By Jessica Connor
FLORENCE—Western North Carolina Bishop Larry Goodpaster has one great wish for the new class of ordinands: that they lose their minds, and in doing do, gain the mind of Christ.
Goodpaster, along with S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston, commissioned and ordained 14 elders, 20 provisional elders, one deacon and three provisional deacons at Annual Conference June 2.
Drawing from Philippians 2:1-11, Goodpaster preached on “A Fine Madness,” asking the clergy, “Have you lost your mind?”
After all, he noted, today’s United Methodist clergy face a host of drawbacks: declining membership, lack of impact on any culture in the world, a “worn out” system of ministry, a well-intended but “somewhat shallow” promise to go wherever the bishop sends, a host of pressures and expectations placed on them by bishops, institutions and local churches.
Given all that, Goodpaster repeated, “Have you lost your mind? Honestly, I hope you have.”
And if not, he said, “I hope tonight as you are commissioned or ordained, and as we pray, that the spirit of Christ will be poured out over you and into you, and that you will lose your mind. And you will be in good company.”
Take a look around, Goodpaster said: John Wesley was so extreme in his faith between outreach to the poor, evangelical witness and itinerancy to those on “the margins” that he was labeled at best an enthusiast and or fanatic and at worst nuts.
“Wesley and that entire Methodist movement was like an epidemic spreading across the country, and they couldn’t figure out what to do about it or how to stop it!” Goodpaster said.
Paul, too, lost his mind to Christ. Indeed, throughout Scripture, Goodpaster said, so many people are judged to have lost their minds.
Today’s clergy should also do just that: lose themselves to the strange, mysterious call of God to go and do.
“You are not sent into the world to be pop psychologists … or CEOs; you are sent to be biblical witnesses in the best sense of the world,” Goodpaster said. “You are to be men and women who speak God’s sense to a world who has lost its way. The prevailing culture may judge you in those terms, but in reality you will not have so much as lost your mind but have gained the mind of Christ. And that is Paul’s message to the church at Philippi.”
As they prepared to commission or ordain the 38, Holston echoed Goodpaster’s words, urging the clergy to remember they are called to serve rather than to be served.
The following were commissioned provisional deacons: Eric Hendrickson, Andrew Thomas Jones and Elizabeth Adams Murray. The following were commissioned provisional elders: Doris Regina Bright, Jacqueline Carter-Harris, William Wallace Culp III, Lillie Kerns Davis, Zachary Harmon Dillard, Angela Marie Etheredge-Manly, Kimberly Norbeck Evans, Sharon Spann Gamble, Michael Eugene Goldston, Erik Kenneth Grayson, Kayla Brooke Harward, John David Howle, Charles Brian Humphries, Sheila B. Koger, Mark Douglas Mitchell, James Lawson Morgan, Allen Nesmith, Meghan Lindsey Sweeney, Charlie Thomas and Carly Kirsten Wicklund. The following was ordained deacon: Katherine Amanda Brock. The following were ordained elders: Hope Renee Avins, Joshua Lee Blackwelder, Benjamin Olsen Burt, Walter Joseph Cantwell, Daniel Walker Chamblee, Michael Terrence Fleming, Mallory Jean Forte, Andrew Charles Martin, David Jeffery Roper, Redonia McKnight Thomas, Suzanne Byrum Walker, Jeri Katherine Warden Sipes, Charles Byrson Williams Jr. and Thurmond Williams.