The last day of General Conference 2012 had its share of drama and an anticlimactic end for most delegates.
After working most of the day to approve legislation from GCFA to set the denominational budget in line with the newly approved new structure called “Plan UMC,” delegates heard a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council, the church’s highest court, that Plan UMC was unconstitutional. (Read more at www.gc2012conversations.com/2012/05/04/judicial-council-voids-plan-umc.)
After being dismissed for dinner early, delegates returned for the evening session to pick up the pieces and approve necessary legislation considering the denomination was still under the 2008 structure. After a long discussion about options to refer the Plan UMC to the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table to be perfected, the legislation was tabled.
Instead the General Conference approved petitions that kept most of the current structure intact, but reduced the size of general boards and agencies. They approved petitions that eight of the denomination’s 13 general agencies had submitted to reduce the size of their boards, independent of the Call to Action legislation and other restructuring plans. Therefore, these General agency boards shrank by 266 members, cutting the number of board members for the 13 agencies nearly in half.
The approved legislation included petitions from the United Methodist Boards of Discipleship, Global Ministries and Higher Education and Ministry. Also included were petitions from the General Council on Finance and Administration, United Methodist Men and the churchwide Commissions on Religion and Race; the Status and Role of Women; and Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. The delegates also approved legislation to fold the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the denomination’s ecumenical agency, into the Council of Bishops.
The evening actions of the General Conference also kept intact the overall budget approved earlier in the day. The Conference approved a budget of $603.1 million for seven general church funds during the 2013-2016 period; that total is 6.03 percent less than the amount apportioned for the previous four-year period –– the first time the assembly has accepted a lower budget than the amount set for the preceding period.
However, in the budget, delegates approved two new line items in the World Service Fund. They established a new $5 million fund for theological education in central conferences and $7 million to recruit and train young clergy in the United States.
In other business today, delegates also elected members to the General Council on Finance and Administration and to the Commission on General Conference. North Alabama’s Zac Riddle was elected to GCFA and Gloria Holt was elected to serve another term on the Commission on General Conference.
General Conference 2016 will meet in Portland, Oregon.
The restructure plan for The United Methodist Church, adopted earlier this week by the 2012 General Conference, was declared “unconstitutional” by the Judicial Council on Friday afternoon May 4.
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.
On Thursday, May 3, General Conference delegates continued to discuss and vote on legislation that will amend the United Methodist Book of Discipline and the United Methodist Book of Resolutions including legislation addressing one of the most high profile subjects, human sexuality.
Most of the morning session was spent discussing a petition that would change wording in the Book of Discipline ¶161.F to note that there is disagreement among United Methodists on the subject of homosexuality. The original petition was submitted by the Global Convocation of Young People. During the discussion a substitute motion was proposed by Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio, that stated United Methodists "disagree… will continue to struggle with this issue… and commit to disagree with respect and love." Both the substitute motion and original motion were voted down. Therefore the Book of Disciple language in ¶161.F is unchanged.
Following the vote, the morning session ended early due to a singing demonstration by supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who crowded around the altar in the center of the plenary floor. During the lunch break members of the Council of Bishops met with demonstrators to work out a solution so the afternoon session would not be closed to guests. Following the lunch break, Council of Bishop President Bishop Rosemarie Wenner shared pastoral words and Rev. Frank Wulf, a reserve delegate from the California/Pacific Conference, led a prayer. The afternoon session then continued open and uninterrupted.
In other legislation today, General Conference
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.
Delegates opened today hearing a report from that they had 550 pieces of legislation done, most through consent calendars, and 135 regular calendar items (pieces of legislation) remaining. The 2012 General Conference will meet through the evening of Friday, May 4, 2012.
During the day some legislation the Conference addressed included
One of the most notable acts of General Conference today was to pass a plan for restructuring. The plan dubbed “Plan UMC” was a compromise plan from many of the creators of the original Call to Action restructuring plan proposed and Plan B that was also brought to General Conference.
Early in the discussion of the legislation it was amended to include greater representation of individuals from the Central Conferences on the boards and committees. Now that the plan was approved by the General Conference body, it will go to General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) and will come back to the body as part of their report.
There was also a motion made to refer this newly approved legislation to the Judicial Council to make sure all parts of the plan fit within the boundaries of the United Methodist Church constitution.
A basic breakdown of the restructure is as follows:
The plan retains GCFA and four general program boards — Higher Education, Global Ministries, Church and Society and Discipleship.
The general commissions on the Status and Role of Women and Religion and Race will be combined as a Committee on Inclusiveness no later than June 30, 2013. An effort to continue the two commissions failed, 459 to 453.
That committee and the four program boards will report to a 45-member General Council on Strategy and Oversight. The top executives of those agencies will be nominated by the boards and elected by the council. If there is a conflict between guidance of a top executive of the council and the governing body of the agency, the agency executive should follow the directions of his or her board of directors.
The council will elect an executive general secretary who cannot be a bishop.
The Commission on Archives and History will be changed to a committee of the finance agency before June 30, 2013. The general director will be an associate general secretary of the council.
