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Restructuring: what’s next?

By Jessica Connor

Work has begun on a new district-level structure for Connectional Ministries designed to better equip local churches and increase connectionalism conference-wide.

Approved at Annual Conference, the new structure will create a District Council of Connectional Ministries in each of the 12 districts. Overseen by the district superintendent and that district’s congregational specialist, each DCCM will comprise four separate areas of ministry (discipleship, advocacy, outreach and lay leadership). Those four ministry areas will each comprise six to 10 members appointed by the district superintendent, congregational specialist and district lay leader, for a total of 36-40 DCCM members.

The idea is that each DCCM will be more connected to the local church and more able to equip local churches than the current structure, said the Rev. Willie Teague, director of Connectional Ministries.

Now, Connectional Ministries staff is getting to work on the next step: creating a viable system for the DCCM launch.

Staff is focusing on two things immediately: one, working with each district’s superintendent, congregational specialist and lay leader, who must appoint the four areas’ six to 10 members sometime between now and mid-September. Two, staff is determining how to conduct organization and training of the 12 new DCCMs, which will occur in a full day sometime during October or November, so the DCCM will be ready to begin work in January.

Teague called the new structure “the right direction” for the conference, and he is eager to begin work. The DCCM will be able to identify, understand and address local church concerns more effectively than the current system, he said.

As for the Conference Council of Connectional Ministries, the rough outline of its similar restructuring was approved at Annual Conference, but a vote on the full restructuring will come next year. Conference delegates authorized creation of a Committee on Transition, which will be developed by CCCM Chair Earline Ulmer early this fall. Before Annual Conference 2011, the Committee on Transition will address how to shift the old CCCM structure to the new one and ensure it is legal – that is, it complies with the Book of Discipline and the rulings of the Judicial Council.

If Annual Conference 2011 approves the CCCM restructuring, the DCCMs will then send two representatives from each of the four areas to sit on the CCCM, plus as many as six additional members per area based on need for diversity or expertise. This would be a total of 24-30 discipleship, 24-30 advocacy, 24-30 outreach and 24-30 lay leadership members, two from each district, hence a grand total of more than 96 representative district and area members all sitting together on the CCCM.

Currently, the CCCM has a conference-driven programming structure reliant on direction from boards and agencies, not local churches, Teague said. The CCCM comprises board and agency representatives, district superintendents, an additional representative from each district and some ex officio members.

The concern is how to phase out the current council and phase in the new one – and when. Representatives are appointed for a quadrennium, and there is a question about at what point the conference can legally end an old structure and begin a new one.

“Do we do it in Annual Conference 2012, when the quadrennium ends, or Annual Conference 2011 or January 1, 2012?” Teague asked.

Work by the Committee on Transition will answer this question, which will be voted on at Annual Conference 2011 – six months after the DCCMs have begun work.

“Any kind of restructuring in the Annual Conference must be consistent with the Discipline and the judicial decisions,” said the Rev. Ted Walters, retired minister who served on the Judicial Council. “The connection must be maintained …  But I believe what Willie [Teague] put together does not pose a conflict.”

Ulmer said she is excited about the restructuring because she thinks it will provide opportunities for local churches and districts to connect even more strongly with the conference.

“When I initially started working with the conference many, many years ago, I was somewhat disappointed when I realized the structure did not connect,” Ulmer said. “I felt with boards and agencies, there were persons from each district on the board, but there was no responsibility to go back to the district. With this new structure, I see the responsibility to provide that kind of connection.

“That’s something that can afford us many possibilities to be the kind of connectional church we say we are.”

Photo by Matt Brodie

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