Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Masters & GC2012

I live in Augusta, Georgia, USA.  In case you didn't know, it is Masters week & the entire golf world is in our town.  It is a game changer for our city.  We build spring break and new traffic patterns around the event.  We put on our best southern hospitality.  We continue a great tradition and add a new chapter.  Even if you don't follow golf it is all rather spectacular.  With hosting the tournament we put up with changes every year-- to traffic patterns, to the course and surrounding neighborhoods, to everyday business and life in Augusta-- because we are part of something much larger than any one of us.

So, with my current viewpoint I'm thinking about game changers, great tradition, and new chapters that build upon the excitement, the momentum, and the expectations of the past to create a dynamic new present and future.  Is it possible that General Conference could accomplish such lofty goals for The United Methodist Church?  Is it possible, when it is all said and done, that individuals and subgroups will put away differences and  unify for something greater than anyone of us?  I think it is both necessary and possible! 

GC 2012 nears and with it my prayer is a new, vibrant spirit of mission will reclaim us as United Methodism recaptures the calling and the warm heart that ignited renewal in previous generations of Methodist Christians.

Of course, there will be a lot of heat around certain topics including reorganization and guaranteed appointments.  Beyond the purely practical and budgetary decisions I hope we'll be rooted in solid theological motivations and conversations.  I confess that I'm missing some of that holy talk and consensus building that I'd like to see regarding General Conference.  Perhaps that is part of the problem.  Do we United Methodists from across the US and the world even speak a similar theological language these days?  Beyond the words do we have a shared experience and expectation in the ongoing Way of Salvation and the present work of the Kingdom of God?

While I appreciate the conversation is driven by practical considerations I do hope that we United Methodists will also find our decisions pushed by missional considerations as we develop the denomination and congregation around the work of the Kingdom.  That will make the changes somewhat easier to accept as the old wineskins are discarded for something new that God requires of us.  It will still hurt & it will still be tough to let go of old habits, but as we follow Spirit and sacrifice together- and reach a unity together- perhaps our best days in following Christ and sharing Good News are today!

Compare the Alan Hirsch missional church matrix with all the prescriptions proposed for United Methodist reorganization at APEPT Missional Leadership Matrix . On the 3rd page you'll find a key chart where you can consider the biblical balance that might be found for church or Church when Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelists, Pastoral, and Teaching ministries are all in sync.

As you work through the matrix you can quickly come up with many thoughts about the UMC today & what our various leadership positions have become.  Dare we get into serious conversation on such matters?  While it is worth getting into holy conferencing on each area of missional leadership space precludes that in this quick blog.  Let's just take one example and consider how apostolic leadership compares to current United Methodist episcopacy.

As I consider this I wonder:
Are we doing enough with episcopal reform as we reorganize?  I'm especially drawn to the missional emphasis of the episcopacy in Hirsch's work and hunger for that sort of leadership from bishops.  Hirsch writes, "Apostolic ministry is basically a function and not an office" p. 153 The Forgotten Ways

How can we reclaim a functional episcopacy from what can become a merely institutional bishop?  Does the UMC reorganization adequately deal with this as a driving issue and necessary theological component of reorganization?  As we realign and refocus committees and agencies will we also renew the local congregation and service in the annual conference as the priority for the episcopacy?  Bishops must spend the vast majority of their time "in conference" to be effective and more limited time serving the General Church.  Otherwise it's the same pinch those of us who serve at the congregational level realize when we've been away too much from our appointment and serving district and annual conference.  We just aren't available, connected, and with the necessary focus, even though we are doing our best in all those varied locations.

Further, why not create a consistency across United Methodism, so that similar to central conferences and other branches of Methodism, bishops are elected for terms and aren't bishops for life?  This retains consistency with the ways District Superintendents return to an Annual Conference to serve as elders & would allow for great financial savings.

This is just one example that might lead to solid conversation and a creation of a reorganization plan that has theological and practical considerations in mind. We can easily go through each of the APEPT ministries and consider the individual contributions in ministry and marvel at the genius and power of them in sync as a shared ministry.   I haven't seen a quadrilateral approach taken with the any of the reorganization plans, but it could still be a useful practice.  

Here in Augusta GA I'm praying for, and looking for, great things to come out of GC2012.  As followers of Jesus Christ, and servants of the Kingdom of God, may we yield to the Holy Spirit and do what the next generation may call a miracle!

No comments: