In the United States of America, The United Methodist Church is divided into five areas known as jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central, and Western.
Jurisdictional conferences typically meet every four years to elect new bishops and select members of general boards and agencies. After electing 13 new bishops during their Nov. 2-5 meetings, the denomination’s five U.S. jurisdictional conferences announced episcopal assignments effective Jan. 1.
We witnessed a commitment towards the vision where everyone is living fully in God’s call on their lives, flowing from our agency’s three core values: belonging, discovery, and faithfulness. These three themes align with the Wesleyan theological value of uniting knowledge and vital piety as an expression of Christ’s love for the world, and also align with our own core values that guide us each day at GBHEM.
Belonging: Realizing the power of belonging to a community
After creating the first human being God realized, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18), God immediately recognized the need for companionship and belonging in human society. As we navigate through this season in the United Methodist Church it is increasingly clear that we must remain diligent in strengthening our relationships and continuing to build an environment of belonging. Bishop Rueben Saenz delivered a motivating episcopal address during the South-Central jurisdictional conference, encouraging the denomination to design a Methodist church that serves an everchanging world; a world where everyone belongs.
As a general agency of the UMC, The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is committed to offering support, advocacy, and resources to assist with empowering a new generation of thoughtful Christian leaders. While we welcome the new leaders with joyful hearts, we are at the same time grateful for the leadership of those who will be stepping down. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who retired at this session, has worked with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for several years. Through this partnership she implemented several clergy development programs in Southeast Asia.
We are inspired by the gathering of clergy and laity for this legislative process, which is proof that even through this uncertain season we still belong to one another and to Christ.
Faithfulness: Devotion to an ongoing, meaningful journey of discipleship
The spirit of faithfulness is often tested in the moments of uncertainty. Our newly elected U.S. bishops represent faithfulness in the United Methodist Church, choosing to lead during a time when we are being asked to trust in things unknown. These 13 new bishops are taking office as the denomination deals with the hardships of the pandemic and church disaffiliations. U.S. bishops will also take on expanded assignments to ensure episcopal area coverage.
Rev. David Martinez executive director of contextual leadership formation at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry attended the North Central jurisdiction conference and witnessed the power of faithfulness among those who attended. “There were testimonies from people who admitted that the church had affected their journey of faith. Listening to these testimonies was extremely touching. During our group discussions we engaged in healthy and supportive conversations to encourage one another,” Martinez stated.
The General Board of Education and Ministry upholds this same commitment to faithfulness, understanding how we should remain faithful to our ministry of developing Christian leaders for the transformation of the world.
Discovery: Seeking God’s wisdom and guidance through many different avenues
The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry attended the jurisdictional conferences this year as a listening presence. Intentional listening allows a speaker to fully focus and feel heard. Listening implies a more active inner stance than hearing and creates room for the listener to gain deeper discoveries and awareness into what is being said. Through a listening presence, GBHEM gained much understanding of what church leaders are experiencing and is more empowered than ever to provide resources and support that educate, energize, and inspire our current generation of leaders.
Michael Baughman, director of product management at GBHEM was one of several GBHEM staff members who attended a jurisdictional conference. “I think GBHEM needed to be out there listening,” expressed Baughman. “If I hadn’t attended, I may not have fully known the level of heartache felt by delegates within the church. All the information I gathered from attending was extremely helpful to my work at GBHEM, as well as the strategic work of the agency.”
There were even moments during the conference that represented just how powerful listening to one another can be. After several emotional moments among delegates who were advocating for a more inclusive church, newly elected bishops met with them at a break and offered their support and prayers. It was a powerful moment where delegates felt heard and seen by those in positions of leadership.
The more we listen to one another, the more we discover what makes us unique and important to the United Methodist Church. Our focus on discovery allows GBHEM to inspire Christian leaders to serve the church in a specialized and thoughtful manner unique to each individual. As new leadership moves forward, let us be mindful to continue to listen to one another with love and seek moments of discovery to transform the world.