|By Michael Wacht
PORT ST. LUCIE — Participants at the second
gathering of the Conference Table Oct. 3 at Grapevine United Methodist
Church here worked at creating new vision and mission statements for
the Florida Conference. The present reality of the connection was also
The Conference Table was approved at the 2002
Florida Annual Conference as a forum at which laity and clergy can
discuss and discern how the conference can best fulfill its mission of
making disciples of Jesus Christ. Bishop Timothy Whitaker is the
chairman, and 17 other conference leaders are expected to participate.
All conference laity and clergy are invited to attend.
Whitaker began the session by presenting
proposed vision and mission statements, calling them “starting
points for reflecting.” He said they were not intended to be
adequate as they were. Instead, they were to present a “theological
understanding” of what vision and mission should include. He
challenged participants to understand and talk about the meaning
behind the words.
Whitaker presented the current vision and
mission statements along with his proposals. “The present vision
statement is based on an assumption that the conference is an
institution to provide services,” he said. “It should reflect the
fact that we’re a community connected in Jesus Christ to accomplish
his mission in Florida. In reality, so often we don’t act as if we’re
in community. If we act as if we’re in community, we would grasp
another meaning for conference. Think more relationally than purely
The bishop’s proposed vision statement was,
“Our Vision is to become a missionary church that invites all people
to be transformed through faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior and
Sovereign of the world.”
Participants were challenged to discuss the
vision statement’s key terms and form an alternative statement using
their list of key words.
Many of the groups said the word “inviting”
was not strong enough and did not fully express how the church ought
to reach unchurched people. One group offered the word “welcomes”
because church members are not always ready to accept the people who
are invited. Other groups chose the word “call” because of its
Biblical undertone. Several added the word “intentional” before
both inviting and welcoming.
Several groups recommended the vision statement
be expanded to include a definition of transformation, including who
is doing the transformation and into what people are transformed.
The Rev. John Denmark, pastor of First United
Methodist Church, Seminole, said the vision should be for the people
who are doing ministry, not focused on outsiders or visitors. “When
people come in, they become part of the vision,” he said. “It’s
not like what hospitals do with their vision statements when they put
it on a plaque and hang it near the elevators.”
The Rev. Bruce Jones, pastor of Memorial United
Methodist Church in Fernandina Beach, said the vision statement should
be such that when you “ask any church member about it, they respond,
‘Why, yes. It’s this, this and this, and we’re committed to it.”
In presenting his proposed mission statement,
Whitaker challenged participants to see the conference as one church
and not a collection of many churches. He also asked them to
understand “the mission of the church is only a result of God’s
“God is the one who has a mission,” he said.
“God’s mission is to transform the world into a new heaven and new
Whitaker said his proposal reflected the reality
that the conference is made up of churches and ministries that are not
congregations. He also said he included diversity because of its focus
at the first gathering.
The proposed mission statement said, “Our
Mission is to participate in God’s purpose to transform the world by
being one church in many locations in which we are connected to one
another through faith in Jesus Christ in order to claim the diverse
gifts of the Holy Spirit for the ministry of inviting all people to
live as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Participants were asked to look at the tasks the
mission statement calls the conference to perform and discuss the
steps that are part of or done in preparation for accomplishing the
Many said participating in God’s purpose was a
primary task of the conference, but doing so requires people to
renounce any purpose that is not God’s, have a willingness to act
and risk, and to discern God’s will and purpose.
Several groups focused on “the diverse gifts
of the Holy Spirit” and discussed ways the church can help people
recognize and use their gifts.
The Rev. Mike Loomis, pastor of Melbourne’s
Satellite Beach United Methodist Church, said his group did not get
very far in redrafting the mission statement because of pessimism
among members. “There is cynicism around the process for those who’ve
been through it before,” he said. “We’re still fighting the same
swift current that keeps pulling us back to the place where we don’t
believe God will change what we currently have.”
The Rev. George Lutz, pastor of Kendall United
Methodist Church in Miami, said the church must die in order to be
transformed. “We are going to die, one way or the other—doing
things we’ve always done or die to the things that are precious to
us and all about us…things that are not part of Him…” he said.
“I’m part of the issue, part of the problem, because I am part of
us. I don’t die well, and I don’t die easy. We have to die to
The next two Conference Tables are Dec. 7 at an
undecided location in Central Florida and Feb. 13, 2003. For more
information about the Conference Table visit the Florida Conference’s
Web site at http://www.flumc.org.