Garrett-Evangelical News

UMC Leaders Advocate for Major Changes at Symposium on Ministry Study

EVANSTON, Ill., January 2010 - Two United Methodist bishops joined other church leaders in advocating for innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to reverse decades of declining membership during the Symposium on Ministry Study at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary late last year.

symposiumThe two-day event, co-sponsored by the seminary and UMC's General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, focused on effective ministry, ordination, sacramental validity and ecclesiology, and  featured keynote addresses, panel discussions and chapel services.

During his keynote address, Bishop Grant Hagiya recommended taking a hard look at church leadership and suggested it's time to recognize that declining membership is not just as a theological problem but is an institutional problem as well. He said the way the church is set up doesn't encourage an entrepreneurial spirit or innovation. Hagiya is the episcopal leader of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska conferences.

He told of a pastor in the Northwest who visited 5,000 homes as an example of how pastors must get to know strengths of their communities and find ways to use them in innovative ways in their churches.

He said UMC's organization and structure is designed to be program driven, which requires managers.

"We're all set up and ready to go for 1959," he quipped.  But to usher in the kinds of cultural changes the church needs to reverse membership decline requires leaders, not managers.

Hagiya and Bishop Alfred Gwinn of the North Carolina conference said they want to find church leaders in their conferences who are passionate about taking the gospel into the community with fresh approaches. To get there, they said, the church must work more closely with the seminary in identifying and training students with that kind of approach to ministry.

Dean Robin Lovin, professor of ethics at Perkins School of Theology joined the Rev. Mary Ann Moman, Associate General Secretary of UMC's Division of Ordained Ministry, in advocating for better ways to mentor candidates for ministry and for greater accountability among deacons, elders and local pastors. They, too, would like to see the emphasis among clergy shift from seeking to be good church managers to aspiring toward fresh and inspired leadership.

"This means students need gifts and capacity for spiritual discernment to find out where the Holy Spirit is at work and go there," said Dr. Barry Bryant, Associate Professor of United Methodist and Wesleyan Studies at Garrett-Evangelical and event coordinator.

Amanda Ross, a third-year master of divinity student from Kansas, was impressed with what she heard at the symposium: "Today was one of those days I am so proud to be studying at Garrett-Evangelical

Theological Seminary. ... It was really interesting. Bishop Hagiya did an amazing job presenting both the bad news and also the hope he holds for the UMC."

Members of the Garrett-Evangelical faculty presented papers on the Commission for Ministry Study's four working groups:

  • Dr. Margaret Ann Crain, Professor of Christian Education and Director of Deacon Program,  delivered a paper on orders .
  • Dr. Ron Anderson, the Ernest and Bernice Styberg Associate Professor of Worship and Director of the Nellie B. Ebersole Program in Music Ministry, delivered a paper on sacraments and also wrote an addendum for local pastors
  • Dr. Mark Fowler, Associate Professor of Church Leadership and Vice President for Vocation and Ministry, delivered a paper on candidacy.
  • Dr. Pam Holliman, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Psychotherapy, delivered a paper on psychologically screening and then psychologically supporting clergy.
  • Dr. Jim Papandrea, Visiting Assistant Professor of Church History, delivered a paper on ordination.

Garrett-Evangelical is a graduate school of theology of The United Methodist Church founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 500 students from many denominations and various cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.

UMC Logo Garrett-Evangelical, a seminary related to
The United Methodist Church, welcomes
students from a wide range of faith traditions.