Proposed Circuit Model for churches unveiled at Vision 2032 Part II Sessions

Proposed Circuit Model for churches unveiled at Vision 2032 Part II Sessions

January 21, 2020

"We encourage every local pastor, lay person and member to attend one of the conversations this weekend. What we are talking about will impact the church right now and in the very near future."
After considering all suggestions from the first round of the Vision 2032 series last fall, the Bishop's Operational Team has proposed that a few changes be made to make the Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church a stronger conference beginning as early as this year.

One of those changes is a shift to the proposed Circuit Model of churches, where a Circuit Elder would lead a group of churches alongside laity, licensed local pastors, and other elders. According to Assistant to the Bishop Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie, the superintendents would "work with Circuits to provide missional accountability" as well as leadership development for laity and clergypersons. 

Click here to see photos from the session held at Walnut Hills UMC

"Circuits would be the basic units of connection for regional ministry planning," Gillespie said. "These Circuits would start at a grassroots level to work with Connectional Ministries and local ministries."

As a way of supporting the formation of the Circuits, a transition from eight district superintendents to five will be made by July 1, 2021. The Bishop is able to set the number of superintendents and make their assignments, but a change in the number of districts would require the action of the Annual Conference. 

A pilot Circuit was launched in Delaware County in July of 2018 under the leadership of Pastor Phil Rogers. Pastor Keith Pitts was then appointed to be part of a voluntary circuit of pastors who choose to engage around a focus on worship excellence. 

"They are leading to help us perfect the model for Iowa," Rev. Bill Poland, Director of New Communities of Faith, said. "Other potential circuits are being identified for 2020. This is an adaptive process and we will continue to go on to perfection learning from each other as we go." 

The proposed transition for the entire Conference would be July 1, 2021, with Circuit Leaders and Elders appointed then. Training and transition planning are ongoing.

The ideas were first presented at Story City Grace and Cedar Falls First United Methodist Churches on Saturday, January 11, and at Osceola United Methodist Church Sunday, January 19.

A large concern for many in attendance was for smaller churches in our connection. What would happen to them? Is the Circuit Model an attempt to close them?

Poland assured those gathered that Circuit Models of ministry are "an attempt to help all churches to increase in ministry and outreach."

"This is especially true for small congregations that can no longer financially support their own pastor," Poland said. "This model of being the church is not new: It is the model under which most of our congregations in small towns and villages were formed. Each congregation will have someone to lead worship, preach the word, and give leadership to the congregation. They may be clergy, a supervised Lay Servant, or a Certified Lay Minister who is part of the leadership team of the circuit. The idea is to preserve autonomy while engaging connectionally in ministry and mission."

Other proposals included restructuring the Communications Office after the retirement of Director Rev. Dr. Arthur McClanahan on July 1, 2020, and the development of an online learning platform for local churches. A second proposal includes shifting the funding of the Annual Conference Session from apportionments to a registration fee. 

The entire presentation can be viewed at www.iaumc.org/vision2032, and a summary of questions asked at each session will be posted soon. If you have suggestions or questions, you are encouraged to contact the Bishop's Operational Team by emailing vision2032@iaumc.org.

"We encourage every local pastor, lay person and member to attend one of the conversations this weekend. What we are talking about will impact the church right now and in the very near future," said Gillespie.