Every day The Confessing Movement staff will provide highlights from General Conference right here. Please continue to pray for our staff and all General Conference delegates and volunteers during this crucial time in our denomination’s history. May God’s will be at the center of everything we do and all decisions made during this conference. You can find additional information on the Renewal & Reform Coalition website at www.umgc2012.org or www.umc.org.
Friday, May 4 – Day 11 of General Conference
Update 9:58 pm:
General Conference works well past the time for adjournment to pass alternate proposals to reduce the size of boards and agencies to replace the restructuring plan determined to be unconstitutional Changes to the budget are also being realigned. Worship will begin at 11:15 pm so delegates can vacate the building before midnight.
BREAKING NEWS: The Judicial Council has just ruled that the restructuring Plan UMC is unconstitutional. The General Conference is now in recess to see what action can be taken.
Update 12:30 pm:
Prior to the lunch break delegates had approved a budget and addressed finance issues. The goal is to conclude all business by 5:00 pm today. There is still much to be done.
This has been a positive and fruitful General Conference for orthodox/evangelical United Methodists. Priorities had been as follows: Elect evangelical United Methodists to the Judicial Council and University Senate. Six of the eight individuals elected are people who were recruited and supported by The Confessing Movement. Maintaining the language in the Discipline regarding the practice of homosexuality is retained. Restructuring the church to reduce the bureaucracy and cost has been achieved. More summaries will be posted at a later date. A summary of restructuring called Plan UMC will be on this site soon.
The General Conference has convened for the last session day of this conference. The rule governing action provides that any petition not considered at the time to adjourn dies on the calendar.
This morning the budget and financial issues are being addressed. A budget must pass before adjournment.
Last night Pat Miller, Executive Director of The Confessing Movement, and Rob Renfroe and Tom Lambrecht with Good News were called to a meeting with 3 bishops, 6 GLBT and a number of members of the Calendar Committee. The GLBT people asked that there be no further action on the sexuality petition. They said they wanted to stop the pain. It was clear the orthodox/evangelical delegates were in the majority and there would be no change to the UMC position on the practice of homosexuality. The GLBT persons anticipated losing additional votes and simply wanted to avoid those losses. No votes mean the current language in the Discipline stands.
Financial and budget issues will be concluded prior to moving on to other items.
Thursday, May 3 – Day 10 of General Conference
Update: 12:00 pm: Plenary session was cut short because of interruption by demonstrators. Bishop Coyner asked the individuals to leave the floor and they did not. As a result, the bishop dismissed delegates for lunch early and announced that no visitors would be allowed on the floor when the session reconvenes.
Update, 10: 45 am: The full petition regarding human sexuality has been defeated with 368 votes in favor and 572 votes against. This was a key vote on the issue of the practice of homosexuality. The General Conference affirmed the present statement found in Paragraph 161F that all persons are of sacred worth but the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian While a number of petitions deal in one form or another with the practice of homosexuality, the key petition addressed Para 161F. The petition that came to the floor of the conference was titled “Human Sexuality” and was presented by a gathering of young adults called the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Committee. The petition called for deleting all of para. 161F and substituting a statement that stated that the church stands divided on the issue of homosexual expression. The petition asked the Church, United Methodist and others, to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices “until the Spirit leads us to new insight.”
The afternoon session will be filled with debate and discussion regarding clergy pensions and benefits.
Update, 9:56 am: Adam Hamilton’s amendment was defeated with 439 votes in favor and 531 votes against.
UPDATE, 9:20 am: At 9:20 am the debate on homosexuality began. A number of people wearing rainbow stoles representing gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual individuals are standing around the area just outside the area restricted for delegates and officials. Adam Hamilton has presented his motion to add language to the Discipline to indicate United Methodists agree to disagree on issues related to homosexuality. Dr. Maxie Dunnam, Confessing Movement board member, has spoken against the motion The debate continues.
6:45 am. - Today is a very important day at General Conference. All of the sexuality issues are on the agenda. The first petition to be considered deals with homosexuality. Adam Hamilton, pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, asked yesterday to have his amendment printed for today’s agenda. His petition would add language to the Discipline that would say we agree to disagree on homosexuality. That language makes other church language essentially void. Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox, and others will oppose the Hamilton amendment. However, the presiding bishop must recognize an individual before they can speak. Please pray for General Conference on this National Day of Prayer.
