by Joe Geary
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NRSV
Bishop McAlilly and leaders from the Nashville Episcopal Area met with their counterparts in Reynosa, Mexico, September 2-4, for an inter-conference and international retreat to plan ministry on both sides of the border. Participating from our region were the Bishop, Area Cabinet, Chairperson of the Area Pacto (covenant) Committee, Rev. Jim Clardy and the CMT Director of the Memphis Annual Conference, Rev. Tom Hazelwood. The theme of the event was taken from the Gospel of John that “they all might become one.”
At the Piedro Angular Campomento (Cornerstone Camp) in Reynosa, we were joined by Bishop Raul Garcia de Ochoa and the Cabinet of the Conferencia Oriental Anual (Eastern Mexico Annual Conference). Also in attendance were Rev. Roberto Gomez Reyes, the liaison for the Pacto to the Nashville Episcopal Area and Mr. Willie Berman who is the General Board of Global Ministries missionary assigned to minister along the corridor bordering the Rio Grande river.
Each Bishop introduced the participants from their respective areas. Opening worship sought the presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us during the retreat. Tables were made up of equal representation from both nations. The event continued with episcopal leaders presenting the flags of our countries. Each contingent then recited pledges of allegiance and sang national anthems.
The retreat continued with reports from both sides touting the progress of our covenant relationship and where each aspect stood in its development. Throughout the three days, worship was interwoven in the schedule. The three Annual Conferences rotated worship leaders, preachers and those offering devotions, testimonies and song. Language and cultural barriers faded away as strangers became colleagues and then brothers and sisters in Christ. Our time was concluded with a powerful celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The bulk of our retreat experience was hearing a description of the 27 districts of the three Annual Conferences. Each District Superintendent gave a brief summation of their district including opportunities for mission and ministry. On Tuesday evening, Bishops McAlilly and Garcia asked Superintendents to identify a colleague from the opposite nation. Throughout the experience of the retreat, the Holy Spirit was already building fellowship and affinity amongst the cohort.
Having been paired up as partners, the Superintendents then identified priorities in each district for mutual support. Advance teams will visit one another’s districts in the next few months and then teams will go and work over the coming years. Opportunities exist for local churches to have a sister local church and the same for campus ministries or camping and retreat centers, hospitals and homes.
If you would like to know more, please contact your District Superintendent or Conference CMT Director to express interest and support.
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.
# # #