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A Future-Focused Episcopacy

The Point: The future calls for an episcopacy with a clear plan towards it.

In Methodism, the Episcopacy is occupied by leaders who are elected by people who themselves are elected.

On the one hand, it works great – the masses get a say through vote. On the other hand, Methodism goes through everything that comes with elections. We end up with an electorate that votes along ideological lines, supercharged by caucuses. And, we often see candidates with ambition and a long list of boxes checked.

But, in these eschatological times when societal change has outpaced the relevance of the Church, Methodism deserves a future-focused episcopacy.

Yes, websites to learn more about candidates are fine.
Sure, discernment and clarity are great.

But, they are simply resuscitations of age-old processes that have yet to lead to more critical questions such as:

What will be accomplished in your first four years?

The Right Answers

We don’t have a lot of time, so let’s take a shortcut to the right answers (according to us, of course):

  1. Overall, Methodism needs a culture that emphasizes building things over fixing things.
  2. Consolidate existing local church charters; plan for and announce new charters, based on diversity.
  3. Categorize churches on willingness (or not) to be missional, not life cycle or clergy appoint-ability.
  4. Organize clergy appointments into supervised networks with specialized functions.
  5. Prioritize developing a diverse array of new, sustainable ministries (including digital-first ones).
  6. Tie guaranteed appointment to continuous increase in required skill sets.
  7. Create programs to certify and itinerate laity based on need, not membership locale.
  8. Require high-level committees to have (voice, not vote) seats for non-Methodists and/or non-religious.

There are more. But, this is a good list for now.

The point is that Methodism should make electoral decisions based on concrete ideas (as paradoxical as that might sound) and a desire for particular results. This is because of the reality that, whomever is elected leaders, what often has a powerful sway are actually entrenched interests and ideas. We need to dig up and make public those interests and those ideas – to examine, challenge, and refine them.

Get Updates on this and related matters from John & Charles.

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