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Straw poll: Majority favor multiple agency boards

by Heather Hahn
April 26, 2012

After a full day of conversations about agency reorganization, the General Administration Legislative Committee took a nonbinding vote to get a sense of the room.

The final tally: 48 to 35 in favor of multiple agency boards rather than a proposed single board to oversee multiple agencies. There was some question whether two of the delegates voted twice.

The straw poll was a setback for committee members pushing for the Call to Action restructuring plan, which has as its centerpiece a single governing board for nine agencies. The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., likened such a superboard to his large congregation’s church council.

For three days, the General Administration committee has responsibility for evaluating the much-debated proposals to consolidate various agencies and shrink their boards of directors.

But the committee did not take up a single petition during its session today. Instead, the delegates spent a lot of time asking questions and engaging in holy conversations.

During the morning, the delegates heard an overview of three restructuring plans, and they heard from a dozen general agency executives and representatives. Eight of the 13 agencies have submitted legislation to the 2012 General Conference to decrease the size of their boards. Many of the agencies also already have internally reformed their operations.

Committee members heard more about the Call to Actionplan submitted by the Connectional Table, and “A New Administrative Order”submitted by the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Both groups have petitions before the General Administration committee. They also heard from the designers ofPlan B, another alternative whose backers had expected to submit as a substitute motion for the Call to Action legislation.

Joe Whittemore, a committee member and one of the Plan B drafters, delayed making that motion. He said he wanted to permit discussion of any changes the Call to Action proponents plan to introduce to their legislation.

Already, the Call to Action leaders reported that they have dropped having only a 15-member board of the proposed mega-agency, the Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry. The Call to Action proponents also announced that they now support the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, remaining a separate entity.

Under the original petition, the finance agency was to be merged with eight other agencies (with the functions of the United Methodist Communications and the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History folded under finance).

On Thursday, a number of African delegates stepped up to talk about their concerns about representation in any new structure as well as the good they feel agencies do.

Betty Katiyo, the committee’s vice chair and a lay delegate from the West Zimbabwe Conference, said she believed agency ministries have contributed to the denomination’s growth in Africa.

Jay Brim — who as the Connectional Table’s legislative chair led the drafting of the original Call to Action petitions — told his fellow General Administration committee members before Thursday’s vote that the informal count would help in the drafting of any alternative motions.

Looks like it will be a long night for Brim and others working on refining restructuring legislation.