Coyner, Corn messages
Bishop Coyner commented on the book, Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism by Richard C. Longworth, in his recent E-pistle. His comments are unfortunately true.
I just finished reading Kevin Corn's book, Forward Be Our Watchword. (Corn is a professor at the University of Indianapolis.) He documents the changes in the Methodist Episcopal church in the period after the Civil War to World War II, 1880-1930. He begins by observing that the in its early decades the ME church focused on evangelizing the poor and marginalized. The church moved west with the American frontier.
Corn's major thesis is that, beginning in the period after the Civil War, the church in the Midwest, particularly Indiana, worked hard to accommodate itself to culture and society. It moved from its previous focus on reaching those at the bottom of society, and became identified with the prevailing culture and society. Methodism remains identified with the middle-class and the world as it existed half a century ago. He leaves us with the challenge to reject our unfortunate past and recover our earlier fervor to change people who then can change the world.
It seems to me that with "Imagine Indiana" and the uniting of our two annual conferences we are at a unique point in the history of Methodist in Indiana. We have either the opportunity to return to our Wesleyan roots and reach the un-churched, the poor, the marginalized and others that have been ignored by the established churches. Or we can continue doing business as usual and continue to diminish both in numbers and in influence for the Kingdom.
When the former Methodst Church merged with the EUB church in 1968, Indiana had more than 400,000 members. Now as we merge into a single Indiana conference, we have barely more than 200,000 members. We have failed to reached new populations. We have failed to reach the unchurched. As someone recently remarked, we have even failed to reach "the low-hanging fruit," our own children and grandchildren. God will surely hold us accountable for our stewardship of the gospel as we implement "Imagine Indiana."
Bill Kaster, retired Elder,
North Webster, Ind.
My mother, retired United Methodist Pastor Connie Payne, forwarded to me Bishop Coyner's recent editorial "Caught in the Middle (West)." The editorial came at a very appropriate time, since I am a resident of Kokomo, and it was announced just days before that Delphi would be cutting 500-600 salaried jobs most of them here in Kokomo. Also, in the past year, Kokomo Center Schools has decided to close and consolidate buildings because of fiscal reasons. Prior to Delphi's announcement we had held discussions with friends that Kokomo was heading in the direction of Muncie and Anderson to our disappointment.
I was very appreciative that my mother thought to forward the editorial to me and as appreciative that Bishop Coyner would write an editorial on this very real topic that is facing my community. My only wish is that the editorial had been printed in The Kokomo Tribune for this entire community to read and ponder as I did. And possibly motivate some within my community to become more creative, imaginative and hopeful.
In a little less than a year my husband will be eligible to retire from the Kokomo Police Department. We are hopeful at that time he will be able to locate employment elsewhere and that we will be able to relocate. Much of our decision is based upon the fact that as a family, we would like for him to work in a safer environment however recently our decision also focuses on the decline of Kokomo's economy and, as Bishop Coyner pointed out, its lack of creativity, hope and imagination. Shawn has lived in Kokomo since he was in high school and I came here 16 years ago to take a teaching position. For us to leave our families and friends would come with sadden hearts, but at the same time, we want as others the best community to raise our children in.
I encourage Bishop Coyner to consider submitting his editorial to The Kokomo Tribune. Who knows who might read it and what it might begin.