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?