Conference to strive for unity, transformation in Christ

By John W. Coleman

After months of deliberation, the Eastern PA Conference has new, ambitious vision and mission statements to be presented at Annual Conference during the Celebration of Connectional Ministries Report on June 15.

Our strategic vision is to be United in Christ, Committed to Transformation. To achieve that desired future, our mission goals are to:

  • Create disciples of Jesus Christ,
  • Celebrate and broaden our rich diversity,
  • Forge connections among people and partners in and beyond our various communities, and
  • Commit our hearts and minds to fostering love and justice for and among all people.

Members of the Connectional Table and program staff, along with the Extended Cabinet, labored for three months in a lengthy but fruitful process of study, discernment, discussion, negotiation and collaboration. They sought to devise a unifying understanding and verbal expression of our identity as a conference and ultimately, our way forward as we seek to live into and out of that identity.

The Rev. Glenn Catley, a consultant and retired pastor from Delaware, facilitated that process, after helping the Peninsula-Delaware Conference undertake a similar endeavor several years ago. Glenn journeyed here several times, often with his wife and partner, Virginia Catley, to meet with the Cabinet, staff and Connectional Table leaders. They led us in defining our core purpose and goals in concise but motivational terms that express the needs of our communities and the salient gifts, strengths, passions and concerns of our conference, its churches and its members.

This intense, energetic process of communal discernment, dialogue and decision-making was, in Glenn’s words, “for the purpose of shaping the story of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, to build trust among all participants and bring clarity to what we do together in response to God’s call.”

Together, we explored and prioritized themes, concepts and values of our faith and discipleship in Jesus Christ, including diversity, justice, wholeness, community, collaboration, leadership, and love and service to God and one another.

Meaningful but memorable statements

A Vision Task Force of Connectional Table leaders, staff and the Extended Cabinet carefully narrowed the prevailing views down to meaningful but memorable vision and mission statements that could possibly capture the imaginations and touch the hearts of our conference’s membership, friends and supporters.

At the same time, they understood that often—especially in the church—the new must be paired with the familiar to gain wide acceptance. Thus, the resulting statements dovetail, in words and spirit, with The United Methodist Church’s denominational mission statement: “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Conference leaders hope members will reflect on the guiding statements and engage in ongoing, insightful conversations about what they can mean for our churches, districts and conference. Their next task will be to develop strategies and action plans to pursue the vision and implement the mission.