It is Sunday morning and I am home, having arrived in Denver from Tampa yesterday. The last day of General Conference was pretty intense as we tried to finish up our legislative activity, and much of the legislation that was passed was necessary to implement the new church plan. I shared in an earlier blog that petitions we worked on early in the week changed the structure and the nature of the church, and then much of the legislative activity from that point on was related to these changes. The plan was to adjourn at 5:00, have a final worship service , and prepare to go home. Just before 5, the activities were suspended with a ruling from Judicial Council, the arm of the church that determines the legality of action taken. The Judicial Council had determined that the new plan (Plan UMC) was unconstitutional and unsalvageable. A brief recess was taken, and as we came back together as a body it was clear that much of the legislation enacted over the previous two weeks was negated. We broke for supper, came back and worked until 9:30 on what steps to take next. Much of those last 2 hours were surreal, as attempts to revive the plan were challenged due to the Council ruling. Action on Plan UMC was ultimately tabled, and cannot be revived, as GC2012 is now over. The structure and nature of the church will continue as it is described in the 2008 Discipline. We ended our evening as we always do in worship; in some ways feeling our work was done, in some ways feeling it was just beginning. So, was all of that work wasted? I think not. There were many ideas that came out of the plan that can be considered, with the time to explore them over the next 4 years. The plan gave a message to the general agencies of the church that in these tough economic times we all need to look at streamlining and refocusing our energy; many agencies had already started that process, and they are committed to further work. I am hopeful that we can take some time to think about who we are as people of the United Methodist Church in this day and time, then develop a structure that supports that mission (I always think it makes sense for form to follow function!). So how do I feel about these last two weeks? I came away from this experience more convinced then ever that the United Methodist Church is where I belong. I am tired, but proud of the work we did as a delegation and as a church. I met and worked with wonderful people, and had some incredible worship experiences. I learned a lot about our history, process, and church culture. I had my theology and my faith challenged, and came through the experience believing more than ever that the presence and the voice of United Methodists needs to be strengthened here and around the world. I also had a chance to grow in areas I hadn’t thought about; I can now keep up with real-time texting with the best of them, and I can go from taking notes to taking pictures to looking up petitions on my iPad in the blink of an eye. I approached this request to blog with fear and trepidation, and found myself loving the experience. Sharing with Trinity folks back home made me feel connected and not alone, and for that I thank you. See you at church!
May 3- Action To Date The deliberations continue, and over the last 2 days the following actions were taken: Delegates added a preamble to the Social Principles, acknowledging our differences while stating “We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all- that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ “. There was a strong vote to make United methodist Women an autonomous agency; it has been a Division of the Board of Global Ministries. A new structure, this version called Plan UMC, was approved for the church - it was presented as a modest proposal, realigning some agencies and authority. The general commissions on the Status and Role of Women and Religion and Race will be combined as a Committee on Inclusiveness. A Judicial Review was requested, as well as an analysis of the fiscal impact from the General Council on Finance and Administration. It will come up for final vote tomorrow. A proposal to include “gender” in the list of member characteristics that can’t be excluded constitutionally was referred to the Commission on the Status and Role of Women for further study. The assembly reaffirmed a resolution opposing Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and added a clause affirming the church’s committment to non-violence and a willingness to listen to all those harmed by the conflict. The issue of divestiture was introduced and defeated. If you were watching the live streaming this morning, you know that the assembly did not support a petition brought by the Young Peoples Convocation on human sexuality adding language to the Discipline acknowledging our differences of view, and asking us to refrain from judgement until the Spirit leads us to new insight. We just passed the new clergy pension plan, petition #20432. Todays session opened with a prayer delivered by the father of the presiding Bishop. It was a sweet and spirit-filled moment. Much of the morning, however, had moments of conflict and pain, and we ended up being released from session early to address the concerns. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. It has been a tough day, and we still have lots to do….
I posted on the Rocky Mountain Conference blog today. You can read it Here
I will add to this as it happens…..
A motion came to the floor to reconsider the elimination of guaranteed appointments. It failed by a vote of 60%. Guaranteed appoinments have been eliminated.
