By: Rev. Cindy Gregorson
Thinking about the future is exhilarating and exhausting! After two days of immersing themselves in the current reality of the Minnesota Annual Conference, and seeking to build some initial consensus on where God might be calling us in the next 10 years, there was a palpable sense at this inaugural meeting of the Transitional Table that its members were engaged in holy work. They left mentally tired and yet excited to see what was emerging.
In June, the Transitional Table was named by Bishop David Bard from a slate of over 50 nominees. It was challenging to narrow down the group to just 14! These leaders, from all over our annual conference, have committed themselves to a year of listening, discerning, and researching in order to consider how to best position the Minnesota Conference for the future in terms of staffing, structure, and resources. They will meet four times over the next year as a full group and engage in work teams between sessions. We have contracted with Laura Johansson to design and facilitate our process; I provide staff support to the Transitional Table and work with the consultant on shaping the design of the process.
At our first meeting, we spent time building community and naming our guiding values for our work together, such as making room for diverse voices, turning conflict into shared exploration, and engaging in ongoing evaluation of our work, to name a few. Each team member had conducted five interviews with a variety of stakeholders in the Minnesota Conference before arriving at the meeting, asking each one about our strengths, our opportunities, what they value, their thoughts about the role of the district superintendent, and where we invest ourselves in staffing and resourcing clergy and congregations.
From that listening, we did a deep dive into the current reality of the Minnesota Conference, naming what we would like to keep and build on, what we would like to keep but needs re-imagining, and what we are ready to let go of. We had strong agreement about our 2019 vision and the values named within that vision: rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all persons, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation. We want to keep and build on our annual conference session gathering. While we value superintending, the appointment system, and our work in church planting, it seems there is an opportunity to re-imagine these to carry us into the future. We wondered about how we outsource non-central work. We value our staff and there is recognition that staff need to lead our ministry initiatives while having more robust teams to partner in ministry areas that represent diverse voices across the state. We acknowledged there were big questions about the role of laity as that seems to be an area in which we need to grow.
In order to have a solid proposal about staffing and structure, we need to know where we want to go. Therefore, it was time to consider the future. We asked ourselves: What is changing about how people are finding their spiritual home these days? What are the cultural and societal trends that we need to respond to if we are going to be relevant? And we considered what we would like to see in the Minnesota Conference in 2032 if we are faithful to our mission and God’s calling. Through lots of conversation and consensus work, we named five areas that we would like to commit to building and putting in place in the next five to 10 years:
These are just beginning glimmers, and those five areas have many ideas beneath each one. We formed two work teams to go out and field test these ideas. One team, the stakeholder team, is creating a list of people from which to gather input about these ideas. Are we on track? What else should we consider? What would be important to know as we seek to move forward in these initiatives? Meanwhile, another team, the research team, is exploring: Who else is working in this space? What can we learn from them?
When we gather on Nov. 9, we will take that data and refine our vision of the future, asking ourselves: Is this clear and aimed in the right direction so that we can now explore the question, “How do we staff and organize ourselves to move into that future?”
We value your perspective as we continue our work. We’re asking you to respond to a brief survey to share your input on what has been developed so far. And you can always speak directly to any member of the Transitional Table (I am not a member but provide staff support):
Bishop David Bard, Minnesota and Michigan Annual Conferences
Amelia Buschena, licensed local pastor, Common Ground UMC (Cambridge)
Sharon Fields, laity, Hamline UMC (St. Paul)
Genia Garrett, licensed local pastor, First UMC (Redwood Falls)
Kevin Gregory, provisional elder, Detroit Lakes UMC
Laura Hannah, licensed local pastor, Hennepin Avenue UMC (Minneapolis)
Michelle Hargrave, elder, Centenary UMC (Mankato)
Woojae Im, elder, Church of Peace (Richfield)
Laurie Kantonen, elder, North Star District superintendent
Kathleen Keller, laity, Minnesota Annual Conference controller
Lee Miller, elder, Hope UMC (Blue Earth)
Rachel Morey, elder, Northfield UMC
Dana Neuhauser, deacon, Minnesota Annual Conference racial justice organizer
Brenda North, elder, medical leave
Tyler Sit, elder, New City Church and Northeast UMC (Minneapolis)
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries and clergy assistant to the bishop for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church