The 2010 Florida Annual Conference will vote on a proposal to create a Strategic Leadership Team. The would be a small group of clergy and laity with the responsibility to clarify the vision of the annual conference, ensure that the vision is realized, and oversee the alignment with the vision of all annual conference resources and ministries.
The suggestion for creating this team came out of the cabinet's year-long participation in a reflection on the life and direction of the annual conference under the faciliation of Mr. Craig Robertson of the Spiritual Leadership Institute and the Rev. Tom Albin of Upper Room Ministries. The cabinet engaged in some planning which will be forwarded to the Strategic Leadership Team, if it is approved.
The job of this proposed group is the job I had envisioned when the Conference Table was created even though the membership of the two groups is different. As it turned out, so many people came to Conference Table meetings and were allowed to participate that the Conference Table ended up being a kind of town hall for the conference rather than a strategic leadership team.
I think the time has come to retire the Conference Table and related structures and establish the new team which will work in general consultation with other key leaders elected by the annual conference. This does not mean that we will not have town hall meetings which we may call "conference tables." I think it has been wonderful that so many people have participated in all our gatherings and contributed their thoughts. I think we would want to continue to use this format in the future when necessary.
Even though it is time to move on, I do think we should pause to look back at the agenda of the Conference Table. Its agenda included 1) transforming the culture of congregations; 2) transforming the culture of the clergy; 3) strengthening lay leadership; 4) developing a strategy for cooperative parish ministry; 5) training consultants for conflict resolution (as one form of crisis intervention); 6) evaluating campus ministries; 7) evaluating operations of camps and retreat centers; 8) evaluating conference structure, staff and financial support; 9) developing a strategy for the global mission of the conference; 10) developing a strategy for the social ministry and witness of the conference. All of the items dealt with crucial issues in the life and mission of the United Methodist Church in Florida. Significant and creative work has been done in every one of these areas, and the work continues. For example, in addressing the second item about transforming the culture of the clergy, there have been two Conference Tables, the formation of the Center for Clergy Excellence, hiring a staff person to work with young clergy candidates and young clergy, a task group to develop the agenda for the Center, and a recent meeting with key effective clergy from all over Florida. The ministry of Shade and Fresh Water has served a number of clergy families and spouses. Other initiatives have occured, including the formation of a leadership development process involving peer learning. A rather long story could be told about each of these items on the agenda. Even though the Conference Table will disappear, the work begun with that structure will live on in many ways.
What we need now is a clearer and more memorable communication of our vision, mission, core values, goals and objectives. We also need to address those areas where there are institutional log-jams--areas where there has been much consultation and reorganization and effort, but where there are still impediments to moving forward for a new day.
I hope that members of the annual conference will give their support to a change in organization and approval of the Strategic Leadership Team.