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Sept. 14, 2001


Common Table listens
for vision

By Michael Wacht
LEESBURG — Members of the Florida Conference’s Common Table have been travelling around the conference asking lay and clergy leaders from each district about the mission, primary tasks and priorities for the annual conference. From that feedback, they hope to discern a vision for the conference.

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 Florida Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM). Bishop Timothy Whitaker and Bill Walker, the conference’s director of connectional ministries, are also members.

In addition to their own discussions, members of the Common Table have held four listening posts at different locations in the conference during July and August. They will hold two final sessions this month.

A total of 10 clergy and 10 lay people from each district were invited by their district superintendent to attend a session.

The Rev. Jim Harnish said he is “very pleased” with the “good responses and an honest exchange” from participants. Harnish is senior pastor of Tampa’s Hyde Park United Methodist Church, chairman of the CCOM and one of the organizers of the Common Table.

Harnish said he was disappointed the sessions “have not had as many young adults as we had hoped,” but said there was representation from the conference’s various cultural groups.

“We always keep working for a better expression of diversity,” Harnish said.

Common Table members have not shared the information gathered to date because they do not want to influence participants of the two remaining sessions. “The feedback has been positive…and raises serious questions for the conference to deal with about how to live out our life in the future,” Harnish said.

Information from the listening sessions will be added to feedback collected from a survey of delegates taken at the Dare to Share Jesus 2001 Florida Annual Conference Event last June. Harnish said it will all become part of the process by which the bishop and Common Table members “listen for the Spirit to give shape to a vision.”

Whitaker said the Common Table has already shown its value. “Conference leaders have gone into the field and listened…that has intrinsic value,” he said. “I am eager for us as the Common Table to come to the point where we can say, ‘We’ve listened to the representative leadership…what is God giving to the annual conference as a vision, and from the vision, what are the priorities?’ ”

The Common Table is expanding its base of input by placing the survey on the Florida Conference’s Web site at http://www.flumc.org/ct/. Florida Conference laity and clergy will be able to offer their input on the conference’s mission, task and priorities following the final listening post session this month.

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2001 Florida United Methodist Review Online