From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Delegates hear restructuring proposal, reports on ministries

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 28 Apr 2004 16:31:21 -0500

April 28, 2004	 GC04008

By Linda Green*

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - Delegates attending the United Methodist Church's top
legislative body are deciding if they are ready to "connect the connection"
to enable the denomination to better perform mission and ministry.

In video after video, the 998 delegates attending the United Methodist
General Conference saw the worldwide church at work and became better
acquainted with a "Living into the Future" report from the churchwide General

Council on Ministries.

Since forming in 1968, the United Methodist Church has conducted several
studies on its structure and ways to improve its operation. During the last
36 years, the denomination has shaped and reshaped its general agencies for
program and missional effectiveness.   

The 2000 General Conference voted down a proposal that would have changed
dramatically the church's structure. Instead, that assembly mandated that the
General Council on Ministries "determine the most effective design for the
work of the general agencies and ... provide enabling legislation to the 2004
General Conference." The result of the council's work is the Living into the
Future report.

The "Living Into the Future" plan before the delegates proposes merging the
work of the denomination's program-coordinating and finance agencies into a
"Connectional Table." There, leaders from around the church would coordinate
the work of most of the denomination's general agencies and would oversee
ministries budgeted at more than $500 million per quadrennium. 

If approved, the proposal would bring the widespread denomination together.
United Methodists have congregations and other ministries on four continents
- Africa, Asia, Europe and North America (primarily the United States). All
regions would be represented at the table, along with the Council of Bishops
and officials from the churchwide agencies.

The document aims to fold the General Council on Finance and Administration,
with a 41-member governing board, and the General Council on Ministries,
governed by 78 members, into a Connectional Table as of Jan. 1, 2007. Ten
other agencies, accountable to the General Council on Ministries, would
retain their free-standing boards, with about 500 directors, but be
accountable to and represented at the Connectional Table. The "table" would
be amenable and accountable to the General Conference.

"This plan is about bringing mission and money to the same table," said
Darlene Amon, a delegate from the Virginia Annual Conference and one of the
voices in the video describing the benefits of the "Living into the Future"

In the video, Amon and Jay Williams of the Western New York Annual Conference
discuss the proposal with Bishop Joseph Yeakel at Barratt's Chapel in
Frederica, Del. The chapel was the site of a historic meeting in 1784 between
Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, key figures in early American Methodism.

Yeakel described the proposal in terms of "connecting the connection." A
rejection of the plan by General Conference would amount to the church
choosing to "retain a disconnected structure," he said.  

The delegates will vote on the document during a plenary session May 3-7. 

The General Council on Ministries' three-part report also provided delegates
with information about special programs and recommendations coming before the
assembly, including holistic strategies for ministry in Africa and Latin
America and the Caribbean over the next four years. The council is asking
General Conference to approve $1.32 million in funding to enable the Board of
Global Ministries to coordinate the plans.

The strategy, to be guided by the churchwide Board of Global Ministries, is
"the opportunity to participate with God in doing a new thing," said Jane
Middleton, a delegate from the New York Annual Conference. "The holistic
strategy provides a unified response to the crises in these areas of the

Middleton said the United Methodist Church is called to respond to and with
its brothers and sisters around the world because "to do less would be to
shirk our responsibilities to make disciples of Jesus Christ."

The council's report also made the delegates aware of the relationships and
partnerships among United Methodist churches, annual conference and general
agencies around the world, and how they are at work in Africa, Latin America
and the Caribbean.

The third portion of the report examined the church's program ministries and
ethnic initiatives. In a video called "God's Colors-Transforming the World,"
the work of general agencies and commissions were highlighted in five themes
- centering on Christian formation, calling forth covenant leadership,
empowering the connection for ministry, encouraging theological and doctrinal
discourse, and strengthening ecumenical and global relationships.

"United Methodists are required to move toward ministry that is shared by
clergy and laity, to better hear the call of Christ, and to support one
another in sharing the message of love and reconciliation," said the video's

# # #

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.
After May 10: (615) 742-5470. 


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