Thursday, June 30, 2011

Medical Mission in West Africa

I've just returned from another mission to west Africa. I'm tired with the jet lag, but offer a few pictures to give a glimpse of the past 9 days. We've partnered with Esaho Kipuke in northern Togo & also enjoy the encouragement and support of our friends in the capital city of Lome at the Korean Methodist Mission. I'll offer some stories from our mission trip soon, though in the meanwhile offer this visual report. Once again we saw thousands of people through medical clinic, dispensing medications, giving away reading glasses, and offering both children's ministry and this sort of relationship building and witness.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Other UMC Annual Conferences of Note

I've enjoyed reading the reports from all the UMC conference meetings. It's interesting to get a sense of the different annual conference personalities, of the issues which are most important to them, and of some of the ways they do their work somewhat differently than we do in North Georgia UMC.

I appreciate the strong missional response in Virginia. They had opportunity for all the congregations of the conference to respond with funding and participation that shows some big collective numbers. "Members collected 53,469 kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, including 26,617 health kits and 944 cleaning buckets. The Society of St. Andrew’s “Potato Drop” involved more than 220 participants who unloaded and packed 39,000 pounds of sweet potatoes that went out to 12 feeding agencies in Virginia and West Virginia." Wow, did all those kits arrive at Annual Conference?

In addition, they really got my attention with a subtle, yet important way they showcase ALL those who fall under the auspices of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Is this the norm in most conferences? Does someone have a link, or copy, of the order of worship for this service?

"At the Ordering of Ministry service there were 25 people licensed as local pastors, one received as an associate member, 20 commissioned as provisional members, one ordained as a deacon and 19 ordained as elders."

I like this inclusivee approach and hope some UM's out there will teach me more about the ways the VAUMC, and perhaps other conferences, are doing this.

VA UMC Conference Report

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Arkansas UMC Leading the Way?!

I'm somewhat slow in bouncing back from the North GA UMC Annual Conference. There's a lot to do the next few days in my regular work. I'll try to post more of my reflections on the #NGAC11 soon that might add to the official reports I've previously shared.

A VERY interesting part of this season is to see what other Annual Conferences are doing, what they've decided, and who they've elected to General Conference & Jurisdictional Conference. Methodist conferencing continues to inspire, challenge, baffle, and aggravate! Yet, something about it also leads to collective conversation, wisdom, and experience of God that also draws me deeper into the Methodist way and give greater hope as we seek to follow Christ and live in the present Kingdom.

Andrew Thompson points to the work of one conference that offers some helpful clues as they are 2 years into reorganization for shared ministry and vitality in the Arkansas UMC. “'Imagine Ministry' presents a more specifically Wesleyan focus for ministry at the local level, but it also backs it up with concrete structural changes..." They get my attention with emphasis on faith formation and collaboration among churches.

I was so intrigued that even in my post Annual Conference stupor I turned to their document found at Imagine Ministry 2011.

A quote first as reality check:
"Fifty years ago, the average age of Methodists paralleled the population of the United States. Today the average age of an American is 36. The average United Methodist is 57 years old. Our society consists of five generations. Growing churches may include all generations, but must include the youngest three. If the local congregation has only the oldest two generations in age represented in its attendance — age 63 and up — then in twenty years, the congregation will struggle to exist. These statistics are descriptive of our condition and give us information about ourselves as a connectional church across the state of Arkansas."

There is far too much to share here so I'd urge you to read the document for yourself. This will be fun to watch as they model a dynamic new relationship that is true to our denomination and better connects local ministry with a shared conference strategy.

Some noteworthy changes:
"Currently there is no one responsible and accountable for developing regional strategies of mission that are geographically and demographically sensitive and appropriate."

"With the district resources of multiple congregations, and local extension ministries, and with access to conference and national resources the district superintendent is the appropriate role and conference staff person to develop regional (district) missional strategies and work plans."

