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‘Bold’ changes proposed for church structure

 
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7:00 P.M. EDT July 29, 2011 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)



Bishop John Hopkins leads the Connectional Table in processing a report on possible church restructuring. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
Bishop John Hopkins leads the Connectional Table in processing a report on possible church restructuring. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose. View in Photo Gallery

Members of the Connectional Table, meeting July 25-28, endorsed five proposals that would change The United Methodist Church’s structure and potentially its funding.

East Ohio Area Bishop John L. Hopkins, the Connectional Table’s chairperson, called the proposals “far-reaching.”

“What we’re trying to do is simplify the church and integrate it more,” he said. He added that the changes are intended to help the general church’s programs and resources better serve the needs of annual (regional) conferences and local churches.

The proposals are the result of the church’s Call to Action process, adopted by the denomination’s Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table in their fall 2010 meetings.

The 60-member Connectional Table coordinates the denomination’s mission, ministries and resources, and it is responsible for recommending changes in agency structures. The body voted to recommend:

  • Making “necessary changes” to allow for “a just, reasonable and compassionate process” for low-performing clergy to leave the itinerancy.
  • Consolidating 10 of the denomination’s 13 general agencies into five offices that will be part of a new United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry. The center will have a 15-member board of directors, which will be accountable to a 45-member advisory board that will “represent the diversity and inclusiveness of our Church.” Under the recommendation, the consolidation will take place in two phases and be completed by 2014.
  • Forming a special study task force to determine the optimal organizational structure and business model of the United Methodist Publishing House and the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits, both “fee-for-service” organizations. The task force is to make its recommendations by the end of 2013.
  • Having the General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, authorize the board of the new United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry to study the most effective ways to fulfill the mission of the church. Under this proposal, the board would evaluate programs and spending at all levels of the church and ultimately could direct the reallocation of up to $60 million during the 2013-2016 quadrennium.
  • Forming a task force that would conduct a denomination-wide financial analysis and initiate proposals for a more equitable and effective apportionment system across all annual conferences. Apportionments support ministries at the annual conference and General Conference levels.

The role of General Conference in guiding the work of the church remains paramount in the new model. “We really feel that General Conference sets the values of our church, not a board of directors,” Hopkins noted.

The Connectional Table took up and refined the recommendations as part of the multiyear Call to Action process, which has found that that the status quo of a shrinking and aging U.S. church is “toxic” and unsustainable.

The suggested changes originated with the Interim Operations Team, a group of laity and clergy working with denominational leadership to implement the Call to Action recommendations.

The recommendations will be drafted into legislation for the 2012 General Conference, which has final say on whether these structural changes come to pass.

Proposed General Conference legislation from the Connectional Table and other church agencies must be completed by Sept. 1.

Illinois Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, the convener of the Interim Operations Team, expressed confidence that the changes will help the church promote vital congregations and address the decades of membership decline in the United States.

“I think some bold directions have been embraced,” Palmer said. “We’re looking at a much more nimble structure (i.e. as in the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry) that creates some new possibilities of coherence and flexibility.”

Changes to clergy job guarantees

Just about every category of church leadership will be affected by the proposals.

The first recommendations dealing with clergy follow on the heels of a number of church studies questioning the sustainability and effectiveness of job guarantees for ordained elders.

The denomination’s current process to dismiss incompetent clergy is unwieldy, said Washington Area Bishop John Schol, a Connectional Table member.

“When we talk about this as bishops, we all recognize that there needs to be a process,” Schol told those gathered. “This isn’t just a decision that’s made by a bishop or district superintendent that we don’t think a person is appointable, so now they are no longer appointable. ... The problem now is the process is so cumbersome and takes so much effort and eventually must be approved by all the clergy that this person might be friends with. It’s a process that just doesn’t work.”

The Connectional Table’s recommendation is conditioned on no other body in the church proposing legislation to General Conference to alter the process for dismissing ineffective pastors. If no other legislation is submitted, the Connectional Table asks that General Conference appoint a team to study and report to the 2016 General Conference a process for transitioning clergy in a way that best serves congregations, clergy and the denomination.

The Rev. Kim Cape, the top executive of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, told the Connectional Table that the 2008-2012 Commission to Study the Ministry will issue its final recommendations Aug. 12, and they are likely to include an end to “security of appointment” for elders.

Changes to general agencies

The proposed structural changes have implications for the nearly 1,400 people who work for the denomination’s 13 general agencies. The number of staff positions in the general agencies has decreased steadily, from 3,139 in 1971 to 1,384 as of 2010.

The Connectional Table’s recommendation endorses the move by the denomination’s ecumenical agency, the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, to become part of the Council of Bishops.