Wednesday, May 2 – Day 9 of General Conference
Update (9:30 pm):
The gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual groups and their supporters have been here from the beginning of General Conference. They have engaged in numerous actions such as walking around the area designated for delegates and conference officials only holding signs, handing out pro gay materials and lining up so delegates must walk through their silence demonstrations but they had not violated the General Conference rules. At about 5:30 today as the delegates were going to break for dinner, the demonstrators entered the restricted area violating General Conference rules. The conference agenda for tomorrow morning is scheduled to deal with sexuality issues including the practice of homosexuality.
In other news:
1) Another lengthy discussion and debate complete with minority reports, amendments, and lengthy arguments dealt with a petition called “Alligning UMC Investments with Resolutions on Isreal/Palestine.” In essence the petition, presented by the General Board of Church and Society and five annualconferences, called specifically for divestment immediately from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions. amd Hewlett-Packard. The petition was amended to take out the name of the three companies but call on church officials to engage any companies whose products are causing harm to Palestinians. The petition is strongly critical of Israeli settlements in Palestinians lands but stops short of calling for divestment.
2) Delegates voted to add another episcopal area in the Congo meaning that four episcopal areas will now serve United Methodists in that country. Even with the additional bishop the episcopal areas are among the largest in the denomination.
JUST IN (12:35 pm) After 3 hours of debate, restructuring for The United Methodist Church has passed with a vote of 567 in favor (59.6%) to 384 against.
The pace of General Conference thus far has been very slow. The agenda includes many items and activities that keep petitions from getting considered. At previous General Conferences this has also occurred, forcing many important issues to the end when there is little time for discussion and debate. The proposal to require restructuring of the general church is scheduled to occur today. After hours of committee discussion and work outside of the committee a compromise has been reached with one proposal being presented rather than a major and minor report.
The debate on restructuring began about 9:30 this morning. A motion to refer this report for action in 2016 was defeated with 555 delegates voting against this proposal to kill restructuring this year.
Other important developments include:
1) The United Methodist Women (UMW) petition to become an autonomous organization passed by an overwhelming vote, 889 to 20. This means the UMW will no longer be a division within the General Board of Global Ministries but will be a stand-alone autonomous agency. There appear to be a number of reasons for the desire to be autonomous. The UMW has been subsidizing the World Division and the National Division for a number of years and this has become more difficult since giving is down for UMW. Furthermore, it was uncertain what restructuring would do with UMW. At the moment UMW selects one third of the board and this would change in restructuring. For its part, many in Board of Global Ministries think the UMW has had too much dominance (since it selects so much of the board) and that the board might be more effective if UMW were independent. As part of the change the Deaconess and Home Missions Program, which were part of the board, will be moved to the jurisdiction of UMW.
2) The final budget has not yet been set for the General Church (it is usually the last agenda item) but the General Council of Finance and Administration (GCFA) is recommending a 6.04% reduction. This is the first General Conference in recent times that has recommended a reduction. The question still to be answered: how will the monies in the budget be divided up? Boards and agencies have already needed to cut back on staff. In 1971 there was a total of 3,139 staff serving general agencies. By 2010 this number had been reduced to 1,384.
3) The General Conference referred to the Commission on the Status and Role of Women a petition that would amend Article IV of the Constitution on “Inclusiveness.” The petition, submitted by the Status and Role of Women would have added “gender” and “age” to the categories that are welcomed into United Methodist Churches. The additional words were unnecessary in the minds of many of the delegates. Referral basically kills the petition. Another petition on the paragraph wanted to add sexual orientation, gender choice, and gender identity to the category of persons needed to be included. This petition failed.
4) By a vote of 879 to 25 the General Conference voted to enter into full communion with five predominately black Methodist denominations: Africans Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Union Methodist Protestant, Christian Methodist Episcopal, and Union African Episcopal Church. Each of the denominations will recognize each other as part of the one true apostolic faith, recognize the authenticity of each other’s sacraments, recognize the ordination of each denomination, and enter into cooperative ministry where possible. A service of celebration and recognition was held in the afternoon of May 1. At one time there was some talk of merger but the other denominations would not favor that.
5) Five more resolutions have been passed to bulk up the Book of Resolutions, which is already 1048 pages long. A number of others are recommended for passage but have not yet made it to the floor. One of these is on “Just War” which, if passed, would move the United Methodist from a pacifist position (presently no support for any war). The Publishing House has indicated the Book of Resolutions is so big that it would cost $70,000 to translate it per language and that would not include printing costs. Only 21,000 copies of the book sold after the 2008 General Conference and this is supposed to be a an important book on United Methodist positions. Only 32% of UM pastors feel they understand it.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 – Day 8 of General Conference
There is much work to be done yet. At the close of session yesterday the General Conference has finished 14 percent of the work required to be completed by Friday. Any petitions not voted on by that time die for lack of action.
