How United Methodists relate to one another, both structurally and spiritually, was a topic of discussion during the April 28 session of the denomination’s top legislative body.
Delegates to General Conference received a report from the churchwide Council on Ministries called “Living into the Future,” which proposes merging the work of program and finance agencies into a “Connectional Table.” In that structure, leaders from around the church would coordinate the work of most of the denomination’s agencies and would oversee ministries budgeted at more than $500 million per quadrennium.
United Methodists in all regions of the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, would be represented at the table, along with the Council of Bishops and agency officials.
Under the proposed plan, the General Council on Ministries and General Council on Finance and Administration would fold into the Connectional Table by Jan. 1, 2007. Ten other agencies would retain their own board of directors but be accountable and represented at the table.
“The plan is about bringing mission and money to the same table,” said Darlene Amon, a delegate from the Virginia Annual Conference and one of the voices in the video describing the benefits of “Living into the Future.”
Bishop Joseph Yeakel described the proposal in terms of “connecting the connection.” A rejection of the plan by General Conference would amount to the church choosing to “retain a disconnected structure,” he said.
Delegates will vote on the document during the week of May 3.
In the General Conference Laity Address, Gloria Holt told delegates that until each individual church member is willing to let go of “me, myself and I” and make a concerted effort to become “we, ourselves and us,” the denomination will continue to be involved in “power struggles, selfish decision-making and un-Christian action toward each other.”
Most troubling is the “apparent unwillingness” of laity and clergy to be equal partners in ministry, according to Holt, president of the United Methodist Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders.
“If clergy are singing their own song while the laity are dancing to their own beat, how in the world are we going to get in sync with one another?” she asked. “Unless we do, the church will not be creating the music for which God gave us the notes.”
She also urged the international assembly to move away from doing things in the same old way and to realize that the absence of youth and young adults in local congregations could be due to an unwillingness to change in ways that would welcome that age group.
In the morning worship service, Bishop Bruce Blake of Oklahoma noted the legislative concerns over budget issues.
“Our attitude is one of giving until it hurts, rather than heals. Everything is focused on our limited resources when, in fact, if United Methodists would give until it heals we would have so much money to facilitate God’s mission in the world that conferencing would be a celebration of sharing rather than our experience of divvying up a shrinking pie.”
He suggested that United Methodists have lost the connection between grace and giving, and he challenged the delegates to live a gospel of giving until it heals.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
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