Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Beginning Our Journey on Uncharted Paths

This past July, my husband Vic and I led a group from Christ UMC Farmers Branch, where Vic is pastor, to the Passion Play at Oberammergau, Germany. The play was first performed in a little Bavarian village in 1633 as a thanksgiving to God for being spared from the plague. Produced only once a decade, the entire community participates in this six-hour drama. It is indeed inspiring and I was deeply moved.

One segment of the play lifted up the Old Testament story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the wilderness as a parallel to Jesus’ journey through the Passion. Two lines translated from German to English in my program especially spoke to me, and today are my fervent prayer for The United Methodist Church:

“When you lead us on uncharted paths, let us believe in your grace!

When we cannot see your goals, let us have faith in your guidance!”

At its fall meeting in November, The Connectional Table gave its full support to the recommendations of the Call to Action Steering Team. Earlier in the month, the Council of Bishops did the same. Most importantly, both the CT and the COB affirmed and embraced what the CTA Team calls our “essential adaptive challenge.” That is, the essence of how we believe God is calling us as a church to change our behaviors and begin to do things differently for the sake of God’s reign on earth.

We agreed that as a Church we need to redirect the flow of attention, energy and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

This challenge is not just for members of the CT or bishops. It is for United Methodist leaders around the world in every local church and annual conference. And we ask for your support in realizing this challenge before us. The CT, in consultation with the COB, is entrusted by the General Conference to coordinate the mission, ministries and resources of The United Methodist Church on behalf of the whole denomination. The CT and COB commissioned the Call to Action Steering Team and, with much discernment, dialogue, research and prayer, they have fulfilled their task. We are grateful for their dedication and commitment to the difficult task which they have completed. We will be establishing an Interim Operations Team to provide leadership for the challenges ahead, but it will take all of us to participate as faithfully as we can to embody the vision of a renewed United Methodist Church.

In April 2011, annual conference leaders in all jurisdictions and central conferences are invited to participate in a leadership summit led by the Council of Bishops to discuss our essential challenge and what this means for each of us and for our denomination. The conversation is just beginning and we pray that we will have deep and meaningful dialogue about how God is moving the people of The United Methodist Church to reorder the life of the church so that we can fulfill our mission.

I truly believe that God is calling us to do a new thing in the UMC and for this vision to be made manifest, we must trust in God’s grace and have faith in God’s guidance.

1 comment:

  1. All too often, efforts like this suffer from the logs and motes problem. We are vigilant after the motes in others but want to ignore the logs in our own eyes.

    The discussion about congregational vitality does seem to duplicate other research on the subject. It also may suffer from surveying churches across the connection instead of concentrating on those that are highly vital and getting as much information as possible about them. The list of highly vital churches should be released to encourage contacts and learning.

    It would have been preferable if more attention had been given to the need to eliminate some general agencies and streamline the rest. We should eliminate regulatory agencies like GCRR and GCSRW. We should be realistic about the achievable goals for agencies like GCCUIC. If we are going to focus on congregational vitality, then the general agencies should only be doing those activities beyond the scope of the annual conferences.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much discussion now about changes to the structure and schedule of the General Conference meeting itself. Too much time is spent on the Social Principles and the Book of Resolutions which aren't church law and are divisive.

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