Rationale: Since the inception of the General Board, the work of administering the “connection” has become significantly more complex. The relationship between AME, Inc. and the General Board is woefully nondescript. The ambiguity of sections of the Discipline and the opaque operation of AME, Inc. have created areas of conflict which need serious legislative and strategic attention. This is CRITICAL.
Proposal: 1. AME, Inc., in its present form, cannot be allowed broad administrative functions beyond the view and control of the Council of Bishops and the General Board. 2. We need clear avenues for a. regular reporting in the interim of the General Conference; b. protocols to communicate strategies and desired outcomes of actions; c. a clear, concise guide for what constitutes necessary, discrete, independent action by AME, Inc.
4. An Empowered Role for Statistics and Finance and Commissions
1. Rationale: In a more traditional application of the concept of a “general” board, the primary tasks center on finance. The salient questions are, a. have the funds allocated from the General Budget been used as intended by the General Conference, b. if not, should a further allocation be delayed or denied, c. should an amended use be approved. In addition, a report from general officers is available for review; it is a platform for discussion (and recommendations) related to policy and implementation; and, the work of the various general officers and components can be coordinated. In more recent decades, episcopal districts have been required to submit both budgets and audits for review. Fiscal review (arguably the most vital task of the General Board) lacks clear standards and direction by Discipline and tradition. Commissions with direct relationships to a general office should take the time to review audits and pass findings to the Commission on Statistics and Finance. Similarly, episcopal district audits should be reviewed annually to assure that district financial activity is true to the approved budget and queries are appropriately vetted. Finally, Statistics and Finance should step into the role of performance and accountability for the CFO and the CIO.
2. Proposals: 1. That we clarify a process for the review of audits by commissions. 2. That we clarify the expectations and process for the review of episcopal district budgets and audits. 3. That the role of Statistics and Finance as an oversight body for the CFO be clarified and affirmed.
Another section to follow
The General Board has three major purposes: a. Oversee Programs of the Church, b. Administer and propose the General Budget on behalf of the General Conference, and, c. Provide for the accountability of Church Departments and Agencies.
Even the denomination from which we borrowed much of the “General Board” structure has abandoned that model. Our purposes may be better served with the “Next” development of administration through the “Next General Board.”
Major Areas for Advanced Development
- Creation of “free standing” Boards for the Department of Retirement Services and Department of Publication.
- Rationale: Both of these Departments deal with more money (over $125 million for Retirement Services) than the other departments. Their operations call for attention from persons with more expertise than can be afforded with a “general” board. The management of our retirement funds should not rest with a single person having limited knowledge of, and participation in, major administrative decisions. Similarly, we support a major business, including building a multi million dollar structure in Nashville, without clear protocols beyond a single individual. While a functioning board is not a magic cure all, it will provide a platform for a next generation of administration and accountability.
- Proposal: Create a Retirement Services Board and a Publications Board
- Rethink Commissions as we currently apply the term in the Discipline.
- Rationale: The number of commissions has expanded since the inception of the General Board. There are constituent groups which function with a fully active board (eg., The WMS and The Lay Organization). Such organizations do not require the same scrutiny as departments which serve without the benefit of a sitting board (eg., Christian Education, Evangelism and Missions). In addition, there are task oriented commissions which are not able to function at an optimal level as we have restricted official functioning to a small, overburdened group of General Board Members (eg., Ministry and Economic Development)
- Proposal: 1. Create a Retirement Services Board and a Publications Board. Move the functions of the Commission on Retirement Services and Commission on Publications to the new, respective boards. Remove those commissions from the list of standing commissions. 2. Remove the Lay Organization, Women in Ministry and the Woman’s MIssionary Society from the purview of the relevant commission. Provide for those groups to submit annual audits to Statistics and Finance and establish a path for their leadership to bring policy, coordinating and other matters directly to the General Board from their executive committees as necessary. 3. Create “commissions” outside of the General Board structure to be more inclusive of persons with appropriate skills and interests. The Commissions on Health, Economic Development, Ministry & Recruitment and Seminaries, Colleges and Universities could function in this manner. There are persons, not serving on the General Board who would represent the Districts (lay and clergy) on a volunteer basis. Meeting could take place in various ways, at various times. It would create bodies of persons who will both know the details and bring broader support to the work of these commissions. Actionable proposal would come to the General Board on an “as needed” basis.
- Reduce the number of persons on the General
- Rationale: With a reduction of up to eight (8) commissions, the size of the General Board can be reduced to 3 per district. This will reduce cost and allow the body more efficient functionality. Vital participation in the “next” freestanding boards will keep the number of involved persons at the same or greater levels. (No one need be threatened by losing a position.)
- Proposal: Reduce the number of members on the General Board from 5 to 3 with the same existing clergy/lay/youth pattern of selection.
TO BE CONTINUED
Over the coming months, we may modify the plan, but here is the process with which we will begin.
- There will be a posting of some general ideas on a subject. This may include goals and concepts for proposed legislation. A few days will be allowed for discussion and input.
- We will present a draft of legislation for review and discussion. Larger documents will be available by links. We will make an effort to keep the site tidy. We do not want to be distracted from the important task of thinking things through.
- Once the discussion has slowed on one topic, we will move to a new area for consideration. (We can always go back, if necessary.) Depending on the number of responses and proposed revisions, it should take 2-4 weeks to work through a primary issue.
- The point of this blog is to get rational feedback on possible legislation. Please be brief with responses. Although we have no intent to censor legitimate ideas, we are monitoring posts to minimize abuse.
- When we get to a final draft, the text will be forwarded to leadership and submitted for official consideration.
Thanks for visiting. If you have an interest in AME Church structure and legislation, prayerfully join the journey. The first area of consideration will be The General Board.
Welcome to the first post of my personal blog! Though I am known for passion and opinions, the posts (for this season) will not critique individuals or situations. This is not a forum to share our likes/dislikes about our denomination or its leaders. It is a platform to present ideas and processes for consideration by the AME Church public. The goal is to reform our administrative structure to be more efficient, effective and equitable rather than encumbered by politics and process. Our structure should enable, not frustrate, our mission of ministry. Moreover, the institution should not be an end in itself.
Through this blog, I hope to gather critical responses to proposals. Replies to correct and improve (or outright reject) ideas are welcome. Iron sharpens iron. We hinder our progress by not having enough conversations. Our conversations are not helpful if we talk without listening. We pray for discernment as we hear the Spirit through voices of faith and reason. Together, we can arrive at viable options for how to do church better.
While consensus on most matters will be nice, I am prepared to agree to disagree with love and respect. Ultimately, the decisions about the future organization of our Zion will be made by the voters in the General Conference. We can add to the wisdom of deliberations by offering rational assessments for some of the ideas floating around the connection. The statements found herein have no official authority. They reflect the personal opinions of the writers.
Pray for holy wisdom and guidance as we press on!