The United Methodist Church has decided to create a “Connectional Table” to guide the work of the denomination’s general agencies.
The Connectional Table that was approved May 5 by delegates to the church’s General Conference is substantially different from the model proposed by the denomination’s General Council on Ministries.
The legislative committee that processed the Council on Ministries proposal essentially set that plan aside and came up with an alternate Connectional Table that is smaller and, according to proponents of the new model, less costly.
Delegates in the full assembly voted to adopt the General Administration Committee’s proposal and not that of the Council on Ministries.
The new Connectional Table will begin operating next Jan. 1 — two years sooner than the date in the Council on Ministries’ proposal. The Council on Ministries will go out of existence at the end of a transition period.
The table will have 47 members, compared with about 130 in the council’s proposal.
The Rev. Deborah McLeod, Florida, who presented the successful proposal, said the new table would be holistic, collaborative, diverse and functional. “It’s a small table, and it will work.”
The General Administration Committee’s goal was not to create a new general agency, she said. “We do not see this as one giant super agency. It is a place for collaboration, conversation and decision.”
Bishop Edward Paup, president of the Council of Ministries, urged the delegates to adopt the original proposal, known as “Living Into the Future.” “We have believed through this process that there is a disconnect at the general church level, especially between decisions made about our resources, our money, and decisions made about our ministry and mission.”
The “Living Into the Future” plan would have combined the functions of the Council on Ministries and the Council on Finance and Administration, bringing mission and money to the same table, and both agencies would have gone out of existence. Paup said the other proposal “does not connect the connection.”
Under the successful proposal, the Council on Finance and Administration will remain intact.
The new table’s members will consist of:
- 28 people elected through jurisdictional and central conferences. One will come from each of the seven central conferences — regional units of the church in Africa, Asia and Europe — and a total of 21 will come from the five U.S. jurisdictional conferences. The jurisdictional members are to represent the proportionate membership of each jurisdiction based on combined clergy and lay membership.
- An “effective bishop,” selected by the Council of Bishops. The bishop will be the chairperson of the table.
- The presidents of most of the church’s general agencies: the Board of Church and Society, Board of Discipleship, Board of Global Ministries, Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, Commission on Religion and Race, Commission on the Status and Role of Women, Commission on United Methodist Men, Commission on Communications, Commission on Archives and History, and Council on Finance and Administration.
- One youth and one young adult from the new Division on Ministries with Young People.
- A member from each of the denomination’s racial-ethnic caucuses.
- The general secretaries of the agencies named above, as well as the general secretary of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits and the president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House. The general secretaries and Publishing House president will have voice but not vote.
The new table is to be half laity, half clergy; half female, half male; not less than 30 percent members of racial-ethnic minority groups (excluding central conference members) and at least 10 percent youth and young adults.
The Connectional Table will determine its own internal structure and staff needs.
The United Methodist Church has undertaken a series of studies on restructuring over the years. The 2000 General Conference directed the Council on Ministries to take five “transformation directions” from a previous study, work on them and report back in 2004. The council’s primary focus during the past four years was on developing the “Living Into the Future” proposal.
General Conference meets every four years. Nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world are meeting April 27-May 7 to conduct the assembly’s business on behalf of the 10 million-member denomination.
*Tanton is manging editor of United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.