Friday, February 24, 2012

Leaders of Africa's United Methodist Student Movement issue statement

Two days ago the student leadership of the Africa United Methodist Student Movement issued a statement about their opinions about the Connectional Table's proposal for restructure of the church.

Paragraph four makes two points I find to be thought provoking:
!) "The restructuring of the church will cut down wide range of programs and ministry work carried out by the agencies across the world and that has significant impact onto the African continent."
2) " The restructuring proposal undermines the role of youths and alienates youths from the governance and administration of the church which is a threat to total inclusion. At this critical time, the church needs to rather expand its leadership development and ministry to the communities where growth is being experienced than cut down these important programs."

What do other people think?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I don't understand where their claim of a cut in programs and ministry comes from, and they provide no description about how they reached this conclusion. That is a weighty statement that needs some further explanation. I do not believe a cut in programs is the intent of the IOT, nor do I see it written into the legislation. The restructure is about governance and the hope that better governance will lead to more effective programs and ministries. For all we know the Council and Board could help eliminate redundant programs in other places and provide MORE energy and resources to supporting African churches.

  3. First, let me be clear that I am not responding in ANY official capacity on behalf of the Division on Ministries with Young People (DMYP). I am a concerned United Methodist pastor, and I am just as much a concerned young person. Because I am most familiar with the legislation as a part of that body, though, I will use it to illustrate my points.

    A close reading of the legislation, particularly related to the $60 million dollars being made available to the new Centers, yields some interesting information. Those funds will be made available as current programatic structures cut 20% from their operating budgets. In the case of the DMYP (or the structure currently doing much of the programmatic effort related to youth and young adult leadership and ministry) our budget is first cut by $2 million dollars. So, the $5 million being offered is actually only $3 million. And that money can only be used for certain work (restrictions) meaning certain programmatic re-direction. Also, because governance is centered with a 15-member body to be determined by the Connectional Table (at least in the first quadrennium), governing bodies don't have a lot of say about that direction.

    Now, let's take a different tack by assuming the document doesn't directly mean programming like, let's say, the Upper Room. Many of my fellow African leaders have referred to the DMYP as a program of the church. And, in fact, it is a programmatic body of the church. In this instance, the proposal does significantly impact programming by re-allocating ministry responsibility in very small groups of people. IN this instance, it does disproportionately impact our Central Conferences. The ONLY representative body in the new church structure offered by the IOT is the 45-member General Council for Oversight and Strategy (pg. 926 of Advance Daily Christian Advocate). Now, while there are 21 (pg. 935) representatives from the U.S., there are only 7 (yes, seven!) from the Central Conferences. Considering this document comes from young people, you can see how they might be concerned their voice is being lost in the mix.

  4. Of most concern, and directly supporting some of these claims, is the fact that legislation is, in many places, muddled an incomplete. A prime example relates to the structure for ministry with young people. This body, The Advisory Committee on Ministries with Young People, is referenced on pg. 945 of the legislation. At first, it seems like a pretty great idea. They are separated from other agencies, given some autonomy in the structure, etc. However, note that paragraph 1602 is dangling. There's no specific way to complete that mission. Note also
    that the previous programmatic responsibilities assigned to the Young People's ministry body, i.e. Youth Service Fund grants, Grants for Ministries with Young People, the Global Young People's Convocation, and national and jurisdictional young people's events are given to a body not at all related to this group that is selected by the 15-member Center for Connectional Ministry. This is where I'll let my pride in the DMYP show. I have had the pleasure to work with some of the most gifted young people in our church, including my co-chair Earlie Pasion. Though our work has not always been easy, this is one of the most passionate, concerned, and committed bodies of people I know. And here's the thing, it shows in the work. Committed to being good stewards of the Church's money and resources, we have cut meeting budgets, worked creativly to assign staffing to Central Conferences regions and jurisdictions (rather than centralized in one office), and used technology to find innovative ways to empower the people of God. Excited about our connectional system, we have created church-wide events that have been some of the most highly successful of their kind in years. And passionate about the kingdom of God, we have increased the number of people we directly train and work with by well over 120% in the past quadrennium.

    Why do I brag? Because I worry that despite the giftedness evident in this work, the changes to this structure that NEVER considered the opinions of those of us in it, let alone those outside the Connectional Table from our Central Conferences, fails to take into consideration all that God is doing right now in our church structure. This doesn't mean change is not necessary. Obviously, there are redundant structures. But it does mean that, as the statement above tries to encapsulate, there are changes coming down the pipe, with serious consequences, that can really affect the voice young people have in our church. At least, these were the things that came to mind when I read the statement. Were there other places you might point me to help me think more critically?

