Helliesen (left) and Daniel K. Church present the "Living into the
Future" plan during the Pre-General Conference News Briefing in
Helliesen (left) and Daniel K. Church, with the United Methodist
Church�s Council on Ministries, discuss the structure of the church
during the Pre-General Conference News Briefing Jan. 31 in Pittsburgh. A
UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 04-052, Accompanies UMNS #045,
it did four years ago, the United Methodist Church's top legislative
assembly will once again consider a proposal for reordering the work of
the denomination when delegates meet April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
Conference all but gutted the earlier proposal, brought by a
Connectional Process Team, but it salvaged pieces of the plan and passed
them on to the church's program-coordinating agency for more work. The
resulting "Living Into the Future" plan proposes merging the work of the
denomination's program-coordinating and finance agencies into a
"Connectional Table," which would oversee ministries budgeted at more
than $500 million per quadrennium.
say the proposal would bring the widespread denomination together.
United Methodists have congregations and other ministries on four
continents - Africa, Asia, Europe and North America (primarily the
United States). All regions would be represented at the table, along
with the Council of Bishops and officials from the churchwide general
say the proposal would weaken the fiscal accountability and auditing
function performed since 1972 by the denomination's finance and
administration agency. Some opponents also take issue with the size of
the document's proponents anticipate that it will be revised, which is
standard procedure for United Methodist General Conferences. The
assembly meets once every four years.
document, as presented, would fold the two top-tier coordinating
agencies into the Connectional Table as of Jan. 1, 2007. Those agencies
are the General Council on Finance and Administration, with a 41-member
governing board, and the General Council on Ministries, governed by 78
members. Ten other agencies accountable to the General Council on
Ministries would retain their free-standing boards, with about 500
directors, but be accountable to and represented at the Connectional
Into the Future" is the General Council on Ministries' response to a
mandate given to it by the General Conference four years ago to create
"the most effective design for the work of the general agencies." The
mandate is the latest in a series of efforts by General Conference over
the years to improve the operation and coordination of churchwide
council's conciliar officer, Cecelia M. Long, explained that in
fulfilling this assignment, input was sought from annual conferences,
central conferences, general agencies and others from across the church.
The council has offices in Dayton, Ohio.
believes 'Living Into the Future' provides the most effective setting
for visioning, discernment and decision-making by members with a
holistic view of the church," Long said.
proposal is an initial step, not the final step. The Connectional Table
would determine what further changes are needed," she said. The table
would recommend any such changes to the General Conference for approval.
document is closer to current structure than were several proposals that
surfaced within the General Council on Ministries in 2000, soon after
the agency began working on the assignment. One idea called for
dissolving the boards of most of the denomination's 14 agencies into one
"General Board of the United Methodist Church." Council directors also
discussed and set aside the idea of proposing a bicameral (two-part)
legislative structure with a lay/clergy "house" and a "House of
Into the Future" evolved through several council meetings, regional
hearings and drafts by a writing team. The council adopted it in
September 2003 for referral to the General Conference.
of the document's most insistent critics is the council's own elected
secretary. The Rev. Andy Langford, senior pastor of Central United
Methodist Church in Concord, N.C., acknowledges that the proposal
"suggests a closer relationship between finances and ministry" but
leaves a group of general agencies "even more distant from people in the
pew and (leaves) even more distrust and inertia throughout the (whole
a 4,500-word written response, Langford said he hopes that the
Pittsburgh gathering "will set aside 'Living Into the Future' and make
the serious reforms that our denomination so badly needs." He indicated
that the preferred model would be "smaller, less expensive and less
Advance Daily Christian Advocate, a compilation of all the legislation
going to General Conference, includes at least two proposals labeled as
alternative Connectional Table plans. One calls for a smaller table -
with 29 members instead of the 131 to 134 possible under "Living Into
the Future" - with no budgetary authority. The other emphasizes
evangelism and social action as key areas of focus and proposes that the
new entity plan an annual convocation "where all United Methodists are
invited to conduct the business" of the table.
all proposals for changes in United Methodist Church law, "Living Into
the Future" will go first to the appropriate legislative committee, in
this instance the 95-member General Conference Committee on General
Administration. The committee could decide to accept "Living Into the
Future," develop a different restructure proposal or retain the status
is a writer and editor in Dallas. He has covered eight United Methodist
General Conferences. News media can contact Tim
Tanton at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.