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Call to Action vs. Packer Fans

April 11, 2012

“If we all had as much enthusiasm for Christ and the Church as my guide had for the Green Bay Packers, we wouldn’t need a “Call To Action!” declared Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, at the Appleton Mission Celebration last October. He had just toured the Packer stadium complex with a guide who was energetic about singing the praises of our much loved pro-football team and who knew reams of facts and stories and personal accounts to back up his adulation.

As you have heard, the Call To Action is an appeal to every United Methodist to engage in the vital mission of the United Methodist Church – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Basically, it calls all of us to help create vital congregations where mission is lived out every day- as shown by a growing congregation where more of the people are engaged in ministry and mission and are making new disciples (not just pew warmers) and who give generously to missions.

We all are aware that the UMC has been declining in membership for forty years and, in the U.S., is aging and mostly of white European heritage. Worship attendance has been slipping as well, along with a decline in professions of faith and baptisms. Read more at this link: www.umccalltoaction.org

The Call To Action is NOT being voted on at this General Conference. It was developed as a result of the previous General Conference. In the fall of 2010, the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table affirmed the plan, and it was put into action at the start of 2011.

Also, it does not change our four areas of focus: creating new places for new people, developing principled Christian leaders, improving global health, and engaging in ministry with the poor. But it does seek to make structural changes in how the agencies relate to each other, as well as, financial changes to facilitate the ability to react faster to changing needs. It challenges the guaranteed appointment system and asks for a Bishop to be set aside from serving a conference/episcopal area in order to oversee the Council of Bishops and the General Council for Strategy Oversight.

Another program that has come out of the Call To Action is the the Vital Congregations Program. It offers ideas for changes that are intended to invigorate the UMC from the General Church level on down to the Local Church, with most of the action happening at the local level.

Legislation concerning all of these ideas are part of the resolutions that will be taken up at this General Conference. To read more, search online for “Speak Now” by Bishop John Hopkins. He is the chairperson of the Connectional Table. At the end of his message are responses given by readers, mostly in opposition to Call To Action proposals. For more reading on Vital Congregations go to: blog.umcvitalcongregations.org/2012

It seems to me that, in the end, the energy, enthusiasm, and evangelistic attitude that is trying to be expressed by the Call To Action initiative is the same that fired up the early converts to Methodism in the U.S. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, with few ordained clergy available, the laity spread the Gospel across the land by sharing their faith (biblical facts and stories plus their personal accounts) and gathering neighbors and relatives into small meetings in their homes between visits of circuit riders.

Judy Vasby

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