Connectional Table would bring church together, advocates say
Feb. 6, 2004
UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
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,
PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - Bringing money and
ministry together is an important reason to support the creation of a
"Connectional Table" that would guide the work of the United Methodist
Church, but it's not the only goal, according to a proponent for the
"The other important thing is to bring the whole church, the
worldwide church, together in a new way," said Oyvind Helliesen, a
director of the United Methodist General Council on Ministries.
and Daniel K. Church, top staff executive of the Council on Ministries,
presented the plan, known as "Living Into the Future," to 280
communicators, first-elected delegates and other church leaders Jan. 31
at a Pre-General Conference News Briefing. The briefing, sponsored by
United Methodist Communications, focused on the church's legislative
assembly, which meets April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
Into the Future" proposal calls for a common table where leaders from
around the church would coordinate the work of most of the
denomination's general agencies.
As part of the proposal, the
Council on Ministries and the General Council on Finance and
Administration would be phased out by December 2006 and their functions
merged into the Connectional Table, which would be fully operational
Jan. 1, 2007.
The table would consist of:
One member from each of the 64 U.S. annual conferences.
Three members from each of the seven central conferences - regional units in Europe, Africa and Asia.
The president and top staff executive of each general agency.
Up to 14 bishops.
Up to 12 at-large members for balance.
elected membership of the table would be 50 percent laity, 50 percent
clergy, 50 percent female, 50 percent male," Helliesen said. "No less
than 30 percent of the members would be persons of racial-ethnic
heritage, and no less than 10 percent would be youth and young adults."
of the plan dislike the suggested composition, some on the grounds that
annual conferences with higher numbers of United Methodists would not
be adequately represented.
After the presentation, Helliesen said
the Council on Ministries had struggled with ways to best organize the
table. If the General Conference wants to amend the details, "I'm not
afraid of that," he said. "I trust the wisdom of the General Conference.
The (important) thing is to bring us together as a connection. That's
the main thing."
The idea of merging the Council on Ministries
with the Council on Finance and Administration is also expected to
encounter resistance. Helliesen said that bringing the money and
ministry together at a common table would result in a "Spirit-led
church" instead of one that is money driven.
The other general
agencies would keep their current structure under the Book of
Discipline. The president and top executives from two of the agencies,
the United Methodist Publishing House and Board of Pension and Health
Benefits, would have voice but not vote at the table.
In a video
shown at the briefing, two council members - Jay Williams and Darlene
Amon - discuss the proposal with Bishop Joseph Yeakel at Barratt's
Chapel in Frederica, Del. The chapel was the site of a historic meeting
in 1784 between Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, key figures in early
Yeakel described the proposal in terms of
"connecting the connection." A rejection of the plan by General
Conference would amount to the church choosing to "retain a disconnected
structure," he said.
"We're trying to improve upon the way we do
ministries," noted Williams. He added that the plan is not an attack on
the general agencies.
"This truly is an opportunity that's before
us today, and it's not going to happen overnight," Amon said, noting
that the proposal calls for a two-year transition.
recalled how the Council on Ministries placed the proposal on an altar
at the end of a meeting in September, offering the plan up "as our gift
to the church."
"And now," Amon said, "it's in the church's hands.