2013 Episcopal Address: Investing in the Young

6/13/2013

Featuring faces, places, stories and statistics, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie’s 2013 Episcopal Address opened with a reminder of the Four-Year Focus of the Texas Annual Conference.  At the 2012 Annual Conference, delegates voted to adopt the focus on investing in the young, creating transforming lay and clergy leaders and growing vital congregations.  The 2013 conference’s theme is the first of those – Investing in the Young.

Bishop Huie reminded the delegates of God’s investment in his people: Adam, Noah, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah and many more including “the biggest of all – God’s own self by sending Jesus.”  She asked the question: “Into what cause are you pouring yourself?”  She asked the delegates to ponder where they were investing their time and energy.  She called on everyone to invest in God’s future.

Acknowledging the change and transition that describes the world and our church today, she referred to many examples of change in our communities and in the Texas Annual Conference.  Among those changes:

·         Cross Connection moving to an e-newsletter

 

·         Lon Morris College closing

·         St. Pauls’ United Methodist  Seminary moving to Church of the Redeemer

·         UMR Communications/ United Methodist Reporter closing

·         Cokesbury stores closing

An additional major change is the number of retirees in the conference this year – a record high of 26. The Bishop reminded delegates that “nearly 20% of our congregations will experience a change in pastoral leadership.”  This season of change is not over, within the next 10 years 50% of our pastors will be retirement age.  The conference has been preparing for this “tsunami” of retirements by aggressively investing in the young for the past six years.

The development of the Emerging Leader Initiative is the primary way the Texas Annual Conference is bringing more young people into the ministry and it is succeeding.  The TAC has more young pastors in service than any other conference in the country. 

·         The Initiative includes the Texas Youth Academy that brings juniors and seniors in high school to a 2-week summer program where they study with seminary professors and experience community with other young people who are “just beginning to hear the whisper of God’s call on their lives.” 

·         The College Pastor Intern Project provides opportunities for college students to spend 10weeks in the summer serving alongside a mature mentor-pastor who allows them to experience the day-to-day life of a pastor in a very practical way. 

·         The Ambassador’s Grant provides reimbursement for seminary tuition to help young pastors meet the burden of tuition debt.

·          The fourth segment of the Emerging Leaders Initiative is Advancing Pastoral Leadership that is a five-year program of accelerated leadership development that prepares “our highest potential young pastors to move more quickly into larger churches where the need is great.”  The Bishop expressed her hope for developing an endowment that would secure the future of this successful initiative.

 

Bishop Huie also noted that the conference is investing in new communities with 7,303 people worshiping on Easter Sunday in congregations that have been planted over the past eight years – many of which are young communities with new families.

The Bishop is pleased to see the many new ministries that congregations throughout the conference are starting with local schools as well as the continuation and expansion of well established school partnerships.  She also related stories of the impact of these partnerships on all involved: the community, individuals and congregations. 

Reminds Bishop Huie, “Methodists planted schools, colleges and universities all over the American frontier.  We’re the faith community who built the most hospitals and community centers.  Methodists were leaders in the fight against child labor and for public education of children.”

1)   “Connect with young people outside of your congregation – if your church is already in a partnership with a school or supporting a food pantry, build personal relationships with those involved – and, if the church is not involved, then I hope you will take the first step.”

2)   Connect with young people inside your congregation – get to know them by name; listen to their hopes and dreams.  These young people- the ones inside and outside the church – are the future of our communities and our church.  This is our opportunity to shape the future.  It is all about one thing: relationship, relationship, relationship.”

 

Bishop Huie quoted Daniel Burnham, an 18th century architect, “Our sons and daughters are going to do things that stagger us.”  She urged that we think big and prayed that the Holy Spirit inspire us to embody God’s dream for the world.

 

 

See the entire Episcopal address online.