Note: the following reflections from North Alabama Conference Delegates were record before the Judicial Council's decision that the denominational restructuring plan was out of line with the United Methodist Church constitution.
Clergy Delegate Rev. Mark Parris shares thoughts on General Conference as the 10 day meeting is drawing to a close later today.
Lay Delegate Ellen Harris reflects on General Conference 2012 and what it means for the local church.
Clergy Delegate Dr. Paul Hillard shares a reflection on General Conference 2012 and increasing vitality in the United Methodist Church. He also shares how he has tried to make General Conference 2012 a healthier experience for himself.
Clergy Delegate Rev. Kelly Clem shares a reflection on the spirit of Christian Conferencing at General Conference 2012 and the exciting stories of mission and ministry of the United Methodist Church around the world.
Clergy Delegate Rev. Robert Sparkman shares a reflection on the denominational restructuring plan approved by the 2012 General Conference and on a worship experience on Sunday April 29.
North Alabama Conference Reserve Clergy Delegate Rev. Wade Griffith shares a reflection on General Conference passing legislation for a denominational restructuring plan this morning. He also touches on the mood he has witnessed at General Conference and how Twitter is playing a role in United Methodist connectionalism during General Conference 2012.
As General Conference began its second week, two North Alabama Conference delegates took time to share reflections.
North Alabama Conference Lay Delegate to General Conference Dr. Neal Berte shares a video reflection on the 2012 General Conference and the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church.
Clergy Delegate Rev. Paul Hillard also share a reflection.
The thing I have learned from attending the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth is to pace myself better. I was exhausted at the end of everyday in 2008, but this time I rise early and walk about an hour and I wear my New Balance tennis when I go to each session and my feet just love it. Several other delegates from around the connection have taken notice and are too opting for very comfortable footwear.
Here are my highlights from the first week, the opening worship celebration for GC2012 was highly spirited and Bishop Larry Goodpastor inspired us with his message about following Jesus in the mission field (Immediately is how we should go). We shared the Lord’s Supper and began the work of GC2012 by addressing the rules by which operate with. We could not complete them by night’s end, so we stopped at 10:09 PM.
The next morning, Bishop Peter Weaver was on point with his message about being in a resurrection revolution, and we got so much work to do in a hurting world. The lay leader from the West Zimbabwe Annual Conference, Betty Katiyo, became the first person outside the US to give the Laity address along with two others. The theme of the laity was “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”. The young adults message was very inspiring as well for we are “Charged,” “Rooted” and “United.”
My legislative committee ( Faith and Order) started off very slowly, but once we got going we were able to complete our work early on Saturday afternoon dealing with all the petitions that were submitted.
I believe our global church is phenomenal as three students from Birmingham Southern College (Will, Amanda and Laura), who are here with Laura Sisson, attested last evening at dinner. It was joy to hear their impressions of GC2012.
Blessings of joy, peace and love
Dr. Paul D. Hillard, Jr
May 1, 2012
North Alabama Conference Alternate Delegate Rev. Julie Holly observed the discussion of a petition ending security of appointment for ordained elders in good standing while establishing a task force to develop guiding criteria for missional appointments of clergy in the General Conference legislative committee last week. She also observed the votes related to this petition in the plenary of the General Conference this morning. She shares a video reflection below.
The experience of being a delegate to General Conference is very rewarding, just to see how the best minds of the United Methodist from all over the world come together and share the same Discipline and Cross and Flame that we do in Alabama.
The experience of developing and perfecting the Petitions and Resolutions for the Book of Discipline changes are rich and rewarding. For two weeks clergy and lay delegates share ideas for changes in the Discipline that will make all of us better in ministry.
Transforming the world for Jesus Christ is not easy, and that battle cry of United Methodists is heard loud and clear this year at General Conference.
