A Call to Conference

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Those are the words Isaiah reported hearing from the Lord, calling him to prophetic ministry (Isaiah 6:8).

The same words apply to us now, as we prepare for Annual Conference together. Lay members have been elected by their congregations, called to “go for us” to Springfield in June. Recent conferences have been wonderful, uplifting, energizing us to go forward to offer radical hospitality, to reach out to those “out there”, and to grow deeper in discipleship. This year we’ll consider living and serving with “extravagant generosity.” I look forward to another Spirit-filled gathering.

One of the important duties we’ll have this year is to discern and “call” by election those who will “go for us” to represent our Missouri Annual Conference at the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Already, at least 23 people have sensed a calling to submit their names as candidates for election. They, much like Isaiah, have said “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

If you’re one of those, THANK YOU for your willingness to serve! If you or someone you know is prayerfully considering a calling to serve as a delegate to General or Jurisdictional Conference, there’s still plenty of time to submit profile information at the conference website. Or to simply stand up at the Laity Session in Springfield and declare your willingness to go.

People have asked about the time commitment, and it is significant – but with some planning it can be done, even while holding a full-time job. The main commitment is to attend all of the conference sessions: General Conference is about 2 weeks, and Jurisdictional is a few days. Past delegation head Larry Fagan and past delegate Shannon Meister have told me that the time requirements prior to conference are manageable for those who are committed: a few one-day team meetings in the months prior to the conference, and a few hours per month reading through the advance material that all delegates receive.

So, for all of us who will be voting in June, the key question is this: Who is God calling now, for the important 2012 Conferences?

As I’ve written before, I believe that we should elect delegates who will focus upon the mission of “making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” as the MAIN THING. Five Principles for Discernment can help guide candidates for election and those delegates chosen:

Focus upon the Mission of the Church;
Emphasize Congregations;
Develop Leadership;
Reach Younger Generations;
Recapture the Methodist Movement.

These Principles connect with the recommendations in the recent “Call to Action” Report, which should be given serious consideration at General Conference.

Now, here’s the really tough part: Certain divisive issues have caused past General Conferences to become less than effective in leading toward our connectional mission. But WHAT IF we can change that in 2012? This may be difficult, because from articles I’ve read it sounds like delegates will once again be asked to face a few potentially divisive issues -- including the big “elephant in the room”, the church’s stand on homosexuality. Those don’t have to dominate energy and attention -- If we’ll focus primarily upon key Principles like those I’ve listed and the “Call to Action Report”, with minimal attention to the elephant. Perhaps then we can lead the church toward real focus upon the mission and fruitfulness. Many are trying to do that.

So, whom should we elect? Who will go for us? That’s a question that calls for prayerful, considered discernment. I encourage you to preview all the candidates’ background information and ideas, available from their profile information on the website. Contact information is provided if you would like to talk with them personally about a specific issue.

The Annual Conference in June should be another great time of fellowship, learning, sharing, worshipping, and discerning God’s call for deeper faithfulness in our leadership of congregations. Prayerful discernment in calling (electing) delegates will simply be another important part of this year’s Conference. “Who will go for us?”

I look forward to seeing many of you in Springfield. Thanks again for your faithful leadership! Brian Hammons Conference Lay Leader