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The United Methodist Church in the Philippines, despite a steep decline in its reported membership, will enjoy an overall increase in the number of delegates it sends to the 2102 General Conference and will have a level of representation far out of proportion to its membership.

The 2012 UM General Conference will have outsized representation from both Europe and the Philippines

Likewise, the representation level of the European Central Conferences will bear no connection to actual membership.

These details are included in a report released by the secretary of the General Conference that sets the total number of delegates to next year’s quadrennial gathering at 988 and advises annual conference leaders about the number of delegates each annual conference will be allowed to send.

A seven-page spreadsheet summary and analysis (PDF) of the denominational data, prepared by former North Georgia Conference Lay Leader Joe Whittemore and obtained by MethodistThinker.com, notes that Europe and the Philippines, which together account for less than 2 percent of total UMC membership, will have delegations that comprise more than 9 percent of the 2012 General Conference.

Specifically, the Whittemore analysis notes that Philippines Central Conference, despite a reported decline of nearly 28 percent in membership since delegation sizes were calculated for the 2008 General Conference, will nonetheless see a 14.3 percent increase in the size of its 2012 delegation.

(The steep membership decline in the Philippines is left unexplained in the denominational data; it is likely due in part to more accurate membership reporting from the annual conferences there.)

Meanwhile the European Central Conferences (Central and Southern Europe, Germany, Northern Europe), despite a overall membership loss of 8.5 percent since delegation sizes were calculated for 2008, will see no impact on the size of their delegations.

The out-of-proportion representation afforded to Europe and the Philippines is the result a constitutional provision, applied to small annual conferences, that overrules the normal formula for determining representation.

Typically, the size of each annual conference’s delegation is based on a formula — approved by the 2000 General Conference and found in ¶502 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline — that allows each annual conference to send one clergy delegate and one lay delegate for every 375 clergy members in the conference, plus one clergy delegate and one lay delegate for each 26,000 lay members.

Certain conferences, however, are too small for the formula to apply. Under the United Methodist Constitution (¶15: Section II, Article III), such conferences are guaranteed a minimum of two delegates — one clergy and one lay — regardless of membership. The guaranteed-minimum rule gives these smaller conferences — and the Central Conferences or Jurisdictions areas of which they are a part — outsized representation at the expense of larger conferences.

Based on a strict application of the 375 clergy/26,000 lay members formula, the Philippines Central Conference would send only 14 delegates to the next General Conference, according to the Whittemore analysis. Instead, because the Philippines church is composed of 23 annual conferences, the Philippines is guaranteed a minimum of 46 delegates. (Its actual delegation size next year will be 48.)

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Likewise, without the minimum rule, the Central Conferences of Europe would send only eight delegates to the 2012 General Conference, according to Mr. Whittemore’s calculations, rather than the 42 called for under the recently released delegation data.

The additional delegates afforded to Europe and the Philippines by the guaranteed-minimum rule will mean that the Central Conferences of Africa (Africa, Congo, West Africa) will have a level of representation that falls well below what would be required under a strict application of the 375 clergy/26,000 lay members formula.

According to denominational membership tallies as of Dec. 31, 2009 — the figures used to calculate delegation sizes for the 2012 General Conference — United Methodists in Africa comprise 34.6 percent of total UMC membership. However, at next year’s General Conference, African delegates will make up only 28.5 percent of voting members, assuming all delegates are present.

The second- and third-largest areas of the UMC, the United States’ Southeastern and South Central Jurisdictions, respectively, will also see their representation diluted by the two-per-conference-minimum rule. The SEJ, with 24 percent of total UMC membership, will have 22.3 percent of delegates. The SCJ, with 14.4 percent of members, will have 13 percent of delegates.

The three other U.S. Jurisdctions — Western, Northeastern, and North Central — will all enjoy delegation sizes slightly larger than their actual membership would call for if General Conference representation was strictly proportional.

As noted above, the number of delegates for GC2012 has been set at 988.

The UM Constitution (¶13: Section II, Article I) requires that the quadrennial General Conference “be composed of not less than 600 nor more than 1,000 delegates, one half of whom shall be clergy and one half lay members, to be elected by the annual conferences.” Further, the Constitution requires UM missionary conferences to be considered as annual conferences for purposes of General Conference representation.

