Jul 21, 2022 | By John W. Coleman

Bill Thompson

EPA’s Connectional Table, a gathering of staff and elected chairpersons of various conference committees, met July 12 via Zoom to hear and respond to reported plans and updates on major conference program initiatives. Thirty-two leaders, including four new chairpersons, joined Bishop John Schol and new Conference Lay Leader William Thompson, convened by Connectional Table chairwoman Lenora Thompson.

Lenora Thompson

They learned about movement toward our Conference goals, including developing vital congregations and transformational leaders, increasing financial stewardship and ending the sin of racism.  More than 30 congregations have registered so far to participate in strategic, Spirit-led discernment through the new Pathways to Congregational Fruitfulness & Health initiative.

The Rev. Steve Morton, EPA Leadership Development Manager, reported his intention to meet with pastors on the four districts to share information and answer questions about Pathways, as he develops plans for helping churches achieve vitality and sustainability, or consider discontinuation, and also to work toward conflict resolution and an end to racism. 

The Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Connectional Ministries Director, mentioned EPA’s goal to raise up *transformational leaders (90 clergy and 90 laity) and to elevate connectional giving up to 90 percent of churches meeting their apportionments in full.  Apportionments are the amounts churches give to help provide administrative and program support connectionally for churches and ministries throughout the conference and denomination.

The Rev. Evelyn Kent-Clark, South District Superintendent and Dean of the Cabinet, spoke of working with former Conference Lay Leader David Koch to report on ways to improve equitable compensation for clergy of color. Meanwhile, Conference Treasurer James Brown and Council on Finance Chairwoman Irene Dickinson are considering how to extend the just-approved adjustment in Connectional Ministries Fund apportionments for churches in low-income communities to other apportionments.

Plans for urban Centers for Wholeness

Leaders of the Urban Commission and the Congregational Development Team (CDT) reported on cooperative plans to allocate funds and assist in development of Centers for Wholeness in urban communities, from 2023 to 2027. The Rev. Myra Maxwell, Urban Commission co-chairwoman, highlighted the opportunity to work alongside communities to help them identify and address their social and spiritual needs.

The program, part of the new Path Toward Wholeness dismantling racism initiative approved by Annual Conference, may ultimately lead to starting new, racial-ethnic and multiracial faith communities and churches.

The Rev. Tim Anderman, pastor of West Grove UMC, defined the purpose and goals of his approved Annual Conference resolution(#2022-09) for “Building Fellowship in the Face of Division.”  He described the continuing polarization and division afflicting our denomination and called for sharing and listening to our personal stories to help define, appreciate and connect the diverse people called Methodist. Extensive conversations will be held regionally at our four Camp and Retreat Centers, organized by the Connectional Ministries Office, to fulfill the goals of the resolution.

The bishop lauded the collaborative, forward-moving work of an outstanding Annual Conference session. Now it is important to follow through on commitments, to work on our goals and make progress, he added. Read Bishop Schol’s June 30 letter about Annual Conference and anticipated progress on our goals: Annual Conference Follow-Up.

Disaffiliation to be ‘a sacred, holy process’

“Some churches are wanting to explore disaffiliation,” said Bishop Schol. “While we grieve the loss of anyone, we will not compete for people or congregations.  Such competition is not of Christ.  Rather, we will focus on discernment: what is God speaking to us?”

He explained that disaffiliation “will be a sacred, holy process, open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.” There will be an information session August 1  for anyone who wants to know more or has questions about the process.  All are welcome to attend, whether or not they are considering disaffiliation.  You can learn more on our website’s Disaffiliation Discernment page.

The Connectional Table will meet again on Tuesday, Oct 25, at 6:30 PM, on ZOOM.

* Read Bishop Schol’s two letters titled “Direction: A Key Ingredient for Successful Leadership”: Part 1, Vision and Part 2, Mission.

This story was adapted from minutes of the Connectional Table meeting, with thanks to the Rev. Marilyn Schneider, who prepared them.