The special committee named to examine the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church wants the denomination to engage in a conversation on a new vision of worldwide ministry during the 2012 General Conference in Tampa.
The 20-member committee, named by the denomination’s Council of Bishops and Connectional Table after the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, is proposing the 2012 General Conference adopt A Covenant for The United Methodist Church as a Worldwide Church.
“United Methodist churches throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission,” the committee declares in a proposal up for formal adoption in late June.
“Through a worldwide covenant relationship, we also carry out our missional calling beyond national and regional boundaries.”
The denomination has nearly 40,000 congregations in the U.S., Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. In 2010, it reported more than 12 million members worldwide.
Members of the committee began working on the proposed covenant in early 2010 at its meeting in Manila, Philippines, and continued to work on it throughout the year. At its most recent meeting in Dallas, the committee concluded it is time to make the proposed covenant public and seek input on it.
The draft covenant and other proposals developed by the committee are available at www.worldwideumc.org. Individual and organizational responses are welcome through the web site, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for filing a response to the proposals is June 15, 2011.
“We are inviting the church to a greater conversation,” said Bishop Scott J. Jones, of Wichita, Kan., chair of the committee.
“We are seeking ways for the church to wrestle with the proper next steps, beginning with an open conversation on our covenantal responsibilities as a connectional church. The covenant will represent our unity as a truly worldwide church.”
The committee has requested an hour of plenary time at the 2012 General Conference for a conversation on the proposed covenant, and is working for its adoption as a statement of intent of the General Conference.
“Adoption of the covenant is a vital first step in moving forward with a strategy for The United Methodist Church to become a truly worldwide denomination,” Jones said. “It will signal a clear intent to continue the process of change that we believe is clearly needed.”
Any changes in the denomination’s structure through amendment of the church’s Constitution would not occur until after the next General Conference in 2016, Jones said.
The committee held hearings and met in Africa, the Philippines, and the U.S. since 2009. It has heard from hundreds of individuals, church-related organizations and agencies.
“We were impressed by the commitment of United Methodists around the world to our historic connectional nature,” Jones said. “Every congregation, whether in an annual conference in the Midwestern United States, in Sierra Leone in Africa, an island in the Philippines, or in Central Europe, is linked with every other congregation.
“We share Christian love with one another and are dependent on one another as we live out the Gospel of making disciples for the transformation of the world,” said Jones, bishop of the Kansas Area, based in Wichita, Kan.
The committee believes acceptance of the covenant is a key aspect of its work and the church’s commitment to John Wesley’s vision of a historic connectional system that links every church around the world.
The covenant will create an opportunity, the committee concluded, for United Methodist churches around the world to “enter afresh into a covenant of mutual commitment, based on shared mission, equity, and hospitality.”