  5. I think its important to remember that the restructuring proposal can pass separately from the proposal to reallocate funds. The statement above spoke only about "restructuring" and not about the "$60 million" so I assumed they were focused on the consolidation of agencies and reductions in boards.

    The way I read the proposals I think young adults are actually given a protected position in that little changes in the language around the DMYP and what they call the "Advisory Committee on Ministries with Young People." (I see what you mean that paragraph 1602 is left unfinished, I would assume they meant to copy the language in 1202 of the 2008 discipline but you would have to check with Jay Brim from SWTX to be sure). Certainly having the size of that Advisory committee remain the same as current is a boon. (which btw it is still a representative body, as is the board of the UMW and the UMM and the GBPHP, so the Council is not the ONLY representative body in the proposed structure). Are there less positions for young people over all? Of course. There are less positions overall. That is the point. The bloated structure we have currently is ineffective. Are there too few Central Conference seats on the 45 member council? Perhaps but my understanding is the formula is very similar to what was used for the Connectional Table. That doesn't mean it couldn't be changed. My hope is that instead of tanking the whole proposal, people with concerns will offer concrete suggestions for changes to the current legislation. Perhaps the creators were not as consultative as some would have liked. I believe they are listening now because they want to get something done at GC.

    To me the best way to make the case for the need for young leadership is for young people to provide leadership. So what would you and your DMYP like to propose to correct some of the errors you see in the legislation as printed? (And maybe that should be a separate post on this blog instead of an eternally long comment thread)

  6. To offer a quick response, there is other legislation being offered by the Division (it's not my own, by the way. I have a co-chair named Earlie Pasion and many other co-leaders to whom I am always thankful). We've been in conversation with multiple people thoughout the process, but were sadly not allowed the opportunity, despite repeated requests, to participate in the planning or process of the legislation being offered. I don't think anyone, certainly myself, would disagree that changes is needed. I just echo the concerns of my Central Conference sisters and brothers that perhaps we need to be a little more discerning.

    1. Pardon the typo, I meant "you and your DMYP colleagues." Glad to hear legislation is on the way from a YA perspective.

  7. I wouldn't want to respond in an official capacity of the Africa United Methodist Student Movement that i lead, but i would offer my personal reflections on the Call to Action Proposal and why we find it so fit to reject it.

    The development of the Call to Action proposal has been limited to certain individuals and was not inclusive of the views of different people in the church, different in terms of age group, ethnicity and regional groupings. The circusmtances surrounding the present state of the church differ in these communities and that should be taken into consideration. For example, in Africa there are clear challenges that the call to action fails to be considerate of, the membership of the church in Africa is high and increasing whilst the representation of the continent in decision making positions of the church is being reduced. If indeed the Call to Action proposal is passed, the next question is how many years will it take for a country or annual conference to be represented in the church's administration when some central conferences have about 6 countries.

    The call to action indeed threatens the participation of young people in the church. This comes out of the understanding that most of the young adults are out of the church but how then do we ensure that these youths are taking an active role in the church when they aren't included in the administration of the church. How do we develop vibrant congregations in the absence of the youths?

    A clear picture even from the Connectional Table shows that the members share different views when it comes to the proposal, with some being totally against it.

    The restructuring exercise of the church is a business model and i would call it a wall street think on rebranding of companies for the sake of maximising profits. It has to be appreciated that the church is indeed a fellowship of believers and we shouldn't lose focus that the UMC tradition is that of a movement and not an institution or company. Restructuring and new systems obviously interprets a refocus on priorities and one will have to appreciate that some of the agencies are doing amazing work in promoting leadership development through programs that include the youths. If the voices of the youths are silenced then who will lead the church when the present generation in leadership passes on.

    We don't reject the need for change but what i mean is that change should come in a way that does not threaten vibrancy of the church and its sustainability plans which mainly lies with the presence and participation of the youths.

    The agencies have develop new ways of cutting down the expenses involved whilst maintaing key programs and activities that is moving the church ahead. Indeed most agencies plan to cut down their board of directors membership whilst ensuring that there exist a balanced representation. Well the financial aspect matters but how expensive is it to maintain these agencies when only 1 cent out of every 1 US Dollars given to church goes there?

    If we are to accept the call to Action, are we not surrendering the fate of the church to a few individuals presumed to be competent? How certain are we that the new formula will yield good results of creating vital congregations when evangelism seems not be a major focus?

    I could say more but even the recent formula of qualifying or assessing vital congregations seem not to be clear and satisfactory. I hope we reflect along the lines of having everyone on board and ensuring that we create and enhance the sustainability plan of the church without hindering critical programs.