By Jessica Connor
The United Methodist Church's top court has unanimously approved the new structure for S.C. Conference Connectional Ministries.
The structure, established by the conference in 2011, initially was ruled noncompliant with the denomination s Book of Discipline because of what the UMC s Judicial Council deemed in October 2011 to be defects in the structure. The defects, which conference leaders had called a quick fix, primarily included failure to link youth council and young adult ministries with the new Conference Connectional Ministries, failure to adequately place the Commission on Archives and History under the CCM for programming purposes and failure to clarify whether the conference secretary of Global Ministries is a member of that board.
The conference was permitted to continue working within the new structure, as the defects were considered minor and the overall plan was in accordance with the Discipline.
The 2012 annual conference approved standing rule changes to remedy the defects, but in October 2012, the Judicial Council ruled the structure still was only partially compliant. Per the court, the structure needed to follow fully Para. 614.3 on line item budget of Commission on Archives and History for benevolences and Para. 633.3 on membership of the Secretary of Global Ministries in the Conference Board of Global Ministries.
After making those final changes, the S.C. Conference resubmitted the modified structure to the Judicial Council for approval at the court s fall 2013 session.
The top court met Oct. 22-26 in Baltimore and ruled the structure is now in compliance with the 2008 Discipline and Judicial Council Decisions 1147, 1204, and 1222.
Cynthia Williams, CCM convener, said the news of Judicial Council approval makes her feel like a happy camper and noted she considered the decision to be a witness for her faith walk.
I say that because we were operating under a structure we felt would be good, ¦ I had believed in faith this was the best thing for us, but the faith walk lets you know you have to trust God and never doubt, and you can t back up on what you know God wants, Williams said. (Learning the decision) was a very, very humbling moment because God did what He promised.
The Rev. Kathy James, director of Connectional Ministries, said she, too, is pleased to have the question of the structure put to rest with the Judicial Council.
We have been living into this different way of resourcing the churches of the annual conference with a question mark hanging over our heads, James said. Now we can go forward.
What is the new structure?
The conference has been working for three years within the new structure for Connectional Ministries. The 2010 Annual Conference approved the framework for the District Connectional Ministries portion of the new structure, and the 2011 Annual Conference completed the process by establishing creation of the CCM, which comprises representatives from each of the 12 DCMs.
The 12 DCMs encompass four separate areas of ministry: Advocacy, Lay Leadership, Discipleship and Outreach. Each area has six to 10 members apiece, for a total of 36-40 DCM members per district, all responsible for connecting the district and the local church in their ministry area.
The CCM is a streamlined, smaller version of the old Conference Council of Connectional Ministries that attempts to link local churches with districts, conference, General Church and myriad boards and agencies in an organic way instead of a top-down manner.
Also at the Judicial Council s fall session, the top court ruled that:
¢A United Methodist bishop in southwest Texas must rule within 60 days on the merits of a process-related question regarding the elimination of a lesbian clergy candidate, Mary Ann Kaiser, from the ordination track;
¢A petition adopted by the 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference suggesting a light penalty (24-hour suspension) for bishops convicted of ordaining self-avowed practicing homosexuals is null, void, and of no effect ;
¢The mandatory retirement age is 72 for Congo Central Conference bishops who continue in active ministry beyond their 68th birthday; and
¢The North Carolina Annual Conference s Council on Finance and Administration had properly investigated and insured that providing funds to the North Carolina Council of Churches would not violate church laws related to homosexuality.
For more on the top court s decisions, visit archives.umc.org/interior_judicial.asp?mid=263 .
Some information from Linda Bloom s UMNS article.