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Florida pastor joins steering committee in repositioning church for the future

Florida pastor joins steering committee in repositioning church for the future

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida pastor joins steering committee in repositioning church for the future

By Jenna De Marco | Aug. 27, 2009 {1072}

NOTE: A headshot of the Rev. Deborah McLeod is available at

It’s often said there is strength in numbers, but when it comes to the role of the 18-person “Call to Action” steering committee, the Rev. Deborah McLeod says the team’s relatively small size is its strength.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops (COB) formed the committee in May to explore the future of The United Methodist Church. McLeod is one of three members selected from the denomination’s Connectional Table to be part of that team.

Rev. Deborah McLeod

“I feel really hopeful about this steering committee, mainly because it comes out of the heart and passion of Bishop (Gregory) Palmer and Bishop Larry Goodpaster and it is not an appointed committee of any great size,” McLeod said. “This small group has the potential to think in fresh ways and to find a way forward, even in the issues of structure and funding, which I care a great deal about.”

Palmer is bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference and president of the Council of Bishops; Goodpaster is bishop of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference and president-elect of the bishops’ group. Goodpaster is also Call to Action project director.

Under Goodpaster’s leadership, the steering committee’s purpose is to help The United Methodist Church align its mission with the denomination’s four areas of focus and “refashion and reposition the church for the future,” according to a release from United Methodist Communications. Those four focus areas are developing principled Christian leaders, starting new congregations and revitalizing existing ones, engaging in ministry with the poor, and fighting diseases of poverty.

The timing of the Call to Action effort coincides with an 18-month global economic recession, which has contributed to fewer connectional ministry funds, according to the Council of Bishops.

“Bishop Palmer, in his Call to Action, references the global financial situation and the indicators of decline in our denomination, as well as the signs of life and hope across the church,” McLeod said. “Bishop Palmer … just thinks this is the right time to think anew and to ‘refashion and reorder the life of the UMC.’ ”

The steering committee includes nine bishops and six members of the Table of General Secretaries, along with the three Connectional Table members. In mid-July, the team convened for a two-day organizational meeting in Chicago. McLeod, who is also pastor at Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., attended the first meeting.

“The steering committee is working on questions and conversations in the areas of leadership, mobilization, connections and funding,” she said. “As we prepare for the November 2009 COB meeting, we are beginning conversations with individual leaders and groups around these four areas.”

McLeod is working on the funding subgroup with Bishop John Hopkins of the East Ohio Annual Conference; Moses Kumar, general secretary of the General Council of Finance and Administration; and Neil Alexander, publisher at the United Methodist Publishing House and chairman of the Table of General Secretaries.

Rather than focusing on what is broken in the current church structure and how it got that way, the steering committee wants to consider what the church could look like in the 21st century, McLeod said. The team is discussing potential outcomes and will prepare some “action items” for presentation at the November bishops meeting.

“We expect a picture of a preferred future to emerge from the conversations with leaders and groups around the subjects of leadership, connection, mobilization and funding,” McLeod said. “The concrete proposals we bring to the November meeting … will come out of the work we do between now and the end of October.”

The steering committee will meet in person twice more — three days in both September and October. Otherwise, members are working in their subgroups and communicating through online project management tools.

As the steering committee continues exploring possible proposals, McLeod said she will look for ways to include Florida Conference clergy and laity in the conversation. More information about the Call to Action is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.