UMC’s Call to Action Report

I had a chance to read through the UMC Call to Action Report report today. I still need some time to digest it fully, but there is some really good stuff in there. For example:

Objective examination of data, trends, and observations from UMC leaders led to identification of a creeping crisis of relevancy with an accompanying acute crisis of an underperforming economic model that are both linked to frailties in the UMC’s culture. These include the absence of common definitions for the meaning of our mission statement, lack of trust, low levels of mutual respect, the frequent absence of civil dialogue, insufficient clarity about the precise roles and responsibilities of leaders, and a lack of agreed ways to measure success or assure collaboration.

Thus we identify the need for:

• Recognition of the value and need for the Council of Bishops to exercise strong and courageous leadership, working in concert and fostering alignment throughout the Connection

• More clarity and understanding about the UMC’s mission, culture, and values

• Less perceived organizational “distance” between and among the foundational units of the church

• Better-defined leadership roles, responsibilities, and accountability; with greater clarity about outcomes

• More standardized management processes and reporting systems

• Streamlining of connectional structures to achieve effective governance, lowered costs, and higher levels of performance.” (pg. 7)

There is a strong push for congregational vitality and pastoral effectiveness. In the report it says:

“Deciding what to measure as indicators of effectiveness is often debated, but the research is conclusive that we can stimulate vitality if at a minimum we join together to:

* increase the numbers of people participating in worship and small groups for prayer and study—starting and maintaining more programs for children and youth

* encourage spiritually devoted lay persons to share leadership roles in every facet of Church life

* offer multiple worship experiences and cultivate dynamic topical preaching

* improve pastoral effectiveness, including aspects of management and leadership

* provide longer clergy appointments where it is apparent that the gifts of the pastor fit the needs of the church and its community

* consistently cultivate incremental increases in financial giving and engagement in outreach, witness, and mission in local communities and the world.

The quality of clergy and lay leadership is essential for effectiveness, and we must retool our culture and systems of clergy recruitment, training, credentialing, and support with renewed emphasis on greater accountability for outcomes, giving appropriate, but much less, focus to intentions.” (pg. 15)

And check out this prayer of confession:

 “O holy and merciful God, we confess that we have not always taken upon ourselves the yoke of obedience, nor been willing to seek and do your perfect will.

We have pursued self-interests and allowed institutional inertia to bind us in ways that constrain our witness and dilute our mission. We have been preoccupied more with defending treasured assumptions and theories, protecting our turf and prerogatives, and maintaining the status quo for beloved institutions than with loving you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. And we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

You have called to us in the need of our sisters and brothers, and we have passed unheeding on our way.

May almighty God, who caused light to shine out of darkness, shine in our hearts, cleansing us from all our sins, and restoring us to the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, in the face of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.” (pg. 17-18)

And this section on the call for leadership:

 “Leaders, beginning with the bishops and including lay and clergy across the Connection, must lead and immediately, repeatedly, and energetically make it plain that our current culture and practices are resulting in overall decline that is toxic and constricts our missional effectiveness.

Continued pursuit of the most prevalent of current approaches, structures, policies, and practices is likely to produce the same results with continued decline and decreasing mission impact.

Business as usual is unsustainable. Instead, dramatically different new behaviors, not incremental changes, are required.

The absence of strong, adaptive, decisive leadership will hasten the rate and magnitude of the well documented indicators of decline (baptisms, professions of faith, membership, attendance, funding for connectional ministries).

We need a cadre of mutually committed, collaborative, turnaround leaders that (1) make a compelling case for daring, disciplined, and sustained actions and (2) demonstrate strong leadership to vividly change what we emphasize, and de-emphasize many current treasured approaches and programs and forego familiar rhetoric that, though valued, does not lead to effectiveness in achieving different and desired outcomes.

Making this change requires leaders to forge strong coalitions, joining with willing partners who agree to disagree about lesser matters and setting aside many passionate causes in order to focus instead on overarching goals for the greater good. Choosing to continue behaviors that arise from narrow interests and subordinate objectives will lead to increased divisiveness and accelerate the current disintegration.

This calls for nothing less on the part of all who will lead than the kind of denial of self that Wesley placed at the heart of the sanctified life. “The ‘denying’ ourselves and the ‘taking up our cross’ . . . is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples.” (Sermon 48, “Self-Denial,” emphasis added). But even more so, it requires us to follow Paul’s advice that by “having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other,” we might “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2, 5 CEB).

This is not a time for leaders who are ambivalent, reluctant, or unwilling to walk forward with humility and courage.(pg. 18-19, emphasis in original)

There is some brilliant stuff in there, hopefully this gets read, taken seriously, and put into action.