Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Exhilarating! That describes the energy at Winter Conference as hundreds of pastors from four annual conferences filled Epworth By The Sea last week. Tod Bolsinger, author of “Canoeing The Mountains,” led us in deeply meaningful reflections on being Christian leaders in times of uncertainty.
Another highlight for me was the hour and a half I got to spend with nearly 100 clergy from South Georgia. I had something I needed to share. It is so important that I want to share it now with you.
First, while the conference staff and I have been very intentional in providing resources to educate and inform you about the 2019 General Conference, do not misunderstand: I am not fixated on the special session of General Conference. My primary focus remains on the local church, the primary arena where disciples of Christ are made. There are so many good things happening in our churches, and my goal is to resource our local churches to support effective ministry.
Second, while I appreciate the wisdom in saying “we cannot know specifics until after General Conference,” nevertheless I believe there is actually a good deal more we can say. We can begin by recalling that our theme, “Alive Together in Christ,” was given to us by the Bible. It is found in Ephesians 2:5 and expresses God’s vision for us. For two and a half years everything we have done has been guided by this vision.
We have even adopted a special process to help us live into what it means to be Alive Together in Christ. It shapes our appointment making process, how we plan the sessions of annual conference, and has led to the identification of wildly important goals. This process - Appreciative Inquiry - consists of four movements:
Recognizing that we have faithful local churches, a strong Biblical vision, and a powerful process, here is what we can confidently say right now:
Whatever comes from General Conference will be received by South Georgia as information, but it will not DEFINE us.
Here IS what defines us:
Now here is the really good news: when we stick with what defines us and follow our process we will be radically open to God’s future for us.
This is what I shared with our clergy during the Bishop’s Forum at Winter Conference. That led to increased dialogue with my brothers and sisters while we were at Epworth. This dialogue has been so rich that I left Epworth making the following notes to myself.
As we stick with what defines us and remain faithful to our process:
As we stick with what defines us and follow the process, we become hope-filled people who can bring hope to our churches and our communities.
Glorify Yourself in us, O Lord, for when we were dead you made us Alive Together in Christ.
Alive Together in the World,