By Jessica Connor
The United Methodist Church's top court said defects in the S.C. Conference's new Connectional Ministries structure mean it is not in full compliance with denominational law.
Now, members of the structure s transition team are working to fix the four problem areas so they can bring the new plan fully in line.
At their fall meeting in San Diego, members of the Judicial Council ruled Oct. 28 that South Carolina s plan does not comply with Paragraphs 610 and 614.3 of the Book of Discipline and Judicial Council Decision 1147.
The deficiencies involve 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.
In its decision (1204), the Judicial Council said the S.C. Conference has made a careful comparison of its structure in the Transition Plan with disciplinary requirements, but it needs to remedy those deficiencies before the plan can be fully compliant.
Because not in full compliance implies they are in some compliance, South Carolina will proceed with implementing the new plan as they work quickly to fix the problem areas, said the Rev. Willie Teague, director of Connectional Ministries.
We got a better reading than most Annual Conferences on new structures; many are thrown out completely and ruled out of order, Teague said.
The Hon. Cynthia Williams, CCM chair, said she has been praying about the needed changes and feels confident the team can bring the plan into compliance.
I do believe that we will be able to do it in a timely fashion, Williams said.
My reading of it is the plan is overwhelmingly acceptable to the Judicial Council, Conference Secretary the Rev. Tim Rogers said, noting that he will now proceed with editing the standing rules, which require a great deal of change thanks to the new plan. He had been waiting for the court to rule on the plan before beginning the painstaking task of making those changes.
Simultaneously, Teague and the transition team are working hard to resolve the four primary issues the top court finds fault with. Teague said they should all be an easy fix:
1. The new structure does not give the Commission on Archives and History a place in its programmatic organization, and the budget for conference benevolences does not include a line item for the CA&H. To remedy this, Teague said the team is planning to include a member of the CA&H on the CCM for programming purposes, though keep CA&H under the treasurer s office for administrative purposes.
2. The Council on Youth is placed under the Discipleship area of the new structure, but it needs to link directly and fully to the CCM; the structure only says for administrative purposes. Teague said they will make the language more specific so it does link fully.
3. The new structure does not include the mandated conference council on young-adult ministry. Teague said this also involves a language change, making provision for all boards and agencies of various ministry areas, including young adult, so they have a direct relationship to Connectional Ministries.
4. The structure does not make clear if the conference secretary of Global Ministries is a member of the conference Board of Global Ministries, as required. Teague said this has already been changed so it is clear that the secretary is indeed a member.
Per the Judicial Council decision, the newly compliant structure plan will be presented for a vote at Annual Conference 2012, then submitted to the Judicial Council no later than 30 days following the close of the AC regular session.
The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, a S.C. Conference member who also chairs the Judicial Council, recused herself from deliberations on the decision.
About the new structure
The new structure, which was voted in at Annual Conference, establishes creation of a new CCM, which is a streamlined, smaller version of the Conference Council of Connectional Ministries, which becomes defunct in January. The intention is that the smaller CCM will be more efficient and, therefore, more connectional, linking local churches with districts, the conference, the General Church and the myriad boards and agencies in a seamless, more organic way rather than in a hierarchical top-down manner.
The new CCM comprises representatives from each of the 12 new District Connectional Ministries bodies organized into four separate areas of ministry (ALDO, or Advocacy, Lay Leadership, Discipleship and Outreach).
Members of the new body and the outgoing body (including existing boards and agencies that will be morphed into the new ministry areas) have been working hard for the past several months to be organized and ready for January, when the new structure fully goes into effect.
Ten other fall court decisions
Also at the court s fall session:
¢ The Judicial Council found defects in a new structure for the North Texas conference, asking that the conference revise and complete a strategic plan adopted in 2010.
¢ The council ruled that the Northern Illinois Conference does not have the authority to suggest a maximum penalty for any clergy member convicted of officiating at a civil union: The clear meaning of the Discipline is that only a trial court has the power to set a penalty in a Church trial which results in a conviction and that the full legislated range of options must be available to a trial court in its penalty phase.
¢ The council said the denial of Comprehensive Protection Plan Disability Benefits by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits does not change the appointment status of Incapacity Leave of the clergy member in the Detroit Annual Conference. The granting of an Incapacity Leave is separate and distinct from the granting of the CPP Disability, the court wrote.
For more on the decisions: http://archives .umc.org/interior_ judicial.asp?mid=263 .