Secret Diary of a Delegate- overview

General Conference logo, United Methodist Communications

Not that there’s anything really secret about it. I think I just want to pretend I’m Billie Piper.

I am a clergy delegate to the 2012 United Methodist General Conference. For my non-Methodist friends (I do have a few!), this is the once-every-four-years gathering of clergy and lay members of the United Methodist Church, elected by their home conferences (geographic regions), and meeting together to worship, fellowship, discern, envision, deliberate, and set church polity and position for the global church body. I’m a major church politics nerd, but I think it’s a huge deal, and I’m super excited to attend and honored to be a delegate.

It seems to me that the experience should be recorded somehow, so I will attempt to keep as faithful a record as I can of the proceedings leading up to, during, and after General Conference 2012 (and Jurisdictional Conference 2012 as well– but we’ll get to that later). My entries will be tagged “GC2012”.

There are some nuts and bolts as to how the process goes down, but mostly I’ll probably yammer on about positions, concerns, celebrations, and challenges.

Briefly, my technical experience so far has been interesting. I was elected second to our clergy slate, and am the sole clergy person from the state (and district) of Vermont. Our delegation has been meeting every 4-6 weeks to go over details, begin to look at legislation, and to learn more about people who may be nominated for possible election of bishops (which is another something I’ll get into later). Each delegate is assigned to a committee, dealing with particular topics of legislation; mine is Church and Society 2, and this committee will deal with all petitions regarding human sexuality (typically, specifically, attempts to change the church’s current stance that homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching”). Registering for a room has been a headache, but not worthy of a blog post.

The major themes and positions I am watching are juicier, and I’ll try to tackle each one in its own conversation at some point. Here’s what you (and I!) have to look forward to:

  • Both personally and as a member of the Church and Society 2 committee, I will be working closely with proposed changes to the church’s stance on homosexuality. I support changing our denominational policy to ordain and appoint gay and lesbian clergy, to allow United Methodist clergy to officiate at weddings and holy unions of gay and lesbian couples, and to eliminate the language in our Discipline that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. This is why I ran for GC delegate, and where I feel our church is currently committing the gravest errors.
  • However, I think our denomination is in danger of committing even greater errors with the proposed restructuring of our church through several aspects of a proposal known as the Call to Action. These include: replacing boards and agencies with a smaller overseeing board more like a general board of directors, focusing on statistics as measures of church vitality, and changing aspects of our church structure (coming out of the Study of Ministry) to make us less personal and connected.
  • There has been lots of attention around legislation to divest United Methodist funds from companies that benefit from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am very interested to see how this plays out. I would not have expected this legislation to be so controversial, and I support the proposal, which I see as neither toothless nor anti-Israel.
  • I believe it is vital that our church do more to encourage environmental stewardship and protection in churches and in society at large. I am not informed about specific legislation in these areas, but I hope there is some, as I think the future of life of earth is at stake, no joke.
  • An online contact has brought a petition about more equitable pastoral compensation, including recommending a salary cap. I’m interested to see where this goes, as I think the church needs to equip local congregations of all sizes and not pool resources, funding, and talent around mega churches.
  • At heart, the question we are wrestling with has to do with the nature, the heart, of the United Methodist Church. Who are we? What do we value and how? How do we live in difference? How do we measure, celebrate, and inspire toward faithfulness to our call from God?
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6 Responses

  1. Omg, you are on Church and Society 2? How did you pull that off? I will try to work that section… It was a mob scene 4 years ago. Hope you don’t mind celebrating your birthday early with me…

    • It was my first choice (and I was 2nd clergy elected, but most people got their first choice). I can’t wait to celebrate with you my love!

  2. thank you for your upfornt support of equality. every vote will be needed. I do dupport the restructuring. It’s not ideal but we need to downsize and work together to keep the denomination from collapsing within a few decades.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for your comments. I see equality not only as an issue of justice and relevance, but a theological and spiritual question that reaches to the heart of the Gospel. I’m hopeful about the prospect of dialogue with those with whom I disagree as well, as I believe only through prayer, discernment, and connection will we be able to seek and find the movement of the Spirit toward greater wholeness.

      I agree that something needs to be done in our denomination, and clearly our old models of being church no longer work. I’m not convinced, however, that the proposed restructuring, which I see as very corporate and top-down, is the way to go. It seems to me that it will stifle creativity, diversity, and grassroots movement. Methodism has always been strongest when it has valued the heart and spirit of the lay people in local churches, who are the true force of the movement. A head bishop and a board of directors undermine this approach. I think we need revival, not restructuring. But I don’t think that’s something we can legislate, sadly.

      Grace and peace,
      Becca

  3. Thank you so much for your involvement. I spent an hour yesterday morning carefully reading The United Methodist Reporter about the upcoming General Conference in Tampa, which is where I found out about your blog. I wil continue to follow it as the conference unfolds. I am 62 and was baptized as an infant into the Methodist Church. As the mother of a beautiful, capable Christian woman who just happens to be a lesbian, I am watching carefully to see how the UMC moves forward on this issue. My daughter has left the United Methodist Church, and she is now a member of a More Light Presbyterian Church. She and her partner will have our 6 month old granddaughter baptized there the week after Easter. It is a great congregation, but it saddens me to think she had to leave the UMC to feel welcome. Her pastor at the time performed a service of Holy Union at a venue other than their church. As we watch the various denominations struggle with this issue, it is heartening to see people with a passion for change and inclusion. Thank you.

    • Hello Sharron,

      Thanks for reading so closely and coming to find me online! I too grieve for men and women like your daughter who must leave the church of their youth because that church cannot love the whole “them.” It breaks my heart and I can’t imagine how much it breaks yours (not to mention hers). Sometimes it seems like change can never happen, but we have to hold out the hope that those of us who want to see love and inclusion unfold are not alone, and we will one day live in a church and a world that are better reflections of God’s glorious Shalom.

      Until then, grace and peace to you,
      Becca

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