The Western Pennylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet at Grove City College in Grove City PA on the dates of Thursday, June 13th through Sunday, June 16th. All clergy are required to be in attendance. The service of ordination will be held on the morning of June 16th and will last approximately 3 hours. --- gleaned from information sent to W PA Conference delegates.Well, they did it again! The first year they did it was back in 2005 and then again in 2006. They took a year off in 2007 and then did it again in 2008. They have had a number of years off now, but will do it again this year on June 16, 2013! What is this, you ask? All pastors of the United Methodist Church of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference will be at the closing session of the conference at Grove City College on Father’s Day, June 16, 2013. That is the day of ordination and all pastors, including retired elders such as I, are expected to be present. It’s about a 3 hour session or so.
The first year they pulled this debacle I wrote to the bishop and as expected, there was no response. I also wrote the second year and again, no response.
Question: how many churches can you name, independent or denominational that have had their pastors off somewhere on something by way of some outside activity and not in their pulpits on Father’s Day? How many United Methodist Conferences can you name that have done this kind of thing that qualifies as a major foul-up of the first magnitude?
Yes, the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference stands in a class all by itself on this! All we have to do is come up with a name for that class – difficult to do, as there is probably not a word in the English language yet to really define such a thing!
The issue in this is whether or not Father’s Day is an important date on the church calendar and worthy of time and attention in a nation where the ranks of dead-beat dads are growing year by year – you know, those guys who think nothing of fathering a child and then take off to let the impregnated female to fend for herself – all those “Baby, I love you -- I’ll love you forever!” statements in the heat of passion now mean absolutely nothing! The Bible does have some things to say about fatherhood and responsibility that falls directly on the shoulders of fathers, does it not?
By scheduling a conference session on Father’s Day and requiring all clergy to be present (and absent from their pulpits) the conference administration is sending a message – Father’s Day isn’t worth the ink which was required to print the name on the date of June 16th on the 2013 calendar where the name appears.
Yes, yes, I know – the defense is likely that scheduling with the college was limited in time and those few days in June ending on June 16th were the only days available in which the conference could be held. There is absolutely no law that says that the conference has to be held over through Father’s Day and an ordination service can be scheduled at other times.
As a result of such a fiasco as this, hundreds of fathers will not get to have that special day with their families and hundreds of pastors will not have the opportunity to observe this very special day in their churches.
A few of us, and maybe just a very few, still hold that Father’s Day is on an equal level with Mother’s Day in terms of importance and each of those days should be observed in churches with an equal amount of zeal. In over half a century of ministry I never missed a Father’s Day service. Further, I have probably conducted more Father’s Day services than any other pastor in the W PA Annual Conference mainly due to the fact that I chose to turn down a station appointment and to stay with a circuit of small congregation churches. The total of those services which I conducted on Father’s Day comes to 139. This June 16th will make #140 although as an ordained elder, I am supposed to be in attendance at the session of the Western PA Annual Conference on June 16th. But I will be conducting a Father’s Day service at Gipsy Christian Church in Gipsy PA. No brag, just plain ordinary fact!
In one of those letters to the bishop I asked that if this situation were occurring on Mother’s Day, would the conference hold the session, do the ordination, and require attendance on part of all pastors? I then said, “We both know the answer to that, do we not?”
I rest my case!
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. [Ephesians 6:4 - Wesley NT]
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. [Colossians 3:21 - Wesley NT]