New Book of Discipline: Introduction to the Connection

December 23, 2019

Dear GNJ Leader,

Greetings in the Name and Savior of Jesus Christ. We pray this will be a blessed and joyous Christmas for you and your family.

Recently, we shared with the laity and clergy members of the annual conference that there is a team of GNJ leaders who are working on a new Book of Discipline for our denomination. The work towards a new Book of Discipline was birthed from a deep concern that the legislation being submitted to the 2020 General Conference Session being held in Minneapolis, MN in May of 2020 was primarily focused on how to divide the denomination into three or four smaller denominations. We found this deeply troubling.

We heard in listening sessions last year that the people of Greater New Jersey did not want to divide. Rather, even in the midst of our differences, most people felt we are stronger together, and that we should remain as one denomination working to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We also recognized that our church is in need of renewal and that changing a couple of Disciplinary paragraphs would not renew our mission or help all of our congregations to thrive. That is why we are drafting a new Book of Discipline to go to General Conference.

We are committed to release the full draft to the people of GNJ by January 8, 2020 and hold listening and workshop sessions during January to further perfect the proposed new Book of Discipline to be sent to General Conference. The team has decided to begin to release the draft in sections. Our goal is to release sections based on the following schedule.

  1.  The Introduction:
    Vision, Mission, Wesleyan Way and other materials – December 23
  2. The People of The United Methodist Church:
    Laity Membership – December 28
    Clergy Membership – December 31
  3. The Organizations of The United Methodist Church:
    The Local Church – January 4
    The Connectional Church (formerly the annual conference) – January 4
    The Regional Church (formerly central and jurisdictional conferences) January 7
    The Global Church (formerly general conference) – January 7

These are target dates as we are continuing to write and edit the draft.

The input and further shaping by GNJ leadership are essential. After it is workshopped in GNJ it will be workshopped in Europe, Africa and the Philippines. Then it will be shared across the United States for further input and shaping.

You may have never read our Book of Discipline. It is more than 800 pages, comprised primarily of rules and policies. It has often suppressed innovation and created what we believe is unnecessary bureaucracy and expense.

What we are working on are ideas that many have talked about before and we are using these good ideas to shape a new Discipline called The Connection. You will see The Connection focuses on our mission and Wesleyan Way. The Connection makes things clear and succinct and most importantly, offers a path forward for our church. It moves us from a form of government consisting of three branches (Judicial Council, General Conference and Council of Bishops), to being a church focused on mission. This shift is reflected in how we name each part of the denomination which changes focus away from process and governance to meaning and mission. For example, what we know as the Annual Conference will become known as the Connectional Church. The Connectional Church will link the local churches who will meet annually at a conference. This shift turns the focus away from legislation that binds us and toward the mission of the church locally, regionally and globally.

You will find the first 11 pages by selecting the box below which is linked to our website. We look forward to your feedback, your prayers and your assistance in shaping The Connection: The Life and Order of The United Methodist Church.

The Connection: The Life and Order of The United Methodist Church

In Christ’s Love,

Bethany Amey Sutton,
Chairperson, GNJ Delegation

Drew Dyson,
Co-Chairperson, GNJ Delegation

Myrna Bethke,
Dean of the Cabinet

Kay Dubuisson,
Chairperson, Connectional Table