Last week I participate in a meeting of the “Leading Edge” group made up of the Senior Pastors of the 100 largest churches by worship attendance in the UMC in the U.S. I wrote about it in my earlier blog entitled “Leading Edge.” Out of that meeting came a number of actions worth prayerful consideration. When asked what are the top changes needed in the UMC, the Senior Pastors noted the following six (in order). [Senior Pastors ranking is in bold; my comments are in italics.] #1. Improve quality of church leadership – inspire passionate and effective leaders. This is the critical need! It is one of the four focus areas of the United Methodist Church. It will necessitate dramatic rethinking of what effective leadership looks like in the 21st century (i.e. a post-Christendom church). #2. Simplify administrative structures of General Church – reduce apportionments. Amen! This will require both General Conference and Annual Conference action. It will also face deeply entrenched interests often protected by The Discipline. #3. Develop a common message or clear theological message as UMC with a clear process of spiritual formation. Theological pluralism has led us to lose our Wesleyan roots. Recovering a vibrant Wesleyan Christian orthodoxy is a necessity. I see reason for real hope in this area. The Holy Spirit is blowing a fresh wind through us. #4. Strengthen the role, authority, and leadership of the Bishops. Please note: This is what the Senior Pastors voted for! Everyone is in favor of bishops have greater authority and exercising more leadership as long as what we (bishops) do agrees with them. When our leadership and authority go in a different direction, we are often greeted with cries of “how dare you!” #5. Local church pastors be positive, hopeful and encouraging to others in the denomination. This is a task that must be place squarely on the shoulders of local pastors. Holy Scripture commends us: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (I Peter 3:15-16) #6. End guaranteed appointment. This will take General Conference action. It must be made with appropriate provisions for safe-guarding ethical imperatives. Sooner or later we will economically be forced to take this action.