By Roger Puhr
Under the guidance and vision of Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and our Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. Steve Casteel, the Standing Rules Committee is proposing a revision to the Standing Rules at Annual Conference this year. Several guiding principles have been used as a framework to shape the proposed changes.
The first of these principles seeks to rely more on God's calling and gracious provision than on a need to fill vacant spots in organizing for ministry in the conference.
You experienced this at Annual Conference in 2005 as Bishop Ward extended an invitation to those who felt called to serve in the area of wellness in the conference. A group of about 35 persons responded to that call and began a new ministry team focused on wellness. The result has been amazing. Since the distribution of pedometers at the 2007 Annual Conference, participants have walked 12 times around the world, have lost 885 pounds and attained a net drop in blood pressure of 1,750 points.
Last year many of you also experienced this at district gatherings led by Bishop Ward. At these gatherings the group was asked to lift up various areas of ministry about which they were passionate. Once these areas were identified, those gathered were invited to join the ministry group of their choice. The result was a group of individuals called by God to various areas of ministry.
With this principal in mind, the Standing Rules Committee proposes various changes to the leadership of the conference as well as to the composition of ministry groups within the conference. Many of our conference boards and committees are required by the Book of Discipline. These will remain as they are. Other committees are sited as optional in the Discipline, with the requirement to address a particular area of ministry. It is in these areas that the committee has made changes in an effort to fill the ministry needs unique to our conference with those who are gifted and called by God.
Another guiding principle used by the committee was to make the rules easier to follow and thus easier to use. One aspect of this is to remove much of the material in the rules that is a copy of the Discipline. This reprinting of the Discipline accomplishes little other than cluttering the Rules with repetitive requirements. Other areas of the Rules have been rearranged for ease of understanding.
The overall effect of the changes is a set of Standing Rules that is easier to understand and less restrictive with respect to organization. The committee believes these changes will allow us to address the ministry needs of the conference more effectively and more faithfully.
You will receive a copy of the proposed changes to the Standing Rules in your pre-conference packets. Please take the time to review and prayerfully consider them before coming to conference this year.
Puhr serves as conference secretary and is pastor at Caswell Springs UMC in the Seashore District.