Extended Cabinet met in Jacksonville November 2-4
by Randy Harry
United Methodist bishops, district superintendents, and conference directors of connectional ministries from across the nation and some from other countries gathered in Jacksonville, Florida November 2-4, 2016, for the quadrennial Council of Bishops Extended Cabinet Summit. This three-day conference was filled with inspiring and informative sermons and presentations especially by various bishops, stirring worship experiences, and opportunities for sharing among the participants, all focused on how to cultivate vital congregations in our denomination.
The summit was opened by Bishop Bruce Ough of the Dakotas Annual Conference and President of the Council of Bishops, who said that United Methodism is presently experiencing a confluence of “urgencies”: the urgency of institutional decline, the urgency to reclaim our evangelical task, and the urgency to resolve our longstanding impasse regarding human sexuality. Urgency isn’t necessarily negative, he pointed out, but it does cause us to take action. Borrowing from author Simon Sinek and others, Bishop Ough said that the one thing to which we’re all called is to Know our Why
, our reason for being the Church. That self-understanding leads us to knowing better our What
, our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and gives it greater impact.
Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Conference and President-Elect of the Council of Bishops (and formerly a member of our conference) spoke of how the Church needs to regain its memory of being a movement rather than an institution, so that we’ll exhibit increased vital spirituality, deeper connections, and more visible fruitfulness among our churches. He suggested that this take a deliberate effort to lean into the pain, in a similar way that patients recovering from surgery need to lean into the pain for the purpose of greater healing.
A common theme of many of the presentations was the need for United Methodist leaders to align their decision-making regarding clergy appointments, the status of local churches, and the use of conference resources with the mission of the Church at a time when the culture around us has changed. The attractional model of evangelism used by the Church decades ago, when the surrounding culture encouraged church and other organizational attendance, no longer applies, so new ideas and new actions are required today if we are to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). It means utilizing all tools at our disposal, such as data, and doing so creatively to maximize our effectiveness in discerning how best to reach others for Christ and develop disciples in our churches.
Since the 2008 General Conference, The United Methodist Church has committed to four major Areas of Focus: developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world; creating new places for new people and renewing existing congregations; engaging in ministry with the poor; and stamping out the killer diseases of poverty by improving health globally. A great deal of time was spent during the Extended Cabinet Summit discussing and sharing ideas of how well our annual conferences are in alignment with these four foci and what else we should do going forward. Such alignment, it was suggested, would include prioritizing God, then the mission field, next local church laity, then clergy, and finally the Conference leadership (Bishop, Cabinet, and other leaders). Members of the Western North Carolina Conference were encouraged by the various ways we are already seeing fruit in these four areas of focus.
The extended cabinet summit allowed our conference cabinet to leave with a renewed commitment to align our work within the conference around the Four Areas of Focus; to continue using a common language related to our mission and vision; the desire to tell the stories of how we are already living into these areas of ministry; a commitment to look anew at the latest data that reflects the nature of our annual conference; and the development of a task force that will balance “counting” as one important aspect of data with “measurement” that points us toward the next best step for our churches and conference.
Rev. Randy Harry is the superintendent of the Smoky Mountain District
Resources for Vital Congregations
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor
GBHEM Leadership Resources
Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church
Englewood Book Review
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
Ted Talks: The Golden Circle
Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability
Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability
Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians
Be A Disciple
A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations
Living As United Methodist Christians
Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials
Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today
John Wesley Sermons: Anthology
Get Their Name
Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit
Canoeing the Mountains
Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People
Community: The Structure of Belonging
RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:
Institute for Emerging Issues
Congregations 4 Children
The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants
The Duke Endowment
The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org.