Showing posts from 2012

The Connectional Table Names the Rev. Amy Valdez Barker as Executive Secretary

Dallas, Texas – The Connectional Table (CT) is pleased to announce the hiring of the Rev. Amy Valdez Barker as executive secretary, effective January 1, 2013. She will provide administrative leadership for the CT as it coordinates the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church

"Amy’s experience as a leader in The United Methodist Church, along with her vision and passion for Christ expressed through our Wesleyan tradition and her administrative skills are just what the Connectional Table needs to assist us as we move forward,” said Bishop Bruce Ough, CT Chairperson. “We are thrilled that she has joined us for the exciting work ahead as we focus our attention on congregational vitality, discerning our future as a worldwide church and engaging more fully in the four areas of focus."

Valdez Barker, an ordained deacon from the North Georgia Annual Conference, is currently the project manager of the Vital Congregations initiative supported by the Connection…

The 2012 State of the Church Report focuses on Vital Congregations

Dallas, Texas -- For the next ten years, leadership of The United Methodist Church will seek to fulfill the adaptive challenge of increasing the number of vital congregations around the world. This will include sharing information and building resources to equip congregations and conferences with tools to increase, measure and sustain vitality. The newly released 2012 State of the Church Report, created in partnership with the Connectional Table, the Council of Bishops and the General Council on Finance and Administration, focuses not only on traditional statistics of the UMC, but also highlights ways in which the denomination is moving to create vital congregations.

"The adaptive challenge, which is based on research from the Call to Action Report, requires us to redirect the flow of attention, energy and resources to concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations,” said Bishop Bruce Ough, chair of the Connectional Table. “As the 201…

Call to Action – Interim Operations Team Urges UMC to Stay Focused on Vital Congregations in Final Report

The Call to Action - Interim Operations Team (IOT) has issued a final report with recommendations to The United Methodist Church to continue work across the denomination on increasing the number of vital United Methodist congregations. They express an urgent need for UM leaders to make bold, systemic changes toward a more sustainable future.

“Business as usual is unsustainable. Dramatically different and new behaviors, not incremental changes, are required,” the IOT states in the report. “We have not yet seen the degree of shared sense of urgency or commitment to systemic adaptations with the redirection of leadership expectations and sufficient resources that our situation requires.”

The IOT urges continued focus on the adaptive challenge embraced by the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table calling for an increase in the number of vital congregations.

“What matters is that we have clarity in giving focus to shifting resources to increase the number of vital congregations, u…

Connectional Table Seeks New Executive Secretary

(DALLAS, Texas) --   Leadership of the Connectional Table (CT) of The United Methodist Church announced today that they are now seeking candidates for the position of Executive Secretary.  Bishop Bruce Ough, incoming chairperson, and Bishop John Hopkins, the presiding chairperson, say the position is critical to the work of the CT.

“We seek a candidate with demonstrated adaptive leadership skills, proven executive and administrative experience and a deep love for God lived out through The United Methodist Church,” says Bishop John Hopkins, outgoing chair of the CT. Bishop Hopkins, in consultation with Bishop Ough, plans to name a search committee by September 30 to assist in identifying the most qualified candidates.

The CT was established in 2004 to oversee the coordination of mission, ministries and resources across the denomination.   It includes 47 members who are elected from U.S. jurisdictional and overseas conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe and are composed of: clergy and la…

Mary Brooke Casad Resigns as Connectional Table Executive Secretary

(DALLAS, Texas) -- Bishop John L. Hopkins announced today that Mary Brooke Casad has submitted her resignation as the Executive Secretary of The United Methodist Church’s Connectional Table (CT).  Casad has provided administrative leadership to the CT since 2007. The CT is comprised of United Methodist bishops, heads of general boards and agencies, and lay and clergypersons representing all areas of the global denomination.

“Mary Brooke's life and leadership expresses the fruit of the Holy Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Her leadership of the Connectional Table has enabled our church to take giant steps in dealing with current realities while envisioning a future with hope that comes from a deep faith in Jesus Christ. She has given servant leadership by providing radical hospitality and seeking unity in diversity around the Connectional Table that is responsible for the vision and stewardship of the mission, mi…

Why Vital United Methodist Congregations Matter

By Amy Valdez Barker
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12:24-26 I’ve been thinking about the Body of Christ in the expression of The United Methodist Church a lot lately.  I know many think of this all the time and others rarely contemplate its existence, let alone the church’s affect on the world.  However, maybe like a few, I am feeling the urgency in the matter of considering WHY we should be the Body of Christ through The United Methodist Church as we face the reality of declining participation in the mainline Protestant faith traditions.