Ten delegates to the 2012 General Conference are expected to come from “concordat” churches with which the United Methodist has a formal relationship, including four voting delegates from the British Methodist Church (see ¶13).

A November 2010 press release from the UMC’s Office of Public Information offered background on the process of determining  delegation sizes for the 2012 General Conference:

The Constitution of The United Methodist Church allows for the General Conference to have anywhere from 600 to 1,000 delegates. Because the formula that is provided within church law for the distribution of delegates currently allocates more than 1,000 delegates, the formula must be adjusted to bring the total within that range.

In October 2009, the Judicial Council issued a decision stating that the secretary of the General Conference has the authority to “determine the number of delegates that each annual and missionary conference will elect to General Conference within the provisions of the Constitution and the legislative enactments of the General Conference.”…

A decision about the number of delegates was delayed in part because of a request from the South Carolina annual conference for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council concerning the secretary’s authority to calculate the number of delegates to be elected by each annual conference.

At their fall meeting, the Judicial Council said it has no jurisdiction to act upon that request because the request did not “have a direct and tangible effect on the work of the” South Carolina Conference.

The current secretary of the General Conference is the Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist, the pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, Pa.

Reist was nominated to the secretary’s post by UM Council of Bishops and was elected by the 2004 General Conference. He was re-elected in 2008.


Related post
Prominent UM layman offers analysis of amendments outcome

Related articles and information
2012 General Conference delegations as compared to membership (PDF) | Joe Whittemore (Jan. 7, 2011)
The Jurisdictional Conferences (U.S.) and the Central Conferences of the United Methodist Church | Wikipedia
Fairly represented? GC 2008 considers limits on delegates | Bill Fentum, United Methodist Reporter (April 18, 2008)
Southeastern delegates push for fair representation at General Conference | Alice Smith, United Methodist News Service (Sept. 24, 1999)

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MethodistThinker.com is on hiatus until after Labor Day. In the interim, we’re highlighting podcasts from our Spring 2010 season.

This podcast features an address by Dr. Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Theology and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School. In his presentation, he focuses on a widely quoted statement made by Methodist co-founder John Wesley in 1786:

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.

And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast…the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. (Thoughts Upon Methodism)

Dr. Randy L. Maddox

Dr. Maddox explores the meaning of “doctrine, spirit, and discipline” by quoting from other writings of John Wesley and hymns by Charles Wesley.

Randy Maddox is an ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, and he holds degrees from Northwest Nazarene College, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and Emory University. Before coming to Duke, he was Paul T. Walls chair of Wesleyan Theology at Seattle Pacific University.

Dr. Maddox is the author of Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (1994) and the editor of Rethinking Wesley’s Theology for Contemporary Methodism (1998).

He is also the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (2009), winner of the Wesleyan Theological Society’s 2010 Smith/Wynkoop Book Award.

The address on this podcast, edited for length, was presented at the 2008 conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC, held at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

To listen, use the audio player below (31 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (14MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link at the top of the right column.


Related information
The United Methodist Way: Living the Christian life in covenant with Christ and one another (PDF) | A paper developed by a group of UM scholars led by Randy Maddox (September 2007)
A missional future — the United Methodist Way | Taylor Burton-Edwards, UM Reporter (March 24, 2008)
Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (PDF) | Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers, Cambridge University Press (2009)
Be ye perfect? The evolution of John Wesley’s most contentious doctrine | Randy L. Maddox, Christian History (Jan. 1, 2001)
Papers by Dr. Randy L. Maddox (on Methodism, Wesley Studies, and Practical Theology) — scroll down and click “Publications” | Duke Divinity School

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A prominent United Methodist layman has compiled a percentage breakdown of last year’s votes on 32 proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution, showing the areas of the church in which the various amendments were most strongly supported or rejected.

Although votes on the amendments took place at annual conference sessions in 2009, the totals weren’t ratified by the United Methodist Council of Bishops until two months ago. In all, only five of the 32 amendments won approval across the denomination.

Joe M. Whittemore

The breakdown, compiled by former North Georgia Conference lay leader Joe M. Whittemore, shows that opposition to the controversial “Worldwide Nature” amendments came largely from Africa and from the U.S.’s Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ). Those 23 amendments — all soundly defeated — would have restructured the UMC into a series of regional conferences, including a likely U.S. Conference.

