I just reread the Call to Action legislation that will go to the General Conference of the UMC. I think the point of this is to create accountability for our various areas of ministry (currently overseen by the general boards and agencies) and to streamline our massive bureaucracy.
O.k…. I think it will do the first, if it passes. There will be a Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry, accountable to a General Council for Strategy and Oversight. The CCMM will basically take the place of the general boards (except for the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits and the Publishing House). It will be governed by a fifteen member board of directors and provide supervision for all of these areas of ministry.
Now, one may ask, how can one council do the work of the General Council on Finance and Administration, the General Board of Global Ministries, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the General Board of Church and Society, the General Board of Discipleship, the Commission on Archives and History, the General Commission on Communications, the General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns?
Simply put, fifteen people cannot do this work, nor will they be expected to. This will be the work of various offices overseen by the Council for Connectional Ministry and Mission. The legislation proposes a few different offices: the Office of Shared Services, the Office of Congregational Vitality, the Office of Leadership Excellence, the Office of Missional Engagement, and the Office of Justice and Reconciliation. Now, one may ask whether these offices can in fact do the work necessary for the governance of the denomination. And one would be wise to ask this. In fact, it must have occurred to the authors of the legislation, since they have also included a very important additional phrase: “and other offices as it may deem necessary to carry out long-term strategies established by the General Council for Strategy and Oversight and the Council of Bishops.”
So here’s my question: does this legislation, over the long run, really streamline our denominational bureaucracy and help us to save money? I’m not saying it won’t, but I am suggesting that it might not.