In 2015 I began to understand more about church and Church as I lived into my appointment in conference and global ministries. I see more clearly than ever before that often we are so bound by "what was" that we don't fully live into "what is" or "what can be." A congregation, or a denomination, can live and work more in the past than in the present or future. To start the new year it is interesting to think about leaning into the new with some renewed vigor and commitment.
So, play this game with me and see if God might be able to make use of it in some way.
Let's pretend for a moment that we are creating our Dream Denomination. What would you do if you were "king" or "queen" for a day of a denomination and could make 5 major decisions? It's a Jubilee year, and the time is ripe, so you get to lead for one day in starting everything over. Being Methodist we'd want to "do no harm" and "do all the good we can do," but with the emphasis on pleasing God we might also be free to make some major changes. You only get 5 big decisions, so make them your very best!
As for me, I'd:
1) scrap the old Book of Discipline (too "last chapter" of the US church & too institutional and bureaucratic in ways that aren't helpful for a global denomination or for ) and minimize it & build it from the ground up with focus on congregation and conference around discipleship and outreach. This would be a BOD useful in any conference or church in the world and not bogged down by regional or national issues which might best be decided in that context, yet might give more on how to operate as an international church with all conferences having equal footing.
2) recognizing we are a global denomination I'd move toward strategic offices in key continents & regions and then plant all the most vital denominational agencies in one building per location. Thus, there would be healthy "cross pollination" and strategizing between leadership, discipleship/publishing/training, evangelism, mission,etc.
3) I'd get rid of lifetime episcopacy and focus on conference clergy and leadership development which empowers a Methodist movement. Said another way, the priority for limited term bishops will be in their appointed conference (let's say 90-95% of their time is in conference as we'd still want strategic regional, national, and international connnectionalism). But the priority and strategy is first and foremost in the appointed conference.
4) I'd establish a "cradle to grave" approach to discipleship and supply churches with the material and training in support of that for studies, small groups, and our hallmark UM approach. This would be an integrated, comprehensive approach which connects congregation, district, conference, denomination, agency, college & seminary, etc. Using such material/theology/approaches would be a norm as this would be "top of the line" curriculum which other denominations and traditions would use.
5) This is perhaps the toughest of these tough measures as I'd want a "redo" of our congregations! We would all launch into this next chapter of ministry with gusto as we go about the work of God. We desperately need a laity movement that has focus on sharing the love of God in the community, and thus local church leadership must be flexible, agile, and with such a concentration on God that change, and new, and different are hallmarks of the ministries. Reaching and incorporating new and different people into our congregations should be our priority and one of the most sought after practices and skill-sets of every congregation.
How about that for some big dreaming, and hoping, as I think about the very best UMC I can imagine.
If you created a 5 point plan for the church and the Church what would that look like?
I'm thinking about a Dream Denomination today and curious if there might be a path from where we are to where we need to be. I'm sure my 2016 GC delegates will make this happen to ensure I get my 5 wishes!