“The two largest areas (SEJ and Africa, which have 53.4% of total membership)
voted overwhelmingly against a U.S. conference,” Mr. Whittemore wrote in a brief companion analysis released along with voting results breakdown.

The failure of the restructuring amendments was “a resounding defeat for the idea of having [a single] U.S. area,” Mr. Whittemore wrote. Currently, the U.S. is divided into five semi-autonomous jurisdictions that elect their own bishops.

“This should put to rest not only the idea of a consolidated U.S. area but also any thought of electing and assigning bishops at the U.S. area level,” he wrote.

The breakdown of the overall vote (see table below) shows that less than 3 percent of United Methodists in Africa supported the restructuring amendments. In the U.S.’s Southeastern Jurisdiction, those amendments received only 15 percent support.

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The full text of all 32 amendments is here (PDF), showing the proposed deletions (stricken text) and additions (in bold/blue) to the UM Constitution. Because amendments relate to constitutional changes , a super-majority vote (at least 66.7 percent) is required for an amendment to be affirmed.

The idea of segregating the church into regional conferences (effectively “national churches” in some cases) received its strongest support from United Methodists in Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S.’s Western Jurisdiction. Together, these areas account for less than 6 percent of the total membership of the denomination.

Across the entire United Methodist Church, the restructuring amendments garnered only 39.5 percent support. “The negative vote on [these] amendments was confirmation of the lack of trust the annual conferences have in giving power to the general church establishment without the implications being clearly stated,” Mr. Whittemore wrote.

Opponents of the Worldwide Nature amendments had warned that the restructuring plan was ill-defined. They argued that passage of the amendments could empower a small, unrepresentative group to make significant changes in denominational structure and areas responsibility.

Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S.’s Western Jurisdiction were also the three areas of the church to give strongest support to Amendment I, an amendment dealing with eligibility requirements for membership in the local church.

Amendment I opponents had argued that its passage would restrict a pastor’s ability to offer spiritual oversight regarding an individual’s readiness to take membership vows.

That amendment, originally authored by a Texas-based group pushing for denominational approval of homosexuality, garnered 47.8 percent of the total vote, far short of the 66.7 percent required for approval.

Even though the 32 of the proposed amendments had won super-majority (i.e., at least two-thirds) approval from the 2008 General Conference, the larger church rejected the General Conference’s recommendation for all but five amendments.

“That 48,000 interested United Methodists could sift through 32 proposed amendments and affirm five positive actions is a confirmation in the combined wisdom of our process and people,” Mr. Whittemore wrote in his analysis. “It causes one to wonder how in tune [the] General Conference is with [the] pastors and laity of local churches.”

Joe M. Whittemore is a member of the 2008-2012 Connectional Table of the United Methodist Church. He has served in many capacities within the UMC, including as chair of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Committee on the Episcopacy and as a member of the Committee on Audit and Review of the General Council on Finance and Administration. Mr. Whittemore has been a delegate to multiple General Conferences.


Related posts

Bishop Scott Jones: Rethinking the path to a worldwide UMC
Riley Case: Approval of Amendment XIX a ‘positive development’ for evangelicals
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Bill Bouknight: Methodists are saying ‘No’ to their leaders
North Georgia overwhelmingly disapproves restructuring amendments
Leaders in North Georgia, Holston urge defeat of re-structuring amendments
A ‘procedural’ argument against Amendment I
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
Update on the ‘Church and Society’ court case
Joe Whittemore: ‘Enough is enough’

Related articles and information
Voting on 2008 Constitutional Amendments: Summary and observations (PDF) | Joe M. Whittemore (May 2010)
UM Bishops announce defeat of global church and open membership amendments | Connor Ewing, Institute on Religion and Democracy (May 12, 2010)
Study Committee responds to constitutional amendment rejections | Stephen Drachler, Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church (May 11, 2010)
Study Committee begins shaping report; focuses on ordained ministry standards | Stephen Drachler, Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church (April 30, 2010)
Confessing Movement speaks to Worldwide Nature Study Committee (PDF—see page 5) | Patricia Miller, We Confess newsletter (November/December 2009)
Presentation to the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church | Paul Stallsworth, Lifewatch (November 2009)
Letter to the Worldwide Nature Study Committee (PDF) | Karen Booth, Transforming Congregations (November 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
New group will study church’s Worldwide Nature | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 3, 2009)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 2008)

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John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist movement (along with his brother Charles), once wrote:

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.

