Peace Blogger Interview #8: Pam Garrud
Up this time is Pam Garrud, born and raised in the U.S., but living for the last 18 years in the United Kingdom where she has had a successful career in the pensions industry. Now she is a probationer Methodist minister who runs two blogs, Pam BG’s Blog, and Pam BG’s Book Blog. Welcome to the Peace Blogger interview, Pam.
MLW-W: Tell us something about yourself?
Pam: I would describe myself as a trainee minister, a wife, a friend and a daughter. Being a new minister for only several months, I feel that the ‘trainee’ identity is stronger than the ‘minister’ identity at the moment!
MLW-W: I can relate. Tell us about your immediate family.
Pam: My immediate family is only my husband and me; we were married in our mid 30s and have not had children. I have grown nieces and nephews in the UK and a mother, father, sister and brother in the Midwest of the US, my place of origin.
MLW-W: When not working or blogging, what do you like to do?
Pam: Since September 2006, I am a full-time Methodist minister. I sing in a choral society and I enjoy singing very much. I also enjoy reading, films and traveling, but I feel that I don’t get to do any of these too often at the moment!
MLW-W: Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian?
Pam: I don’t think I can name the date and the time that I chose to follow Jesus. I was born into the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a strict and non-mainstream version of Lutheranism and I attended Lutheran School from age 5 to age 11. Certainly during that time, I ‘accepted Jesus’, although ‘decision theology’ is not part of Lutheran thinking. I DID reject Christianity for awhile in my young adulthood, but my ‘coming back’ wasn’t so much a ‘coming back to God’ as an understanding that the God who revealed himself to me in prayer was actually the God of the Christian tradition. The image I’d got growing up of the Christian god was something like ‘God hates you but he has to send you to heaven because Jesus died for your sins.’ Gradually, I understood that this image was inaccurate in terms of Christian teaching.
MLW-W: Was the controversy over biblical inerrancy, which later split the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (and the exiled non-inerrantists became the catalyst for the merger of several Lutheran denominations into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ), a part of your experience as a child?
Pam: My experience as a teenager was the theological debates around fairly hard-core fundamentalism and whether or not women could become ministers. My congregation was very conservative in this regard. That congregation is still Missouri Synod and the senior pastor is the same person who was pastor when I was a child!
MLW-W: So, now you are a probationer Methodist minister. Tell us about the church you serve.
Pam: British Methodist ministers are appointed to ‘Circuits’ consisting of a number of churches. My Circuit has three ministers and twelve churches; I serve four churches. British Methodism is in communion with the United Methodist Church but we are an entirely separate denomination. (I say this because most other European Methodist churches belong to the UMC.)
MLW-W: Okay, for those not “in the know,” tell us something about the differences between British Methodists and United Methodists? Methodism began in Britain in the 18th C., out of the revivals led by John and Charles Wesley, who were Anglican priests, right?
Pam: This is a very historical question. John Wesley sent Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke to America in the 1780s. They didn’t have email back then! 🙂 Methodism developed separately on both sides of The Pond – splitting and uniting at various points in each country. Basically, the UMC and the British Methodist Church are in communion but separate denominations in terms of policy and governance.
Theologically, Wesley gave the ‘Articles of Religion’ to the American Methodists; this was an amended form of the Anglican 39 Articles. The British Methodist Church never had the Articles of Religion. We also have a different form of church governance. The British Methodists have never had bishops.
MLW-W: Have you spent time in any other Christian denominations?
Pam: I have only been a Methodist for 7 years! I was raised conservative Lutheran, as I said, and I have attended churches belonging to the United Reformed Church (URC) and the Anglican Church in the UK.
MLW-W: In coming back to church, you attended Anglican and URC congregations. What drew you to Methodism? How did you, in a successful career, discern a call to become a Methodist minister?