In the Connectional Table’s proposal, many of the ministries of the current agencies would be subsumed under the newly created Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry.

The new center would have five offices.



Carol Tuthill helps present the work of the Interim Operations Team.
Carol Tuthill helps present the work of the Interim
Operations Team. View in Photo Gallery

The first would be an office of shared services that would include the “essential functions” of the General Council of Finance and Administration, United Methodist Communications and other agencies’ communications staff members, the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History, and the denomination’s information and technology support. (United Methodist News Service is part of United Methodist Communications.)

The other proposed offices are designed with the denomination’s Four Areas of Focus in mind, according to Mary Brooke Casad, executive secretary of the Connectional Table. “An intentional effort was made to pull the functions that our agencies are currently charged with into offices that reflect the work of the Four Areas of Focus.”

The offices would comprise:

  • An Office of Congregational Vitality, encompassing “the essential functions” of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship and multicultural ministries. (New Places and People)
  • An Office of Leadership Excellence, encompassing much of the work currently done by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry. (Developing Leaders)
  • An Office of Missional Engagement, responsible for much of the work of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, including global health, missionaries, Volunteers in Mission and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. (Global Health)
  • An Office of Justice and Reconciliation, encompassing the essential functions of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Commission on Religion and Race and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women. (Ministry with the Poor)

How the work of United Methodist Men and the Women’s Division fits into this model is still being worked out.

If this recommendation gains General Conference approval in 2012, the plan calls for the transition to be conducted in two phases, with all agencies operating in their current structures initially and then moving to the new organizational chart over a period of about two years.

Too early to tell implications

“I think looking at how the general church can operate more efficiently and effectively is a good thing,” Erin Hawkins, the top executive of the Commission on Religion and Race, told UMNS. “I’m encouraged that we are in the conversation of how we make what we do better and more effective. I think it’s too early to tell what the implications will be.”



Neil M. Alexander discusses the Interim Operations Team’s proposal.
Neil M. Alexander discusses the Interim Operations
Team’s proposal. View in Photo Gallery

Still, Hopkins acknowledged that the merger of the agencies would likely lead to at least some downsizing of people whose roles at different agencies overlap.

“My hunch is that most of the staff will stay where they are,” he said. “They may work in some different ways. We’re not trying to centralize all the staff. … But we’re hoping they will be able to talk to each other better.”

In the new model, staff with similar responsibilities across agencies would work together more effectively. The attempt “is not to squeeze (functions) into one box but to have it so the left hand and right hand are talking as one staff,” he said. “You have a closer relationship with staff that are doing the same thing.”

The Call to Action research found that there is a great sense of distance between leaders at all levels of the church and the people in the pews. Hopkins and others expressed hope that the changes would close some of that gap.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Jay Brim, a member of the Connectional Table and lay leader of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. Brim will lead the drafting of General Conference legislation based on the recommendations.

“The lay leaders are intending to carry this forward,” he said. “An extremely large number of conference lay leaders are General Conference delegates, and we’re asking all of them to work together to bring about this kind of positive change for the church.”

Note: An item from “In other business” was modified on 8/2 to remove a sentence that incorrectly reported the Colorado Historical Society matched a grant of $75,000 for virtual learning portals at the Sand Creek National Historic Site Research and Learning Center.


*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 54 comments

  • Jack Mundy 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Getting rid of ineffective clergy should be top priority.  Since I joined my Church in 1979, we have had three top level clergy...and seven who were totally ineffective...three were not even good people.  During this time we have had only one effective DS.  When I attend annual conference it is obvious that the only objective is to maintain the political status quo.  We have to do better
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  • SoldierForChrist 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I was excited when I saw the headline "Bold Changes Proposed" my hope and prayer was the UMC was ready to address the autonomy allowed the General Board of Church and Society in "representing" the church but not "officially" speaking "for" the church in it's ever increasing visabilty espousing it's far left political agenda. I know we're supposed to be brief here but I'm posting my response below to the arrest of Mr Winkler as it will not otherwise be seen.

