New Group Will Study Church's Worldwide Nature

March 06, 2009

A UMNS Report

By Linda Green*

March 3, 2009

Twenty United Methodists from across the globe have been named to a committee to develop recommendations related to the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church.

The committee members, named by Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop John Hopkins, chairperson of the Connectional Table, will study the denomination's changing worldwide demographics as well as its structural needs and take recommendations to the 2012 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body.

Last May, the 2008 General Conference made a cautious step toward reorganizing the 11.5 million-member United Methodist Church so it does not appear to be a U.S. church with satellite locations in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Delegates voted to consider recommendations proposed by a study group that submitted 23 petitions to amend the church's constitution to allow for the creation of a regional conference for the United States. The recommendations include the possibility of making the United States a "central conference" similar to other conferences elsewhere in the world.

The 2008 delegates requested that the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table create a 20-member committee to consider the study group's recommendations, and they suggested that the six members of the early study be included in the new committee. The new group also will consider the financial implications of proposed changes in structure and report in 2012.

"The General Conference has asked this committee to do work that will lead the church in thinking about its future shape and practice," Palmer said. "I pray and trust that they will do their work with deep faith, enormous sensitivity and an eye only to the glory of God and the mission of the church ... making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

Joint nominating committee

The Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table appointed a joint nominating committee at their respective meetings last November and received nominations from their bodies for the study committee's membership.

"The Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table have appointed a diverse group of gifted United Methodists from all geographical regions to continue the conversation of the worldwide nature of our church," Hopkins (at left) said. "We need to surround the members of this study committee with prayer as they draft the next chapter of God's worldwide mission for United Methodists."

The members of the committee are David Beckley (Mississippi Conference), Elisabeth Englund (Sweden Conference), the Rev. Ruby-Nell Estrella (Philippines Conference), Sandra Ferguson (Baltimore-Washington Conference), Richard Grounds (Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference), Bishop John Innis (Liberia Conference), and Bishop Scott Jones (Kansas Area).

Also, the Rev. Ilunga Kandolo Kasolwa (North Katanga Conference), Matthew Laferty (East Ohio Conference), the Rev. Forbes Matonga (Zimbabwe Conference), the Rev. Timothy McClendon (South Carolina Conference), Bishop Ruediger Minor (Germany Central Conference), Christine Mlambo (Zimbabwe East Conference), and the Rev. Lyssette Perez (Greater New Jersey Conference).

Also, the Rev. Joon Sik-Park (West Ohio Conference), the Rev. Bruce Robbins (Minnesota Conference), Bishop Leo Soriano (Davao Area Conference), the Rev. Cathy Stengel (Western New York Conference), Marjorie Suchocki (California-Pacific Conference), and Monalisa Tuitahi (California-Pacific Conference).

Bishop Scott Jones was named chairperson of the committee by the Council of Bishops.

For more information about the Worldwide Nature of the Church Study Committee, contact Jones by e-mail at or by calling 316-686-0600.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Portions of this article were adapted from a release from the Connectional Table.