UMC Bishops propose innovative ideas for future of the global denomination in face of anxieties, pandemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the midst of a pandemic, racial unrest, and denominational and political anxiety, the bishops of The United Methodist Church met in a virtual format for four days to focus on the leadership necessary to chart a new future for the global denomination.
Among the innovative ideas that were discussed were ways to lead the church in the midst of this unique and challenging season. Facilitated by consultant Susan Beaumont and Lisa Greenwood from the Texas Methodist Foundation, the bishops centered conversations on the direction of their leadership in rapidly changing times, an intentional focus on anti-racism and practical matters related to cutting costs and expenses of the Episcopal Fund.
To tackle the financial challenges facing the denomination, the bishops recommended supporting the grassroots movement to not elect any bishops in the United States until the next quadrennium. This proposal would be to work in consultation with the Colleges of Bishops, Jurisdictional Committees on Episcopacy, delegates and others. Postponing elections until the next quadrennium would save approximately $10 million in bishops’ salaries and benefits to the Episcopacy Fund.
The bishops also agreed to encourage the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to consider recommending to the General Conference the phasing in of the five additional bishops approved for Africa only as the resources are available and the necessary infrastructure has been secured.
Further, the bishops were informed that if the apportionment collection rate drops below 65 percent, GCFA, in consultation with the Finance Committee of the Council of Bishops may have to resort to a potential salary reduction and explore the possibility of further reductions in their housing and office allowances.
In response to the need for dedicated leadership in the midst of matters related to COVID-19 pandemic, anti-racism work, and the separation of the church, the bishops explored ways to provide focused leadership in and on behalf of Council and to the whole church.
The Council also approved the following actions:
- Make the work of anti-racism the priority of the COB. The Council also approved four pillars for their focus on their work to dismantle racism by:
- Creating space for narratives of integrity and truth while resisting narratives of fear and division/othering;
- Moving toward pain, injury and harm.
- A willingness to be discomforted in order to be faithful witnesses and
- Living as a people of relentless hope.
- Continue to have full Council of Bishops meeting virtually until the meeting immediately preceding the postponed 2020 General Conference.
- Move forward on the process for creating a U.S. Conference of UMC bishops in order to speak contextually to matters of national concern.
- As part of the Ecumenical report, the bishops approved the publication of the policy document entitled “The Orderly Exchange of Ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament” as established by the Statement on the Mutual Recognition of Full Communion Between The Moravian Church (Northern and Southern Provinces) and The United Methodist Church.” It will serve as the basis for the development and publication of “Orderly Exchange” documents with other full-communion partners.
The bishops also received a report from the Commission on General Conference Commission.
In addition, the leadership teams of the Council of Bishops reported their work to date. A highlight of the morning was hearing the report of the Immigration Task Force and viewing a powerful video illustrating the passion of one serving a migrant community in San Diego.
The meeting was one of the highest attended Council of Bishops gatherings with more than 115 bishops serving in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America in attendance.