    Mr. Winkler apparently believes I’m a member of a cult when he refers to defense spending as supporting "the national security cult". He bemoans, "the waste of $3 trillion on disastrous wars over the past 10 years, and the fact that U.S. military spending dwarfs that of any other nation in the world". He assumes, this money could and should have been spent on the poor in the form of Government charity. For the record there is no such thing as Government Charity. Charity is the word for assistance given freely. The word for forced charity is tyranny. If the Church forced us to give offerings it wouldn’t be giving but rather, taking. Charity is diminished when handed off to Government. Mr. Winkler, like a growing number of United Methodist leaders, believes there is a scriptural basis for turning our country into a Socialist Nation. There isn’t. He supports spending borrowed money in an attempt to produce equality of outcome rather than the equality of opportunity that our founding fathers envisioned and our Soldiers have fought for. Once arrested he insults the very people who defend his freedom to protest and is held up as a role model. It’s shameful. The Methodist Church has a great history of standing for civil, women’s and human rights. Now we’re standing for the “right” of the government to continue unsustainable spending on social welfare. But Mr. Winkler has an answer for that. Tax the rich. O.K. then. Let’s confiscate everything anyone makes over a million dollars. That runs the government for less than a month. What’s your plan for the other 48 weeks? Military savings? Mr. Winkler decries the monies spent on defense. The “disastrous wars” of the last 10 years have resulted in the liberation of Iraq, advanced freedom for the people (especially women) of Afghanistan, prevented terrorist attacks at home and provided inspiration for freedom movements all over Southwest Asia and North Africa. And yes, it has cost not just money but the blood and lives of American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. It takes less courage to be a U.S. protestor than it does to be an American Soldier. But what of the claim that “U.S. military spending dwarfs that of any other nation in the world.” ? It does because we are the world’s protector. Who would YOU have as the world’s defender of freedom and liberty? China? Russia? Iran? Cuba? North Korea? We are a nation of great people, power and resources. And we have great responsibility. Our history, although not perfect, has shown when freedom is threatened we have answered the call, World Wars I and II to name two examples? Mr. Winkler, will sleep peacefully in his bed tonight because rough men stand ready to fight and if need be, die, for him. And before you say, “Well, I support the troops but I don’t support the mission,” keep that one to yourself. I volunteered for the mission. I am a Christian man and I am a rough man. You may not like me but you do need me. And you need a lot more like me. We work for very little but we don't work for free. SSG Robert E. Swanson, Pine Mountain, Georgia
    MY VIEWS AND OPINIONS ARE MY OWN AND ARE NOT INTENDED TO REPRESENT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU OR THE GEORGIA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD.
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  • Jesse 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I'm a young clergy person, and I am all for a standardized clergy pay scale.  Imagine a pay scale that is based on the abilities and effectiveness of the pastor, not the congregations ability to pay.  It could be similar to military pay, where experience, education, and contextual setting (including cost of living, and hardships) all play into the salary package.  Min salary in some conferences (which is still sometimes more than a congregation is able to afford on their own) is under 27k, while other pastors, oh yes, make over $250,000.  I know a UMC pastor in a very rich neighborhood church that was offered a 50k bonus from his congregation!  Equitable compensation my... we need to fix this!
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  • The Ohio State 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    As a very young pastor in my second appointment-my second church was a 30+year dying church that had no leadership-I got rid of all staff but a secretary-(the church would hire members so they wouldn't leave the church) Brought in a talented musician that also does modern worship-We finally have begun to see fruit and the church is creating on its own small groups that form themselves-without a committee-What it has taken in three years to give new direction to this small church has been very costly to my family-I agree don't guarantee appointments-but also support clergy that have the guts to make changes in the local church!
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  • The Ohio State 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    As a very young pastor in my second appointment-my second church was a 30+year dying church that had no leadership-I got rid of all staff but a secretary-(the church would hire members so they wouldn't leave the church) Brought in a talented musician that also does modern worship-We finally have begun to see fruit and the church is creating on its own small groups that form themselves-without a committee-What it has taken in three years to give new direction to this small church has been very costly to my family-I agree don't guarantee appointments-but also support clergy that have the guts to make changes in the local church!
    show more show less
  • Joe Reynolds 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Define "effective".... Just how subjective is that definition going to be.  As a conservative evangelical pastor, I am already suspect by the UM hierarchy. This would be a way to purge the UMC of us pesty conservative evangelicals even though my ministry has been extremely successful.
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  • Mike 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    This sounds like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. However, it reminds me of the story of the Bismarck whose rudder was detroyed in her last battle. Unable to steer she simply sailed in circles until the torpedo planes of the British killed her. These bureaucrats can reflect, deflect, postulate, and reorganize all they want: a sinking ship cannot be saved. All that's left is for the "crew" to abandon..... The United Methodist Church has known for decades that it has a serious spiritual problem compounded by left-wing political activism, elitism among the bishops and the leadership structure, and clergy whose behavior, conduct, and attempt at leadership would be deemed grounds for termination in any other business. Let's face the reality: the UMC is sinking into the general American moral and cultural quagmire. Beyond a radical spiritual awakening and the resurrection of conservative and evangelical leadership (after hell freezes over), there is simply no hope for this aging leftist battlewagon.
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  • William Green 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I am particularly concerned that, with the extreme consolidation of power, we are facing the reality that the church will increasingly follow the desires of a small group of people.  The reality of 15 member boards selected by a 45 member Advisory Board (to be known as the Connectional Table), doesn't honor the diversity of opinion, belief, or experience in our Church, but narrows the conversation to the point it almost isn't conversation.  

