Bishops Endorse Plan to Overhaul Structure of The United Methodist Church

November 02, 2011

The Council of Bishops voted to endorse the proposed legislation that would overhaul the structure and functionality of The United Methodist Church and its boards and agencies.

At their meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C., the bishops affirmed and approved the direction recommended by the Connectional Table and the Interim Operations Team in regard to the future of the church.
Here is a the statement released by the bishops.

"We see a new church. It is a renewed church that is clear about its mission and
confident about its future, a church that is always reaching out, inviting, alive, agile, and
resilient. We see a church that is hope-filled, passionate, nimble, called of God, and courageous.
It is a church that is passionately committed to the doctrine, mission and vision of the Wesleyan
movement. This church takes risks to reach new people for Jesus Christ, and it searches
continuously for creative ways to help each person grow in grace, love, and holiness.

While this church is not yet here, we see a thousand signs of its emerging. We see it in
radical hospitality, where spiritually hungry people everywhere are offered a saving relationship
with Christ. We see it as the hearts of people are warmed by the awakening of renewed
spiritual presence. We see it in passionate worship, where new generations sense the power
and presence of the Holy Spirit. We see it in small groups embodying intentional faith
formation. We see it in pastors who find ways to reach young people and in annual conference
leaders who dare to try different ways to serve congregations. We see it in general agencies
learning new ways to network our Connection. We see it in the Council of Bishops opening itself
to evaluation and establishing episcopal learning groups. We see it in risk-taking mission and
justice. We see it in the efforts to end deaths from malaria, to start new faith communities, to
participate in ministry with the poor, and to develop new leaders. We see it in extravagant
generosity, as people share their resources in response to disasters.

Especially in Africa and Asia, we find multiple examples of Wesleyan evangelism,
discipleship, and witness for social justice. In the U. S. and Europe, however, we recognize that
our church’s strength and vitality have diminished over the last several decades. Both Europe
and America face cultural trends that are very difficult. We confess that at times we have lost
our way, substituting maintenance for mission, bureaucracy for vision, and passivity for passion.

Paragraph 120 of The Book of Discipline is clear: “The mission of the Church is to make
disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most
significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” We also know that local churches are a
significant arena for community and world transformation. And paragraph 33 of our
Constitution is equally clear: “The annual conference is the basic body in the Church.” The
annual conference is the most important vehicle for creating and sustaining vital congregations.

We have studied our church and used independent consultants to give us information
we needed about our church in the U.S. Our operational assessment identified a growing lack of
trust among the parts of our Connection. It told us we have significant deficiencies and will
have future difficulties because of our current pattern of economic contributions. It
recommended more defined leadership roles, streamlined connectional structures, and better management systems. Our congregational vitality study used our own data to identify vital
congregations and what drives them.

The Council of Bishops and Connectional Table both endorsed this core challenge: “To
redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering
and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples
of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”


We can see a new church, and to get from here to there the Connectional Table and
Council of Bishops urge the People of The United Methodist Church to make several strategic

• Engage in a return to our spiritual roots to reclaim the soul of our churches through
intentional commitment to practice the means of grace.

• Give the highest priority to 10 years of energetic and sustained effort to increase and
sustain the number of highly vital congregations.

• Invest in raising the standards of performance and results of leadership at all places in
the UM Connection and employ key metrics as important contributing tools for
cultivating continuous learning and improvement.

• Redirect our investments of talent, time and money in ways that demonstrate an
emphatic emphasis on building blocks for vital congregations, including:

o At least $5 million from the 2013–16 General Administration or World Service
Funds for use in theological education in the Central Conferences.

o At least $5 million from the 2013–16 General Administration or World Service
Funds for use in developing lay leadership under 35 years old.

o Up to $50 million from the 2013–16 General Administration or World Service
Funds for use in recruiting and theologically training UM clergy under age 35 and
for use in creating “new places for new people” across the UM mission field.

• Streamline and realign the governance and staff structures of program and
administration agencies in order to increase focus on support of Annual Conferences in
increasing and sustaining the number of vital congregations and provide for more
integrated, efficient, nimble, and responsive operations.

• Reform the Council of Bishops

The most important changes will not result from legislative action but require different
actions and patterns of leadership by bishops, clergy, and laity in their conferences. These
changes must be grounded deeply in the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting. These
changes have already begun, and the Call to Action is already starting to be employed in many
congregations and conferences. Among the non-legislative actions that are required are the

• The Council of Bishops reorder its work and internal processes to:

o Make the work of supporting resident bishops in fostering congregational vitality
the central agenda for the Council.

o Support Jurisdictional and Central Conference Committees on Episcopacy in
adopting stronger and more transparent measures (metrics) and procedures for
the accountability of bishops.

o Work with appropriate general church offices, seminary leadership, and Boards
of Ordained Ministry to strengthen support for our seminaries, addressing
curriculum requirements and clarifying expectations.

• Annual Conferences strive to improve their recruitment and support of the most fruitful
and effective young clergy.

• Bishops and Cabinets strengthen their clergy recruitment, formation and appointment
processes to improve vitality.
But some steps require legislation at General Conference. Therefore, the Council of
Bishops affirms and approves the direction recommended by the Connectional Table and the
Interim Operations Team. We urge the General Conference to take the following actions:

• Give Annual Conferences freedom to organize their structures for greater fruitfulness.

• Permit the mid-quadrennium reallocation of money from the general church funds for a
sum up to $60 million for purposes related to the challenge of creating and sustaining
an increase in the number of vital congregations.

• Provide for the Council of Bishops to elect a non-residential bishop as President of the
Council to help reform the Council and focus its energies on the core challenges.

• Create a UMC Center for Connectional Mission & Ministry under one board of directors
to combine the functions of the Connectional Table and nine general agencies: GBCS,
organized into offices of shared services (functions such as GCFA, UMCOM, and GCAH)
and offices of congregational vitality, leadership excellence, missional engagement, and
justice and reconciliation. This will help us align resources for greater effectiveness and

• Move the functions of GCCUIC to an office of the Council of Bishops, clarifying what
have been overlapping responsibilities and improving our ecumenical efforts.

• Set aside UMW and UMM as self-funding official UM membership-based organizations.

• Provide a support system for collecting consistent information for all annual
conferences about their financial practices and recommend to resident bishops and
others strategies for reducing costs and increasing effectiveness.

We see a new church. It is a church that is clear about its mission and confident about its
future, a church that is always reaching out, inviting, alive, agile, and resilient. We ask all United
Methodists to join us as together we work to do the “new thing” God intends for our church
and discover the path God is making for our future."

For more complete information about the work of A Call to Action, go to and