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Proposals call for new collaboration among church agencies

Members of the Commission on Communication listen to the summary of “provocative propositions.” A UMNS photo by Linda Green.

By Linda Green*
Jan. 17, 2007 | HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

The top executives of The United Methodist Church’s agencies are collaborating in new ways to lead the church toward more shared mission and ministry.

The leaders of the church’s boards, agencies and commissions are drafting and perfecting four “provocative propositions” to enable the denomination to face the challenges of global ministry.

The collaboration between the agencies is not new, but “new challenges call for new ways of doing ministry collaboratively,” according to the executive summary outlining the proposals.

The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications, presented these proposals to members of the Commission on Communications and agency staff during the opening plenary of a Jan. 4-11 board meeting in Zimbabwe. The meeting was the commission’s first outside the continental United States.

“The consensus among the general secretaries (of the agencies) is that change must occur in the connectional system if we are to thrive,” Hollon said.

The propositions

The proposals, which will go before the Connectional Table as programmatic directions, emerged from a variety of conversations among church leaders and identify four goals for the church’s work in the 2009-2012 period:

  • Enable clergy and laity to develop the skills necessary for ministry in the 21st century through leadership, education and development, with a focus on the United States.
  • Extend the outreach of the church’s ministry and grow the church by energetically starting new congregations.
  • Partner with the poor to seek justice and address the causes of human suffering that result from poverty.
  • Bring healing, health and wholeness through a concerted effort to end preventable diseases of poverty such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Commission members Arnie Rhodes (from left), Al Horton and Paul Black take a break during the meeting. A UMNS photo by Bill Norton.

Hollon told the commissioners that the first emphasis would lay a foundation for developing quality leaders and addressing the concern of recruiting young people for clergy vocations and leadership in the denomination. United Methodists under the age of 18 represent 4.6 percent of church membership, and the number of clergy under age 35 is 850 out of some 30,000 active clergy.

All of the churchwide program agencies and commissions will be asked to build a system of leadership development that includes the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry working with United Methodist schools to form clergy and lay leadership for the 21st century.

The second proposition, Hollon said, calls for a strategy across the denomination to create churches “in a more aggressive and systematic way” than ever before. The proposal calls for the planting of 350 new churches in the United States, up from an estimated 75 per year currently. A goal is for 80 percent of the planted churches to average 250 in worship within five years of their launch, generating an estimated 87,500 new members into a United Methodist community of faith.

Addressing the third proposal, Hollon said: “Poverty knows no boundaries.”

“This is a global issue that will share the mission of the whole church,” he said. “It particularly discusses the effects of poverty on children and calls on The United Methodist Church to care for children.”

Six “contextual, holistic projects” for ministry with the poor will be developed during the 2009-2012 quadrennium — in East Africa, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, Honduras, a U.S. annual conference with a large vulnerable urban population, and an annual conference in Appalachia. Resources will be multilingual as well as multimedia, with an emphasis on advocating for public policies that empower the impoverished and address conditions that compromise human dignity and the quality of life.

The fourth proposal envisions a global health initiative that will engage the whole church in a sustained effort to prevent and treat the diseases of poverty, with particular emphasis on saving 3 million lives by eradicating malaria and addressing HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis through community-based primary health care.

The church has begun to address malaria eradication through the Nothing the But Nets campaign, a partnership with the United Nations Foundation, the Millennium Promise, the Measles Initiative, Sports Illustrated, the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares foundation and others.

The agency’s role

The Rev. Larry Hollon presents the propositions to the commission members. A UMNS photo by Ginny Underwood.

Hollon told the governing members that United Methodist Communication would help with the four propositions by assisting in increasing attendance, giving and participation. The agency also will address health issues confronting the denomination.

Borrowing the title of a best-selling book by Gary Gunderson and Larry Pray, Hollon said the church needs to examine the “leading causes of life” and not search for the causes of death.

“The storyline of mainline denomination decline is not the only storyline of the church,” Hollon said. “That storyline is a prescription for death. Rather, I’m interested in the causes of life and building a system that is both life-giving and life-sustaining,” he said.

“I invite our own members and those who are searching for a faith community to join us in the search for the leading causes of life.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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