Leadership body invites church to vision work

The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai addresses the Pre-General Conference Briefing in Portland, Ore., in 2016. Bigham-Tsai is chief connectional ministries officer for the United Methodist Connectional Table, which unanimously approved plans to host conversations around the globe about the church’s vision and mission. File photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai addresses the Pre-General Conference Briefing in Portland, Ore., in 2016. Bigham-Tsai is chief connectional ministries officer for the United Methodist Connectional Table, which unanimously approved plans to host conversations around the globe about the church’s vision and mission. File photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
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The Connectional Table wants more United Methodists to have a place at the table.

On April 22, the denomination-wide leadership body unanimously approved a proposal to use the next year to host conversations around the globe about the future United Methodist Church.

“Is this an opportunity to see what is emerging, to see what new thing God might be doing?” asked the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai in introducing the proposal at the Connectional Table’s virtual meeting. She is the group’s chief connectional ministries officer.

The Connectional Table acts as a sort of international church council, coordinating mission and ministry across agencies and other church entities. The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, also instructs the group to do its work by “listening to the expression of needs” and “addressing emerging issues.”

Bigham-Tsai acknowledged that The United Methodist Church is now facing a number of emerging issues that don’t lend themselves to the usual fixes.

General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, has final say about whether any separation plan is adopted. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the global gathering to be postponed twice, with it now is scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 6, 2022 in Minneapolis.

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During the delay, the Connectional Table plans to set up conversations where United Methodists from varied walks of life can meet to discuss the denomination’s identity, vision, connectionalism and mission. The hope is to include people not usually heard at General Conference or big denominational gatherings.

The Connectional Table plans for these conversations to take place regionally across the four continents where the denomination is present with United Methodists who live in those regions. For example, participants in the Philippines would have conversations pertinent to the Philippines context.

The proposal expands on the visioning work already done by Out of Chaos… Creation, an informal group of General Conference delegates from the U.S., Europe, the Philippines and Africa. Bigham-Tsai, who is also a General Conference delegate from Michigan, is part of the Out of Chaos group.

But now Bigham-Tsai sees more time for other United Methodists to join in the conversation about vision. Out of Chaos participants joined the Connectional Table members at the April 22 meeting to discuss the proposal. The Out of Chaos group has suggested “Table Manners” that the Connectional Table’s executive committee suggested might be helpful in conversations.

The Connectional Table and the Out of Chaos group both support legislation to create more regionalized governance in the church — such as the Christmas Covenant and the Connectional Table’s own proposal to make the U.S. a regional conference. One question the Connectional Table hopes the conversations will take up is how to remain connected in mission while more local in church governance.

However, the aim is to be more expansive than any slate of legislation.

Bigham-Tsai said in a statement that she is praying that United Methodists around the connection “will join us around this table.”

excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor, UMNS

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