Thursday, May 13, 2010

Identify our Core Values: What I Learned in Meetings

Last Friday afternoon (continuing until noon on Saturday) I participated in a fascinating meeting that has remained on my mind and be lodged in my prayer life. (The previous 5 days were spent meeting as a part of the Council of Bishops (COB) in Columbus, Ohio.) I am still not sure what the name of the group I was meeting with is. The gathering consisted of the President of the Council of Bishops, the General Secretaries of the various United Methodist general church commissions and agencies, the Presidents (Chairs of the agency or commission’s board) of those agencies (some of whom are bishops), the four Focus Area lead bishops (I hold the position for “New People in New Places and the Transformation of Existing Congregations – commonly referred to as Path1), and leadership from the Connectional Table.

The purpose of the meeting was to examine potential reduction/realignment of general church agencies; coordinate budgeting and finances; examine the impact of the global nature of the church related to our current and possible future structures. That is a lot to engage in! Thirty or so dedicated and committed people wrestled hard with preliminary considerations of this huge task. I was impressed with the dedication and seriousness with which the group went about its work.

One of the issues that surfaced is the relationship of the Four Areas of Focus (Leadership, New Places for New People and Transformation of Existing Congregations, Poverty, and Eradication of Killer Diseases) with the disciplinary mandates. Disciplinary Mandates are those items that The Discipline of the United Methodist Church mandates (orders) that the general agencies engage in. I had the privilege of visiting with Erin Hawkins, General Secretary for The Commission on Religion and Race, at a break and she conveyed to me that her agency had some 34 or 35 disciplinary mandates. Hers is one of the smaller agencies. It doesn’t take a genius to know that we have vastly over legislated the church’s work. How does the existing “to do” list converge with our missional priorities? Discernment of convergence (Holy Spirit driven!) is a major task before us! We are far from agreement on this most basic commitment.

What we could agree upon is our mission. The United Methodist Church exists to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We had ready agreement that mission should drive are alignment and budget. From that came the necessary corollary that we should align and budget in a manner that is outcome based. In other words, what alignment will best produce the outcomes we are after in “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?”

The huge question that drives off such a conviction of mission and determination to be outcome driven is: what are our shared core values and what are the outcomes we should measure? So, if you have read this far, here is where you come in. I would like feedback on 1) what four or five core values should drive this mission process, and 2) what are the key outcomes we should be seeking.

I want hear what you think. Please, short concise answers to 1) what four or five core values should drive this mission process, and 2) what are the key outcomes we should be seeking? If you can’t put it on a postcard, it is too long. I promise to read all ideas but, due to other time restrictions, will not be able to respond to any individual. Instead, I will share group feedback with you in a later blog. Thanks for the help!


  1. While I am not sure I understand what the CoB is seeking (what I mean is, while I understand the words you are using, I am not sure if my understanding is what the CoB was talking about in these conversations), I submit these thoughts to the conversation:

    Core Values:
    1) The Gospel is a message of liberation and as such all kinds of liberation are core values.

    2) The Gospel is a message of reconciliation and as such all kinds of reconciliation are core values.

    3) The Gospel is a message of teaching humanity an alternate way to live that is not wrapped up in cycles of violence, scapegoating and victimizing. As such teaching and living non-violence resistance and exposing cycles of blame are core values.

    Key outcomes we should be seeking (just some suggestions on the core values above):

    1) Liberation outcomes: Who has been liberated and from what? (Slave trafficking, healing of diseases, broke cycle of poverty, etc.)

    2)Reconciliation outcomes: Where has the UMC reconciled people? (Families, nation/states, other Christian traditions, etc.)

    3) New life outcomes: Where has the UMC helped to expose cycles of violence, undermine scapegoating others, conflict resolution? (How many non-violence course have we taught, where did the UMC stand with and advocate for scapegoats/victims, etc.)

    I am not sure these are specific enough nor do I know if these are in the realm of what you are looking for, but since few others have shared, I figured I get the ball rollin...

  2. Core Values -
    1) Hope: We have been born into a living hope. It seems as if too much of the world is fear based.
    2) Redemption: We believe in a God who will do anything to heal and restore the brokenness in our lives.
    3) Grace: You cannot earn it. Our life, this one and the next, is freely given.
    4) The other three are found in the eternal presence of the God who created us, who died for us, and who breathes in us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Outcomes -
    1) When others speak fear, we, as the people of faith, will point to the hope that does not disappoint us.
    2) We will be a people of healing and reconcilliation. Admitting our weaknesses and giving pity and compassion to those who are broken (Think the visions of Julian of Norwich).
    3) What we share is not our own and we did not earn it. When the church sees itself as the beggar who has found bread, we will be more willing to share the sorce of our life.
    4) That in all we do, we seek to give glory to the God who gives us hope, redemption, and grace and who sustains us in times of joy and hardship.

  3. The 1st core value, IMHO, would be love. The love that Jesus exemplified and taught, lived and died. The love God showed in sending Jesus. Love that unconditionally accepts, forgives, and, at the same time, elicits and even demands obedience.

    The outcome(s): being/becoming a welcoming church for all people and to remember that while we have differences, within and without, we are (I hope and pray) on the same mission.

    Other excellent core values, that others have already mentioned - hope, liberation, grace, reconciliation and their associated outcomes, are either built on this foundation of love or are so closely connected to it that listing them as separate values could confuse the issue or overshadow the foundation. I'm sure there are many other very good core values, but if their raison d'etre, their foundation is not Jesus-love then they are, at best, worthless and, at worst, divisive or even dangerous. Yes, I know I am stealing much of this from 1st Cor 13.

  4. Man, I am kinda sorry there are not as many takers on these questions from the readership. I will do my best to share these questions and your invitation for input.

  5. Jason, thanks for pointing me to this. Bishop Lowrey, thank you for asking for input.

    The other comments are obviously by trained theolgians so bear with my elementary, layman language, please.

    1.Faith - Faith that Jesus is the Son of God and is available to guide us through the scriptures and the Holy Spirit.

    2.Hope - Hope that by listening to the scriptures and Holy Spirit we can make this world a better place to be and bring the Kingdom of God to Earth - today, now.

    3.Love - Love of God and our fellow humans. Once we truly recognize and accept that God gives us unconditional love, we'll be able to love others, helping to give hope and share faith.

    A church (and world) where we find joy and excitement in doing for others. @e don't keep a scorecard of who deserves our help or how many people got "saved". A world where huge church buracracies aren't necessesary because everyone, no matter what religion just takes care of each other.