change. The Church’s order of Bishops, Traveling Elders, Deacons, apportionments, Conferences, etc., do not need to change. People today are so frustrated with the Church that they want to radically alter the system. But the Methodist/United Methodist system is still a great vehicle. It is not the primary problem.
What does need to change? Our attitudes, behaviors and results.
We fear that if we do not make changes on the a priori issues, we will by default make changes that are deleterious to our future. We need to return to and strengthen the already-functioning decisions outlined in our book Restoring Methodism. If we do that, it will fundamentally change the issues that drive other issues.
9. The decisions we make will be—must be—faithful, both biblically and historically.
As you can see by the people who are recommending Restoring Methodism, found in the opening pages of the book under “What Leaders Are Saying,” the ten decisions expounded upon are faithful to the biblical witness and to historical Methodism.
Having shared these thoughts, let us be soberly cognizant that we clergy still have profound influence in our United Methodist Church. To a large extent, it will be us who make the decisions about where United Methodism will be in ten, fifteen, and twenty years. We are making those decisions today. Let’s make the right decisions.
First Event in Learning for Discipleship Series, September 21-22, “Teaching the Mission of Jesus”
The Cal Turner Jr., Center for Church Leadership at Martin Methodist College is making great strides in its efforts to “identify, recruit and train future church leaders and support current leaders in ministry.” On September 21-22 the Center is launching the first event in the Learning for Discipleship Series. Dr. Margaret Ann Crain and Dr. Jack Seymour, two nationally known scholars in discipleship formation and spiritual growth, will come on campus to offer lectures, lead discussions and workshops. The theme is: “Teaching the Mission of Jesus.” This event is intended to benefit pastors, lay leaders, Christian Educators, Sunday School teachers, and other people interested in discipleship formation.
Dr. Margaret Ann Crain and Dr. Jack Seymour to provide leadership for the first event in the Learning for Discipleship Series.
These two experts in Christian education have spent the last 15 years listening to laity as they shared their deepest spiritual yearnings. “When we plan opportunities for Christian formation in our congregations that address these yearnings, people will respond, “ note Crain and Seymour. “This event will explore the centrality of education to the church’s mission. In particular, we will explore how the person and mission of Jesus must guide us as we acknowledge our spiritual yearnings and seek to respond to the call to faithfulness and discipleship.”
On Friday night, the speakers will ponder some of the most pertinent questions churches are facing today: How are we faithful to the ministry of Jesus? How do we form faithful and missional disciples? What does it mean to be a disciple? They seek to explore and embody the teaching ministry of the church on discipleship and mission. The Saturday plenary session and small group gatherings will deal with issues such as: exploring the needs and yearnings of people and how the church’s educational ministry can address those yearnings. Crain and Seymour believe that: “Inviting religious education takes account of how humans make meaning of their lives and seek to fulfill their vocations in the world.” They will conclude by providing concrete, practical examples of how the church’s education program can make disciples.
Dr. Jack L. Seymour is Professor of Religious Education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, one of our United Methodist Seminaries. Dr. Margaret Ann Crain is Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of the Deacon Program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Together and individually, they often lead workshops at national and conference level meetings for United Methodists as well as other denominations.
Crane is president of the Religious Education Association and Seymour is editor of the journal Religious Education. Together they have conducted research on the theology of laity: What prompts us to ask questions about God? What role can the church play in resourcing and nurturing the growth of faith? They have written three books, two of which are Yearning for God: Reflections of Faithful Lives, (Upper Room Books, 2003) and A Deacon’s Heart: The New United Methodist Diaconate (Abingdon, 2001). Seymour is also the editor of Mapping Christian Education (Abingdon Press, 1997).
The two-day event costs only $80.00, (dinner and lunch included!) There is also an option to register for Saturday only.