And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast…the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. (Thoughts Upon Methodism, 1786)

Dr. Randy L. Maddox

This MethodistThinker Podcast, featuring an address by Dr. Randy L. Maddox, Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Duke Divinity School, focuses on what Wesley meant by those words.

Dr. Maddox explores Wesley’s reference to “doctrine, spirit, and discipline” by quoting from other writings of John Wesley and from several hymns by Charles Wesley.

An ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Randy Maddox holds degrees from Northwest Nazarene College, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and Emory University. Before coming to Duke, Dr. Maddox was Paul T. Walls chair of Wesleyan Theology at Seattle Pacific University.

He is the author of Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (1994) and the editor of Rethinking Wesley’s Theology for Contemporary Methodism (1998).

Dr. Maddox is also the co-editor of the recently released Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (2009), winner of the Wesleyan Theological Society’s 2010 Smith/Wynkoop Book Award.

The address on this podcast, edited for length, was presented at the 2008 conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC, held at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

To listen, use the audio player below (31 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 (14MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe via iTunes or other podcast software, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link at the top of the right column.


Related information
The United Methodist Way: Living the Christian life in covenant with Christ and one another (PDF) | A paper developed by a group of UM scholars led by Randy Maddox (September 2007)
A missional future — the United Methodist Way | Taylor Burton-Edwards, UM Reporter (March 24, 2008)
Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (PDF) | Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers, Cambridge University Press (2009)
Be ye perfect? The evolution of John Wesley’s most contentious doctrine | Randy L. Maddox, Christian History (Jan. 1, 2001)
Papers by Dr. Randy L. Maddox (on Methodism, Wesley Studies, and Practical Theology) — scroll down and click “Publications” | Duke Divinity School

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Leaders from two Annual Conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction — the North Georgia Conference and the Holston Conference (covering parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia) — are urging defeat of proposed constitutional amendments that would restructure the denomination.

North Ga. Flier

Flier produced by North Ga. group

In North Georgia, a self-described “ad hoc group of very concerned United Methodist[s]” — which includes nearly 80 percent of North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation — is distributing a flier (PDF) that expresses concern that five amendments related to the “worldwide nature of the church” (amendments IV, X, XIII, XXIII, and XXVI) would “fundamentally harm our classic connectional polity.”

The five amendments would allow for the creation of a series of regional conferences across the denomination, likely resulting in a greater degree of structural segregation between United Methodists in the U.S. and United Methodists in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The North Georgia flier is being distributed at district-sponsored pre-conference briefings held in advance of the June 16-18 annual conference session, although not as part of the official Conference literature.

In the Holston Conference, that area’s entire 2008 General Conference delegation has issued a three-page position paper (PDF) recommending “that [Holston] Annual Conference delegates vote ‘no’ on all [23] amendments related to the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church.” These include the five amendments mentioned above, as well as 18 other amendments that would rename overseas conferences, changing their designation from “central conferences” to “regional conferences.”

The restructuring and renaming amendments, proposed by the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church (Task Force report—PDF), were approved by last year’s General Conference.

Holston’s General Conference delegation is urging that the current restructuring proposals, as well as other restructuring suggestions that are being studied, be vetted and debated more thoroughly “[b]efore we vote to change the constitution of the church.”

In addition to urging defeat of the 23 restructuring/renaming amendments, the position paper from the Holston delegation offers guidance on the other nine amendments to be voted on at Holston’s annual conference session, which will be held June 14-17.

Joe Whittemore

Joe Whittemore

Members of North Georgia’s General Conference delegation have been granted time to speak about the 32 proposed amendments (PDF) during the series of 12 pre-conference briefings (schedule) leading up to North Georgia’s annual conference session.

Use the audio player below to listen to a clear and concise explanation of all 32 amendments by former North Georgia Conference Lay Leader Joe Whittemore, recorded earlier this week at a pre-conference briefing held in Athens, Georgia (sponsored by the Athens-Elberton District).

His presentation is 22 minutes. The green-colored sample ballot Mr. Whittemore mentions is here (PDF).

(If you prefer, download an mp3 of Mr. Whittemore’s presentation — 5.2 MB.)

