In light of the recent controversies around the recommendation of the Connectional Table to change the church’s teaching on homosexuality, it might be helpful to see what the purpose of the Connectional Table is in United Methodist structure.
The Connectional Table is a coordinating body. It is the body “where ministry and money are brought to the same table to coordinate the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church” (¶901). The CT is supposed to work to make the mission and ministries of the UM Church more effective by helping everyone in the church (including all the general boards and agencies) work together.
“The purpose of the Connectional Table (CT) is for the discernment and articulation of the vision of the church and the stewardship of the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church as determined by the actions of the General Conference and in consultation with the Council of Bishops” (emphasis added). The CT is to “establish policies and procedures to carry out the mission of the church” (¶904).
“¶ 905. Objectives—The essential functions of the Connectional Table are:
- To provide a forum for the understanding and implementation of the vision, mission, and ministries of the global church as determined in consultation with the Council of Bishops and/or the actions of the General Conference (emphasis added).
- To enable the flow of information and communication …
- Consistent with actions of the General Conference, to coordinate the program life of the church with the mandates of the gospel, the mission of the church, and the needs of the global community … (emphasis added)
- To review and evaluate the missional effectiveness of general program-related agencies and connectional structures …
- To recommend to the General Conference such changes and implementing legislation as may be appropriate to ensure the effectiveness of the general agencies (emphasis added).
- To provide leadership in planning and research …”
Based on the description of the CT in The Book of Discipline, it seems clear that the CT is a coordinating and implementing body, facilitating the mission and ministry of the church as enacted by the General Conference. It is not a policy-making body. As such, it is more like a council on ministries than an administrative board.
General Conference sets the vision, mission, and ministry of the church. The CT is tasked with carrying that out. The only provision for CT to make recommendations to the General Conference is “to ensure the effectiveness of the general agencies” (see ¶905.5 above).
Therefore, I would argue that the CT went beyond the parameters of its proper work when it recommended to the General Conference the deletion of all language in The Book of Discipline that prohibits same-sex marriage or the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.
The CT is amenable to the General Conference (¶903). It is to base its work on the actions of the General Conference (mentioned three times in the Discipline). For over 40 years, the General Conference has consistently maintained that all persons are of sacred worth and loved by God, and that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The CT has no business advocating for a vision for ministry and mission that is inconsistent with the repeated actions of the General Conference. Advocates have usurped the proper role of the CT in order to promote an ideology that is inconsistent with biblical teaching and with the determinations of the General Conference.
The general church and the General Conference should ignore the CT’s recommendation as being out of bounds. That recommendation may score ideological points, but it has no real standing in terms of the work of the Connectional Table.