UMNS Report by Heather Hahn

By a vote of 567 to 384, the 2012 United Methodist General Conference gave tentative approval to a slightly amended version of “Plan UMC” to reconfigure general agencies and downsize their boards.

It will be up to the lawmaking assembly to give final approval after the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, reports on the plan’s financial implications.

[toggle title=”Plan UMC referred to the Judicial Council”]By Jay Voorhees

Plan UMC, the plan for restructuring of the United Methodist Church, was referred to the Judicial Council for review by a vote of 505 to 344 in regards to the constitutionality of the restructuring plan.

One of the critiques offered of the new plan is that it seems similar to the old General Council on Ministries structure that was discontinued with the creation of the current Connectional Table. The original legislation that created the General Council of Ministries was ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council, who stated that the constitution did not make provision for a single body to assume the authority reserved for the General Conference in guiding the work of the church.

There is no word on when Judicial Council will offer their ruling.[/toggle]

The May 2 vote follows days of ups and downs when at one point, it looked like General Conference might conclude without proposing any restructuring proposal.

General Conference amended the proposal to increase the representation of United Methodists in the central conference regions of Africa, Europe and Asia to about 30 percent on the boards of the four program agencies as well as the new General Council for Strategy and Oversight, which replaces the Connectional Table.

The amendment from a Liberian delegate had the support of those who drafted the compromise plan.

Here are some highlights of the approved plan:

  • Annual conferences would have more flexibility to organize as they see fit to promote vitality.
  • A General Council for Strategy and Oversight with 34 voting members will oversee the work of the denomination’s four program agencies — the Boards of Discipleship, Global Ministries, Church and Society, and Higher Education and Ministry. Those agencies would still have their own boards but be accountable to the general council.
  • The general council would have its own executive general secretary, with a maximum term of 12 years. That executive will be able to convene and evaluate the general secretaries who oversee the program boards.
  • It would also have authority to “withhold approval of any programs or activities that represent unnecessary duplication within an agency or between two or more agencies, or otherwise fail to meet established outcomes.”
  • The General Council for Finance and Administration would remain separate and collaborate on budget matters with the General Council for Strategy and Oversight.
  • The Board of Pension and Health Benefits, the United Methodist Publishing House, United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women would be separate agencies amenable to General Conference.
  • United Methodist Communications (which includes United Methodist News Service) would  be in the same position it is now — answering to General Conference, but its budget would be determined in consultation with the General Council on Finance and Administration and General Council for Strategy and Oversight.
  • The plan replaces the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History with a Committee on Archives and History. Its top executive would become an associate general secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration.
  • The plan replaces the churchwide Commissions on Religion and Race and Commission on the Status and Role of Women with a United Methodist Committee of Inclusiveness that reports to the proposed General Council for Strategy and Oversight.

The General Conference turned down earlier motions to maintain the denomination’s Commission on Religion and Race and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women. It also rejected motions that would have increased the Western Jurisdiction’s representation.

Many of those who worked on Plan UMC, who included proponents of both the original Call to Action legislation and Plan B alternative, had a look of relief and joy after the vote as they headed to lunch.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, a member of the Call to Action Interim Operations Team that developed the initial restructuring proposal, also expressed his excitement about what the vote Wednesday morning means for the church’s future. He is the senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., one of the denomination’s two largest congregations in the United States.

“We passed something that brings the general secretaries and the general boards working together more collaboratively … that was the thing that I was most interested in,” he told the Rev. Jay Voorhees. “Having an executive general secretary who is captain of this team, helping them work together to help us create more vital congregations around the world — that I feel really good about.”

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

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