In addition to explaining the various amendments, representatives of North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation are using their pre-conference briefing presentations to announce the results of a delegation straw poll in which North Georgia’s GC delegates voted informally on the various amendments.

Among the results of that poll: the North Georgia delegation was unanimous in its opposition to Amendments IV, X, XII, XXIII, XXVI — the five amendments that would allow for the creation of regional conferences; 95% of the delegates opposed the name changes from “central conferences” to “regional conferences”; and 65% opposed Amendment I, which would change language related to inclusiveness in membership.

The North Georgia Conference, with approximately 345,000 members, is the largest UM Annual Conference in the United States.

All 135 UM Conferences (62 Annual Conferences in the U.S. and 73 Conferences in Africa, Asia, and Europe) are voting on the 32 proposed constitutional amendments, including the nearly two dozen relating to the structure of the denomination.

More than 30 conferences have already completed their voting. The rest will be voting over the next several months (schedule of annual conference sessions—PDF).

amendments-clipAlthough some conferences are announcing their voting results immediately (see here and here), the final tally will not be released until late this year or possibly early next year.

To be enacted, an amendment to the UM Constitution must be ratified by two-thirds of the aggregate “voting members” from all the Conferences. (Provisional deacons and elders, “local pastors,” and associate and affiliate clergy members are not eligible to vote — ¶602.1 of the Book of Discipline).

Members may debate a proposed amendment, but cannot alter it.


Related posts
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
African UM leader on amendments: ‘We should have been consulted’
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08

Related articles and information
Full text of all 32 amendments (PDF)
Voter guide from Concerned Methodists (PDF)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News (March/April 2009)
Constitutional Amendments | John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries blog (May 21, 2009)
A rationale to oppose proposed constitutional changes | Tim McClendon, Columbia District Superintendent, South Carolina Conference
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Conferences to consider church structure | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 10, 2009)
Constitutional Amendments 2009 | William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Amendment I (without the baggage) (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 18, 2009)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article on Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)

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MethodistThinker.com is presenting a retrospective on Bishop Lindsey Davis’ 12 years as the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference, now the largest United Methodist conference in the U.S. His tenure in North Georgia comes to a conclusion at the end of this month.

In 2005, Bishop Davis was one of the featured speakers at the UM Southeastern Jurisdiction Ministers’ Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

He spoke to the assembled pastors and leaders about the primary task of the church: “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (At the 2008 General Conference, this phrase was adopted as the official mission statement of the United Methodist Church.)

Following is an abridged transcript of Bishop Davis’ remarks, delivered on the evening of July 8, 2005 at Junaluska’s Stuart Auditorium. (Full audio is below.)

After the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, what do we see? We witness an embryonic church constantly on the go…. They were mission driven — and their mission was to make disciples for Jesus Christ so that they world might be transformed….

Sunset at Lake Junaluska

Sunset at Lake Junaluska, N. Carolina (Stuart Auditorium is at right)

From the very beginning, the early disciples understood that the Christian faith is a movement, not an institution.

[John] Wesley and the early Methodists drew upon this kind of biblical understanding — and they used words like “spread Scriptural holiness” and “redeem the lost” and “renew the Church” and “reform the nation to serve the present age,” so that they might also “flee the wrath to come.” You can hear the message throughout our Wesleyan language.

But we struggle as a denomination, do we not? We’ve lost membership for 40 years, and that loss has significantly diminished our ability to transform the world….

The Lord will bless a church that has a passion for souls. And our problem is that we’ve remembered about spreading holiness and we’ve remembered about reforming the nation, but we’ve forgotten the “flee the wrath to come” part. That has robbed us our sense of urgency and our passion for souls….

I want to talk to you like family members for just a moment. Most of us are long-time members of the United Methodist Church, and I want us to be honest…. Are we not in many ways comfortable and content? More than willing to pay the price of membership — but the real question is this: Are we willing to pay the price of discipleship? It’s a very different question. Are we willing to pay the price of discipleship — of following Jesus wherever Jesus might lead us, and at whatever it might cost us to go there? Are we willing to pay that kind of price?….

I yearn for all of our churches to be faithful, servant congregations — a church that is mission driven, passionate about sharing our faith with others, constantly discovering the needs of the world around us and then going to meet those needs….

I want us to make a difference for the sake of Christ. I want us to be salt and light to the world. I want us to act like we really believe that the Great Commission just might [be fulfilled] in our lifetime.

