Graphic courtesy of MFSA
By UM Insight
A coalition of United Methodist groups has unveiled a proposed structure for the global 11-million-member denomination that counters the scheme put forth in the "Call to Action" report from the Connectional Table.
The alternative plan was unveiled in early November during a telephone conference organized by the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Participating in the teleconference were representatives from MFSA, racial-ethnic caucuses, the Reconciling Ministries Program, and Affirmation.
The Call to Action plan proposes collapsing nine of the current 13 United Methodist boards and agencies into a single organization call the United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry (see report and graphic). According to a United Methodist News Service report, the center would have a 15-member board of directors, which would be accountable to a 45-member advisory board called the General Council for Strategy and Oversight. The council replaces the Connectional Table, which was created by the 2004 General Conference and coordinates the denomination’s mission, ministries and resources.
The coalition plan proposes downsizing to four mission-based agencies – Congregational Development, Global Mission, Justice, Reconciliation and Witness and Operations. A coordinating council would oversee these agencies to ensure diversity, partnership and common governance.
Legislation for both alternatives has been submitted for consideration by delegates to the 2012 General Conference scheduled April 24-May 4 in Tampa, FL.
"MFSA believes there many shortcomings to the Call to Action, as well as with the global nature of the church and the ministry, especially when viewed together," said Tracy Merrick, a lifelong United Methodist and financial services professional who has represented the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference at each General Conference since 1988.
"Call to Action does little to address the UMC outside the United States where church is growing fastest. It obviously considers these precious United Methodists as an afterthought," said Merrick, who previously served on the General Council on Finance and Administration, and co-chaired two denomination-wide task forces.
Merrick noted that more than 36 percent of United Methodists now live outside the USA, but their regional bodies known as Central Conferences aren't accorded same standing as U.S. jurisdictions in the Call to Action.
"In the Call to Action, United Methodists from Central Conferences get only 11 percent of the representation in the governing structure, while the rest favors the U.S.," Merrick said. "The Southeastern Jurisdiction alone has 24 percent of the governance representation. This approach just isn't consistent with our demographics or our heritage of inclusiveness."
Likewise, Merrick criticized the report on the global nature of The United Methodist church.
"There's some legislation on the global nature of the church, and there's a litany, but still it's U.S.-centered; the Central Conferences weren't included," said Merrick. "They've asked for another quadrennium (four-year church period) to continue the study, but we believe it's time to act. Half of United Methodists will be in Africa, Europe and Philippines by 2016."