Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reconciling Churches Greet Bishop Karen Oliveto

By Cynthia Astle

St. Stephen UMC was well represented on Sunday, April 30 when Dallas' seven Reconciling Congregations gathered at Northaven UMC to welcome Bishop Karen Oliveto of Denver after the conclusion of a hearing before the denomination's "high court."

NEWARK, NY – Bishop Karen Oliveto (left) greets Dixie Brewster, who brought the complaint on the bishop's election. Behind them is Rev. Keith Boyette, who represented Ms. Brewster in oral arguments before the Judicial Council on April 25.
Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service.

A complaint about the election of Bishop Oliveto, who is legally married to Deaconess Robin Ridenour, was lodged last year by Dixie Brewster of the South Central Jurisdiction, the church region where St. Stephen UMC is located. The Western Jurisdiction elected Bishop Oliveto on July 15, 2016, and she was consecrated a bishop on July 16, 2016. The Judicial Council, which acts like a "supreme court" for The Unite Methodist Church, ruled that while Bishop Oliveto's consecration violated church law because she is a lesbian, she nonetheless remained a bishop of the church.

The April 30 event was quickly organized by Laura Young, South Central Jurisdiction coordinator for the Reconciling Ministries Network, to allow Bishop Oliveto to greet the seven Reconciling Congregations in Dallas that had been supporting her throughout the legal process.

Bishop Oliveto opened her remarks by saying she wanted to take a moment "just to look at you, to see your faces," as she silently, smiling, looked across the Northaven sanctuary at the assembly. Representatives came to the event from all seven Reconciling Congregations: St. Stephen, Northaven, Dallas-Grace, Lakewood, Greenland Hills, Kessler Park and the newest, Oak Lawn. A representative also was present from Ailey United Methodist Church, which has pledged to perform same-gender weddings in defiance of United Methodist policy.

"Seven Reconciling Congregations in one place!" Bishop Oliveto exclaimed. "You don't know how special you are, and how much your witness means to the church!"

The bishop then gave a brief talk about her encounter with Drew, a teen-ager who regularly attended worship services at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, where she was senior pastor at the time of her election as bishop.

In the packed Glide sanctuary, which held some 2,000 people. Drew would always sit down front, wearing a crumpled shirt and tie, and carrying a backpack. Bishop Oliveto said she came to understand that the crumpled state of Drew's outfit wasn't because he treated with typical teen-age carelessness. She said she realized that Drew was homeless, that "the people who should most have loved him didn't want him around."

There came a time, she said, when faithful Drew was absent from worship for several weeks, and then-Rev. Oliveto began to worry about him. "Young people on the streets must do terrible things to stay alive," she said to the hushed audience. "Young people on the street are in danger from terrible things."

Just when she began to wonder about finding Drew, he reappeared at church. He appeared stunned when the pastor greeted him: "Drew, I've missed you!" Clearly, no one before had ever noticed Drew's absence, Bishop Oliveto said.

Then one Sunday, the pastor called Drew up on stage so that the congregation could sing "Happy Birthday" to him as he turned 15. At first Drew hung his head, so that his long hair fell over his face. Then, as the singing swelled, he began to part his hair and look up at the people, she said.

"They didn't just sing to him," said Bishop Oliveto. "They showered him with God's love."

The Dallas-area Reconciling Congregations, along with many others, are doing the same for LGBTQ people, the bishop continued. She liked the congregations to the "salt and light" of Matthew 5:13-14. Then she encouraged her audience to "Shine!" so that LGBTQ people can know there are churches that are safe for them and gladly welcome them.

The main question asked of Bishop Oliveto by participants was what Reconciling United Methodists can do to help. She responded, "Pray for the church. And continue to bring your witness." After the brief question-and-answer session, those present crowded around Bishop Oliveto for a group photo. Then the crowd broke up to go out into the world to light the way to God's love.

See United Methodist Insight for reports on the Judicial Council rulings on Bishop Oliveto and other issues related to LGBTQ clergy.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Our New Pastor Announced

Roy Atwood
Bishop Mike McKee and Metro District Superintent Cammy Gaston have announced that Roy Atwood will be appointed to be pastor of St. Stephen United Methodist Church at the 2017 session of the North Texas Annual Conference. Roy will be commissioned as a provisional elder during this year's annual conference at First United Methodist Church, Richardson. We hope that many St. Stephenites can attend and "stand up" for Roy as he is commissioned by Bishop McKee.

