Perspective – April 19, 2011

Let the restructuring begin: Women’s Division votes to “structurally separate” from GBGM

In a historic vote, the Women’s Division Board of Directors voted unanimously to “structurally separate” from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and become an independent agency within the United Methodist Church. The action took place at its spring semi-annual meeting April 7-11 in Stamford, Connecticut.

While separate, the plan states that the Women’s Division will be “missionally connected to GBGM, and would intentionally release seats at the GBGM Board of Directors…..to make it possible for GBGM to add additional representation from Central Conferences within a smaller board.”

Later that week, the Directors of the General Board of Global Ministries affirmed the proposal from the Women’s Division. The directors also voted to reduce their number from 92 to 32—a recommendation from the board’s executive committee.

In his presentation of the report, Bishop Peter Weaver of New England said that directors of the mission board must have a clear vision and “focus on where God is leading us into the future.” Ideal directors are Christ-centered, have an ability to tell the truth in love, and are deeply collaborative, Weaver said.

According to a GBGM news release, “The formula for the distribution of Global Ministries directors beginning in 2013 would assign 15 seats to five geographical jurisdictions in the US, with three each for the North Central, Northeastern, and South Central jurisdictions, and four to the Southeast and two to the Western, proportioned by membership size. Two spots would go to US bishops, for a total US representation of 17, or 53 percent.

“Ten places, nine for clergy and laity and one for a bishop, would go to the central conference outside the US, or a total of 31 percent. There are some 7.8 million US United Methodists and more than 4 million in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. Membership is growing outside the US and Europe.”

A new relationship
Key components of the new Women’s Division-GBGM relationship plan include:

• The Women’s Division would have 5 seats on the 32 member GBGM Board of Directors. (Currently, the Women’s Division makes up 30-40 percent of the GBGM Board of Directors as mandated by the Discipline.)

• Women’s Division staff would continue to operate the UM Office at the United Nations on behalf of both GBGM and WD at the Church Center for the UN, which is owned by the WD.

The structural separation plan will now be presented to the 2012 General Conference in legislative form.

Other major organizational changes concerning United Methodist Women were also approved today by the Women’s Division Board of Directors:

• The name “Women’s Division” will be replaced with “United Methodist Women, Inc.,” and the organization will now be classified as an agency of the United Methodist Church.

• The term “unit” will be replaced with “local organization of UMW” and each local organization would organize as they see fit.

• A new Board of Directors of UMW, Inc. will be created with 25 members (20 elected from jurisdictional organizations of UMW and 5 nominated by a special committee to ensure diversity). The current board size is 50 members.

• A UMW Program Advisory Group would be created, made up of 70-80 members, which would meet annually and be responsible for recommending to the Board of Directors major program directions, strategic plans, and plans for Schools of Christian Mission, leadership training, social policies, Reading Program, and Assembly.

The rationale and impetus behind these major structural changes being proposed by the Women’s Division reflect a pro-active position toward impending structural reorganizations across the general church.

Perhaps these historic changes reflect a willingness by the Women’s Division to adapt to the realities facing the United Methodist Church as a whole, and the organization of United Methodist Women in particular. These realities for UMW include continued dramatic membership loss and revenue decline. (See www.renewnetwork.org for current report on UMW membership and financial structure.)

Hopefully, in the midst of promoting flexibility in structure and reaching more women within the UM Church, the Women’s Division will understand the need to embrace other women’s ministry models within the church in addition to United Methodist Women. Building vital congregations means building vital women’s ministry programs across the UM Church.

By Liza Kittle and Steve Beard

For more information on the changes at GBGM, click HERE

For more information on the change in relationship between the Women’s Division and GBGM, click HERE

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