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A better connection

New structure ready for final review

By Jessica Connor

A new plan to help make Connectional Ministries even more connected is now ready for final review.

The new structure for Connectional Ministries completely changes the old model, which features a huge Conference Council of Connectional Ministries responsible for connecting local churches with the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church. The proposed new model would create a smaller entity renamed the Conference Connectional Ministries, comprising representatives from each of the 12 new District Connectional Ministries bodies. The DCM model was approved at the 2010 Annual Conference.

The Rev. Willie Teague, Connectional Ministries director, said the new structure will be better organized, better managed and ultimately more connectional.

Not only will there be greater opportunity for dialogue, but there will be actual physical connections among the various levels: local churches, districts, annual conference and general conference agencies,  Teague said. We are already seeing that realized in the DCMs as they seek to establish connections with each church in their districts; there is much energy around these efforts in the DCMs. I believe we will experience the same interest and level of energy as the Conference Connectional Ministries begins our work. 

Teague added that the new structure should move us from a hierarchical ministry structure to a peer or collegial structure. 

The final draft of the plan culminates months of legal and practical review, including comments and edits from individuals alongside the bodies tasked to perfect it.

On March 8, the Transition Team for the new structure met to consider changes suggested by individuals, the conference s Ministry Advisory Team and the CCCM, the latter which endorsed the draft March 5. Individuals across the state had been able to review the document via the conference website beginning in December and send comments directly to Teague.

Earline Ulmer, chair of the transition team, feels strongly that the new structure will improve connectionalism, both in theory and on a practical level.

I think this process is something that has been missing,  Ulmer said of the new plan. I have been involved with conference programming for a very long time, and I was somewhat disappointed when I realized there was no structure in place that allowed the local churches to connect with their districts and with the districts to the conference. 

She said local churches will be able to truly connect with the conference and have opportunity to express their concerns and needs “ and get some of the training they need.

Now, as the Advocate went to press on this edition, the final draft was heading to the Conference Secretary for inclusion in pre-conference materials and will be placed on the website shortly (www.umcsc.org) so people can view it and fully understand what they will be voting on in June.

The new structure also will be among other major Annual Conference items discussed at May training sessions held in all 12 districts in the state.  (See sidebar on this page for dates, times and locations.)

Two major changes “ timing and term of service

The final draft includes two major changes, plus fixes a host of minor typos and rewordings.

Timing of the implementation is the most significant change.

The original draft of the restructuring called for the Annual Conference to approve the new structure this June and then, if approved, implement it next year following Annual Conference 2012.

But why do we need to wait a full 16 months from now to implement a process when the frame was approved in 2010?  Teague said, describing the consensus of those requesting the change. We re already in a transition state, and to extend an additional 12 months puts us in limbo. That s just not good. 

The Transition Team settled on a compromise: Instead of immediate implementation if the structure is approved this June, the structure would be implemented in June followed by six months of organizing, training and dialogue between the old and new bodies so there is a seamless transition with no break in momentum.

It would be six months of parallel structure,  Teague said.

The new body would be organizing and training alongside the existing body, which would give oversight and training while still being able to act on the work needing to be accomplished. The new body would then be ready to act in January 2012.

After all, the existing CCCM has identified and will continue to identify various priorities, and with the new body training alongside the old, new CCM members will be able to understand those priorities and ensure they will continue.

It s creating continuity in the changeover from one to the next,  Teague said.

The other significant change is term of service for members of the DCM, which will now be the same as the CCM: limited to two successive quadrenniums, with the member then off the body for a full quadrennium before he or she can go back on. Before, there was no limit set for DCM service.

The Rev. Ted Walter, a member of the Transition Team who also served for years on the Judicial Council, said the plan is consistent with Paragraph 610 of the Book of Discipline and with Judicial Decision 1147, which deal with permissible structures.

The Discipline requires the connectional link in our system; it is essential to the church being as it is; existing,  Walter said. The strength of this plan is its focus on linking local churches with districts, and districts with the conference, and the conference with general agencies, and I think it does that very effectively. 

Walter said not only does the plan get the job done,  but likely will cost the conference less money in travel and other expenses because fewer people would be on the new bodies.

Misconceptions

Teague said the biggest misconception about the new structure is that existing committees will simply go away; that is not true in the least.

I think it s critical for folks to know we are not eliminating the committees; we are just grouping them into four ministry areas and reducing them in size,  Teague said. The Board of Church and Society will continue to exist. The Board of Education will continue to exist. 

The one committee that will no longer be part of Connectional Ministries is the Committee on Pastoral Care and Counseling, which will be moved back to the Board of Ordained Ministry, where it originated.

Teague hopes everyone will fully understand the new structure by the time it comes before the Annual Conference for a vote in June.

The proposal calls for the new structure to be evaluated during 2016 and recommendations for needed changes be brought to the annual conference,  Teague said. This is critical because structure needs to change as needs at all levels of ministry change. The emphasis must be upon an effective ministry of ˜making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, not upon structure. A conference structure is effective to the extent that it facilitates our ministry with Christ at all levels of the UMC. 

Walter agrees: By involving the local church and the District Connectional Ministries with the Conference Connectional Ministries, there is a stre
ngthened relationship between the entities in accomplishing the goals of making disciples for Jesus Christ. And that s what we re supposed to be about. 

Anyone with questions is encouraged to call Teague at 888-678-6272 or e-mail him at wsteague@umcsc.org.

 

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