Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Buyer Beware: Updated Edition

 You may have read my extensive posts on the GMC's Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline (BDD). One of the first comments I shared was that the document is a moving target. The BDD had been updated several times before and could be updated again.

Sure enough, two weeks before officially launching the new denomination, changes were made. So I offer this update to  the original series, going in paragraph order.

Subject to Change - Let me say it again - two weeks before asking you to sign on the line, the rules have changed. Because the BDD gives unlimited authority to the Transitional Leadership Council (TLC) to adapt the BDD as needed, the rules could very well change again without you having any say in it prior to the Convening Conference. Given that you can be kicked out of the denomination if you don't follow the rules, that's a pretty big deal.

Para.349: Smaller Apportionments - One significant change has been made that potentially helps local churches. The previous version capped apportionments after 5 years at 11.5% of local church income (1.5% for general church and 10% for annual conferences). The new version cuts the annual conference portion in half. The good news for local churches is this does likely guarantee that after 5 years a local church's apportionments will be lower than they are today (unless, of course, the rules change again). The downside is that conferences now have only half the money to function on. I'm not sure that's feasible and I would expect pressure from conferences to increase that limit as the five year deadline approaches.

Para 407: Looser Education - Wording has changed from mandating candidates for ministry attend an approved "school for ministry education" to "strongly recommend." This effectively has no meaning since the TLC still has to approve courses for Methodist theology, history, and polity and since Boards of Ordained Ministry can still react however they would like to a candidate's education (see para 409 and 410). For years, conservative candidates have complained that an Asbury degree is viewed as less valuable or makes the candidate suspect. If that's true today, the opposite would certainly be true in the new GMC.

Para 706: Expanding Bureaucracy - This new paragraph creates a Chief Operating Officer (yes, a corporate term) for the denomination and staff, hired and fired at the will of the TLC. In addition to investing even more power in the TLC, this adds to the cost of operation, again making the financial plan questionable. This is particularly interesting, given the reluctance at previous UMC General Conferences to have a president of the Council of Bishops who would not serve an episcopal area, largely citing economic concerns.

Para 902: Pension Wild West - The previous BDD had what I call a "Trust Clause Lite". Churches wanting to disaffiliate from the GMC would have a lien on their property until their unfunded pension is paid - just like the UMC is currently asking. The new version eliminates that. To be clear, I wasn't critical of the GMC for having this clause. It just needed to be pointed out since the Trust Clause is of great concern to some people. By removing it, there is no longer a guarantee that departing churches will cover pensions. Imagine a hypothetical situation where the GMC does not have enough churches to function as a denomination in the long-term. Pastors in that denomination will have nothing backing their pension claims. 

And that's it. Issues like the significantly increased power of bishops, including unilaterally dismissing pastors, and the diminished role of laity, are all still there. As I've said throughout the series, each person will need to make up their own mind. Should you choose the GMC, just go in with your eyes open.

1 comment:

  1. Agree. The WCA/GMC continue to position the current situation as a binary choice: UMC vs. GMC. Not so. Congregations and pastors have already left for more progressive or more traditional denominations, or non-denominational status. "Transitional" is the operative word in the ever-changing BoDD. "Buyer beware" is a kinder, milder version of "bait and switch."