United Methodist News Service Photo by Heather Hahn
More than 225 United Methodist clergy and laity as of March 21 have signed an open letter announcing their support for proposals to merge nine general agencies, nurture young leaders and empower bishops.
“We do not believe organizational change alone can ignite a renewed United Methodism,” says the letter addressed to the 988 General Conference delegates. “But we do think this kind of change can focus our national leadership, both our agencies and the Council of Bishops, on the task of revitalizing the 85 percent of our churches that were found to be less than highly vital in the Call to Action studies.”
The 2012 General Conference, the global denomination’s top legislative assembly, will take up the proposals when it meets April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., wrote the letter posted on March 20 after discussions with other pastors of the 100 largest United Methodist congregations in the United States. Pastors of 84 of the largest churches have signed the letter, Hamilton said. The Church of the Resurrection, with more than 8,000 in weekly attendance, is one of the denomination’s two largest U.S. congregations.
Hamilton is also one of the members of the Call to Action Interim Operations Team that devised the initial proposals to restructure the denomination’s agencies and redistribute up to $60 million in general church funds. The legislation designates the money for three efforts: providing more theological education outside the United States, developing more young church leaders and fostering more vital congregations.
“I think there will be lots of perfecting of the proposals,” Hamilton said. “What I am concerned about is that it is our nature to resist change. We resist change by calling the changes proposed too corporate or by throwing out things that create fear.”
The Connectional Table, which coordinates the denomination’s mission, ministry and resources, refined the Interim Operations Team plan and drafted the legislation for General Conference. The open letter specifically endorses “the legislation being proposed by the Connectional Table related to the Call to Action.”
‘Gone are the days of silos’
The current structure of general church operations, with 13 separate agencies, is based on a corporate model from the 1960s and ’70s, Hamilton said.
“It’s sort of like General Motors with multiple divisions, each competing with the other divisions,” he said. The large-church pastors have said, ‘If we try to run our local church the way our denomination is run organizationally, we would get nothing done.’”
Under the Connectional Table legislation, he said, agencies would be part of one team and function more like a local church.