|Rev. Debbie McLeod|
Meeting at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa on March 3, the Florida Conference Delegation to General Conference 2012 unanimously approved a resolution in support of key principles of the Call to Action.
Reform proposals include 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. The Florida delegation also made a strong statement calling on the General Conference to ensure that there will be at least a 30% racial ethnic minority representation in any governing structures of the church.
"It is critical that we address significant general church change now. This cannot wait another four years. I know there are critics of some proposals including the 15-member Board of the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry and the 45-member General Council of Strategy & Oversight. But I am excited about this plan because it finally links important program work through one board,” said the Rev. Debbie McLeod, who served on the first Call to Action Steering Committee.
“It is critical that we consolidate several agencies now, because of the shrinking number of U.S. United Methodists and U.S. congregations which support 99% of the World Service Fund. Even more important is placing a fresh emphasis and adopting more effective ways to focus on evangelism, discipleship and mission engagement close at home and around the world," said McLeod.
Mickey Wilson, Conference Treasurer and first-elected laity of the delegation, said, “This is a big deal for Florida, and we’re looked to by many other conferences. We can’t focus on the little things that might not be perfect; we’ve got to start somewhere. The delegation has taken that step, and I applaud their hard work.” Wilson said that the proposal to redirect $60 million to boost the number of “vital congregations” is an “excellent idea.”
“The church doesn’t live in Nashville or New York or even Lakeland, but at the local level,” Wilson said. Of the CTA, he said, “Can we find parts of it that we don’t like? Yes, but we love our church, and it’s got to change, and we’ve got to begin somewhere.”
Sharon Luther, Conference Lay Leader, also participated in the meeting and supported the endorsements made March 3. “I asked to be on the General Administration committee because I wanted to work on this (the church structure issue). I believe church structure needs to be changed, and I was thrilled that the other Florida delegates voted that this (the proposal in the Call to Action) is the correct way,” said Luther. “We have to have diversity in the church leadership,” she said.
The Rev. Jim Harnish, senior pastor at Hyde Park UMC where the meeting took place, said, “I’d say that while there were a variety of opinions in the delegation regarding the details of the CTA proposal regarding denominational agencies, the delegates were unanimous in their conviction that it is time for significant, if not radical change, in the way we accomplish our mission and use our resources as a denomination. Everyone agreed that we cannot let this opportunity for transformation pass by. Personally, I believe that the CTA team has moved us in the right direction, and I intend to support their proposal.”
The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, head of the delegation, and who served on the second Call to Action steering committee, applauded the endorsement as well. “The delegates spent a considerable amount of time and gave it prayerful consideration before endorsing this resolution. I think they were mindful of the critical time we’re in as a denomination.”
|Rev. Jorge Acevedo|
Acevedo spoke to the broadness of the proposal to restructure. “It is broad enough for a unanimous consensus—it is not specific about the number of people who will be affected, but there needs to be significant change at all levels,” he said, adding, “we can no longer do business as usual.”
“The Methodist Church is declining as a whole, and we can’t let this be normal. The Methodist Church needs a future with hope,” said Acevedo. “This is a clarion call that says we can longer accept ineffectiveness and decline. We need to do something.”
Acevedo helped lead discussion of the issues and was part of the team that generated the findings that led to the endorsement. He hopes the delegates’ action will lead ultimately to action at General Conference. He hopes “that we won’t allow this (plan) to get lost in committee or be compromised to such a point that it is not effective.”
He said that an interesting question is: “What happens at the beginning of May, after General Conference?” He continued, “Will we be able then to shift our way of doing things? Will we have the strength of will to say that we no longer will accept decline as normative? We can’t simply say that everything hinges on what happens in Tampa. We’ve got to do something.”
For more information on the Call to Action, visit http://umccalltoaction.org.