She put the rest of us to shame. Even when she had Alzheimer’s and had difficulty remembering, she never forgot who she was and who God created her to be. God made Lois Moseley to be a Methodist. Lois, age 74, life-long advocate for children and social justice issues, died gracefully and peacefully a week ago. The remembrances came quickly from around the country.
- Tireless champion for the least, the last and the lost.
- A fearless voice when things weren’t right.
- Love for the church and ability to challenge what she loved.
- Such a good woman of principle and courage who made us think and stretch.
- There are no words to express what the world has lost.
- Lois was a force of nature in all of the very best ways.
- She was the reason I became a tutor for Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy, for her passion for this ministry was something to behold.
- May she read in the company of angels forevermore.
- A hero of mine in every way.
- She was so irreverent and funny, but more than that, she was good.
Lois’ obituary will tell you that she was a life-long Methodist who was a first-grade teacher, East Grand Rapids (MI) city commissioner for eight years and mayor for six months. She served on too-many-to-count local church, district and conference committees, was active in United Methodist Women at all levels and was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference. She had a beloved husband Skip, two children and five grandchildren.
Lois’ greatest loves were making sure that there was a place at the table for all people and ensuring that every child had the opportunity for an excellent education. Lois’ signature ministry was a tutoring program that she and Kathy Muir started twenty-five years ago through First United Methodist Church at inner city Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Several church staff members and dozens of volunteer tutors are present every week at the school, and tens of thousands of dollars flow through MLK Jr. Academy every year from First Church and other grants.
For thirteen years I was one of Lois’ pastors, but I was also her friend, colleague and the object of her “evangelism” at times. Quite simply put, Lois had the character of a Methodist according to the standards of John Wesley’s sermon, The Character of a Methodist. It’s must reading for anyone who seeks to live the Wesleyan way.
Here is what John Wesley says Methodists are NOT. Methodists are not distinguished by their opinions, words, actions, customs or focusing only on one part of religion: i.e. that we are saved by faith alone. Of course, it’s universally attested that Lois had many opinions, and she freely shared them with anyone who would listen. One of Lois’ friends said after the memorial service, “I saw this sign in a store that describes Lois perfectly! ‘I’m not bossy. I just know what you should be doing.’”
I confess that as a young pastor I was intimidated at times by the force of Lois’ personality and her insistent focus on social justice. I cannot think of anyone who was more passionate than Lois. She was a person of words, actions and persuasion who prodded me to become a better pastor and leader. But that was not the heart of Lois.
Wesley goes on to ask, “What then is the mark? Who is a Methodist? … A Methodist is one who has ‘the love of God shed abroad in her heart by the Holy Ghost given unto her,’ one who ‘loves the Lord her God with all her heart, and with all her soul, and with all her mind and with all her strength.’” Those words describe the essence of Lois Moseley. Lois was a person who was constantly learning. Lois and Skip took Disciple Bible Study 1, then 2, then 3, then Christian Believer. They taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and were youth leaders. Lois was the West Michigan Conference Facilitator for twelve years.
Wherever she went, Lois advocated for the marginalized, the forgotten, the neglected and the abused. She and Skip were the founders of The Methodist Connection, a collaboration of First UMC and two African-American Methodist congregations in Grand Rapids that still exists. When United Methodist Community House was in serious financial crisis, Lois led the way in raising the necessary funds. Lois gave all of the love that she had to the cause of Christ.
John Wesley also says in his sermon that a Methodist is “happy in God” and “rejoices in the Lord always.” A Methodist “has learned in whatsoever state she is, therewith to be content.” I am sure Lois would have it out with Wesley on this statement.
Lois was never content with the status quo. She was not content with racism or inner city schools who did not enjoy the same funding as wealthy suburban schools. She was not content with anyone being excluded from the church because of their skin color, ethnic background or sexual orientation. She was not content with Christians offering a pittance of financial support to the church when they earned large salaries. She was not content with children who came to MLK Jr. Academy without coats, socks, boots or mittens. Because Lois was filled with holy discontent, she was compelled to advocate for many outreach ministries in the name of Jesus Christ.
Wesley sums up the character of a Methodist by saying, “As she has time, she ‘does good unto all people’: unto neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. And she is willing to ‘spend and be spent’ … so they may ‘all come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’”
Lois’ passionate heart was also a pure heart. She loved her neighbors even if she disagreed with them. Lois was intentional in keeping connected with those who held different views at the same time as she stayed the course with her pleas for justice.
In The Character of a Methodist, John Wesley says, “And the tree is known by its fruits. For as she loves God, so she keeps God’s commandments; not only some, or most of them, but all, from the last to the greatest.” Lois produced luscious fruit throughout her life, fruit that will grow forever in the lives of those she touched.
As Lois was receiving Hospice care at the end of her life, a young social worker was meeting with Lois and Skip. After a while, she said to Lois, “I think I know you. Were you a tutor at MLK Leadership Academy at one time?” Turns out Lois was this young woman’s tutor in elementary school. Because of Lois and the tutoring program of First UMC, this young woman was able to rise above the circumstances of her life to become a caring and very capable social worker. Her gratitude was deep.
The most powerful memory I have of Lois is not known by anyone. For twenty years, Lois and Skip lived within blocks of us in East Grand Rapids. One time Gary and I were dealing with a family crisis that took us away for the evening from our two younger children, who were in elementary and middle school. Lois and Skip offered to take our children out for dinner at Arnie’s, engaged them in lively conversation and stayed at our house until later in the evening when we arrived home. I will never forget the depth of their love for our family when we needed support ourselves.
Lois and Skip’s son Scott concluded his remarks at the memorial service with these words, “If you want to honor Lois’ memory, speak out against injustice; vote; help a child to read; have the courage to do the right thing, even if it is not popular; and show respect to those with whom you disagree. The best thing you can leave for others is your example.”
John Wesley put it this way at the end of his sermon. “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? I ask no farther question. If it be, give me thy hand. For opinions, or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship.”
In the end, it was enough for Lois to have had the privilege of serving her God. She had the character of a Methodist – Lois style. Who will take up the mantle?