UMC: IOT report and Call To Action Implementations

Here we go. The Connectional Table, the most influential committee in the United Methodist Church, has endorsed the proposals of the Interim Operations Team. The top executive Mary Brooke Casad blogs about it this past week:

Actions taken by the Connectional Table during its July 27-28, 2011 meeting in Nashville, Tenn. have sent a ripple across The United Methodist Church. Members voted to support recommendations made by the Call to Action – Interim Operations Team that put in place the first steps for changing denominational processes and structures. I believe when United Methodists look back in time at the 2008-2012 quadrennium, we will see it as one of the most pivotal moments in our denomination’s history.

There is a full powerpoint (PDF) of the recommendations, and Casad outlines them for us, but here’s the basics with my obnoxious commentary:

  1. $60 million will be reallocated from the 2012-1016 UMC budget to fulfill the ends of the Call To Action changes.
    •  That’s a TON of money from already cut agencies. And yet we expect fruitfulness without financing? Amazing.  To its credit, the first $5m will go to youth outreach, second $5m to central conference education. Approval with a shudder from me.
  2. There will be a full resolution put forward to eliminate Guaranteed Appointment to clear the logjam of “ineffective” clergy. Although such abilities already lie in the Discipline, it will either be given more teeth or more clarity.
    • I’m one of the few clergy I’ve talked to who isn’t afraid of losing guaranteed appointment, but I have a lot of privilege (young, white, male, straight, seminary-educated, full connection) that others do not.
  3. Casad: “Ten of the agencies would be consolidated as the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry governed by a Board of Directors comprised of 15 people and elected by an Advisory Board (the name of the Advisory Board is not yet determined). The Advisory Board shall be composed of 45 people who represent the diversity and inclusiveness of the UMC. The Center for Connectional Mission & Ministry will be led by an Executive General Secretary elected by the Board of Directors.”
    • So the agencies will be shrunk and their specialized leadership relegated to a committee. Again, we expect fruitfulness without adequate staffing? Do these people not understand logistics? Or will the Office of Shared Services know how to handle everything logistical from these agencies with the same efficiency they’ve done with the ghettoized UM Advance? Not likely.
  4. UM Publishing House and Pension/Health Benefits will do a joint…..snooze…..something about optimizing business models.
    • I’m glad people who understand that are on that committee. I support and pray for such people as it is so far out of my comfort zone. I’m being flippant but I honestly appreciate such people who are on the actual business end of the church.
  5. Denominational-wide analysis by a task force that will examine AC budgets and report results while sharing best practices.
    • Dashboards and metrics! If I weren’t a Methodist I’d bet you a dollar we’ll have a national website showing which ACs grow the most, spend the most, and love Jesus the most on a monthly basis! Such a odd focus for a church that began with Judas in charge of the finances…

So this is the most concrete proposal yet based on the CTA: dedicating money to these initiatives, restructuring the global UMC bodies, giving power to bishops and expecting them to remove non-fruitful pastors so that their churches could become vital (because surely it’s because of the pastor), and financial strong-arming of annual conferences/agencies.

I actually agree with Casad: this is a pivotal moment when the church gave up its discernment to business-based consultants to conform to business culture and values rather than the counter-cultural values of the Kingdom. Sure, they will overlap in some areas to give legitimacy, but the focuses are completely different:

  • Businesses exist to perpetuate themselves
  • the Church exists to empty itself…and yet seems to perpetuate in spite of its silly extravagant focus on others.

Thoughts? What do you see or not see? Questions as you read the powerpoint? Post them below!

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  1. says

    Some questions that this raises for me.

    -How do we define “low performing clergy?” This conjures up images of what is going on in a lot of states in education. Teachers jobs are now tied to test scores. Will pastor’s jobs be tied to Dashboard numbers?

    -I agree with you Jeremy, how can we expect agencies to be fruitful when we cut them down to the nub?

    -Also, can all these agencies be reconciled together without losing the essence of each? You can’t take a branch from an orange tree and graft it to an apple tree and expect to get either apples or oranges.

    I wasn’t at the meeting and probably missed out on a lot of detail, but this leaves me with more questions than answers.

  2. says

    I’m glad the UMC is taking steps to address inefficiency, realignment of goals and measurable outcomes, but a culture change this big is not going to happen overnight [or in a few years]. It’s going to take a process of everyone buying in and actually getting with the program. And the point about “Appointments should be made based on proven performance and potential for achieving the desired outcomes”–I thought that’s what we were doing all along, aligning gifts and graces so that we set up our clergy for succes. The flip side of that: though it’s necessary to have performance indicators, I wonder how much we’re moving in the direction of No Child Left Behind types of an achievement-reward system.

    I would also like to see:
    -Current and newly-aligned agencies using cloud-based tools.
    -Someone re-brand the Vital Congregations site []! It makes me depressed just looking at it.
    -A universal dashboard. We should look to the NPOs and NGOs who are already doing this work. There are solutions that we could adopt/adapt.

    Lastly–bring more of the laity in who have gifts that the church isn’t using. And have a plan for them. Lay people were mentioned twice: Once in reference to $5 million being allocated to young people’s lay leadership development and once listing laity under the Office of Leadership Excellence. Frustrates the heck out of me. USE US PLEASE.

    The end. Thanks for this post.

