Appointments in a Time of Mission

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The Bishop's Blog

As the appointive cabinet begins its work this winter, we welcome your prayers. We are seeking, in consultation with the clergy and laity leaders of our annual conference, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make assignments that will create the best matches, that will call forth our gifts, that will help the local church to resemble the Kingdom of God, and that will glorify God.

 
The following are a few core values related to the making of clergy appointments and itineracy in the Florida Annual Conference. These supplement the language found in the Book of Discipline (337-338).
 
1. It is all about the mission. The primary factor in making an appointment is the mission field. Mission-field appointment making is a first step in living into the newly defined role of the district superintendent as chief missional strategist.
 
These are the guiding questions in mission-field appointments: 
  • Can this elder, deacon or local pastor lead the local church to make disciples of its existing members and form new disciples beyond the existing influence of the local church? 
     
  • Where there is decline, can the pastor lead a "turnaround"? 
     
  • Where there has been conflict or scandal, can the pastor be an instrument of healing and reconciliation?
     
  •  Where there is a plateau, can the pastor lead a church to strengthen its witness and expand its mission? 
     
  • And where there is growth, can the pastor help a community to dream even greater dreams?  
We are sent into this mission by Jesus, who gives us the Great Commission (Matthew 28) and the Great Commandment (Mark 12).
 
2. Money is important, but it is not the driving factor: money follows mission. Existing salaries do not determine the next appointment. At a personal level, we seek to avoid reductions in salaries, but there is also a systemic reality of churches reducing compensation at times of transition. To the laity, we appeal to you not to devalue the pastoral office, unless it is a matter of required financial stewardship. To the clergy, we are reminded that our value is not measured in our financial compensation, but in our deeper identity as women and men created in God's image.
 
3. Graduating seminarian appointments are made first. We want younger clergy to begin their ministries in settings that will give them the greatest opportunity for success. 
 
4. Itineracy is less about moving from church to church, and more about proclaiming the gospel in as many places as we can beyond our sanctuaries. Itineracy is moving to the places where the people are.
 
5. The Call to Action focused on the flow of resources to the local church, for the sake of God’s mission. Faithful and fruitful pastoral leadership is crucial if we are to make disciples for the transformation of the world. At the same time, ministry that extends the mission of the local church in educational, camping, administrative and mission settings is honored and consistent with life and leadership in a tradition that has an extensive network of schools, children's homes, urban ministries, hospitals, counseling centers, justice ministries and camps.
 
6. Where the local church and the pastor are flourishing, longer appointments are appropriate and a sign of God's blessing. There are occasions when the annual conference has a compelling need to intervene when a pastoral transition has not been requested, but this is the exception. And yet it is also true that clergy membership resides not in a local church or an extension ministry, but in the annual conference (Discipline, 336). In our ordination vows, clergy (including bishops and superintendents) make a promise to go where we are sent, believing this to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
 
7. We practice open itineracy, which means appointments are cross-cultural, and the gifts of women in ministry are honored.   In the years to come we will give increased support to leadership in cross-cultural ministry. 
 
8. We pay attention to fruitfulness in ways that include metrics (worship attendance, professions of faith) and narrative context: economic climate, congregational conflict, etc. The metrics are also broad enough to attend to the marks of personal and social holiness; thus we care about major missional initiatives and persons served in mission, as well as baptisms and small group participation.   An additional metric of great importance is the pastor's leadership in connecting the local church to the annual conference through apportionments that fund ministries that we do “better together”: children’s homes, campus ministries, camping ministries, health insurance and pensions for clergy, new church development, etc.
 
9. We believe in shared vision and shared leadership: effective clergy discern a vision for a local church through inward (prayer, fasting) and outward (listening, holy conversation) spiritual disciplines. In this way effective clergy collaborate with gifted laity in seeking God's will for a congregation and its missional future.
 
10. Bishops and district superintendents are flawed and imperfect men and women. We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 5). We supervise (support and hold accountable) clergy who have these same limitations, and these clergy are sent to local churches where the weeds and the wheat grow together (Matthew 13),  to employ another biblical image.   In addition, this document (and out ministry of oversight) is a work in progress, even as we are all a work in progress; we are clay in the Potter's hands (Jeremiah 18-19).    We welcome your feedback.
 
11. Some appointments will be received enthusiastically. Others will be difficult to embrace. Every appointment is made in an environment of deep prayer, listening to God, paying attention to the gifts of clergy and the desires of the local church, but, again focusing first on the needs of the mission field---that is, the community that surrounds the local church. The resources that will sustain our congregations in years to come are not exclusively in our local churches--indeed, we have lost 20% of our membership and 10% of our congregations in the last ten years; the gifts that will sustain our mission also reside in the hearts, minds and hands of people of "ages, nations and races" (from the liturgy of our Baptismal Service) who have not yet become followers of Jesus, and who live in the neighborhoods that surround our local churches. 
 
We remain convinced that God has given us a profound mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world. And because God is faithful, we have a future with hope!
Note: This expresses the consensus of the appointive cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, meeting from February 20-22, 2013. Please contact your district office for the scheduled consultations, timing of pastoral appointments and dates of public announcements. Appointments will be celebrated at the conclusion of the Florida Annual Conference meeting in Lakeland, Florida on June 15, 2013.


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