Pam: I’m not really a ‘denominationalist’ and the churches I attended were mainly because they were in my neighbourhood. However, I did become Methodist because, after moving house, my parish Anglican church turned out to be a very conservative evangelical church. I tried to stick with it for a couple of years and then complained to a Methodist friend who said ‘Why don’t you try a Methodist church? Your beliefs are very similar to what I grew up with.’ And I did. I stayed because I felt that Methodism was what I’d been looking for. I’m the first to recognise that no institution is perfect and, goodness knows, we have our problems. But Arminian theology is exactly what I believe. I like the way the British Methodist church is governed because it’s largely democratic and I like the pragmatic approach toward worship and spirituality.
I always say that the way I discerned my call to ministry was by pushing one door to see if it opens, then pushing the next, then pushing the next. The way the British Methodist Church enabled me to do that was unique. I’d already suspected that I was called to ministry before leaving the Anglican church. Now, the Anglican church in the UK is pretty mainstream, but there were a lot of people in that particular congregation who believed that that bible forbids women to preach. Furthermore, the bishop of that diocese belonged to ‘Forward in Faith’, the Anglo-Catholic stream of Anglicanism that doesn’t believe in the ordination of women on grounds of tradition. In order to go forward for ministry in that environment, I would have had to be very determined and absolutely certain of my call. But I wasn’t actually so certain that I was ready to go forward in an unsupportive environment. Because all candidates for ministry in the British Methodist Church have to be trained and accredited as Local Preachers (lay preachers) before proceeding toward ministry, I was able to test my calling gradually. Although being a minister is quite different from being a lay preacher! I joined the Methodist Church in the month of October and began training as a Local Preacher the following March.
MLW-W:How did you get into blogging? What do you like about it? Are there problems you see with blogging?
Pam:I’ve only just come up to my first year in blogging. Since about 2000, I’ve participated in Christian discussion groups. First on the Usenet group ‘uk.religion.christian’ and then on Beliefnet’s Methodist groups and latterly on Ship of Fools. I’d noticed the blogging phenomenon during the last five years but it seemed uninteresting to me compared to the interactions on the discussion groups. One day I finally decided to take the plunge into blogging; I’m not sure I had any specific reason other than that there seemed to be a growing blogging community.
MLW-W: You also have a book blog and the books you have explored there are theological works–so far. What has this experience been like?
Pam: I think it probably will remain a blog about theology books. What’s the experience like? It’s helped me to make sure I know the contents of the books. It’s easy to read a book and forget bits of it, but doing the blog means I have to know the content. It also feels like pressure! For instance, I’ve finished reading Stephen Sykes’ ‘The Story of Atonement’, but I’ve only blogged chapters 1 and 2.
MLW-W: Where did you get your theological training? A Methodist seminary, university department of religion, or, a seminary/theological college attached to a university? What was that experience like for you? Were issues of peace and justice part of your ministerial formation?
Pam: I went to Wesley House, Cambridge. I think ‘seminary/theological college attached to a university’ is the most accurate description. We don’t get to choose where we go. The church pays for our training and tells us what to study and which college to attend. Peace and justice issues were not a part of the ministerial formation. That said, you need to understand that ‘justice issues’ (if not ‘peace’ per se) are so firmly a part of our tradition that people tend to take it for granted. We will probably all tell you that we don’t do as much as we feel we ought to do to promote justice; but I doubt that many people would argue that justice has nothing to do with Christianity. Methodists were a significant force in the founding of the British Labour party.
MLW-W: How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found?
Pam:I don’t consider ‘peace’ as being a special issue. For me, ‘peace’ is grounded in the great commandment and the central tenet of Christianity of self-giving (agape) love If forgiveness is at the heart of our relationship with God, then I think that it must also necessarily be at the heart of our own discipleship. I don’t understand how I could say ‘God forgave me, but there isn’t anything particularly important about the idea of forgiveness apart from my own personal salvation.’ But forgiveness and peacemaking can be difficult things.
MLW-W: Do you consider yourself a pacifist? If so, say something about how you see nonviolence (or nonresistance) and its connections to the gospel. Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about?
Pam:I consider myself a pacifist but I do not have academic grounding in either peacemaking or Just War theory. Reading Chris Baker’s views on Just War, I’m actually fairly close to his view but I want to step over the line and say that when we make the understandably hard decision to defend those we love, we must accept that we are sinning. I was not raised a pacifist. In my upbringing in the American MidWest during the 1960s and 1970s, ‘justice’ was considered more important than forgiveness and [that view of]justice required retribution in order to be satisfied.
