This letter is from pastors and leaders who love the United Methodist Church and support a Vital Connection. We believe the church can grow. Growth will, however, depend on the willingness of all of us to stretch toward all of God’s people in all that we do. As you prepare for General Conference, please consider our hearts for and concerns around a vital and connectional ministry of integrity and compassion.
• What does "organizational change” mean? For the UMC, it means actively addressing what we believe is a lack of diversity in reorganizing and executing strategies for vitality. All components of the UMC structure-charge (local churches of all sizes, shapes, mission and make-up), district, annual, missionary, jurisdictional, and general conferences-are important to the discussions and decisions around developing a vital connection. The current recommendation to reduce staff and board members, which could eliminate the connection of ethnic, urban, rural, Central conference and small member church leaders, abandons those who are not among the elite and puts the goal of vitality at risk.
• When should churches be invited to give? Our churches have grand histories of sacrificially paying apportionments. In doing so, we have often overlooked local needs in order to act on the belief in our covenant to reach out through giving. We have paid effective general agencies to help the needy, assist churches, give scholarships and speak truth. A recent New York Times article (“To Tithe or Not to Tithe” 1/28/12), says that Methodists give less than 2% of their income. We are concerned that stewardship of giving for these ministries seems less important than stewardship of spending cuts.
• How must we remove impediments to each young clergyperson from serving in any ministry venue? Our churches have sent leaders to every level of the connection. The best and brightest have left local churches to benefit the connection. While this practice has been an asset to our denomination, it has been a drain on our churches. Thus, we know all too well the need for young clergy leadership. Our concern is that candidates from our ethnic churches experience being devalued and even defamed for participating in ministries that others do not and/or will not offer. This is a situation that cannot be condoned and must be changed.
• How can we encourage authority the episcopal office already holds? We believe that preaching, teaching and appointment making under the anointing of the Holy Spirit are great powers. Preaching and teaching, from bishops, that speaks prophetically to the culture as well as pastorally to the church functions to influence and order a vital connectional life. Particularly guaranteeing appointments against cultural bias, a value we hold dear, roots that vitality in the teachings of Jesus. We encourage bishops to stand fully in these powers. When they do, added legislation becomes unnecessary.
We are praying for you to stand for Wesley’s Blessed Connection. We want vitality and we want change: the kind of Jesus oriented, connectional change that attends to those not present at General Conference and achieves the vitality we all welcome.
Vance P. Ross, Senior
Pastor, Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN
Rudy Rasmus, Senior Pastor,
St. John Downtown United Methodist Church, Houston TX
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, Senior
Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, TX
Fred Allen, National
Director, Strengthening the Black Church for 21st Initiative of the United Methodist Church,
Dred Scott, Pastor, St.
Matthew United Methodist Church, Dundalk, MD
Joseph W. Daniels, Jr., Lead
Pastor, Emory United Methodist Church, Washington, DC
Timothy B. Warner, County
Executive's Office of Community Partnerships, Gaithersburg, MD
Frederick G. Outlaw,
Director of Discipleship and Ethnic Ministries, Alabama-West Florida
Conference, Montgomery, AL
Pastor, CrossRoads United Methodist Church, Phoenix, AZ
Rev. V. H.
"Sonnye" Dixon, Lead Pastor, Hobson United Methodist Church,
Rev. John W. (Jack)
Lipphardt, Senior Pastor, Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, Huntington,
WV (West Virginia Conference)
Kevin Smalls, Lead Pastor,
Queens Chapel United Methodist Church, Beltsville, MD
Christian Social Activist
, Nia Community of Faith UMC
Gary R. Henderson, Executive
Director Global Health Initiative, East Ohio Conference, Nashville, TN
Rev. Dr. Miguel A. Balderas,
Senior Pastor, Oxon Hill United Methodist Church, Oxon Hill, MD
Clarence Brown, Annandale
United Methodist Church, Annandale, VA
Angella Current Felder,
Retired Executive Director, Office of Loans and Scholarships, GBHEM, residing
in Nashville, TN
Victor Cyrus Franklin, Assistant Pastor, East Point Mallalieu United Methodist Church, East Point, GA
Lillian Smith, Lead Pastor, Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, Philadelphia, PA
Kelvin Sauls, Executive Director, New Ministries, California Pacific Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA