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Before We Speak, We Listen!

April 18, 2012

The Wisconsin AC delegation to General Conference made a commitment as soon as we were elected – since we are a smaller group (only 6 in 2012 instead of 10 as in 2008), we would make an effort to meet with every board, agency, commission, council, committee, caucus and affiliate organization to listen to their concerns and critical issues about our church.  We asked four questions:

1.     What are the top priorities and concerns of your board/agency/work group as we prepare for General Conference?

2.     What specifically do you want said to the delegation representing the Wisconsin Annual Conference as they prepare for GC/JC in 2012?

3.     Do you have specific Disciplinary concerns that you hope will be addressed at GC 2012? (Particularly concerning Petitions/Resolutions)?

4.     Do you have specific Episcopal/leadership concerns as we prepare for JC 2012?

While we honor the confidential nature of specific conversations, we want to highlight and summarize what we heard.

  1. Widespread concern that our denominational and conference leadership is out of touch with the day-to-day challenges and struggles of the local church.
  2. Questions about the missional priorities and vision of the larger church.  Many feel as though we lack clear direction and effective leadership.
  3. The current focus on structure and processes reflects how out of touch our leaders are with the current state of the church.  We need more focus on mission and relevancy; less on policies and procedures.
  4. Deep concerns about leadership – lack of young clergy, too much focus on clergy and not enough focus on laity.  We do support a more strategic and intentional focus on cultivating a “culture of call,” and improving our processes to develop spiritual leadership.
  5. Too much emphasis on size and growing bigger churches.  Equating church “health and vitality” with greater “size” and more “power” is not helpful.
  6. Racial and ethnic constituencies are feeling more marginalized today, and the proposals to change structure and influence in the church concerns them greatly.
  7. People love the church and they want to see it strong and thriving.  There are deep concerns over social and cultural issues –  gay/lesbian participation in church leadership, immigration, alignment  with Social Principles, political influence, capital punishment – and the impact these issues may have on our unity and solidarity as we live into the future.

We would love to hear your concerns.  These represent just a sample of the most widely shared issues we have heard so far.

submitted by Dan Dick

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From → Conversation

One Comment
  1. dave werner permalink

    i’m hoping mine is not the first comment here–this whole endeavor seems to be drawing few comments as far as i can tell, but i do want to thank the delegation for doing this “listening.”

    i often think the larger church leadership is out of touch with “the day-to-day challenges and struggles” of the local congregations. Perhaps there are just too many challenges and struggles these days….

    i wonder if we aren’t up against a reality that offers persons a choice of “what kind of church” they want–not just denominational identification but also the style or character of the community of faith. This works out better for all ISTM in an area or a city in which there is a range of UM congregations from conservative to progressive. The seeker can find a niche in one of the alternatives, and together, all the UM congregations “are” The UMC.

    i am not hopeful that this General Conference gathering will advance the cause of Rabbi Jesus in such a way that we will more closely resemble the kindom of God, but i stand willing to be surprised.

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