August 01, 2017

You have one guess as to why you’ve got Ulysses welcoming you to this issue of The Missouri Methodists. President Grant wasn’t a church goer, but his parents were Methodists, and abolitionists. They took their belief seriously enough that they refused to go to Grant’s wedding when he married into a slave-owning (also Methodist) family. That family was the Dents in St. Louis, where Grant made his home for several years. Grant was baptized on his deathbed, so you can almost stretch enough to say he was Methodist and a Missourian, qualifying him for inclusion in this publication. But that’s not why you see him in this particular issue. Guess quick, because the next line is the answer…

This is a 50. For those of you under 40 who are unfamiliar with cash money, Grant is on the 50 dollar bill. This is the 50th issue of The Missouri Methodists. That would be a lot of magazines if you sat down and tried to read them all at once, but it’s still a relatively short history, so I’ll give a quick recap for everyone who hasn’t been here since issue number one.

When I started, the Missouri East and Missouri West had been two conferences with two different publications (at that time The Compass and The Missouri East Conference Review), but merger of the Conferences was on the horizon, so we launched a single, state-wide publication called the Missouri Conference Review. This was in 2001. It was a black and white newspaper published every two weeks, with four pages of Conference news (one of which being a column from the Bishop) and eight pages of denominational news from the United Methodist Reporter. In time we expanded to eight pages of Conference news and started printing in color.

Our newspaper was printed in Dallas, Texas, by UMR Communications, which was also the publisher of the national newspaper, the United Methodist Reporter. Toward the end of May 2013, I received an email from UMR Communications that they were closing – in two weeks. I scrambled around, got bids on different forms of publications and came up with what you are holding in your hands right now.

The outlandishly creative name, The Missouri Methodists, helps us not only know what to call it but also serves as a guiding principle for the content. Is the story related to Methodists in Missouri? Then its worthy of consideration. Is the story about a Lutheran in Minnesota? Then that’s a no. It might be a great story, but it’s a story for a different publication than this one.

As generic of a moniker as The Missouri Methodists may be, it wasn’t without controversy. My good friend Rev. Cleo Kottwitz pointed out that it should be The Missouri United Methodists, both out of respect to the Evangelical United Brethren that the Methodists merged with during the 60s, and so we don’t appear to be saying to our non-UMC Methodists brothers and sisters that United Methodists think they are the only turtles in the Wesleyan tank. Of course Cleo was right, but we stuck with The Missouri Methodists anyway, because anything longer got unwieldy. Sorry former EUB friends, we meant no offense. But while we’re on that topic, I think we all might have been better off back in the 60s if we’d dropped the United part of the EUB name, and instead gone with the E, and formed the Evangelical Methodist Church. Maybe we could have embraced evangelism, and saved the evangelical word from the political connotations that get attached to it.

My friend Carol Oliver recently asked me for copies of a story about the importance of the role of the local pastor in Missouri. I didn’t recall it. She started looking for it, magazine by magazine, until she found it in an issue from exactly two years ago.

I had written the story and am a little embarrassed that someone who had read it remembers it better than the guy who wrote it. On the other hand, I’m greatly encouraged that someone found it useful enough to want to refer to it two years post-publication. I hope you find something in this issue worth passing along, and if you ask me about it later, I can remember what you’re talking about.