Commentary: It’s time for the US church to become a central/regional conference.

CentralConference-01

*By Dr. Tim Bruster

One of the proposals coming to the General Conference next month would create a Central Conference for the United States (CCUS). Every worldwide nature of the church study for the last six quadrennia has made a recommendation to create a central conference or regional conference for the US to deal with US-centric issues. One historian of the church told me that conversations about the U. S. being a central conference go back nearly 100 years ago when some of the current central conferences were being formed.

Why is this important? This proposal is the first step in moving us forward to create a space for US issues in the simplest most straightforward way. By holding the CCUS in conjunction with General Conference, with the same delegates representing the US annual conferences in both the General Conference and the US Central Conference, additional costs would be mitigated. In fact, we expect that the CCUS would shorten the length of the General Conference creating a cost savings. Ideally, the time at General Conference could not only be reduced, our work at General Conference could consist of fewer legislative issues, allowing for more global holy conferencing. CCUS allows the GC to become a body more focused on what makes us uniquely United Methodist in all parts of the world and at the same time allows the United Methodist Church in the U. S. to focus on the issues that are unique to the U. S. ministry context. CCUS creates a structure that puts the Central Conferences on equal footing throughout the world versus the current nature of the church, which some have called “colonial.”

Questions have arisen as to whether this legislation has an effect on the denomination’s position on sexuality or on how the budget of the church is allocated. This legislation does not address either of those issues, which, according to The Book of Discipline, can only be changed by action of General Conference.

Why take this action now? The timing of this legislation is based on the assumption we are moving forward with the development of the Global Book of Discipline. Having the CCUS established and in place before the 2020 General Conference will allow for cleaner legislation to implement a Global General Conference and have the space already created to begin addressing U. S.-related work. It will enable the General Conference to move more quickly toward being the place of global conversation without having to deal with US-centric issues. This legislation is in sync with the direction we have been moving with each study committee and each General Conference. The hesitation to create another layer of bureaucracy and cost has deterred this in the past. Additionally, creating a place for U.S. issues has previously been just one piece of more complex legislation.

We need to do this in 2016 because we cannot afford 8 more years of decline before we could focus on the church in the U.S. United Methodist economist Don House’s analysis of the U. S. statistics show that we really only have 14 years to address our decline in this country before we crumble as a denomination in the U.S.

The CCUS legislation can dovetail into the proposals from the Northeastern Jurisdiction or the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters and Connectional Table proposals that are scheduled for 2020. With either of these it accelerates the ability to focus on issues that are unique to the U.S. – particularly the issues of decline. In fact, by passing this legislation in 2016, we will have more insight into passing the potentially more challenging legislation in 2020.

So, how is this version different?

The structure of this legislation is to find the simplest, least controversial way to move us forward. There are no additional judicial or episcopal groups or layers created and no central conference level boards or agencies. These functions are already being served and can continue being served within our existing structure. It makes no changes to the existing central conferences outside the US. Their structure and the way they operate are not impacted by this legislation. This is very simple legislation that creates a U.S. Central Conference effective in 2020 that would meet before the General Conference in Minneapolis.

The submitters of this legislation have a deep desire to create places of reason in the midst of the controversies that distract our focus from ministry and mission. There are no other agendas or motivations other than to move us forward to focus on where God is calling us as United Methodists to serve. The CCUS moves us to making decisions closer to the mission fields of which we are a part, and calls us to trusting one another around the globe to be faithful in responding to what God is doing uniquely in our various mission fields.

You can learn more at this website: www.aplaceofreasonumc.org

 

Tim-Bruster-2014_web-150x150*Dr. Tim Bruster currently serves as senior pastor of the 6,000-member First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. Tim has served as president of the Central Texas Annual Conference Council on Finance & Administration. He led the Central Texas Conference delegation to the 2008 General and Jurisdictional Conferences and was elected to the 2012 delegation, as well. He serves on the General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church, the Board of Trustees of Texas Wesleyan University, the Perkins School of Theology Executive Board at SMU, the Board of Trustees of the Texas Methodist Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Centenary College Christian Leadership Center and the YWCA Racial Justice Committee. He has served two terms on the Board of Directors of Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. and a term on the Board of the Tarrant Area Community of Churches.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
editor@circuitwritermedia.com
.

Leave a Reply

21 Comments on "Commentary: It’s time for the US church to become a central/regional conference."

applications-education-miscellaneous.png
The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Kevin
Guest

Is there anyone who does not believe this is simply an end run around the inability to approve same sex marriage because of the African vote?
Sorry, but I have some serious trust issues with this proposal.

Paul W.
Guest

It is disingenuous that Rev. Bruster failed to acknowledge that this proposal has been consistently rejected by GC and is disparagingly referred to as the “Global Segregation Plan”. It’s primary impact would be to disenfranchise the Global South (e.g., the African members of the UMC) with the hope that this would allow the US to liberalize the UMC’s stance on sexual morality and other controversial aspects of the progressive agenda. Few support a US central conference who are not firmly committed to finding a way to change the church’s stance on LGBT issues.

marber
Guest

I agree that it is a way to keep the more conservative African Conferences from being able to vote on this issue. Seems to me that the GC has spoken so why keep wasting time with it? We are a global church, not a United States Church.

Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D., Retired Elder
Guest
Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D., Retired Elder

Sounds like a personal problem to me, Kevin.

You ask, “Is there anyone who does not believe this is simply an end run around the inability to approve same sex marriage because of the African vote?” Clearly, Dr. Bruster does not, so that’s 1. The other 47 signatories listed on the http://aplaceofreasonumc.org/ website also do not, so that’s 48. And, I don’t either, so that puts the total up to a documented number of 49. I’m guessing there are more somewhere in the connexion. So, there’s your answer.