    Let me also echo the reality that the crisis facing our Church is not only a structural one, but more seriously a spiritual one.  Our failure to create the relationships between individuals and communities in ministry reflect a serious spiritual deficit in our relationships with Jesus Christ. 

    Finally, let me point out a serious change that, I believe, reveals a lack of commitment to ministries with Young People.  The original report of the IOT, as amended by the Connectional Table, $5 million (US) was given to the development of young leaders, specifically naming the Division on Ministries with Young People and it's successor as the steward of that money.  The Division on Ministries with Young People was specifically named in the report.  However, after that meeting the report was amended, removing the funding for the development of young leaders and any mention of the Division on Ministries with Young People.  Though I am biased, as a member of the Division, I would offer that the work of the current division (which has increased the number of young people and young people's workers it has trained or developed by over 600% since 2008), despite budget cuts throughout the quadrennium, has been and will continue to be absolutely vital for the success of our church.  Even if the DMYP ceases to exist, the funding and emphasis on Young People's Ministry is absolutely vital for the success of our United Methodist Church.  

    Though there is good work present in this report, I believe there are many issues that make moving forward at this time unadvisable.  I would highly recommend that everyone take the time to email their delegations, bishops, and conference leaders to familiarize themselves with the report and fully understand its implications for the future of our Church.
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  • Shalom Shalom 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    We are the products of the Protestant Reformation plus the Great Awakening revival. When people forget their history and are caught up in religion and motions this is what happens. John Wesley was thrown out of the pulpit by the Church of England for what crime? For trying to reach the poor coal miners and street people of his day. He saved Britain from the revolution which was sweeping Europe. What similar to that time today???? A Church which looks down the poor and lacks proper formation of its faithfuls who are justv members? What do you know about Gin Lane? The salvation Army????And ??????? Does Ezekiel 34 make sense today???
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  • Shalom Shalom 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    God bless UMC
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  • David Brosnan 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Is there a process for determining members that will participate in the revision studies should these pass.
    I would very much enjoy having an opportunity to participate.
    Rev. David R. Brosnan
    Retired Elder, Virginia Conference
    2003 Trent Blvd.
    New Bern, NC 28560
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  • brusaky 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    I too would like to hear more about how "ineffective" is defined with regard to pastoral leadership at any level, and in any setting.  It is truly "nickles and noses"?  Or is there some better way to define effectiveness in the many churches that are in poor and declining neighborhoods?  How would we define effectiveness for a pastor who gives his or her heart to a community that offers very little chance for numeric growth, but offers immeasurable opportunities for discpleship growth?  Or pastors appointed to churches that are so dysfunctional that it takes years for healing to occur, if it is possible at all?  Yes, there are people in ministry who should not be there.  Sometimes I even wonder if I am one of those!  But what are the criteria, really?
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  • Justafollower 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    For me you have asked several valid questions. Effectiveness of pastors should include the discipleship of their Charge.  I agree, not necessarily an easy task, but one Christ asked all of us to do. Laity and clergy alike, are both called to "make disciples of all nations" not members. I hope that all here, pray regularly for our church leadership, clergy and laity alike. Grace and Peace
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  • mnhb212 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    With this discussion of ineffective pastors, I am reminded of one we had several years ago.  I don't remember if he brought anyone into the Church or not, but he was exactly what we needed at the time he came.  Our Church had been in turmoil for several years.  This man came and became the very calming influence we needed because of his quiet, dignified and soothing manner.  Effective?  Probably not by the standards we've set:  numbers on the roll or the money in the Church treasury, but he was certainly an effective minister at a time when we badly needed him.  So again I ask, who's to decide who is an effective minister and by what criteria?  There are many ways to be effective.
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  • NMex 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I wonder if the low-performing clergy includes bishops....... I would vote alot of them out as low-performing
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  • ajeckert1 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Let me speak to the issue of incompetent pastors.  For two reasons, I am not convinced by bishops who say they have  hard time removing incompetent pastors.  One, all they need to do is supervise, that is, keep track of times when a pastor messes up in their work (keep a file and accumulate a paper trail), draw the incidents to the pastor's attention, work out a mutually agreeable plan for improvement with a warning about failure to work at it, follow up if the pastor fails, and take it to the Board of Ordained Ministy's personnel committee.  It is a little bit of work but supervisors in every other employing entity do it all the time.  Is it possible that superintendents do not have the time to do their job?  Is it possible that superintendents are not properly trained to do their job?   Is it possible that bishops choose superintendents who are incompetent at supervising?  Is it possible that bishops are incompetent at supervising and thus fail to follow normal protocols when there is incompetence involved?  Is it possible that bishops are not being held accountable for failure to properly supervise their superintendents or fail to follow normal protocols in handling pastors in trouble?
     
    Such issues have a major effect on morale in an annual conference.  Horrible bosses turn good pastors into troubled pastors....
     
    Second, for many years, the hoops prospective pastors have to go through have raised the bar on the degree of competence pastors have to meet to become members of an annual conference.  How is it that all these glowing candidates (prospective members are rarely being criticized but rather are greatly lionized during clergy session) are suddenly incompetent and need to be identified by the Cabinet as unappointable?  Is there a possibility that their morale or their health have been crushed by lack of support and upbuilding of their ministries from their superiors in office?
     
    Now let me add some additional observations about how things are actually going in the denomination.
     
    Petitions dealing with these kinds of issues have been sent to General Conference since 1980 only to be ignored in favor of petitions from the Council of Bishops presented through GCFA or GBHEM.  The protocols in the Discipline come from the bishops themselves, which makes their criticism misplaced.  They want to take over the function of hiring and firing pastors at will, something they already have over Local Pastors, something some bishops have actually been doing with complete disregard for the Discipline.  
     
    No one compliments bishops on how successful they are at matching pastors and churches and helping both succeed together.  
     
    No pastors are encouraged to visit among the church members and constituents by the example of bishops and superintendents who visit among their pastors.
     
    Everyone in the connection seems to have found more important things to do. We find it easier to complain and seek shortcuts.
     
    Jurisdictional conferences take little time asking episcopal candidates about their pastoral care practices as pastors.  Maybe we need to select pastors who like pastors and who like churches to become our bishops and who have some understanding of supervision.  Morale builders may do more to diminish the number of incompetent pastors than giving bishops more power to fire pastors.   
     
    In conclusion, the voice of the bishops is not the only one that should be heard in the discussion of pastoral competence.  Many of us see other dynamics involved and pray that our voices will be heard as well.
     
