Rationale for the Development of a New Relationship Between the Health and Welfare Ministries and the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church

Over many years, beginning before the start of the 20th century, the Health and Welfare Ministries (H&WM) were formed by the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMB) as outreach ministries of the Church for persons in need. Each Ministry created a Board of Directors, often made up predominately of UMC members, to provide the ultimate leadership of the Ministry. The membership on the Board rotated so that the Board continued as a unified body, grounded in the values of the UMC, even though individual Board members changed over time. The role of the Board is to be a sustainable entity that governs every aspect of the Ministry in a manner that will perpetuate the positive impact of the Ministry as intended by the founders.

The bedrock of each Ministry is the vision of a better world sought by the founders from within the Church, and the Christian values of serving others. Living out the vision and values are fundamental to being the Church that Jesus Christ called into being. The very basis of the Church originally created by John Wesley, is the call for every member to combine a personal journey toward the perfection seen in Jesus, with a life of social holiness by being a blessing to all those whose lives we individually and collectively touch. Both ongoing personal and social transformation are fundamental to being the UMC, and must therefore be integral to the life of every member of the UMC. United Methodists work toward fulfilling both dimensions of this call.

The Health and Welfare Ministries of the Wisconsin Conference are key expressions of the goal of social transformation within the Conference. The Ministries should be structured so they offer all UMC members in the Conference the opportunity to serve others through one of the Ministries. And the Conference should be encouraging the expansion of the Ministries and the creation of new Ministries to better respond to the unmet needs of both United Methodists and persons of all faiths. Therefore, all the Ministries must have in common Christian values of service and a vision of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

How can this commonality of Christian “ends” and “means” be perpetuated over time by diverse Ministries around the state, each with a governing board made up of a continually changing membership, and managed by operational leaders who will also change and may not come from a UM heritage? The answer is to have all of the Ministries firmly grounded in the Wesleyan values of the UMC and guided by a shared vision of the “fullness of life” that we know God wants for each of his creations.

Since the Board of each Ministry is legally as well as morally responsible for every aspect of the Ministry, it must have a structure and system in place that assures that each person who agrees to serve on the Board of a Ministry understands and accepts 1) the foundational values which guide the decisions and actions of the Ministry, and 2) the vision of a better world which continuously pulls that Ministry forward. Each Board member is expected to bring a unique perspective of the world based on the knowledge and experience gained through life and the connections made socially and professionally. However, without shared and sustained values and vision, the direction and approach of the Ministry could potentially change with each new Board member. Over time, the relationship of the Ministry with the UMC could be lost, to the detriment of both.

The way to preserve a Ministry’s guiding vision and values over time is through the utilization of the principle of Moral Ownership, one of the principles of Policy Governance. Policy Governance, the only systematic, comprehensive, integrated approach to governance, was developed by John Carver about 30 years ago. In applying this principle, the Ministry would acknowledge the UMC as the source of its vision and values, and the Conference would accept its responsibility to provide support and encouragement.