ACCEPTANCE OF RESTRUCTURING
This is another case where the Council has critiqued and monitored a conference re-organization and finally was satisfied, so it can happen. North Texas Annual Conference is the beneficiary this time.
Most Annual Conferences re-organize in such a way as to marginalize Commissions on the Status and Role of Women, Religion and Race, and Archives and History in the name of stream-lining, and establish the bishop as the head of the main steering committee directing the actions of all conference agencies, particularly Finance and Administration,
in the name of efficiency. The result of all these re-organization efforts, and they come up every year, when they are referred to the Council for review, is that they are all thrown out and have to be revised to remove the bishop from direct control and make sure that marginalized groups are not swept away. The grounds for keeping them is that the Discipline defines the connectionalism of the church as requiring those functions to be clearly defined at all levels. Most bishops appear to think “connectionalism” only refers to their requirement that pastors do what the bishop says.
There is a reason the three bodies are usually targeted. They have the job of monitoring the treatment of women, the treatment of ethnics, and the treatment of conference history, all of which offer insights into what is actually happening and may be embarrassments to conference leaders.
Having final control over conference finances is the dream of every ambitious bishop. The separation of powers is critical to maintain for that very reason. Good bishops are persuasive in order to get things done. Impatient and autocratic bishops are control freaks and need to be curbed. It is also possible that some bishops are simply copying what they are told by other bishops is the way to re-organize and don’t realize the pitfalls inherent in such plans.
So far, the Judicial Council has largely done its job of halting bad plans and getting conferences to work toward better structures.
This ruling relates to JCDs 1198 and 1225 where the conference plans were reviewed and found not adequate. They will have to do the same for several other conferences because each bishop thinks s/he can use the same basic plan and get it past the Council, as if the Council’s previous rulings are meaningless. With luck, the Council will hold firm and maybe someday, the bishops won’t think of the Council as “lower case.”