Open Spirit Task Force plans town hall meeting

October 21, 2019

The Open Spirit Task Force and its five work teams has been very busy since its organizing meeting in August 2019. The OSTF offers regular

The Open Spirit Task Force, created by the 2019 New England Annual Conference, is tasked with the following: examine whether and how United Methodists of New England might align with, create, or form a new church body in the Methodist tradition (independently or in collaboration with others). To date, the OSTF has reached no conclusions and does not have options to recommend but is being diligent in its work.
updates on its work. Here is the latest information:
A Town Hall Meeting (open to all via Zoom videoconferencing) will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Join the meeting at

Below is a summary of the progress of each of the OSTF’s five work teams:

Theology/Spirituality Team

Shandi Mawokaomatanda, John Lucy, Sarah Mt. Elewononi, Wendell Luke, Jill Colley Robinson, Hope Luckie, Adama Brown Hathaway
Met Sept. 23, 2019
This group has brought in some consultants who framed their work with these questions:
  1. What are the basic theological questions and spiritual issues at stake in the conflict that has led the UMC to this place?
  2. What are the basic theological questions and spiritual issues to take into account for the vision of the future we are imagining?
  3. How might an understanding of our Wesleyan heritage and teachings inform our responses to these theological questions and spiritual issues?
  4. How does the unique historical experience and witness of Methodists in New England inform our responses and vision of the future we imagine?

Communication/Connection Team

Ross Johnson, Maddie Akeley, Jinwoo Chun, Stephanie Finley, Virginia Fryer, Lisa McColgan, and Erica Robinson-Johnson, Stephanie Finley
Met Oct. 4, 2019
The Communications Team further defined their role in the Open Spirit Task Force and determined that the Team would craft a compelling narrative that 
  • explains what is happening in transparent and accessible terms
  • invites people to join in work that is happening
  • shares what we are doing in local churches and ministry settings
  • informs people about the various ways they can participate in this work
  • captures how this is part of God’s of ongoing work of love
This information will be shared on the website and in conference email/surveys and town meeting(s).

Legal/ Ethical/ Structural Team 

Colin Simson, Tom Bentum, Ashley Murphy. Two members were not available for this meeting.
Met Sept. 25, 2019
In preparation for meeting team members were asked review the Indianapolis and Bard Jones Plans and the disaffiliation discernment files
Worked with consultant to understand the Trust Clause (Par 2501 Book of Discipline) and will prepare a formal document for distribution when it has been reviewed by counsel.

Options & Organization Team

Met Sept. 5, 2019
This team has been tasked with looking at what is emerging with legislation, momentum, possibilities in the wider Connection and here in New England;  look at the options before us, meet with delegation about, etc.
Group “New England Discerners” are moving ahead with disaffiliation conversations/ discernment, however the legislation enabling that is up in the air because of the unauthorized voting at GC 2019. They are focusing on discernment and education.

The following were offered up as good sources of Information: The team seems to lean toward what is the most equitable / just way to become 2 or more denominations, that can work together sometimes when that’s appropriate (i.e. disaster relief). The following questions were posed and discussed. With each member offering thoughtful responses. What would happen in a denominational split in NEAC? What is our role is right now?

Finance Team

Hanna Bell-Lambardo, Sara Garrard, Wayne Griffeth-Hurst, Chico Martin, Richard Morris, Wes Palmer, and Abraham Waya
Met Sept. 23, 2019
The role of the Finance Team continues to help identify and quantify the possible financial challenges and available resources for the options specified by the Task Force for aligning with, creating, or forming a new church body in the Methodist tradition . In particular, the Team expects to focus on the determination of the likely financial effects of a decision by the NEAC to leave the UMC or of other structural or organizational changes affecting the NEAC, including offering assistance to churches that are considering disaffiliation.

Substantial uncertainty in the options to be evaluated has complicated the work of the Finance Team. The UMC Judicial Council at its October 29 through November 1 meeting is expected to rule on several petitions regarding the Traditional Plan and its consequences, including the process for local church disaffiliation that was passed at GC 2019. These decisions will directly affect the work of the FT and the rest of the OSTF. A representative of Wespath will attend the October 26 meeting of the NEAC 2020 General Conference Delegation to provide information and initiate a discussion of the effects of the various plans and proposals expected to be presented at GC2020.

To date, while waiting for the descriptions of the options to be evaluated, the Team has focused on understanding the existing financial costs and structures of the NE Conference and identifying the potential costs that will have to be analyzed.

We have begun to review the cost items in the Conference budget to determine how each might be affected by organizational change options. We have focused especially on pension costs and obligations, mission shares and major cost items such as Camping Ministry costs (which account for about 5.8% of the $8.1 million 2020 NEAC budget). We are planning to consult with the Conference Board of Pensions, Conference Trustees (for costs related to disaffiliation) and the Council on Finance and Administration as we carry out these analyses.

We have also discussed the creation of a comparative cost baseline to use in the evaluation of the financial effects of the various options, debating whether the baseline should reflect existing cost levels or the estimated costs of one of the possible action options. With the expectation that the two events mentioned above (GC2020 Delegation meeting and Judicial Council session) will produce helpful information and reduce the existing uncertainty,

The Team is planning to meet next in early November, at which time we expect to shift from our current research mode to a more productive analysis and evaluation mode.