MLW-W: What led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers? Since joining have you blogged any posts on peacemaking? Have they gotten any feedback from readers? Pam: Someone asked me to join. J [MLW-W: I asked Pam to join soon after forming the blog-ring. At that early date, we had no female voices and I had already read Pam enough to know she was committed to nonviolence and deeply influenced by the writings of Rene Girard.] I did try blogging on why I’d joined Peacebloggers, but it got no reaction.
MLW-W: Do you read any of the other blogs in the blog-ring? Which ones do you like and why? Have you alerted any readers to your blog about these blogs (or specific posts on them) which you like?
Pam: I read your blog regularly and Chris Baker’s blog regularly. I confess that I’ve not really used the blog ring to look for other peace-bloggers. I tend to read blogs which resonate with me.
MLW-W: Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them.
Pam: As a result of having been asked to join the Peace Bloggers ring, I decided to join the Methodist Peace Fellowship. I’m not convinced, though, that ‘peace’ is my central and primary calling.
MLW-W: Since joining the Methodist Peace Fellowship, have you had any meetings or time to form any views of its strength/weaknesses? (Since pastoring leaves you with so much “free time.” 🙂 ) In the U.S., the MPF is defunct, sadly, although another group, Methodists United for Peace with Justice tries to unite all the Wesleyan groups in the U.S. for peacemaking–but most United Methodists seem completely unaware of it. Peacemaking and nonviolence are, however, high on the agenda of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Again, I am not sure how widespread awareness is of these groups in United Methodist circles–though once they were very strong. So, is the MPF a strong presence in British Methodism? Do you have the feeling that most of your congregation would know what you meant if you said you were an MPF member?
Pam: I confess that I’ve not really got involved yet. I don’t know if there are any local meetings. The Methodist Peace fellowship is part of the larger, ecumenical group, The Fellowship of Reconciliation. I don’t think most individuals in my congregations would know what it was. [Nota Bene: In Britain and much of Europe, the Fellowship of Reconciliation is an ecumenical, but specifically Christian, peace organization. The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and the U.S. branch, however, are interfaith organizations, as is the case for nations in which Christianity is a minority religion. Founded in 1914, at the outset of WWI, the branches of IFOR have been a major force for faith-based pacifism and nonviolence.]
MLW-W: Well, you may have already answered this, but, does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation?
Pam: One of my congregations takes peace-issues seriously and sees them as central and primary to being a Christian – in much the same way that I do. Another one of my congregations has more of a problem with pacifism. In the UK, one is still up against the legacy of World War II and the feeling that being a pacifist is somehow trampling on the sacrifices that grandparents and great-grandparents made for the country; and these were real sacrifices.
MLW-W: What about your denomination or your church’s wider connections to the Church Universal? Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections?
Pam: The Methodist Church of Great Britain has made a number of statements on the UK’s involvement in Iraq. However, as a denomination it does not have a pacifist agenda.
MLW-W: What of ecumenical peace efforts? The U.S. churches (due to the media prominence of the Religious Right) are widely perceived as warlike and bloodthirsty. British society has become very secularized,but are Christians perceived as concerned for justice seeking and peacemaking or not? If not, what could be done to change that perception?
Pam: I could be wrong, but I think that most mainstream churches here would be seen as being ‘for’ justice and peace. I think we’d be viewed as largely ineffectual by secular society, but I think we’d be viewed as being ‘for’ these things. For instance, here is a link to statements made about Iraq in 2003 by the denominations belonging to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland: http://www.ctbi.org.uk/intaff/iraq/index.htm .
MLW-W Have you travelled outside your home nation? How well do you stay informed with global events?
Pam: Well, I was born in the US and have been living in the UK for 18 years; I also lived in Belgium for two years in the late 1980s. I don’t think I stay as informed about global events as I ought to, but I try to look at the websites of different newspapers as well as watching mainstream television news (BBC and ITV).
MLW-W: Thanks for joining us Pam. I’ll continue to read your blog and follow your journey.
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