SAN DIEGO, Calif.: The second day of the learning forum for bishops serving annual conferences around the world focused on the strengths of The United Methodist Church and how to leverage these attributes as the church moves into the future.
The day began with worship, prayer, and singing, “Lord you are able to make all things new . . .” Preaching on the text, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” (II Cor. 5:17) Bishop Debra Wallace Padgett, of the Birmingham (Ala.) area, invited the bishops to reflect on how they as individuals and as a community can grow as new creations in Christ.
“’All things new’ begins with you and me,” she affirmed. “We are becoming new . . . it sweeps across communities, organizations, churches, councils, even denominations.”
Following worship, Brian McLaren, noted author and leader of the emerging church movement, addressed the bishops and engaged in dialogue concerning promising signs in The United Methodist Church. In the spirit of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, he suggested the church is in a time of “letting go” and “letting come” what God wills. In many places, there are creative leaders emerging and prototypes developing that reflect new ways of being church.
“As pressures increase,” he noted, “so do creativity, courage, and determination.” In such a time, things can, in the words of author and educator, Parker Palmer, “break apart” or “break open.” McLaren believes this can be an opportunity for the church and its leadership to “break open” with new possibilities.
In the afternoon, bishops shared “best practices” in appointment making, accountability systems, and ministry with younger generations. Small accountability groups met to enable the bishops to work with one another in the light of their commitments in the Four Areas of Focus and the adaptive challenge of developing more vital congregations. The day ended with learning groups discussing how each bishop can best lead in the unique contexts of the particular annual conference(s) she or he is serving.
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United Methodist Bishops Begin First Forum Meeting
SAN DIEGO, Calif. // May 6, 2013: Active bishops of The United Methodist Church began the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops on May 5 in San Diego with inspiring worship led by Rev. Jorge Lockward, Director of Global Praise for the General Board of Global Ministries. The bishops and spouses spent time in prayer, singing, praying for one another, anointing each other, and remembering their baptisms.
“The emerging church is a movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Robert Hayes of the Oklahoma Episcopal Area, who preached at the first night’s event. Bishop Hayes encouraged colleagues to reconnect spiritually with one another and with the church and to expect great things from God. “Change begins with us. We have to learn to engage with each other and even to disagree without being disagreeable. We have to model how to put new wine in new wineskins.”
“The purpose of the forum is to learn how to become a learning community,” said Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area and leader of the planning team. The Forum of Residential Bishops is a continuing education platform for the global community of United Methodist bishops with residential responsibilities.
In the first learning session, several bishops shared thoughts about how to engage with their colleagues in order to lead the church in times of rapid change. In addition, the bishops began meeting together in small groups in order to commit themselves to an intensive exchange about how to lead toward more vitality in their areas. The meeting will continue through May 9.
United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals
“Exploring leadership for an emerging church” will be the theme of the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops, scheduled on May 5-9, 2013 in San Diego.
The purpose of the five-day meeting is to create a learning environment where the residential bishops will share best practices, experiments and innovations that are working/not working in order to learn from one another. Each day’s discussion and learning will focus on a different theme, with addresses from selected keynote speakers.
“This will be an intensive time of learning, listening and renewing our commitment to our call,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops. “By removing ourselves for a few days from the day-to-day urgency of leading annual conferences, we have an opportunity to jointly gain a wider perspective of the church as a whole and to help one another as leaders from around the globe.”
The bishops have previously committed to hold each other accountable through a covenant to work side-by-side to lead the denomination forward despite existing challenges in order to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.
During the forum, the bishops will develop small accountability groups, and group members will follow up with each other afterwards related to their annual conference, jurisdictional and general leadership roles and responsibilities.
The bishops have identified some specific goals they are collectively working toward, which include:
- Double the number of vital congregations in the U.S. by the end of 2017
- Increase the number of vital congregations in the Central Conferences
- Raise $75 million in the fight against malaria
- Engage congregations in ministries to end poverty
- Start 1,000 new congregations by then end of 2016
- Enlist, support and mentor an additional 2,000 young candidates for ministry
On May 7, the Episcopal leaders will take a field trip to visit the U.S. – Mexico border.
The bishops will share information about their learning experiences through a series of daily updates which will be available on the Council’s website, and will conclude the meeting with a press conference (via web or phone — details to follow soon).
Last year, the Council of Bishops – which is comprised of both residential and retired bishops – decided to create a Forum of Residential Bishops for the purpose of building a learning community among peers. The meetings will be attended exclusively by active bishops; however, the forum will have no authority to make decisions or take actions on behalf of the Council. Such actions would be handled only when the full Council is assembled.
The full Council of Bishops has traditionally met twice a year, though they are not required to do so under church law. In order to make the forum meetings possible without creating additional cost, the Council decided to meet only once a year. Their next meeting will be November 10-15, 2013 in Lake Junalaska, N.C.
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