Domenic Nigrelli, Ph.D., Director of the Cal Turner Jr., Center for Church Leadership, issues a warm personal invitation to the inaugural event. “I hope you join us for a time of learning, worship, fellowship and Sabbath. Visit us at our website at www.martinmethodist.edu/ccl. If you have questions or need more information, please feel free to contact me at 1-931-363-9864; or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Interview with Emily Snyder and Steven Miles, founders of “Strangers No Longer”
By Elizabeth Shadbolt*
Emily Snyder and Steven Miles
Last May, I was invited to a Clergy Breakfast on Immigration held by a group called “Strangers No Longer” at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. The ballroom was packed with clergy and lay people from all over the city, representing several faiths and myriad denominations. Everyone received notebooks filled with resources, we heard from several speakers who shared their experiences with the immigrant community, and were inspired to begin conversations in our churches on immigration. I was intrigued and excited to meet the people behind “Strangers No Longer.” Emily Snyder and Steven Miles are third-year divinity students at Vanderbilt University who have put their faith into action by creating an organization aimed at educated people of faith about immigration and immigrant’s issues. They have partnered with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) to be the faith-based arm of their Welcoming Tennessee Initiative. In this capacity, they provide educational programming, develop educational materials, and participate in local movements for immigrant justice, facilitating theological reflection on the issues surrounding immigration. We sat down this week to talk about their organization and goals.
Liz: How do you see your organization affecting the way Christians view immigrants and immigration issues?
SNL: We want to encourage the faith community to respond to these issues from a position of faith. Our hope is that people will remember that immigrants are created in the image of God and should not be perceived as a political or economic burden. So much of the discourse on immigration involves stereotyping and prejudice. We hope to help people develop the language to discuss these issues with respect and within a theological framework.
Liz: What are the major problems with the current immigration system?
SNL: It is a broken system. There is no doubt that we need control in the number of people who enter this country because our communities are not set up in ways that can easily absorb a large influx of newcomers. The problem is that we are not being realistic about how many people need to come in. Our economy relies on an estimated 485,000 new, low-skilled immigrant workers each year, but our immigration system provides only 5,000 visas (Pew Hispanic Center) for such workers. That is a huge discrepancy between what our economy needs and what our immigration system allows.
Also, many immigrants who are without proper documentation did come through legal channels but have overstayed their visas and prefer to stay where their families are, rather than to return to a place that is no longer “home.” Family members often have varied immigration statuses and live in fear that their family will be separated.
Because the federal government has failed to overhaul the system, state and local governments are trying to take this issue (which is a federal issue) into their own hands. They make it illegal for people without certain documentation to drive or attempt to make English the only language, both of which affect all immigrants and refugees, regardless of their legal status.
The result of this broken system and the attempts that have been made to “fix” it is that immigrants are living in the shadows with fear of being arrested and deported, separated from their families. Many are unaware of their legal rights and are therefore easily exploited.
And for us, for people of faith, public policies that result in increased discrimination and the separation of families are unacceptable. We feel like the church has to take a stand with those in our community who are suffering because of the broken immigration system.
Liz: What role do you see the church playing in correcting these issues?
SNL: Because many people turn to their church for examples of how to address certain controversial issues, religious leaders should be setting the example for their communities. When Christians were helping slaves escape in early U.S. history, or when Christians harbored Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, legality did not take precedence over what was morally right: to love and care for the stranger and to protect the lives and dignity of those suffering. The church is an example to itself on how to care for the marginalized, and we believe the situation we are seeing now is no different. When people are dying from heat in the desert, church people bring them water. When mothers and fathers are being deported while at work, churches offer their children sanctuary. When state legislators try to make life in the U.S. impossible for undocumented immigrants, but end up causing pain for all immigrants and foreign visitors, people of faith stand up and say “no.” The church plays a special role in correcting the problems with our current immigration system because Christians see people differently. People made in the image of God deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The dignity, worth, and humanity of a person cannot be reduced in the eyes of Jesus’ followers. When we feed the hungry, when we care for the sick, when we welcome the stranger we are doing the will of God. The church is the champion of the oppressed and it is demonstrated by how we treat the strangers among us.
Liz: How can people be involved in immigration justice ministries?
SNL: Make immigration a topic of dialogue in your church, invite speakers to share with your group, keep yourself informed, write letters to the editor about how faith informs your position, read the bible listening for wisdom about how to treat your neighbor and welcome the stranger, listen carefully to how people around you talk about immigrants and be that faithful voice that shows solidarity with the strangers among us. Get one of our packets for more information on how to address this issue in your congregation. IF you’re a Methodist, then you have a long tradition and many resources from the denomination about immigration and immigration issues. The best way to get involved is to start spending time with immigrants in your community: teach ESL at your church and listen to the stories of the students, sign up for email notices from TIRRC. In Nashville, the faith community is a very important part of the public voice. By being informed, we can affect the dialogue in our city positively, with the love of Christ.
