UMC Report Says Church Must End Business as Usual

(Photo Credit:UMNS/Heather Hahn)Laura Nichol, a member of the Call to Action Interim Operations Team, facilitates a conversation at a Chicago-area meeting in April 2012 about the cultural changes The United Methodist Church needs to reverse decades of declining U.S. membership. Nichol is a partner in RIO Advisors L.P., and a member of the denomination's Interim Operations Team.

The United Methodist Church must improve its commitment to its congregations, boost accountability, diversity in leadership and streamline itself since "business as usual is unsustainable" for the denomination, a new report by the church states.

The Interim Operations Team, a group named by the church's bishops, on Monday issued its final report after a 2010 "Call to Action" to identify issues and develop a plan based on success stories from other organizations that could be applied to the church.

The report states that the church, especially in its United States and Europe congregations, face an "increasingly older membership and aging leaders; declines in the numbers of professions of faith, worship attendance, baptisms, and Sunday school attendance; and growing financial burdens accompanied by decreasing revenues."

"Business as usual is unsustainable. Dramatically different and new behaviors, not incremental changes, are required," the authors of the report state. "We have not yet seen the degree of shared sense of urgency or commitment to systemic adaptations with the redirection of leadership expectations and sufficient resources that our situation requires."

The report identified three areas where there is a need to reorder the life of the church.

- Refocus a higher share of resources and attention on congregations to promote and cultivate the drivers of vitality.

- Become equally driven by passion for increased accountability with measurable results-alongside the important values of guaranteeing vibrant diversity in leadership and the articulation of visionary intentions.

- Streamline structures; reduce the sense of "distance" between parts of the Connection; require much higher levels of alignment throughout the UMC.

The report also noted that while the 2012 General Conference - the legislative body of the denomination - passed changes meant to address the issues involved, the Judicial Council - the top church court - said the changes to the church's rules were unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, the report stated that the intention by the majority of delegates at the GC expressed that "business as usual will not suffice, and we are ready to make significant changes in how we work and live together."

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