David
Guest

good question “thenemyhatesclarity’. While I am not speaking for Tim Bruster,… the fact that he did sign in support of Hamilton’s A Way forward … at least suggests that he would not be one who “strongly supports leaving the Discipline as it is”.
As a note of information the other proposal from the Eastern Jurisdiction is lead by Tracy Merrick who serves First UMC in Pittsburgh which by the way is a reconciling congregation.
So two proposals lead by pastors who have supported changing the discipline (either by “a way Forward”, or full support of LGBT). Coincidence?

David
Guest
Keith, Considering you think this way, a question: Dr Bruster states “This legislation does not address either of those issues, (sexuality and the budget) or which, according to The Book of Discipline, can only be changed by action of General Conference.” However, wouldn’t going to a “Global Book of Discipline” cause the “Book of discipline” which he refers to now as being obsolete? In other words, Dr Bruster makes the point that this vote for a US Central Conference would not change the necessity of a vote at General Conference on these matters. But who determines what issues are Global… Read more »
Keith A. Jenkins
Guest
David, let me start by clarifying that my comment above had one purpose and one purpose only–to answer Kevin’s (probably rhetorical) question re: this proposal being nothing more than a disguised end-run around bringing the issue of same-sex marriage before a GC with delegates from the Global South in such a way as to point out its basis on a demonstrably false assumption (i.e. by giving him proof of at least 49 people who don’t consider it such an end-run). Having said that, let me also point out that I am not an unqualified supporter of this proposal. I think… Read more »
David
Guest
The Question below posed by ‘Theenemyhatesclarity” proabably gets to the point of the main question I had for you. In addition though, and is a question really for the all the 49 listed and especailly for Dr. Bruster, relates to the delcaration that if aprroved “this vote does not change or address our standing on Sexuality”. How is that? Can that be gauranteed? For it seems that by defualt it would. Or at least to change our views on sexuality is a major goal for many of those who propse these scrutural changes? It seems disengenuas to state this would… Read more »
Keith A. Jenkins
Guest

Those who seek to follow Christ are certainly called to make sacrifices, but I don’t believe our identities are one of the things we are called to sacrifice. God made us who we are and loves who we are, so it is unthinkable that the same God who knows when a sparrow falls would want to obliterate the identities of beloved children. That’s why uniformity is a human distortion of true unity. All we need do is look at the Creation to see that God loves multiplicity and diversity.

David
Guest

Our identity is found in Jesus Christ. Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Keith A. Jenkins
Guest

I don’t know the answer to that question for anyone but myself (I support full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in every aspect of the church’s life and mission), but I challenge your suggestion that this is the “real” question. Most people are not monolithic in their views. I see no reason to suspect that all supporters of making the UMC in the US a Central Conference are of the same mind on issues related to human sexuality.

Kevin
Guest

You could be in for a long wait. Perhaps you could live in a tent out front while you wait. That seems to be an attention getter.

Sheila Fiorella
Guest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD0xZH_VgUA
I’m the one in the crowd asking the most questions. The points made about folks outside the U.S. having to sit around listening to debates about parsonages, etc, that don’t even apply to them made total sense to me. Tim Bruster is the clergy person helping to lead this discussion. Other “listening posts” for the Central Texas conference can be found at http://www.ctcumc.org/ctcgcjc-delegationlisteningposts.

Sheila Fiorella
Guest
I know Tim and his heart. I trust him. I tend to look for the best and remember the covenant we entered into together. What unites us? The love of God. What’s our mission? Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Let’s stop this pettiness and get back to making the main thing the main thing. I’m sorry you seem to have been hurt Kevin. I’m sorry for your lack of trust and pray it can be restored. Some of it may have been justified. Let me encourage you: Ask questions. Educate yourself. May we all… Read more »
Kevin
Guest

Thank you Sheila.

Cara
Guest
What are the “issues of decline” that are unique to the US that need to be addressed at a separate conference? I don’t trust that this plan is not designed to address the homosexuality issue. If that is not the motive, Dr. Bruster should be more specific about the issues that are “US Centric.” Has someone created a list of the provisions in the BOD that are “UC Centric?” I agree after reading all of the petitions that there are many petitions that are US Centric. On many of the US political issues, I question the need for the church… Read more »
Paul
Guest
It is a shame to create what some will see as a split, but what options are there if this is not possible? I know it is not the only issue (far from it), but for those of us who are married to someone of the same sex it is so difficult to be a Methodist and see our brothers and sisters in other countries tortured, killed even, because of their sexuality. I don’t ask for acceptance (I know many are very set in their beliefs) but I pray we will achieve understanding. We interpret scripture differently but that is… Read more »
Reed justus
Guest

Great idea so we can pretend the African and Aisian Methodist don’t matter and we can get on with our liberal agenda. While we’re at it lets split the conservatives and liberals in America as well. We just be bothered with one another any more.

Keith A. Jenkins
Guest

That’s not what anyone in this discussion is saying, Reed, and it is unproductive to suggest anyone is.

Kevin
Guest

This entire proposal is about as racist as you can get.

Richard F Hicks
Guest

Another layer of central command and control government isn’t going to solve the problem. If the CCUS, gets too rowdy the Africans are going to simply walk off. Then the UMC will be left “bragging” about being 40% smaller than recently. You leaders made the deal with the Africans now live with them! Maybe martial coaching is in order. Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

wpDiscuz
Google+
%d bloggers like this: