I am beginning here on page 4 of the item labeled “A – Legislation and Concept Proposal”
The focus here starts going to the global structure of the UMC. There are a lot of specifics here and that is of course good for a plan that seeks to change how we function, it does little to address many of my earlier concerns about what is actually global however. A good bit of the administrative duties are addressed and the inequality with many of them are even taken care of much to the credit of those who put the plan together.
“c. The agencies which the Global Connection defines as global shall be structured to fully serve all of the connections and shall establish boards of directors with members equitably distributed across all regions of the Global Connection.”
With the good however, the concerns still remain. The issues of the doctrinal matters of the church remain in the hands of 15 people appointed by a questionable connectional table, and that remains a concern to me personally and potentially sets up a situation where what we call sin could change geographically. I also have some budget questions that are not gone into thus far, and may honestly simply be because I do not fully understand how monies are distributed on the General Conference level currently. The Global Conference would be responsible for the global budget and the regions would be responsible for the regional budget. I would hope this means that additional monies are given to those regional connections that require it due to being in third world areas, etc. It is vital that the wealthier ares of the church help to support the ares of the church who are not as economically healthy. Again, I do not fully understand if this plan would change that. If it does, then I could not support it, but so long as it allows for that support then I have no issues in that regard.
The section dealing with the regional connections (North America, Europe, Africa, Asia) has several good things in it, but equally has several areas where I have concern.
“1. A United Methodist Connection shall be established in each of the following: Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Each connection shall focus on the church’s mission from the perspectives of the regions within the connection by understanding and addressing the contextual implications of nations, cultures, languages, and other important realities. ”
This statement on the surface sounds great and seems to give the regional connections the leeway they need to serve their people the best. I fully support that idea. The problem starts to arise when we start to delve into what “the contextual implications of nations, cultures, languages, and other important realities” ends up meaning in practice. Here in the US, we have seen numerous individuals refer to SSM and all that goes with it as a cultural issue, not a Biblical one. I have addressed those concerns previously in detail, so here will simply say again that any plan for the UMC that would allow sin to be defined by geography, the cultural heritage of the people in the church, etc. is a bad plan. I don’t know if this plan does that, but I see enough ambiguity in the language and no concrete answers as to the doctrine of the church and if it is to be global or regional.
“2. Each connection shall be responsible for: a. A connectional book of discipline b. Authorizing provisions within its connectional book of discipline to accommodate the specific needs of the regions within its purview c. Defining needs for the presence and roles of agencies within the connection d. Connectional-specific agencies: agency statements of purpose, accountability to agency statements of purpose, and sizes and make-up of connectional-specific agency boards of directors e. Number and boundaries of regions within the connection f. Episcopal matters: tenure, process of election, methods of assignment, retirement plans, itineracy, and standards of conduct g. Clergy standards: process for ordination, conference relationship, and clergy membership h. Financial matters: connection’s budget, pensions, distribution of funds to support regional conferences i. Legislation to the Global Connectional Conference regarding the Global Book of Discipline”
This paragraph deals with the responsibilities of the regional connections. I shall make any remarks by letter. A. Again, the same questions as to doctrine arise here. G. The clergy standards. Some control over the standards required of clergy most certainly should be regional, but the UMC as a whole has a responsibility to set minimum standards as well in order to protect the teaching of the church and her witness. I am concerned that there seems to be no way in this plan for that to occur. If that is the case, then here in America it becomes likely that the UMC would indeed authorize the ordination of “self avowed practicing homosexuals” to use our current language. That would be inline with my earlier concerns about those bringing the plan forward trying to change the teaching of the church by changing the organization of the church as opposed to changing it by lively (and yes, sometimes nasty) debate over scripture. That is a concern for me as anything that would fundamentally change the way that we, as a denomination, view any aspect of human sexuality, or sin and personal holiness for that matter, should be handled through scripture and not through reorganizing the bureaucracy. H. The financial matters that I mentioned earlier that I am not familiar with. So long as this allows for aid from the Global conference where necessary, then I have no issue, if it does not then I do. The global mission of the church can not be lost or compromised, and the sad reality is that sometimes that mission requires money. What follows after this is mainly organizational statements necessary, but nothing that substantially changes the function of the church, so I see no real reason to comment.
The financial implications are what come next, and in deed end this section. The final analysis of the cost of course can not be examined as we don’t know what would be approved, but we do know that there will be additional costs as there are required regional connection meetings every four years prior to the global connectional meeting. This will hurt the areas of the church not as economically blessed as we are here in America the worst. I fear that it may stretch already strained budgets even further. Given that our long term cost projections are not great currently, that is concerning. I do not see anything in this proposal that will offset that additional cost of added bureaucracy.
Coming soon…..the final opinion.