An Open Letter to the Delegates of the 2012 General Conference:
We are local church pastors and leaders in the United Methodist Church writing in support of the legislation being proposed by the Connectional Table related to the Call to Action. We love the church and want her to have a “future with hope.” We believe that the downward trends in church membership, attendance and giving will accelerate in the years ahead. If we do nothing, our church will be half the size she is today in twenty years. Now is the time for action.
We do not believe organizational change alone can ignite a renewed United Methodism. But we do think this kind of change can focus our national leadership, both our agencies and the Council of Bishops, on the task of revitalizing the 85% of our churches that were found to be less than highly vital in the Call to Action studies.
Our current organizational structure is not sacred. It met a variety of needs in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when it was implemented. Today is a very different time for the church and our society. This is a time of integration, collaboration, and teamwork. Gone are the days of silos, separate organizations, redundancy and inefficiencies. And while the conversation about what constitutes appropriate representation is important, the days of bloated boards and millions of our missions dollars spent on bi-annual meetings cannot continue. We must have our general agencies working together as one, on common and shared objectives, laser focused on helping the church to turn from death to life.
Ultimately, the revitalization of the United Methodist Church will happen one congregation at a time through local church leadership. The average age of our clergy is 58. Our question: Who are the leaders that will reach and connect with today’s 5, 10 and 15 year olds? That is the question we must ask as a church. Now is the time to focus on raising up such leaders. It has been said that the cost of raising up these leaders is too great. It will require reducing national and international programs. We suggest the cost of not raising up young leaders is far greater, and that this may be our only hope of saving our national and international programs.
Finally, while there has been much talk of giving too much authority to our bishops, our fear is the opposite. Our bishops, over the last forty years, have not exercised enough leadership and this is part of the reason we are where we are today. Bishops cannot be tyrants, but they must be spiritual leaders who hold us accountable and help our annual conferences to work towards greater vitality. We need them to lead. And we need the Council of Bishops to effectively collaborate and work together if we will have a future with hope.
We’re asking the delegates to the 2012 General Conference to have courage. We implore you to not let fear keep us from the change we desperately need. We are praying for you as you perfect and vote on legislation that will enable our denomination, at every level, to work together to create more vital United Methodist congregations who are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection
Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church
St. John’s Downtown United Methodist Church
Highland Park United Methodist Church
The Woodlands United Methodist Church
Granger Community United Methodist Church
Grace United Methodist Church