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Bishops, leaders of UMC-related institutions optimistic of denomination's future

Several leaders of United Methodist Church-related institutions voiced optimism and are preparing for possible changes in the global denomination that could occur as a result of the Special Session of the General Conference called for February next year.

As part of its commitment of offering a proposal that would move The United Methodist Church forward with as much unity as possible, the Council of Bishops invited leaders of United Methodist-related anchor institutions for conversations regarding the future of the denomination. The Council has encouraged similar gatherings on each continent.  Based on the recommendations from the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will present its report to a Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.

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The two-day gathering in Dallas in brought together leaders of foundations, colleges, seminaries and other institutions that extend the mission of the church and anchor the faith in the various public arenas of education, health, finance, community development, and others.

"As The United Methodist Church faces the possibility of deep changes, it is imperative to listen for the impact of such changes on our related institutions, and to learn from them as they have faced their own changes," said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops at the start of the meeting on Thursday evening.

In group discussions, the leaders of the institutions indicated to the bishops that their organizations were already working on deciphering the impact of decisions that may be made at the Special Session of the General Conference on their organizations; from decisions on who elects the boards of their institutions to risk factors associated with loans and governance issues. They wondered about the impact on historic black colleges, the Ministerial Education Fund, the University Senate, designated donations and other such aspects of their work that may lead to disruption of funding streams especially to those schools that are tied to universities that receive governmental support.

At the core, the leaders said, that the adaptive challenge would be The United Methodist Church's ability to effectively reach the next generation of leaders and prepare them to be judicious stewards of God's resources entrusted to the denomination. Some of the leaders said they were already nimble and see the possible changes as opportunities to express continuity, serve as bridge entities for the community, promote social holiness, expand the diversity of their clientele, and reignite the energy and imagination needed for providing churches with creative freedom for mission.

The bishops urged the leaders of the institutions to communicate with their constituencies and to partner with other organizations such as annual conferences in providing time and space for the delegations to have discussions that would prepare them spiritually and relationally in groundwork for the Special Session.

Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga, Director of Communications, Council of Bishops

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