Graphic Courtesy of MFSA
TAMPA – The radical restructure plan for The United Methodist Church prepared by the Connectional Table, often confused with the Council of Bishops' effort known as the Call to Action, isn't as much of a "done deal" as has been supposed, judging by tough questions and resistance that emerged during the Jan. 19-21 Pre-General Conference Briefing.
The briefing for 2012 General Conference delegates and church communicators also uncovered less well-publicized efforts taking place parallel to the Connectional Table and Call to Action that could provide less extreme reorganization, yet still achieve cost savings and operational efficiency to offset declines in the denomination's human and financial resources.
Among the eye-openers at the Pre-General Conference Briefing:
- Many delegates complained that the answers they received from Call to Action, Vital Congregations and restructure proponents lacked specific details about any adverse effects the proposal could have on the denomination. "It sounds too much like, 'Just trust us, we know what we're doing,'" complained a delegate who asked not to be named.
- Highly placed sources confided to UM Insight that the Connectional Table consulted none of the denomination's top staff executives during the process of creating the restructure legislation. There were also reports among delegates that agency executives have been pressured by proponents to get behind the plan rather than offer alternatives or question its components.
- At the same time that the Connectional Table restructure was being created and promoted, 10 of the 11 current United Methodist boards and agencies adopted plans to cut the number of their directors by half, trimming some 266 positions from the 596 directors currently selected among U.S. delegates. Delegates and communicators alike were surprised to learn the extent of these parallel efforts.
- United Methodists outside the United States see Call to Action and the Connectional Table restructure as ways for the American branch of the denomination to hang on to political power rather than share it with church leaders across Africa, Europe and the Philippines, according to the Rev. Forbes Matonga, vice dean of Africa University in Zimbabwe who serves on the Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church
- Other representatives of the worldwide church study group noted during their presentation that restructuring the denomination for a more equitable power structure had been their assignment from the 2008 General Conference. As a result of the Connectional Table usurping the restructure task halfway through the 2009-2012 timetable, commission members said that they elected not to submit any reorganization recommendations to the 2012 General Conference.
Nine Agencies into One Center
Although Call to Action focuses on church growth through its Vital Congregations program (which has already been implemented by the Council of Bishops), the Connectional Table structure component involves collapsing nine of the current 11 United Methodist boards and agencies into a single "Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry" under the direction of a 15-member board. This center would have four offices: