Nov. 9, 2004
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (UMNS) â€” The bishops of the United Methodist Church will focus on disciple-making and world transformation as top priorities in the next four years, proclaiming "no greater calling" than to make followers of Christ.
"There is no greater calling for this council than to lead this church into being one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Houston during a sermon Nov. 3.
That statement seemed to resonate with the bishops during their Oct. 30-Nov. 5 meeting as they struggled with the question: Where is God calling us to focus our leadership?
During small and large group discussions, the issues of discipleship and engagement with the world emerged as top priorities for the 2005-08 quadrennium.
One hundred thirty active and retired bishops met at Epworth by the Sea, a church-owned retreat center, for the first time since the elections of 22 new bishops last summer. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of the 11 million-member United Methodist Church.
At the end of the gathering, they affirmed a strategy document listing steps they will take to assume a larger leadership role across the church.
"We are making it clear that bishops are in alignment with the mission of the church," said Huie, council president-elect.
After the final discussion of the strategy, retired Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks of Little Rock, Ark., stepped to the microphone and declared, "I am as tickled as a pig with two tails."
Each active bishop will prepare a plan for disciple making in annual (regional) conferences. These plans will be shared during the councilâ€™s May 1-6 meeting in Washington. The summaries will include methods for measuring results and suggestions on how active and retired bishops can be supportive and accountable to one another.
During the meeting, daily worship services focused on mission, unity and the role of bishops as leaders of the church.
In other action, the council:
- Named Bishop John Hopkins, Ohio East Area, chair of the Connectional Table. The 2004 General Conference voted to create the Connectional Table to replace another agency, the General Council on Ministries. The Connectional Table will oversee coordination of mission, ministries and resources across the denomination.
- Heard a report from the General Council on Finance and Administration that almost 70 percent of the United Methodist churches are paying 100 percent of their apportionments, while 3 percent are not paying at all.
- Heard a report from Bishop Timothy Whittaker, Florida, on "In Search of Security," a project calling for the church "to have a public witness in the world."
- Signed a statement congratulating President George Bush on his re-election.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.