There is no question about it, the U.S. culture has shifted rapidly in the past thirty years. There have been significant changes in attitude towards and participation of p…

Call to Action: Not Just About the Legislation

“The most important changes will not result from legislative action but require different actions and patterns of leadership by bishops, clergy and laity in their conferences.  These changes must be grounded deeply in the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting.”

                       For the Sake of a New World, We See a New Church
                                           Council of Bishops, November 1, 2011

For months, leaders supportive of the Call to Action have said “It’s not just about the legislation.”  But for two weeks at General Conference, it WAS about the legislation, primarily Plan UMC.

While Plan UMC was a substitute for the Connectional Table’s original legislation, it did maintain a strong governance board and executive general secretary to give oversight to the work of the general agencies. This was in keeping with the Call to Action recommendation to “consolidate program and administrative agencies, align their work and resources with the priorities of the Church…

Finding True North

Jesus said to his disciples, “let us sail across the lake” (Luke 8:22). And he and his disciples set sail into the wind and the waves.

This is where we find our beloved United Methodist Church.  We are launching into strong head winds and challenging waters.  Yet, we have a divine vision and a true north that I believe will lead us safely to a new harbor.  As Bishop John Schol shared with us on Monday night, no matter what the legislative decisions made by the 2012 General Conference, change and transformation is already underway. 

At this General Conference, 72 United Methodist conferences representing 27,000 congregations around the world set discipleship goals in five key areas:
Make new disciplesPraise God in worshipGrow through small groupsEngage in mission in our communities and around the world Give generously to mission These commitments represent our future. In four years, these goals translate into an increase in worship attendance to 3.6 million people; nearly 800,000 new …

Do We Believe It Is Possible?

Four years ago, we stood before the 2008 General Conference talking about shared vision and a unified direction for The United Methodist Church.  We didn't know what it would look like or what it would be called, but we all felt the need and urgency to make changes to ensure the relevancy of The UMC in the world moving forward.

As I listened to the Call to Action presentation last night at the 2012 General Conference, I am reassured that God's loving presence and wisdom has been a part of this journey for the Church.  One of the most important questions presenter Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection and member of the Interim Operations Team, asked was: "Do we believe it is possible?"

I simply say yes.

This quadrennium we have seen the great minds of the denomination come together, engage each other in heart to heart conversations and holy conferencing.  We agreed to disagree at times while still finding ways to pursue the ultimate goal of creat…

A Response to the Statement by the Africa United Methodist Movement

The Africa United Methodist Student Movement issued a statement in response to the Connectional Table's legislation on restructuring the general agencies. Click here to read their statement (PDF).

Two students, Ben Boruff and Rev. Amy Valdez Barker, who have served on the Call to Action Steering Team, responded to their statement. Their response is posted below.

Mr. Albert Otshudi Longe, Interim President
Student Representative Council
Africa University

Dear Mr. Longe,

Greetings of peace in the name of Christ!

We want to express our appreciation for the important points you raised in the statement responding to the Connectional Table proposal to restructure the general agencies, and offer some clarifications and alternative young people’s perspectives.

One of the most important clarifications we must make is that no portion of the proposal suggests reducing or eliminating current agency programs in Africa. Rather, the proposal is a first step toward creating a more effective governance st…

A Closer Look at Connectional Table Legislation

The 2012 General Conference begins in less than two weeks! In preparation for our time together, the Connectional Table has prepared three briefing papers which take a closer look at three key points in proposed legislation to fulfill to the goal of creating vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Click on the titles below to read the PDF versions of these resources.

The UMC Non-Residential President of the Council of Bishops (COB) PDF

The proposed constitutional amendment calls for the President of the COB to be relieved of residential responsibilities during the time of holding office; the term would be increased from two to four years. The president would also be designated as the Ecumenical Officer of the COB. This briefing document explains the key role of the President of the Council of Bishops and the benefits to the church.

More Effective General Church Program Support by Consolidating Several Boards for Governance an…

An Open Letter to the 2012 General Conference Delegates

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, along with 85 other United Methodist pastors, issued an open letter to the 2102 General Conference delegates expressing their support for the Connectional Table legislation stemming from the recommendations of the Call to Action work. They invite United Methodist clergy and laity to read and sign the letter also.

