Immigration Rally Held at Elizabeth ICE Detention Center

Bishop Schol at the “We Care” immigration rally
PUMC at the immigration rally

As the national debate over immigration rages on, a rally was held Saturday at the ICE detention center in Elizabeth.

Faith leaders were rallying for immigrants’ rights as more than 400 families wait to be reunited after crossing the United State-Mexico border illegally. The ecumenical vigil aimed to protest what the activists say is inhumane treatment to immigrants and family separations by ICE.

The event, hosted by the United Methodist Church, included prayer and song.

Organizers say they want to show that they care about those separated families and for those seeking asylum who are being turned away by the Trump administration and its immigration policies.

Organizers say human rights groups have complained about maggots in food and the shower area at the Elizabeth center, as wells as bleach-tasting water that is said to be undrinkable.

Photos courtesy of Iona Harding

From Bishop Schol: What is Normal?

A message from Bishop John Schol

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I write to you with a heavy heart because I know good people of faith will hear different pieces of news coming out of Charlottesville and come to different conclusions. I believe that conversation is important and hope that we will continue to gain clarity and understanding about these issues.

While in Germany for a Council of Bishop’s meeting several years ago, I toured a concentration camp. Martin Niemöller, clergyperson and Christian theologian, had been imprisoned there for being outspoken about Nazi atrocities against the Jews. The cell where he was in solitary confinement was preserved. Throughout the concentration camp, there were pictures of guards. There were quotes from guards. As I toured the concentration camp, I recognized that artifacts and history were preserved to communicate that while at the time, the behavior of the Nazis seemed the right thing to do, it was not normal. It was not moral. It was not how God intended for us to treat one another.

Today, we are facing one of the greatest challenges for our soul and the soul of our Nation. We are facing the normalization of hatred and the continued normalization of racism. You do not find today in Germany statues of Nazis on horseback or proudly marching. I commend the people of Germany who have preserved the horrors of the Holocaust, not idols that look patriotic or victorious.

What we choose to honor normalizes behavior. What we choose to portray as heroic signifies the behaviors our society normalizes. The argument that statues of heroic confederate soldiers are a part of our history is like saying statues of heroic Nazis are a part of history. It does not tell the story that at its heart, the Civil War was based largely on individual rights to preserve an economic system based on enslaving people. When unjust systems and the people who seek to preserve those systems are honored, it signals that injustices and oppression have a place, not only in our history but our present and future.

To say the Nazis, the KKK and other hate groups and the people who stand up against them are similar only emboldens hate groups. The Nazis of Germany and the dissidents who fought against them are not the same.  The Nazis of today’s hate groups are not the same as those who resist and protest hate groups.  To compare as similar people who seek to preserve oppressive systems and injustices with those who seek to oppose them is a comparison that leads to further harm.  One group of people went to Charlottesville with guns, chanting racial hatred against Jews and people of color to promote racism.  The other group responded to oppose them and stand up for injustice.  To call them the same is not normal. There is no moral equivalency between the groups.

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was not people seeking to preserve history, but people who seek to maintain a culture and system of racism and prejudice clashing with those trying to stop racism and prejudice. 

What occurred is something that happens to a lesser degree in communities, churches, businesses, schools, organizations, and families all across our nation every day. It is a battle for what is right, what is of God and what kind of people we want to be. Racism in all forms, individual and systematic, is wrong. We can learn from the German people that we should never glorify a hate-filled and oppressive past, but we should help people see its horror, pain and evil so we can all work to prevent it from occurring again. Here in the United States, in our churches, communities and organizations, we should not glorify those who perpetrated or fought to preserve slavery, segregation and racism, but help the entire world see how wrong it was, is, and continues to be. When we don’t act, we allow other voices to normalize hate speech and divisiveness, and the injustice continues.

I also believe we cannot minimize behavior that is wrong by saying, “Oh, that is just the way he talks,” or, “That is just what she does.”  Or, “That is just the way they are.”  If we allow this, we normalize behavior that reinforces racism.