Here is an introduction to our new pastor in his own words:

I was born and raised in Carrollton, Texas with my four younger siblings. As a kid, I was an active member of the youth group and choir at my family's church, St. Andrew UMC.  In high school, I ran cross-country, sang in the choir, and participated in the school musicals.  

I attended college at Emory University in Atlanta, where I majored in Business and Political Science.  At Emory, I was active in the Wesley Fellowship as a member of our discipleship team, planning Bible studies, retreats, and small groups. I continued singing in choir at Emory, as well.  After undergrad, I worked for College Forward, a nonprofit in Austin, as a college access coach, teaching an after-school class that helped low-income high school juniors apply to college.  

Then, I enrolled in Perkins School of Theology at SMU, from which I'll be graduating this May with a Master of Divinity. While at Perkins, I attended Greenland Hills UMC, where I served this past year as a full-time intern.  During my time at Perkins, I also volunteered regularly with Family Gateway, a nonprofit that houses homeless families, and Reading Partners, as a reader for children at a local elementary school. At this year's North Texas Annual Conference, I will be commissioned as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church.  

My driving passion in life is to share God's radical, unconditional love with all people and inspire others to do the same.  I enjoy preaching and teaching, providing pastoral care, working with children and youth, and serving the community through mission work.  I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to serve St. Stephen UMC, helping you to share God's love with each other, the community, and the world.

Plan Now for 'Godspell'

Click on Poster to Enlarge

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scoot Your Boots to the Choir Show!

It's almost here!

St. Stephen UMC Choir Show
A brief history of the
Told in humor and song
Saturday - March 25, 2017
7:00 p.m.
 Tickets: $15 for Adults / $10 for youth (6-12)
Children 5 and under FREE

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mikah Meyer Brings Thrilling Music, Witness

Counter-tenor Mikah Meyer graced the March 12 worship service at St. Stephen United Methodist Church with his amazing voice and his inspiring witness as a gay Christian engaged in ministry.

Photo by Paula Humphreys
Mikah has a vocal range that enables him to sing high parts usually sung by women. His selections for March 12 included "Wade in the Water," in keeping with our Lenten worship series on our baptismal vows; the anthem "Ride On, King Jesus," and offertory music, "But Who Can Abide the Day?"

The congregation was also moved by his testimony as a young man believed to be the first gay president of a Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist campus ministry. As the son of a Lutheran pastor, Mikah told how he felt called to ministry, but was prevented by the United Methodist policies that bar LGBTQ people from ordained ministry. As a result of his personal experience, Mikah has started a community called Queer for Christ, which brings together LGBTQ Christians for faith and fellowship.

Mikah's appearance was part of a larger goal: to be the youngest person to visit all 417-plus National Park Service sites, thereby setting a world record. You can follow his journey on Facebook at

His appearance at St. Stephen drew the attention of local media, including notices in the Dallas Voice and the Mesquite News.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's UMW's 150th!

United Methodist Women of St. Stephen UMC will celebrate 150 years of women in mission at our monthly meeting starting at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8. Please bring your program books and a luncheon dish to share. Our program will include a look at UMW's history, and preparation to tell the full St. Stephen congregation how United Methodist Women have made such differences in the lives of women, children and youths around the world!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

St. Stephen UMC Members March on Behalf of Immigrants & Refugees

St. Stephen UMC member Amy Martindale (bottom left) and co-teacher friend Kathleen Dugan (to Amy's right) walk on behalf of refugees. Photo by John Astle

Members of St. Stephen UMC were among the estimated 2,000 people who marched on Saturday, Feb. 18 in downtown Dallas on behalf of welcoming immigrants and refugees. Marchers traveled from the Dallas City Hall to the John F. Kennedy Memorial, where a rally took place.

Social Justice Chair Teddi Fulenwider, Lay Leader Keith Fulenwider, and members Cynthia and John Astle wore St. Stephen's "Love Is..." T-shirts for the walk. Keith and John were both photographed by other marchers who said they liked the slogans on the front and back of the T-shirts. A woman who described herself as a Catholic told John and Cynthia that she was grateful that some people were willing to be identified as Christians who believe that God loves everyone.

