Monday, May 26, 2008

Annual Conference Issues

This week United Methodist leaders from all across North Indiana, my home area, will be meeting at Purdue University for their Annual Conference. There are some important issues that are at hand. I am going to write about them here in the hope that by doing so, I will get some clarification on my own opinions and positions on these issues. I do not believe my opinions to be right. That is why I am struggling here.
  1. A proposed merger with the South Indiana Conference. First of all, we are not supposed to call this a merger. We are joining to form a new entity. The idea is that a new conference will be streamlined and more administratively and financially efficient. However, It seems that the ultimate outcome will be less ministry effectiveness. Bureaucracy will move farther from the local church. Administrative costs will rise due to increased travel time and expense as well as fewer personnel to administer the churches. My biggest concern is that by merging we are giving ourselves the illusion of ministry activity. We can feel better about our ministry failures (or apathy) because we are busy doing something else. In our organization we re-organize or re-structure every few years so that we do not have to do what God has called us to do.
  2. Decreased budgets. Two years ago our conference changed the way it collected funds from the local churches. Originally there was a monthly bill, or apportionment, that each church was required to pay. In 2006 we got more biblical and changed our system to a voluntary tithe. The problem is that too many churches are not paying a tenth of what they collect. Our budgets are now in- or very near- crisis. This issue will have to be dealt with. I am in firm agreement that the tithe is the biblical method of collecting funds. However, something has to change because this isn't working.
  3. Sending of the Saints. In 2007 we approved a resolution that called for every local church to reach out to new people and new groups. The sending of the saints called every congregation to start a new faith group within calendar year 2008. It now looks like many churches are not going to accomplish that goal. There may be a movement to change the directive by watering it down. In essence, the new proposal would let a lot of churches and Christians "off the hook."

I am sure that there will be other issues that will be important. These three, however, are the ones that are occupying my thoughts and my prayer time in anticipation of Annual Conference this week.

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