New life exists for the idea of restructuring agencies of the United Methodist Church, with members of various camps having engaged in lengthy, intense negotiations that led to a compromise called “Plan UMC.”
“We were committed to finding a plan that can unify the church,” said the Rev. Don Underwood, among those who helped work out the new proposal.
Plan UMC abandons the idea of a single board for all program agencies, but creates a strong 45-member General Council for Strategy and Oversight with a focus on supporting vital congregations.
Executives of the larger program agencies would answer to their agency’s board, but would also be evaluated by the council and its executive for how they’ve done in helping advance the vital congregations effort.
Plan UMC comes after the General Administration Committee, in a chaotic Saturday night meeting, broke a 9:30 deadline and still failed to agree on a restructuring plan to send to the full General Conference.
That led to the compromise effort and Plan UMC.
“The Holy Spirit doesn’t run out of time,” Mr. Underwood said.
The Rev. Greg Stover said the key was finding common ground in a plan that also had a clear connection to the vital congregations emphasis many delegates favor.
“We believe that Plan UMC holds the potential to help us align and move forward with the development of vital congregations, and that’s the most important thing,” said Mr. Stover, a delegate from West Ohio and member of the Connectional Table.
Plan UMC has been submitted for publication in the Daily Christian Advocate, paving the way for its consideration later this week by General Conference.
Mr. Underwood originally supported the Connectional Table/Interim Operations team plan, which called for consolidation of 9 agencies under a single, 15-member board and an executive.
He said a group came together to craft a common ground proposal that drew on CT/IOT; on Plan B, a less sweeping proposal that had considerable General Administration committee support; and on the Methodist Federation for Social Action plan, as well as other restructuring ideas. He said the compromise also sought to answer specific concerns raised by various delegates.
For example, Plan UMC guarantees that 7 of 34 voting spots on the new council would go to the non-U.S. central conferences. The plan also allows annual conferences flexibility in organizing – an important issue for some delegates.
Christine Dodson, a North Carolina lay delegate and supporter of Plan B, joined in the negotiations for a compromise.
“We were able to work together and compromise and develop a plan that we all felt good about, even though we had to give some things away,” she said.
Roughly 20 people were involved in negotiations, including backers of CT/IOT, Plan B and delegates from the central conferences, Mr. Underwood said. He added that while no MFSA representative participated, there were negotiators who had backed the MFSA plan.
Plan UMC would have the Board of Discipleship, Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Board of Church and Society and Board of Global Ministries retain their boards, but with their executives answering to the council and its executive as well.
The General Council of Finance Administration would stand alone, and the Board of Archives and History would come under it.
Coming under the council, in a new Committee on Inclusivity, would be would be the Commission on Religion and Race and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
The new council would replace the Connectional Table.
Mr. Underwood said negotiations were conducted with the goal of not ending General Conference without putting before delegates a restructuring plan that would help with the vital congregations effort.
The discussions went on much of Sunday and into Monday morning.
“When we finished, we held hands and prayed,” he said.