At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of hearing many outstanding Episcopal addresses. This address was at the very top of an excellent class! Parts are reprinted in a series of five blog postings with Bishop Schnase’s permission while I am on vacation. – Bishop Mike Lowry
South Central Jurisdictional Conference
July 19, 2012
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Robert Schnase, Bishop ©
Part II – What We Do
The United Methodist Church makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The most significant arena in which this takes place is congregations. We fulfill the mission of Christ through faith communities that change lives, so that God can use those changed lives to change the world. In fact, it’s really at the margins of the congregations, where those who belong to the community of Christ interact with those who do not belong to the community of Christ where we fulfill our mission, through service and justice ministries and through invitational ministries. It’s where the 1.7 million United Methodists of our Jurisdiction engage our 49 million neighbors that we fulfill our mission.
Annual Conferences exist to lead congregations to lead people to active faith in Jesus Christ. Congregations do not exist to support conferences; rather, annual conferences exist to start and strengthen congregations and to develop the leadership streams to make them fruitful. John Wesley did not established congregations so that one day he would have a conference; he established the practice of conferencing in order to strengthen and deepen the ministries of faith communities. Annual Conferences are one or two steps removed from the front lines of our mission; and yet their work provides the leadership resources and the connections to multiply the work of Christ. …
The risk when we gather for Jurisdictional Conference, so far removed from the front lines of our mission, is that we lose sight of our task. How do we make decisions, about leadership and assignment, about aligning and strengthening conferences, that foster an increase in the number of vital congregations that reach people for the purposes of Christ? That’s our work together this week: to talk one another into greater boldness for Christ, to remember that it’s not about us and our preferences, but about the mission God has entrusted us in Christ.
(The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)