Friends, we’re living in the first century of Christianity all over again…. Many gods and idols are being worshiped. Spiritual hunger is rampant. The harvest is full. And I believe God is calling us out of our sanctuaries and even out of our denominational structures — and certainly out of our affluence and out of our safety — into those places where we can once again join Jesus on the mission field.

Click the arrow below for streaming audio (23 min.) — or you can download an mp3 (5.4MB).


Related posts
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘The gospel in an age of skepticism’
Conversations with Bishop Lindsey Davis
An interview with Bishop Lindsey Davis
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘A fully engaged laity’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: ‘Whatever it takes to reach the lost’
Bishop Lindsey Davis: The Church in time of war
Bishop Lindsey Davis: A vision for the future
Bishop Lindsey Davis speaks to the Confessing Movement
Bishop Lindsey Davis on the role of a bishop

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From the July 20 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference Daily Christian Advocate (PDF):

Offering almost fatherly advice to his new episcopal colleague, retiring Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey urged new bishop Paul Leeland to act as a shepherd for his flock.

In his sermon in the final event of the 2008 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, McCleskey pointed out the many references to the shepherd, calling the image “one of the [richest] in the Bible.”… [Thinker note: audio posted below.]

Bishop Leeland,kneeling, with Bishop Marion Edwards

Leeland, kneeling, with Bishop Marion Edwards

McCleskey said these illustrations apply to [Leeland's] new role as episcopal shepherd to his new flock.

“As you care for the flock you will travel down interstate highways, city streets and country lanes that you’ve never seen before, to seek a wayward sheep, encourage a disgruntled flock, listen to a few angry goats.

“You must lead them into the mission of spreading scriptural holiness, which means you will make difficult decisions, take solitary stands, walk through some lonely days, and lay awake on some long sleepless nights,” McCleskey added.

But [he noted that] Leeland can take comfort in the fact that the Holy Spirit will enable him to handle whatever comes his way as bishop, and that he can call on his sister and brother bishops and those who elected him for support.

“All who are here have prayed for you,” McCleskey said, “and will continue to do so. We will give much of ourselves to help you be faithful to your commitment to this new call.”

Bishop McCleskey’s sermon is streamed below (19 min.) — or you can download the mp3.

It’s also worth listening carefully to the weighty and consequential consecration vows, administered by Bishop Lindsey Davis (4 min.).

Bishop Leeland has been assigned to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. His tenure begins on Sept. 1.

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Joe Whittemore

Joe Whittemore

Last night, in the Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, the 13 bishops of the United Methodist Church’s Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) received their assignments for the next four years.

Current North Georgia Bishop Lindsey Davis will be heading back home to Kentucky after 12 years in Atlanta. Bishop Mike Watson, who has served the South Georgia Conference for the past eight years, will be moving to North Georgia.

Joe Whittemore of the North Georgia Conference, chair of the SEJ Committee on the Episcopacy, announced the assignments, with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding.

Listen to the reading of the assignments below (10 min.) — or download an mp3.

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Paul Leeland reacts to his election

Leeland reacts to his election

It came on the sixth ballot. The vote took place yesterday; the results were announced this morning.

Ballot 6

  • Number of votes cast – 498
  • Number of valid ballots – 493
  • Number needed to elect – 296

Paul Leeland was elected bishop with 298 votes.

Dr. Leeland is currently the director of ministerial relations and an assistant to Bishop Alfred Gwinn in the North Carolina Conference.

Let us pray that he continues to serve Jesus Christ wisely and well as a bishop.

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With the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference now underway, here is the “lay of the land” regarding who may be selected as the next North Georgia bishop.

It is unlikely that any of the six bishops elected four years ago will be moved from their current locations. It is also unlikely that Bishop Charlene Kammerer, assigned to the Va. Conference in 2004 after eight years in Western North Carolina, will be moved.

That leaves only four current bishops who could be reassigned to North Georgia: Bishop Timothy Whitaker (currently assigned to the Florida Conf.) Bishop Larry Goodpaster (currently in the Alabama-West Florida Conference), Bishop James King (Kentucky/Red Bird), and Bishop Mike Watson (South Ga.).

