By Jessica Connor
COLUMBIA—The newly structured Conference Connectional Ministries held its first official meeting Feb. 11, drawing high optimism about the future from conveners and other leaders in the group.
I think we re off to a good start, said CCM Chair Cynthia Williams, citing strong participation from roughly 90 percent of the body s members.
For the first of its two required meetings for 2012, the CCM established its budget for 2013, which it will present to the conference Council on Finance and Administration. The $2.1 million proposed budget is a 0.3 percent increase above the 2012 budget.
The CCM also reviewed items that have come to it from the 12 District Connectional Ministries bodies, assigning many items to committees within the four ALDO ministry areas (Advocacy, Lay Leadership, Discipleship and Outreach).
Overall, CCM leaders said the meeting was highly successful, while acknowledging the difficulty of figuring out how to keep the connection alive in more than a thousand United Methodist churches from the mountains to the coast.
The Rev. Willie Teague, director of Connectional Ministries, said the transition can be complex: from the old CM structure, which was designed for big conference programming, to the new structure, which focuses on responding to the local church and district needs while providing some conference-wide programming.
As the new CCM begins its work and the DCMs are still getting into their rhythms, Williams said there is bound to be a little frustration.
Whenever anything is new it takes a minute, but in my feedback so far, the people have said, ˜This is shaping up for me. We have a better idea of what to do. We re moving in that direction, Williams said.
Ministry areas already hard at work
The Rev. Amiri Hooker, convener of the Advocacy ministry area, said he felt extremely positive about his group s work Feb. 11. Each of the ministry areas divided into separate, intensive conversation and work before gathering again as a whole at the end of the day.
The Advocacy area is planning module resources and other items for local churches to provide a clear definition about what it means to do advocacy in the UMC, as he said many are quite confused about what they should be doing.
It s a really happy group that jumped right in with ideas about what Advocacy could do early on, like setting up a database for programs statewide, and what they can be involved with, Hooker said. We agreed as a group we would do some type of hands-on training. We are really excited about that.
While still early in the process, overall Hooker feels the new structure is definitely going to come together and do great things for the conference as a whole.
The local church s voice can be heard, Hooker said, citing how they have already gotten input from individual local churches, which impresses him deeply. I ve been around the table now 12 years, and that was first time I heard someone say, ˜This is what s going on in my local church.
Joe Heyward, Lay Leadership convener, said their area s meeting was very productive.
It got us to the point where we have a good idea of what we will need in the future to go along with what we already have, Heyward said.
For him, the biggest challenge is that with only two scheduled meetings for 2012, he does not want anything to fall through the cracks.
It s new, and it s going to be a challenge, Heyward said. But it s a good start.
Rhonda Jones, Outreach convener, said her area also was productive and went well.
People shared from their district what the concerns were, and in some cases they took action already, Jones reported.
The Rev. Kristen Richardson-Frick, Discipleship convener, said her group engaged in productive discussion about how they can be strategic in their area. With a focus including children, youth, young adults, higher education, worship, evangelism and more, a clear vision for Discipleship is still evolving. Richardson-Frick said the bulk of the area s work will likely be done by individual committees who can be more specific about their issues. Some of these committees are already hard at work, while some are still in prayer and discernment.
We re not there yet, Richardson-Frick said. But this is the beginning of something very new, and we have a learning curve.
Full legal compliance expected
Meanwhile, the four defects the UMC s top court found in the structure are largely remedied, Teague said.
At their Oct. 28 meeting, members of the Judicial Council ruled that South Carolina s plan does not comply with Paragraphs 610 and 614.3 of the Book of Discipline and Judicial Council Decision 1147. The deficiencies “ which Teague called a quick fix “ involve failure to link youth council and young adult ministries with the new Conference Connectional Ministries, failure to adequately place the Commission on Archives and History under the CCM for programming purposes, and failure to clarify whether the conference secretary of Global Ministries is a member of that board.
At Annual Conference in June, the transition team will present for a vote changes to the structure plan to bring it into compliance. The plan will be submitted to the Judicial Council no later than 30 days following the close of the AC regular session.
Teague said the conference asked the Judicial Council whether it would review the plan at its spring meeting because the problems have already been addressed, but the council reiterated the full Annual Conference would need to vote on it in June before it was resubmitted to the council.
The CCM s next official meeting will be in October, though some of the ministry areas and their committees will meet prior to that. Check the Advocate for updates.