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Board Meeting, April 2011

FAQs for Women's Division Proposed Structural Separation

What exactly happened?
Directors of the Women's Division approved a proposal to structurally separate from the General Board of Global Ministries while continuing to work together in mutual areas of mission.

Why did the directors take this action?
Several streams of activity in the church prompted discussion about the structure of United Methodist Women and its national administrative body, the Women's Division. Prominent among these was the effort of the board of the General Board of Global Ministries to reduce the size of their board of directors and increase representation from the denomination's international or "central" conferences. This raised questions about how the Women's Division would be represented on the reduced-size board.

The historic "Agreements of 1964" in which oversight of United Methodist Women's national mission institutions, the Deaconess program and other work was transferred to the General Board of Global Ministries also included provisions that guaranteed United Methodist Women members a third of the seats on the board of directors of the General Board of Global Ministries.

United Methodist Women is a membership organization comprised of women in the United States. The various organizations of United Methodist Women in the Central Conferences are independent, autonomous organizations, not members of the U.S.-based United Methodist Women.

In the new structure, United Methodist Women would not comprise a third of the Global Ministries board but would rather be represented with only five seats on the smaller policymaking body, allowing for greater Central Conference representation.

Would the other five seats then be filled by Central Conference women?
The five seats will not necessarily be filled by women from Central Conference, although it could happen.

The Women's Division's proposal requests that 50 percent of the representation elected by Central Conferences be women.

Will there still be a Women's Division?
United Methodist Women's national policymaking body would no longer be called the Women's Division, as it would no long be a division of the board. Rather, United Methodist Women's national arm would be United Methodist Women, in the new separate structure.

Other than the name, how will United Methodist Women's national body change?
The Women's Division is overseen by a 50-member board of directors. United Methodist Women would be overseen by a 25-member board of directors with 20 members elected by the jurisdictional organizations of United Methodist Women and five nominated by a special nominating committee to ensure diversity of age, race, language, physical ability and working status. The board would meet twice a year and be responsible for managing the organization's program policies, finances — including investments, budget, property, financial policies, etc — and supervising the organization's staff leader.

United Methodist Women would also have a 70-80-member Program Advisory Group representing every Conference UMW and advising  the board of directors on major program directions, strategic planning, Schools of Christian Mission plans, leadership training, social policies, Reading Program and Assembly, upon directors' approval of the budget. It is proposed that the council meet annually.
This Program Advisory Group would be comprised of:

  • Members of the 25-member board;
  • Presidents of the Jurisdictional United Methodist Women;
  • A representative from each conference organization of United Methodist Women that does not already have a representative on the 25-member board or among the jurisdictional presidents;
  • 2 members from the deaconess and home missioner community;
  • Up to 5 members based on applications, for diversity of age, experience, cultural background, race and employment status;
  • 7-10 directors from the Global Ministries board and/or other United Methodist agencies; and
  • With voice but no vote, United Methodist Women regional missionaries, the president or assigned representative of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, and the president or assigned representative of the federation's North America region.

The Program Advisory Group will expand the representation of United Methodist Women members and stakeholders, and strengthen missional relationships with other boards and agencies

Would General Conference have to approve such a change?
Yes, General Conference will need to approve the proposed structural changes.

What are the advantages of separation?
Across the United Methodist Church, bishops, agencies and other bodies are exploring the global nature of the church and what that means for how the church is structured and operates to fulfill its mission. As a separate structure, United Methodist Women can:

  • Ensure that the concerns and perspectives of women, children and youth are in the core definition of what is included in the work of the church.
  • Help the church be its best self, including finding ways to empower women to grow in their spiritual lives and as leaders as well as educating the whole church about how issues in the church and in the world impact women, children and youth and each disenfranchised group differently.
  • Ensure that United Methodist Women is a primary place for women to grow as disciples and express their commitment to Christ through compassionate service and passionate advocacy on behalf of women, children and youth around the world.

Will a separation fully dissolve "the agreements of 1964"?
Yes. Those agreements were powerful and served United Methodist Women and the church for the past 45 years, and now it is time to move on to new relationships.

Right now, Women's Division shares administrative services with Global Ministries. Will a separate structure mean that more Mission Giving will go toward administrative costs?
No, the Women's Division already pays for all of its administrative services. United Methodist Women will be able to continue to pay the General Board of Global Ministries for those services and to contract for what it needs from other vendors.

Will the restructure change the size of the national staff?
The size of the national staff will depend on how joint services are shared with Global Ministries.

