Posts Tagged ‘United Methodist Church’

Ed 09I encourage you to read an article in the Washington Post by  Rev. Tom Berlin, pastor of Floris UMC.  It pretty accurately describes where the UMC is on the whole human sexuality debate as a result of our General Conference action this week.  It’s been a tough, sometimes painful week, but I think most of us delegates believe that God’s spirit broke through in an unexpected way and that we have found a way forward even though the future of the UMC isn’t clear.
I believe this is due to the prayers many of you, along with thousands around the world, as we gathered in Portland.  This is the fifth General Conference I have attended and I don’t recall such a sense of the spirit and good will among delegates, even though we may strongly disagree on the issues of sexuality.  Don’t get me wrong, it certainly was not all bliss.  There were some very low moments where delegates were down right hurtful.  But for the most part I sense there was a more positive spirit.  Again, I attribute this to the spirit of Christ and the prayers of many, many people and churches.  I am deeply grateful to those of you who prayed and thank you for being with us delegates on the journey!
— Ed  Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

IMG_0063There’s a lot of media coverage regarding the debate going on at General Conference over a number of issues, including human sexuality, but you likely haven’t heard the exciting news of our denomination’s church-planting efforts, not only in the U.S. but also overseas.

Our General Conference delegates learned (through our Advanced Daily Christian Advocate materials) that in the prior three years at least 2,300 leaders have been trained and equipped in the U.S. for church plant efforts, and that at least 325 churches have been established.

Furthermore, we have launched 574 new churches outside the U.S. from 2009-2012, exceeding our goal by nearly 200 churches!  Churches are being planted in continents all over the world, but here is a snapshot of our growing presence in Southeast Asia…  Though not an officially registered denomination in Laos or Vietnam, we now have 48 churches and 24 faith communities in Laos and 322 churches in Vietnam.  We have 154 churches in Cambodia and nine churches in Mongolia, as well as two faith communities.  Praise God!

The United Methodist Church is growing significantly worldwide.  Membership has increased dramatically in Africa and the Philippines.  May such growth begin to be experienced here in the United States as well.  Consider how your church is making disciples and multiplying the Kingdom.  Don’t get caught sitting on the sidelines, join the action of what God is doing all over the world!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development and Indiana Conference delegate to the General Conference

coynerMike Coyner, bishop of the Indiana Area (Conference), recently shared in the Hoosier United Methodist Together newspaper (Jan./Feb. 2015) that his tenure will be ending as of the end of August 2016.  In The United Methodist Church, bishops have four-year assignments and Bishop Coyner’s will be ending at that time.  He will be retiring, so a different bishop will be assigned to lead the Indiana Conference beginning September 2016.

Please keep him in your prayers as he completes his ministry leading the Indiana United Methodist churches.  He certainly doesn’t plan to coast to retirement but has specific goals he’s focused on reaching.  (See the article.)  Also keep the Indiana Area Committee on Episcopacy, and a new transition team that’s been formed, in your prayers as they begin preparing for this transition in leadership.

Because at least three of the nine active bishops serving in the Midwest (North Central Jurisdiction) will be retiring and because of the common practice of having bishops serve two consecutive 4-year terms in the same Area, it is very possible Indiana will be receiving a newly-elected bishop, something that hasn’t happened before.  So please keep those “running” for bishop and those electing the new bishops in your prayers.  Those electing will be the delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, held in Peoria, IL, July 13-16.  This delegation will include 16 laity and 16 clergy from Indiana who will be chosen at this May’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis.

Finally, pray for the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy, which is the group that will recommend to the Jurisdictional delegates as to which Area each of the nine bishops will serve, including who will lead the Indiana Area (Conference).  Each Annual Conference has one clergy and one lay person serving on this committee.  For Indiana its Rev. Frank Beard and myself, Ed Fenstermacher.  Know that we covet your prayers.

We have been blessed these past 12 years with Bishop Coyner’s leadership.  May we be equally blessed by the leadership of our next episcopal leader.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

photoI’ve been attending a conference with United Methodist leaders from across the U.S. to discuss church revitalization and what strategies, resources, and insights can be most helpful to us conference leaders who are responsible for church redevelopment.  This gathering, called Route 122, named for the paragraph in The Book of Disciple that speaks about church vitality, has had some amazing speakers sharing some key insights.  We’ve talked about the eight keys that need to be a part of a conference strategy, trends and their implications, the U Theory, the Healthy Church Initiative (that we in Indiana call the Fruitful Congregation Journey).  All very helpful.

Each morning my personal devotional readings have been from the Book of Acts.  I’ve been reading about the early church and how it grew and spread.  I’ve been thinking about the United Methodist Church and how it is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa, the Philippines, and Asia.  And I’ve been wondering how the early church and the growing edges of the UMC happened without a Route 122 conference?  How did they do it, and how are they doing it, without knowing the eight strategic keys, the U Theory, money, staff (like me), and resources?   What do they have that the UMC in the U.S. seems to lack?

This summer I was fascinated with a proposal by economist and UM leader, Don House, who has concluded–through statistical analysis of lots of UM data–that if the UMC would enlist 1,000 of its churches averaging over 125 in weekly worship and raise $120 million annually, we could turn our denomination around.

All this has gotten me to wondering…is the answer, more education and strategies, more leaders working on revitalization (like me), more money in the hands of our larger churches?  What is it that we also need to consider that is revealed through the early church and the UM churches in the developing parts of the world.  My fear is that is we miss what they can teach us, all our efforts will still not get the job done.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development


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