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United Methodist bishops urged to do soul check


United Methodist leaders discuss a report from the Call to Action steering committee during a meeting of the denomination's Council of Bishops.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 2, 2009 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)

Soul matters.

As the United Methodist Council of Bishops gathered for their fall meeting, church officials were reminded to pay attention to the "soulful" qualities of Christian leadership.

"Never forget we traffic in hope," Bishop Gregory Palmer said in his presidential address. "Our mission doesn't depend completely on us. God is relentless in God's purpose."


Bishop Gregory Palmer
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.

The church is facing serious challenges and is "awash in truth and reality checks." But that's not the whole message, he said.

"We have told it like it is so well we have become a fearful people. We have sent messages that there isn't enough of this or that. But that is only a part of our job. The other part is to say we have everything we need if only we have the eyes to see it."

During the Nov. 1-5 meeting, the bishops will be in conversation around "preparing principled Christian leaders," one of the four areas of focus adopted by the 2008 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body.

Palmer reminded the bishops that a leader does not need to be at the podium.

"In our quest to grow the church, may we not lose our courage and our voice to stand even if it is unpopular. The greatest courage will be to have honest conversations in this council. We seem to walk right up to and then lose our heart."

Call to Action report

In other action, the Call to Action steering committee created by the council in May to look at the future of the church is recommending a churchwide assessment that would include examining general agencies, annual conferences and the Council of Bishops itself.

"The United Methodist Church is a complex organization," said Bishop Larry Goodpaster, project director. "It is hard to get a handle on what happens or how you get anything moving. It's hard to be a movement when we have become an institution."

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The committee recommended hiring an independent contractor for the next phase of the process. The outside group would be under the direction of a new 12-member steering committee to be led by Palmer.

The contractor would gather feedback from a large range of United Methodists, perhaps in an online survey, Goodpaster said.

The Council of Bishops is scheduled to act on the committee's recommendation Nov. 4.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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