By the Rev. Kathy Noble
United Methodist News Service
The Connectional Table, the 60-member forum created by the 2004 General Conference to set and guide the direction of denomination’s mission and ministries, discussed these and similar questions at its April 27-May 1 meeting. The meeting marked the first time the body met outside the
Bishops and Connectional Table members from the
Bishop John Hopkins of the Ohio East Area, forum chair, said the discussion would be part of the table’s contribution at the 2008 General Conference.
United Methodists find it easy to discuss what they enjoy in connectional relationships, but some issues are avoided, Harman said. Those include the impact of membership growth, especially in
Bishop Patrick Streiff, leader of the church in Central and
“But I will be very open and frank with you,” he continued. “The central conference representation, which grows to 20 to 25 percent, may become a danger for you in the
He supported both “that global gathering where we bind each other together in what unites us as a connection” and regional gatherings “where each group, can address its own needs in order that the mission can best be done in its region.” The global gathering was a reference to the General Conference, the highest legislative body of the denomination, which meets every four years.
Bishop Solito K. Toquero of the
“We say that we can be more mature if we become autonomous,” Toquero said, “and, perhaps, work out some connection and interdependency not only with the
Connection is a gift
United Methodists in Africa have no desire to become autonomous, said the Rev. Forbes Matonga, a Connectional Table member from
“The real difficulty is (that) the structure of the central conferences is not working well, not really informing what we do,” he said. Bishops are elected at central conference meetings, but “critical issues are not discussed,” in part because of language barriers. “Maybe it would be ideal to devote some of the functions of the central conferences to annual conferences.”
Bishop Hans Växby of the Eurasia Area told the body that he is “not a big believer in big restructuring” but does “believe in small incremental steps.” He encouraged the denomination’s Council on Finance and Administration to continue plans to include current statistics from the central conferences in reports, including The General Minutes.
He said central conferences should “become contributors to general (apportioned) funds to be totally integrated into the one church we are.”
Matonga agreed. “Even if we are poor, we want to enjoy the spirit of giving. It is not good to always be on the receiving end.”
Table members also discussed strengthening relationships with autonomous Methodist churches as well as with denominations that have Methodist and Wesleyan roots.
Need for sensitivity
Harman warned against thinking changes in church polity or structure will let the church live as a worldwide denomination. Central conferences, he said later, grew out of the 19th-century church structure as a way “of centering relationships to the (missionary) sending church, which was the North American church.”
“The North American church is no longer the sending church.
Matonga, Dora Washington of
During the gathering, members and guests experienced an evening of Bulgarian culture presented by the United Methodist Church of Varna and worshiped at area congregations.
The Connectional Table will next meet in October in