3. Empower the Connection for Ministry
Ministry is the vital work of Christians. Ministries of the church are
the things we do individually and together that bring into reality the mission of the
church. This work is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and is the inevitable response to
Christian experience. Ministries include proclaiming the gospel, worshiping, teaching,
studying, and nurturing. Disciples are sent to share the Good News, to be present with the
poor and marginalized, to care for the creation, and to work for peace and justice.
Local churches and faith communities are the most significant places for
proclaiming the gospel and carrying out the mission of the church. In a transforming
United Methodist Church, the local church must play a central role in determining the
church's ministry and mission and in assessing and deploying resources, both material and
The annual conference continues to be the basic body of the church. It
connects local churches with one another and with the global church. Its purpose is to
facilitate making disciples of Jesus Christ. Its primary task is to discover, recruit,
train, certify, appoint, supervise, sustain, and support accountable spiritual leaders for
local churches and unique settings of ministry and to offer resources for the mission of
In the early Methodist movement, the annual conference session was the
place where members of the Wesleyan movement gathered for accountable discipleship,
fellowship, and exhortation. Wesley's memorable dictum, "I look upon the world as my
parish," served as a reminder that one's discipleship is ultimately lived out in the
context of global community.
Local churches and faith communities, expressions of the body of Christ in
particular places, are not isolated entities. They undertake connectional and global
activities that are consistent with their particular calling to mission and ministry.
Together they will identify the larger concerns that require resources and coordination
beyond the local church and even worldwide.
The interactive process affirmed by the 1996 General Conference as a new
style of work for the church, calls all persons to come together to listen, to discern,
and to respond, enabling them to move toward a common decision. When individuals led by
the Holy Spirit are working together in this way, they create a community. Such a
community lives by the participation of all,
- learns and grows through diversity,
- asks for mutual understanding,
- builds ever-increasing energy and joy through interdependence, and
- serves as the body of Christ in the world.
Organizationally this new style of work brings all church leaders to the
decision-making table known as the Covenant Council. God's vision as discerned by those
leaders informs and guides the ministry and the mission of the church and the use of all
its resources. How the church's ministry and mission goals are implemented is determined
by the church's leaders participating together in the Covenant Council.
In order to empower the connection for ministry, we recommend the
- Communicate the good news and build new faith communities
In a transforming United Methodist Church, local churches will focus on
spreading the good news of the gospel message to the people and places around them. The
information pathways of cyberspace and the freeways and airways of modern society are
analogous to the dusty roads of Galilee where the first disciples carried the gospel to
all who would hear it and gather in Christ's name. In our day, local churches are the
catalysts for making new disciples and spawning new faith communities. They are to be
communities that actively and intentionally invite others. We must replace the image of
the local church as a self-contained group of members identified with a physical place
with the vision of dynamic twenty-first-century disciples proclaiming good news to all
persons and inviting others to follow Jesus.
The annual conference bears responsibility for identifying and providing
resources for places that need new congregations and faith communities. It needs to
motivate and collaborate with local churches that want to start new communities of faith
and then encourage and support the development of spiritual leaders who can give guidance
to these new ministries. Leadership may take different forms in developing congregations
than it does in well-established ones, and flexibility should be used to accommodate those
- Affirm central conferences
We affirm the need to retain central conferences to bring together United
Methodists in geographic areas for the support of mission and ministry. We further affirm
the central conference structure as one that is relevant for the entire United Methodist
Church and not just for those annual conferences located outside of the United States.
Therefore we recommend that The United Methodist Church in the U.S. be structured as a
central conference. In doing so, the church in the United States would be reaffirming that
it is not the main channel of God's revelation and mercy to those called United Methodist
nor is it self-sufficient. It is only one member of the family equally in need of God's
grace and direction and of the witness, the prayers, the exhortations, and the nurture and
care of our sisters and brothers from other places in the world.
- Retain current jurisdictional conferences in the U.S. Central Conference
The U.S. Central Conference will initially retain the current
jurisdictional conferences (North Central, Northeastern, South Central, Southeastern, and
Western) for the election and assignment of bishops and any related work it so determines.
Where necessary for its effective witness in its own geographic area, a jurisdictional
conference may engage in promoting evangelistic, educational, missionary, and benevolent
interests of the church and providing for other interests and institutions within its
- Redesign and align the work of general agencies
Local churches, districts, and annual conferences work toward witness and
service locally and regionally, but we also need a structure that can respond on behalf of
the entire church. The general agencies of the church have enabled us to do that.
