During the past two days, the Council of Bishops (COB) has worked extensively on the Call to Action Report. Yesterday we embraced the adaptive challenge as explicated in the Call to Action Report. (Adaptive challenge/work is change work that engages us in a new way of thinking and being. By definition it implies that we are moving through a time of investigation, discovery and new learning. It is often contrasted with “technical” work, which is work where we in principle know the skills, abilities and changes we need to bring about.) We embraced the following; “The adaptive challenge for the United Methodist Church is: To redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (Call to Action Report, page 8 )
With embrace of the adaptive challenge we also adopted the key recommendations:
- “For a minimum of ten years, starting in January 2011, use the drivers of Vital Congregations as initial areas of attention for sustained and intense concentration on building effective practices in local churches.
- Dramatically reform the clergy leadership development, deployment, evaluation, and accountability systems.
- Collect, report and review, and act on statistical information that measures progress in key performance areas to learn to adjust our approaches to leadership, policies, and the use of human and financial resources.
- Reform the Council of Bishops, with active bishops assuming (1) responsibility and public accountability for improving results in attendance, professions of faith, baptisms, participation in servant/mission ministries, benevolent giving, and lowering the average age of participants in local church life; and (2) establishing a new culture of accountability throughout the church.
- Consolidate program and administrative agencies, align their work and resources with the priorities of the Church and the decade-long commitment to build vital congregations, and reconstitute them with much smaller competency-based boards of directors in order to overcome current lack of alignment, diffused and redundant activity, and higher than necessary expense due to independent structures.” (Call to Action, pp. 8-9)
You can read the full text in the Call to Action report under the section “Steering Team Report.” (Go to www.umc.org/calltoaction). In a sense we as a larger church are wrestling with the same alignment issues that the Central Texas Conference is facing at our called session of conference on November 13th.
I find all this exciting, deeply challenging, and immensely hopeful. I believe winds of the Holy Spirit are blowing through the church. Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future of hope.”