Assembly creates new study group on church structure

After lengthy debates lasting through the dinner hour, delegates to the 2008 General Conference took a hesitant step toward reorganizing the 11.5 million-member United Methodist Church so it does not appear to be a U.S. church with satellite communities in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The last time the quadrennial legislative assembly met in 2004, nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world created a Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church. That six-member group proposed the possibility of making the United States a "central conference" similar to other conferences outside the United States.

The group said it prefers the word "worldwide" rather than "global," since global might be associated with the "homogenization and dominance of Western economy and culture."

The task force submitted 23 petitions that would amend the constitution to allow for the creation of a regional conference for the United States and change the name "central conference" to "regional conference."

In response to the proposals, delegates asked the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table to create a 20-member committee to consider recommendations of the study group and suggested that the six members of the early study be included in the new committee. The new group will also consider the financial implications of proposed changes in structure and report back to the 2012 General Conference.

Arthur Jones, a lay delegate from North Texas Conference who introduced the recommendation from a legislative committee, said the creation of a study committee does not require the creation of a U.S. regional conference; however, if the U.S. church were to become a central conference, it would probably convene after General Conference.

The assembly offered a series of guidelines for the new study group, including a listing of powers that should be maintained by General Conference and the "duties and powers" of regional conferences.

Under the plan, the five jurisdictional conferences in the U.S. would continue, and bishops would continue to be elected in those quadrennial gatherings.

A minority report that did not provide similar guidelines was defeated. The defeated report would have allowed the study group to function "without restrictions to bind them," and the defeated motion called for a report to be made public 12 months before the 2012 General Conference.

Proposed changes in the constitution have been reviewed by legislative committees and will be considered later in the week.

Members of the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church were Bishop Ann Sherer, chair; Bishop Scott Jones; Bishop Ruediger Minor; Kristina Gonzalez; Forbes Matonga; and Dora Washington.

*Peck is a retired United Methodist clergyman and four-time editor of the Daily Christian Advocate now serving as an editor for United Methodist News Service during General Conference.

News media contact: Kathy Noble or Tim Tanton, e-mail: [email protected].

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.

Related Articles

General Conference headlines

United Methodists explore church's global nature

Resources

General Conference 2008

You'll need Skype CreditFree via Skype

Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
General Church
Delegates from the Philippines and Southeast Asia sing during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Nearly 300 Filipino United Methodists joined a virtual conversation March 16 to talk about the Christmas Covenant and other plans for the future of The United Methodist Church. More webinars are planned for church members in Africa and Europe. File photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Restructuring legislation gets a hearing

The drafters of the Christmas Covenant are leading webinars in the Philippines, Africa and Europe about their proposal for changing the denomination’s global structure.
Judicial Council
Bishop Sally Dyck presides over a discussion of the church budget during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. After the 2020 General Conference was delayed, the board of the denomination’s finance agency asked the United Methodist Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on how to calculate the ongoing denominational budget and apportionment formula. File photo by Maile Bradfield, UM News.

New budget must wait for General Conference

The United Methodist Church’s finance agency lacks authority to set new guidelines despite postponement of church’s top legislative gathering.
General Conference
Jessica Vittorio. Photo courtesy of Jessica Vittorio

Closed-door meetings breed mistrust

Too often, important decisions at the church’s highest levels are being made in closed sessions that violate church rules about transparency, says one General Conference delegate.