The letter begins: “We are local church pastors and leaders in the United Methodist Church writing in support of the legislation being proposed by the Connectional Table related to the Call to Action. We love the church and want her to have a “future with hope.” We believe that the downward trends in church membership, attendance and giving will accelerate in the years ahead. If we do nothing, our church will be half the size she is today in twenty years. Now is the time for action.”To date, the letter has so far garnered more than 1,700 signatures. We invite you to read this letter and consider signing it.

Read and Sign the Letter

Remember the Future: 30 Days of Preparation

In a little more than three weeks, United Methodists around the world will gather together in Tampa, Fla. for the 2012 General Conference. It has been quite a journey to get to this point in our collective history. I would like to recommend a new resource by Bishop Robert Schnase, "Remember the Future: 30 Days of Preparation" as we prepare to engage in holy conferencing to address the challenging issues facing our denomination. According to the blog, "these daily meditations explore the hope, purpose, leadership and making of disciples of Jesus Christ. "

Click here to sign up for these 30 days of inspirational messages.

Bishop Robert Schnase reminds us that General Conference is only one mechanism to help us reach our true destination, one with no walls. It's a spiritual destination where we have more profound connections with God and build up vital congregations to minister to a hurting world.

Excerpt from March 27, 2012: "The mission is not ours; it…

A Future With Hope

A commentary by the Rev. Deborah McLeod, senior pastor of Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and a member of the Connectional Table.

Jeremiah is one of my go-to books when I get depressed about our beloved United Methodist Church. Jeremiah has a tough job. He tries to hold God’s people accountable but they do not want to listen.

There are days when we also find ourselves carrying in our hearts the failures and missed opportunities of our people. That’s when I find Jeremiah helpful. He is called to tell it to God’s people straight, no matter how unpopular the message. Sometimes we are called to the same tough task.

Our theme for General Conference 2008 was taken from Jeremiah 29: 11, “A Future with Hope.” Jeremiah tells us "For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope…” We need to remember that these words were spoken to the well-off, better educated leaders of Judah who had been ripped from…

Pre-General Conference Briefings In the Central Conferences

We asked Tim Tanton of United Methodist Communications to give us an update on the briefings held in Manila and Harare this past February. Tim was the lead organizer of these events.

This spring, nearly 1,000 decision makers from around the world will meet in Tampa to set policy and direction for The United Methodist Church for the next four years. To help central conference delegates prepare for the legislative gathering, the Connectional Table sponsored two pre-General Conference briefings in the Philippines and Africa in February.

The events were designed to give delegates an understanding of how General Conference works, logistical information related to their trip, and a working knowledge of some of the major issues that they will encounter when the legislative assembly meets in Tampa, Florida, April 24-May 4.

Bishop John L. Hopkins, Resident Bishop of East Ohio and Chair, The Connectional Table and Ruth John Lamurde, laywoman, Northern Conference, Nigeria serving communion

The brie…

Ten Things to Know About the Call to Action

By Bishop John L. Hopkins

Look! I’m doing a new thing: now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. Isaiah 43:19, CEB

God is doing a new thing in The United Methodist Church. There is a new church emerging in our very midst. It is happening at the grass roots level around the world. Bishop Robert Schnase describes it like a heat map of ministry:There are many signs of hope. Picture in your mind a heat map, where clusters of fruitful ministry activity are lighted against a dark background with the most fruitful and vital ministries shining brightest. The heat map of The United Methodist Church would allow us to see bright spots in unexpected places, concentrations of vital ministry and congregations that are thriving. Some would be in urban areas, some in the suburbs and some in the most isolated of rural counties. Africa would be aglow with congregational vitality and mission partnerships, but also the map would draw our attention…

Reunion with a sister

I'm pictured here with Rev. Mutombo Illunga Kimba and her son, Glory. We had a joyous reunion in Harare. Our family connection spans many years.

Rev. Kimba was the first UMC clergywoman ordained in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1979. A few years later, she met my father, Bishop Ben Oliphint, when he visited the North Katanga Annual Conference. Rev. Kimba attended Scarritt College in Nashville, where she received a Master's in Christian Education. During her time in the United States, she spent several weeks in my parents' home and forged a life-long friendship. I met Rev. Kimba at the 1988 General Conference. She served on the Africa Church Growth and Development Committee, which became the Africa Initiative, which gave birth to Africa University.

