Call to Action summit or pep rally?

In my inbox, this popped up today. You probably got one if you get official United Methodist e-mail:

Bishops, Connectional Table invite UMs to Leadership Summit online

United Methodist leaders around the world are invited to participate in the Call to Action UMC Leaderships Summit, an interactive global webcast, sponsored by the United Methodist Council of Bishops and Connectional Table. The summit will originate in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, April 6 from noon to 3 p.m. (EDT), 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (CDT). The agenda of the summit will include:

  • Noon to 1 p.m. EDT – Presentations by the Council of Bishops and representatives of the Call to Action Steering Team
  • 1 to 2 p.m. EDT – Conference leaders meeting together in groups across the world, will be lead in discussions by assigned facilitators. In Indiana members of the Conference Leadership Table, District Superintendents, Conference Directors, Associate Directors and Delegates of the 2008 General Conference will meet together at the Conference Center in Indianapolis for discussion.
  • 2 to 3 p.m. EDT – Presenters in Nashville will respond to e-mail questions posed by leaders around the world.

Any one may participate by logging on to This site includes stories, Call to Action documents, other resources and the source of the live stream the day and time of the Summit. During the three-hour webcast, participants can send questions or feedback to during this time. Ministry clusters, clergy covenant groups and other groups within the life of the church can form groups and view the webcast together or view the webcast as individuals sitting at their computers.

If you have questions about the Leaders Summit, contact Dan Gangler

Anyone think of any reason why a three-hour webcast in the middle of the work week might not be the best way to get laity involved?

I know. You could not pay 99.9 percent of United Methodists to take part in this exercise. But the middle of the day on Wednesday?

I am constantly confused by the Call to Action process. I e-mailed my bishop some of my concerns with the report itself. His response was that he had not been intimately involved with Call to Action. He thinks vital congregations are good (who doesn’t?), but he hopes – he said – we would not treat the report like Scripture that is above critical examination.

Another bishop I wrote about a specific issue in the report expressed some reservations about the conclusions it reached.

And yet we have events like this one, which I anticipate will be more about selling Call to Action than fostering real conversation. The next step, if I’m getting a good sense of the play book, will be to talk about how there was this big event with leaders from all over the denomination who endorsed or supported or bought into the report’s ideas.

Indeed, here is the description of the purpose of the event as described in briefing materials for bishops found on the leadership summit web site:

The Summit’s purpose is to call together for prayer, discernment and holy conversation a cross-section of leaders invited by the resident bishop and including lay leadership, cabinets, and representative pastors.  The Summit will provide shared experience for engaging information and ideas about key initiatives to foster compelling alignment and generate forward momentum for the regeneration of The United Methodist Church.

The Leadership Summit is a venue for leaders to hear first-hand how the Council of Bishops is helping the church clarify and affirm God’s leading through the vision, values and culture of the United Methodist Church.  The Council of Bishops and Connectional Table will share how they are blending the findings and constructive work of multiple groups involved in strategic review and planning in behalf of the mission of the UMC, and urging participants to take part in shaping and leading a comprehensive plan of action.

In the bishops’ briefing and the summit FAQ, we learn that questions will be focussed on identifying ways to better implement the Call to Action agenda. And the leaders at the summit will get some marching orders.

They will share suggestions and make commitments for proactively aligning work in their own settings in light of shared objectives.  They will receive resources to help them interpret the information and implications from the Summit to others in their annual conferences.

Some of us have asked some questions about the report. I’ve tried to engage bishops, who have been courteous but not had any answers to my questions. As a sign of the futility of my efforts, the story linked from the summit leadership web page about things congregations can do right now to increase vitality starts with two items that simply are not supported by the report itself – multiple styles of worship and an exclusive focus on topical preaching in traditional worship services.

If you go read the report and its supporting documents, you cannot conclude that multiple styles of worship will work for every congregation. Neither can you conclude that topical preaching is a one-size-fits-all solution for traditional worship. This point is blindingly obvious and has been pointed out by more than one person, and yet, it get repeated and repeated and repeated.


I’ve been advised by some to drop this issue. Since I’m clearly not making a dent with my questions either here or in personal contacts with people in my conference, this is probably good advice. I have a hard time letting go, though, when things bug me. And this whole process bugs me.

As for the online summit, I will miss it. I’m working that day.

5 thoughts on “Call to Action summit or pep rally?

  1. This event is, according to the folks planning it: “The Leadership Summit is being coordinated with bishops’ offices as a means of connecting annual conference leaders globally, and that while individuals are welcome to participate, the event is designed to facilitate conversation with annual conference leaders at sites designated by their bishops.” So, pep rally for the current leadership. Nothing will change.

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