As established in an early plenary session, United Methodist Women will become an independent agency to join United Methodist Men, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, the United Methodist Publishing House and United Methodist Communications as agencies that will report to General Conference. Executives of those agencies will be nonvoting members of the General Council on Strategy and Oversight.
The Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns will become an office of the Council of Bishops by June, 30, 2013.
Following the evening plenary session during which the Conference covered more calendar items, the evening closed with a memorial service with Bishop Jane Allen Middleton preaching.
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.
General Conference delegates once again spent most of their day in plenary sessions discussion and acting on legislation. Votes in plenary sessions this week will finalize legislation that will amend the United Methodist Book of Discipline and the United Methodist Book of Resolutions.
Some legislation of note today includes the following:
In the afternoon, the General Conference also recognized Bishops who will be retiring. The group includes Bishop Will Willimon.
The Conference celebrated the adoption of a full communion agreement with six Pan-Methodist denominations. This affirmation establishes a new relationship among the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Union Methodist Protestant, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Union American Methodist Episcopal and United Methodist denominations.
Presentation of Ecumenical Guests and Greetings and closed the evening with worship. Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches was the preacher.
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.
See the North Alabama Conference Delegation at work in the General Conference 2012 Picture Gallery.
General Conference delegates began their second week of the worldwide meeting. The week of will be spent in plenary sessions with the entire body will discuss and act on legislation. Delegates will consider recommendations from the legislative committees and also petitions that have been lifted through proper process by a group of at least 20 delegates. Some legislation will come as consent calendar items and will be voted on as a group. Other items will be lifted from the calendar and will be discussed, amended and voted on as a single petition. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it. Votes in plenary sessions this week will finalize legislation that will amend the United Methodist Book of Discipline and the United Methodist Book of Resolutions.
The morning began with delegates approving several consent calendars which each contained multiple committee recommendations on petitions.
Delegates also held elections for John Street UMC Trustees, Secretary of the General Conference, the Judicial Council (the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church) and the University Senate (an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church).
The current Secretary of General Conference , L Fitzgerald Reist was elected to serve again in the role.
The Rev. Kabamba Kiboko, the Rev. Dennis Blackwell, Oswald Tweh and Beth Capen were elected to Judicial Council. Blackwell, a New Jersey pastor, and Capen, an attorney, were re-elected to the nine-member council, which serves as the denomination’s supreme court. Kiboko is the first clergywoman ordained in the Southern Congo Conference and she holds a doctorate in Old Testament from Iliff School of Theology at the University of Denver. Tweh is an attorney from Liberia and former president of the Liberian National Bar Association.
Jan Love, the Rev. Kasap Owan, the Rev. William Abraham and the Rev. Bill Arnold were elected to the University Senate. Love is dean of Candler School of Theology, Owan is president of Katanga United Methodist University, Abraham is a professor at Perkins School of Theology, and Arnold is former provost of Asbury Theological Seminary.
Throughout the day delegates considered legislation. Some legislation of note includes the following:
Each of the above two pieces of legislation would change the UMC Constitution and needed a 2/3 majority to pass.
Delegates also voted on legislation concerning the makeup of the Commission on the General Conference and the translation of the Daily Christian Advocate (the publication of General Conference containing all the submitted legislation) into additional languages.
The conference closed the evening with Holy Conversation in Continental Gatherings and evening worship with The Candler Singers of Candler School of Theology and Bishop David Kekumba Yemba preaching.
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
Legislative Committees have one more full day of work. Their recommendations will be brought before the entire body of the General Conference next week. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it.
Some legislation of note
To track specific legislation go to http://calms.umc.org/2012/Menu.aspx. The online tracking system allows you to search for legislation by Petition Number, Keyword, Submitter, Book of Discipline / Book of Resolutions paragraph or Legislative Committee.
An Act of Repentance
On Friday evening General Conference participants gathered for An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples. The Rev. George E. “Tink” Tinker, a citizen of the Osage Nation and an indigenous advocate and theologian, was the key speaker for the service. Tinker is on the faculty at United Methodist-related Iliff School of Theology in Denver and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. To read more about this Act of Repentance go to www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5843833&ct=11712031¬oc=1 .
Legislative Committees will continue to work through Saturday. Unlike previous General Conferences, this year delegates adopted a rule which says “any legislation not acted upon by the legislative committee at the time of the Saturday evening adjournment shall remain unfinished.” In the past, committees had to continue work until they acted on all petitions assigned to them. This new rule was debated during the organization of conference business sessions. However, it was adopted knowing that the 2012 General Conference rules also state it only takes signatures of 20 delegates to bring any petition to the full body.
Sunday is planned as a Sabbath. Bishops will preach in local churches on Sunday morning. Bishop Will Willimon will preach three services at Hyde Park UMC. On Sunday evening, the General Conference will assemble for A Plenary Celebration and Challenge of the Mission and Ministry of The United Methodist Church.