Emily and Steven are happy to speak with your church or small group. They can be reached at email@example.com. On Saturday, September 29th, the conference is sponsoring a half-day workshop on immigration issues at Blakemore UMC in Nashville. Strangers No Longer will be among the presenters. For more information, contact Liz Shadbolt at 668-0606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Elizabeth Shadbolt is “Immigration/Refugee Coordinator” for the Tennessee Conference Committee on Global Ministries.
Two Young Missionaries from Tennessee Conference are Commissioned
Michael Jordan and Christina Kretchik, both from Nashville, recently became missionaries. Mr. Jordan will work as a teacher and in Children's Ministries Development, Colegio Metodista San Juan Moderno, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ms. Kretchik's assignment is still pending (See notation at end of this article for her assignment)
The two were among a class of 17 young adults who were commissioned on July 15, 2007, for United Methodist missions through the General Board of Global Ministries. Eight of the new missionaries will serve as mission interns and nine will serve as US-2s. US-2s serve for two years in national and nearby assignments. Mission interns work for three years; half of the time in the international setting, and the other half is spent in a national organization.
"This is not about success," said Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar of the Greater New Jersey Conference, who addressed the new missionaries. "It is about faithfulness. Following Christ means going to places the world doesn't want you to go. Following Jesus means taking risks for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Before being commissioned, the young missionaries spoke in unison the Wesleyan covenant prayer, "I am no longer my own, but thine…Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and with a willing heart give it all to your pleasure and disposal."
Bishop Devadhar, along with Rev. Edith L. Gleaves, deputy general secretary of mission personnel of the General Board of Global Ministries; Rev. Steven Goldstein, assistant general secretary of mission personnel; Rev. James F. Karpen of St. Paul and St. Andrew; and Mary Baldridge, director of Global Ministries, performed the laying on of hands to commission each missionary during the Sunday service.
As he laid hands on each of the missionaries, Rev. Devadhar said, "I commission you to take the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into all the world."
The congregation spoke in unison to the new missionaries: "As members of The United Methodist Church representing the whole church, we send you into service with your special gifts and graces. We have called you; we support you. You are our gift to the world. We will receive you back again on behalf of all God's people."
Rev. Karpen said, "God is moving in their lives. It is a privilege to be a tiny part of that."
The other mission interns are:
Brittany Brooks, from Gastonia, NC, North Carolina Annual Conference, will work at SHADE, Cape Town, South Africa.
Elizabeth Hooks, from Lynn Haven, FL, Alabama/West Florida Annual Conference, will work at the Bethune House, Hong Kong.
David Hosey, from Millersville, MD, Baltimore/Washington Annual Conference, will work at Sabeel, Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine.
Abigail Huggins, from Wilkesboro, NC, Western North Carolina Annual Conference, will work at GRENCODA, Grenada, West Indies.
Lindsey Kerr, from North Huntington, PA, Baltimore/Washington Annual Conference, will work at In Peace, Mindanao, Philippines.
Christine Lafferty, from Lyndhurst, OH, East Ohio Annual Conference, will work at Christian Medica Acción, Managua, Nicaragua.
Jennifer Mihok, from North Wales, PA, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, will work at Genthin UMC, Genthin, Germany.
Elizabeth Thiombiano, from Baltimore, MD, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, will work at Shade and Fresh Water Project, Brazil.
The home conferences and assignments of the new US-2s are:
Mariellyn Dunlap, from Carrollton, OH, East Ohio Annual Conference, will be the assistant director at the S.E.R.V.S. and Religious Life, Martin Methodist College-Cal Turner Jr. Center for Church Leadership, Pulaski, TN.
Lindsey Hall, from Lincoln, NE, Nebraska Annual Conference, will be a youth worker at the Prevention Services for Youth Program, Susannah Wesley Community Center, Honolulu, HI.
Katherine Kinne, from Alexandra, KY, South Indiana Annual Conference, will work as a Community Relations Coordinator, Denver Urban Ministries, Denver, CO.
Jamie Michaels, from Olathe, KS, Western North Carolina Annual Conference, will work as a seminar program associate, General Board of Church and Society, Seminar Program, Washington, DC.
Elizabeth Rumbel, from Hatboro, PA, Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, will work as a program and development assistant, Warren Village, Inc., Denver, CO.
Kathryn Wheat, from Worthington, OH, West Ohio Annual Conference, will work in community outreach development, Urban Ministry, Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, DC.