Rev. Kimba serves as Coordinator of Professional Schools in the South Congo Episcopal Area. She and her husband have four children; one son is named Oliphint after my family! Her son, Glory, is a student at Africa Univ…

Smokey Mountain

Just across the bridge from the historic “Intramuros Manila,” families used to live on top of a trash dump. Government housing was built next to the dump, known as “Smokey Mountain.” Today, 3,000 families live in the housing units, and vegetation now covers the huge trash dump. Many of the families make their living from salvaging trash items for recycle and re-sale.
In the midst of these extremely harsh living conditions shines a bright light…..the Smokey Mountain United Methodist Church. A one-room building provides a gathering place for worship and Bible study. The church also offers its space to other denominations as well.
Pastor Marvin Bunagan, a local pastor who will soon begin his seminary studies, is a product from a similar nearby neighborhood. An invitation from a friend to visit a United Methodist church when Marvin was a teenager resulted in a profession of faith in Christ. He attended college on a United Methodist scholarship, and is now serving the people of Smokey…

A Prayerful Guide

Levi Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, and a native of The Philippines, joined us at the pre-General Conference briefing in Manila. In addition to the presentations he made at the briefing, Levi also spoke at a symposium and book signing at Philippine Christian University. Additional speakers included Rev. Fr. Rex R.B. Reyes, General Secretary, National Council of Churches, and Norma P. Dollaga (KASIMBAYAN). Cooky Chua provided musical entertainment.

The book, “Meditations and Devotions on the Millennium Development Goals: A Prayerful Guide,” was written by Levi and 150 contributing writers, many who were present for the event. Commentaries and devotions are offered on each of the Millennium Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations at the 2000 Millennium Summit, which include: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Achieve universal primary education; Promote gen…

It's a small world, after all....especially in the UMC connection!

I was privileged to meet Rev. Munda Dablo (left), District Superintendent of the South District, Palawan Annual Conference.

She is the sister of Terry La Guardia. Terry's husband, Rev. Levy La Guardia, is pastor of Umphress Road UMC, Dallas, Texas; we have been partners in ministry for many years. Rev. Dablo will be attending the 2012 General Conference as a clergy delegate. It was a joy to be with her in Manila and discover her connection to my home conference, North Texas!

Manila Pre-General Conference Briefing

Forty eight delegates from the 24 annual conferences of the Philippines Central Conference gathered in Manila February 4 and 5 for worship and study in preparation for the 2012 General Conference. The briefing was
patterned after the Tampa briefing held January 19-21, and included presentations from presenters both in person and also via webcast and video. UMCOM presented a workshop "Exploring Communication Tools for Local Church Marketing" on February 6.

Worship was led by Jorge Lockward, Director, Global Praise Program, General Board of Global Ministries. Bishop Rudy Juan of the Baguio Episcopal Area is pictured serving communion, assisted by Carmelina Nual, lay delegate from Cagayan de Oro UMC, and his daughter Pearl.

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (right) of Germany, President-elect of the Council of Bishops and I are in Manila for the pre-General Conference briefing. We discovered that we were born in the same year. I won't tell you how old we are, but we are the average age of a United Methodist!
On the long flight to Manila, I sat by a Filipino couple who were returning home. They are Seventh Day Adventists. As I shared about my work with the UMC, they nodded their heads and said that the challenges we are seeking to address are the same for their denomination. They asked why my husband did not come with me, and when I shared that he was a pastor and was busy in ministry at his church, they smiled. "The local church! That's what it's all about!"
It is indeed what it's all about as we focus on "redirecting 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…

The Call to Action edition of Circuit Rider Magazine now available

The Call to Action issue of the Circuit Rider magazine is now available.

In advance of the United Methodist Church's 2012 General Conference, this issue explores the Call to Action, an initiative to create more vital congregations and vital leaders. Includes perspectives from denominational leaders and General Conference delegates as well as updates on various task forces and initiatives, and statistical info about the global UMC.

To read this issue online, visit:

Preparing for Change at the 2012 General Conference

During the next few weeks, I will be joining United Methodist General Conference delegation leaders and delegates around the world to prepare for the upcoming 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Florida April 24-May 4. I will participate in the US Pre-General Conference briefing in Tampa Jan. 19-21, as well as a briefing in Manila, Philippines and in Harare, Zimbabwe in the weeks that follow.

One major topic of conversation among delegates will be the Connectional Table’s proposed legislation, based on recommendations from the Call to Action Interim Operations Team. This has sparked conversation and debate across the denomination, which is very good. I have also noticed that some blogs and comments are raising several questions. I thought it might be helpful to share a summary of resources that we have prepared related to the proposed legislation.

All of the information regarding the Connectional Table legislation (PDF) is available online. The Connectional Table has worked to provide a …