When we talked this week, the Rev. Jennifer Murdock, the new minister-in-charge at the Los Gatos United Methodist Church, inquired about the location of the Memorial Park where that afternoon she would conduct her first local grave side service.
She grew up in a Lutheran manse, though her mother had Methodist connections. The Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley honed her for thinking and practice for ministry. Stints in a Reno, Nevada parish and ministering with San Bruno disaster victims preceded her appointment to the church in Los Gatos. She wanted to return to local church ministry to preach and be involved with persons in their faith journeys.
The United Methodist Church remains Episcopal in its pastoral placement system. Appointed clergy remain “itinerant” in that they continue as members of the regional conference and not of the local church.
Murdock likes this system for two reasons: The members know their pastor is not someone they “hired” to respond to their beck and call. And, secondly, perhaps the bishop has a better perspective of ministry needs in a region than lay persons in a local church could ever obtain.
She acknowledges that the weakness in the appointment system lies in the fact that parishioners with power and control in various parts of their lives have only limited influence in choosing their pastor. In every place she has served complaints about such impotence have reached her ear.
We spoke about the hot topic in main-line Protestant church of whether or not to welcome openly homosexual men and women into ordained ministry. The United Methodist Church continues to struggle with the issue. Thus far the General Conference (the chief decision making assembly) has refused such welcome.
The Bishop in the Northern California-Nevada Conference openly appoints such persons to pastorates. The local UMC congregation calls itself “reconciling,” a term not approved by General Conference but one used by some churches in this area. Clearly this Conference and this local church would like to see the denomination adopt a new policy.
Murdock found initial displeasure in an earlier appointment to a south Reno congregation. She seems pleased to have been sent to Los Gatos and will find herself even more at ease when all her boxes are unpacked.
Murdock is very approachable. Local folk will enjoy meeting her. We wish her and the congregation well.