United Methodist News Service Photo by Corey Daniel Godbey
Hands in prayer
Values of prayer and relationship, as shown in 2008 by members of Methodists Associated for the Cause of Hispanic Americans (MARCHA), are found in the Mission Manifesto.
An ad hoc group of clergy and laity have written a "missional manifesto" for The United Methodist Church that is drawing thousands of Internet visitors from around the globe.
"A Missional Manifesto for the People Called United Methodist" debuted during the second week of February. The document outlines "visions and values" for United Methodists that have grown out of face-to-face and online conversations among both clergy and laity.
"Spurred by concerns over continuing church decline, and the Call to Action project of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, people throughout the church have been talking over meals and via Facebook about their hopes and dreams, and their fears and concerns about where the UMC is headed," says the website's introduction.
The Rev. Jay Voorhees, pastor of Old Hickory United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN, originally offered the document on his personal blog site, Only Wonder Understands. As news of the document spread across the Internet, so many people from across the United States and all the way to Nigeria attempted to read the statement that Voorhees' blog site crashed.
As a result, he created a new stand-alone website at missionalmethodist.org to house the statement and receive feedback. Voorhees wrote recently on new site:
Well, it’s been a little under a week since we first put up this site as a place for thinking about the missional calling of the United Methodist Church, and we’ve been pleased to see thousands visit the site and several sign on in support of the manifesto itself. As we’ve said from the beginning, the hope behind this is to spur conversation about the foundational call (our missio dei) for the people called United Methodist, and we have loved to hear from those who believe that [there] is more to our call than simply putting butts in seats. [Editor's note: The latter statement is a reference to the Council of Bishops' Call to Action program goal of increasing membership].
So far, some 70 clergy and laity have signed on to the document, which is still a work in progress. Voorhees said that the drafters of the document are now working on "Version 1.1" of the manifesto, which they hope to release within the next week to the 10 days.
"I don't see this [statement] in opposition with the CTA/Vital Congregations initiative, but rather in parallel, offering a foundation upon which the practices (the so called drivers) of vitality can be built," Voorhees told UM Insight. "I truly believe that what the CTA misses in providing a sense of purpose and calling that provide meaning and purpose to the practices, and the manifesto attempts to offer a vision for who we are."
The revisions are based on feedback received to the initial document, and will include more sacramental theology and Trinitarian references, according to Voorhees. In addition, plans are in the works for a congregational study guide to accompany the Missional Manifesto. Individual United Methodists and congregations are invited to review the document in advance of the 2012 General Conference scheduled April 24-May 4 in Tampa, FL, and contribute suggestions via the missionalmethodist.org website.
Organizers have not yet indicated how or whether the document may be forwarded to the 2012 General Conference.
Drafters of the manifesto listed on the website include the Rev. Kenneth Carter, superintendent of the Waynesville, NC, District of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, along with the Rev. Michael Rich of the same conference; the Rev. Ben Gosden, associate pastor of Mulberry Street UMC in Macon, GA (South Georgia Annual Conference); Jen Unger Kroc, a member of the United Methodist Church of Geneva, NY; John Meunier, local pastor of a two-point charge near Bloomington, IN; and others who have contributed through online discussions.
The Missional Manifesto's creative team said previously that the document had its genesis in October 2011 at a Wesleyan Leadership Conference sponsored by the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, TN. Voorhees' most recent post said there will be more conversation and "special online events" as the denomination moves toward the 2012 General Conference.