Q&A with Ed Tomlinson


Name: Ed Tomlinson
Role: Clergy delegate
Appointment: : District Superintendent of Atlanta Roswell District
Legislative committee: General Administration

Q: This is your fifth General Conference. Do you sense there is a greater urgency or purpose because of some of the economic challenges?
A: There has certainly been growing concern about some downsizing we have seen in the denomination as a result of an aging membership and not enough young people to replace them. We do have a lot of good, strong young adults in our local churches but not in the numbers to replace the older folks we are losing. We cannot ignore the financial realities that go along with that.

Q: There has also been great change in the church with the emergence of the Central Conferences (those outside the U.S.) in recent years. What is your sense of what the future holds?
A: The Central Conferences are growing rapidly and are very serious about their role and representation in the General Conference. It will not be long before the Central Conferences become the majority in the denomination. But they do not have the resources to help keep us financially healthy. The U.S. conferences are supplying 99 percent of the finances currently. And as the Central Conferences seek greater voice in how we allocate resources, how it that all going to work out?

Q: In your role on the General Administration legislative committee, you have spent a great deal of time working on the restructuring of the boards and general agencies. What have those debates been like?
A: You are never going to come up with a perfect plan. The first plan, offered in conjunction with the Connectional table, merged all boards and general agencies into one large board. The second plan – Plan B – the plan I was involved with, kept most of the boards and general agencies, and downsized the overall structure.
The third plan, offered by the Methodist Federation For Social Action,  actually enlarged some of the boards and agencies. Taking all of those together, as conversations developed and we faced our differences, we ended up undoing each other. No one had a majority to make any one plan happen.

Q: Is this a case where is might take two or three General Conferences to get this done?

A: It is my hope we can get something done here that is positive and will help the church to operate more efficiently. We have offered a compromise that will come up in Plenary session on Wednesday. I am hopeful.

Q: How many hours would you estimate you have put into this effort?
A: Oh, it has been easily in the hundreds of hours.

Q:  How difficult would it be for you to have put in all these hours and end up with no agreement?

A: I would rather have no agreement than the wrong one.

Q: Have you purchased any souvenirs since you have been here?
A: Only a Book of Discipline. After I got here, I discovered that I left mine at home.

Q: Are you admitting you have not memorized the whole book?

A:  Well, I guess I have a little knowledge of most of it. But there are parts, you know . . . how can I put this?  I have some wishful thinking, and have to be careful that my wishful thinking does not get in the way of reality.

To read more about Ed, please find his bio here.