Well, so now the real work has begun. Friday evening was an incredibly powerful experience for the whole denomination, as we recognized and owned our role as a church with indigenous people across the world. Today we had an opportunity to begin the healing process, and we did so by approving the Sand Creek petition (# 20767 if you want to look it up on line) . It was brought to the whole body, approved unanimously and with joy. The Saturday evening session was an opportunity to celebrate the impact of the United Methodist Church around the world. I have always been excited about the presence of the UMC in every corner of the globe, and I was impressed by seeing the differences we have made. We heard about programs like the No More Malaria project, our partnership with Variety Magazine and Shaquille O’ Neil. As our leaders shared that the death rate of children from malaria has been reduced from 1 every 30 seconds to 1 a minute, a child on the stage being honored for raising money for this project asked why any child should die. Many of us know about No More Malaria, but I was also able to learn about the Urban Village Church in Chicago, our ministry to the Roma people in Hungary, and the Community of Shalom, among others. It made me proud to be a Methodist! A highlight of the evening was the showcasing of Denver After Hours, with Rev. Jerry Herships featured in a film and providing leadership for the service. On Saturday the committees finished their work, and today we began then process of affirming or challenging the decisions that were made. Some petitions made it to the consent calendar ( meaning the petition was passed in committee), and those voted on as a group by the full body. Some petitions had been pulled off of the consent calendar by those who didn’t agree with the committee decision. The action today, and throughout the rest of our time here, will be focused on those issues on which we don’t agree. It is common, I have learned, for petitions to go through multiple amendments and actions prior to a final vote, and that the coordination of like petitions is complicated and often challenging. I will shift my focus to now mostly reporting on those petitions that I believe affect us locally, nationally, or globally. The process requires full participation at all times, as we are managing 3 large paperback books of petition wording, and 2124 (as of today) pages of current information. We are back and forth, information sorted by calendar number, Daily Christain Advocate book number, or petition number. So, here is what happened so far: The push for an additional Bishop to serve as the President of the Council of Bishops did not pass. The petition requiring term limits for bishops did not pass, although it was close. It required a 2/3 majority to pass, and it only had a simple majority. The elimination of Guaranteed Appointments passed in committee - it MAY come to the floor via petition. There were a few attempts, mostly successful, to change the make-up of decision- making committees to be changed from jurisdiction representation to one based more on membership. As you may recall from earlier posts, we are the smallest jurisdiction in the United States, so this affects our voice at the table. Hard day for those of us from the west……
From our worship invitation: “Your voice comes to us in faithful surround sound”. That phrase fits so well with what followed in the service, The Lord’s prayer. The prayer is spoken by all of us in our first language, so we are surrounded by voices being lifted to God, each with it’s own cadence, it’s own pitch, it’s own murmur. What a special way to be connected.
Of note: The United States UMC has a membership of 7,679,850, the Western jurisdiction 365,990. Africa has a membership of 4,191, 108, Central and Southern Europe 16,162. Large and small, we are truly a part of a world - wide movement. I am reminded daily of our Methodist roots, and that reminder comes from many new in the faith.
And quotes from the Worship Service: An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples
From Bishop Tutu of Angola ” When the missionaries
came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘let us
pray’. When we opened our eyes we had the Bible and they had the land. “
From George Tinker, Osage, a quote from Twitter that came after the
worship service was announced: ” It’s really too bad we killed all those
Indians and stole their land, but look, we brought them Christ” !
From Chief Joseph: ” We do not want your churches because they teach us
to quarrel about God.”
And that just about says it all……Diana
I am serving on the Legislative Committee for Independent Commissions. The list of legislation that we are dealing with can be found at Independent Commissions
Sand drawing of the Earth
Presentation of information on Sand Creek petition - Otto Braided Hair
A video of Otto’s presentation was part of Friday evening’s worship - An Act of Repentance. I will post the link here when it becomes available (YouTube).
Now available here:
Act of Repentance Worship Service
I am doing this message a day late, as we finished so late last night we only had time to de-brief then hit the sack. So, here is how yesterday started:
Let’s vote to pi (postpone indefinitely) the amendments from last night
Let’s vote on the rule
Let’s vote to put another amendment on the table
Let’s suspend the rule so we can amend a rule
Let’s vote on the amendment
Let’s vote on the rule
Lets amend the rule
Let’s pass the rule
Let’s take out part of the rule
And on and on and on - and then the original rule was adopted with 92 percent! I was so frustrated - why would we spend so much time on the views of so few? But then I remembered: I am often the voice in the minority, and I want my voice to be heard. So I decided to get over myself and honor the process.
(I do have to admit that it was so mind numbing one of our delegates thought the electronic voting machine was a remote control and pointed it toward the screen when she voted! It didn’t change the channel though……)
And what a process it is! Legislative sessions have been a whole new learning experience for me; multiple languages, multiple viewpoints, multiple challenges. But we have a common goal: full and deliberate inclusion of everyone, so there is absolute joy in the process.
Even though today too was long with meetings, there were gems along the way.
The people I met and shared thoughts with:
The missionary couple from Peru (we actually conversed in Spanish!)
The pilot, also a missionary, from the Congo
The clergy couple from Ohio, formerly from the Philippines
The family from Sierra Leone, getting ready to celebrate their daughter’s
engagement in the African tradition
The lay person from Finland who had lived in Thornton as an exchange
student, attending Good Shepherd UMC.
Each person, each family with a story, and many things in common to share.
And then there were the gems of wisdom:
Do everything as if in the immediate presence of God
We cannot be tomorrow who we are today, choose your transformation
Doing what we have been doing isn’t working,
no matter how hard we do it
It isn’t easy, but it is simple - holding fast while letting go
Some of our churches have given up the Great Commission for
the status quo of “our” mission
As a lay person, it was a particular joy to hear the youth speaker, our own Krin Ali from Park Hill UMC. We also met four young men who survived a massacre in Africa, and were baptized in a cold river in New Hampshire -what a story they had to share. And finally, we got to hear a delightful woman from Zimbabwe, the first lay person from Africa to address General Conference.
And so, the experiences continues; exhausting, exhilarating, existential and God-filled. Please continue your prayers, as we are now headed for the deep waters.