Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. is looking forward to his tenure as chair of the congregational vitality team of the Council of Bishops.
The Great Plains Conference’s episcopal leader since 2016 was elected during a video conference during the final few days of April.
Bishop Saenz will lead a group of about 10 episcopal leaders from around the world, including Europe, Asia and Africa.
“It's an exciting group of people, because you kind of get a scan about what congregational vitality looks like around the world in the denomination,” the bishop said. “They talk about the need for congregational vitality in their areas, what the best practices are, and how the churches are engaged in spiritual growth and nurture and development of the people that belong to their congregations.”
The group is scheduled to meet twice a year in conjunction with Council of Bishops meetings.
Bishop Saenz also will work closely with the Rev. Junius Dotson, general secretary of Discipleship Ministries – and a former pastor and current clergy delegate to the General Conference from the Great Plains – in developing programs.
“I’ve always had a passion for congregational development,” he said. “There’s always the challenge of bringing the initiatives of the general agencies down to the local church level. We need to do whatever we can do to strengthen the horizontal relationship and also the vertical relationships across the conferences and the general agencies, so there’s more integration and collaboration at that level.”
Bishop Saenz said he is interested in committee members being able to learn from each other.
“What are the best practices in different areas of the world? How can we become a global learning community as far as congregational vitality practices – as opposed to everyone just focusing on their own local church context?” he asked. “If we’re a global church, how do we harness what we’re learning and what we know so that we all benefit from that shared learning.”
Louisiana Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, newly installed as president of the Council of Bishops, commended her Great Plains counterpart.
“His experience and leadership in congregational development will serve the Council well in this critical time,” she wrote in an email. “I look forward to his contribution as we shape the future of the United Methodist Church.”
The bishop will also be part of the 15-member executive committee of the Council of Bishops, comprised of five elected officers and 10 chairs of various committees.
“Part of the role of the people on the executive committee is to help shape what to learn for effective leadership and for relevant leadership,” Bishop Saenz said. “I imagine it’s going to be a very fertile group where ideas can be expressed, and where imagination and creativity can be brought forth to help the bishops do their work.”
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