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Guest Blog: Schnase's Jurisdictional Address, Part 3a

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of hearing many outstanding Episcopal addresses.  This address was at the very top of an excellent class!  Parts are reprinted in a series of five blog postings with Bishop Schnase’s permission while I am on vacation. – Bishop Mike Lowry

Episcopal Address

South Central Jurisdictional Conference

July 19, 2012

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Robert Schnase, Bishop ©

Part IIIa – What Are We Working On?

It’s been an extraordinary quadrennium for the South Central Jurisdiction. We’ve seen a remarkable and growing convergence around several critical areas as all of our conferences have begun to experiment and explore common leverage points for change, reversing decline, and moving toward more vital congregations and more fruitful ministry.4 For instance, nearly all of our conferences in recent years have initiated focused work on Leadership Development, Congregational Transformation, New Church Starts, Changing Conference Staff Roles, Extended Cabinet Development, the Role of Laity as Active Learning Partners, the Use of Common Language, the Search for a Decision-Making Center. (Those who know Gil Rendle will recognize this language to describe the efforts by many of our conferences to develop effective leadership teams in conferences amidst the diffuse leadership structures most conferences have inherited.)  All of this means we are having a fundamentally different conversation about leadership and mission than we were having 10 years ago. And nearly all our conferences have experimented with Reduced Districts, Realignment of Structures, Reduction of Costs, Use of Metrics, Recasting Leadership Roles such as those of superintendents and lay leaders. And we’ve identified more clearly some of the challenges that make this difficult: Restrictive Polity that is not conducive to our mission and limits local contextual response; the unfruitful notion that Meetings are Ministry; the Need for Financial Re-Set; and Difficulty in Reaching Next Generations. But the most fundamental shift we’ve seen across the jurisdiction is a renewed Focus on Congregations as most critical arena for our work. What also makes this time different from ten years ago is a greater sense of urgency about our task and a developing culture of experimentation in our conferences. We’re learning a great deal together. Our conferences have discovered that there are certain essential tasks which annual conferences must do with excellence or the church will continue to decline. Conferences must focus on congregational development (starting new congregations and reversing decline in existing congregations) and pastoral excellence (recruiting, preparing, deploying, and evaluating clergy), or else they fail in their mission of leading congregations to lead people to active faith in Jesus Christ, and so we’ve seen the majority of our conferences reorganize around those tasks. We’re learning many things through this era of exploration and experimentation  (The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)