I shared at this past Annual Conference that the Appointive Cabinet, Conference Lay Leader, some members of the Extended Cabinet and I have been meeting for eight hours a month over the past year. We are investing this amount of time together because of the magnitude of the challenge we are addressing. We are working on Deep Change.
Deep Change is the title of a book by Robert Quinn that this team of persons has read and discussed. It is more than that, though. It is the essence of the Christian life. It is what is required of both individuals and churches who are serious about being all that God has called us to be.
The call to Deep Change is not new in church circles. In fact, it is at the very heart of the message Jesus came to earth proclaiming. It is also a concept that John Wesley preached centuries later. It is change that will continue for as long as we exist as individuals and also as a movement. Notice that I used the word movement instead of institution. That is because both Christianity and Methodism at their best are a movement, not an institution. They both are a movement consisting of individuals who are in the process of Deep Change- also known as transformation and sanctification.
How does this Deep Change occur? The starting point is the same place where Jesus Christ always begins transformation: our relationship with God and each other. It begins with your bishop, appointive and extended cabinet and clergy and lay leadership of the Annual Conference. Our part is to be open to the Deep Change that God wants to bring about in us personally and corporately and to participate fully in what God is doing. God will do the rest.
Back to these eight hours that 14 of us are spending together every month. We are utilizing a group called SLI (Spiritual Leadership Inc.) to facilitate this process. They have done this work for 13 years now and are currently involved with 16 Annual Conferences worldwide.
SLI frames their process with three parts: loving God, learning together and leading in the context of team. The objectives are developing leaders, creating healthy environments and utilizing effective processes. Over the course of the year our team has developed into a unit that is highly focused on the work of this Annual Conference. And we have identified what we discern to be the vision, mission, principles, values and initiatives that will help us as an Annual Conference to move forward in healthy and productive ways during this next chapter of our history.
Since these matters belong to the entire Annual Conference, we will test our work with you during Fall listening sessions. We are counting on you to be a means through which God speaks to us as we move toward the finish line with this part of our work. We believe that you will let us know if we are off base or have missed something major. We will use your input to refine our work so that we will have a proposed finished product to present at Annual Conference 2014. This will give us a framework and focal point as we continue to move forward as an Annual Conference living out our values and principles with our eyes set on the vision and mission. The outcome we envision is that North Alabama United Methodists will make disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world at a pace and with a quality beyond our imagination.
There is one more important piece to all of this. We are not doing this for the sake of an institution or denomination. That would be far too small a vision for the United Methodists of North Alabama. We are doing it to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
You are invited to come to one of the Fall listening sessions in your District to dialogue more about this. Please check with your District Superintendent for times and locations. Each person reading this has a part to play in helping us to discern God’s vision, mission, values, principles and initiatives for the North Alabama Conference. I am very excited about the Deep Change that the team and I are experiencing and that I believe is ahead for us as an Annual Conference.
I look forward to journeying with you through this process of Deep Change in our Annual Conference. A Deep Change that will transform individuals, churches, communities and our conference. A Deep Change that starts with each of us.
As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett