At its March 3 meeting, the Connectional Table invited the Rev. Ralph Howe, chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, to talk about the process CCFA uses to develop the budget and the role of the Connectional Table has in that process.
The Connectional Table needs to be fully informed and aware of how CCFA goes about its work and how the funding mechanisms work in general, said Rene Wilbur, Conference Lay Leader and vice-chair of the Connectional Table.
As part of that work, CCFA oversees the Treasurer and sets the budget proposal that goes before Annual Conference. The budget process begins in late March, he said, and continues into May, when the budget proposal is finalized. The budget must be approved by Annual Conference in June.
Rev. Howe described the role of CCFA as "Helping to resource the work that the Conference believes is moving us toward our strategic goals."
What CCFA does not do, Rev. Howe said, is determine which programs and ministries should get funded. That, he said, is the role of the Connectional Table.
"The Connectional Table has a vital position in setting program investment" and determining how ministries are meeting the mission and fitting into the Strategic Plan, Rev. Howe said. "And I encourage you to be active in those determinations."
In other matters …
The Connectional Table has approved 12 applications and received eight confirmations from people seeking to join the September 2016 pilgrimage to South Korea. There are still spots available, and the deadline to apply has been extended to March 31, 2016.
Click the link to learn more about the pilgrimage and get the application.
Connectional Table members said they would like to encourage laity in congregations led by Korean pastors in cross-cultural appointments in particular to join the trip as a way to increase cultural understanding of Korean faith and hospitality.
The Engle Institute is a weeklong continuing education event designed to nurture and strengthen the craft of those who preach on a weekly basis in a variety of contexts. Pastors must have between two and eight years of preaching experience and be seminary graduates.
Connectional Table member Geisa Matos-Machuca, pastor at First UMC in Manchester, NH, participated in the Engle Institute four years ago, and described it as a worthwhile experience that enhanced her preaching.
Matos-Machuca said it helped her explore "collective preaching" involving lay members.
"Having more than one person put together the message and speak to a contemporary issue through different lenses" was powerful, she said. "The three laypersons shared dramatic testimony."
The dates of the Institute – June 12-17, 2016 – conflict with this year's Annual Conference session, and would require these pastors being excused. Connectional Table members supported offering the opportunity this year, and will revisit the issue if future dates conflict with Annual Conference.
Conflict of Interest statements
The General Commission on Finance and Administration (GCFA) audit of Conference practices and procedures in 2015 showed that there is no process in place for identifying potential conflicts of interest involving Conference staff or volunteers serving on boards and committees.
For example, it would not be appropriate for someone employed by Fred C. Church, which insures Conference property, to serve on the Board of Trustees, which is charged with overseeing the properties.
Statements are being developed for staff members and volunteers to complete and sign that will identify potential conflicts so individuals can recuse themselves from situations or roles as appropriate.
"We simply want to make sure that we are handling matters ethically and not taking advantage of people or putting people in awkward positions," said Erica Robinson-Johnson, Director of Connectional Ministries and Connectional Table member.
Amicus (friend of the court) brief
The Connectional Table supported adding Bishop Devadhar's name to an amicus (friend of the court) brief by the Massachusetts Council of Churches in support of the LaSalette Shrine. The shrine, which is located in n Attleboro, MA, is appealing a court ruling that would levy property taxes on the shrine. The ruling could have implications for churches across the state.
The Connectional Table meets next on April 25.