Is the UMC entering a period of renewal?

Posted: March 28, 2013 by efenster in Ideas
Tags: , ,

Circuit RiderA UM seminary student, and friend of mine, Debbie Smith, shared the following quote with me this week:

“The history of Methodism, therefore, is a cycle of successful mission movements followed by institutionalization, followed by rebellions against institutionalization in the name of renewing the mission.”  (Oxford Handbook Chapter 25 by Dana L. Robert and Douglas D. Tzan pg. 436)

Then she asked me if I thought we are currently in the “renewing the mission” phase of the cycle?

How would you answer her?

I would hope that we’re moving to a period of renewing the  mission.  A lot of the work Church Development is doing (Fruitful Congregation Journey and church planting) is trying to help that to happen, but I think it’s too soon to say if a new period of renewal is emerging.
For that to happen we will need to place our mission–to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world–as our sole focus.  We’ll need to let go of our personal preferences and passionately pursue all we need to do in order to fulfill our mission even though it will mean change!
We as a conference will need to not simply tolerate but even defer to apostolic leaders–those focused on reaching persons uninterested in our institutional churches–to lead the way.  This won’t be easy because most of us aren’t comfortable with apostolic leaders.  They think differently; their bias is never maintenance; their priorities aren’t sustaining the status quo.
We may even need to bend the rules at times (new wineskins?)  Is this possible in the UMC?For example, the leader of our only chartered Hispanic church recently pointed out that in his culture it is necessary that anyone planting a church must carry the title “pastor” no matter whether or not they are officially credentialed.  Without that title, people won’t take him/her seriously.  What do we do with that reality?  We have Hispanic projects popping up all over the state, yet we don’t have enough apostolic Hispanic pastors in our conference. So do we wait until we get persons credentialed and miss the opportunities that God seems to be calling us to?  Or do we permit lay persons under the supervision of elders to carry the title “pastor” in their ministry context.  What do we do?
How we respond in to such situations will likely determine whether we truly are entering the “renewing of the mission” phase in the cycle Debbie cited.  This Easter season I pray that we’ll be sold out to Christ and His mission.  Let’s do whatever God requires and do it with the same boldness as John Wesley, Francis Asbury and our circuit-riding  predecessors!
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development
  1. Dave Neckers says:

    Great question Ed! Although we have initiative to revitalize our Indiana Conference and become a missional movement again, I am acutely aware the “rebellion againt institution” has not transcended our ranks.There are those who resist change for a host of reasons. And, there are always those who will “bend” the rules amongst us to fulfill the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world. They will ask for forgiveness instead of permission. However, I believe we have to find ways within the rules to make a transformation back to a missional church.Our Book of Discipline is not a rule book. It creates boundaries within which we can operate. Where we become stuck is we believe how we operate is the mandate of the Book. (It must be right as that is the way we’ve always done it!) That will take research and discussion. That will take an openness to change for the benefit of the Kingdom. Living outside the boundaries creates mistrust and anamosity amongst us.Thanks for beginning the discussion. I pray it will go somewhere!

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