Individually and collectively they have rendered a great service to the church and the
As we enter the twenty-first century there is need to examine how the
services of the general agencies may be more effectively provided. They were formed at a
time when the flow of communication and division of work were understood in an entirely
different way. We are now experiencing an explosion of information and technology. Leaders
in conferences and churches expect easy and direct access to information, resources, and
services. United Methodists do not experience others ministering on their behalf in the
same way as they once did; they want to be personally involved in their communities and
beyond. Communities are rapidly becoming more globally connected. People increasingly view
themselves as global citizens with responsibilities as well as opportunities for
discipleship beyond their local communities. Increasingly the ability of our general
agencies to provide access to essential information and to network and connect people
across local churches and conferences in partnership for ministries and mission will be a
measure of their effectiveness.
There are areas of work that extend beyond annual conferences that are
essential for our mission to be fulfilled. These areas, because of our structure, have
been divided and responsibility for portions of the work resides in various agencies with
little connection. It is time to bring focus to these areas and develop means through
which the agencies can coalesce and integrate their work through collaboration at the
Covenant Council. This process is intended to identify, focus, and align all resources
related to these areas: 1. Nurture, Outreach, and Witness Ministries; 2. Leadership
Development; 3. Congregational Development; 4. Administration and Finances; 5.
Communication and Interpretation. Presently these are located in the several general
agencies. The agencies will need to come together cooperatively to serve, empower, and
facilitate the ministries of annual conferences, districts, and local churches.
The intention of naming these areas is not to create super agencies or to
try to fit present agencies into these categories, but rather to outline the areas in
which collaboration and merging of work is necessary. To fulfill the vision this process
will require collaboration to identify, focus, and align all resources related to the five
areas of ministry located in the several agencies, so that they come together
cooperatively to serve, empower, and facilitate ministries of annual conferences,
districts, and local congregations and lead the church in what we must do together. As
this collaborative work proceeds, an organizational structure for the agencies will emerge
based on the work needing to be done in the future rather than past methods of organizing.
1. Nurture, Outreach, and Witness Ministries
Nurture Ministries: These ministries focus on the
formation and nurture of all who seek to know God. The biblical foundations of the
Christian faith, our Wesleyan/Evangelical heritage, and acts of piety and devotion are
central to this area. The nurturing ministries of the church shall give attention to the
educational, worship, and stewardship components of ministry.
Outreach Ministries in and to the World: Through combined
resources and leadership beyond annual conferences, United Methodists respond to crises,
relieve suffering, educate children and adults, provide health services, challenge
oppressive systems, and respond in other ways beyond what we can do in our local areas.
These efforts powerfully express our connection. Acts of mercy and compassion and social
holiness are central to this area and include local and larger community ministries of
compassion and advocacy, church and societal issues, global ministries concerns, health
and welfare ministries, Christian unity and interreligious concerns, religion and race,
and status and role of women.
Witness Ministries: Fully living out our discipleship by
embracing the stewardship of all of life, proclaiming the good news of Christ to the
world, and providing hospitality to all persons is central to this area. It includes
evangelistic outreach to persons, membership care, spiritual formation, communications,
lay speaking ministries, and witnessing through the sharing of personal and congregational
stories of Christian experience, faith, and service.
2. Leadership Development: Spiritual leaders are essential to
fulfill the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The general agencies connect with
clergy, district superintendents, bishops, students and staff of seminaries and
universities, lay pastors, lay professionals, lay leaders, lay speakers, conference
staffs, leaders of UMW and UMM, youth and young adult leaders. Our connectional system
will ensure that our church has spiritual leaders in every place to hold the vision and
guide the mission.
3. Congregational Development: Growing opportunities and contexts
for making new disciples of Jesus Christ present a window of great opportunity for God's
people called United Methodist. New communities of diverse persons, cultures, and language
groups offer hospitality through intentional processes for new church development. This
would embrace comprehensive supportive resources of demographics, planting processes, new
creative models, working principles for birthing and leading new congregations, and
development of abundant fiscal resources.
4. Administration and Finances: We must explore various ways to
combine resources and make decisions together about financial and administrative issues.
Systems that insure efficiency and wise use of resources need to be developed and taught
across the church. We must energetically seek resources from a variety of places to
empower our common ministries and mission.
5. Communication and Interpretation: We recommend that we make
efforts to remove the barriers that prevent information from easy access and flow
throughout the church. We must recognize and seize new opportunities for networking across
geographic boundaries, develop interactive electronic learning systems for different ages
and languages, and develop a common data-gathering center for the church. We must find
ways to tell the story of our Wesleyan heritage and its shaping power as we share the good
news. Local churches and annual conferences need ways to learn from one another and the
general agencies need to hear the concerns and hopes of the church and make known
opportunities for mission and ministry.