|Convocation focuses on 'the United Methodist way'|
United Methodist Bishop Violet Fisher addresses nearly 1,000
participants at the "Convocation of Extended Cabinets " Nov. 9 at Lake
UMNS photos by Linda Green.
By Linda Green*
Nov. 16, 2007 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.
"Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.”
Nearly 1,000 United Methodists from throughout the world learned those
three simple rules Nov. 9-11 and committed to teach them to others as
they extend the church's mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for
the transformation of the world.
The occasion was the first joint meeting in almost 40 years of the United Methodist bishops and their cabinets. Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, a new book by Bishop Rueben Job, was one of the convocation's guides.
"We, as United Methodists, must rediscover the vocation of being full-time Christians," says Bishop Gregory Palmer.
In the book's preface, the retired bishop writes that in the
fast-paced and complex world of the 21st century, people of faith are
ready for a more faithful way of living and discipleship. Methodism
founder John Wesley articulated how to live faithfully and then
practiced and taught those principles.
"And now it is up to us to see if we will take it, teach it and practice
it until it becomes our natural way of living — a way of living that
will mark our life together and our lives as individual Christians," Job
Throughout the convocation, the bishops emphasized a commitment to
teaching the rules of United Methodist living in order that people and
congregations may be strengthened and grow in faith.
The convocation brought together district superintendents and others
charged with leading their annual (regional) conferences to develop
clarity around the church's purpose, mission and identity and to prepare
to lead the church in new ways.
"If our church is going to reach its potential, we have to lead the
church differently," said Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones. While bishops
and their cabinets are not the only denominational leaders, Jones said
they are crucial to moving the church into the future.
"We are people who, through our offices and through our full-time
service, shape the lives of annual conferences in significant ways, and
we wanted to have a conversation together to move the church forward in
effectiveness of living the United Methodist way," he said.
Missouri Area Bishop Robert Schnase, presenting from his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations,
described how effective congregations engage in radical hospitality,
passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission
and service and extravagant generosity.
The convocation was the first gathering of bishops and cabinets since
1969, just after the merger of the former Methodist Church and the
former Evangelical United Brethren Church to form The United Methodist
Jones hopes that holding the gathering six months before the 2008
General Conference will build momentum toward understanding God's
calling for the church.
Bishop Scott Jones of Kansas confers with Mary Brook Casad, executive secretary of the United Methodist Connectional Table.
The Rev. Veronica Palmer, a New Jersey district superintendent,
called the event long overdue. "It is about time we get on board and
start turning our church around," she said.
New York West Area Bishop Violet Fisher agreed and delivered a sermon
called "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For," using the title of a
song by the African-American group Sweet Honey in the Rock. She said
United Methodist leaders live in God's world as God's co-workers to
enhance the welfare of people.
"We are called out of our insulated individualism into solidarity with
the other people, not only at home but also around world," said Fisher.
"The world is waiting for us."
Iowa Bishop Gregory Palmer, president-elect of the Council of Bishops,
told the convocation that United Methodists "must rediscover the
vocation of being full-time Christians."
The church and all Christians must breathe in the spirit of God, and
then breathe out in service to the world, said the Rev. Karen
Greenwaldt, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
The church thrives, she said, when it offers hope and love not only to
those inside but to the wider world.
"Imagine what could happen if all of us, by the grace of God and
prepared by the Holy Spirit, start to move in the same direction," said
Houston Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the Council of Bishops.
The United Methodist Church in Africa and the Philippines know how to
make disciples of Jesus Christ while the church in the United States is
losing members. Huie said United Methodists in the United States need to
stop bickering among themselves and focus on spirituality, their
identity as United Methodists and what God is calling them to be and do.
The gathering, she said, "was a time to rethink who we are as United
Methodists and how we live into, lean into, step forward and move into
this mission that God has given us."
The Rev. Larry Homitsky portrays John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
The United Methodist way
The Rev. Isaac Ken Green, a district
superintendent in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference of West Africa,
attended the convocation to "learn who we are as United Methodists, the
direction we are going and get acquainted with the United Methodist
The convocation, he said, was an opportunity to learn because individual
knowledge is not sufficient in helping bring people to Christ.
"Everyone has his or her own knowledge, his or her own view, but this
was about coming together and seeing what is missing in us so that we
For the Rev. David Muwaya of Uganda, East Africa, the United
Methodist way "means working together as (a) global church, building
relationships with churches within our own conference and with churches
elsewhere, bringing together people to share our history and to
determine where we move from here."
The Rev. Linda Wiberg, director of connectional giving for the
California-Nevada Annual Conference, said living the United Methodist
way means getting in touch with the Wesleyan spirit and the movement
that John Wesley and his brother, Charles, helped to create.
"It is about intentionality and personal piety and social holiness," she
said. "They are in partnership with one another and give us a whole
Gospel to proclaim."
Prior to the gathering, participants read and discussed "The United
Methodist Way: Living the Christian Life in Covenant with Christ and One
Another," a paper commissioned for the convocation by the Council of
Bishops. The paper is available at http://www.gbod.org/extendedcabinet/UMWay.pdf.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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