Northern Illinois Methodists Offer Proposals for International Church Change

The United Methodist Church is governed by a representative democracy–more or less.

Internationally, with exceptions to provide over representation for declining areas (called conferences), there is approximate proportional representation at the policy-making convention every four years.

It would be no surprise to those who have watched the Methodist Church over the years to learn that the conferences with declining membership are those which are more liberal on social issues and more open to “modern” interpretations of the Bible.

The First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake is where the Skinners worship.

Similar forces have taken control to the Episcopal Church in the United States, resulting in some congregations affiliating with evangelical bishops in Africa.

There is a great Christian awakening in Africa in many churches, including the Methodist Church.

Elgin Attorney John Jurgensmeyer says 2005 statistics show that there are 3,227,162 professing Methodist Christians in Africa, while in the United States 3,316,955 people attended Methodist Churches weekly that year.

The figures are not of the same measurement, but one can see that African membership is high in relationship to that in the USA. The latest international General Conference composition is based on almost 35% of the world’s church membership being in Africa.

Yet African church members receive second class treatment.

For example, wouldn’t you think that if a part of the world had one-third of the constituency that it would have some major church headquarters in its area?

That’s what occurred to me when I realized that Methodists in Africa obviously know how to evangelize. It is self-evident from the rapid membership growth.

In the United States, on the other hand, those parts of the country where liberals are in control are in decline.

So, I have proposed that the Board of Global Ministries move its headquarters within two years from New York City to Africa.

Let’s let those who know how to evangelize have more contact with those who make the Great Commission decisions in the mission field.

Juergensmeyer has put forth a number of resolutions.

He wants the quadrennial Methodist governing body (called a General Conference and scheduled next spring in Tampa) to be as representative as the U.S. Congress.

What a concept.

One person, one vote.

Currently conferences declining in membership have something of a “hold harmless” approach. Their representation does not go down in proportion to their loss of membership.

That means growing conferences are penalized.

Not exactly the way to encourage growth or reward success in winning souls for Christ.

Juergensmeyer asks that similar representation extend to the governing agencies and staffing of all agencies of the worldwide Methodist Church. He specifically mentions geography, language and ethnicity.

Juergensmeyer also proposes that the same Methodist Book of Discipline govern all Methodists. Liberals want to break off the United States to allow them to float their own boat without interference from those conservative Christians in Africa.

Clearly he is trying to avoid letting what happened to the Episcopal Church in America jump into the Methodist Church.

The Elgin resident calls for translation of the Book of Discipline and other publications into any language for which there are 100,000 members.

Juergensmeyer asks in another resolution that the Book of Discipline be codified so people can find subjects covered more easily.

He also proposes all legislative resolutions after the Tampa General Conference next year be translated into a language with which each delegate in comfortable at least 60 days before the conference.

Who could be against such transparency?

In addition to having the proposals translated into the delegates’ languages, one of Juergensmeyer’s resolutions asks for simultaneous translations of committee and floor debate. He notes that in Houston three years ago it was obvious that many delegates had no idea what was going on.

To save money, a Juergensmeyer resolution asks that local Methodist families be asked to host foreign delegates before, during and after conferences, starting in 2016.

Not really radical proposals unless you are a ruling liberal and don’t want people to know what is going on.

Finally, the Elgin attorney proposes that Church bureaucrats not be allowed to submit resolutions to the quadrennial conference. He envisions “enormous long-term savings.”

He notes about 80% of the resolutions come from the bureaucracy and that the bureaucracy is spending Church funds to lobby the United Methodist Church’s legislative body to pass the bureaucracy’s agenda so it can then lobby others in the name of the Church.

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Both  John Juergensmeyer and Cal Skinner are members of the Northern Illinois Conference in the United Methodist Church. It is one of the most liberal in the world and has declining membership.   Juergensmeyer’s church is the Wesley United Methodist Church of Elgin.  Skinner’s is the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake.

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