|A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton
Bishop Bruce Ough leads the discussion of the council's focus on making disciples.
May 9, 2005
By Tim Tanton*
(UMNS)—The bishops of the United Methodist Church spent their weeklong
spring meeting working on their primary focus: Making disciples of Jesus
Christ for the transformation of the world.
couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time, as Christians around
the world closed out the Easter season by remembering Christ’s great
commission to his followers. The bishops adopted the 2005-08 emphasis
last fall as their quadrennial focus, one that points directly to the
United Methodist Church’s primary mission of disciple-making.
emphasis permeated every aspect of the bishops’ May 1-6 meeting in
Arlington, Va.—the worship services, business sessions and field-trip
discussions. Bishop Peter Weaver, council president, said afterward he
sees “a growing unity of this council around this mission focus” and
enthusiasm among the bishops for embracing it and living it out.
“I do believe God is doing a new thing among us,” he said.
said he is hearing support for such an emphasis in the Boston Area,
where he has visited more than 200 churches since beginning his
appointment there last fall.
been hearing in congregation after congregation the desire to reach out
into their communities to make disciples of Jesus Christ, but often
they don’t know how to do that,” he said.
looking for resources and training and examples that they can go and
visit. And there are many of those examples among the congregations in
our connection, so we need to reconnect congregations that are yearning
to make disciples of Jesus Christ in 21st century ways.”
A plan team, headed by Bishop Bruce Ough of the church’s Ohio West Area, led the bishops in their work on the quadrennial focus.
The bishops organized their focus around:
council’s leadership and teaching roles. The bishops will work with the
congregations in their residential areas on carrying out the emphasis.
council’s learning role. The bishops agreed they want to be a “learning
community,” spending time at council meetings sharing information and
best practices with one another.
council’s partnership role. The bishops will work with the church’s
Connectional Table, seminaries, and boards and agencies as the focus is
developed and carried out. Top staff executives of the agencies as well
as presidents and deans of the church’s seminaries provided ideas and
comments for the bishops as the weeklong meeting got under way.
bishops want to help the church reflect Paragraphs 120-124 of the Book
of Discipline, which spell out the denomination’s mission statement.
“The reason I think that’s so important is that I’ve not always felt
confident that all parts of the church have believed that the bishops
are on the same page, and I think we really are on the same page around
this focus,” Ough said.
noted that it’s also important for people to understand the bishops are
ultimately calling them to reflect “what Jesus teaches about being a
church that is in the world, making a difference, transforming the world
to look more and more like the reign of God.”
As the bishops discussed the emphasis in their business sessions, their enthusiasm was evident, along with a sense of urgency.
the world wait for us to get to transformation?” asked retired Bishop
Kenneth Hicks of Little Rock, Ark. The world can’t wait another
quadrennium or two, he said.
Richard Looney told the council the Foundation for Evangelism would
welcome the opportunity to be involved in the focus, and he encouraged
the bishops to start using resources that are available to them “and use
them gladly.” Looney, retired, is president of the foundation in
Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Linda Lee, who leads the church’s Wisconsin Area, wondered out loud
what it would be like for the bishops to set aside a day to be in prayer
and fast together, to hear God’s voice in a different kind of way.
for a table of bishops from the central conferences—regional units of
the church in Africa, Asia and Europe—retired Bishop Daniel Arichea of
Baguio City, Philippines, said it was important to note the need for
witnessing to the rich and privileged as well as to marginalized people.
also affirmed the need for accountability. “We are eager to have some
measure of accountability with one another,” said Bishop Janice Huie,
speaking for a table of bishops. Huie, who leads the church’s Houston
Area, is the council’s president-designate.
bishops will develop a teaching plan for the church, and measurable
goals will be provided for encouraging local congregations in making
disciples, Ough said. The plan will cover a common language for the
focus, helping people understand what is meant by terms such as
“Christian disciple” and “transformation,” and what it means “when we
say there’s a uniquely Wesleyan process for forming disciples,” he
After the meeting, Weaver said he saw a “new spirit of understanding about what making disciples of Jesus Christ means.”
we believe that means persons following Christ in world- and
life-changing ways. I think we’ve worked and prayed this week around
specifics that will help us serve our churches and conferences in
practical ways for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the world.”
*Tanton is managing editor of United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.