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Proposal to Form Jurisdictional Committees Regarding U.S. Decisions


United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission. Integrally holding connectional unity and local freedom, we seek to proclaim and embody the gospel in ways responsible to our specific cultural and social context while maintaining “a vital web of interactive relationships”…

For our connectionalism to become a living practice, we need to carry the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church deep into the life and mission of our local congregations. Only when we commit ourselves to interdependent worldwide partnerships in prayer, mission, and worship can connectionalism as a Wesleyan ecclesial vision be fully embodied. (¶125 Book of Discipline)

As we are living into the covenant — into the vision set before us — we are guided and grounded by the core values articulated in Paragraph 125 through our worldwide covenant.

These are:

  • Greater alignment of the connection for the mission of making Disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Deeper connections throughout the Church.
  • More equitable sharing of our God-given gifts.
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The Challenge

In February 2015 at the joint meeting of the Connectional Table and the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, it became clear that The UMC is learning to live together as a worldwide church. The Connectional Table again and again hears a pressing question which needs further discussion: how do the jurisdictions in the United States make decisions on U.S.-related matters for greater effectiveness in the mission of the church?

The Standing Committee has been tasked with drafting a Book of Discipline that is worldwide in nature, and only contains sections that are relevant to the entire United Methodist denomination. With the shift toward a General Book of Discipline, two issues have risen to the surface that need to be addressed during the 2017-2020 quadrennium. The issues center on (1) those parts of a General Book of Discipline which are adaptable in central conferences, but not in jurisdictions in the U.S., and (2) those decisions which are taken at General Conference, but only pertain to the jurisdictions in the U.S.

  1. Parts of a General Discipline which are adaptable

The Standing Committee received the mandate to clarify which parts of the present Book of Discipline are not adaptable in central conferences. This will leave other parts of the Book of Discipline which are adaptable in central conferences, but not in jurisdictions in the U.S. All of these parts will continue to be legislated on the level of General Conference where delegates come from the U.S. and from central conferences.

Awareness of this difference between central conferences and jurisdictions will increase. It will also give additional weight to the question of whether jurisdictions need a forum for discussion and decision on issues where legislation is binding on all of them without a possibility of adaptation.

  1. Decisions taken at General Conference which pertain only to jurisdictions in the U.S.

General Conference is the body that makes decisions on all issues for The UMC in the U.S. Some of these topics only pertain to The UMC in the U.S. (e.g. Pension Plan; most of the financial decisions), but as decisions are taken at General Conference, all delegates from central conferences have voice and vote on them without being concerned with the consequence of these decisions.

Again, this will increase of this difference between central conferences and jurisdictions, giving additional weight to the question whether jurisdictions need a forum for discussion and decision on issues where legislation only concerns the UMC in the U.S.

The challenge is that there is no designated committee, conference or body that can deliberate on matters limited to The UMC in the U.S. The question that has arisen is: does the church in the United States need a mechanism or structure in place to make decisions that are only relevant to the U.S. church?

The Connectional Table proposes that this question be taken up by the jurisdictions themselves as they engage in Christian conferencing during the 2017-2020 quadrennium. This is in line with Connectional Table’s role of providing a forum for the understanding and implementation of the vision mission and ministries of the global church as determined in consultation with the Coucil of Bishops and/or action of the General Conference.

The Proposal

In 2016, each jurisdiction shall select a committee with at least one representative from each annual conference. (Making a concerted effort to strive for diversity of clergy, laity, gender, ability, age, and race on the committee.)

Each committee would elect two persons to participate on a steering committee that would ensure consistent conversation and deliberation among the groups, set a basic meeting schedule and timeline and perhaps agree upon methodologies for data collection and surveying leaders throughout annual conferences in the U.S. Central Conferences members will participate in the steering committees.

The Connectional Table will play a convening role for the steering committee to keep the flow of information and communication open and serve as a liaison to the general church in support of the jurisdictions. The costs to attend meetings would be borne by the jurisdictions. The CT would be responsible for the Central Conference members participating in the Steering Committee. (This would be under CT’s essential function #1 and #2.)

The steering committee would send a final report to the CT in the end of 2018 in order for the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to know how the U.S. proposes to deliberate on issues only relevant within the U.S. If necessary, the CT could convene a meeting of the jurisdictional committees mid-quadrennium for further discussion among the jurisdictions.

Approved by the Connectional Table on May 18, 2015.