Thoughts on General Conference Actions

General Conference 2008, the top decision-making body in the United Methodist Church, a gathering of delegates from all across the connection, is nearing an end.

I’ve been reading the daily wrap-ups and other news items at the website devoted to GC 2008, and decided to share some thoughts on a *few* of the many items discussed and decided on.

Of particular interest to United Methodists in our conference, General Conference raised the age limit for bishops from 66 to 68 (age as of July 1 during the year of Jurisdictional Conferences). Of the 14 bishops set to retire this year, 3 are eligible to continue for another term, including Bishop Jane Allen Middleton. Read United Methodists raise bishops’ retirement age.

The Council of Bishops submitted a petition (which was adopted) to revise the mission statement of the UMC, changing it from “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ” to “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

I like the change. To me, it speaks to the purpose or result of discipleship — transformation of the world — not just leading people to a profession of faith. If we’re not careful, we can be good church members without making a difference in the world. I think the statement is a good move in keeping us focused on what we’re about. [EDIT: A day after posting this entry, I read an article about the change: United Methodist mission statement revised.]

As a result of a petition from the Council of Bishops, a couple of paragraphs relating to the duties and/or role of bishops (and superintendents) were reshaped. ¶402 was deleted and/or incorporated into the new ¶404, which was mostly re-written. You can read the submitted text here, but basically, it says …

The bishop leads therefore through the following disciplines:
a) A vital and renewing spirit. […]
b) An enquiring mind and a commitment to the teaching office. […]
c) A vision for the Church. […]
d) A prophetic commitment for the transformation of the Church and the world. […]
e) A passion for the unity of the church. […]
f) The ministry of administration. […]

I simply like the emphasis on spirituality, teaching, and vision.

Every four years, General Conference meets to amend the Book of Discipline. The 10-day gathering adjourns tomorrow (5/2). You can check out all the news stories, plus audio and video segments, here.

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