By Keith Boyette
July 2, 2021
When John and Charles Wesley gathered with others at Oxford College to encourage and strengthen one another in the Christian faith, their detractors referred to them as “methodists,” a term of derision making fun of their intense commitment to a disciplined and organized walk with Jesus. Undeterred by those who scoffed at them, they claimed the name as a badge of honor, and it has defined the people called Methodists ever since. We are a methodical people. We believe in organization and order.
As we look forward to the launch of the Global Methodist Church, we affirm the importance of structure and order. Certain types of structure and order can quench God’s purposes in a movement, but rightly developed, structure and order can be a multiplier through which God’s work rapidly grows, bearing much fruit. One of the signs of a movement in decline is an increase in institutionalization. Healthy Christian movements embrace structures that empower those serving at the grassroots who bear fruit for the kingdom of God.
In organizing the GM Church during the period between its legal formation and its convening General Conference (the “transitional period”), the Transitional Leadership Council (TLC) has provided for a minimalist general church structure. It will ensure that the locus of ministry remains at the local church level. It will also foster mission and ministry efforts that will develop organically and globally among the local churches which align with the GM Church. The structure at the general church level will exist solely to serve and make possible vibrant ministry at the local church level. In other words, every aspect of the transitional church’s structure is aimed at adding value to the mission and ministry of the local church.
Paragraph 701 of the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline of the GM Church sets forth the principles which govern its connectional structure. Connectional entities are “to effectively support the task of making disciples and spreading scriptural holiness.” They are to “prioritize resourcing the work of local churches, functioning where possible in and through partnerships with existing ministries, congregations, annual conferences, and other bodies, rather than creating new structures.” Connectional entities are to be “frugal, with minimal structures and staff, so as not to burden local congregations with extra financial demands, embodying the call of Jesus not to be served, but to serve.”
During the transitional period, the GM Church will not have general church boards and agencies staffed with numerous employees. Rather, the TLC will establish and appoint transitional connectional commissions composed of laity and clergy. The members of these commissions will not be compensated and will continue to have their primary focus of ministry in the churches where they worship and serve. The TLC anticipates a very small GM Church staff during the transitional period. The gifts and abilities of leaders, serving and engaged in ministry at the local church level, will be deployed to resource the work of the transitional connectional commissions.
The TLC may establish such commissions in the following areas:
- Evangelism, Missions, and Church Planting – This commission would foster cross-cultural and international partnerships between churches, districts, and conferences. It would vet, approve, and maintain accountability for mission projects and their funding, provide for disaster relief and refugee ministry, identify and provide resources for church planting in various cultural contexts, and work with leaders throughout the church to plan and strategize for planting churches.
- Discipleship, Doctrine, and Justice Ministry – This commission would encourage growth in transformational discipleship through small groups, creating educational resources to help people understand and effectively share the core beliefs of the Christian faith, and resource local churches in engaging in social witness from a biblical foundation.
- Ministry – This commission would implement the standards and qualifications for various forms of ministry, develop curricula for ministry training courses, and resource conference boards of ministry.
- Communications – This commission would equip the GM Church with a communication strategy and oversee its implementation.
- Finance, Administration, Pensions, and Benefits – This commission would oversee the financial and fiduciary obligations of the GM Church, manage legal matters, and give oversight to pensions and benefits for the church’s clergy and lay employees.
The GM Church’s structure must facilitate the proliferation of mission and ministry around the world. Its aim is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, in word and deed, with all people, and so make disciples in all nations. Ultimately, the GM Church will be known by the fruit it bears for the kingdom of God.
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.