Off to Conference

As I write this blog we are finishing last minute preparations for the 148th meeting (counting all the various predecessors!) of the Central Texas Conference.  Annual Conference is central to the notion of what Methodist’s are about.  John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist (or methodical!) movement for church renewal, wrote of the beginning of his “conference” structure: “In June, 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those that heard of us.” Bishop Schnase notes:  “The agenda for the first conference 268 (now 270) years ago was three-fold.  Mr. Wesley and the Methodists conferred on: 1. What to teach.  2. How to teach.  3. What to do, that is, how to regulate our doctrine, discipline, and practice” (Robert Schnase, Remember the Future, p. 43). They didn’t primarily gather to conduct business, though they did engage in business.  They didn’t center their time on budgets.  Voting on delegates did not dominate their attention.  They focused on “how to save souls.”  They centered the extensive conversation on teaching.  It is an echoing of the famous elements of the early church as noted in Acts 2:42.  “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.”  The conference resulted in exemplary evangelism and missions of love, justice and mercy.  (Just as in the Acts 2:42-47.) This will mark my 6th Annual Conference as the presiding bishop of the Central Texas Conference.  Over those years we have consistently sought to lessen the amount of time spent on “business” and increase the amount of time spent on teaching and learning.  This year we will focus on Intentional Faith Development.  Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Episcopal Area will lead off with a focused teaching on The Wesleyan Way. Three presenters will share different models with written material for any church (pastor, lay leader, Sunday School teacher, etc.) to pick up and adapt for their own unique setting.  Pastors and lay leaders alike will not want to miss these great learning opportunities! Presenter: Rev. Candace Lewis          Resource: A Disciple’s Path by James A. Harnish Presenter: Dr. Phil Maynard              Resource: Shift by Phil Maynard Presenter: Sue Engle                           Resource: Charting a Course of Discipleship by Teresa Gilbert, Patty Johansen, & Jay Regennitter (revised by Delia Halverson) Our second great emphasis has been worship.  I wish every Methodist had the high and holy opportunity to attend the ordination service at Conference.  It is a true time of rejoicing. Bishop Paul Leeland will be our Conference preacher.  I can recall well Bishop Leeland preaching to the Council of Bishops.  Bishop Leeland challenged us to move into the world in faithful witness.  “When the caravan is moving, the dogs are barking!”  He will bless us greatly with his faithful insight and anointed witness. In advance I wish to convey our great thanks to First United Methodist Church of Mansfield Texas for hosting us and offer a huge “God bless you” to the Conference staff for all their preparatory work.