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General Secretary's Charge at Spring 2011 Meeting PDF Print E-mail

But "the moment to decide" is upon us.  It is due time for this board of directors to deliberate about the legislation it intends to propose to the 2012 General Conference.  It is up to this board of directors to struggle with what is in the best interests of this general agency as an existing part of the current structure of The United Methodist Church, and what is in the best interests of The United Methodist Church as a whole, as it seeks to strengthen and enhance its ecumenical and interreligious ministries.

 

 

Charge by the General Secretary to the Board of Directors 

 

of the

General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns

of

The United Methodist Church

By the Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Sidorak, Jr.

 

Regarding Proposed GCCUIC Legislation to the 2012 General Conference

March 31, 2011

Claremont United Methodist Church

Claremont School of Theology

Claremont, California

 

 

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11, NRSV)  While we do know exactly what "the plans" the Lord has for us at GCCUIC, we are duly expectant and fully confident that the Lord has only "plans for (our) welfare and not for harm," in order "to give (us) a future with hope."  In all that we say and do, these days, let us be inspired by this biblical promise as we continue the tedious task of considering and discussing, revising or drafting, debating and adopting proposed legislation to the 2012 General Conference.

 

Like the author of Servant Leadership, Robert K. Greenleaf, I consider myself to be "a student of organization-how things get done, and a pursuer of wisdom-what works well in practice."  I am, therefore, an unapologetic pragmatist.  Thus, I made a recommendation about a different way forward in contrast to the traditional way The United Methodist Church has organized its ecumenical and interreligious ministries. 

 

Let me reiterate my remarks at our last board meeting and amplify upon them to the end of making the case for "folding GCCUIC into the Council of Bishops."  What good would this do?  I will "argue it out" for you once more. 

 

It would deepen the relationship between the ecumenical and interreligious staff of The United Methodist Church and the membership of the Council of Bishops, especially its Ecumenical Officer.  It would allow staff to attend dutifully to the ecumenical and interreligious education and formation of bishops. It would help cultivate a culture of undivided attention to things ecumenical and interreligious within the Council of Bishops. It would encourage and build stronger connections to the annual conferences.  It would provide ecumenical and interreligious staff direct access to Central Conference bishops collectively and likely improve the prospects for deeper understanding and greater cooperation worldwide.  It would lower somewhat the expectation (time and money) of ecumenical and interreligious staff to be present and accounted for during countless denominational meetings thereby granting them much more flexibility in prioritizing their schedules, favoring ecumenical and interreligious meetings and events over denominational ones.  It would empower staff to concentrate on our ecumenical and interreligious vision and mission, not preoccupy them with ongoing organizational maintenance and endless agency self-justification.  It would reflect more clearly the structural model used by our closest ecumenical partners, enable them to more readily comprehend the manner in which our ecumenical and interreligious ministries are structured and led and facilitate more felicitous conciliar and interreligious relationships.  It would reduce the number of individuals involved in governance, create a constructive alternative to "business as usual" and represent a sincere attempt to be much better stewards of dwindling financial resources, realizing an estimated cost savings of approximately one-half million dollars per quadrennium.  It would afford The United Methodist Church the opportunity to lead ecumenically and interreligiously with more than our money.

 

You have known now for over a year and a half where I stand and why I have taken such a stand.  I believe I have been attentive to your concerns and questions and sensitive to your misgivings and reservations.  No matter what this board decides, I pledge to carry out the responsibilities of my office and serve you faithfully, as I have tried to do these last two and a half years or so.  I truly understand and completely respect the fact that any decisions to be made are now in your hands.  I am totally aware of this irrefutable fact.  I am cognizant, as well, of the personal and/or professional self-interest at stake and the concomitant sacrifice that could be required of you.  Please do not, even for a split second, entertain the thought that all this is lost on me. 

 

But "the moment to decide" is upon us.  It is due time for this board of directors to deliberate about the legislation it intends to propose to the 2012 General Conference.  It is up to this board of directors to struggle with what is in the best interests of this general agency as an existing part of the current structure of The United Methodist Church, and what is in the best interests of The United Methodist Church as a whole, as it seeks to strengthen and enhance its ecumenical and interreligious ministries.

 

If we move in the new direction I propose, take legislative action to effect this radical change and move into what I believe is a brighter "future with hope," then you can be well-assured in quadrennia ahead that the expertise developed and experience gained by current and former GCCUIC board members will be tapped. It consists of an extraordinarily rich reservoir of ecumenical and interreligious leadership potential that must be periodically consulted and appropriately utilized.

 

In my Ash Wednesday EcuMemo to you, I noted our need to gather together face to face, to deliberate, discern and decide many things, including what shape the future of GCCUIC might ultimately take.  To be sure, the legislative task at hand is complicated by a number of contingencies, a measure of uncertainty and a degree of anxiety.  There will be downright contradictory options before us.  Still, I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time, maybe even as we rub our stomachs and pat our heads!  We must master on site the capacity to practice bricolage-the assemblage of the "odds and ends," and "bits and pieces" of the legislative minutia essential for the advancement of ecumenical and interreligious ministries within The United Methodist Church.  Again, we have to ready ourselves for a variety of mutually exclusive possibilities, the legislation to address them, while remaining open to where the Holy Spirit might be leading us, and others, in the days, months and years ahead. 

 

I commend our Standing Committee on General Conference Legislation for preparing us to engage the complex nature of proposed legislation and I acknowledge my gratitude for its efforts in this regard.  I offer my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Glen Messer, our Assistant General Secretary, for his succinct delineation of a methodical process for us to contemplate the legislative proposals presented to us.  It is a process that leaves us leeway for other proposals that may emerge from this meeting.  The process has been designed to permit maximum individual input into proposed legislation and allow for the full participation of GCCUIC board members in it, without the undue influence of the bishops on our board or any excessive intervention by your executive staff.  I must also express my deep appreciation to our President, Bishop Swenson, for her willingness to lead us through this process. 

 

We are here to sharpen our focus on the particular mandate given specifically to GCCUIC to care for "Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns" as is clearly reflected in the very name of this general agency of our church.  Our sharpened focus must remain on the unique work entrusted to us for the ecumenical and interreligious ministries of The United Methodist Church.  Anything we propose legislatively should fit squarely into these two unalterable categories-Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. 

 

I now call upon Tracy Merrick, GCCUIC board member, Chair of our Finance Committee and member of the Council of Bishops' Task Group on Council Leadership, to add his own perspective to the one I have already outlined.

 

The theme chosen for this meeting, taken from the prophet Jeremiah, provides us with a "blessed assurance" that all will be well-no matter what we think or how we feel-right now.  I trust in the Lord, as I know you do.  I find comfort in that trust, too, as I know you do.  There is no doubt in my mind, nor finally, any restlessness in my heart, that the Lord who makes such promises as these, of "plans for (our) welfare and not for harm," will not also lead us into "a future with hope."  This is the Lord's precious gift to us, "to give (us) a future with hope." 

 

Let us rejoice in this time we have together.  But even now, let us lay down all of our many GCCUIC and General Conference worries and burdens and lift up in prayer all the amazing and exciting plans the Lord has for us ecumenically and interreligiously, absolutely convinced that they are only "plans for (our) welfare."  No wonder, then, we can be bold to believe together in "a future with hope."

 

May it be so among us as we do what United Methodists do!

 

 
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