What does "structurally separate, missionally related" mean? In what areas will United Methodist Women continue to work with Global Ministries?
United Methodist Women would continue to work with Global Ministries in some areas of mission. For example:

  • United Methodist Women and Global Ministries would develop appropriate settings for staff to share updates and plan work together. This would include staff of both agencies serving together on cross-functional teams to develop collaborative roles in fulfilling the strategies set out by their respective boards of directors and by the General Conference.  It will also include special purpose teams similar to teams currently working on Haiti and ministries with the poor.
  • Two Global Ministries staff persons would serve on United Methodist Women's editorial board with a special focus on resources for mission education.
  • United Methodist Women and Global Ministries would work together on the development and distribution of the Prayer Calendar, which would continue to represent the mission work of the whole church.
  • Global Ministries would help to promote and release staff to teach when invited to Schools of Christian Mission.
  • United Methodist Women staff would continue to represent Global Ministries at the United Methodist Office on the United Nations at the Church Center for the United Nations. Staff will also use the cross-functional teams and other appropriate settings to keep Global Ministries abreast of issues and opportunities at the United Nations and within the community of nongovernmental organizations.

Will any of this affect United Methodist Women on the local level?
Somewhat. Division directors approved taking proposed changes to General Conference that relate to every level of the organization; however, the effect of many of the "changes" will be that United Methodist Women's structure and language better reflect how United Methodist Women members are already organizing themselves on the local, district and conference levels.

For example, in some local churches United Methodist Women units are active and working, while in other church the life of United Methodist Women is in its circles, and units rarely meet. To reflect this, local United Methodist Women, would be called just that, local United Methodist Women, rather than the local unit of United Methodist Women, leaving the women free to organize in ways that best suit their needs, as they are already doing.

Another proposed change would be the number of required local officers. Currently, local United Methodist Women can organize using as many, or as few, officers as it needs to carry out administration, finance, program planning for mission, record keeping and nominations. Under the proposed structure, the only officers named in the Constitution for the local organization would be president, secretary and treasurer. The local members can determine if they need more officers or fewer or whether the existing structure works best for them. The local unit would choose a leadership team to carry out mission and administrative and program functions.

District United Methodist Women structures would also be more flexible, with only president, treasurer, and secretary and a nominations committee named in its Constitution. Again, if a district determined it needed more officers or that its existing structure works best for it, it is free to do so, but it wouldn't be required. The district United Methodist Women would designate members to serve on the various boards, councils and commissions and committees of the district of the Annual Conference.

Likewise, conference United Methodist Women would only be required to have a president, a secretary, a treasurer and a nomination's committee. Additional officers and committees may be elected or appointed.

The idea is to give United Methodist Women on all levels the freedom to organize in ways that best suit varying local, district and conference contexts.

Does the restructure eliminate all offices except president, treasurer and secretary for local, district and conference United Methodist Women?
No. The restructure changes the required offices for local, district and conferences to president, treasurer and secretary. There are local, district and conference United Methodist Women that are not large enough or otherwise unable to get women to fill the many other offices that are now required. The change provides those United Methodist Women groups the flexibility to organize ways that fit their various situations and needs. Local, district and conference United Methodist Women that are functioning with a full array of officers and decide that is necessary for them to be in mission are free and encouraged to continue in that way. The change frees United Methodist Women on all levels to organize in ways they deem most effective in their contexts.

Are we giving up mission with women, children and youth, or our advocacy work for justice?
No! United Methodist Women is a mission organization with a special emphasis on the needs and concerns of women, children and youth, who are the most vulnerable of populations around the world. The proposed restructure does not change our mission commitment; it changes the way we organize to accomplish our mission goals. United Methodist Women has a Purpose that directs our mission, and that Purpose is unchanged.

Will United Methodist Women retain the autonomy and authority to raise and allocate funds for mission?

The proposed changes do not alter United Methodist Women’s autonomy and authority to raise and allocate funds for mission. However, the changes will open the section of The United Methodist Church Discipline that deal with United Methodist Women. We must be vigilant at General Conference to ensure that we retain the autonomy and authority to raise and allocate funds for mission. 

How does this change leadership development opportunities (Regional School and Leadership Training Event)?

Regional schools may focus on educating and informing Mission Study leaders, and not include Officer Updates.

Leadership Training Event will continue to offer conference leaders opportunities for leadership engagement and officer training. In order to maximize member participation and broaden concepts of leadership, LTE will transition to multiple locations and be open to other leaders to attend along with conference officers.

Last Updated: 04/15/2014

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