Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “I’m Diving In” is going round and round in my head. I’m back in the office after two great weeks at Emory. My blog went down due to technical difficulties for a week, and our phone system in the UM Center has been upgraded but not working. Nevertheless, it’s been a joy to be back in SC with my colleagues. Literally dozens of people have expressed their mixed emotions of my not being elected a bishop, but glad I’m back in Columbia as District Superintendent. I have thanked them for their wonderful support. I have also put myself and whomever else on notice that things will not be business as usual. If we believe that sanctification is our most distinctive Wesleyan doctrine: That God doesn’t save us through Jesus to leave us the way God found us but to transform us and the world; then things are going to get better and better around here.
To prove this to myself and the Columbia District Council on Ministries, in our meeting yesterday afternoon I lifted up new ventures that I hoped we would address this coming year. I want us to empower the laity more with an exciting Lay Leadership Workshop in January. I will also spend time with the lay leadership of each church, utilizing our new District Lay Leader in Charge Conferences and in meeting with local church lay leaders like I do with each pastor for consultation. The three questions will be, although put in mercantile terms: “What business are we in?”; “How’s business?”; and “How can we help?” I want to use the wonderful cadre of Columbia District Lay Speakers more effectively. I would like for us to get on board with every church embracing Natural Church Development and especially looking for ways to find out people’s spiritual gifts so they can be better used in the local church and community.
I also lifted up evangelism opportunities. I’m woefully tried of our Igniting Ministries’ ads that don’t even mention Jesus. We can pool our district monies and place ads in all the cinemas in the metro area at Christmas and Easter at least. We have to be relevant! So in addition, we are going to pump up our existing district-wide youth events and add a service component. We did a district project last year between clergy and laity that were primarily adults. We did have one youth. I also asked the DCOM to ponder helping me figure out an effective way for us to set up two large parishes for the churches within 5 miles of the UM Center that could benefit from expanded ministry. These churches would share pastoral and lay leadership across two groupings of 7 churches each so that different portfolios of ministry can be deployed and thriving relevant churches be the result.
We also talked about being the capital city district and that means personal piety and social holiness should be hand-in-hand. What are things that we can do to shape the General Assembly? Of course, about everyone knows my passion to get the Confederate flag off the Statehouse grounds, but we have much more to do with homelessness, the Hispanic needs in our area, school buses, the cigarette tax, etc. I promised that I will continue to spend 3 hours with each clergy, and pop in on church council meetings to build relationships. We will be part of a conflict mediation effort so that we can help people survive their differences. I also told the DCOM that I want some sort of forum to teach “Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit,” one of the courses I teach at Emory and have done in a Sunday School class. We have a lot of people from other faith backgrounds or who present the embedded theology of our Baptist/Calvinistic society and don’t understand who we are and why it’s good!
Anyway, there’s much to be done. I won’t be coasting into the future, whatever it may hold. I’m looking forward to our clergy set-up meeting this Thursday. We have a District Clergy camping trip set up for August 25-27 that will help forge relationships. I pray that God will inspire us to get out of the boats we’re in!