Hello, Druid Hills UMC and Lost Gap UMC!

To the folks at Druid Hills and Lost Gap UM churches in Meridian: If you have been googling your new pastor, you may have found this blog. To you, I send greetings! My wife, Jessica, and I are looking forward to joining you all for worship on July 1st where we will start to get to know one another, share in Holy Communion as a sign of our new ministry together and hear about how much God loves us no matter what.

I’m Jonathan Tullos and I grew up in Philadelphia; yes, the one in Neshoba County! Meridian is more or less home and I look forward to being back in the Queen City and Lauderdale County. I was born at Anderson Hospital and after graduating from Philadelphia High School in 1999, I attended MCC and graduated with a degree in Broadcast Communications Technology in 2001. I was also a member of Eagles’ 2000 national championship men’s soccer team as a student assistant. I spent several years in radio working at Q101 and, after two years at a radio station in Fort Wayne, Indiana, returned to work part-time back at Q101 (although at that point it was on 95.1) and eventually worked at WZKR (103.3) when it was a country station. I decided the time was right for a career change so I became an EMT and eventually a paramedic (I graduated from ECCC’s paramedic program in 2011). Most of my paramedic career was spent working at Metro Ambulance after working as an EMT at Wayne General Hospital in Waynesboro. As you can see, I have spent most of my adult life working in and around Meridian so I have gotten to know the area and the people very well.

Currently, Jessica and I live in Kentucky where I currently serve as the pastor of Shiloh UMC in Stanton (www.shilohumcstanton.org). We moved to Kentucky in 2015 when I enrolled at Asbury Theological Seminary and I was appointed to Shiloh. Prior to this, while completing my undergraduate degree online, I served Oak Grove UMC in the Clarkdale community for three years. I have a few classes remaining at Asbury, which I will complete online (with the exception of one class which I have to return for a week in July for) during my first year at Druid Hills and Lost Gap. Assuming no major hiccups occur, I will graduate with my Masters in Divinity in the spring of 2019.

Jessica and I have been married for nine years and will celebrate ten years as husband and wife in November. Jessica hails from all over south Mississippi as her father is an ordained elder in the Mississippi Annual Conference. She is a graduate of USM (bachelors in biology) and MSU (masters in biology) and has taught high school science for nearly fifteen years. She will be teaching at a school in the area (we will be able to share where soon) while I serve at Druid Hills and Lost Gap. Jessica is a gifted, passionate, and award-winning educator and considers her career a calling. Jessica loves crafts, especially scrapbooking and crochet! Together, we have a daughter, Hannah, who unfortunately died soon after she was born. In spite of our loss, we are thankful that Hannah’s all-too-short life has had a lasting impact, as a scholarship fund was established at Camp Wesley Pines in her memory that allows children to attend camp who may not otherwise be able to.

I am excited for what God has in store for Druid Hills and Lost Gap. Know that I am praying for you and for Brother Richard during this transition. I look forward to meeting you all in a couple of weeks! God’s grace, peace, and mercy be with you all.

In Christ,
Jonathan

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Heavenly Reunions

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Credit: Marshall Ramey/Clarion-Ledger, 2018.

Today, I want to talk about a man who I have never met but who I respect greatly and gladly call a friend. Marshall Ramsey is the editorial cartoonist for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi. He’s not originally from the magnolia state but has been adopted as one of our own due to his love for our state (even when we don’t agree with him) and for his heart of gold. Marshall is a skin cancer survivor and strives to live every day that God grants him in this world to the fullest. His Christian faith enables him to highlight hope in the midst of death and tragedy. He recently caused a huge wave with one of his recent drawings, which you likely saw when you clicked to read this post.

Marshall’s drawing of Barbara Bush being reunited with her daughter Robin – she died from leukemia at age 3, something I did not know before – in heaven has made the rounds from everywhere from NBC’s Today to Fox News and all points in between. The Bush family saw his drawing and reached out to him to express their appreciation for such a touching tribute. They now have the original drawing, prints, and awestruck surprise from Marshall. To say the least, this drawing has gotten people all over the world talking. Perhaps you want to know why this drawing has caused such a stir, aside from being a beautiful tribute. Well, the reason is simple:

Hope.

I’m a father who has lost a child. My daughter, Hannah, died soon after she was born. When I saw this drawing, tears came to my eyes because it made me think of my own daughter. These tears were not of sadness. Marshall’s drawing was a reminder that there will be a day of resurrection. I don’t know if reunions like the one depicted take place; the bible is vague at best as to whether or not such a scene would play out and not many people agree on one interpretation. But let’s put theology and doctrine aside for a moment. I have hope that I will see my daughter again. I have the promise that there will be a resurrection of the faithful and that my daughter will be among those who are raised. In short, I will see her again. I know I will. And Marshall gave me and all of those who are in the grim fraternity of those who have lost children a reminder that death is not the final answer and that we will be reunited with our children once more.

