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Guest blog: Schnase's Jurisdictional Address, Part 4

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 IV – What’s Next (Our Hope)

We are hopeful about how the conversation has fundamentally changed from even a few years ago, and that we are talking more about mission of the church and focused more on the vitality of congregations.… We need to continue to learn, to experiment, to innovate. Change in the United Methodist Church is going to happen one person at a time, one congregation at a time, one conference at a time. Change in the church is will happen horizontally as we learn from another, not vertically or from the top. And so, we bring the conversation back to our local congregations and Annual Conferences. How do we increase the number of vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? How do we reform clergy systems to focus on fruitfulness in service to Christ? How do we streamline systems in congregations and conferences, and eliminate systems that are no longer conducive to our mission? How do we explore new ways to reach next generations with the gift and demand of God’s grace?... We’re clear that there are no short term fixes and no magic formulas. Conference restructuring and changes in the Book of Discipline will not reverse the trends by themselves. But in the long term, it matters how we address issues of clergy recruitment, training, deployment, and accountability. It matters how we realign our resources to start new congregations, develop ways to interrupt decline, and help congregations focus on their mission fields. It matters that our leaders focus on the right questions and deal with issues relevant to our mission around the globe. It matters that we connect our money to our mission. It matters that we leave a legacy to the next generation, not of complex & impenetrable rules and ineffective systems, but of a church that is clear about its mission and confident about its future, and which is responsive and engaged with the world for the purposes of Christ. Friends, I along with my colleague Bishops, are committed to focusing on vital congregations. As long as we have breath and serve this role you have entrusted to us, we are going to do all we can to focus on the ministry of Christ through fruitful congregations. The basic focus of the Call to Action is true, and we will do all we can to explore new ways forward and to leave behind the ways that do not serve the present age. I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say that it is a joy and privilege to serve as a Bishop in the South Central Jurisdiction, and I give God thanks for every one of you and for all you do for the purposes of the Christ and for the United Methodist Church.  (The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)