April was a busy month this year, with several significant meetings taking place across the denomination. United Methodist groups are on the move as they begin their work in preparation of General Conference 2012.
Here is a recap of action items United Methodists will not want to miss:
Planting Seeds – Celebrating the Harvest
During its April 21-23 meeting in Manila, Philippines, the 60-member Connectional Table (CT) approved an exciting plan to measure local church contributions of making disciples of Jesus Christ in The United Methodist Church. The plan titled “Planting Seeds – Celebrating the Harvest” calls United Methodist congregations to set annual goals for 2012-2015. The five measurable areas include: worship attendance, disciples engaged in mission, professions of faith, mission giving, and spiritual/discipleship formation groups. The vision for this plan was inspired by Bishop Robert Schnase’s book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.
In addition, annual conferences will be invited to make specific and measurable commitments in the Four Areas of Focus. The Four Areas of Focus are: Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world; Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations; Engaging in ministry with the poor; and combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.
Annual conferences are called to gather their 2012 – 2015 congregational and conference goals a as a gift to the ministry of Jesus Christ and present them as a covenant to the 2012 General Conference.
In presentations to both the Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops, Bishop John Schol said, “Bishops and general secretaries are called to lead their conferences and general agencies to resource congregations to reach these goals. Bishops will gather and report quarterly the progress toward the goals and evaluate what helps and hinders achieving the results we desire. The 2016 General Conference is called to celebrate the fruit of our church through United Methodist congregations and annual conferences around the world.”
The Council of Bishops voted to support further development of this plan during its May 2-7 meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Four Areas of Focus update
Also during the CT meeting in Manila, the Table of General Secretaries presented a report on the collective work of boards and agencies in the Four Areas of Focus. The report shows denomination-wide collaboration and new partnerships. It can be found at www.umc.org/focusareas under "resources". General Secretaries are asking for input from readers about the report and current work.
Worldwide Nature of the UMC and Other Working Groups
On Wednesday, April 21 the Connectional Table met jointly with the 20-member Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church. Six members of the Connectional Table serve on the study committee chaired by Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones. CT members learned about the committee’s plan to conduct additional listening posts in Europe, Africa and North America before making recommendations to the 2012 General Conference on structural change to reflect The United Methodist Church’s global nature.
The study committee is one of several groups studying denominational issues that may lead to proposals for change at the 2012 General Conference. The Connectional Table will seek reports from each of the ten entities by October 1, 2010 in advance of its fall meeting. Groups include: the Call to Action Steering Team, the Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of The UMC, the Study of Ministry Commission, the Commission on Faith and Order, the Sustainability Advisory Group, the Council of Bishops Task Force on Theological Education and Leadership Formation, the Church Systems Task Force, the Connectional Funding Task Force, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and the Table of General Secretaries and Agency Presidents.
Philippines Ministries Worth Noting
On April 19, CT members visited four mission sites in the Manila area that represented examples of the four areas of focus at work in the Philippines. The sites were: Smokey Mountain UMC located at a dumpsite where more than 1,000 urban poor families live on scavenging; Baseco, an urban poor community where the families of street children are jointly served by the social agencies of the UMC in the Philippines including UMCOR Philippines; Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, Inc., a social development institution of the UMC; and Mary Johnston Hospital, the first UMC owned hospital in the Philippines.
CT Chair Bishop John Hopkins and Bishop Daniel Arichea (retired) led a delegation on April 20 with CT members Rev. Lynn Scott and Ben Boruff, and Mervin Toquero, Human Rights Officer for the National Council of Churches in The Philippines, to meet with the Honorable Leila M. de Lima, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines to express concern about the continued reports of extrajudicial killings. Bishop Hopkins led a CT delegation with similar concerns in 2006.
The CT heard from several Filipino leaders on April 22 who gave an overview of the current political, economic and ecumenical climate in the Philippines. Speakers included Dr. Edith Burgos, chairperson of Desaparecidos; Mr. Jigs Clamor, deputy general secretary of KARAPATAN; Mr. Sonny Africa, research head of the IBON Foundation, Inc. and Rev. Father Rex RB. Reyes, Jr., general secretary of National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Dr. Burgos’s son Jonas was abducted three years ago and is still missing. Mr. Clamor’s wife is one of 43 health workers currently held in detention. As a result of learning about the current conditions, the Connectional Table issued a statement in response to human rights abuses in the Philippines and on May 4, sent a delegation to Washington, DC to meet with the US White House and State Department. We ask for your continued prayers and faithful actions on behalf of our Filipino sisters and brothers.
As summer approaches, we look forward to a fruitful season as United Methodist leaders work together throughout the denomination to discern God’s vision for The United Methodist Church.