Archives exec hopes to preserve ‘ministry of memory’

It’s not uncommon to see General Conference delegates carrying Bibles with them, but few are carrying one as old or historically significant as one the Rev. Robert Williams brought to Tampa with him.

Williams, the top staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History, brought Francis Asbury’s Hebrew Bible, as well as a few other Methodist artifacts: Asbury’s eyeglasses and a Communion chalice used by Philip William Otterbein.

“I brought a few historical artifacts to General Conference because I think they help us with the ministry of memory of the Commission on Archives and History,” he said.

Williams fears that “ministry of memory” could be in jeopardy in light of the proposed Call to Action legislation that would fold the archival wing of the denomination into a “mega-agency” and do away with its current board of directors.

“I have found that my board of directors of 24 people brings great value to our work,” he said. “Some have been archivists, some know Methodist history well, and they care about this work. They provide good governance to the work that we do.”

Williams hopes his agency would still be allowed to remain as an independent commission. He points out that the agency already scaled down the size of its board, and only has a permanent staff of five.

“I recognize there is great concern for the best way to link up our governing structures, and I certainly affirm all the efforts that ministry is to be as efficient as possible,” Williams said. “If there is a reconfiguration, my concern is that it’s done in a way that our work does not get lost in such an amalgamation that we become insignificant.”

As so much of the restructure proposals have a focus on creating vital congregations, Williams hopes people remember that ministry occurs in many different arenas.

“Certainly vital congregations are essential and the base from which the ministry in our communities emerge, but those of us who work in the general church probably would not see that that should be a denial of ministry that occurs in other places by other means,” he said.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
General Conference
Chart summarizes and compares proposals to General Conference 2020 about the future of The United Methodist Church. Graphic by Laurens Glass, UM News.

Comparing plans headed to GC2020

This chart summarizes and compares proposals to General Conference 2020 about the future of The United Methodist Church. The chart does not include plans from individuals and may be updated after all legislation is published.
General Conference
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter speaks during an oral hearing before the United Methodist Judicial Council meeting in Evanston, Ill. Carter is president of the denomination's Council of Bishops. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church exit plan already in effect, court says

But the United Methodist Judicial Council has no ruling on Traditional Plan questions from bishops.
General Conference
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, discusses his ideas for the interim time as the church works toward its future. He proposes a moratorium on the complaint process related to LGBTQ infractions alongside a loosening of the trust clause. Video image courtesy of UM News.

Bishop suggests hold on trials, trust clause

The Council of Bishops president proposes coupling a pause in church trials related to LGBTQ restrictions and a relaxation of the denomination’s trust clause.