Oh snap! Attached is a press release from a caucus coalition that has offered a faithful alternative to the business-based reorganization proposed by the Call To Action.
I think it is important and addresses some concerns that Hacking Christianity has examined before. For example, we were concerned about appeals to executive authority. The counter-proposal below replaces a 15-person executive board with five 33-person boards that represent the diversity of our church in better less-tokenizing ways. It still represents a 66% reduction in the current boards and overall board costs are similarly streamlined.
It comes with a website www.mfsagc12.org that outlines the proposals and has some graphs showing how it represents the UMC in more holistic ways. If people blog about them and link back, I’ll include your thoughts in a write-up later this week or early next week.
Full disclosure: I am a submitted co-signer for the legislation presented by this Coalition. Yep, not all bloggers just opine away, some actually do something.
More later. Just wanted to get the conversation started.
United Methodists React to 15 People
Overseeing the Agencies of a 12 Million Member Church
Methodist Caucus Proposes Reorganization Alternative
One of the largest mainline denominations in the United States is warming up for a major power struggle at its United Methodist General Conference in the Spring of 2012.
Leaders from the Methodist Federation for Social Action responded to the official “Call to Action” plan because of its radical restructuring of the church. The Call to Action proposal would distil nine of the thirteen church-wide agencies into one, replacing more than 500 volunteer board members with a single board comprised of fifteen people to oversee the agencies of a twelve-million member denomination on five continents.
In response to this extreme proposal, the Methodist Federation for Social Action is holding a telephone press conference to launch an alternative restructure approach. MFSA’s plan reduces the number of agencies from thirteen to nine and establishes four program ‘Centers’ each with a thirty-three member board.
The telephone press conference will be held at Noon (Eastern Time) November 9, (605) 477-3000 code 774241#.
“Officials responsible for proposing a fifteen member oversight body simply failed to come up with a reasonable proposal,” said Rev. Steve Clunn, MFSA Coalition Coordinator. The MFSA plan with four ministry ‘Centers,’ each with its own independent board of 33 people, would have a manageable amount of ministry and fiduciary responsibility. The MFSA plan is a far better and more reasonable approach to reducing the size of our current structure.”
“One of the most disappointing aspects of the Call to Action proposal is the lack of attention given to our brothers and sisters in Africa, Europe, and The Philippines,” said Tracy Merrick, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh. “The United Methodist Church is a world-wide church. General Conference meets once every four years to make policy for the whole church, not just for the United States. Although over 36% of the members of the UMC live outside the United States, with the Call to Action proposal the central conferences would only be allocated 11% of the seats on the proposed General Council for Strategy and Oversight. The formula for the remaining seats includes a bias that favors the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the US. Even though the Southeastern Jurisdiction has 24 % of the members of the UMC, it would be allocated more seats than all of the central conferences combined. This approach isn’t consistent with our democratic heritage, it isn’t inclusive of the entire denomination, and it isn’t helpful in growing our church.”
“Essential monitoring roles around issues of race, ethnicity and gender would be drastically diminished under ‘Call to Action,’ proposal” said Jill Warren, Executive Director of MFSA. “The two agencies tasked with monitoring the church around discrimination would lose their independence within a super-sized agency that would try to monitor itself. The proposed board of 15 people would virtually eliminate our representative leadership. It painfully reveals that the church needs an independent voice that speaks to issues of race, ethnicity and gender—perhaps now, more than ever.”
Don Hayashi, President of the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM ) said, “The MFSA plan respects the diverse nature of our global church, the leadership of women who comprise the vast majority of people sitting in the pews, and people of different ethnicities and colors whose representation has been a treasured and valuable part of this denomination.”
MFSA will hold webinars and make presentations across the country leading up to the April 24-May 4 General Conference, where both proposals will be under consideration.
For more information about the MFSA plan “A New United Methodist Administrative Order” plus how it compares to the current structure and the “Call to Action” proposal, please visit the website: www.mfsagc12.org.
MFSA: Over 100 years of progressive United Methodists
connecting with one another and turning their faith into action
Media Contacts: Steve Clunn, MFSA, 518.879.6737
I could almost agree with your structure, but the idea of giving GBCS more power and more money when they already go out of their way to offend half the denomination on a daily basis is a non-starter.
I think the importance of the proposal is to move the establishment’s proposal closer to the Methodist middle. What comes from GC will undoubtedly be a mixture of these proposals and thus I’m happy with the conversation.
I am one of the drafters of this legislation. MFSA is not going to draft legislation that diminishes the role of GBCS or proposes a role that would have GBCS not offend people. We view the Wesleyan call to social holiness and his example of living a life in ministry with the poor and marginalized–social action–as an intrinsic part of what it is to be United Methodist. These are values that GBCS is charged with embodying.
It is part of the nature of life that a prophetic social witness will offend. If it doesn’t, it isn’t being prophetic. Part of being prophetic is drawing attention to the injustices of society and the world. Pointing out injustice is inherently controversial. It involves raising awareness of divisiveness that exists beneath the surface and that those in power generally do not want to recognize or acknowledge (think of the equal rights of women in the first half of the 20th century or civil rights in the middle part, both of which offended a great number of people).
