Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe
A Message From The Bishop
W. Earl Bledsoe
Transformation is coming to the Annual Conference
Transformation has not taken a break just because it is summer. Transformation is alive and well, even in this sweltering heat that we are enduring.
I am excited about the possibilities we have in our midst to transform our Annual Conference experience.
Many of you have complained about boring reports, having to miss work and being tired at the end of the conference. Transformation is on the way.
A few months ago, with input from the Cabinet, I selected a group of lay persons and clergy who are able to think out of the box for a committee to review the way we handle Annual Conference.
I asked the Rev. Paul Rasmussen of Highland Park UMC to serve as convener of the Nehemiah Group. This will be an opportunity to not only voice concerns, but also to help install the changes needed to make the conference a time that both lay and clergy can get excited about.
The group will research the historical purpose of Annual Conference. Why did we begin doing it this way, and what was the original purpose for churches coming together?
Members will look at how the role of Annual Conference has changed over the years and why.
They will seek input from lay and clergy leaders in the local church to ascertain their hopes and dreams for Annual Conference.
They will look outside our conference as well to see how other conferences, both religious and secular, are working in the 21st century.
Everything is on the table.
A Message From The Bishop
A Message From The Bishop
A Message From The Bishop
W. Earl Bledsoe
The Call to Action report of the Council of Bishops is gaining traction as the Interim Operations Team, consisting of bishops, clergy and laity, drills down to the specifics.
The report calls for boosting the number of vital congregations over the next 10 years.
The good news is that vital congregations come in all sizes and are found in every district in the North Texas Conference. Our assignment now is to identify those congregations and build others from churches with the desire and openness to change. This is the work of transformation.
Transformation is a process whereby we are changed by an encounter, externally or internally, that causes our whole world view to shift. I believe we in The United Methodist Church are at that point. We have enjoyed and celebrated a great legacy and history; however, there are changes taking place around us that require us to adapt the way in which we live out our witness as a church.
Transformation is not new to our generation. Throughout the Scriptures, the people of God encountered situations that caused them to think and act differently. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he sees the long-awaited Messiah breaking forth into Judaism and offering a new world view and way of life. He reminds the people of God to not become so comfortable with the culture that they fit into it without thinking. He challenges his readers to fix their attention upon God, who can change us from the inside out (Romans 12:2).
In other words, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ brings about new expectations, new behaviors and a new way of life. This new community and life is centered on the identity of Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist heard the reports about Jesus, he sent two of his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” The answer Jesus sends back is simple. “Go back and tell John what you see and hear: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleaned, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to
them” (Luke 7:22).
My prayer is that we continue the journey in prayer and openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I’m convinced we’ll get to the point where each congregation will see themselves as vital to the work of Christ and become transformed by a transforming God.
A Message From The Bishop
Well, the district itinerations are behind us. It was great getting to greet and see so many lay and clergy in attendance. My prayer and hope is that we will stay engaged and connected as clergy and laity for the greater good of the church.
These are times in which The United Methodist Church is being called out in greater service to the mission field. About every 500 years, massive change occurs in the church. We are part of that change that God is using to reach people for Jesus Christ. However, it is important for us as the body of Christ in the Methodist way to become engaged and show up.
I believe God is calling the church to take its rightful place as victors and overcomers despite what may seem to be overwhelming odds against us and not become victims of circumstance.
And so there is a great question before us: Are we victims or victors? I am reminded of the passage of scripture in John 5:1-9. Jesus goes to a party in Jerusalem and passes through the sheep’s gate by a pool called Bethzatha, meaning “house of mercy” in Hebrew. The pool area is full of people with debilitating conditions. In other words, when persons could no longer take care of themselves, they were taken to the house of mercy in hopes someone would assist them.
One man, who is not named, has been there for 38 years. We don’t know how old he was, but to lie there dependent upon someone else for 38 long years must have affected not only his physical and psychological condition, but also his spiritual condition. We learn from later manuscripts that every now and then an angel of mercy would come down and stir up the waters of the pool, and if you were able to get in the water, you would be healed.
Jesus sees this man lying there and hears his story about being there so long. He asks the obvious question: “Do you want to get well?” Well, duh! But I believe Jesus’ question is much deeper – you see, you can be in a situation or time of great change and live with your condition. You accept the status quo, thinking that things will never change. You become a victim of circumstance. Being a victim is letting things happen to you, accepting the consequences, thinking you cannot change or do anything about them. Being a victim means you’ve learned how to survive as a victim rather than taking up the hard journey to become a victor and an overcomer. So Jesus’ question is proper: “Do you want to get well?”
I believe we in the North Texas Conference are overcomers and will be victors in our mission and focus in the world. The question is: Will we work together strategically, stay engaged in the process and show up when we need to? I look forward to continuing the journey.
A Message From The Bishop
“Are we there yet?” is a common question asked by children traveling from one place to the next. It also summarizes many of the questions being raised in the district itinerations of the North Texas Conference.
