By Jessica Connor
This month, United Methodists across the state will have the chance to review a draft of the new Connectional Ministries structure.
The draft will be posted on the conference website, www.umcsc.org, sometime during the first week of December. It culminates extensive work done by a transition team to ensure the new structure meets standards of the Book of Discipline and judicial rulings before it ultimately goes to the 2011 Annual Conference for approval in June.
People are urged to visit the site, review the draft and make comments through early January.
“We’re in a good place – the structure is much better defined and more fully developed than I thought it would be at this time,” said Connectional Ministries Director the Rev. Willie Teague, praising the diligent work of the transition team, which he said was 100 percent involved and active in the process. “The team fleshed it out in ways I’d not anticipated.”
The new structure completely changes the old model, which featured a large Conference Council of Connectional Ministries responsible for connecting local churches with the conference. The cumbersome size and the lack of direct district components hindered action and often impeded connectionalism, Teague said.
The proposed new model would create a smaller, 100-member 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 12 DCMs encompass four separate areas of ministry (discipleship, advocacy, outreach and lay leadership), with 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 DCMs began meeting this fall and will begin official work in January.
If the new CCM structure is approved, then the DCMs will send two representatives from each of the four areas to sit on the CCM, plus as many as six additional members per area based on need for diversity or expertise.
The goal is to create a streamlined structure that enables the local church to connect with the district and then with the conference, and vice versa. With roughly a quarter-million United Methodists in the state, a more streamlined and efficient structure is critical, Teague said.
“One of the tensions for the transition team is we are trying to facilitate ministry, and the Discipline does not always make that easy,” said Congregational Specialist the Rev. Kathy James, ex officio member of the team. “There is a desire to be faithful to the Discipline that we live by and also to make the structure fluid enough to respond to the challenges facing the church today. We hope what we end up with is going to make that possible.”
Teague and the transition team encourage people to comment on the new structure and any unforeseen flaws.
“I really hope people will send us a lot of feedback prior to conference so we can iron out all the things we need to,” said Earline Ulmer, chair of the transition team.
“The biggest issue is not structure,” he said. “The biggest issue is how each component communicates with each other.”
The transition team will consider any suggested changes when they meet in late January or early February to produce a final draft. The final draft heads to the existing Conference Council of Connectional Ministries on March 5 for its input.
Then the draft will go back onto the website for public comment, along with a list of district meetings where people can debate the nuances of the restructuring even further.
The Rev. Ted Walter, a former member of the Judicial Council and an ex officio member of the transition team, said the new structure has to be in harmony and consistent with Paragraph 610 of the Discipline and Judicial Decision 1147, while creating a structure that links the DCM and the CCM in a fully connectional relationship.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s ready,” he said.
No implementation until June 2012 if approved
Next, the document heads to Annual Conference 2011 in June for perfection and adoption. If adopted, then it will be sent to the October 2011 Judicial Council for a ruling on its legality.
If all is deemed legal, then the new structure will be put into place for official implementation in June 2012.