College and Cabinet

For the past week my time has largely been consumed by two meetings – the South Central Jurisdictional (SCJ) College of Bishops and the annual Inventory Retreat of the Cabinet of the Central Texas Conference. The South Central Jurisdictional College of Bishops normally meets the first week of February at Perkins School of Theology.  Our agenda is varied but typically receives reports from various Jurisdictional Institutions (i.e. Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Mt. Sequoyah, St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, SMU and Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, etc.).  Our role as bishops is one of governance.  Each of the aforementioned institutions has its own governing Board.  Rather we share in dialog and insight, which relates to the episcopal responsibility of shared oversight of the Church as a whole.  We follow up on various legislation that has come from General and Jurisdictional Conferences as well as any appropriate inquiries from the representatives of Annual Conferences.  (For instance there is a Jurisdictional Task Force called Mission 21 with representatives from the 10 episcopal areas of the Jurisdictional working on possible realignment issues in the future.) We engage in looking at missional priorities for the Jurisdiction and relate to the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy.  We participated in a discussion of the roles of “Counsels for the Church” in potential upcoming church trials.  And the list continues. One of the more interesting reports this year involved leadership development.  A crucial issue I have written on many times involves redeveloping the eco-system for clergy development.  Officials from Perkins shared elements of a Lilly Foundation consultation report done by Barbara Wheeler on pathways into Seminary.  Among many items to consider, one stood out as having critical importance: role models and mentoring by clergy and lay leaders of potential clergy.  Significantly the seed of the Holy Spirit, which leads to a lifetime of service to God and the church through ordination, is usually planted at the middle school level! The second event was the yearly Inventory Retreat of the Central Texas Cabinet.  In this retreat we gather and examine who is retiring, who is graduating from seminary and looking for an appointment, who is looking to be licensed as a local pastor, etc.  Together we carefully and prayerfully sift through the church and clergy consultation forms which various pastors and Pastor-Parish Relations Committees have presented to their District Superintendents.  Together we wrestle with how we might best deploy ourselves to engage the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  This is an ongoing task that will occupy must of the Cabinet’s time between now and Conference in June.  I ask for your continued prayers for all involved in the process. It is worth noting that we are continuing to see a rise in retirements.  Alongside the rise in retirements is a rise in churches moving to a part-time clergy relationship.  Slowly the renewed emphasis in campus ministry and development of the next generation of lay and church leadership is making a difference.  Balancing all of the various elements is very difficult.  I thank God for the faithful churches, clergy, and lay leaders involved in this great and godly connection called the United Methodist Church.