We have hope and we have the assurance that resurrection is coming. What joy!

Thank you, Marshall. Thank you for being one of the best things about Mississippi. Thank you for spreading hope. And most of all, thank you for allowing God to work through you to bring a reminder of his love, comfort, and compassion in such a meaningful way.

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

17098646_10202750955530329_99281674997685426_nPicture the south in the 1960s. Many people would tend to imagine a vision that may be encountered on an episode of the Andy Griffth Show. Unfortunately, there was a system in place that kept blacks and whites separate and considered African Americans to be inferior. Schools were segregated. Water fountains were segregated.

Even churches were segregated.

The Methodist Church (this was before the “United” was added to that name in 1968) was a prime example of the segregated church. Just within Mississippi, there were separate annual conferences for whites and blacks, with separate bishops and separate clergy. These congregations all worshipped the same God, but could not mingle or have any official tie other than the word “Methodist” on the sign. It was a dark time in the history of the church, to say the least.

A group of young clergy decided that enough was enough. With increasing racial tensions of the early 1960s approaching a fever pitch, these men sensed that the time had come to take a stand that was not popular within the white Mississippi Annual Conference. Several of them gathered in a cabin in the middle of nowhere to craft what would become known as the Born of Conviction statement.

One of the signers of this document was Rev. Keith Tonkel. Keith went on to the Church Triumphant this morning after a prolonged health battle. Many of the signers of the document were forced to leave Mississippi but Keith refused to leave. He spent much of his pastoral career at Wells Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Keith was also famous for appearing weekly on the United Methodist Hour where he would teach a brief Sunday school lesson. People always seemed to look forward to learning from Keith, with the style and delivery that one could say would remind them of their grandfather.

His loss is tremendous but his legacy will live on for generations. It is thanks to his witness that we often saw a glimpse of how eternity hopefully will be – full of people who love all just as Christ loves them. May we continue to learn from and follow his example and to allow his legacy of love and acceptance for all of God’s people to live on.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Abuse is NOT a Christian Value

bible-wedding-ringsI have to make an acknowledgment: My home state of Mississippi does not have the best reputation in the world. We rank at or near the bottom in most of the good quality of life indicators and at or near the top in all of the bad ones. One of the negative areas where Mississippi frequently ranks highest is the rate of domestic violence.

When I was a paramedic in Mississippi, domestic assault calls were common and frequent. There was rarely a week that went by that I or another crew working on my shift would not be sent to a home because some dude decided to hit his wife (I acknowledge that men are victims of physical abuse as well, but I do not recall being called to any such situations). I simply could not fathom how such could be tolerated. I can not understand how a man could raise his hand to a woman after he vowed before God and a congregation to love her as Christ loves the church, which is what a reflection of marriage is intended to be.

And then I read this. Knowing that a pastor believes this helps me to clearly fathom how someone could think that abuse is OK and even biblical.

Andy Gipson is the chair of the Judiciary B committee in the Mississippi and has refused to allow the committee to take action on a bill which would have made domestic violence a grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Citing moral convictions, Gipson – who is also a Baptist pastor – refused to even allow the committee to take up the bill. When asked why this is what he had to say:

At a time I think we need to be adopting policies that promote marriage and people sticking together, I have some serious concerns about opening the floodgates any more than they already are. I think the floodgates are already open and this just tears the dam down.”

We need to have policies that strengthen marriage. If a person is abusive, they need to have a change in behavior and change of heart.

How dare he.

While there is certainly room to debate what grounds for divorce should be valid, domestic violence is not one of those issues to be debated. Domestic violence is never OK and should never be tolerated, especially by clergy.

Let me shout this from the mountaintops: DOMESTIC ABUSE IS NOT A CHRISTIAN VALUE!

No pastor should ever ask a spouse to remain with an abuser because divorce is a “sin” or because marriage is intended to be forever. As pastors, as Christians, we should do all we can to help that person get out of that situation (and pastors, in most states we are mandatory reporters and failure to do so can carry jail time).

Scripture makes clear what a marriage is supposed to look like:

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:25-33 (NLT)

These words do not sound like a condoning of abuse to me. A man does not love his body with violence, therefore he should certainly not “love” his wife by raising his hand to her. For any pastor to suggest that allowing domestic violence to be used as a grounds for divorce will somehow “open the floodgates” for divorce is just plain ridiculous and inconsistent with biblical teaching.

