UMC in SC and Africa – Is There One Way to be an UMC?


We’re at Cabinet Retreat looking out over the marsh of Knowle’s Island at Palm Key in Jasper County, SC. Good food, good fellowship – moving experiences with a team-building kayaking trip up the Broad River, thankfully with the tide, and last night’s extremely moving “Blood Done Signed My Name,” a must-see if we want to be honest about latent pain and racism.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we have done a lot. We have discussed what we see as the must-do ministries of the Annual Conferene, revised Charge Conference forms, discussed some critical appointment matters, set calendars, the 2010 appointment process, discussed the most effective deployment of personnel, and financial matters that are more anxiety-laden this year than last. We’re set to continue through lunch today, and I hope we get there because I’m the Cabinet Secretary and I’m typing and talking at the same time. Not always a good mix.

Here’s my big deal about getting the work done by noon. Friday I meet with the Conference IT guy (Jim Crews), who’s absolutely great by the way, and go over the changes to Charge Conference forms, etc. so he can post them. Then I fly to Atlanta to South Africa to Maputo, Mozambique, to Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, to Abidijan, Cote D’Ivoire, to Dakar, Senegal, to the US. Whew! I hope I spelled everything right, and that I make it there and back with my luggage and on-time.

The Worldwide UMC Study Committee is going all over our Central Conferences and Annual Conferences in Africa in small groups to listen and discern. What we are trying to hear is how we can be a connectional church and at the same time encourage local churches and annual conferences in the exercise of their ability to be nimble and flexible in ministry through a common Book of Discipline.

As most know the Constitutional Amendments that would have allowed the US to be a Regional Conference with the same ability to adapt the BOD was defeated soundly. The will of United Methodists is that we work within our current parameters. Par. 543.7, however, still allows CC’s to adapt the BOD so long as the Constitution and General Rules are not abrogated and that the spirit of connectionalism is maintained. What we’re hearing is that UM’s outside the US are often using great leeway in their adaptation. Some are using the same BOD, just translated, others are using BOD’s from 20+ years ago. We’ve got to figure out what works and not cause schism in the church.

Pray for our efforts and that there is real listening and truth-telling. I may not be blogging for a few weeks, depending on my ability to get to a computer and internet, but we’ll be connected through prayer, polity, common distinctives as a denomination defined by our praxis, “United Methodist.” I’m looking forward to listening to how we do it in all places and which parts of the BOD are global and which ones are specific and need to be. No small task! I am convinced that our denomination has the best polity in place to reach a world that needs a common voice of Jesus’ love and grace.

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