In Martin Niemöller’s cell there is a quote that says:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Let’s all work together to resist injustice, to preserve what is right and to stand up to injustice and oppression in the name of Christ.Greater New Jersey is a diverse church and we have made important progress.  Let’s keep going.   I invite each of you to have conversations during the next several weeks in your homes, Bible studies, small groups and worship and ask, “What can our family/congregation and individual disciples do to increase understanding about racism? What are the stories Jesus told about how to treat people? How will we listen to and honor the stories of those affected by racism? What will we do to work toward ending racism?”

Keep the faith!


John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey

Again, they said, Rejoice!

Want to know what goes on in the administration of the United Methodist Church in our state?

Here’s the “wrap up” of the annual conference and here it is in a longer video. You will hear the command “Rejoice in the Lord always” many times!

On Sunday our own Rev. Dr. Catherine Williams was ordained in this video.

The Monday Morning worship had a great praise band, here. 

Erin Hawkins, from the General Commission on Religion and Race, offered a “teaching moment” to introduce a 10-year intercultural competence initiave.

Retired N. J. Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein talked about integrating the public schools in New Jersey. Included in this video about inclusiveness (welcoming immigrants) is the talk that Judge Stein gave (starts at minute 11).

Watch these videos — especially Bishop John Schol’s major address — if you want to know what the future holds for United Methodists in Greater New Jersey.


“Spot and Call New Leaders” says Bishop John Schol

Bishop John Schol calls upon each church in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference to spot potential leaders and prayerfully call, equip, challenge and support them. “I challenge each of our congregations to give permission for your pastor to be more apostolic and to continue to support and challenge them to develop their leadership to lead the congregation to engage in and grow more fully the mission.”

“In GNJ we are developing new leadership resources that create a culture of leadership, spot and call new leaders and grow our leaders to be like Christ in their attitude, skills and spirit.”

Here is a link to Bishop Schol’s message for February 2017

On immigration policy

“Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, . . .

These words, written by poet Emma Lazarus and posted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty have, for decades, welcomed the foreigner to the shores of our land.  They are words that have described the position of our country, a place that has welcomed the immigrant into a land of hope where a pathway to a better life could be found.

The words “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” sound very similar to a message that the church has proclaimed for generations:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28)

The bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church offer this statement on immigration policy — and it comes with a prayer.  Link here to read this, provided by  Bishop John Schol of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey.. 

Here is another link to a prayer, this one for the immigrant and refugee. 

Refugee and Immigrant God, who came wanting to dwell among us.
Hear our prayers.  Amen.

Pray Our Way Forward: January 29 – February 4

“Holy Spirit, renew and inspire us because the way forward is hard and the disciples’ journey is long.

This sentence concludes the prayer we are asked to offer during the week of January 29. It is part of the Council of Bishops’ prayer initiative, slated for the week of January 29. Bishop John Schol invites all United Methodists to join in “Praying Our Way Forward,” focused prayer before the revision of Book of Discipline on the topic of human sexuality.

Thie UMC bishops call on us to “seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters.” Each conference is assigned a week of prayer, now through Spring, 2018.

Click here to register your commitment to prayer. You can register as an individual or volunteer to coordinate our congregation’s prayer participation. 

Here are the views of  Bishop Schol. As part of his Graceful Controversies initative, anyone from the Greater Jersey Conference may participate in a conference on March 4. 

Click here for the 75-word suggested prayer:  May we find inspiration.


Training for God’s Work

Bishop John Schol gives the Greater New Jersey conference a report card here  Among his recommendations are to reach out like a new church (hint: sponsor an Easter Egg hunt NOT on church grounds) and to  “take the church to the community”

  1. Plan “bridge events” designed explicitly to draw people from the community by providing for them something they need or enjoy — block parties, free concerts, seasonal events, parenting classes, sports camps, or school supply giveaways, etc. Source: Get Their Name by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan (Abingdon Press, 2013)
  2. Hold these events off church property or outside the church walls in venues where people feel comfortable and naturally congregate.

As church leaders, we are urged to take training.

Here is the link to “Back to Basics” training for church council members, available in various locations on January 28, 29, or 31. Also February 21 or 23.  Those who have attended say the conference training is excellent! 

