Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Passions for the UMC in Alaska

Photo credit: Rev. Jim Doepken
I have been asked by many to reprise my first Superintendent's address in my blog so they can review and share it in their local churches. I will do that. In fact my plan is to dedicate a blog post for each of the six points I focused on. But that series will have to wait until I get back from vacation in August. For now, let me give you an abridged version for you to start reflecting on.

In my address I shared six areas I am really passionate about in my ministry with you as your Superintendent. These were born out of a year of "walking" the conference; a year of listening to your stories, dreams and visions; a year of getting to know each church, each context and each ministry setting. I purposefully resisted casting a vision for leadership until I had gotten to know the conference a little bit deeper. These six areas come out of our shared dreams and visions. They are areas I will hold myself accountable to you, you to me and us to God.

So here are my six passions for the UMC in Alaska:

I challenge us to identify and engage our mission fields. Who are the people in our neighborhoods that God is calling us to reach? What is your mission field and how are we engaging it? What are the partnerships we have forged with different groups in your community?

I challenge us to cultivate a culture of genuine welcome. How are we welcoming the "other" into our midst? How are we truly restoring and keeping the Sacred Circle that includes everyone and shuns no one? How can we continue to draw the circle wider so that "all" really means "all"?

I challenge us to intentionally live a culture of discipleship. Because it is our mission to make disciples, we ask the question: how are disciples made in our churches? What is your church's discipling model?

challenge us to allow a culture of experimentation and innovation in our ministry settings, realizing that many of the  methods and ways we are used to aren't working anymore. What's an experiment, an innovation; what's something creative that you are doing in your churches this year? How can we foster a healthy culture that permits experimentation and even failure?

I challenge us to foster a culture of call. We need to be in the business of raising-up leaders, both clergy and lay, for our Alaska churches. How are we creating a culture of call in our local churches and ministry settings? How are we encouraging and nurturing people who have a call to ministry or are discerning one?

I challenge us to recover our culture of connection that's in our DNA as Methodists. Isolation is our reality in Alaska and so we need to be intentional about keeping connections with one another. How are we being intentional about connecting with others in the conference? What are the stories we need to share across the connection?

These are my six passions for the UMC here in Alaska. When  I go around for Charge Conferences this year, I will be receiving your paperwork (which we will try to streamline and get rid of duplication). But that's just your "homework". What I'd really want us to focus on during our time together is your "term project" which will be along the lines of these six passions. I would like these six areas to drive our conversation and our ministry moving forward.

Let me end the same way I ended my address, with a quote from Steve Jobs:

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

Our mission as United Methodists is to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." May we be people who are "crazy" enough to think we can transform the world, beginning here in our great state of Alaska.

Your fellow disciple,

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