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From a Christendom Mentality to a Missional Reality

Monday afternoon (May 2, 2011) at the Council of Bishops (COB), we heard Professor Dana Robert of Boston School of Theology address the historic leadership role of the office of bishop from the 3rd paragraph of the Nicene Creed.  “We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Dr. Robert posed the following questions to the bishops gathered: 1.  “What does it mean for United Methodist bishops to represent the ‘oneness’ of the church? 2.  What does it mean for United Methodist bishops to represent the ‘catholicity’ of the church? 3.  In changing from a Christendom to a missional context, how should the role of the bishop evolve? 4.  What are the most important spiritual qualities necessary to be a bishop today?” Even more pointedly Dr. Robert framed the questions from a historic perspective with the telling comment, we are “caught in transition from a Christendom mentality to a missional reality.” This discussion may sound somewhat dry and technical, yet it directs our attention bluntly to the 3rd point of the Call to Action to “reform the Council of Bishops” focusing on the active bishops assuming responsibility and public accountability for a new missional culture with measureable fruitfulness.  I have often said that, in my experience clergy, understand that Christendom is over but haven’t yet really engaged in a new missional reality (i.e. are still operating out of a Christendom modality).  Like much of the church, the COB is wrestling with the painful change from an old mentality to a new reality.  One thing is clear.  God is calling us to a new world.  Like the Exodus of old the Lord is going before us.  I ask you to keep in your prayers two special areas of concern that we have lifted up in COB – the victims of the tornados in Alabama and the people of the Ivory Coast recovering from a civil war.  I also ask for continued prayers for those recovering from the Possum Kingdom Fires.