4. Strengthen Our Global Connection and Ecumenical Relationships

The global nature of The United Methodist Church is seen most clearly in the location of its members. The United Methodist family represents the great human diversity of God’s creation-it is multiracial and multicultural, and its members live and serve throughout the world. We believe that all persons are made in God's image and that God’s salvation has come equally for all. Such a belief gives rise to the vision of a church that reflects the diversity of the communities where it serves, includes a leadership that is representative of that diversity, and calls upon society to be inclusive of all persons.

We affirm local flexibility in organization and increased independence for United Methodists to structure themselves for effective ministry within their own context. The structure of the church should affirm our doctrinal and theological roots and provide a network of covenant and relational opportunities for us.

As we work to strengthen the global connections among United Methodists, we also affirm the work of the World Methodist Council and give thanks for the important ways they link The United Methodist Church with other Methodist bodies around the globe. We welcome their leadership as we join in conversation and in relationships with the greater Methodist family without whom our efforts to be faithful in the world would be incomplete.

In the same spirit, the historic tradition of our church has consistently affirmed and we are called to strengthen our commitment to the unity of the church of Jesus Christ at the local, national, continental, and world levels. Christians also share with persons of other living faiths concerns that are basic to human life and dignity and knowing the Creator. With Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and others who seek to live in peace with the Creator and all of creation, we must address issues related to social justice, the human condition, the environment, and other social concerns.

In order to strengthen our global connection and ecumenical relationships, we recommend the following:

  • Reconstitute the General Conference as the United Methodist Global Conference

We seek new ways to be The United Methodist Church in the world-a church where the connection is expressed globally through interdependent relationships. This transformation requires a shift from a model in which the United States’ perspective dominates a highly structured organization to one where the global perspective supports a rich variety of United Methodist ministries and missions around the world. We strive to give new meaning to Wesley’s historic global vision of relationships that connect local churches and people in a forum for Christian conferencing centered on essential matters of faith and practice that bind us as United Methodists.

In constituting the United Methodist Global Conference we recommend:

1. that the Global Conference be made up of 500 delegates and meet quadrennially. Because annual conferences are the fundamental link in the connection, we recommend that each annual and provisional conference be allowed to send two delegates (one clergy and one lay). The remainder of the 500 delegates will be apportioned to the annual conferences on the basis of membership.

2. that the United States Central Conference meet immediately following the Global Conference at the same site. The membership of the U.S. Central Conference shall be no more than 1000 delegates.

3. that the initial session of the Global Conference be held in 2008 and last for six days and the initial session of the U.S. Central Conference for six days. The length of the succeeding sessions will be determined by each conference.

4. that the U.S. jurisdictional conferences and all central conferences except the U.S. be held prior to the Global Conference and that all newly elected bishops be consecrated at the Global Conference.

5. that the current legislative functions of the General Conference be assigned to the Global Conference and the central conferences. Although not an exhaustive list, the following legislative functions have implications both globally and regionally. In consultation with all general agencies, the Covenant Council will review and make recommendations to the 2004 General Conference as to the division of responsibilities regarding which legislative functions would be global and which legislative functions would be the responsibility of the respective central conferences.

Constitution
Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task
Mission statements and global missional initiatives
Global social principles
General ministry of all Christians
Clergy orders
Episcopacy
Global financial matters
Global administrative order
Global judicial order
Formal ecumenical and interreligious relationships
Definition or requirements for church membership
Central conferences will have authority to establish the sections of The Book of Discipline on legislative matters except those specifically delegated to the Global Conference.

6. that the majority of plenary time at the Global Conference be devoted to the celebration of mission and ministry, global disciple-making concerns, Christian formation, theological and doctrinal conversation, and the consecration of newly elected bishops. The Global Conference should facilitate Christian conferencing, providing an opportunity for dialogue, discussion, and debate about the doctrinal and theological ties that bind us together without becoming overloaded with legislative agenda.

7. that continental meetings for consultative purposes be held during the meeting of the Global Conference. Each continent where The United Methodist Church is constituted would hold such a meeting (North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia).

We urge The United Methodist Church to continue working toward the vision of an inclusive church that denies every semblance of discrimination (see 117 of The Book of Discipline). The rise of hate crimes and genocide in the world makes the call for a clear witness to the goodness of the diversity of God’s people even more urgent. In the spirit of this commitment we would recommend that annual conferences intentionally work toward the election of inclusive delegations to the conferences of the church.

  • Determine funding sources

We recommend that the 2000 General Conference request GCFA to arrange funding for the 2008 Global Conference and U.S. Central Conference and also recommend funding patterns that would enable the implementation of this report.

  • Strengthen bishops as spiritual leaders

The bishops are elected and consecrated as spiritual leaders of the church. As the Council of Bishops, they are to articulate the vision for and mission of the church and function as leaders to provide oversight to the church. They serve as the connecting links between their annual conferences in giving witness to God’s transforming power in the world, and they help to connect local churches globally.

  • Strengthen global connections among educational institutions

In a transforming church, the church and church-related educational institutions will continue to serve as partners in the preparation and ongoing development of church leaders. We recommend that United Methodist seminaries and other educational institutions around the world engage in intentional efforts to share faculty, students, library resources, and campus facilities with each other, with other Methodist institutions, and where possible and helpful with the institutions of other denominations. We also recommend that The United Methodist Church encourage the development of global cross-cultural experiences, support the development of extension courses for wide global availability using the new technology, and facilitate other global learning opportunities.

  • Explore relationships with autonomous and affiliated churches

Autonomous and affiliated churches are churches that had their beginnings in the work of what is now The United Methodist Church. Their relationship to The United Methodist Church is different from that of the Central Conferences. We seek more faithful relationships with these churches and wish to expand mutual dialogue about the future.

The same understanding must be exercised in determining our future relationships with Affiliated United, Covenanting, and Concordat Churches through the central conferences.

  • Strengthen ecumenical relationships

Scripture clearly states that Christians are to strive for unity as members of the one body of Christ. The divisions in that body are a sign of the reconciliation still needed. As United Methodists we affirm our commitment to healing the body of Christ. We encourage every local church to reach out to congregations and faith communities of other denominations for joint fellowship, witness, and service.

The Global Conference has the unique responsibility of leading all United Methodists at every place in the church (local, regional, national, and global) to practice our ecumenical commitment.

  • Explore interreligious dialogue

We recommend that the Global Conference create a forum for ongoing conversation with other living faiths of the world. The purpose of interreligious dialogue with Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and others will be to strengthen our mutual understanding that we might live in peace with each other and together discern the mystery of God.

Report Index

Center on Christian Formation

Call Forth Covenant Leadership

Empower the Connection for Ministry

Strengthen Our Global Connection and Ecumenical Relationships

Encourage Doctrinal and Theological Discourse

Conclusion

Appendix


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