Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Fruitful Connection, Focused on the Future

A Fruitful Connection, Focused on the Future

(Photo Credit: Mike DuBose, UMNS) 


Greetings from General Conference 2016!

Yesterday in Portland, Oregon the Connectional Table shared a report with the members of General Conference and those streaming around the world celebrating our continued focus on increasing vital congregations across the church through ministries in the Four Areas of Focus. 

We have strategic and achievable goals before us as we look to the next quadrennium…

1. We will develop Principled Christian Leaders through a commitment to recruit, train and engage 3 million difference makers – to transform the world as they put faith into action.

2. In the area of new places for new people, we will form one million new disciples who profess their faith in Jesus Christ.

3. We will follow Christ’s command to be in ministry with the poor, as we commit ourselves to building 400 vibrant, faith-filled communities addressing issues of poverty.

4. And, building on the infrastructure and success of Imagine No Malaria, we will continue our commitment to global health as we commit to reaching one million children around the world with lifesaving health interventions.

We are committed to these Four Areas of Focus because we believe that working collaboratively toward these strategic goals helps us accomplish our call to THEREFORE, GO and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.   We believe we are stronger together when we stay focused on this mission.

This quadrennium, the Connectional Table has focused on building bridges, establishing trust and deepening relationships as we connect strategies that help us achieve this mission.  We remain committed to increasing vital congregations across the United Methodist connection and believe that we can do this best when we take into account the diversity of our worldwide church in our strategies and in the allocation of our resources.

Earlier this quadrennium, twelve annual conferences banded together as Team Vital and met four times over a two-year period to share best practices for increasing congregational vitality.  We are stronger together when we work together across annual conferences. 

The National Ministry Plans funded through World Service are addressing the changing landscape of the mission field in the United States.  The Hispanic/Latino population today in the U.S. is approximately 53 million  (17% of the total population), and is projected to grow to 30% of the total population by the year 2050.  The National Latino Hispanic Plan submitted a budget reflective of their commitment to engage a minimum of 24 annual conferences to develop strategies of church growth across the US, and to create a regional strategy in Central America.  We are stronger together when we know who are neighbors are and how we can best be in ministry with them.

Working with leaders from the Council of Bishops, the Connectional Table and the four program boards, the Vital Congregations and Four Areas of Focus Missional Collaboration Group built trust and established accountability among denominational leadership for the goals set in these Four Areas of Focus this quadrennium.  This group also supported grants to be funded for entrepreneurial and experimental programs to increase congregational vitality. These funds were administered by Discipleship Ministries and distributed to 23 creative ministries.  When we bless creativity in ministry, we build relationships and trust and we are stronger and more focused on the mission.

We are bearing fruit.  And we are focused on moving forward.  Doing this work collaboratively is challenging, but it is also true to who we know ourselves to be as Wesleyan Christians.  We are a connectional church.  We are stronger together.

Here in Portland, our General Conference is busy deliberating on petitions and plans for mission and ministry.  Each of these pieces of legislation have been crafted by the people of The United Methodist Church out of their desire to serve God and fulfill our mission in the world. As we listen to these petitions over the next few days, let us focus our conversations and our hearts on our covenant with Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves through the strength of our connectionalism and the fruits of our ministry together enhanced by our commitment to cultivate, harvest and share God’s abundance.