LAKELAND – Florida Conference leaders say a document adopted last week by the Cabinet and Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) clearly steers United Methodists – from individual worshipers to those who shepherd congregations, districts and conference-level ministries – on a path to mission.
|Bishop Ken Carter|
The statement, “Connecting to Purpose,” was unanimously adopted Sept. 16 at a joint meeting of the Cabinet and SLT. It also has been endorsed by the Committee on Episcopacy.
Dr. E. Dale Locke, pastor of Community of Hope, Loxahatchee, who has been on the SLT since its inception in 2010, said the document provides a much-needed missing piece to previous statements.
“I think it’s a fantastic revision because we needed a missional connection,” Locke said. “The (previous) statement was strong but was missing that component. ... This tightened it up in a powerful way.”
Locke said conference leaders at the meeting were moved by Florida Bishop Ken Carter’s thoughtful work and heartfelt support of the document.
Carter said the statement had been in an extended process of discernment and revision. He described it as more a missional "playbook" than a legislative document and said he hoped the new statement of purpose would be helpful to the conference, especially in defining the particular callings of individual lay and clergy leaders, congregations, teaching churches and districts and in clarifying the unique role of the annual conference.
Rev. Tim Smiley, superintendent of the North East District, found it to be exactly that.
“For so long, our conversations around the United Methodist connection have focused on institutional structures,” he said in an email to Florida Conference Connection.
“‘Connecting to Purpose’ invites us to consider our connection as a ‘kingdom ecology,’ each person and community having a unique role and all of us together living out the mission of God.”
Carter said the document also invites the conference to begin the process of reflection on a revised mission statement: “Together we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the Wesleyan tradition who participate in the mission of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Alice Williams, an SLT member and associate lay leader for leadership development for the conference, said the adopted statement provides the groundwork for lay members as well as clergy to follow the biblical admonition to find and reach people “where they are.”
“I believe this statement gives us the freedom to do that within the structure of the Florida Conference,” she said.
As a church pastor, Locke said the statement serves as a call to renew work together as a conference and in local communities.
“I think there’s a challenge in that for every local church,” he said. “I think we could kind of forget who is not yet reached in the community. It’s sort of a reminder that it’s not just about those of us gathered but those who are not at the table.”
Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, superintendent for the North Central District, sees the document as a blueprint that describes how each part of the conference contributes to the whole.
"For too long, we have been working from different blueprints, with differing agendas and what seemed to be 'program of the month' clubs," she said in an email. "This document should help us get on the same page, and I'm grateful for that."
Intentionally brief and focused, the Cabinet and Strategic Leadership Team commend this statement, “Connecting to Purpose,” to leaders across the conference. The statement can be found here.
-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.