UMNS Photo by Mike DuBose
Rev. Kim Cape, general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
Now that we’re all back home from Tampa and have had a little time to rest and reflect a bit, I thought I would give you a brief overview of my perspective of the actions of General Conference, and how the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry will respond to the mandates we received. The good news is that the GBHEM petition to reduce the size of our board of directors from 64 to 22 passed at the eleventh hour. Along with others, I worked with the Plan UMC folks because I saw it as a good compromise between IOT and Plan B. Compromise means that you don’t get everything. I was as stunned as everyone else by the Judicial Council decision.
As a consequence, the only restructuring changes enacted were the changes the boards and agencies brought forward. We had put two years of thought into the response to A Call to Action. In cooperation with the Financial Administration legislative committee, the general secretaries crafted the budgeting of $5 million for Central Conference Theological Education and $7 million for a Young Clergy Initiative out of our proposed World Service budget with no new money. Instead of taking the 6.6 percent cut proposed by GCFA, we volunteered to take cut of approximately 10 percent in order to fund these new initiatives in a spirit of collaboration and sacrifice. I am fully persuaded that these initiatives are the right priorities for the church.
The General Conference did take action. Not the IOT action, not the Plan B action, and not the Plan UMC action. The money saved by reducing board sizes was invested in Central Conference Theological Education and young clergy support. I believe this to be a good outcome. This was done without increasing the budget proposed by GCFA, and without millions of dollars in legal fees expended to dissolve the incorporations of the boards and agencies.
The Central Conference Theological Education Initiative leadership will be convened by the Council of Bishops. GBHEM is moving forward to implement the Young Clergy Initiative. I have consulted with the Rev. Adam Hamilton and other leaders to convene a Young Clergy Initiative Summit to explore the direction needed to fulfill the vision of the General Conference.
I want to commend the work of the Ministry and Higher Education legislative committee under the steady and capable leadership of its chair, the Rev. Dr. David Bard. His highly effective leadership helped the group work through a wide range of petitions dealing with many controversial issues in a collaborative spirit.
Commendations also to Rev. Dr. Gerald Lord and GBHEM’s Division of Higher Education Division on the fabulous plenary presentation on higher education and Ministry Fair reception that followed. Ten performing groups and 35 presidents of our United Methodist-related schools, colleges, and universities and UM seminaries, plus 20 campus ministers provided a great celebration of our ministry with students. The Africa University choir led us to the celebration. Our students were spectacular and were one of the high points of the whole General Conference.
I want you to know that GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry is already at work making sure bishops and annual conference Boards of Ordained Ministry have the tools they need to assess clergy effectiveness in light of the removal of security of employment for elders, provisional elders, and associate members in the new quadrennium. GBHEM is launching pilot projects based on more than 10 years’ research on clergy effectiveness to develop a denominational instrument for performance evaluation of clergy and local churches. I believe the General Conference’s affirmation of an annual conference Vocational Discernment Coordinator and the Group Mentoring Process will prove to be key in the church’s efforts to develop young clergy.
The consistent and heartening message I heard in Tampa was that GBHEM plays an important role in the life of The United Methodist Church, in part because of the significance of our mission and the role we play in leadership development, but also because delegates--particularly Central Conference delegates--recognize the value of the support they receive to meet the needs they express. A great example of this is the newly formed African Association of Theological Schools. General Conference confirmed my belief never to underestimate the importance of relationships.
We at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry hear the church’s call for change loud and clear.
We are actively seeking more ways to collaborate with other institutions on projects that will benefit the church. We have increasingly focused on building and strengthening partnerships with those involved in leadership development in the annual conferences, other boards and agencies, higher education institutions, and the Central Conferences around the world. For example, our Office of Loans and Schoarships is taking the lead in working with our sister Boards of Global Ministries, Discipleship, and Church and Society in gathering all scholarship information on a single, central Web-page portal. One-stop shopping for students and their parents is an idea whose time has come!
We understand that good stewardship of the church’s money--particularly in an economic downturn--is a top priority. We had already reoriented the GBHEM’s staffing configuration after an efficiency study, and we will continue to look for ways to cut costs. We are modeling accountable and transparent leadership by cutting the size of our board of directors both to economize and increase effectiveness. Our new board will have its first meeting of the new quadrennium in October.
We are taking advantage of technology to expand our reach and make training and resources available as quickly and cheaply as possible. Whenever possible, we are replacing costly travel with electronic meetings using GoToMeeting, WebEx, and other programs.
Many of the boards and agencies are already moving ahead collaboratively to redefine their programmatic priorities and to establish measurable goals and outcomes. These efforts will begin in earnest over the summer, and will be timed to bring our new Board members into the conversation in the fall.
And finally, I want you to know that we at GBHEM are positive about the future and are committed to our mission of Preparing Global Leaders for a Global Church. We’re rolling up our sleeves and are ready to hit the ground running on the important work entrusted to us by the church.
I will be reporting back on a periodic basis on our progress. Until next time, thank you and God bless.
The Rev. Kim Cape is the general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tenn.