As many of you know, we are in the first year of the implementation of the new Strategic Plan adopted by members of the 2010 Annual Conference in Wichita Falls. The plan called for sweeping changes in direction, focus, priorities, structure and personnel of the Annual Conference.
I’m happy to say that many of the structural changes are taking place, but we are not there yet. As your bishop, I sometimes need to be reminded that we must do a better job of communicating the changes that have been made and sharing the successes along the way. The district itinerations are a way for us to communicate directly with clergy and lay leaders and to hear concerns.
What are my hopes and dreams for outcomes for the itinerations? My prayer is that you are witnessing a Conference leadership team that is:
Working together and modeling what it means to trust in the power of God and one another to accomplish God’s mission in the world.
Facing the challenges, obstacles and conflicts in the church in a constructive way.
Committed to Jesus Christ as savior and messenger and willing to model servant leadership.
Holding themselves accountable to God, one another and to you as the body of Christ.
Focused on being faithful and “fruitful” on results and not just doing things because we have always done them.
I must confess to you that we are not there yet. We have made significant progress, and we are well on our way to get to the place we believe God is calling us to as an Annual Conference. Paraphrasing the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi:
“We’re not saying that we have this all together, that we have it made. But we are well on our way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for us. Friends, don’t get us wrong: By no means do we count ourselves as experts in all of this, but we’ve got our eyes on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. We’re off and running and we’re not turning back.”
There is much work to do. May God continue to call us out toward the mission field.
By W. Earl Bledsoe
In an effort to better communicate with clergy and laity in each North Texas district, our Conference leadership team is coming to share and listen to your hopes, dreams and concerns for the church.
The North Texas Annual Conference passed the Strategic Plan last June. The Cabinet, center directors and Core Leadership Team have been hard at work implementing the adopted plan. But before we get too far along, we want to share with you and hear your comments and concerns about how to improve our efforts.
A lot has happened in the conference and in the general church regarding congregational vitality and accountability. I trust that you as clergy and laity are keeping abreast of the conversations. It will be extremely important to become an informed leader in the church regarding these upcoming changes.
On Ash Wednesday, I attended service at St. Andrew UMC in Plano, where I heard the Rev. Arthur Jones preach about the need to go through Lent in order to celebrate and appreciate
I believe we live in a day where sacrifice and struggle over diffi cult issues are sometimes avoided. Repentance and refl ection are part of the change process that gets us to resurrection Sunday. I hope you will join me, our Conference Lay Leader, and others in our weekly prayer and fasting for the transformation of the United Methodist Church.
I believe God has given us a rich mission field ready for the harvest. Let’s work together in reaching it.
BY BISHOP W. EARL BLEDSOE
I am so delighted at the progress we are making as an annual conference with regard to implementing our Strategic Plan. Our Core Leadership Team met in January at the Prothro Center to improve and enhance our decision-making process. We found that in decisions related to advocacy, many are based on shared values.
What are the shared core values of the CLT? Well, before the retreat, no one knew. As we shared together out of our own experiences, we learned that there are deeper values that we hold in common.
We narrowed our values down to seven at the retreat, but these were too many to remember. Through the work and leadership of Rev. Dr. Larry George at our February meeting, we now have the following moral core values that we share:
- Faithful Integrity
- Joyful Commitment
- Loving Service
These three core values will guide our decision-making process as the North Texas Conference makes choices on how to reach the mission field for Jesus Christ through our churches. I can hardly wait to see the results.
I began this year putting together the team necessary to continue the work that God has placed
By now, most have heard that two of our top leaders on the NTC Cabinet have announced their retirements. Both Rev. John Rosenberg, superintendent of the Northwest District, and the Rev. Milton Guttierrez, superintendent of the North Central District, will retire at this year’s session of annual conference in June.
They have given long and stellar leadership in the various positions that they have held throughout the church. Their wise counsel and wisdom will be missed around the Cabinet table. I want to publicly express my appreciation for their labor of love on behalf of Jesus Christ and His Church. I know you will want to show your appreciation as well leading up to and during the annual conference.
In an effort to live out our Christian values and commitment, I’ve gone outside the bounds of our conference to seek out the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Frank Alegria as the new superintendent of the North Central District. I believe his experience and strong leadership throughout the church will enable him to bring fresh, different perspectives to our work.
“I am saying goodbye to two deeply Christian men with the retirements,” he said. They have been great assets on my Cabinet. John led the Northwest district with extraordinary strength, and Milton was successful in leading the North Central and the former Dallas South district for many years.”
My hope is that you will welcome and support both these individuals and their families as they make the transition into their new roles of responsibilities. Proverbs 14:28 reminds us that, “The mark of a good leader is loyal followers; leadership is nothing without a following.”
I look forward to our future together.
