Mountain Sky Outlook: Toward a Mission-Shaped Future: Creating a New Annual Conference
November 13, 2015
Friends in Christ,
I believe that God is at work in the world through the churches of the Mountain Sky Area, but that God is also at work in ways and places far beyond the walls and reach of our churches. I am convinced that United Methodist ministry in this region could reach more people, impact more lives, and change the world if we let go of some of our cherished ways of doing things, and let Jesus send us to places we’ve never been before, to meet people who will never step inside our churches.
Leaders of the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Conferences have been in conversation for many years about how, together, we might be able to strengthen the presence of Wesleyan Christianity in our area. Both Annual Conferences received the report of the Shared Futures Committee in June 2015. Following the committee’s recommendation, I have named two “Mission-Shaped Future” groups to lead the next chapter of this on-going conversation (rosters attached).
- Mission-Shaped Future – ONE (MSF-1) will develop a proposal to form a new annual conference comprising the whole territory of the Mountain Sky Area, both the present Yellowstone and the present Rocky Mountain Conferences. We anticipate this proposal coming for a vote at both annual conference sessions and the Western Jurisdictional Conference in 2016.
- Mission-Shaped Future – TWO (MSF-2) will lead a process of envisioning what a new season of Vital Wesleyan ministry in the Mountain Sky Area might look like. It will answer questions like, how do we best use our resources (people, buildings, congregations and funds) to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? The work of this group will take longer and be on-going. It will work to envision what ministry will look like that is not necessarily rooted in what we have known as “congregations.”
Both groups are dedicated to cultivating vital ministry across the region, but are open to the possibility that it may emerge in forms we’ve never seen before, or in the renewal of forms we haven’t experienced for a very long time. We anticipate strengthening ministry on at least three fronts:
- We need to cultivate and support vital ministry where it already exists.
- We need to focus on starting new local churches.
- We need to lead the church back into the community to re-engage people who would never step into one of our existing churches in new, authentic and experimental ways.
It’s important that you know what’s happening, and that you have a chance to ask your questions and share your concerns and contributions. There will be two seasons of engagement. The first will be during January 2016, when members of these groups and others will meet with local church leaders at a variety of sites around the conferences, and remotely, to hear the preliminary proposal for a new annual conference, to answer your questions, and listen to your hopes and fears, as well as your brilliant ideas! The second will be during May 2016, when the revised and refined proposal will be presented, again, at locations around the area, and on-line in preparation for votes at both annual conferences in June and the Western Jurisdictional Conference in July.
This is a moment of tremendous possibility for us. But, we all know that change creates uncertainty and anxiety. Times like these deserve to be bathed in prayer. No one wants to take the church where God isn’t leading it. But, if God is leading us in directions we’ve never gone before, who among us will refuse to go? Prayer will help us discern together where God is leading. And through prayer, the Holy Spirit will give us the courage to go follow where God is leading.
It’s tremendously exciting to think of being people on the move, again, carrying the great good news of Jesus and his love into a world that hungers and thirsts for what it cannot even ask or imagine.
Watch for ways to contribute to this work. Pray for a future with hope.
God is at work. Jesus lives. The Holy Spirit is stirring things up.
Alive in Christ,
Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky