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During Annual Conference 2019 the “Dream Team was formed.  The purpose of the team was to do as its name suggests: to dream! Interest in the team was initially overwhelming as 96 people signed up to be a part of the dreaming.   We were tasked with dreaming dreams about what it would mean for our Annual Conference to become a fully inclusive church as we face an uncertain future.  More specifically, we were asked to dream about a new Methodist movement, IF future General Conference Actions were to result in an opportunity for a new denomination to be born.  The initial report of our efforts was offered at our Special Session of Annual Conference in the fall of 2019.  Since then, a small group of people have continued dreaming and refining the work.

In the process of our dreaming, we became aware of, and connected to, similar efforts across our Jurisdiction.  Recognizing other Annual Conferences were also “dreaming” and the Jurisdiction was working to bring such efforts together, we focused on identifying 4 priorities we believe maintains the best of our Wesleyan Heritage while also mobilizing us for effective ministry in the future.  These priorities emphasize the importance of Episcopal leadership as well as Connectional and Local Church mission and ministry.

We offer our report in preparation for our next steps in continuing to “dream.”  Our next steps will include conversations with the Connectional Ministry Team of the Annual Conference, as well as opportunities for Lay and clergy to engage in the process of continuing to refine the dreams with the hope that the Desert Southwest Annual Conference will be well prepared for whatever the future brings.

Here is a link for the 4 priorities the Dream Team has discerned.  They will be presented at our Conference in preparation for further conversation and dreaming:

Objective 1: A fully inclusive church, encouraging full participation of all Methodist Christians, regardless of race, gender identification, orientation, culture, or socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, culture, disability, or citizenship status.

Rationale:

  • Since the earliest days of the United Methodist Church (and its predecessor denominations), we have struggled for full inclusion of all people. Throughout our history, we have disagreed, even to the point of splitting our denomination.
  • Discrimination has been woven into the fabric of our current denominational systems, causing pain to many people.
  • Our discriminatory practices have also resulted in us being deemed irrelevant by many people, threatening our viability as a denomination moving forward.
  • We are recommending an intersectionality approach to inclusiveness that realizes the uniqueness of every person.

Strategy:

  • Removal of all discriminatory language from the Book of Discipline.
  • Local church and local ministry leadership to reflect diversity.
  • Conference leadership to reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the territory of our Conference. (See appendix 1. for resources)
  • Create processes that lead to mutual relationships and walking alongside one another in ministry.

Objective 2: The local church becomes the primary hub for mission and ministry. The Annual Conference becomes supportive of local church and local mission and ministry.

Rationale:

  • Local church and local ministries are the primary place where discipleship occurs and where mission and ministry are developed. In the local context people are drawn into the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Changing to a local church ministry centered structure will better support local ministries and congregations.
  • Annual Conferences can connect local churches with resources and with UMC mission around the world.

Strategy:

  • Annual Conference focuses on resourcing local church mission and ministry by
  • Assisting in connecting churches with common mission and ministry objectives
  • Training and equipping clergy in church growth, leadership, and preaching strategies to maximize likelihood of successful local church ministry.
  • Annual conference prioritizes resourcing and training for local congregations. (see appendix 2 for training example)
  • Align measurement matrixes with local/church mission and ministry objectives.
  • 10% apportionment figure for Annual and General Conference support, requiring a streamlined Annual Conference. structure and staff.

Objective 3: Adapt Episcopal appointment process.

Rationale:

With the local church as the primary unit of mission and ministry, changes to how appointments are made becomes necessary. In addition, clergy trust and morale are often connected to the appointive process. Adapting the collaborative process is needed to accomplish the second objective (above) while addressing clergy trust and morale.

Strategy:

  • Work with Conference Episcopacy Committee to assure appointment of Bishops open to collaborative appointment making.
  • Posting Appointment opportunities allowing clergy to express interest
  • Creating annual cluster listening sessions during which clergy share appointment ideas.
  • Provide greater appointment protection for Local Pastors.

Objective 4: Change the role and number of District Superintendents.

Rationale:

  • Our current model for District Superintendents is designed with the Conference as the primary unit for mission and ministry. As such, Superintendents must focus upon the needs of the Conference in their supervision of churches.
  • Our current model of Supervision is costly.
  • Our current model of Supervision removes effective pastors from serving local congregations.
  • Those who serve as District Superintendents report that their experience made them better pastors upon returning to the local church.
  • The new model would allow many people to gain experience as both superintendents and local church pastors, strengthening them for ministry in both areas.

Strategy:

  • Create cluster Superintendents, replacing District Superintendents.
  • The number of Superintendents increases from 4 to 12.
  • Each Superintendent works 2/3 time in a local church an1/3 time as a Cluster Superintendent.
  • Cluster Superintendents represent the needs and goals of the clergy and local churches in their cluster during the Appointment process.
  • Cluster Superintendents serve a four-year Superintendent term.

Appendix

  1. To support achieving our goals we are proposing that we use three charts as a data point: (These charts were used by The Inclusion & Diversity Force this year to support their presentation to the CRCC ministry in the DSW to be lived into for the next 3-5 years.)

a. Racial and Ethnic demographics of the region that falls within the borders of our Conference.
b. Racial and ethnic demographics of the members of the DSW Annual Conference.
c. Racial and ethnic demographics of the members of the Cabinet, Clergy, Laity, and Conference boards and agencies.
d. We have achieved our goal when all three charts match.

2. The Conference supports the administering and training of clergy, Laity and local church staff in the use of the Intercultural Diversity Inventory (IDI) to assess and develop knowledge, skills, and leadership capacity.

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