As General Convention draws near there is a growing consensus that this year the presenting issue is how to best structure the Episcopal Church to do its work as we move into a new era. We're not the only denomination facing the challenge. The Methodist General Conference has just looked at the same question, and it didn't go well.
In an article reporting on the conference in the Christian Century, after a discussion of growing conflict between Western and African Methodists over questions of marriage equality, comes this report:
"The larger issue before this General Conference is the proposed restructuring of the UMC. The primary plan to do so, ‘The Call to Action,’ came out of a study conducted by an outside consulting firm. The plan, which would drastically streamline church authority, later gathered the support of the Council of Bishops and a number of large churches within the connection.
There’s no question that the UMC is changing. But opponents object to the CtA’s notion that streamlining authority is the way to spur growth--and they’re troubled by the sense that these changes arise from a culture of fear and/or corporate organization.
In a rather stunning reversal, Friday morning saw the death of the CtA proposal in the General Administration Legislative Committee. After months of supporters disseminating information and garnering support for the plan, it was rejected--and the committee began amending ‘Plan B.’ Saturday night, all the plans offered were defeated, and a mood of general frustration settled set in on all sides.
Bishop Will Willimon said that this turn of events was a result of ‘the wrong people’ voting at General Conference, people brought to Tampa through elections carried out by a broken system. It remains to be seen whether General Conference 2012 will ultimately bring about any restructuring of the UMC."
Part of the proposed restructuring was to elect one of the Methodist bishops to a role very similar to that of our Presiding Bishop's. That resolution was defeated too.