Last week, I shared about all the General Agencies that support the mission of the United Methodist Church. Since General Conference meets only every four years, and issue that has propped up as the church has grown world wide is what body will give oversight to the General Agencies? Some might assume that it would be the Council of Bishops but they have a very limited scope and authority. General Conference is the only body with true oversight authority, but, again, they only meet every four years.
Thus, The Connectional Table was created. Here is an excerpt from the CT's website
Created at the 2004 General Conference, the Connectional Table was formed to serve as both the visioning body of the church and the steward of resources to carry out the vision of the denomination worldwide.
A transition team, chaired by Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher, cared for personnel, property and programmatic issues associated with the dissolution of the General Council on Ministries, allowing the Connectional Table to move forward with its work.
The purpose of the Connectional Table is to discern and articulate the vision for the church and the stewardship of the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church as determined by General Conference and in consultation with the Council of Bishops.
The 2004 General Conference made clear that “the Connectional Table is to be motivated by faithfulness to the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ; global in scope and holistic in understanding; inclusive in nature and collaborative in style; and while being efficient in the stewardship of resources, be transparent, accessible, and accountable in all relationships.”
The structure and organization of the Connectional Table reflects the desire to make sure that all voices are represented around the table and are heard in the conversation about the mission and ministry of the Church. Jurisdictional and central conferences elect members to serve on the Connectional Table. The Council of Bishops both leads and collaborates with the Connectional Table. The agencies of the Church also have representation in the CT, participating with voice (general secretaries) and vote (agency presidents). Representation from each of the ethnic caucuses and from The Division on Ministries with Young People make sure their unique interests and perspectives are heard and inform the work.
The Connectional Table objectives are to:
- Provide a forum for vision and implementation;
- Enable flow of information and communication;
- Coordinate program life of the global church;
- Evaluate the missional effectiveness of agencies;
- Recommend changes for agency effectiveness;
- Provide leadership in planning and research; and
- Collaborate with Finance and Administration (GCFA) to develop the budget.
From a far, the different levels of bureaucracy of the United Methodist Church may seem archaic or convoluted. And yet, much of the structure has been constantly evolving since the inception of the church. Delegates to General Conference don't want to keep doing the same old thing. There are over 10 million members of the UMC worldwide and our connection is not simply nominal. In order to make the connection strong we to develop and promote tools and groups which keep us focused on the mission of the church and the Connectional Table is one of the groups.