ORLANDO — The Florida Conference Common Table has decided its
first task will be listening to people in local churches.
That decision was made during the group’s second meeting Jan. 13
at First United Methodist Church here, according to the Rev. Jim
Harnish, pastor of Tampa’s Hyde Park United Methodist Church and
chairman of the Florida Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM).
"Our purpose is to get out of the Lakeland box and get real
people in local churches talking about where the conference is going
and what the conference is doing," Harnish said.
The Common Table is a group of elected leaders of the official
bodies of the Florida Conference that are meeting at the invitation of
the CCOM. It is designed to be a forum of conference leaders
discussing how best to accomplish the conference’s mission. The
group of six clergy and 11 laity from various conference agencies and
areas first met last November in Tampa.
The Common Table has no decision-making authority. Its goal is to
guide conference leaders in making decisions about using conference
resources to fulfill its mission and priorities, according to Harnish.
"The expectation is that as the leadership of the conference
finds a common mind in Christ around the table, it will enable us to
lead the agencies of the conference to a common sense of direction
together," he said.
The Common Table’s "listening strategy" will help the
group learn about issues that need to be confronted, Harnish said.
Although the strategy has not been defined, Common Table members have
chosen the first topic of discussion.
"As a first step in the conversation, the leadership team
[Common Table] invites an immediate response to the question, ‘What
do you see as the critical issues confronting the Florida Conference
at this point in our history?’ " Harnish said.
One of the issues team members identified is how to energize local
churches in meeting the conference’s mission. "There’s a
strong feeling among this group that the [conference’s] mission is
defined in the Scriptures and the Book of Discipline: to make
disciples of Jesus Christ," Harnish said. "We’re pretty
foggy on how we effectively accomplish that through the connectional
system. Nobody gets baptized at Annual Conference. If it’s going to
happen, it’s going to happen in the local church."
Harnish said members of the Common Table have no assumptions about
the outcome of the Common Table process. "God only knows what
might be accomplished and what might happen," he said. "This
is a profoundly spirit-centered process…and the results of this
process will be a movement of the spirit."
People may respond to the Common Table’s question by e-mail at CTable@flumc.org,
by fax to Common Table at 863-688-8758 or by mail to Common Table at
P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.