The United Methodist Church has a very important item on its to-do list. If it wishes to continue ministry with the world, current economic and social realities necessitate that The United Methodist Church (UMC) evaluate its resources so that it may better adapt to changing situations. In other words, the UMC needs to do something now to address the failing status quo.
The denomination cannot afford to continue the same practices and perpetuate current habits. In the past, United Methodism has been mobilized by a passionate, proactive love of God and community. Now, in addition to these proactive motivational values, it also may be mobilized by something more reactionary – a desire to continue to serve God and community within an ever-changing culture.
For Hoosiers, this means we must continuously remind ourselves of what it means to truly live out the two commandments Jesus emphasizes in Matthew 22. The Call to Action Steering Team, a group of United Methodists charged with naming a few recommendations that will ultimately help to revitalize the denomination, named the adaptive challenge facing the church: “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.” Put simply, as a denomination, we must learn more effective ways to actively love God and others. And each individual must discern how best to contribute to the effort.
For more information about the Call to Action, please visit www.umc.org/calltoaction.
In April of this year, I had the honor of participating in a global webcast as one member of a five-member panel of individuals, who are well-acquainted with the recommendations of the Call to Action Steering Committee. This three-hour webcast (viewed on more than 4,000 web connections), called the UMC Leadership Summit, was split into three parts.
- The first hour was a scripted presentation of the implications and merits of the Call to Action.
- The second hour allowed for real-time, guided discussions at the various host sites around the world.
- During the third hour, the panelists fielded questions about the Call to Action that were e-mailed from United Methodists watching the webcast.
During this third hour, many questions were submitted for comment, and one question in particular caused the panelists (including myself) some difficulty: “What is God’s vision for The United Methodist Church?” As subsequent news reports have mentioned, there was a notable pause after Bishop Larry Goodpaster read the question to the rest of the panelists. Eventually, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner spoke, noting the significance of Matthew 28 and the mission-based nature of the denomination. And Bishop Gregory Palmer followed, painting an image of a United Methodist body that lives out its mission statement, a body that works to create, for example, a “world without food insecurity, a world without malaria.”
What is God’s vision for The United Methodist Church in regard to the Call to Action? I do not know. As an act of faith, I try to refrain from speaking on behalf of God Almighty. While I certainly have some nonspecific theologies regarding the question, my comprehension of God’s vision for our denomination is limited to my understanding of God, and my understanding of God, while life-changing, does not include specific thoughts on possible organizational restructuring or business metrics.
I can, however, say the Call to Action Steering Committee approached the adaptive challenge of The United Methodist Church with a prayer-filled spirit, a Christ-seeking mind that strived to discern the best possible actions that would allow the denomination to adapt to current realities and to create vital congregations. The Call to Action recommendations were created as a result of both a statistical, analytical, research-based methodology and a prayer-filled atmosphere.
Do our part
Hoosiers, now we must do our part. The Call to Action recommendations are a call to action for every United Methodist individual. Look for new ways of doing ministry in your congregation. Start new small groups. Add contemporary elements to your Sunday-morning routine. Seek out youth and young adults, and make an effort to learn about their culture. Emphasize the importance of lay leadership; cycle lay leaders and allow everyone to participate. Use sermons and worship services to inspire and motivate congregants to embrace one another and to go out into their communities. The status quo is not working. So, let us adapt and create a love-filled future together. And let us do it now.
Ben Boruff of Churubusco is a member of First UMC in Noblesville and a student at Indiana University in Bloomington. He serves on the General Church’s Connectional Table and as a member of the 16-member steering team of the Call to Action. He was recently elected as a lay delegate to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference to be held in July 2012.