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Delivering the President's address at the Council of Bishops today in Lake Junaluska, N.C., Bishop Rosemarie Wenner said that discipleship in the 21st century, as in Biblical times, means that we sometimes travel difficult or uncharted roads.
"Disciples are like scouts. They find a path where the road ends. And they help each other in order to move in the right direction and to stay together, although the individuals journey at a different pace," said Wenner, who leads the Germany Episcopal Area.
The Council has affirmed a commitment to lead the church to "redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources for an intense concentration of fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
Wenner lauded the success of efforts like Imagine No Malaria, which has raised more than $53 million in the fight against malaria, but acknowledged that challenges exist as well, such as the inability to make needed changes at the 2012 General Conference,
"Conflicts are an ongoing reality in the church of Christ. Because the church of Jesus Christ is composed of many diverse people, unity is not a static agreement, but a constant move, where we engage with one another in discerning God’s will for all," she said.
She called for the Council, the top spiritual leaders of The United Methodist Church, to learn to relate to one another with “Laganda” – team spirit – and depend upon one another in order to be faithful to God’s mission.
"The world is too complex for one single individual or one single group in the church to respond to the challenges. We need each other to explore a path that leads to vital congregations engaged in mission."
She said that the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops is meeting regularly with the presidents and general secretaries of the boards and agencies in a "collaboration team" to align the work of the various constituencies.
During the six-day meeting, she noted the bishops will be discussing questions such as: What is the core of our identity? How can we work together to increase the number of vital congregations? How can we best lead the church toward the next General Conference? How do we engage the church throughout the quadrennium in Holy Conferencing on divisive questions?
Wenner underscored the need to lead together even if all are not of one mind.
"It is the Holy Spirit that keeps us together! This is a stronger bond than any “team spirit” that we might be able to instill," she said. "By God’s grace – in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit – we will be able to make progress in acting as in ways that better reflect who we are as Christians. We Methodists know – this is God’s work and this is our effort!"
About the Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops—made up of 46 active bishops in the United States, 20 bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa, and 97 retired bishops worldwide—provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.