Feb. 2, 2005
The Rev. Leslie Griffiths
By Billy Reeder*
(UMNS) — Faith formation, disciple making and social witness are the
foundations of healthy congregations, speakers told United Methodist
leaders at a conference on building strong churches.
1,300 local church and conference leaders from across the United States
met Jan. 27-30 to learn more about creating and maintaining healthy
conference leaders, we are responsible for helping build healthy local
churches that are truly making disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the world," said the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top
executive at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
however, some of our churches aren’t so healthy," she said. "We want
our churches to be growing, vital and relevant to the needs of the
community they serve. And we want conference leaders to have the best
collection of resources to build these healthy churches."
underlying principle of the event was the "belief that, to be a great
leader, we must be spiritually grounded and able to provide effective
leadership," Greenwaldt said.
Greenwaldt’s agency, based in Nashville, Tenn., organized the event, "Healthy Churches Transforming the World."
A healthy church "is
not just simply about being either dead or alive, but being a community
with vitality and vigor," wrote Marcia McFee, conference worship leader,
Oakland, Calif. Participants used four "vital signs" — breathing,
pulse, blood pressure and temperature — as symbols of vitality while
seeking deeper meaning for their lives and their churches.
|A UMNS photo by Billy Reeder
Participants attend a worship service during the healthy congregations conference.
workshops focused on such topics as stewardship,
discipleship/evangelism, conference/church life, communications,
racial-ethnic ministries, spiritual leadership and social witness and
the event, participants discussed in depth how a healthy church looks
and acts, and how they can strengthen the health of their local
congregations. The conference also emphasized that the health of a
church is not about size or number of members, but more about faith
formation, disciple making and social witness.
Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Iowa Area encouraged the audience to find harmony between self-piety and social activism.
not think for a minute that God gives you a choice between one or the
other," he said. "We are called to strive for both." Palmer, in a
closing address, urged the participants to find balance. He stressed
that the church should not have "worship wars" but that all types of
worship services should be full of authentic praise.
Rev. Leslie Griffiths, dean of the Wesley Chapel in London, also
addressed social justice. He described how he can see the cemetery where
Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodism founders John and Charles
Wesley, is buried, along with other Methodist "saints." This close
proximity, he said, is a reminder of the need for continuing Wesley’s
work on education and social justice issues.
I am asked why I am a Methodist, without hesitation I reply that the
combination of the belief in a personal God and working toward social
justice is utterly intoxicating," Griffiths said.
the gathering, volunteers from the event bought more than 300 sack
lunches at a local McDonald’s and delivered them to homeless people. The
volunteers invited the people they met to the conference’s banquet that
evening. About 100 guests participated in the evening meal and worship.
"Healthy Churches" conference was the successor of jurisdictional
training events that had been held every four years by the General
Council on Ministries, which was dissolved by the 2004 General
*Reeder is director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s Arkansas Area.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.