Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS)

A Proposal for a New East Ohio Annual Conference Governance Structure

Submitted by Rev. Ed Fashbaugh, Connectional Ministries executive director

The proposal in this report to transition the East Ohio Conference to a Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS) governance model will be presented at Annual Conference for conversation and vote. Adopting the proposal will align the governance models of the East Ohio Conference, the four new districts, and many of the local churches, more than 100 of which currently use a SAS model with more exploring its benefits every year. If adopted by Annual Conference, the Conference SAS model will be initiated in two phases over the next year.

Phase 1 will be the recruitment, training, and deployment of the Conference Leadership Board (CLB), which will be the primary stewardship and governance body of the EOC SAS. The CLB:

  • will develop yearly goals for the East Ohio Conference that align with its mission and vision, and
  • will distribute the goals to the Conference ministry teams and to the district leadership boards for contextualization, prayer, and action.

The CLB will be co-chaired by the bishop and the Conference lay leader and will include four lay women, four lay men, four clergy persons, the first lay delegate and first clergy delegate to General Conference, and two people named by the bishop. In fulfilling its mission, the CLB may call on Conference staff and others to serve in advisory roles, having voice but no vote.

Following each CLB meeting, the EOC Communication team will e-mail laity and clergy to update them on the progression of goals and provide information on decisions made during the meeting. The CLB will also present a report each year to the Annual Conference on the State of the Mission and Vision in the East Ohio Conference.

In Phase 2 of the proposed SAS a new leadership chart will be created and presented to the 2025 Annual Conference showing the functional relationships of EOC boards, councils, commissions, and committees.
In 2024 the current structure will continue to be used. When AC members check-in at the John S. Knight Center for Annual Conference 2024 they will receive the 2024 Leadership Report they will vote to adopt during conference. The report will list the names of clergy and lay persons who have agreed to serve on current boards, councils, commissions, and committees until Annual Conference 2025.

Governance Structures and The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church
Just as The Book of Discipline (BOD) of The United Methodist Church allows for flexibility in the ways that local churches (see ¶243 & ¶247.2) and districts (¶661) organize for the mission of the Church, it also allows for flexibility in the governance structure of annual conferences.

“The purpose of the annual conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church; all to the glory of God.”  (BOD ¶601)

In order to accomplish this mission, “annual conferences are permitted the flexibility to design conference and district structures in ways that best support the mission … in an increasingly diverse global community and that place secondary any prescribed structure, except for the mandated entities … .” (BOD ¶610.1)

Conference entities mandated in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist include:

  • Council on Finance & Administration (BOD ¶611)
  • Board of Ministry (BOD ¶635)
  • Administrative Review Committee (BOD ¶636)
  • Episcopacy Committee (BOD ¶637)
  • Board of Benefits (BOD ¶639)
  • Board of Trustees (BOD ¶640)
  • United Women in Faith (BOD ¶647)
  • United Methodist Men (BOD ¶648)

These mandated entities will be incorporated into the proposed new SAS.

Empowerment, Accountability, and Transparency of a Simplified Accountable Structure (SAS)
Empowerment for service and ministry is the first benefit of SAS. Through the Phase 2 development of short-term, action-oriented project teams, SAS will provide many more opportunities than in the past for lay persons and clergy persons to be involved in the mission and ministry of the East Ohio Conference. These short-term action teams may exist for a day, a week, a month, or longer, depending on the nature of the team’s work, providing numerous opportunities for many different people to serve in significant ways. Through these teams, the mission and ministry of standing boards and committees will continue in new ways with a primary focus on building, training, and deploying action teams.

Accountability for mission and vision is the second benefit of SAS. The mission of The United Methodist Church is Biblical and focused, and the vision for how the East Ohio Conference can best live into this mission was developed to move this Christ-centered mission forward. The proposed SAS model will enable greater coordination and accountability within all mission and ministry areas of the annual conference so that together we may determine how we are progressing in fulfilling our vision.

Transparency of the mission and vision is the third benefit of SAS. The proposed CLB will meet periodically with the action teams and together they will evaluate what progress has been made on stated goals. They will then determine whether additional assistance is needed, how resources need to be deployed, and if new strategies need to be developed or current strategies need to be altered.

The empowerment, accountability, and transparency of the proposed new SAS will best position the ministries of the East Ohio Conference to live into our shared vison for how we will accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.