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Healthy disruption

In this month’s blog, Home Words Bound, Rev. Benton Heisler puts things in perspective.

Director of Connectional Ministry, West Michigan Conference

“Happy Birthday to you!”

Maybe an odd way to begin a blog, but I just wanted to take a moment to express appreciation to my parents.  If they were still living, my father would have had a birthday last month and my mom’s birthday is today. They would have been 97.

We live in a culture whose persons’ ages span from those labeled the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation to the Millennials and Generation Z. Amazing, that while these 100 years seem like such a long segment of time, it still is a blink when you look back to the 1740’s and picture John Wesley riding his horse through England, bringing good news to those on the outside of the Church of England’s aristocracy. And this “long” most recent 100 years is merely 5% of the time since Jesus walked the earth, proclaimed the Gospel and offered His life for ours.

All of that is to say that we need to keep some things in perspective. A lot has changed and many things have not. There is still Sin in the world and a need for a Savior. There are still boundless numbers of persons searching for a sense of inner peace and meaning that only a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, will ever satisfy. And Jesus has given us the responsibility to “Go into the world and make disciples.” (Matthew 28: 19)

So, given that invitation from Jesus, exactly how much freight of change can the creation of new Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church carry as its load? 

“Exactly how much freight of change can the creation of new Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church carry as its load?”

The clear answer is it depends! It depends upon every one of us. It depends upon variables beyond our control. It depends upon our willingness and availability to allow the movement of God to have an impact upon us as the writer of Hebrews recorded: “Since we are surrounded so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (12: 1)

In just a few weeks the more than 200 pages of the Design Team Report and related Annual Conference action times for both Conferences will be available on line. My mom and dad understood my role as a pastor. My father had died before I was appointed to this current conference role and I am not sure my mom ever fully understood what the scope of my conference ministry encompassed. But she would ask, “So what are you working on lately?”

Well here is that possible answer I could have given to her and which I provide to you as you prepare to reads and assess 200 pages of conference structure, policies, re-districting details, legal steps and financial implications.

I believe the new conference and the changes being proposed will contribute to a greater unity of our common Christian witness across this state and around the globe through a clear vision, focus and energy moving in a common direction. The strategic alignment of our resources and opportunities for innovation, with clear emphasis upon equipping the local church, can lead to more vibrant congregations and a greater impact in the communities we serve.

There will be a larger and more racially and theologically diverse pool of clergy leaders for appointments. As a result of the new plan of organization designed to serve the state, more than 400 persons will be released from conference structure positions and now be available to provide additional leadership time and service in the local church. The intentional staffing of lay and clergy leadership development positions in the Conference staffing model level will help support this critical leadership need.

“The Design Team has felt there needed to be some healthy institutional disruption.”

The Design Team has felt there needed to be some healthy institutional disruption. I feel the changes that have been proposed will contribute to this disruption without causing total chaos and we are not abandoning what have been fruitful areas of ministry. This demonstration of unification as one bishop leads us toward a common vision is vital. As the population and geography of this state comes together, we are reminded that the essence of I Corinthians 12 is “Unity, not Uniformity”.

The proposed nimble and flexible structure, new districts and key new staffing positions are anticipated to reduced redundancy and streamline our efforts for better effectiveness, allow for innovation, contribute to the sharing of resources and assist in the coordination of ministry across the state.

I believe the clear commitment to the following:

  • Bold and effective lay and clergy leadership development
  • Vibrant local congregations
  • Ministries and missions that are Christ Centered

will indeed help us reach more people, younger people and more diverse people for the sake of Christ.

In less than 20 years, we will celebrate 350 years of Methodism. I pray that the steps we take this June at Annual Conference and in the years to follow will provide us with joyous stories to tell at that birthday party!


Note: “If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)”  Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a particular Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ




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