Rebecca Yount, from Owasso, OK, Oklahoma Annual Conference, will be an assistant public policy advocate for Church World Service, Washington, DC.
To become a US-2 or mission intern, you must be between the ages of 20 and 30, have a college degree or equivalent experience, and be connected to The United Methodist Church through a local church or campus ministry.
To learn more about the becoming a young adult missionary, link to: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/about/us/mp/missionaries/youngadults/
Christina Kretchik is a member of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Nashville. Her pastor, David Lay, Has updated information: “Christina has received her assignment. She will be in a US-two at Emmaus United Methodist Church in Albany, NY. Saint John's is very excited about having one of our own responding to God's call to the mission field. Christina has a heart for working with our neighbors in need. Emmaus UMC is a mixed congregation with a lot of immigrants from around the world and Christina will be helping with an English as a Second language class and other programs with in the congregation geared toward the immigrants.
Michael Jordan is a member of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville. John Collett his former pastor writes: “As Michael’s former pastor and now his District Superintendent, I know he will give much love and care to his ministry with the children and people of Puerto Rico.”
A related article on Ohioan Mariellyn Dunlap who was appointed to Martin Methodist College can be found following this article.
Ohio native comes to Center for Church Leadership for two-year assignment
UMC assigns Dunlap to Martin Methodist in US-2 program
Mariellyn Dunlap, a 2002 graduate of Malone College, was one of a select number of young people tabbed in the spring for the US-2 program by the United Methodist Church. She will spend the next two years as a member of the staff at MMC's Cal Turner Jr., Center for Church Leadership. Here she visits with Daniel Smith, a junior from Tullahoma, Tenn.
Restorative justice advocate Harmon Wray dies
Restorative justice advocate Harmon Wray created a teaching project at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, Tenn., bringing together inmates and students at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Wray died July 24 of a brain hemorrhage. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Harmon Wray believed that some of the most profound theology shared in the world today takes place within the walls of prison.
So when the lifelong criminal justice advocate died suddenly on July 24, his closest friends and colleagues found it only natural to head to Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville to share their loss with Wray's "family" - the inmates he has ministered to for years, some for decades.
The Rev. Janet Wolf, a United Methodist clergywoman who worked with Wray in prison ministry for 35 years, was among those who went.
"It was an extraordinary thing," she said of the hour-long meeting with prisoners. "We shared our grief like a family. Everybody was crying, which is not a common event inside prison."
A United Methodist who dedicated his life to advocating for restorative justice, crusading against the death penalty and fighting for prison reform, Wray died at age 60 of a massive brain hemorrhage.
Bishop Kenneth Carder, who served the Nashville area until his retirement in 2000, remembered Wray as the embodiment of Matthew 25, in which Christ comes for those who care for "the least of these," including those in prison.
"One of the greatest tragedies of his death is that one of the nation's most articulate, courageous voices on behalf of the vulnerable, the marginalized, the pushed aside, has been silenced," Carder told United Methodist News Service. "Harmon was a genuine friend to those whom society, including the church, too often keeps at an arm's distance."
Inspired to service
Born in Memphis, Tenn., Wray was a student at the former Southwestern College in Memphis in April 1968 when he heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his final speech before he was assassinated. Wray marched with striking sanitation workers in Memphis and remained committed throughout his lifetime to nonviolent resistance to advocate for justice.
He graduated from Southwestern in 1968 and earned a master's degree in religion from Duke University in 1970. Wray pursued a doctorate in ethics at Vanderbilt Divinity School in the 1970s but stopped short of completing his dissertation. "I got what I came for," he told friends after quitting, according to a profile of Wray by friend and writer John Egerton. "I got the experience, the knowledge, the personal associations. The only thing I left behind was the degree itself, and it meant nothing to me - and even less to the people I wanted to serve."
Wray was employed from time to time at the regional and denominational levels of The United Methodist Church to work with task forces on various social issues, especially restorative justice.
He served as executive director of Restorative Justice Ministries from 1999 through 2001 for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and his book Restorative Justice: Moving Beyond Punishment was used as a resource for the board's 2002-2003 mission study. He worked with various organizations in Tennessee, including the Southern Prison Ministry, and helped to create Tennesseans Against the Death Penalty.
In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Carder called Wray's work in the restorative justice movement a gift to society and the church.