Sharing Faith: I missed my chance…

A God moment and missed opportunity:

This weekend I did my emergency trip to Sam’s.  I know it is time to return to Sam’s once we run out of Nutella.  We were about five days past due. So after spending the minimum $200 requirement, I proceeded to the check out.  The cashier began checking us out and telling us about his own Nutella addiction when my son realized that my name on the check out screen had an “Rev.” in front of it.  As this is not a standard title available at all places, he thought it was pretty cool.

The cashier took notice as well and asked, “Are you a minister? What denomination?” “Why yes I am!,” my proud-self said while trying to get my three year old to stop climbing the flat bed cart where this nice young man was trying to stack 30 bags of Bugles.

“What is the difference between the UMC and PCUSA?, ” the inquisitive cashier continued.

“Well I don’t know much about the different Presbyterian denominations,” I honestly stated.

“Well one is very traditional and conservative and the other one is pretty anything goes.” he explained. (yes I know there are more than two but this is what the theological cashier at Sam’s gave me so I went with it.

I had a moment.  I was being asked a religious question that might transform a life for the transformation of the world.  And here was my answer…

“Well we’re pretty moderate.  We ordain women but don’t ordain homosexuals.” – said the female pastor with the master’s degree.

God had given me the moment.  An opening that few people ever get – a willing and captive audience.  And my answer boiled down to gender and sexual preference.

I felt guilty the rest of the night.  We believe in so much more.  

I’m not making that mistake again.  Since you’ve read this far, I’m going to assume I once more have a captive audience.  

What does the UMC believe?  

Here are just the highlights.  Want to know more?  Let me know.

  1. We believe in a living, loving God revealed through Jesus Christ.
  2. Our faith is a choice we make that can be nurtured through a Christian community.
  3. Salvation is a gift from God.  Once we get on this road, we are on the way to perfection.
  4. Grace is wonderful but not always fair.  Even that idiot next door receives God’s grace even though he’s grumpy and wanted to sue you that one time because you cut down a tree. Yeah – you might be a “better” person but you both are loved by God.
  5. Faith is active – meaning if someone believes you should be able to tell by what they do.
  6. Theologically we use Scripture, experience, tradition and reason as a guide for how our beliefs interact with the world around us.
  7. Sure we disagree at times but we don’t disagree with #1 so our disagreements are kind of like sibling bickering – its annoying but when it comes down to it we’ve got each other’s back.
  8.  We have two sacraments – communion (which we can do in church as much as we like) and Baptism (which we do with God only once – cause God always keeps His end of this deal so there’s no need to redo the whole thing).
  9. If you went to 10 different United Methodist Churches on Sunday, you’d probably find 10 different styles.  One might have a rockin band singing contemporary worship songs.  Another might have a gospel choir singing African-American spirituals.  You might have a preacher who uses the lectionary each Sunday or one who creates a sermon series based on topical current issues.  
  10. We do ordain women (and men too).  But we feel that all are called into service for God

Now for the beliefs you won’t find on the website:

  1. We do have The Davinci Code secrets hidden in some of our churches.  I have cracked this code and can let you in on some of the secrets.  For instance the different colors that the pastors wear on Sunday stand for different things.
  2. Food other than communion is not a sacrament but is still holy.  It is holy in a different way in America than it is in other countries.
  3. We believe that youth and children are important but the youth at my church are the most important.
  4. We are all about the numbers.  Jesus fed 5000 so we need to try and live up to this standard as best we can.
  5. Some of us go to church to be seen.  Unfortunately they don’t realize God is watching.
  6. Our doors are open.  Unless you come in late or too early or want to steal our sound equipment.
  7. Our hearts are open – most likely due to our love of holy food and the doctors willing to open them up and fix them.
  8. Some of us love to sing but that doesn’t mean we can.
  9. Some of us are tippers.  Others are tithers.  If you can get the government to stop talking about money, maybe we will too. (but Jesus didn’t so that would be hard for us to do)
  10. Apparently some churches have a dress code but only a select few know about it.  The rest are free to dress as they wish.
Maybe if I had more than twenty seconds I could have gotten a few of these across to the Sam’s guy.  But maybe, just maybe, he’s an avid blogger and I can correct my fault.

Genesis 15:6

And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.

Until Everyone Hears,


  1. Mike on January 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Shannon, thanks for sharing this incident and your subsequent reflections on it. I think we've all had those moments where we were given a golden opportunity to say something significant for the Gospel and, for whatever reason, just blew it! I can remember lunching with a parishioner one Sunday and he asked if I ever thought peace was possible in the Middle East. "Well, of course not!" I said, scarfing down my pizza. So much for any fine sermons about the Prince of Peace and how with God all things are possible!

    Anyway, this PC(USA) pastor (somewhere between "very traditional" and "anything goes") appreciates your sharing your experience so we can all learn from it!

    Mike Poteet
    Havertown, PA

  2. Anonymous on January 21, 2012 at 11:20 am

    We often wrestle with the question: "What is United Methodism?" While you may not have sought to do this, I think your article sums it up nicely. Essentials (Jesus' category)… non-essentials… love. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Shannon Karafanda on January 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    As one person told me –> he thinks I'm ready to go back to Sam's. My only problems are that 1) I can't afford to be tempted as I can't leave that store without spending a bunch and b) I'll probably never see that dude again.

    I am thinking of putting my blog URL on my cards so that I can just hand them out when asked questions like this. Of course I'd have to remember to take them with me.

  4. Shawn H. on January 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Hello! I loved your story, I'm a Roman Catholic, but have been interested in the UMC for awhile now…but I struggle on one thing. I personally am against same-sex unions and openly gay clergy, I understand since 1972 the UMC has tried to pass this in your Conferences, is that true?! If it does pass, does that mean it is binding to the laity that they have to accept it or can we still be against it if it passes, this is the only thing truly holding me back..thank you. God Bless!

  5. Shannon Karafanda on January 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    This will most likely be brought up again at our General Conference in April this year. It is getting more difficult to pass due to the growing church in other countries which tend to be more conservative. But you never know.

    I'll be watching!

  6. E.SAM on January 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I like your honesty and your ten points, I agree it was too bad you could not "think" of these when challenged. I am a United Methodist pastor too and I would like to encourage everyone (clergy and laity) to be ready to uphold your faith when asked (this is not being lofty but Scriptural). One thing that I find a good help for me is the Apostle's Creed. It is a good thing to use (and most know it from memory). The only hang up is if you believe the Creed and live up to it. Lut us be like Paul, "…preach Jesus, crucified, dead and buried, and resurected by God" (somewhat paraphrased). God bless.

What are your thoughts?