The following is a justification of the fourth 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. This proposal was largely drafted by D. T. Niles of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka. 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 IV: A World Methodist Conference of Churches by D. T. Niles
In this proposal, the United States would become one of eight or ten regional or central conferences. There would also be regions made up of the present autonomous churches which have grown out of both the British Methodist and the American Methodist tradition.
There would be a world general conference of Methodist and Methodist related churches composed of some five hundred delegates elected by the churches in the regions. This body would presumably meet in the various regions. It would have sufficient power to provide for the unity of its member churches and to deal with world matters facing the churches. It will not be a legislative body. Such a world conference would be a consultative body, a court of reference and an executive organ whenever its member units desire to act together.
There would be found commissions of this world conference: a theological commission – a commission on law and discipline – a commission on social and international affairs – and a program committee.
Each region would hold its own conference at such time and such intervals as it may determine in order to deal with matters pertaining to its own region. Each region would, in effect, be an autonomous Methodist Church.
There would be sufficient unity in the structure so that it is a true organ of world Methodism. This is provided in the following ways:
1. A doctrinal basis embodying the historic tenets of Methodism shall be a part of the constitution of the conference in each region.
2. The General Conference will be a delegated body in which every annual conference or district synod, as the basic unity of the Church, is represented.
3. (A) There will be, relating together the conferences in the American Methodist tradition, a Council of General Superintendents (Bishops) in which body every member would be recognized as an equal and as a General Superintendent in the whole Church as well as of the electing unit. This Council will meet at such intervals as it may determine.
(B)There will be also, relating together the Conferences in the British Methodist tradition, a Council of Presidents of the Conferences, on which body every President will be recognized as an equal and as having standing as President in the whole Church as well as of the electing unit. This Council will meet at such intervals as it may determine.
(C) The Heads of the United Churches into which Methodist[s] have entered and which churches are member units of the World Conference shall be members of the Council of Presidents.
4. There will be written into the constitution of the conference in each region provisions giving effect to the Methodist tradition of a connexional system the itinerancy of its ordained ministry and its General Superintendents and District Chairmen [sic].