    Rev. Jerry Eckert, contact person for Associates in Advocacy
    Retired, Wisconsin Annual Conference
    aj_eckert@hotmail, com
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  • Pilgrims_Progress 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Can anyone say, "rubber stamp?"
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  • Pilgrims_Progress 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I'll support this as soon as they do away with lifetime episcopal office, under-performing D.S office-holders and giving pastors the authority to remove under-performing laity from the rolls.  Until then this is just smoke and mirrors.
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  • Clair Langebrake 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Has the church considered training less effective pastors the same way the sales industry has done to get better results? Among other things, pastors are salesmen. The sales industry has their best salesmen periodically tell a gathering of sales people what one, two, three things they have found to be most effective in achieving objectives. Question and answer periods are part of this. What better situation and place to learn?
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  • dan bowman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    How would all levels (not just clergy) including ineffective bishops, DS's, seminaries (at all levels), agencies and congregations be evaluated and removed?  No one should get a pass!  No one should be protected!
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  • Martin 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    When I was a Free Methodist 35 years ago we scuttled the 2/3 -1/3 apportionment structure and went to straight 10%of what the church's operating budget was.  One lady who came once a year to "pay her dues" (she had it figured out to the per member number) was so confused when I told her we changed she came for the next two Sundays!
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  • sroyappa 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    CT has done some good work and appreciation for their efforts but again it sounds like "cut and paste" or "quick-fix" approach. The need of the hour for our movement called "UMC" is to take hold of the CRISIS and transform it into something positive and make a FRESH beginning. The crisis is serious rapid decline - loss of people, resources and ministries. A simple question: In the last quadrennium, $642 million dollars have been spent or (let me say) invested. It's lot of money. What fruit(s) this investment has produced? There is no sense of accountability at any level. Further, there is NO connection between vision articulated at the General Church level and vision exprienced at the local church level. The report is disappointing because there is nothing mentioned about strengthening, resourcing and vitalizing local congregations which are the FOUNDATION of our movement. It is worth-finding about how many local congregations know and expereince or implement the mission of our movement and four focus areas...?
    Sam Royappa
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  • sheepdogfortheshepherd 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    I would really like to see a discussion of the theological underpinnings of these proposals.  Everything thusfar has been presented according to secular business principles, without theological discussion.  There was no theological foundation presented as part of the Call to Action.  This is where we should be starting, instead of not getting to, for a lack of time.
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  • maggie 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I could not agree more about your statement, "I would really like to see a discussion of the theological underpinnings of these proposals."
    Now comes the Great Question:
    How do we, in our visioning and strategic planning process, Incorporate, Nurture,
    and Transform lives in Jesus Christ?
     It’s the cabinet’s “task of sending the best spiritual leaders by matching them to the needs of each local church.” (There is much applause for that effort). But, there is a question here; how do we properly and more completely identify “the needs of each local church?” First of all we should have in place a process for the congregation and pastor to use along with the district superintendent to identify the “needs of each local church. The Covenant and Ministry Assessment process was developed for that very reason, as well as to provide feedback through the congregation, and pastor to the District Superintendent and on to the Cabinet and Bishop.
    The main need/mission of course for our churches (for that matter all of us) is to be Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. To do this we need to come to an agreement from which we make a covenant together and set goals to accomplish our mission. Included in this is the practice of discernment, the process of listening to God and developing a vision for where the church might go. We need to reflect together on how each (pastor and congregation) listens to God, doing so, can deepen a real sense of partnership and add new richness to the dialogue. What is God’s Mission for our Church, “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World”
     This should be our mantra, not some ‘slogan’ or just some ‘suggestion,’ it’s not, ‘if we have time to do it,’ no, it is incontestable. It is a command from our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein he said; “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28: 18b – 20  NRSV.
    God wants disciples who will walk intimately with Christ, live in community with others, and serve the church and the world. A discipleship process simply put; “Love God, love others, and serve the world. As we love God, and love others, then the natural result would be to serve people and the world. (Simple Church-T.S. Rainer & E. Geiger. B&H Pub. Grp. Nashville, TN)
    It is “all about love” isn’t it!
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  • pastorumc 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    Just skimming the other comments puzzles me. They show a tremendous amount of distrust that my 26 years in ministry does not support. I have seen many ineffective pastors who need to step out of ministry. These are pastors who cannot control their tempers, hold extremely narrow theological positions, or have personality or psychological disorders. Let's not pretend as if none of us have ever seen this. My understanding of the proposal is to create a process that will enable fair and just evaluation to be done in situations such as this. It is very needed and long overdue. We trust the Conferences to screen and evaluate candidates for ministry, how is this any different? No one should feel that they have a guaranteed position of employment for the remainder of his or her life; if they are not doing effective ministry in service to the church. Until I see the specifics of the process, I'm all for the concept and I bet most other clergy are as well.
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  • Pilgrims_Progress 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    This is a power-grab by the bishops to punish those who dare to step out of line or cause "unhappy" laity.  I know.  If a bishop can use their power now to punish, imagine how much worse it will be for us when this passes. 
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  • Holly Boardman 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    The BOLD change that is needed in our church is the way in which pastors are compensated.  (see Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" to find support for my statement).  Pastor's salaries should be set by and paid by the conference rather than the local congregation, and that salary should be "more than enough" so that money is no longer an issue in  appointment making.  Many excellent, faithful pastors are appointed to serve declining churches.  The decline may have nothing to do with the quality or "effectiveness" of the pastor. The pastors who serve such churches should be SUPPORTED and honored by the church that sent them there to serve.  Since most clergy who will be attending General Conference are clergy who are on the higher end of our salary spectrum, I am doubtful that such a change will even be considered.  There is a MAJOR problem with the distribution of resources in our "connectional" church that needs to be addressed.  If we want to be in ministry WITH the poor, we need to shift some of our resources around.
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  • HHH_AAA 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I totally agree - "professionalism & secularism" has taken over our clergy appointment system. I can't stand seeing faithful effective pastors (some with 2-3 point charges) getting paid the minimum equitable salary for their area, and struggling to support their families, while others are making $65-80K in cash salary, driving around in expensive cars, talking about their eccentric vacations, etc - not because they are better or more effective, but because they got appointed to the "right"church. Our current system, not only is discouraging to new generations as we we can clearly see the "ladder system" in place and how hard is not make your way up [or who you need to become to make it], it also opens the door to competition, politics, frustration - and ultimately, failure. I wonder how many pastors would leave the pulpit if asked to reduce their salaries so that all pastors get a more equitable compensation. I fear, many.
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  • mnhb212 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Who's to say who a low-perforning clergy is?  If a clergy brings one person to Christ, that is one person who may not have been reached any other way.
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  • JOEL G. FRANCE 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Something has to change with the structure really as soon as possible.
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  • Lee 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Bold action? Only those invested in protecting their positions were involved in the bold plan. What they really accomplished is a load of self-serving catch phrases and self-congratulations. I also agree concerning ineffective bishops, bishops should have a term of office so we can remove poor ones.
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  • HHH_AAA 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    our crisis is not only structural...it's also spiritual. As long as we continue diluting the gospel, even the tightest structure will fail. Help us God, without your guidance we are clueless.
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  • charles b 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    It begins with the Creation story.  Jesus taught from the Creation story.  If it is not true, Jesus was a false teacher and Christianity is a sham. If we do not uphold our faith in the Creation story (with its supernatural aspect), we will slip into Deism and then just another Social Service group.
    Like this:
     http://www.umc.org/site/apps/n...
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  • Jimd53 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand



    I am in full
    agreement with HHH_AAA we could say that many of our Elders and Local Pastors
    and a Large number Laity have slipped into the world of feel good ministry and
    have excluded the fact that God is still God and did not change after He sent
    His Son Jesus just keep following the path you are on and you will see God
    still reigns, just passing the Grace and more Grace is not good enough. God is
    still God; He can swallow up a race of people just as He did in the Sinia. I
    would like to quote my favorite Pastor.


    “I am not
    afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in
    Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect,
    having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the
    case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which
    they first set out.” JOHN WESLEY I feel the change should be higher up Pray
    Harder Bishops


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  • April Lewis Fain 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I've only been a member of the United Methodist church for about 2 years. However, what astounds me is I try to think what would Jesus Christ think if he was on the Earth today and saw all the divisions of his church, the arguing, the money. Would he destroy the organization as he overthrew the moneychangers inside the temple of God?
    Could all the money floating around within the "organization" be put to better use such as feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, taking care of the widows and orphans? If all the churches in the United States would quit squabbling over the "junk" that doesn't really matter this country would not have a problem with people going hungry or going without adequate health care.
    It really makes me question my decision to become a member of this church/organization. In my opinion the word denomination = division.
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  • Gwyneth Arrison 5 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    One change in financial structure I believe is necessary is for clergy compensation to come through the annual conference rather than from individual churches. Too often the itinerant system keeps clergy from serving a given appointment due to size and pay-scale, based on our cultural expectation of raise and promotion.  If compensation were equalized based on years service or some other performance criteria, and churches paid into the pool, then gifted clergy could be appointed to renew and revitalize small churches in strategic areas that could never otherwise afford such clergy.
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  • MethodistPie 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    If you think clergy ineffectiveness is an issue now, wait until we "centralize" compensation.
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  • HHH_AAA 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I have been saying now for a while now...we need a centralized system for compensation. Churches should be able to have the BEST pastor available in the connection that fits their needs - not the ones they can afford. This would truly be connectional ministry
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  • Matt Seargeant 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Almost thirty years ago we had this idea while in seminary -- a United Methodist minimum AND maximum dalary for years of service. We envisioned a "bell curve" with those in the middle year earning the most (when they are likely to have the highest expeditures -- children, college, etc.).  Unfortunately, those in "power" seem to be the ones on the high end of the scale and are unlikely to reliquish their gains.
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  • Christopher G-R 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I could not agree more.  This might also free clergy to make those hard-but-necessary decisions.  So many times, conflict in the church is complicated by clergy doing what is necessary to get paid.  Take away the fear-of-not-getting-paid and that clergy might be more willing to make the hard decision.  This is one way the clergy cold be reassured that the Conference has their backs.  Otherwise these changes feel like they're hanging clergy out to dry.
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  • Buzz Trexler 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    A 45-member advisory board? Someone has to be kidding.
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  • Creed Pogue 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    That is another set of problems.  How is the 15-member "executive board" going to be chosen?  If there is one member guaranteed per central conference, then the three European, the Philippines and the Western Jurisdiction would get a third of the seats with less than a tenth of the membership.  That doesn't seem very "representative" of the whole church.

