Friday, June 26, 2015

Connectional Table Essential Functions

CT Essential Function #1:
"To provide a forum for the understanding and implementation of the vision, mission, and ministries of the global church as determined in consultation with the Council of Bishops and/or the actions of General Conference."
IE: CONNECT THE CONNECTION
There are few places between General Conference where almost all of the agencies, jurisdictions, central conferences, youth and young adult organization and U.S. racial-ethnic caucuses come together to better understand the actions of General Conference and discuss the "mission, vision and ministries of our global church." Not only does this body have the responsibility of looking at the church as a whole, but it is tasked with making the ethereal, theoretical, ecclesiological principles and policies become practical and real. It is no small task and it is wrought with wrong turns and pot-holes that often challenge this group of 59 people.

The Connectional Table is a body that is only ten years old to date. This body has been in existence less than three quadrennium, which in the life of our denomination is still in the "childhood" stage with much to learn and much to reconsider. The creators of the body were the members of the 2004 General Conference and (as much of our work in this connection) they named what they felt was the most reasonable and achievable expectations for our church at the time. What I commonly hear about that experience was that, "It was a compromise to address the matters of dysfunction and decline in our connection."

In real life, you don't tell your children, you were a compromise to save our unhappy marriage. In reality, you take the gift God has offered you in new life and you learn to live differently. That is what we have been doing this quadrennium in the work of the Connectional Table. Bishop Bruce Ough, the chair of the CT, started the quadrennium by reminding the CT that God has given this body new life and that we have an opportunity to live differently. Therefore, the CT has been working at living differently, as we seek to discern and articulate the mission, the vision and how we best steward the resources of our beloved connection.

This "forum" of representational members in our UM connection has been living differently by seeing every single person, including agency General Secretaries and Presidents as equal participants in the conversation. We have been seeking to listen to the voices of concern that have come both within our expectations and beyond our expectations. We have also been challenged to LIVE differently by being leaders who PRACTICE our means of grace regularly, both together and individually. The expectation is that every CT member must live as a "principled Christian leader" if we are to envision a UM Connection with more "principled Christian leaders." It has not always been easy, and we have sometimes failed at being gracious and loving towards one another, but we are striving. Our theory is that we can only "understand and implement the vision and mission" if we are ourselves living the vision and mission of our UMC.

The scripture that has grounded me in this role is: Luke 22:26-27
26 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant. 27 So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

The Connectional Table of The UMC is seeking to be the servant leaders of our UM Connection. It is not easy and through many paths of discernment, UM across the connection have sent certain people to this table to work together to offer the people called United Methodists and beyond HOPE for God's work in the world today. With humility, we seek to live into this role for the sake of God's mission through The United Methodist Church.



FOOTNOTE:

Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez Barker serves as the Executive Secretary of The Connectional Table of The UMC. She will be offering a series of blogs on the "Essential Functions" of The CT as mandated by the 2012 General Conference and how the CT has been living into these essential functions since 2012. Questions or comments to this blogpost can be made at ConnectionalTable@UMC.org.