The Connectional Table continues to seek to “discern and articulate” (¶904) our vision in a worldwide connection. The Book of Discipline gives us language that says:
The Church seeks to fulfill its global mission through the Spirit-given servant ministries of all Christians, both lay and clergy. Faithfulness and effectiveness demand that all ministries in the Church be shaped by the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. (¶123)
Keep in mind, this paragraph is preceded by our United Methodist mission statement, our rationale for the mission, and the process for carrying out our mission. The process for carrying out our mission was heavily shared throughout General Conference 2016. In Portland, we illustrated how we proclaimed the Gospel, led persons to commit their lives to God, nurtured persons in Christian living, and sent people into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ. (¶122) But what does “Spirit-given servant ministries” throughout the world look like? And do we define “faithfulness and effectiveness shaped by the mission,” the same way? In other words, what does the fruit of mission look like in our worldwide Church?
The Connectional Table is tasked with “reviewing and evaluating missional effectiveness” (¶905.4) in our worldwide church. The Discipline asks us to look at general program-related agencies and connectional structures of the church and see what they do “collectively” in order to aid annual conferences and local churches as they fulfill the mission of The United Methodist Church… (¶905.4).
In this task, we have discovered that in order to fulfill our global mission, we have to look at each region of our world with a culturally and contextually sensitive lens. What is needed for missional effectiveness in one part of our world may not be the same in another part of our Church. Despite these differences, we believe what we are doing is “shaped by the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.” (¶123)
“So, what?,” you might ask. Leaders throughout our connection are trying to figure out WHAT we need to hold together because we are a part of the United Methodist family throughout the world and WHAT do we need to let each region in our connection figure out for themselves. This will take courage, humility, honesty, and grace. Gil Rendle wrote in a monograph on courage, “Doing what is right because it aligns with purpose, as opposed to doing what is desired, is a courageous act because in church systems our leaders exercise their leadership ‘in community.’ The pastor, or the denominational executive, is a part of the community to which he or she offers leadership. In other words, the leader is dependent upon the very people he or she leads.” (Rendle Monograph)
The Connectional Table represents the whole church and all people who call themselves United Methodist in every nook and cranny of our world. Our challenge is to serve our community well as we seek to fulfill our purpose through our mission of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”