OUT OF THE PEW
Certified Lay Ministers in the UMC
One of the reasons that Methodism grew so rapidly and spread across the U.S. so quickly was the active ministry of the laity. In the days of Circuit Riders, the work of the church and the growth of the church rested in the hands of the dedicated lay persons who stepped up to the plate and did the ministry that they were equipped to do. The current movement to use Certified Lay Ministers is in many respects, a return to our roots. It is a recognition that by working together, the laity and the clergy can accomplish much more than clergy alone can do. It also acknowledges that in this time of emphasis on leadership development, care needs to be given to developing lay leadership as well as clergy.
The Western Pennsylvania Conference Center hosted the first ever gathering of persons who are active in the training, credentialing, deploying, and certification of Certified Lay Ministers. It was a diverse group of leaders from across the nation. All 5 jurisdictions were represented; there were District Superintendents; Conference staff persons with CLM responsibilities were present; CLM trainers were there; members of District Committees on Ordained Ministry and Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry came as well. About ½ of those in attendance were laity, several of whom were CLMs and ½ were clergy persons. The General Board of Discipleship and the General Board of Global Ministries sent representation also.
Primary leadership for the gathering was provided by Rev. Sharon Schwab, DS in WPA, Rev. Carl Ellis from Kansas West, and Rev. Roger Grace, President of United Methodist Rural Fellowship, from West Ohio Annual Conference. Rev. Ellis leads the CLM training program for the Kansas West and Kansas East Annual Conferences in addition to working with the smaller church initiative of the Kansas Area. Much of the presentation time was spent answering nuts and bolts types of questions that had been posed by the participants prior to their arrival in Pittsburgh.
Amy Bentz, Chancellor of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference addressed the group and talked about issues of a legal nature. She was very gracious in answering a variety of concerns about potential liability.
Models of training academies for the preparation of Certified Lay Ministers were shared and several conferences are in the early stages of beginning the training of CLMs. Persons from those conferences were able to network with others involved in the ministry and to gain valuable insight into effective ways to do their training and certification. Several attendees plan to visit in other conferences or have persons come to their setting to discuss how others do the training.
This gathering was sponsored by the United Methodist Rural Fellowship in partnership with the Northeastern Jurisdiction Town & Country network. Several persons in attendance expressed a desire to have a follow-up session in the not too distant future.
By Roger L. Grace President UMRF