From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
New executive outlines vision for Board of Discipleship
27 Feb 2001 14:41:04
Feb. 27, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: A sidebar, UMNS #100, and a file photograph of the Rev. Karen
Greenwaldt are available with this report.
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Discipleship will
support a movement among church members and ecumenical partners who are
passionate about making disciples of Jesus Christ, the agency's new chief
The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt emphasized that goal during her first report to
the agency's board of directors, which held its spring meeting Feb. 20-24.
The Board of Discipleship is responsible for providing the essential
resources, learning opportunities and support to church members in making
followers of Christ and changing the world.
Greenwaldt, who has been leading the agency since Jan. 1, was formally
installed Feb. 23 as top executive. Addressing the board's 52 governing
members, she shared her vision, mission and focus of work in the new
At the beginning of her address, Greenwaldt asked board members to imagine
the various types of congregations in their areas and annual conferences,
from the smallest to the largest.
"The United Methodist Board of Discipleship has the responsibility to deal
with and to work with every United Methodist church, faith community and
ecumenical partner, and hopes every United Methodist church is actively
working to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the
world," she said.
She elaborated in her installation address at East End United Methodist
Church, a 112-year-old inner-city congregation that calls itself "a beacon
on the hill." She said she believes that the board exists to serve churches
like East End. "Whether they be small or large, rich or poor, new or old,
our agency has the responsibility to serve the leaders of the countless East
Ends around the world."
East End is like congregations across the world, in which people share their
faith and struggle to know how the gospel message can be told in new and
relevant ways to the community, she said.
The denomination's vision of making disciples must be embedded in the lives
of the board members and staff in order to be expressed in real work,
"Our focus of work is to make certain that we support a movement among
United Methodists and ecumenical partners who are passionate about making
disciples of Jesus Christ," she said. "I want to make sure that we support a
movement and not a static organization."
The movement will emerge when local church leaders around the world engage
people in a lifelong journey of commitment and faith, she said.
First, however, the board must follow the example of John Wesley, the
founder of Methodism, and move beyond the church walls to reach the people,
Greenwaldt said. "It is time again for United Methodists to go out and pay
attention to God's people."
Across the United States and around the world, the board must pay attention
to the historic ministry areas of evangelism, stewardship, Christian
education, worship and spiritual formation, she said.
"We are clear that there are vast numbers of United Methodist leaders who
believe that this agency has walked away from its commitment to the historic
ministry areas," such as supporting Sunday school teachers, lay leaders and
conference boards of discipleship, she said. The agency must work to change
that perspective, she said.
In addition, the board must create new ways to respond to the denomination's
mission initiatives of strengthening racial-ethnic local churches, new faith
communities and multicultural faith communities, she said. "This is not an
option nor is it an add-on. It must be essential work of this agency."
Greenwaldt said her heart breaks each time she hears pastors and lay people
bemoan that the ethnic minority local church emphasis and initiatives have
existed since 1976, and that each General Conference since then has called
for strengthening ethnic local churches. "Yet, we are still failing. How
come?" she asked. The Board of Discipleship must begin to struggle with what
it means to work with mission initiatives in vital ways because the task of
making disciples has to occur in all congregations, she said.
The General Conference mandates that the agency serve the international
church, and "we need to explore that that means," Greenwaldt continued. For
the central conferences, she wants to explore the possibilities of
establishing regional centers of staff and contract workers to support
indigenous people in leadership formation and faith development. The board
must ensure that, when working with indigenous people, it does not impose a
U.S. viewpoint, she said.
During the board meeting, the Rev. Randy Maddox offered theological
discussions on the church's mission and the role of leadership in making
disciples. Maddox is the Paul T. Walls Professor of Wesleyan Theology at
Seattle Pacific University and general editor of Abingdon Press' Kingswood
Series, which specializes in Wesleyan Methodist studies.
He offered a Wesleyan prescription for making disciples and asked why a
Christian nation does so poorly in raising up people who act as Christians.
Far too few churches have members with an adequate understanding of
Christian doctrine, he said. Those that do have the doctrine lack the
discipline, and those with both lack self-denial, he said.
Wesley's prescription consists of doctrine, discipline and self-denial,
Maddox said. "We live in a culture where doctrine means dogmatic belief or
very theoretical issues. But that is not what Wesley meant. Wesley
distinguishes doctrine from opinion and from simple memorization of code
formulas. It is not memorizing the words but understanding the heart of it."
A Wesleyan definition of doctrine embraces those "most basic convictions
that ground us in the Christian faith." Wesley advised pastors to preach the
offices of Christ: prophet, priest and king. Maddox said the prophet
teaches how to live; the priest forgives; and the king promises deliverance.
"Wesley wanted to ensure that the whole Christ is taught."
Maddox, also author of Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology,
said Wesley talked about discipline as the practice that takes a person
where he or she wants to be. "I am not free to play the piano because I have
not lived within the disciplines to do that." Discipline is not something
that binds, but it frees a person to become what he or she wants, he said.
On self-denial, Maddox alluded to a letter in which Wesley admonished a Ms.
March for not visiting the poor and the sick. Wesley expressed concern and
sorrow that March would be content with lower degrees of usefulness and
holiness than those to which he believed she was called.
Wesley believed that being a full Christian required self-denial, Maddox
said. "There are certain virtues that can only be developed with those in
need. Without self-denial, growth is limited."
In other action, board members:
· Elected the Rev. Willie C. Champion, top executive of evangelism and
mission for the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, to serve as the
Pan-Methodist representative to the board. The action was in response to the
2000 General Conference mandate that all of the United Methodist Church's
boards, agencies and commissions allow for up to three members of the
Pan-Methodist denominations to serve as members of their governing entities
with voice and vote.
· Nominated 11 theologians, lay people, pastors and bishops to serve
on a committee to study Holy Communion. The 2000 General Conference mandated
that the board, in collaboration with the Council of Bishops, organize a
committee to develop an interpretive document on the theology and practice
of Holy Communion in United Methodism and to report the findings and
recommendations to the 2004 General Conference.
· Responded to a 2000 General Conference recommendation that the
agency take the lead in establishing a 12-member task force to study the
relationship between theology and science. The task force will present a
comprehensive report to the 2004 General Conference.
· Voted to request $101,000 from the churchwide Council on Ministries'
contingency fund for a four-year young adult ministry study as mandated by
the 2000 General Conference.
· Explored the 11 constitutional amendments to be voted on in annual
conferences this spring and summer. Five of the amendments relate to
bringing the denomination's baptism ritual, "By Water and the Spirit," and
the church's Book of Discipline into agreement regarding membership.
· Awarded nine grants totaling $122,000 to United Methodist-sponsored
projects and organizations serving racial or ethnic minority groups across
· Approved 23 ministries and organizations as affiliate groups of the
# # #
*Green is news director for United Methodist News Service's Nashville,
United Methodist News Service
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