Last Friday I flew to Nashville, Tennessee for a special retirement celebration. With many (including a large passel of bishops and General Secretaries), we honored Rev. Karen Greenwaldt for 32 years of service to the general church at the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD). This celebration included special recognition of her last 13 years at GBOD as the General Secretary. I had the privilege of formally representing the Central Texas Conference and the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. More personally, as a seminary classmate and as her bishop, I had the joy of expressing my personal thanksgiving for her lifelong ministry.
Karen was the first women ordained an elder in the Central Texas Conference. As such, she pioneered the way for many. Today, we are engaged in a major challenge to build the next generation of lay and clergy leadership. We need both men and women who will step forward for the high call of God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to bring the good news of the Lord’s healing love – grace – to a battered and bruised world. Biblically speaking disciples are made, not born. Discipleship – disciplined, committed following of Christ – comes through the whole of one’s life including dynamic holiness on both (!) a personal and social level.
As I sat through the celebration dinner in Nashville listening to a variety of speakers give thanks for Karen’s ministry, I could not help but reflect on this wider task. The night before I flew out to Nashville, I taught a class to the Missional Academy of the TCU and UTA Wesley Foundations. We are examining Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways Handbook. Hirsch writes about disciple-making that it is “perhaps the most critical element in the mDNA [missional DNA] mix, because it involves the critical task of becoming more like our Founder, Jesus – of actually embodying what he was about” (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways Handbook, p. 63).
In the celebration we were offered an invitation, or maybe it was a challenge, to build the next generation of women clergy leadership. Instead of gifts for her, in the invitation she noted “the gift of your presence is all that’s needed. Should you wish, please donate to the Karen A. Greenwaldt Endowment. The endowment will provide scholarships for women clergy candidates from the Central Texas Conference attending Perkins School of Theology at SMU in recognition of Karen who was the first woman ordained by the CTC.” Wow! The next generation is built by the generosity of friends and the grace of God.
Jolynn and I have already made a contribution. If the Holy Spirit so moves you, I invite you to join us in doing so. You may do this by sending checks payable to the Texas Methodist Foundation Karen A. Greenwaldt Endowment, 11709 Boulder Lane, Austin, TX 78726. If you wish to apply, hang on a bit. Karen shared with me the following: “The agreement with the Texas Methodist Foundation includes the language that they will provide to the Board of Ordained Ministry [of the Central Texas Conference] by January 31st each year the amount of funds that can be distributed. The agreement says that the Conference BOOM will manage the process for how the funds will be distributed. The funds will be distributed to Perkins by TMF once the recipient(s) is named.”
I celebrate her faithful ministry and look forward with anticipation to next generation of great women clergy leaders!