    For the "advisory board," what does "represent the diversity and inclusiveness of our church" mean?  Considering that for the USA membership, it is 90% European descent, even if you have only one African-American, one Asian (not even taking into account Korean, Indian, etc.), one Hispanic (not even taking into account Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.), you would have 27 of European descent.  So much for geographic representation or improving the connections between the people in the pews who pay the bills and the general agencies.
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  • Jerry 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    By what criteria will "low performing clergy' be judged?
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  • Cyndie395 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Here are a few they could use: Loss of church members because of the actions of the "Minister." Poor grammar. Rudeness.  Incorrect Bible teaching. Refusing to follow reasonable requests of church committees. Non performance of District requirements. Rejected by three churches when the annual vote is taken.
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  • Rob_Bell 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    What right does the governing body of the methodist church have, to say that someone can not preach the word of god because he can't get enough people to come on Sunday. The economy is one issue because not enough is coming in to pay the Bishops and others along with direct billing which is really hurting the smaller churches. Our church is hurting here and we average 150 or so on Sunday and have a GREAT Pastor but if a Pastor does not get new members in every year then they are let go. The rumour is that this supposidly is how the proposal will work. Is this fair??? As for guarenteed appointments, I think Pastors that have spent their time, sweat and in some pastors cases 90,000 + dollars in school classes to become where they are today as Elders because of their LOVE OF GOD. not the money. to be let go and say that you spent all the time and money to take all the Methodist required coarses and other classes for nothing because of your churches attendance and the amount of money the church has brought in over a year period is WRONG! A pastor NOURISHES the people and enriches them in the word of God and counseling and spritual formation and welfare of the church. Lastly taking away the guaranteed appointments for Elders is absolutly WRONG and the Bishops and the D.S 's should have to take a pay cut, loose there lifetime appointments and be judged in the same manner as Elders and Pastors.
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  • Oldgriffin 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Please don't misunderstand how some local churches grow and shrink.  In Ogden Utah First United Methodist we have Rev. Alane.  She is a great senior pastor who moved us into a brand new building.  In Utah the number of Methodists fluctuates widely as recessions and recoveries cause companies to move people into and out of the State of Utah.  Our church population does not rise and fall with recruitment of members, it grows and shrinks as companies transfer people into and out of the state.  The local population is Latter Day Saint and will not be converted.
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  • crodenberg 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    A complete overhaul is needed. Our church is preparing a resolution to close the lobbying offices in Washington and New York that would save a lot of money. We are losing members because of the action of Jim Winkler and his office that offends conservative Americans. We should be preaching to our members who in turn will communicate with their elected leaders, not joining with communist activists in trying to reform Washington and the United Nations.
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  • The Ohio State 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    What was that action that offended conservative Americans? I am out of the loop
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  • Jerad 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Get rid of the organized justice witness of the church and you offend liberal Americans--and they are among any evangelist's greatest opportunities, according to Barna. If all we do is aimed at satisfying the people currently in the pews and ignoring those who aren't, then we may as well fold now.
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  • lisacook 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Thank you for updating us on the latest news of the UMC. It is important for us as ministers to know what is being decided at the highest levels of our denomination, as soon as possible. This article lets us be a part of the process by having information at our hand and being able to pray about the future direction of the church that we love.
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  • Creed Pogue 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    What is the point of having the Connectional Table if they are just going to recommend further studies?  We're a month from the petition deadline with nothing in petition form?

    It's easy to say that we should change "guaranteed appointment."  The hard part is figuring out a system to provide some checks and balances otherwise nothing will pass General Conference.

    The changes to the general agencies feel like a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic instead of being "bold."  When the GCRR General Secretary can say that most of the staff will stay where they are, it is hard to see where real savings or efficiencies are going to happen.  Additionally, like Bishop Palmer had mentioned, each agency is separately incorporated.  Considering the difficulties when an attempt was made to consolidate Native American ministries, one can imagine the level of difficulty in creating five new bodies and then eliminating ten corporations.  Again, it seems like a Rube Goldberg system designed to fail on the floor.  We should be asking if we really need GCRR and GCSRW today.  Our problems with race and gender are in the heart not in our institutions.

    While it is evident that a lot of study needs to happen regarding UMPH especially around the issue of transparency, simply calling for a study doesn't get us very far.  There has been no accountability for the repeated assurances that all was well while UMPH was using reserves to issue the Cokesbury checks.

    More studies aren't going to help.  Part of the problem is that the Connectional Table is designed to represent the general agencies and overrepresent racial/ethnic persons.  It is not designed to have a cross-section of the church AS IT ACTUALLY IS come together to make DECISIONS.
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  • Don Hawks 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I'd like to know how evaluating the DS and the Bishops will play into the clergy effectiveness process.  In my experience this group is not the most effective when it comes to leadership, and understanding relationship boundaries among clergy, members and leaders in the church.  For example, if a Pastor is working through a process of resolving tensions or issues in a local church, in my experience and observation of others' experience, the DS will often ineffectively interject him or herself in in a knee jerk reaction to a call from a leader in the local church, rather than allowing time for the process to work through.  If a District or Conference is losing membership, to what extent are the Bishop and the Cabinet held accountable for this decline in addition to the clergy of local churches?
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  • Rex Smith 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    Will the Bishops lead by giving up their lifetime appointment? What about ineffective bishops? What about churches who do all they can NOT to change and Pastors who get blamed?
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  • Jeffrey P 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    We would have very few bishops in the US if we got rid of the ineffective ones.
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