A church with a prophetic social witness will always offend, thus, offending people is an intrinsic part of what it is to be Wesleyan and Methodist.
I don’t know that I would call GBCS ‘prophetic’, ‘Wesleyan’, or ‘Methodist’. I generally find GBCS to take positions that are at odds with faithful Bible believing members of my church. GBCS seems to also take positions that have to do more with modern liberalism than any type of adherence to a Biblical call to godly living and social holiness.
I also like the idea of counter-proposals to the other plan, especially one that eliminates the uber-bishop (or whatever it’s called) role it envisions.
I can’t get behind an expanded role for GBCS (under whatever name) at all but especially not with separate GCORR and GCOSRW agencies to boot — I can’t imagine what reconciliation we need to be doing that doesn’t have racial or gender dimensions and I can’t conceive of anything the current groups do that requires their elevation to a separate “general commission” status apiece. And I don’t think that reducing “witness” to one third of the work of one agency helps us much in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Of course, none of the plans I’ve heard kicked around officially or otherwise address the fact that we’ve got a system in place that rarely changes in less than eight years and literally can’t change in less than four trying to run a church in a world that moves far, far faster than that. Whether Methosaurus is left- or right-brained won’t matter much when the asteroid hits.
Having GCORR and GCOSROW as separate commissions is not an “elevation.” They already are separate commissions; we simply propose retaining them as such. We decided to make that a feature of our proposal because it was felt that the monitoring functions they have are functions that apply to the entire denomination and they can best be done via existing apart from other agencies and reporting to independent boards of directors. Being folded into another agency and reporting to a single agency’s board could make it difficult for them to operate independently, to relate with other agencies, and could expose them to retribution from their parent agency if their evaluation of that agency ever turned out negative. Being folded into another agency would mean reporting to some of the very people they are monitoring.
As for the reconciliation part of Justice, Reconciliation and Witness, any work addressing injustices committed against a group of people involves reconciliation in order to right the wrong. MLK expressed this well when, instead presenting a vision of a world where black Americans rose up to have power over white people, he presented a vision of black and white living together in peace, equality, and brotherly love for each other. Additionally, work in the area of racism is not the exclusive domain of GCORR. Racism is often an intrinsic part of many injustices (economic injustice, environmental injustice, etc.), and when GBGM or GBCS address things like poverty, they often must also address racism.
Paul Fleck (@PaulAndrewFleck)
I can understand wanting to preserve the traditional role of GBCS, of which I am definitely in favor, but I am rather perplexed that we would want to turn over the traditional disciple-making role (witness) to GBCS. While it seems that witnessing is an important part of making justice, you can witness to a number of other aspects of life as a Christian to others as well. Why in the world would we fold this important role of the GBOD into GBCS? I am in favor of retaining GBOD’s role in the Congregational Development arm, but would also recognize the importance of taking the message outside the “walls” of the church, and not just engage in congregational navel gazing. Am I missing something here, Jeremy?
Paul, you misunderstand part of the proposal. Including witness in our social action agency does not mean taking discipleship away from GBOD or Congregational Development. Disciple-making is part of the mission of the UMC and it should cross the lines of much of what we do (it already exists in both GBOD and GBGM). This plan would involve thinking of social action also in terms of discipleship; a good phrase that better captures the combination of the two is “social witness.” In other words, our ministries of advocacy and with the poor and marginalized are also a way of living out our gospel faith. We shouldn’t think of discipleship and social action as opposite sides of a coin; discipleship crosses boundaries.
Paul Fleck (@PaulAndrewFleck)
Thanks for the clarification, Kevin. I agree with you that our witnessing should cut across agencies. I worry that if it’s everybody’s job, though, it’s nobody’s job and will fall by the wayside.
I am intrigued by some of the thoughts behind this counter proposal, but some of the issues are the same things General Conference has been struggling with for years. In your attempt to be representative of the diversity of the UM church, you lean more toward a “Senate” type of representation and less toward a “House of Representatives” form. for the small conferences & smaller groups this is a win. For the larger conferences and larger groups, your proposal means that my voice as a member of the North Georgia annual conference and the SE jurisdiction is worth less than those of other conferences and jurisdictions. A representative from the SE jurisdiction will represent more (and sometimes a whole lot more) people than the other representatives.
These arguments have been hashed out at the last two general conferences as well. Also, the idea of making the US a central conference has also been discussed and defeated for the same reasons above.
I like the idea behind the four areas but feel like some more discussion could be made about what the final structure will look like.
One last thing that disturbed me was the swipe made at the SE Jursidiction made in the article above.
One last big question – and I truly want to know the answer to this – How will your proposal change the way we make disciples and transform the world? What will it mean for all United Methodists, not just the ones that are a part of this coalition.
Thanks for bringing all of this up. I love reading your blog posts. Thanks and God Bless