A recent panel of bishops discussed the question, "What is not working in the UMC?" They said out loud what many of us in most conferences discuss as key areas to work on: "Boards of Ordained Ministry, the appointment system, Charge Conference, general agencies and an antiquated communication system." While these discussions have been going on for some time at every level of the denominational structure it is time to move beyond discussion to action. The question of faith is always "What challenging step must we take today to follow Christ in our world today?" Unfortunately institutions and structures get accustomed to doing business a certain way, and can be slow to change what we are comfortable with and know from practice. As a bishop said so well our "Institutional preservation is our unstated mission." Sounds rather like heresy doesn't it? One huge related challenge will be, as one bishop recommended, to "follow the money" and consequence of our de facto mission now which appears to be sustaining the clergy.
An interesting read as many issues are diagnosed. Now that we have noted the symptoms will we move to a remedy which helps us, and more importantly the world, to to experience the Good News of Jesus Christ?
An addendum thought an hour after the original post-- It is "rivalry Saturday" for college football. One interview talked about the significance of special teams play for Florida. What got my attention was the punt return expert who is legendary for "changing field position." His strategy is exactly what the UMC needs to learn. How do we change "field position?" As one who works in mission I think the main key is to change from an emphasis on the institutional church to what God is doing in community and how the church needs to be at work/life in the community. Recapturing our mission in the world will be the key to changing our field position!
See more about the bishop's panel discussion at http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=4476