On a personal note, I am seated with three of our fellow North Alabama United Methodists and two new friends from Nigeria. Their names are John Wesley Yohanna and Habila Charles Yola. Charles is clergy and Habila is laity called a civil servant. They are delightful gentlemen and we are glad to be sitting with them. They were both educated in Nigeria and speak very good English.
Experiences at General Conference remind me of how really small this planet Earth is.
The unwritten goal of our North Alabama Delegation is to make a difference in Tampa for our church, making it easier to bring new Christians into the United Methodist Church.
I appreciate the confidence in those that voted for me to be a delegate to General Conference and I am working hard to maintain that confidence.
Lay Delegate North Alabama
Friday is our third of four days in the meetings of the Baker's Dozen, aka 13, Legislative Committees. Among those are Global Ministries, Higher Education & Ministry, Church & Society, Discipleship, Finance, and more. Divide that 13 into the 988 delegates to get an idea of the size of the Legislative Committees that are step 4 in 7 steps of the process to a matter decided by all of us together next week in the General Conference whether to be enacted into the life of our church. Yeah, you probably need to read all that more than once. And that's a quick summary!
Try this: yesterday as our sub-groups of the Discipleship Committee met back together with the whole committee to report and decide on our work, near me, there were four of us who speak four different languages, laughing and enjoying the daunting process. The laypersons from Brazil and Chile plus us two clergy, one from England, and Morgan from Ah-la-bah-mah. Right, I said four languages.
Rev. Bill Morgan
Today my legislative committee (Global Ministries) almost finished our work! It is a real challenge with all the translation, but so rich an experience to be with United Methodists from all over the world. Attended an excellent information session on Palestinian issues. Last night's plenary session was excellent: "A Time for Critical Choices" led by Rev. Adam Hamilton and others. Adam has written an excellent open letter in support of legislation and strategies to make our church and local congregations more vital. There were some staggering numbers offered, causing us all to have to face the reality that our decline is immanent unless we are willing to invest in a major strategy to redirect the flow, collaborate better, and invest in leadership. I sense the Holy Spirit moving us that way!
Rev. Kelly Clem
Worship served as the highlight of the day for me. We began the day with worship, during which we prayed the Lord’s Prayer—each person praying the same prayer in their own language at the same time. This is the second day in a row that we have prayed in this way and I was thankful for the repetition. The unified prayer in a variety of languages reflects, to me, some of the best parts of General Conference so far. We have come together with our very different perspectives from all over the world to seek God and to seek a faithful way forward for The United Methodist Church. Bishop Weaver challenged us — where ever we are from and whatever our stories are — to focus on our purpose as individual Christians and as the church to make more disciples of Jesus. This powerful message from Bishop Weaver that included a miraculous story of new life for survivors of genocide, was followed by an equaling inspiring message from Betty Swipe Katiyo, a lay leader from Zimbabwe. She called on the laity to claim their important role as active participants in the ministry and life of the church. She said that laity are not just consumers of religion. “Laity is the choir who should be making the noise. Clergy are the conductors…We must work together.” These messages were wrapped up with a message from the young people of the UMC, with contributors from all over the world. They reminded us that young people have an important role in the church now, not just as part of the future church.
Just before the closing worship, with the inspiring message to “Invite!” from Bishop James King, Rev. Adam Hamilton and a number of others spoke about the Call to Action. They pointed out the challenges to growing ministry faced by the UMC in the United States and challenged us not to remain idle, but to take action to strengthen the ministry of the world-wide UMC and in particular the UMC of the United States. Everyone I have spoken with — laity, clergy, young, old, male, female, etc. — agree that we need to make some changes. As we can hear in the discussions among groups at General Conference, posts on Twitter, and comments on Facebook; we do not all agree on what changes need to be made or how to make them. We have a great deal of holy conferencing to do so that we can work together, take some action, and make some progress.
Thank you for the prayers you have offered for the General Conference delegates. Please continue to seek God’s blessing for this important work.
First Reserve Clergy Delegate