Bishop Whitaker, elected in a special election in 2001, has not yet served two full terms in the Florida Conference, so it is possible that he will not be moved (he has served about six months less than two full terms.) Bishop Whitaker is also something of a “reluctant bishop,” having withdrawn his name from the special election in 2001, only to be elected anyway. I have heard that he may wish to retire after this next term, so I would not be surprised if he is allowed to remain in Florida for another term.

That would leave the choice for North Georgia to be among Bishop Goodpaster, Bishop King, and Bishop Watson. (Bishop King has connections in Georgia — he’s a graduate of ITC and has family in both Athens and Atlanta — but I’m not sure if that would influence things one way or the other.)

This Jurisdictional Conference will also elect one bishop. At this point, it looks as though that person is likely to be Paul Leeland (PDF of resumé), currently the director of ministerial relations in the North Carolina Conference.

Dr. Leeland gave an excellent presentation to delegates today. You can listen to the stream below — or download the mp3.

(UPDATE: Video here, courtesy of the South Carolina Conference communications team. Note: Large file — 69MB.)

Paul Leeland

Paul Leeland

It is possible that Mr. Leeland, or whomever the newly elected bishop turns out to be, could be assigned to North Georgia (Bishop Lindsey Davis was assigned to North Georgia following his election in 1996). However, since the North Georgia Conference is now the largest U.S. conference in the connection (2008 North Ga. Conf. Report—PDF) and is one of the few U.S. Conferences that is growing, my sense is that Committee on the Episcopacy will select someone with episcopal experience, rather than a newcomer.

If I had to make an educated guess, I would predict that the next bishop of North Georgia would be either Bishop Goodpaster (author of a recent book on “clergy excellence, congregational health, and Wesleyan theology”) or Bishop Watson, who already knows a good bit about the North Georgia Conference because of the close cooperative nature of the North Georgia and South Georgia Conferences.

Of course, one hopes that the Episcopal Committee will go into their meeting room and discern what God wants — and what God wants is sometimes a surprise to everyone.

By the way, just to give a sense of how strong the SE Jurisdiction is (numerically) in relation to other U.S. jurisdictions, consider this list of all the Jurisdictional Conferences taking place this week and the number of delegates to each conference:

Southeastern (Lake Junaluska, N.C.) – 504 delegates
South Central (Dallas, Tex.) – 296 delegates
North Central (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – 276 delegates
Northeastern (Harrisburg, Pa.) – 252 delegates
Western (Portland, Ore.) – 80 delegates

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From the July 18 Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the newspaper of the North and South Georgia Conferences of the United Methodist Church.

Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska,site of the SEJ Conference

Stuart Auditorium, site of the SEJ Conference

This week…504 delegates from the 15 Annual Conferences that make up the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church will gather at Lake Junaluska for their quadrennial conference.

Of that total, 56 delegates are from North Georgia and 24 from South Georgia.

The primary function of the Jurisdictional Conference is to elect Bishops. In addition the conference also has the powers and duties:

  • To promote the evangelistic, educational, missionary and benevolent interests of the church and to provide for interests and institutions within their boundaries;
  • To establish and constitute jurisdictional conference boards as auxiliaries to the general boards of the church;
  • To determine the boundaries of Annual Conferences;
  • To make rules and regulations for the administration of the church’s work within the Jurisdiction; and
  • To appoint a committee on appeals.

The theme of the 2008 Conference is “Living the United Methodist Way.” During the conference there will be four “Teaching Sessions” around that theme….

Since there is only one Bishop retiring, there will only be one Bishop elected. Once one of the candidates receives over 50% of the vote, the Episcopacy Committee will meet to assign that new Bishop to an Episcopal Area, and assign other Bishops to new Episcopal Areas as needed….

According to the [United Methodist Book of] Discipline, Bishops are assigned to serve a four-year term and can be reappointed to the same area once. Under special circumstances a Bishop may be reappointed a second time, but then will have to move…. Since Bishop [Lindsey] Davis has served North Georgia for three consecutive quadrennium [sic] he will have to move.

With his strong emphasis on evangelism and new church development, Bishop Davis has served this area well. Under his leadership, the North Georgia Conference has become the largest conference in the connection (in the U.S.). Membership in North Georgia has grown by 65,000 new members since he was assigned here in 1996.

Bishop Davis’ written report to the 2008 SEJ Conference is here (PDF).

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