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Judicial Council to rule on new structure

By Jessica Connor

The United Methodist Church’s top court will rule this month whether South Carolina’s new Connectional Ministries structure complies with church law.

Last fall, the Judicial Council ruled that the S.C. Conference plan did not comply with paragraphs 610 and 614.3 of the Book of Discipline and Judicial Council Decision 1147. The deficiencies, which have been 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.

Members of the transition team spent several months bringing the structure into full compliance, and Annual Conference approved the changes in June.

The changes were sent to the Judicial Council, who will hear the matter as part of its fall docket when they meet Oct. 24-27.

“We’re hopeful that they will receive the information and will conclude that our structure is in line with the Discipline,” said the Rev. Kathy James, director of Connectional Ministries. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t. … A new slate of persons was elected to the Judicial Council at General Conference, so I have no idea how that will impact things, but from our perspective, we have corrected the things they identified as defects and brought our structure in line.”

“I really don’t think there is much to worry about,” said the Rev. Tim Rogers, former conference secretary and member of the transition team, pointing out that these are merely a few deficiencies. “The essential plan was approved.”

Dr. Ted Walter agreed, saying he feels the needed changes have been responded to appropriately.

“Unless there are other issues they determine or discover, then it should be approved (by the Judicial Council),” Walter said.

‘Great potential’

Meanwhile, the conference has been working for two years within the new structure for Connectional Ministries.

The 2010 Annual Conference approved the framework for the new structure, authorizing the creation of 12 new District Connectional Ministries bodies. The 12 DCMs encompass four separate areas of ministry: ALDO, or Advocacy, Lay Leadership, Discipleship and Outreach. Each area has six to 10 members apiece, for a total of 36-40 DCM members per district, all responsible for connecting the district and the local church in their ministry area.

The 2011 Annual Conference took the next step, establishing the creation of the CCM, which comprises representatives from each of the 12 DCMs. The CCM is a streamlined, smaller version of the old Conference Council of Connectional Ministries that attempts to link local churches with districts, conference, General Church and myriad boards and agencies in an organic way instead of a “top-down” manner.

Two years in, the new structure is exactly where James expected: in a state of normal transition.

“It’s a healthy mess – like when you rearrange your room and clean out the closet at the same time,” James explained. “If you walk into the room before you’ve finished and put things in their proper place, it looks like a mess, but it’s because you’re changing things. That’s where we are: cleaning out closets and rearranging furniture.”

She said it might take a year before people will really be able to see the large-scale effects of the new structure, but on a smaller-scale, much good work is already being done.

“Districts are really doing things that they might not have been able to do before, and now they have a place to share that story across the conference,” James said.

The CCM will meet Oct. 6 at Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC in Columbia.  Look for coverage of that meeting, as well as reporting on the top court’s decision, in future editions of the Advocate.

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