The question of St. Stephen serving as a "sanctuary church" for undocumented immigrants was discussed at the Feb. 12 Church Council meeting during the Open Forum. Council members agreed by consensus that St. Stephen isn't physically equipped to serve as a sanctuary church because we have no showers and no place for beds. However, the Council agreed that St. Stephen will do all we can otherwise to aid immigrants and refugees. Teddi Fulenwider said that Social Justice will research the immigration issue in greater detail and will report back to the Council in the near future.

The St. Stephen "Blue Shirts" are just visible. Photo by Teddi Fulenwider.

Other Christians were also present at the rally. Photo by Teddi Fulenwider.

Announcements 02-19-2016

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Walk for Immigrants and Refugees

Put on your "Love Is..." T-shirt and your walking shoes and come on down to Dallas City Hall at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 for the Presidents' Day Weekend March for Immigrants and Refugees.

A newly formed local advocacy group called Choose Love Not Hate, inspired by the Women's March on Jan. 20 and part of the Action Network, is coordinating the march. They're exactly the kind of folks we St. Stephenites want to get to know as friends and work with in our larger community.

The situation involving even immigrants with have papers and refugees who have sponsors is becoming dire. A United Methodist lay leader in Kansas and two men served as a church shelter in Virginia were detained this week by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents. Read the articles on United Methodist Insight, the online news and views forum sponsored by St. Stephen UMC, to find out some of the latest.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Announcements for Feb. 12

     Ever wish you had more time to see the video announcements on Sunday at Church? Here's your chance to catch up! Starting today, we'll post the weekly video that's displayed on the screens in the narthex and foyer. Click on the small frame in the bottom right corner to expand to full screen.

      All our church videos are housed on our very own St. Stephen UMC Channel on YouTube. Visit it some time, and encourage your friends and family to visit both our website and our YouTube channel.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Let's Chat about Our Church Visuals

Do you sit in church looking at the hangings on the wall, pulpit and niche and wondering about them? Why are they there? Why do the colors change? Who hangs them? Aren't some of them tired and faded? Can we have new ones? 

The Worship Committee is inviting a group of interested persons to form an "umbrella" group to discuss and reevaluate our use of liturgical hangings.  We feel it is time to reassess, particularly now that we have the electronic screens.  From this group, we hope to come up with plans for the future that will involve guidance for conforming to the liturgical church year, creation of new pieces as needed and storage/maintenance of existing items.

If you are motivated to help with this project, please contact Jeanette Benson or Tom Council.  OR-just come to a brief organizational meeting on Sunday, Feb. 19, in the chapel immediately following morning worship.  We would welcome your interest!!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Texas Bishops Speak Out

An Open Letter to United Methodists in Texas and All People of Good Will

We, the United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas, greet you in the love of Christ. We call upon those who claim the title “Christian” to remember that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, began his life as a homeless refugee, fleeing with his family to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Just as the Holy Family was forced to flee their homeland and seek safety, too many flee for their lives in our violent, terror-plagued world. 
In the face of such human tragedy in our world today, we, the bishops of The United Methodist Church in Texas, call upon all United Methodists to see Christ in the refugees of today, regardless of their nationality and/or social, religious, economic, or political background.
We share with others a common sense of frustration, hopelessness, and confusion as we view the unfolding images of today’s refugees in the news. We desire to welcome the sojourner, love our neighbor, and stand with the most vulnerable among us, while also being concerned for the security and well-being of our communities, state, and nation. It is legitimate and proper to be concerned about the safety of our neighborhoods and our country. It is also proper and right that we reflect Christian compassion and values in our response. Jesus was explicit in his teachings when he said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).
We cannot let fear rule the day; we must let love champion our actions. We are a nation founded on immigration and forged by the courage of shared values to be a “light on the hill” and a beacon of hope in a broken world.
As Christians and as Texans, our values are grounded in respect and hospitality toward strangers. We recognize that these are difficult and complex times that call for the best of America’s values and our highest witness as followers of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we call upon President Trump, Governor Abbott, and the leaders of our nation and state to seek a more compassionate response to immigrants and refugees. Joining with those who desire a safer America, we pray for a just and caring response to those most in need of our help and love.
Yours in Christ,
The United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas
Bishop Earl Bledsoe, The Northwest Texas Conference (Northwest Texas-New Mexico Area)
Bishop Scott Jones, The Texas Conference (Houston Area)
Bishop Mike Lowry, The Central Texas Conference (Fort Worth Area)
Bishop Mike McKee, The North Texas Conference (Dallas Area)
Bishop Robert Schnase, The Rio Texas Conference (San Antonio Area)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Dallas Ties in 'Selma to Stonewall'

Friends, if you're thinking of going to see the documentary "Selma to Stonewall" as recommended by our Social Justice Committee, here's a good article in the Dallas Voice that tells some of the background of the movie. Click here to read "Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall."

