Women’s Division Proposes Becoming “Structurally Separate, Missionally Connected” to Global Ministries
The Women’s Division board voted to become structurally separate from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) while remaining “missionally connected” in staff configuration and by its board of directors at its recent meeting, April 7-11 in Stamford, Conn. The directors of GBGM also approved the proposal at their meeting, April 11-13.
Based on recommendations from the board’s policy committee, there was strong support of the proposal to be structurally separate and missionally related to GBGM. These recommendations came out of the previous Fall 2010 meeting request to prepare two plans for consideration at the Spring 2011 meeting, one outlining structural connection with GBGM and another outlining structural separation.
Changes in Relationship
The plan would bring a variety of changes to how the Women’s Division and GBGM relate to each other.
- The Women’s Division would name 5 directors to the proposed 30-member GBGM board through the Women’s Division nominating committee.
The Women’s Division “would intentionally release seats at the GBGM Board of Directors … to make it possible for GBGM to add additional representation from Central Conferences within a smaller board,“ a preliminary proposal noted.
“We see releasing five seats on the GBGM board as an investment in Central Conference board membership,” said Harriett Olson, deputy general secretary of the Women’s Division, "and especially in the women of the Central Conferences, who we hope GBGM will agree to seek as directors."
- Women’s Division would not be represented on GBGM’s Program Cabinet on a regular basis, but is recommending that its chief executive would be represented at the General Secretaries’ Table, a body composed of top executives from the 13 agencies of the United Methodist Church.
- Staff structures would be separated, although Women's Division and GBGM have already agreed that Women's Division may continue to purchase some shared services from GBGM as it does now.
“I am confident that this new relationship would strengthen the mission of our global Church. United Methodist Women have always been a vital part of the mission connection," said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of GBGM. “There is a long history of work between Global Ministries and Women’s Division. United Methodist Women plays a major role in mission education within the church and keeps the United Methodist connection alert to the needs of justice and equality in both church and society. These contributions will continue in our shared mission in the world.”
New Board Structure, Advisory Group
The directors approved a new Women’s Division board of directors structure, consisting of 25 members, where 20 members are elected by the jurisdiction organizations of United Methodist Women, as 40 board members are now, and 5 members are nominated by a special committee to ensure diversity of age, race, language, and working status. This is reduced from its current size of 50.
Directors also voted to elect a larger United Methodist Women "Program Advisory Group" to the organization, which would be an advisory to the board of directors. The advisory group of between 70-80 members would include:
- Elected board members
- Jurisdiction presidents
- A representative from each United Methodist Women conference not already represented
- GBGM directors
- Directors of other United Methodist agencies
- Members based on applications to account for diversity
- Members from the deaconess and home missioner community, and
- Representation from global Methodist women organizations, ex officio, like regional missionaries
The addition of an advisory group combined with the board expands the representation of United Methodist Women members and stakeholders, including a member from each conference.
The steps that we have taken [to become structurally separate from GBGM but missionally connected] have opened the door for more women throughout the five jurisdictions to be able to participate in the programming of United Methodist Women, which is a vital part of our organization," said Inelda González, president of the Women's Division.
Streamlining UMW, Inc.
As well as recommending becoming “structurally separate” from GBGM, the board took several actions to strengthen missional connections within the organization.
The board approved changes that will be reflected in the constitutions of local, district, conference and jurisdictional organizations of United Methodist Women in order to offer members more flexibility to shape the organization as they see fit. The board approved amending organizational documents to refer to the local organization of United Methodist Women instead of the “unit."
Constitutional language will also flip the norm from larger to smaller officer teams, only naming President, Secretary and Treasurer as required positions to be filled. Functions can be handled as determined by the group to encourage officer teams to develop more organic, mission-focused organizations.
The board voted to all the whole organization “United Methodist Women” dropping the name, “Women’s Division.” United Methodist Women is already incorporated as a not for profit organization, as all boards of The United Methodist Church are. So it would be a change in name. It would not be a board or a commission in the disciplinary sense, but an agency of The United Methodist Church.
These changes come out of the proposal recognizing, “some (more) of our institutional language must disappear, and we must have less focus on the UMW organization and more focus on our amazing praying, serving and advocating members.”
Implementation of Plan
Because some of United Methodist Women’s structures are described in the Book of Discipline, some legislation will have to be brought forward to General Conference for a vote in 2012, and will not be implemented officially until January 2013. However, United Methodist Women will prepare for implementation following General Conference.
Women’s Division directors are convinced that this new relationship with GBGM and implementing organizational changes will draw a better definition to members about the nature of the organization.
This plan “will strengthen United Methodist Women’s identification with our work in the world and will enhance our strong witness in the church and the world,” said Ms. Olson. “We need to continue to find clearer ways to show and tell what we are accomplishing as an organization. The members deserve to know that they make a difference.”
Leigh Rogers is the public relations and web content associate for the Women's Division.