Christ-centered to the core

What are the spiritual convictions and practices that give United Methodists character?

BISHOP KENNETH CARTER
Ministry Matters

In conversations with the Florida Conference cabinet and later with a small team of persons on the Commission on a Way Forward, we sought to gain more clarity and definition of what is at the core of who we are as United Methodist Christians.

In a cabinet conversation last summer, our facilitator Bishop Janice Huie noted that we need to define a “simple, sturdy core.” Later I asked the cabinet to reflect in small groups about the question—“what is our core?”—and number of images were lifted up, including:

  • discipleship
  • being sent in mission
  • the resurrection
  • the church as a body
  • the living word of scripture
  • inclusiveness

In the denominational reflection, we acknowledged that, in practice, the Book of Discipline is not a shared core document, and we went more directly to the teaching of Jesus in John 15. Jesus describes himself as the vine in that passage, and so we searched for ways that the practices of our tradition connect us with him.

Could the vine in John 15 be one way of describing our core, our center?

In a cabinet retreat in December, 2013, Susan Jones guided us in a contemplative reading of Psalm 46, using the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina. After we had completed the exercise I wrote, in the margins of my Bible:

“I sense God’s invitation to find my core in the stillness and not to focus so much on the storms.” 

My experience in 35 years of ministry, from a very small rural parish to a large and complex annual conference and a global denomination, is that leadership must be grounded in the core of who we are. We cannot please or meet the needs of every person we encounter; in fact, we cannot fully discern or comprehend their desires or interests. Leadership is about being set apart to listen for the will of God and then to walk in paths of righteousness (Psalm 23). To be authentic, our leadership must arise out of our own stories and narratives.

READ THE CONCLUSION of Bishop Carter’s reflections on being Christ-centered to the core.

 

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