For the first time in history, members and guests of the Executive Committee of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe travelled to Serbia to hold their annual meeting. They were not only welcomed by spring-like weather but first of all by many women and men who expressed their understanding of radical hospitality by their impressive diligence, love and dedication.
The mission center in Kisač with its «Elim» chapel, named after an oasis in the Old Testament, was, however, not primarily a place of rest and recreation. The 35 men and women coming from 12 countries perseveringly and dedicatedly worked on various issues in regard to being a church in Central and Southern Europe. They prepared a number of decisions for the attention of Central Conference 2013:
- The functioning of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe shall be changed. The standing working groups «Mission and Evangelism» as well as «Media and Communication» shall cease to exist in their present form and shall only be active when they are commissioned with a specific task in the future. The meeting of the Executive Committee shall be shortened, and the number of its members shall be reduced. An annual topic-oriented gathering with additional participants shall be organized instead. These gatherings shall enable the participants to thoroughly work on a specific issue, to have a cross-border exchange and to learn from one another. The aim of these events is to increasingly give a new impetus to the various ministries of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe.
- After a longstanding process of consideration, balancing, and discussion the Executive Committee finally decided to implement a fixed provision for the tenure of a bishop of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe. In the future a bishop shall be elected for 4 years first before a re-election for lifetime (i.e. with an active service until reaching the retirement age) shall take place.
- Two liturgies for anointing a sick person were tentatively approved. They will be available in German language as of April 2012 on http://www.umc-europe.org/liturgien_d.php.
- The area of the Annual Conference Bulgaria shall officially be expanded, and it shall include Romania, as well. Subject to the approval of its upcoming gathering, the new name shall be «Provisional Annual Conference Bulgaria/Romania».
- The Central Conference will meet from March 13 to 17, 2013, in Winterthur (Switzerland). Its theme will be «With heart, and mouth, and hands». It will have the final word in regard to the above-mentioned issues (functioning of the Central Conference, definition of the tenure of a bishop, liturgies, amendment of Annual Conference boundaries).
- Starting January 1, 2013, a regular pension plan will replace a provisional pension support. Employees of the UMC in East Central Europe and on the Balkans will thus receive a guaranteed pension after their retirement. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits provides the Central Conference with expertise and substantial financial assistance in regard to the establishment of this pension plan.
- For many years already the UMC in Poland has been in a process of exploration in regard to its place in the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe. On one side it is actively involved in a network of valuable relations, on the other hand it would like to continue to go its autonomous way in regard to leadership issues. A discussion group with representatives from Poland and from other countries of the Central Conference failed to achieve a rapprochement in the controversial issues. The Executive Committee thus decided to suspend the conversations in this discussion group at this moment in time. The working group «Discipline and Judicial Affairs» was commissioned instead to prepare, as a next step, a report to Central Conference 2013. This report shall reveal how the process of establishing an autonomous or an affiliated autonomous Methodist Church until General Conference 2016 would look like if the Annual Conference in Poland would decide to go such a way.
Visits of local churches and ministries were an important part of the meeting. These insights into the mission of the UMC in Serbia were framed by prayers, many songs, and by sharing thoughts and experiences related to God’s call, to the call for spiritual renewal, and to the encouragement that God’s power is strongest when we are weak.
Source: Office of Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich/Switzerland
Date: March 22, 2012