Monday, June 24, 2019

COSMOS: Create a Decentralized "International Methodist Church"

The following is a justification of the third of four main alternatives for how to structure the Methodist Church internationally that were considered by COSMOS, the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas. The text is taken from a COSMOS document generated in 1965. The original is held by the General Commission on Archives and History in Drew, NJ.

Alternative III: Decentralized International Methodism Church

This proposal is an effort to see what would be involved in the United States becoming a Central Conference – or a Regional Conference – alongside other central or regional conferences. The United States would become one of eight or ten regional conferences. There would be an international general conference composed of approximately four hundred delegates, elected by the annual conferences in all of the regions. This conference is intended to provide for the unity of the church and to deal with international problems and inter-regional relationships. It will be a delegated body. Each annual conference would have at least two delegates, one minister and one layman [sic]. Additional delegates would be elected at large from each region, so that the membership will be approximately one half of the United States and one half from other regions.

The general conference would have legislative power over matters distinctly inter-regional and international. It would establish the boundaries and number of the regional conferences; provide consultative boards and agencies for the work of the church; establish a judicial system; provide for the raising of funds for international and inter-regional responsibilities; and suggest standards for church membership, ministry, for ritual and worship; and offer its aid in other aspects of the work as requested.

The eight or ten regional conferences would meet quadrennially and deal with matters primarily relevant to the regions. Each regional conference would: (1) Formulate its statement of faith within the Methodist heritage; (2) Establish standards of church membership; (3) Provide for the organization and administration of the local church; (4) Set standards for the ministry; (5) Provide for a general superintendency of the region, including the designation of the title by which the general superintendent would be known (Bishop, general superintendent or president); Determine the number of superintendents, their term of support, compensation, powers, duties, privileges, and Methodist support.

The unity of the church would be provided for in several ways: (A) Common Methodist heritage in doctrine, ritual, policy; (B) The regional conferences would be bound together within a single constitutional framework. Within this framework greater or less power could be given to the general (international) conference or to the regional conference. (C) The international general conference would be a world forum with what other powers the church as [a] whole might choose to give it; (D) A council of general superintendents all of whom are equal. This council would meet at least once in each quadrennium and plan for the general oversight and promotion of temporal and spiritual interests of the entire church and for carrying into effect the rules, regulations and responsibilities prescribed by the general conference; and (E) An itinerant ministry and general superintendency.

Several questions have been raised concerning this proposal. Is there sufficient unity at the center of this organization? Is it a church? Does it provide adequately for unity or Methodist Churches in difference [sic] parts of the world? Does this proposal undermine efforts toward church union?

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