I pray Rep. Gipson changes his views and realizes that Christ wants better for his children.

A Tale of Two States

I am a transplant to Kentucky, having just moved here in June. One of the things I have found myself doing often is comparing how each state differs in its traditions, customs and certainly in their government. I want to offer you the same opportunity.

As you may have seen in a previous post, I wrote a letter advocating for the General Assembly of Kentucky to pass a bill allowing EMS providers to receive the same benefits as police officers and firefights should they die in the line of duty. I had received some bad information that the bill was in danger of failing to pass and I urged my state senator and representative to support this measure. The next morning I received a call from Representative David Hale who took time out of his busy schedule to call me personally and tell me that the bill was indeed expected to do well and that he was not sure how information had gotten out that the bill was in danger. He let me know that he fully supported the bill and many of his counterparts in the senate did well. He then took a few moments to get to know me, thanked me for making the choice to move to the Commonwealth and also asked if I had any other concerns related to EMS workers. He also commended me for taking up pastoral ministry as he is also a pastor and knew how difficult it can be to balance the duties of the church with everything else life throws at you. He was very pleasant and I thanked him for giving me a call when he certainly did not have to. He said, “I work for you. It’s my pleasure.”

Contrast that to how I have been treated by a Mississippi official.

A couple of years ago, I wrote Representative William Shirley and expressed my concerns about cuts to education and the fact that teachers in Mississippi had not, at that time, received a raise in quite some time. He did not even bother to return the email. I get it, I know he has bills to vote on, committees to sit on, campaign fund money to give to himself (see page 11) and to spend at the fish camp he owns (page 10).

But I digress.

I emailed him again and this time he responded. Essentially the exchange was not very polite on his end. He essentially let me know that he would vote for and against bills that were in his best interest of staying elected and to heck with everything else.

He also made it clear that my opinion was not valued.

And then there’s this guy who told a constituent that he “could care less” about her views, that her views were not Mississippi views, and that she should consider moving back to Illinois. Her crime was the same as mine: She dared to advocate for education and questioned the wisdom of tax cuts when revenue was already projected to be lower than expected to a member of a legislative regime who is determined to cut as much spending as possible from education for the benefit of their donors who happen to be “non-profit” private education companies.

Legislators in my home state of Mississippi could learn a lot from their Kentucky counterparts.

Jonathan

Why I’m Against the Mississippi Personhood Amendment

Yes, you read that title correctly. Now, before you go on a tirade and start calling me a Godless, baby killing son of a biscuit eater, allow me to tell you why I’m against Amendment 26.

The amendment as it is written is extremely vague. Granted a lot of it is open to interpretation and that is unfortunate. The way it’s written, birth control could be banned. In-vitro fertilization could be banned. Have a miscarriage? Some overzealous DA could cite the law as a means to charge the mother with some sort of crime.

Probably the most striking thing to me is that the group who’s pushing this idiocy outright says that a mother who is raped or conceives a child as the result of incest should be forced to carry the baby to term.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Personhood will prevent a baby conceived through rape or incest from being executed for the crime. Women who have borne a child conceived in rape testify that the baby is a blessing rather than a continuation of the assault, and placing the child for adoption remains an option. (source)

I was appalled when I read that. I don’t agree with abortion as a means of birth control. I hate abortion for such purposes. However, to tell a woman that she must carry a rapist’s baby is just as cruel as the hideous crime of rape itself.

I also resent this group does not identify itself. Who is Personhood Mississippi? No one really knows. If you look at their website (which you can see here), there is no information about their leadership, their office or anything else that may identify them. My guess is because it doesn’t exist. Personhood Mississippi appears to be an offshoot of Personhood USA. To me it sounds like outside people are coming into Mississippi and trying to influence our state constitution. I don’t know about you but that disturbs me.

In short this law is flawed and should not be allowed to pass as-is. But being a Mississippian, I know that the vast majority of my fellow Mississippians are going to vote yes. Most of them have no idea what the amendment actually says or what it covers, they only know it will “ban abortion.” It might be that their pastor told them to vote yes on amendment 26 or they’ll go to Hell (my take on politics from the pulpit  is a whole other rant). Most people will not even bother to look at what this amendment says and just take the word of whomever told them to vote for it. Blindly voting is one of the most idiotic things someone can do.

It should also be realized that this campaign is a waste of time. Anyone with half a brain knows that this will be challenged in the Supreme Court and that it will not stand.

Jonathan