Archives and History not ‘purely administrative’


When the General Commission on Archives and History is referenced in an opinion piece as it was in “Judicial Council did Not do the UMC a favor” (by Lonnie Brooks, UMR, June 15, page 6A), I must respond to clarify statements of fact and opinion. The writer refers to GCAH as “a purely administrative agency.” Book of Discipline par. 703.6 clearly states that it carries program-related responsibilities and par. 906.1c makes it accountable to the Connectional Table as a program-related agency. It is true that GCAH is funded through the General Administration Fund and is considered an Administrative General Agency in par. 703.6. But to add the clarifier “purely” eliminates recognition of our publishing efforts, training of annual conference persons, and providing of resources through our website to researchers, the church and the larger community of church and world.

The commentary also makes an extraordinarily sweeping claim by stating that moving GCAH into the General Council of Finance and Administration places it in “its natural home.” For a time it appeared that would be the case and the staff of both agencies were committed to find ways to make this work. In fact, GCFA handles accounting and payroll for GCAH, demonstrating the cooperation that already exists and generating cost savings. A change in corporate governance would not have served any useful purpose. No supporting evidence was provided as to how the agency overseeing finances relates to the agency responsible for the historical interests of the church and its records, or how directors governing the entity would bring appropriate skill sets. There was no suggestion as to how this would enhance GCAH’s effectiveness, efficiency, economy or efficacy. The writer has used our staff to research questions for him so I found it disconcerting that I was not offered the courtesy of a conversation with him about what it would mean for our work to be a committee of GCFA.

Probably very few persons care about these nuances dealing with a small agency in a commentary about larger issues. However, these comments are symptomatic of the larger flaws in this conversation about how best to govern and deliver the connectional ministries of the church. Opinion has been offered without supporting evidence and statements about the agencies themselves have not been in harmony with my experience.

I look forward to greater accuracy and substance, fuller historical consciousness, and an irenic spirit of Christ’s love shaping the conversation in the years ahead.

Robert J. Williams, Ph.D. General Secretary, General Commission on Archives and History

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