Dreaming of an EVEN MORE Open Table

Posted: March 6, 2013 by Matt Horan in Uncategorized
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By Matt Horan

Many thanks to those who read the first version of my motion on sacramental authority for deacons.  It was a privilege to have the opportunity for dialogue with Bishop Kenneth Carter of our Florida Annual Conference about the resolution.  He was complementary of the spirit of the motion, and gave me thoughtful feedback from his extensive experience working with teams on this very topic at both the annual conference and general conference level.

My discussion with Bishop Carter helped me imagine a better outcome for the resolution that would invite more leaders–laity and clergy, elders and deacons–into the conversation about those times when it is important for deacons to be granted sacramental authority.  I am hopeful that the Florida Annual Conference will eagerly receive the resolution, and that perhaps our discussion will serve as an opportunity to model for the rest of the connection how the subject might be broached as United Methodism becomes an agile, Spirit-led vehicle for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Below is the text of the revised resolution as submitted.

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A Resolution Regarding Deacon and the Sacraments

WHEREAS John Wesley urged the people called Methodists to partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion as often as possible, and

WHEREAS Wesley urgently sought more and more qualified clergy to offer the ministry of word and sacraments to more people, and

WHEREAS we live in extraordinary times in which there are more and more local churches closing, fewer and fewer people connected to local churches, and therefore fewer and fewer opportunities for people to receive the sacraments, and

WHEREAS the open table of The United Methodist Church should increase access to the sacrament for all, and

WHEREAS deacons in The United Methodist Church bridge the gap between the local church and the community in which it resides, and

WHEREAS participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion creates community and builds bridges between people who receive it, and

WHEREAS deacons sense a call away from the ordering of the church, but do not sense a similar call away from the ministry of the sacraments, and

WHEREAS the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church states: “For the sake of extending the mission and ministry of the church, a pastor-in-charge or district superintendent may request that the bishop grant local sacramental authority to the deacon to administer the sacraments in the absence of an elder, within a deacon’s primary appointment.” (Paragraph 328);

Therefore, be it RESOLVED that we, the laity and clergy of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, look forward with hope to a day when the General Conference will amend the Book of Discipline to direct that deacons be commissioned and ordained to a ministry of word, service, and sacrament in order to extend the mission and ministry of the church, and

Further, be it RESOLVED that we hereby request that our bishop take an opportunity, either during this annual conference or by the other communication channels at his disposal, to issue a statement that would more clearly explain the circumstances under which he would be led to grant authority to deacons to administer the sacraments in the absence of an elder, so that our pastors-in-charge and district superintendents might be able to more effectively identify the opportunities that are afforded by paragraph 328 of the Book of Discipline to extend the mission and ministry of the church.

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