"By reducing the primary role of the district superintendent to missional strategist and deployment specialist, the district superintendent is to be freed up to do the most important work of this position – understanding the district mission field and the congregations in order to make the most appropriate appointments based on the gifts and effectiveness of clergy. With larger districts and a smaller but clearer role, a good bit of the work of district ministry will be shared collaboratively with congregations, clergy, congregational coaches and circuit elders (see pages 27-28). This pushes the real work of mission and ministry closer to the mission field and the local congregation, where it belongs.

"There are new roles created - Congregational Coaches and Circuit Elders: These are new roles for people who are already working in the field."

In addition to a greater emphasis on communication they also develop "two new networks - The Network for Personal Holiness and the Network for Social Holiness."

Check out the entire document and the proposals. I think the conclusions they find would be similar to most conferences and offer an exciting example of a renewed connection and dynamic between church and conference.

1. The United Methodist Church in Arkansas must recapture its sense of urgency to evangelize those living in our communities.
2. The mission field in and around local churches must be the primary focus of ministry.
3. Leadership for both clergy and lay leaders must be improved to a level of excellence.
4. Clergy and lay leaders must be held accountable for outcomes of transformation.
5. The Annual Conference must be more responsive to local congregations.

Report of Conference Task Force at #NGAC11

An important report we heard, but didn't receive in writing, comes from the North GA UMC Conference Task Force established at NGAC09. We have struggled for a few years now with the financial implications of the Simpsonwood Retreat & Annual Conference headquarters, with funding issues related to clergy including pre-1982 pensions, and with some "next steps" for NGAC in these and other matters as we seek to be in ministry and keep the budget.

See the full report at
NGAC Conference Task Force

North Georgia AC Day 4 Official Wrap Up

#NGAC11 Last Day

Friday, June 17, 2011

North Georgia AC Day 3 Official Wrap Up

WOW, there's far too much to say for my unofficial report, so I'll save that for Saturday. In the meanwhile find the official news at
North GA UMC AC #3.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

North Georgia AC Day 2 Official Wrap Up

An exciting, busy, historic day full of Methodist conferencing was held in Athens GA. See NGAC 2011 Wednesday for the official report.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

North Georgia UMC Annual Conference 2011- Day 1

Imagine a family reunion complete with worship, church business, elections, ordinations, networking, and LOTS of eating and meeting and you'll have a good idea of a United Methodist annual conference meeting. This year is a little different with delegate elections for the UMC General Conference in 2012 which gathers UM delegates from all the conferences across the world, and in our case, delegates for the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC which will do business including the important working of electing bishops.

Some of the main activities of Day 1 includes the official business of the Board of Ordained Ministry, & then the clergy in executive session acting on the BOM recommendations. This includes the mix of receiving the names of those clergy newly commissioned or ordained, hearing the names of those who are retiring, and hearing of a great variety of situations ranging from continuation of education or status to changes of status in relationship to the conference. You see, in United Methodism clergy aren't members of a local congregation but are members of the conference, and that makes this a family reunion in many respects as it may be the only time in the year that we see each other.

A new twist that I'm experiencing this year, and really enjoying I might add, is keeping up with other delegates through Twitter. I've never really gotten into Twitter, though I find that it allows for a level of conversation, immediate response, and everything from humor to good insight that you might get with a friend or two in your row though seldom with 30 friends at once!

Tonight's worship is the ordination service & is always a favorite as families, friends, churches, and the conference gather to ordain the deacons and elders who have fulfilled all the requirements of the North Georgia Conference and have already proven themselves to be effective in ministry. Tonight will see 6 full connection deacons and 18 full connection elders be ordained!

Bishop Watson shared some words for them, and for all the clergy in executive session this morning, that got my attention: "This is our holy calling. This is our work. This is our covenant." So, we welcome these new full connection clergy into the family, and we too are renewed and challenged in this holy calling.

And this is just Day 1 of our 4 day Annual Conference! More news tomorrow as we get the results of the first ballots, as we see if there is any impact from caucus groups, lists, texts and tweets of lists, local pastors voting, etc.