Delegates approve new structure for general agencies (May 14, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Delegates approve new structure for general agencies

May 14, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0075}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

PITTSBURGH — Working until midnight May 5, delegates to the 2004 General Conference voted to create the Connectional Table, a new body designed to provide a more functional organizational structure for the United Methodist Church’s general agencies.

The task of developing a proposal for a new structure was given to the General Council on Ministries (GCOM) by the 2000 General Conference, which required a report from GCOM at this year’s legislative assembly.

Debate surrounding GCOM’s “Living into the Future” proposal lasted more than two hours, with some delegates wanting more time to comb through the legislation. GCOM’s petition did not pass, but an alternate recommendation by the General Administration Committee to form a Connectional Table was approved.

The Rev. Debbie McLeod, superintendent of the Florida Conference’s Broward Palm Beach District, served as the committee’s chairwoman. She told delegates the Connectional Table would be a common forum for implementing the vision of the church, as well as a place for evaluating general agencies and executing greater efficiency for ministry. Its goal is to improve stewardship of the general agencies.

The Connectional Table will be fully operational by Jan. 1, 2005, and responsible for managing the duties of most of the denomination’s general agencies. It will have 47 members, including presidents of most of the general agencies, a representative from the Council of Bishops and representatives elected by the jurisdictional and central conferences. Representation will be diverse, with the Table’s membership 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, according to a recent United Methodist News Service article. The “Living into the Future” proposal included 134 members.

The 10 agencies responsible to GCOM that will now be part of the Connectional Table are the General Boards of Church and Society, Disciple, Global Ministries, and Higher Education and Ministry, and the General Commissions on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, Religion and Race, Status and Role of Women, Archives and History, United Methodist Men and Communication.

The Connectional Table will work with the general agencies, especially the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCF&A), on budgets and the allocation of funds.

The “Living Into the Future” plan would have combined the functions of GCOM and GCF&A. Under the Connectional Table plan GCF&A will remain its own separate body, with GCOM ceasing to exist at the end of a transitional period.

The Rev. Candace Lewis, pastor of New Life Community United Methodist Church, Jacksonville, said the proposal makes her feel optimistic about the future of the church.

“I think it’s going to make the church more effective and more efficient for making disciples of Jesus Christ,” she said. “I’m glad it passed. It’s a good thing. I think it has great potential. I think it’s going to give us a lot more structure than in the past.”

The Rev. Aldo Martin, superintendent of the Lakeland District, was also in favor of the change. “I think it’s going to be more inclusive and have people from many different backgrounds,” he said.

Joyce Waldon Bright, a lay delegate and member of Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Orlando, said she was in favor of the proposal, but would have liked to have had more time to examine it since it will drastically restructure the operation of the church.

The Rev. Robert Bushong, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Winter Park, said what he knew about the proposal appealed to him. “I think there’s the possibility of greater communication between agencies on issues and more accountability,” he said. “I think there will be less of a bureaucratic process to get things done, and we can move ahead with the vision and mission of the church.”

The Rev. James Harnish, pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa, said the creation of the Connectional Table made a positive impact on him.

“This has been the most hopeful thing I have seen at General Conference,” he said. “This is going to draw us together around a clear, defined mission. I think this is a great step in healing the divisions in this denomination. I think we have gotten too big and too bulky. I think this is a wonderful demonstration of the creativity of the Holy Spirit.”


This article relates to General Conference.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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