The Rev. Dr. Michael Christensen at the 2012 California-Nevada Annual Conference Session and below, at a Shalom Zone UMC in south Dallas. (Photo above by Paul "Spud" Hilton.)
Drew and Epworth to be 'yoked' in new appointment
California-Nevada Annual Conference Resident Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. has appointed the Rev. Dr. Michael J. Christensen to be senior pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley, succeeding the Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart, who in August joined the faculty of Pacific School of Religion.
Christensen is International Director of Communities of Shalom at Drew Theological School of Drew University. The effective date of the new appointment, Nov. 1, 2012, follows the 20th Anniversary Shalom Summit 2012 in Los Angeles (Oct. 3-6).
According to Bishop Brown, the new pastoral assignment will be a "yoked appointment to Drew and Epworth" to assure that the Communities of Shalom at Drew and Epworth UMC work synergistically for the benefit of local and connectional ministries.
"I believe Dr. Christensen's broad experience in building Communities of Shalom will match well with Epworth Church's long tradition of leadership for justice, peace, and spiritually grounded community activity. I am excited with this new partnership for ministry," the bishop said.
The appointment was announced on Sunday, Sept. 16 by District Superintendent Renae Extrum-Fernandez in Berkeley, and the following day by Dean Jeffrey Kuan at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.
"A 'yoked appointment' in The United Methodist Church is when two churches or extension ministries share the same minister," explained Kuan, Dean of Drew Theological School and Christensen's immediate supervisor. "In this case, Dr. Christensen will retain responsibilities as Director of Communities of Shalom at Drew and will be appointed as senior pastor of the Epworth Church on a less than fulltime basis. And the two ministries – Shalom and Epworth – are considered integral to each other."
"The Epworth Church is an important, prophetic, reconciling congregation with significant local community and international ministries," Christensen said. "It has a strong lay leadership team and multiple staff that makes such an assignment possible. I look forward to joining the leadership team while continuing to work with Communities of Shalom internationally.
"It is wonderful to come full circle to serve a vital local church in the Cal-Nevada Annual Conference, my home conference, after nearly 20 years of academic appointments," he added.
"When Bishop Brown first approached me to explore this opportunity," Kuan said, "he expressed not only his strong desire to bring Shalom to his Annual Conference but also his confidence that Dr. Christensen is the right person to lead the Epworth Church at this point in its history. Over the last three months, I have had the opportunity to work creatively with Bishop Brown to facilitate this mid-year appointment for the Epworth Church."
Christensen has been at Drew since 1993, first as a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School, then as a senior administrator and affiliate professor. From 1995 to 2007, as Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, he coordinated Drew's Diaconal, Certification, National Conference, Continuing Education and DMin programs. During his tenure, DMin offerings expanded to include the Global Online program in postmodern leadership, and an international program in congregational development in South Korea.
He developed several new regional program concentrations, including Hispanic Leadership, Congregational and Community Development, Worship and Spirituality, Pastoral Care and Counseling, and Ecological Ministries. For 10 years, he taught and facilitated an annual Drew@Ocean Grove "Themes in Ministry" course that regularly drew large classes. Additionally, he taught a number of courses in the College, Seminary and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, including The Romantic Theology of C. S. Lewis and the Inklings, The Life and Works of Henri Nouwen, Apocalyptic Eschatology, and Theology and Practice of Shalom.
In 2008 Christensen became the National Director of Communities of Shalom – an Initiative of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church now housed at Drew. According to Kuan, "Dr. Christensen has been the face of the Shalom Initiative and provided the key leadership to grow the program both nationally and internationally since its move to Drew in 2008."
"I look forward to working with the Epworth Church and the Cal-Nevada Annual Conference to introduce Shalom Zone training in California – where the movement began 20 years ago," Christensen said. "I also look forward to joining Epworth's ministry teams committed to building the Beloved Community in Berkeley, providing educational opportunities in Nicaragua, and global health initiatives in Africa – which dovetail with my own interests in ministry. And I am grateful for the opportunity to seek shalom in Berkeley and around the world."
Epworth UMC Announcement (PDF)
Recent United Methodist News Service feature on Communities of Shalom: Practicing Shalom for 20 years
Lead article this week in United Methodist Reporter on Shalom: Communities of Shalom Turns 20 Amid Challenges
July 26, 2012 Cal-Nevada news article on pastoral transition at Epworth, Odette Lockwood-Stewart Joins Faculty at PSR
Communities of Shalom: www.communitiesofshalom.org