NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The 59-member Connectional Table established plans to evaluate general church agencies during a Nov. 18-20 meeting at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
On behalf of the body’s Evaluation and Accountability Committee, the Rev. Tamara Brown proposed five short-term processes for evaluating general agencies during the 2013-2016 period.
Each general agency will be asked to:
- List agency goals related to increasing the number of vital congregations and ways in which advancement on the goals will be measured
- Cite data from surveys, evaluations and interviews indicating how the agency has progressed
- Detail adjustments made after evaluations and measurements to more effectively serve churches and communities
- Specify ways in which the agency is partnering with other agencies
- Define the scope of ministry outside the United States
Brown said her committee is now working on plans for long-term evaluations that will indicate progress on the four areas of focus and efforts to increase the number of vital congregations.
The General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, agreed to follow the evaluation established by the Connectional Table.
The effort to increase number of congregations in The United Methodist Church is showing results, according to a report to the Connectional Table and the chief financial agency of the denomination.
In a video report from the Council of Bishops, Fort Worth (Texas) Area Bishop Mike Lowry said a total of 776 new congregations have been formed in 37 U.S. conferences since 2008, 47 percent are ministries with ethnic minorities. Central conferences (regional groups outside the United States) “blew by their goal of 400” faith communities, Lowry said. A total of 574 have been created.
In another video report, New Jersey Area Bishop John Schol said the percentage of professions of faith in churches using the six indicators of vitality increased by 4.6 percent; those not using the indicators declined by 2.6 percent.
- Three pre-General Conference briefings will be in Africa, one in Europe and one in the Philippines at a cost of $300,000. Events, to be between Feb. 5 and March 14, 2016, will be directed by local church leaders. General Conference is the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly.
- The Connectional Table approved a grant of $74,000 from the World Service Contingency Fund as part of the Act of Repentance toward Indigenous Communities. Funds will create new congregations and train indigenous persons to be leaders in this movement of reconciliation and healing. Annual conferences will be encouraged to engage in local acts of repentance.
- Thomas Kemper, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, reported there are 4 million displaced families in the Philippines, and the agency received $932,000 in online gifts for relief efforts. That figure does not include funds contributed through local churches.
- The Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications, reported on efforts to develop a holistic plan of communications. He said the church needs to align the external message with the positive internal message. The external message is “the denomination is declining.” The internal message is “congregations are taking steps to become more vital, and they are supporting Imagine No Malaria and the four areas of focus.” We need to increase awareness and appreciation of the basic tenets of being a United Methodist disciple of Jesus Christ, he said.
- In an opening devotion in the Upper Room chapel, the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg (Ohio) United Methodist Church, said “I love our theology, but our methodology sucks.” Lamenting the manner in which the church appears to the public, he said church trials “remind me of Salem.”
- “Jesus was an adaptive leader.” That’s what the Rev. Amy Valdez Barker, top staff executive of the Connectional Table told the gathering. She explained that Jesus told people the way they were living was how they should be living. He reversed cultural norms by putting children and the humble first. “We follow an adaptive leader who beckons us to follow him,” said Valdez Barker.
*Rich Peck is a retired clergy member of the New York Annual Conference. He lives in Nashville.