The two people featured in the article, the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell and Marilyn Bennett, have ties to both Dallas and The United Methodist Church. Also, the Dallas Voice publication is one of St. Stephen's partners in serving the LGBTQ community (that's why there's a DV newsbox on our sidewalk). Enjoy the article, and let's think about gathering a group to attend this important film.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Take the UMC's Survey

Now's our chance for St. Stephen UMC members to share our views with the broader United Methodist Church. Here are instructions from United Methodist Communications on taking a survey about the denomination's global mission projects.

United Methodist Communications invites you to participate in an important research study about the direction of the church and its key denominational ministries and programs.

This survey should take about six to eight minutes to complete with your individual responses used only in aggregate with results from other research participants. We will hold your individual responses strictly confidential.
We recognize that you receive many requests for your time, but we hope you will take a few moments and give us your thoughts.

This is an important time in our denomination and your opinions on these issues are important to us.  A report based on these research findings will be shared with the Connectional Table and other boards and agencies.

If you have any questions or a problem in accessing the study, please contact

Friday, January 27, 2017

What to Do About Marriage Equality?

Join us at 9 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 29 as all of St. Stephen's adult Sunday school classes discuss how St. Stephen should respond as a congregation to the disconnect between the law and the church on marriage equality.

Currently, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, same-gender couples can now be married legally. However, United Methodist church law prohibits pastors from conducting same-gender weddings and also bans local congregations from serving as sites for same-gender weddings.

As a member of Reconciling Ministries Network, St. Stephen UMC stands at the center of this painful conflict between civil and church law. Our gathering on Sunday, Jan. 29 will be for us to discuss this conflict and to hear various views on how the congregation wishes to respond. NO DECISION WILL BE MADE AT THIS MEETING. The conversation will be forwarded to the Church Council for its consideration in developing a policy about marriage equality.

A light breakfast will be provided. Please join us for an important conversation in the life of St. Stephen UMC.

Reconciling Congregations Gather Sunday

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

United Methodist Women Meeting Jan. 11

A Quick Reminder: Our monthly luncheon meeting of United Methodist Women will gather Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Stephen UMC. Please bring your UMW program books so we can plan our next 6 months. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

January Is Bursting with Activity

The New Year of 2017 has taken off with a burst of activities at St. Stephen United Methodist Church. Here's our weekly announcement video to catch up on the top happenings for the next two weeks. (We recommend going to full screen for the video).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

United Methodist Women Meeting Rescheduled

The United Methodist Women's group has rescheduled its luncheon meeting to Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 11:30 a.m. in the sanctuary. UMW will gather at that time for a potluck luncheon, devotional and planning for mission for 2017. Members please bring your UMW program books and be prepared to take notes.

A report on the development and plans of St. Stephen's United Methodist Women's group will be given to the Church Council at its Jan. 15 meeting.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcome to 2017!

What a joyous Christmastide and New Year's we've had at St. Stephen Church! We had a full house for Christmas Eve worship, and more-than-respectable attendance on both Sundays of Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Our thanks to Dr. Leo Tipay for his worship leadership on New Year's Day.

Now we're moving farther into the Christian calendar. Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Wise Men to Jesus, will be celebrated on Sunday, Jan. 8 at the 10:50 a.m. worship. Sunday School for all ages resumes on Jan. 8 as well.

Immediately after Jan. 8 worship we will "de-green" the sanctuary, meaning that we'll take down all our Christmastide decorations. We hope that many folks will stay to help pack away the decorations, so that the work will go quickly and efficiently.

Because of the 2016 holiday calendar, our Church Council meeting has been rescheduled for Sunday, Jan. 15 immediately after worship. If you have items to put before the Council, please get them to co-chairs Teddi Fulenwider or Tina Simpson as soon as possible.

We wish peace and prosperity in body, mind and spirit to all in 2017!