Background note: Rev. Kevin A. Johnson and Mike Shear are BUMC members who moved to Palm Springs, California, in July 2002, to begin Bloom in the Desert Ministries, which is an interdenominational, inclusive Christian ministry including the Methodist (Broadway style) tradition. “Kevin’s Korner” is a monthly column reporting on their progress so Broadway and Bloom stay well connected in ministry together. (www.bloominthedesert.org)
May brings flowers, right? Well, May in the desert brings a change of pace. It is the time of year when, due to a less complicated calendar, I can concentrate on some new projects.
Therefore, accomplishing something I’ve wanted to do throughout my career, I recently applied for the Doctor of Ministry Advanced Pastoral Studies Program at San Francisco School of Theology. The School is located North of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Anselmo, California. I plan to complete the program before I turn 65 in five years.
Since Broadway commissioned me to Bloom’s ministry in 2002 (along with Mike Shear), I want you to see how I answered the primary narrative statements in the application process. Broadway is an important part of where I come from and who I am.
A. A short statement of how you are engaged in ministerial leadership, who authorizes your work, and to whom you are responsible.
As pastor and co-founder of Bloom in the Desert Ministries (Bloom), a United Church of Christ (UCC) and Reconciling Methodist congregation, I am credentialed and in professional covenant three ways: with Bloom, our UCC regional association, and The United Methodist Church (UMC). According to Bloom’s bylaws I am the “Minister,” functioning in collaborative leadership with Bloom’s governing Open Leadership Team (OLT) and Pastor Parish Team (PPT). I report to Bloom’s OLT in close contact with Bloom’s three officers, most closely with the moderator (chief lay officer), and the PPT. The PPT is considered my support in the congregation working to ensure that the goals of the minister and the congregation are in alignment.
Officially, I am an ordained Elder in the UMC on Honorable Location as a clergy member of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago. I report annually to the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Wisconsin Conference of The United Methodist Church. Professionally, I am a Dual Covenant status UCC clergy person with standing recognized by the Eastern Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. I report annually to Section B of the association’s Ministry Committee.
The complexity of the official and professional status results from the fact that I am an out gay man ordained in the UMC, blocked from serving a UMC, who co-founded a welcoming congregation in September 2002, that decided to affiliate with the United Church of Christ in October 2005. Professionally, I serve by living in the loopholes of one denomination while receiving grace and authorization from another. Bloom celebrated covenants with the UCC and me in April 2007.
B. A short statement of your reasons for wishing to apply to this program, including particularly your expectation of how it will enrich your ministry.
After visiting other campuses and considering various programs while on sabbatical in summer 2012, I decided to apply to SFTS because I liked the summer program and loved the location. Living in the Southern California desert, albeit beautiful Palm Springs, my ministerial responsibilities are intense and heightened during the months of “the season.” The Coachella Valley is a destination for many snowbirds from October through April. That means the months are jam packed for this sole pastor of a growing new church start. Concentration for studies during a traditionally termed D. Min program would be hobbled. Summer weeks, when the church and personal schedules are less intense, give themselves to education more readily.
Upon meeting (program director) Virstan Choy last summer to discuss the SFTS Advanced Pastoral Studies Program, I became intrigued with the multidisciplinary track. The Rev. Dr. Choy referred to the D. Min. project as an opportunity for Bloom to work together with me to teach something to the church at large. This excited me as I saw a way to have my congregation partner with me in the doctoral program.
Another reason I decided to apply to SFTS is that the M. Div. program at United Theological Seminary (UMC-related) in Dayton, Ohio, where I studied, concentrated on practical education in a contract learning environment. There were no traditional grades, it was pass, incomplete or fail. Evaluations were primarily narrative. Seeing a similar practice at SFTS added to my sense of “good fit” for my educational experience.
The campus is a commanding place. The historical buildings and amazing views are captivating. I was charmed by the look of what I imagine Switzerland to be. The dramatic change of scenery for me, from Palm Springs low desert to San Anselmo seminary mount, was charming. It moved me.
Engaging the program will enrich my ministry because when I am studying, I am quick to put into practice what I learn. Bloom’s ministry will be favored as I share learning and live the ministry the learning empowers. I think the Bloom congregation will enjoy being a laboratory for discovery and experimentation. I am thrilled that I will be able to apply what I learn to help Bloom continue to grow and function as a vital resource for faith, justice, the arts and community.
As always, please keep us in your prayers and come visit whenever you can.
Rev. Kev and Mike