Flattening the UMC?

My bishop, Mike Coyner, has floated an idea about a way forward for the United Methodist Church. The core thought is treating each annual conference as an autonomous unit of the wider church.

On the one hand, each annual conference could adopt social principles and ordination rules that it felt best reflected the needs of its conference. Conferences would also elect their own bishops. On the other hand, conferences would have to pay the cost of their own bishops.

There are lots of other implications of his idea. Read about it here.

20 thoughts on “Flattening the UMC?

  1. The heaviness of the moment anesthetizes the church so that we cannot think straight but fantasize about escape from the consequences of doing nothing. Yet without doubt, “die grosse Entscheidung” (the Great Climax, or decision) is at hand for the church as we know it. That’s what Tennent and Coyner allude to on differing vectors. Tennent reassures the orthodox that “this too will pass”–I’d like to think so before holding my nose and going along with a rotting accommodation.

  2. This would spell the end of our capacity to work toward full communion agreements with other denominations. These agreements depend on three pillars which must be uniform across the denomination, else one ends up with a “this diocese or synod can be in communion with that conference, but not those” sort of problem. Those are the basic understanding of the gospel, the theology and practice of the sacraments (and so worship, generally), and the way ministry is ordered. We may be able still to proceed on #1, but unless #2 and #3 are actually set at the denominational level, frankly, we might as well be congregationalist. And congregationalists have a very, very hard time achieving meaningful full communion agreements (particularly around actual full recognition of the clergy and sacramental practice of other denominations).

    This is not the only reason not to pursue this path. However, it may well be one of them. In part, this is because we have another constitutional commitment (Article VI) to “work for unity at all levels of church life,” which means both internally and especially with other denominations. Article VI would thus seem to put a bit of a check on “outsourcing nearly everything to conferences” that might be readable into Article II were it taken in isolation. Sure, we could still “work for unity” in a “conference-centric” Methodism, but if we went there, we’d be substantially harming many of our current efforts and the progress we’ve made, as well as making it much harder for anyone to know who really speaks authoritatively enough for The UMC in such matters as full communion agreements are made of to be able to enter definitively into any dialogs, much less any agreements.

    1. I wonder if the Bishop ran this past the legal dept.
      I remember the good ideas rejected not to long ago at another conference not long ago.

      Communion, leadership, sacraments, would all be left to individual churches . You are right on point about covenant relationship. Who and what covenant relationships could be formed with whom would be a mess.
      Historically most churches across denominational lines are pretty much uniform in belief and practice within that denomination.
      One can go to a Roman Catholic Church. a Lutheran Church etc. and pretty much know what to expect.
      That would not be true under the proposed plan. Imagine the discomfort of visitors if they walk into something they did not expect. I cannot even imagine the problems this would cause when it came to the allocation of funds.

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