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Church agency examines forms of ministry for lay, clergy
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The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino

Oct. 18, 2005

By Ciona D. Rouse*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is planning a series of churchwide discussions on the types of pastoral ministry offered in the denomination.

The conversations will be held in regional focus groups and are intended to help clarify the forms of ministry for lay, licensed and ordained ministry — including the episcopacy — in the United Methodist Church.

During its Oct. 13-16 meeting, the board invited its directors to be active participants in the discussions.

Directors of the board’s Division of Ordained Ministry participated in a shortened version of the dialogues Oct. 14. In small groups, they discussed the church’s identity and how the ordering of ministry reflects its mission and ministry.

Topics in the small groups included what it means to make disciples, the distinctiveness of the different orders of ministry, how the orders work together and points of clarity that are needed concerning the itinerant system of moving pastors.

“People were really, really drawn into that discussion,” said Bishop Gregory Palmer, board president and leader of the denomination’s Iowa Area. “It was an inspiring discussion. If what we’ve done here spreads out throughout the church, this will contribute to the church having important affirmation and clarification in regards to its ministry.”

At its 2004 General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body resolved that the Board of Higher Education and Ministry consult with the Council of Bishops and the Board of Discipleship to form a commission to study the “ordering of ministry for the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.” The focus groups convening across the United Methodist Church are part of the commission’s strategy to explore the basis for the ministry structure.

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Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

In addition to study groups, the commission launched an online survey at to broaden the scope of the conversation. Findings from the conversations and survey will be included in a report to the 2008 General Conference and possibly lead to the creation of new legislation.

The conversations will occur during the next six to nine months, according to the Rev. Robert Kohler, assistant general secretary of the Division of Ordained Ministry. Conversations are scheduled in Virginia and Germany.

“We want as much information as we can generate for this study,” Kohler said.

“The study’s important for the church in order for the denomination to clarify its understanding of our present order of ministry, our present ordination and how our ordering and ordination support the mission and ministry of the United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Mary Ann Moman, associate general secretary of the board’s Division of Ordained Ministry.

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry is the United Methodist agency responsible for the recruitment, theological training and education of church leaders.

In addition to the study, the board of directors participated in ongoing strategic planning for the agency.

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A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown

The board's Ken Yamada dances with retired staff member Frankie Graham at a banquet honoring Yamada Oct. 15.

In an Oct. 13 address to directors, the Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top staff executive of the agency, presented a vision for the board to lead the denomination in conversation about stewardship.

“As the agency mandated to serve as ‘advocate for the intellectual life of the church,’ I submit that the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has a seminal role to play in provoking and nurturing this conversation,” Del Pino said.

When considering stewardship, he said, United Methodists must not live in the “economy of the market society, which is an economy of debt and scarcity” but should live out of “God’s economy, (which is) one of abundance grounded in the extravagance of divine grace.”

“It is within this larger context of communal life, grounded in the extravagance of God’s gift of love, that our responsibility to share of the abundance of our material and financial resources must be understood and practiced,” Del Pino said.

During their strategic planning, the directors participated in a process initially involving 10 potential strategic issues the board should address. At the top of their list, they want to lead the church in attracting, enlisting and educating more young people for Christian vocation. Additionally, the group stressed the importance of working closely with local churches in strategic planning.

“The completed strategic plan will give extra sharp focus to the board’s mission and ministry and help to encourage synergy around all that were involved in its shaping,” Palmer said.

In other action:

  • The Division of Higher Education approved the Rev. Ken Bedell, pastor of Archbold (Ohio) United Methodist Church, as the new associate general secretary for the Division of Higher Education. Bedell will begin Feb. 1. Wanda Bigham, the assistant general secretary of schools, colleges and universities for the Division of Higher Education, serves as associate general secretary in the interim.
  • The Board of Higher Education and Ministry held a banquet Oct. 15 honoring Ken Yamada, who finished his tenure as associate general secretary Oct. 7 and is now special assistant to Del Pino for global education and new initiatives.
  • The Loans and Scholarships Committee created an endowed Special Seminary Scholarship to fund 50 seminarians up to $2,000 beginning next year. To be eligible, a student must be working on a master of divinity degree, pursuing ordained ministry as a vocation, be age 30 or younger upon applying and have a grade point average of 2.85. The committee also reported that it had awarded more than $31 million in scholarships and loans to more than 21,206 students in the last four years. The committee met with 13 scholarship recipients in the Nashville area following its business meeting.
  • The United Methodist Endorsing Agency endorsing committee approved 28 applicants for specialized ministries.
  • The Rev. Wilfried Nausner of Graz, Austria, replaced Bishop Patrick Streiff as the central conference board member from the church’s Central and Southern Europe Area. Streiff resigned at the board meeting as a result of his election to the episcopacy last April.

*Rouse is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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