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Church agency examines forms of ministry for lay, clergy

By Ciona D. Rouse*
Oct. 18, 2005 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is planning a series of churchwide discussions on the types of pastoral ministry offered in the denomination.

The conversations will be held in regional focus groups and are intended to help clarify the forms of ministry for lay, licensed and ordained ministry — including the episcopacy — in the United Methodist Church.

During its Oct. 13-16 meeting, the board invited its directors to be active participants in the discussions.

Directors of the board's Division of Ordained Ministry participated in a shortened version of the dialogues Oct. 14. In small groups, they discussed the church's identity and how the ordering of ministry reflects its mission and ministry.

Topics in the small groups included what it means to make disciples, the distinctiveness of the different orders of ministry, how the orders work together and points of clarity that are needed concerning the itinerant system of moving pastors.

"People were really, really drawn into that discussion," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, board president and leader of the denomination's Iowa Area. "It was an inspiring discussion. If what we've done here spreads out throughout the church, this will contribute to the church having important affirmation and clarification in regards to its ministry."

At its 2004 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body resolved that the Board of Higher Education and Ministry consult with the Council of Bishops and the Board of Discipleship to form a commission to study the "ordering of ministry for the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ." The focus groups convening across the United Methodist Church are part of the commission's strategy to explore the basis for the ministry structure.

In addition to study groups, the commission launched an online survey at

  • The Division of Higher Education approved the Rev. Ken Bedell, pastor of Archbold (Ohio) United Methodist Church, as the new associate general secretary for the Division of Higher Education. Bedell will begin Feb. 1. Wanda Bigham, the assistant general secretary of schools, colleges and universities for the Division of Higher Education, serves as associate general secretary in the interim.
  • The Board of Higher Education and Ministry held a banquet Oct. 15 honoring Ken Yamada, who finished his tenure as associate general secretary Oct. 7 and is now special assistant to Del Pino for global education and new initiatives.
  • The Loans and Scholarships Committee created an endowed Special Seminary Scholarship to fund 50 seminarians up to $2,000 beginning next year. To be eligible, a student must be working on a master of divinity degree, pursuing ordained ministry as a vocation, be age 30 or younger upon applying and have a grade point average of 2.85. The committee also reported that it had awarded more than $31 million in scholarships and loans to more than 21,206 students in the last four years. The committee met with 13 scholarship recipients in the Nashville area following its business meeting.
  • The United Methodist Endorsing Agency endorsing committee approved 28 applicants for specialized ministries.
  • The Rev. Wilfried Nausner of Graz, Austria, replaced Bishop Patrick Streiff as the central conference board member from the church's Central and Southern Europe Area. Streiff resigned at the board meeting as a result of his election to the episcopacy last April.

*Rouse is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Division of Ordained Ministry