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GCAH Legislation and the 2020 General Conference

Featured GCAH Legislation and the 2020 General Conference

I. A Brief Synopsis of Legislation put forth by GCAH

A. Three New Heritage Landmarks (Paragraph 1712.2)

a) Christ UMC, Honolulu Hawaii; 
b) The Helenor Davisson Cluster, Jasper Co. Indiana; 
c) Western Union / Westmar College Campus, Lemar, Iowa;
d) Lakeside Chautauqua Cluster, Lakeside, OH.

B.  Safekeeping of Local Church Historical Records. Amend Paragraph 641.1 adding “disaffiliated “and “withdrawn” to the provision for permanent safekeeping of church records. Rationale – Given the possibility of exit ramps from the present UMC, or potential dissolution of same, GCAH wants to insure that churches departing the UMC will have their records properly preserved. 

C . Local Church Records and Disaffiliation or Division.  Add a new paragraph
Whereas there is potential for The United Methodist Church to divide, or allow local congregations to disaffiliate (as per paragraph 2553);

And, whereas, such events may result in the loss of critical local church and annual conference records bearing witness to the prior ministry and mission of The United Methodist Church and its predecessors; 

And, whereas, the maintenance of local church records is the responsibility of the annual conference (para. 233 and 2549.4);

Therefore, be it resolved that the conference Commission on Archives and History will establish a plan whereby the records of said disaffiliating churches would be copied and maintained at the annual conference archives, with costs of copying to be borne by the disaffiliating congregation;

Be it further resolved that, to address the possibility of a wider separation resulting in the dissolution or division of an annual conference, each Annual Conference will establish a plan whereby its archival holdings will be maintained and supported by subsequent bodies, conferences or disaffiliated churches. 

D. Clarification of Historic Site and Heritage Landmark Definitions (Paragraph 1712.1) Add the words “or other places which remember and celebrate United Methodist history” and “program, ministry or mission” to the definition of Historic Sites and Heritage Landmarks. 

E. Local Churches to insure secure space for local church records. Add a new paragraph 7 to the listing of the tasks of local church Trustees:

Annually, the Board of Trustees shall, in consultation with the pastor and the local church historian (if there is one), evaluate the adequacy of the facilities which house the church’s permanent records, archival materials and historical objects (para. 247.5) with particular attention to conditions which endanger them, and shall recommend to the charge conference plans to correct any deficiencies. 

II. Legislation Effecting GCAH – Proposal to Move GCAH to GCFA as a subcommittee

The Advance Daily Christian Advocate  https://www.resourceumc.org/en/content/general-conference-2020-advance-daily-christian-advocate  lists proposed legislation that would degrade the General Commission on Archives and History to the work of a Committee under the authority of the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA).  (See pages 859 ff.) The action revising current paragraph 1701 and following paragraphs in the 1700s would result in GCAH’s loss of independent agency status and its place at The Connectional Table.

You may remember that previous General Conferences have received very similar proposals.  This latest petition is once again part of a wider effort to consolidate and restructure the UMC’s general boards and agencies.  Other legislation realigns United Methodist Communications with GCFA, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women (CSRW), the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) with the General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Men with Discipleship Ministries (where men’s ministry resided at an earlier time).  

The maker of the petition, a Mr. Lonnie Brooks from Alaska offers this rationale: “History is important ministry, but doesn’t rise to agency level. It is unnecessary to have someone at the level of general secretary in charge, seated at GS Table on par with GCFA, and the boards. That’s like having the director of the National Archives on the President’s Cabinet.”

GCAH has long asserted that there is a critical need for the denomination to have its archives and history agency be an “honest broker” especially in times of dispute and conflict between groups or agencies inside and outside the denomination. Recognizing its mission as much more than an administrative records retention agency, but as a United Methodist “ministry of memory,” the Commission and its advocates question whether the promotion and care for the historical interests of the Church are best cared for by the denomination’s finance and accounting entity.

Further perspective can be gained from retired Archivist, Dale Patterson, in this article: http://gcah.org/resources/why-the-umc-needs-and-archives-its-not-just-about-history.