By Jessica Connor
A set-aside bishop. A General Council for Strategy and Oversight. Whether 13 agencies will morph into nine. Whether oversight of the church will rest in the hands of 600 or 45 or 150.
Does any of this really impact me at the local church level? In my faith journey to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world and in my community, do I really need to care?
The short answer: absolutely yes.
About a month from now, nearly 1,000 delegates from all over the world, including 18 from South Carolina, will gather in Tampa, Fla., to debate and determine United Methodist Church law for the next four years. And while the swirl of new church jargon and the politics of proposed legislation can be dizzying and downright overwhelming, knowing about the issues our church faces “ and understanding their consequences “ is important.
Take the proposed new church structure, for example. An article on page 6 details the current structure, one piece of legislation to fix that structure (less bureaucracy, a set-aside bishop) and an alternative just coming on the scene: UMC Plan B.
It s complicated and difficult, yes. And for some, perhaps it is tempting to look at the global changes as far away and distant, not relevant to what is happening in Hartsville or Greenwood or Ridgeville.
But it is relevant. If the Connectional Table s legislation passes as-is and we have a set-aside bishop speaking in a single voice for the denomination, we need to understand the benefits this could have for us “ and the consequences. What that bishop says about the church can drastically impact the evangelism we do in our neighborhoods and communities, for better or for worse.
Likewise, if General Conference passes a budget that is so vastly smaller than what we re used to, it could have deep effect on our chosen ministry, the finances of our local church “ and the finances of our Annual Conference.
Beginning with the July 2011 edition when we first ran the lineup of General Conference delegates, onto September 2011, when we began publishing the Rev. Kathy James column, General/Jurisdictional Conference & You, the Advocate has been trying hard to educate people about the importance of the quadrennial gathering and understand the issues our church is facing. Through the event itself, our issues will be packed with helpful and interesting information designed to build awareness and make the event relevant to people from the smallest church in this state to the largest.
So read about it, learn about it, and let us know what else we can do to help make General Conference and its issues more applicable to your life.
After all, in the words of the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, what happens in Tampa does not stay in Tampa.