Monday, June 24, 2019

COSMOS: Maintain and Modify the Present Central Conference System

The following is a justification of the first 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 I: Modification of the Present System.

The Methodist Church now has a world-wide structure. This is in keeping with its heritage, its emphasis upon universal grace and its missionary drive. This structure has proven useful and fruitful in carrying the gospel to other parts of the world and in bringing together new Christians into churches. We ought not lightly to disregard a rich heritage if for no other reason that that it may be a structure with value to bequeath in due season to the whole church.

Now is no time to dismantle a world-wide structure. During a period of such extreme nationalism, is it wise to put aside an international fellowship? At a time when at political and economic and social level [sic], we are seeking ways and means to embody a world fellowship, is this time for the church to dismantle what world ties it does have. Do not isolated churches run the risk of becoming their tools of nationalism? Is it not possible that there is a danger in exchanging one form of disunity for another – that is national for denominational?

Methodism and its structure has [sic] been flexible in its approach to problems arising from its world-wide connections. The initial creation of the central conferences inaugurated for India and China in 1884, was an effort to deal creatively with the demands for greater freedom on the part of churches in each area and yet within [a] framework it [that?] maintained world-wide relationships. Therefore, now that there are further strains upon the connection, is it not possible to make further modifications as we have in the past to meet the needs? Where there is demand for greater freedom to write a discipline, would it not be possible under [the] present system to meet this need? Other objections would also be met through similar modifications. It may well be too late to consider such a drastic re-organization of the Methodist Church as is envisioned in the proposal for a decentralized international church. However the central conference can be modified at any meeting of the General Conference. Further the church is not prepared for such a drastic move. Would it not be better to maintain the present system until such time as the way into larger ecumenical union is seen more clearly?

Has the Methodist heritage made its larger and fullest contribution to the ecumenical movement? Is confessionalism necessarily inimical to church union? It may well be argued that Methodism has not yet finished its task, and it may be a betrayal both of Methodism and of the universal church if we dissipate our heritage before presenting it in its fullest form to the ecumenical movement.

But the aim and goal of all this is that Methodism may present itself more fully and more completely to the larger ecumenical movement and may work for this unity and pray for it.

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