Some interesting parallels and contrasts between the discussions about re-structuring in the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church. (see also Daily Episcopalian and the Video blog on the Café this week – as we offer more thoughts on restructure and the Episcopal Church.)
The United Methodist Reporter offers an interview with Don House, influential member of their governing body and “who participated in the recent Pre-General Conference Briefing. There the Call to Action reform proposals—including restructuring of general church agencies, redirecting $60 million in general church funds to boost the number of “vital congregations” and creating a “set-aside” bishop—were debated:”
My dream is that before we get to General Conference we perfect the legislation, repairing the damage, so that a new structure will be approved. My greatest fear is that we cannot agree and the existing structure remains in place.
Who has the biggest concerns?
Tim (McLendon; district superintendent in South Carolina) and others are addressing the balance of power—a balance between the episcopacy and the annual conferences. Although we all seek effective episcopal leadership in our annual conferences, many see the proposed legislation as a departure from the historical balance of power in the work of the general Church that has to be preserved. The proposed legislation with a set-aside bishop could have unprecedented episcopal influence over the operations of the 15-member board with authority over the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry as well as the operations of the 45-member General Council on Strategy and Oversight. (Editor’s note: The new structure would bring most agencies under the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry, which would answer to the General Council on Strategy and Oversight.) I think it’s a legitimate concern.
You also have these special interests that are saying, “Wait, wait, wait. I have my favorite agency or commission—they represent my interests—and now it’s going to be dumped into this big corporate structure and possibly be lost.” Many representing these special interests are not supporting the proposed legislation.
You’re concerned about GCFA not having autonomy under the new structure.
It is an easy fix. Take GCFA and pull it out of the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry. I think that’s what will happen. GCFA’s most significant job is recommending to the General Conference the size of the apportioned budget for the general church. The proposed legislation assigns this job to Center for Connectional Ministry which would house GCFA within its structure that contains programs for mission and ministry. This mixes the job of recommending the size of the apportioned budget with the job of seeking apportioned funds for programming. This is the most dangerous part of the proposed legislation. It has not been thought through.
Do you think the big narrative is the shift of power to the bishops, whether intended or not?
It’s there. And that’s of great concern, I think, to many delegates. But that one can be fixed. Tim and some others have been working on this. I think the idea of the set-aside bishop scares many leaders. The general church is supported financially by the annual conferences and local churches. Our quest for more vital congregations must focus the work of the agencies upon serving the annual conferences and local churches. To me, this means that the annual conferences and local churches must have greater influence upon programming decisions—not less.
The United Methodist Reporter is an independent weekly newspaper for United Methodists and other people of faith, produced by UMR Communications in Dallas, Texas.