|Bish Schna-Z raps with UM bloggers|
Bishop Robert Schnase (second from right) meets with bloggers during the
Congress on Evangelism in Nashville, Tenn.
UMNS photos by Stephen Drachler.
By Stephen Drachler*
Jan. 9, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
In the digital world, Bishop Robert Schnase is known as “Bish Schna-Z.”
The Missouri bishop views the Internet, and particularly using a blog (web log), as an important ministry tool.
He’s getting first-hand experience through his blog, www.fivepractices.org,
which focuses on issues related to the emerging Five Practices of
Effective Congregations movement. Schnase is the author of the book of
the same name.
The Rev. Theresa Coleman, a blogger known as “Rev. Mommy,” and Schnase
talk about the impact of blogging
on the church.
Schnase spent more than three hours on a recent evening in
Nashville listening and sharing thoughts with a small group of United
Methodist bloggers. The group, with Internet names such as “TNramber,”
“Rev. Mommy,” “dogblogger,” and the “Methoblog,” is part of an informal
network of United Methodist bloggers. Their perspectives run the gamut
of theological views, including liberal, conservative, and
The bloggers and the bishop were attending the Congress on
Evangelism, sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism and the United
Methodist Board of Discipleship, at the Opryland Hotel.
“I’m trying to get into the church the reality of the significance
of alternative forms of communication,” Schnase said as he told the
group why he asked to meet.
Even so, he added, “every once in a while I ask ‘what am I doing blogging? Am I making a fool of myself?’”
Being a spiritual guide
Schnase posts to his blog once or twice a week. He tells stories of
congregations that are effectively using the principles of Five
Practices. He shares his thoughts on theological issues. Recently, he
filed a posting asking for prayers for President-elect Obama during the
presidential transition. And a few weeks ago, he wrote a touching
remembrance about a colleague who died.
“You are shaping yourself as a translator for your cohort,” said
Gavin Richardson, a Tennessee youth pastor who is widely seen as a
leader in the United Methodist blogger community. Richardson calls his
blog, at www.gavoweb.com, “Hit the back button to move fwd.” “You have a chance to be a spiritual guide to people.”
The blogs are all tools given by God for communicating, said Jay
Voorhees, a Nashville pastor who coordinates Methoblog, a compilation
of material from United Methodist bloggers, and blogs at “Only Wonder
Voorhees said Schnase’s blog “sets up conversation by asking good
questions” to spark online discussion on issues related to
Theresa Coleman, a Georgia pastor known as “Rev. Mommy,” told the
group of counseling someone though the digital Second Life, an online
universe that replicates life in the real world. The person, whose real
identity she does not know, was in a crisis, and with the help of a
colleague, they worked him through the period and found him a
real-world priest in Ireland. Coleman’s blog is “Rev. Mommy’s Random
Thoughts” at http://reverendmommy.blogspot.com/.
Most of the group had not met in person until this evening at the hotel.
“Most of us became aware of each other through Methoblog,” said
Wayne Cook, a pastor in the Holston Conference, who blogs as
“TNrambler,” at http://tnrambler.wordpress.com/. He said he learns from blogging. “I look for people who understand my frame of reference.”
As discussion moved to where The United Methodist Church is heading,
Schnase said he often takes an informal survey, asking groups to tell
him what are the current “unifying threads” in the church.
“They tell me ‘Three Simple Rules’ (a compilation of John Wesley’s
basic rules by Bishop Rueben Job), ‘Five Practices,’ and (the
anti-malaria initiative) Nothing But Nets,” Schnase said.
A decade ago, he said, the main unifier was likely the Disciple
Bible study program, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of
“We need to look forward. We need bigger voices in the next 20 years to come,” Schnase said.
Being a United Methodist blogger comes with risks, members of the
group said. One told of being called by a bishop after posting an item
the bishop didn’t like. Others said it’s easy to feel intimidated by
authority figures if they post items critical of the church.
One blogger participated in the group’s discussion on condition that
she remain anonymous. Her blog does not reveal her full identity.
“I’m not ready to have people know who I am,” she said. “I’ll get there, but I’m not quite ready.”
Nonetheless, they all agreed digital communicating would someday become the norm and play an even larger role in the culture.
Erin Richardson, Gavin’s wife, who blogs under “Be Still and Know” at http://bugbabe.wordpress.com/, tried to allay Schnase’s concerns that his blogging is not effective.
“A good pastoral counselor doesn’t give all the answers, but asks the right questions,” she said.
*Drachler, a public relations consultant and former United Methodist
Communications staff member, also consults for Bishop Schnase.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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