The conference’s United Methodist Women have a winter retreat on Monday, February 20 at the Pinelands (former Mt. Misery!) and the registration deadline is supposed to be January 15.

Growing the Church Younger on March 5 is an intriguing conference in Wayne.

Paul Nixon, author of “Weird Church: welcome to the 21st century” will be the keynote speaker at OUTBOUND, A Day on Evangelism, on Saturday, March 25, in Wayne.

On a national level, the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church offer a plethora of resources. These webinars are available even retroactively and are easy to sign up for.

Leading Congregations Effectively in a Global World, webinar Tuesday, January 17, 7 pm

Church Council: What’s My Role? webinar Tuesday, January 27, 7 pm

What Every Child Should Experience – downloadable guide for teachers and leaders

Older Adult Ministry – how can adults help form children’s faith – webinar to listen to

Baby Boomer spirituality webinars starting Tuesday, January 24, 7 p.m.

How to talk politics in your church without being unChristian, webinar Monday, January 23, 2 p.m.

Healthy Family series: setting financial goals, webinar Tuesday, February 7, 2 p.m.

Here are some downloadable booklets from Discipleship Ministries

From Numbers to Narratives – using a narrative budget

How to Have a Courageous Conversation 

Writing as a Calling, Ministry, & Work

Here are some downloadable booklets from a non-denominational organization Practical Resouces for Churches 

It offers many of the resources that we can find at UMC national headquarters, and the webinars require membership, but some are worth looking at. The booklets seem to be free.

Basic Teacher Training 

On a local level, Princeton Community Works offers useful workshops on Monday, January 30.

Samples: the Three R’s of Volunteer Management, How to Run a Productive Meeting, Tools and Techniques to Build an engaged and Motivated Team.

Overwhelming? Yes. Less daunting if you attend with a friend. Seek out someone you don’t know, someone different from you, and offer this as a bonding experience. You and the church will be enriched.

When people hurt, United Methodists help

When people hurt, United Methodists help.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We know what it feels like – fear, disorientation, grief. Because of Sandy we know what those who were in the path of Hurricane Matthew in the United States are going through.

We can only imagine the pain and fear the people of Haiti are facing after experiencing the brunt of the storm. The immense loss and mass devastation needs the full commitment of all our efforts to reach the hurting, the hungry, the frightened and the hopeless.

We also know what the United Methodist family is like. We are family, there for one another during our greatest challenges. It is God’s love in action.

I have been in communication with our bishops in the affected areas and this past Sunday I worshiped with our Haitian congregation, First United Methodist Church of Asbury Park. All are grateful to know that the United Methodists of GNJ are praying for them and will be sharing gifts of volunteers and money to assist with recovery from Hurricane Matthew.

I call all of our congregations to pray and to receive offerings for Hurricane Matthew relief and recovery over the next two weeks. You may send your gifts marked Hurricane Matthew made out to the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey to the Mission and Resource Center 205 Jumping Brook Road, Neptune, New Jersey 07753.

We will send the money to the impacted areas through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), and your church will be credited with the donation. Through UMCOR 100% of your gift will be sent to the impacted areas. None will be kept for administrative purposes.

United Methodists from across our connection have assisted us in our recovery from Sandy. In fact, they have sent more than 11,000 volunteers and millions of dollars that helped us to rebuild 247 homes and assist 450 families in their recovery. When people hurt, United Methodists help. I hope your congregation will be a part of helping our sisters and brothers in their relief and recovery so that all of us can have a future with hope.

Keep the faith!

John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey

Message from Bishop Schol

bishop schol back

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Karen Oliveto, a gifted leader, was elected a bishop in the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. She is a lesbian. This is not the first time a gay or lesbian has been considered for bishop. Bishop Oliveto will serve the Denver area, which includes 386 United Methodist congregations in the states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Last week, she was one of 15 people who were elected as bishops in Jurisdictional Conferences across the United States. Her service as a bishop has been challenged and will be heard before our Judicial Council (the UMC’s Supreme Court).