The year is still young, and I hope many of you have found the determination to stick with any New Year’s resolutions. Let’s take a moment to look farther down the road of 2011, using the accomplishments and changes from 2010 as a springboard. As an annual conference, we have adopted a new strategic plan for our future together, and I hope you can join me at Laity Day on Feb. 19 as we will discuss those plans in full. We have created four new districts and made assignments
of district superintendents.
In addition to the Center for New Church Starts and Congregational Transformation, we are off to a good start with the Center for Leadership Development, Center for Missional Outreach and Center for Connectional Resources. The core Leadership Team just met in January and are busily overseeing the work of the annual conference to help us live into our new reality. Thanks to each and every member of this team for providing leadership and help in getting us to this place in our journey together.
Over the holidays, I visited the St. Andrews UMC and heard the Rev. Robert Hasley, lead pastor, describe the congregation as “a church with legs.” That is what best describes where we are at the present moment. I believe we are off to the right start in 2011 to move forward with vitality and commitment. Our focus is not on the past, but toward God’s bright future. It was the Apostle Paul who said: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 4:12-14 The Message)
So let us keep our eye on the goal as we move forward in our ministry!
North Texas Conference Leadership
Congratulations and special thanks to the 260 churches in the North Texas Conference that paid 100% of their apportionments this past year. I am also grateful to the 31 churches that not only paid 100% of their apportionments, but also made second-mile gifts to assist others in doing so.
I realize that 2010 was not a good economic year for many in the church. I heard and witnessed stories of churches struggling to meet their budgets because of unemployment and the downturn in the economy. It is especially humbling to know that many of you, in spite of adverse conditions, made the necessary sacrifices to pay your apportionments.
In The United Methodist Church, apportionments are not add-ons after everything else gets paid in the local church. They are not a franchise tax or administrative fee for being a United Methodist church. They are not supplemental mission giving after local missions are cared for. Apportionments are the lifeline and lifeblood of our connection. We are yoked together in the work of Jesus Christ through our apportionment system. I am United Methodist clergy and bishop of the church because of the apportionments supported by the church.
In the North Texas Conference, we have determined that the most effective use of our conference apportionments is to align them with the four strategic initiatives of the church, i.e. leadership development, new church starts and transformation, ministry with the poor, and global health.
My hope is that we will all join together and support the connection to make it as strong as possible to do the work beyond the local church. One of my favorite biblical images of people joining and working together comes from Nehemiah 4:6. The people of God laid aside their differences to focus on the work of rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem. “We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall. The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a heart for the work.” My prayer is that, despite all the adverse conditions that affect the church financially, we do not lose heart for the greater work beyond the local church.
Thank you again for your extravagant generosity through your 100% payment of apportionments.
BY BISHOP W. EARL BLEDSOE
North Texas Conference
“I think I want to testify” was a common expression in the church where I grew up. It signified a moment or experience when something exciting or magnificent happened and you just wanted to tell somebody!
For me, the three meetings held in Panama City, Panama, in November were times worthy of testifying. It began with the Council of Bishops meeting the first week and the adoption of the Call to Action report by 100 percent of the bishops present and voting.
Next, the Conference of Bishops called together Methodist Bishops to set a biblical and theological foundation on emerging issues and their challenges. Dr. Peter Storey’s presentation on “Sharing Mission/Sharing Pain” spoke to the heart of our ministry with the poor. In the third meeting, we reconvened for the CIEMAL (Consejo de Iglesias Evangelicas Metodistas de America Latina y el Caribe, or Conference of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Carribean).
The conversations and dialogues were rich. We listened to one another and learned about God’s mission in the world through the people called Methodists. We discovered we have more things in common than our differences of culture, geography and language. Bishop Ricardo Pereira of the Methodist Church in Cuba shared how the church there is growing despite economic and political challenges.
I was encouraged by his testimony of the Methodist Church reaching out to serve all people and becoming the fastest-growing denomination in Cuba. They attribute intentional discipleship training and service as key indicators. Mollie Stewart, CEO/president of Gulfside Methodist Assembly in Waveland, Miss., shared with the Ebony Bishops her church’s work and new vision after Hurricane Katrina destroyed Gulfside’s facilities. She challenged the Ebony Bishops to lead the way in “planting a financial seed” to start the work of rebuilding.
The first bishops to step forward in presenting their financial gifts were the bishops of Africa. One by one, they stood and brought forth their personal commitments for the work. Most, if not all, have never set foot on the property, nor have they had any historical relationship with the place. I believe they understood something of what it means to have faith in God after experiencing total destruction and suffering.
I just want to testify to the power of God that is at work in the world. I would encourage each of us to find a place where we see the hand of God at work in the world and to testify! May God continue to bless you and keep you.
Welcome to the official website of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. My prayer is that the information you find here will give you just a glimpse of the many fine ministries, services and outreach programs of our conference, districts and local congregations. Our hearts, minds and doors are truly open to you. You are welcome to join with us in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.