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Pieces of a puzzle

How do we fit together? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those who are not United Methodist, the following is a summary of the Twelve Points of Connection within the United Methodist Church as presented by Bishop Ben Chamness at the 2012 Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church at Jackson Tennessee. The details are not extensive as this was intended to be a reminder to the delegates of the Annual Conference of the strength and power of our connectional system.

1. Apportionments. Apportionments are simply shared costs. Early in our history, there were special offerings to support valuable causes. After a few years, there were enough of these that they were combined and made regular. We should be proud of what the Connection accomplishes, for example, the work UMCOR does.

2. Appointment Process. From the time a candidate answers the call to ministry until seminary, and ultimately is ordained and appointed, candidates are given careful guidance, monitoring, and mentoring. It is through this resource that our churches continue to have leadership.

3. The Orders. Covenant relationships are vital in the orders of the clergy. Ordinands were invited into the orders upon their ordination last night, and will bring much to the relationship. This is a key connection within our denomination.

4. The Conference. The Conference was once upon a time called the brotherhood. It is still the basic unit of the church. Only by combining efforts and resources are we able to accomplish much of our mission. Conference is the means by which we exceed the limits and even the expectations of the local church. In the Conference, we are brought together as one and sent forth.

5. Charge Conference. The Book of Discipline states the purpose of the Charge Conference as the connecting link between the local church and the general church. Through the Charge Conference, the local church makes, supports, and sustains a missional connection.

6. The District Superintendent. The superintendency is another key representation of the connection. The DS is the connection of the larger church to the local church. He or she is frequently the only connection beyond the local church that the lay people know.

7. Global Connections. Bishop Chamess has been able to travel broadly and meet bishops from around the world.  We now have about 40% of delegates to General Conference from outside N America.

8. Publishing. Cirriculum and publishing arm of the church. Many of our churches use Cokesbury and/or Abingdon. It is quality material based on Wesleyan theology. The publishing house itself is a great asset.

9. Shared Needs. Our clergy of the Central Conference were once without retirement benefits.  We saw this need and responded. Boards and agencies began to pull together a nationwide campaign to raise funds to pay these retirement costs. 23 million has been raised toward 25 million dollar campaign. The Global Health Fund is now seeking to raise 75 million dollars. We hope to eradicate malaria.

10 . General boards and agencies. These agencies resource the denomination throughout the world. General Conference recently discussed ways to alter their configuration and they were altered slightly, but whatever we do we must not fail to offer the ministry that has been made possible through these bodies.

11. Institutions. A hallmark of our identity is the historical support of vital institutions. The Methodist church has started more instututions for people on the edge of society an any other denomination. Hospitals, Colleges and Universities, homes for children, homes for the aged, homes for the mentally challenged.

12. Membership. Membership in the local church is a vital part of the connection. Together we are able to do much more. This membership means that you can visit in Jackson, Memphis, Paducah or anywhere the cross and flame are present and know that you belong.

The connectional nature of the church has too often been left unspoken. The natural desire of humanity is to focus on local community. Our connectional nature best exemplifies the community of faith that we are called to be in light of the Gospel Message.

The local church is at the center of making disciples. But we are certainly not alone in that endeavor.

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Author: Joey Reed

Joey is married to his best friend and they live in Kentucky. Joey serves Mayfield First United Methodist Church, the Purchase District, the Memphis Annual Conference, and the world is his parish.