We elect bishops in the United States in five regions called jurisdictions. Outside the United States, in Europe, Africa and the Philippines similar elections are also held in what are called Central Conferences. It takes 60% of the delegates to elect a new bishop. Delegates are an equal number of clergy and lay persons from annual conferences within the jurisdiction or central conference. There are 66 bishops leading conferences around the world and more than 70 retired bishops.

During the Jurisdictional Conferences, each of the five jurisdictions considered legislation and four of the five jurisdictions in one form or another voted to recommend that the denomination allow for theological diversity and ministry with LGBTQ persons. At the General Conference, a special commission was empowered that would completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to homosexuality.

There is deep disappointment and even rage within the church that a lesbian was elected bishop. For others, there is profound appreciation and joy. For most there is concern. What will this mean for our beloved United Methodist Church? Will it create a schism? Will it sidetrack us from our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Some want to know, what does it mean when people openly disobey our rules contained in our Book of Discipline?

Right now we are faced with more questions than answers. A lot of questions are not necessarily a bad thing. Jesus often led with questions and used questions as part of his teaching. Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)  “Can any of you by worrying add a single day to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Why are you afraid?” (Matthew 8:26) and “Why do you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). These are just a few of the questions Jesus asked.

Having questions right now is appropriate. Like Jesus’ questions, they give us the opportunity to dive deeper into faith or to turn to a different direction. For me I want to reflect on the questions to deepen my commitment to God, recommit to follow Jesus, grow in my love for the church and reflect so I may become a better disciple in the world. Like other adaptive questions and challenges we face, there is not one right answer but different answers based on scripture, reason, tradition experience and context.

I choose this path because I believe it is a faithful route to the Gospel and because I love the values of The United Methodist Church. I love that our founder John Wesley shaped our values to be:

  • Grace and accountability
  • Evangelism and social witness (mercy and justice)
  • Order and liberty
  • Scripture and experience
  • Discipline and permission

Here are a few quotes from John Wesley that may give you a deeper sense of who we are as United Methodists:

God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or laity; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.

We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.

Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.

I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.

The best thing of all is God is with us.

I call you into deeper prayer, conversation about our questions, and living our values.

To assist you with this call to action, we have opened a website for you to post your important questions for the church to discuss. Also, we have trained facilitators/coaches in the Circle Process to lead conversations in your congregations, clergy groups, organizations and district groups. For both of these resources you can go to

Our beloved United Methodist Church is changing. Since its earliest days, it has been changing. During the last half of our denomination’s history we have worked through serious controversies, slavery, women’s ordination, segregation, divorce and now homosexuality. The best thing of all is God is with us.

I call you in the midst of change to center yourself spiritually, keep the mission the main thing and ask God regardless of your view of human sexuality, how God is inviting you to change.

As we work through our differences, I pledge to continue to strive to lead by teaching, keeping a steady hand, creating space for difference, honoring those who disagree and not using divisive language like homophobic or unchristian to dismiss someone else’s theology and commitments. I will also not force any pastor to do something against her or his conscience and never force a congregation to receive a pastor who is not a good theological fit. I am a steward of the church that values all people who are gifted, creative and whole.

I call you to be a leader that offers a steady hand, honors people in the midst of difference while maintaining your own convictions and working toward unity for the witness of Christ and the sake of our mission in the world.

I do ask that you pray for me as I am praying for you and our church right now.

Best of all, God is with us.


John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey

Interfaith Vigil for Peace and Racial Justice


In response to the massacre in Charleston, an Interfaith Vigil for Peace and Racial Justice will be held Wednesday, June 24. Sponsored by the Princeton Clergy Association and Mt. Pisgah AME Church and the Coalition for Peace Action, it begins with a march  at 7 p.m. at Mt. Pisgah AME Church, ending at Tiger Park at 7:30 p.m. in Palmer Square. As darkness falls, at 8:45 p.m. there will be a candlelight vigil.

This is one way to respond to Bishop John Schol’s call to prayer: For more information, click here

And here is a post from the United Methodist Church national communications, about a vigil in Charleston, pictured above.

Photo by Lekisa Coleman-Smalls, United Methodist News Service