Oct. 12, 2004
Bishop Joseph E. Pennel
By Linda Green*
Tenn. (UMNS)-The lack of leadership in the United Methodist Church is
the top issue facing the denomination in the 21st century, says a
Joseph Pennel of Franklin, Tenn., who retired from the active
episcopacy in June, told the governing members of the United Methodist
Board of Higher Education and Ministry that the church is at a critical
point because of the absence of strong, spiritual leaders. "Leadership
determines the path and pathos of an institution and organization," he
congregation deserves spiritual leaders," he said. "... We need leaders
today who are concerned about more than institution maintenance. We
need leaders who are more concerned about faith than maintaining the
status quo. We need leaders today who are nailed to the historic faith,
which brought the United Methodist Church into being."
subject of leadership was woven throughout the Oct. 7-10 organizational
meeting of the Board of Higher Education’s governing members.
board is the church’s program agency for educational, institutional and
ministerial leadership. Its mission is to lead the denomination in the
recruitment, preparation, nurture, education and support of Christian
leaders, both lay and clergy, for the mission of Christ in the world.
did not reject the past but was informed by it and lived out if it,
Pennel told the board’s directors. Christ understood the context in
which he was to give leadership, the bishop said. Christian leaders must
be like Jesus by being counterculture leaders and understanding that if
they lead out of their convictions, others will reject them, he said.
The Rev. Jerome King
del Pino, top staff executive of the board, emphasized the need for
global leaders for a global church. "Amid the bewildering complexities
of our 21st century world, what would it take to form and nurture
leaders who have vision, the spiritual and theological grounding, and
the intellectual and practical skills to lead the United Methodist
Church in faithful ministry in the 21st century?" he asked.
The Rev. Jerome Del Pino
issue of leadership arises at a critical juncture for the denomination
because the church "is experiencing, if not a crisis, (then a) deep
ambivalence and confusion about the kind of leadership it needs in the
years ahead," he said.
confusion led the denomination’s top legislative body, the 2004 General
Conference, to establish a four-year study commission to discuss and
define the church’s understanding of lay, licensed and ordained
Pino related the uncertainty about the nature of leadership in the
church to seismic shifts in the global village-religiously,
technologically, politically, socially and economically.
responsibilities of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry in the areas of call, preparation, support and accountability
for persons in ordained, diaconal and licensed ministry, and its
oversight of campus ministry and institutions of higher education, are
areas of passion for me," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, the newly elected
president of the board. Palmer leads the church’s Iowa Area.
church and the culture(s) have no greater need than well-prepared
Christian leaders. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry is this church’s agency at the critical nexus to assist the
church in this area," he said.
Palmer challenged the
board members to perform their duties well because "we cannot afford to
be guilty of the sin of low expectation, with regard to developing
leadership for a global church."
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Pino described three leadership characteristics that the United
Methodist Church needs as he laid out a "vision of global leaders for a
first characteristic of such a leader is that of being a guardian of
the connection, he said. The leader does not abandon the ideal of a
global church that is diverse in hues, languages, cultures and
traditions. He said global leaders take seriously the view of
Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, that the world was his parish, and
because the church is changing faces, such leaders are not "prompt(ed)
to trim their vision to the local, the familiar and the domestic."
global leader also bears a renewed vision of the church, Del Pino said.
The leader envisions a church that recovers its Methodist heritage
without "self-interested denominational navel gazing or anxious
preoccupation with its own survival." Leaders with renewed vision
embrace the purpose for which the Methodist movement was founded, he
said. "From the beginning, Methodism existed not for its own sake but
for the sake of a larger catholicity."
asked what would happen if United Methodists recovered the Methodist
ethos of nurturing disciples "bent on living not for themselves but for
the larger good of God’s kingdom," and were not driven by a desire for
institutional maintenance and management.
A third characteristic of a global leader for a global church is that of advocating for a learned leadership.
leader, Del Pino said, calls for a renewal of the union of reason and
vital piety, intellectual excellence and holiness of heart and life.
"Global leaders for a global church uncompromisingly and
unapologetically advocate for educated and educating leaders," he said.
They strive for a "new public space, where issues that define our
mission and ministry can be raised, debated and resolved beyond the
categories, dichotomies, and labels that now hold the conversation
leaders embrace Wesley’s vision of providing education to everyone,
especially the poor and underserved. Methodists, historically, have
thought of education as a tool for individual empowerment and social
improvement and providing education to all has been an issue of justice,
he said. Global leaders for a global church "envision an education
pipeline that stretches around the world, training leaders with the
spiritual, moral and intellectual wherewithal to lead the church and the
society in the midst of profound change."
addition to Palmer’s election as president, the board elected Bishop J.
Lawrence McClesky, Charlotte, N.C., vice president of the Division of
Higher Education; the Rev. Al Bowles, Chattanooga, Tenn., vice president
of the Division of Ordained Ministry; and the Rev. Elaine Stanovsky,
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org