  3. says

    I have some significant concerns with this report as young people’s ministries are not mentioned…The argument has been that young people are included everywhere, but I think if a group isn’t mentioned (especially young people), they tend to be forgotten….

  4. Tom says

    I’d agree with Ed — If you get rid of guaranteed appointment are you essentially getting rid of the Board of Ordained Ministry. Can you be an Elder and not have an appointment? Would you still be part of the Annual Conference? Eliminate minimum salary and all the issues go away.

    My biggest complaint is that this seems to be almost entirely an top down solution and experience from the secular world is that top down solutions don’t work well. The strength of the Methodist Movement was always in the laity (probably every church movement). How is this proposal empowering the laity?



  5. says

    Would someone care to explain to me how doing away with minimum salary will “make all of the problems go away”? Doing away with guaranteed appointment is also not the “magic pill” that some believe it to be. Just like ineffective teachers with tenure can be dismissed with proper documentation, ineffective pastors can be removed following procedures that already exist within The Discipline. It just takes District Superintendents and Bishops with the intestinal fortitude to follow those procedures instead of passing the “bad” pastors along to another (and in some cases) better appointment.

    • Tom says

      Thanks all of for your comments. First, I would suggest that you read the Ministry Study report: I think it is more compelling in presenting the reasons for eliminating the guaranteed appointment.

      Some clarification: the proposed legislation not only recommends the elimination of a guaranteed appointment, but also the guarantee of a full-time appointment. The legislation also calls for the monitoring of bishops in appointment-making to preserve historic protections of women and persons of color (which is why we have the guaranteed appointment in the first place).

      Speaking as a DS, the cabinet I work with has the intestinal fortitude, but we also need documentation in addition to guts. Although there are steps to exit ineffective pastors, it is extremely difficult to exit pastors for a variety of reasons, especially SPRCs who are often just too nice to say anything bad about their pastors. Also, exiting pastors requires documentation that can take years to accumulate–even if you do it correctly–and in the meantime, several churches can be devastated by weak pastoral leadership that must be paid a full-time salary..

      And we cannot ignore the economic issue: there are about 800 more elders in the US part of our church than there are places for them. That’s something like 50 to 60 million dollars that the denomination just does not have.

      But the deeper issue is placing the emphasis on the mission of the church in appointment-making rather than clergy needs for employment. Hypothetical example: there is neighborhood that has a rapidly growing population of people who speak a language other than English. There is a wonderful bilingual local pastor who speaks that language and is willing to work missionally with that non-English language group while still taking care of the declining English congregation that is in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there is an elder in full connection who only speaks English who has to have a job. The bishop and cabinet are obliged to appoint that elder because of the guaranteed appointment. A missional opportunity is lost, or at least made much more difficult.

      Retaining the guaranteed appointment will signal the further demise of the UMC, not only financially, but also missionally.

      Thanks for the opportunity to share. Blessings to you.

  6. says

    I agree with Wayne. We already have procedures for assisting and appropriately dealing with ineffective pastors. If we’d first use the proper measurements to assess effectiveness, then use the policies outlined in the BOD when the situation calls for it, this conversation would be unnecessary. Since we already have these procedures in place, what is the real purpose of these proposed changes? I appreciated Jeremy’s list of privilege mentioned in his comment about guaranteed appointments. This needs to be considered, especially as we continue to place numbers as our highest priority (regardless of what we say). We have several conferences/bishops who believe young clergy are the key to bringing in young families, and that young families are the key to overcoming our membership decline. In those conferences, clergy over 50 can be vulnerable. Ageism among clergy is being talked about more and more. I would also worry about those clergy who take stands against injustice, work for health care reform, host discussions on Immigration, publicly oppose the death penalty, welcome LGBT people, fight racism and sexism. In some conferences clergy are vulnerable simply because they feel called to stand up to forms of oppression that others in their congregations and/or conferences don’t see as needing to be change. Eliminating guaranteed appointments would put these clergy at an even greater risk (depending on the location and circumstances, of course.) I have concerns regarding other parts of the Call to Action report, but I’ll shut up for now.

  7. JC says

    What you are missing here is the focus on the local church. Consolidating agencies and cutting apportionemnts frees money to go back to work in the local church. Local churches will have more money for mission outreach, hopefully leading to greater vitality. Do you really expect a large cumbersome beauracracy to lead us to vitality? Friends, the local church is the primary arena for carrying out the mission of the church – making disciples. I dont think our boards and agencies – isolated and redundant in nature as they are – are capable of leading this change. It has to come from the ground up, but this new structure may give us the freedom to move forward. The question is, will General Conference have the courage to make these or other changes that will actually free up the local church to lead us in a new and healthier direction, to become that personal and social holiness movement that is truly giving itself in mission to the world.

  8. says

    Jeremy, what a GREAT line you wrote here: “this is a pivotal moment when the church gave up its discernment to business-based consultants to conform to business culture and values rather than the counter-cultural values of the Kingdom.” Amen and amen to that, brother!

  9. Ron McDougald says

    You know you are in trouble when the ‘head’ of this report is the daughter of a Bishop and the wife of a UM pastor….who is kidding who…this is all about maintaining the status quo for ever diminishing denomination…What ever happened to outside consultants….if we are going to follow a business model let’s do it right…let’s ask people without the power, or heritage to tell us where we are and where we are going….

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