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
During the evening plenary, the General Conference had the introduction of Affiliated Autonomous Methodist Church, Affiliated United Church and Concorda Church Delegates. They also took nominations for Secretary of the General Conference, the Judicial Council (the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church) and the University Senate (an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church). Those elections will happen next week.
The day ended with worship. The National Choir of Cote d'Ivoire sang and Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata preached.
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
Much of the work of General Conference is done in Legislative Committees. This year, there are 13 Legislative Committees, each having assigned topics. Most of the 13 committees will also break into subcommittees as they do their work and review, revise and make recommendations on the petitions assigned to them. The committee recommendations will then go before the entire General Conference in a plenary session. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it.
There is a North Alabama Delegate serving on each of legislative committee except one.
On Tuesday, April 24 the 2012 General Conference opened in the spirit of worship. Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster, president of the Council of Bishops, invited those gather in the Tampa Convention Center to hear the call of Jesus in the "midst of all the legislation that will crowd our time and drain our energy."
"Like the first four beside the Sea of Galilee, we now gather beside Tampa Bay to clean and mend our nets," he said. "This is our business, because once every four years we have this need to get together to amend and fix the nets we know as United Methodism."
To help them remember, delegates were given soft, blue silk prayer mantles handmade from United Methodists in all five U. S. jurisdictions. The mantles are a reminder that throughout the conference United Methodists will be praying for them.
The Tuesday evening plenary focused on the organization of Conference - establishing rules for legislative processes. Due to the discussion and proposed amendments to the presented rules for the conference, this business went over the allotted time and was finished during the morning session on Wednesday morning.
The Wednesday morning plenary featured the Episcopal Address by Bishop Peter D. Weaver; the Laity Address by Steve Furr, Amory Peck, Betty Spiwe Katiyo and the Young People's Address by Joy Bohol & Krin Ali.
The morning session ended with delegates approving the rules of the Conference and moving into sessions to to elect officers for the 13 Legislative Committees.
The Wednesday evening plenary began with a presentation called "Critical Choices in the Church focusing on the Call to Action. The delegates are closing the evening, just as they will do each evening, with worship together. Tonight,Bishop James R. King, Jr. is the preacher.
As General Conference continues we will provide more updates and reflections from the North Alabama delegation.
All plenary sessions and worship services are being streamed online live at www.gc2012.umc.org.
Not able to view a session live? They are also archived for viewing at a later time at www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8055003/k.2959/General_Conference_Live_Archives.htm
As the Delegation from North Alabama arrived to General Conference and began the act of conferencing, some delegates took time to share a brief statement of reflection, hopes, dreams and prayers for this 10 day gathering of the highest legislative body in the denomination United Methodists from around the world.
We are part of a great church as United Methodists and it is an honor to attend General Conference. I look forward to celebrating our connectional ties, experiencing inspirational worship, and "holy conferencing" to strengthen and fulfill our mission to "make disciples for Jesus Christ." - Neal Berte
One of the things I love the most about General Conference is the reunion with old friends and colleagues. We are sitting with delegates from Nigeria, one whose name is John Wesley. Today we are bogged down in yesterday's business trying to agree on the rules! – Rev. Kelly Clem
It is my hope and prayer that this General Conference will see the return of the Spiritual power and control of the United Methodist Church to the Lord Jesus Christ. Far too long the control has been tilted toward human ability rather than divine function, we must take the lead of the UMC in the Central Conferences, particularly on the continent of Africa, where they are experiencing boundless growth. – Rev. Paul Hillard
Like the way we have prayed The Lord's Prayer in our own language at the same time in worship for these first two days, I pray we can all share our own voices as we take steps together toward greater church-wide faithfulness and effectiveness in making more disciples all around the world. – Rev. Julie Holly
For the past two days I have attended the American Association of Conference Lay Leaders in Tampa, prior General Conference. The hope and prayers of this group from all the Jurisdictions, is that the will God will be present and clear to the Delegates in the decisions that are made, shaping the future of the United Methodist Church. – Steve Lyles
General Conference is an elephant's ballet. Clumsy, awkward but something of a miracle such a critter can dance at all. Another term for this GC elephant's ballet is Christian conferencing. The challenge of the delegates ' dozen or so languages pales to the passionate diverging convictions. That we sit down and have the conversation at all - pulled back and forth between Babel and Pentecost - is a God thing. – Rev. Bill Morgan
It is very clear that one of the themes of this conference is the world wide nature of the church. With over forty percent of the delegates being non US delegates it is abundantly clear that our church has changed demographically. Also the number of female delegates is approaching forty percent. Our church is both global and for all persons regardless of race or gender. We are also aware of our need to reach more persons on the local church level. Creating "vital" congregations is spoken of often. Hopefully we will concentrate on makIng fully devoted followers of Jesus. - Rev. Robin Scott
I am already here in Tampa and there seems to be a positive spirit this year. I hope we can really focus on ministry and the future of vital local congregations. The "Call to Action" has given us a new vision, now we have to figure how to make it a reality. – Rev. Robert Sparkman
Add your prayers for General Conference at the North Alabama Conference online Prayer Center at www.northalabamaumc.org/prayers.