Up for discussion today are some issues that will bring long and major debate including those related to homosexuality and the restructuring of the church. As of yet, it is not clear when these items will come before the entire General Conference.
Yesterday the conference voted to eliminate guaranteed appointment for clergy. Today a motion to reconsider this issue was defeated. So clergy will no longer be guaranteed appointment to a church or a church position within the denomination.
Monday, April 30, 2012 – Day 7 of General Conference
(Click Here for short bios of newly elected Judicial Council and University Senate Members endorsed by The Confessing Movement)
This is a most important day because it is Election Day. The most important election is that of the Judicial Council. These are the results:
1. Dennis Blackwell of Greater New Jersey
2. J. Kabamba Kiboko of Texas
1. N. Oswald Tweh Sr. of Liberia
2. Beth Capen of New York
The Confessing Movement and renewal groups are pleased to have endorsed and supported three of the four individuals elected: Dennis Blackwell, Kabamba Kiboko, and Oswald Tweh.
Why is this so important? The Judicial Council in The United Methodist Church functions in a way very similar to the Supreme Court of the United States. The council is given the responsibility to rule on actions of the church that violate the constitution or church law. The Judicial Council is made of up nine members, five of which are lay and four of which are clergy. The election of members to the council is staggered from one conference to the next. 4 were elected this year for 8 year terms and 5 will be elected at General Conference 2016 for their 8 year terms.
The following persons were elected to University Senate:
In the category of university CEOs:
1. Dr. Thimbang Kasap Owan of North-West Katanga; President of Katanga United Methodist University in North Katanga, Congo
2. Jan Love; President of Emory School of Theology
In the category of Other Relevant Positions:
1. William (Billy) Abraham; Albert Outler Profesor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology
2. Bill T. Arnold; Professor at Asbury Seminary and a former provost of the seminary
(Owan, Abraham, and Arnold were supported by the Reform & Renewal Coalition.
What is the University Senate and why is this important? The University Senate is made up of 25 members who determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church. The senate also determines which schools can be approved to train students for United Methodist ordination that are not officially United Methodist.
It is the feeling of many people that the University Senate is a roadblock to renewal in the church. Only four of the twenty-five members are elected by the General Conference. The other twenty-one are selected by the senate itself (4), the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the UM Church (9), the General Board of higher Education (4), and the Council of Bishops (4).
It is of great concern that the University Senate has funded schools like Claremont, a school devoted to training Muslim Imams, Jewish rabbis, and Hindu and Buddhist clergy. This is contradictory to the mission of The United Methodist Church, which is to win disciples to Jesus Christ.
MONDAY EVENING UPDATE:
The Council of Bishops proposed electing a president above and beyond those who serve Episcopal areas. The petition for this “Set-Aside bishop” was defeated by 54 percent of the delegates.
The vote on Episcopal Term limits also failed. Although the vote was 463 to 462, a 2/3 vote was required to change the United Methodist constitution
Sunday, April 29 – Day 6 of General Conference
Sunday is the Lord’s Day at General Conference so no business will be conducted. Legislative groups finished their work late last night (Saturday). Here are a few of the items to report:
1) A resolution that would have the church withdraw from the Relgious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) has passed the legislative group and will be send to the floor of the conference where it will receive opposition.
2) A related petition which prohibits agencies from joining external coalitions or organizations without approval of the full agency or the General Conference passed 53-22. This was directed to RCRC.
3) Legislation passed which would limit the Council of Bishops membership only to active bishops (retired bishops have been disruptive and have advanced causes like homosexuality).
4) The restructuring plan which many felt was the major issue at the conference, did not pass the legislative group. Three different plans were proposed. All three were voted down primarily due to confusion of rules, inability to agree on needed compromises, and an inordinate amount of time spent on arguing who should serve on the oversight board.
5) The attempt to remove language in the Social Principles which states that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching (the basis for all other petitions on homosexual practice) failed 34-43. It had earlier passed the sublegislative group 14-12. There will be a floor fight and probably some demonstrations following the plenary vote.
6) A somewhat similar petition which would have stated that we agree to disagree on matters of homosexuality failed 33-43.
7) Definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has been reaffirmed.
8) The petitions brought forth by the Ministry Study mostly failed. However, the petition that would removed guaranteed appointments for ministers in full connection has passed.
9) A statement strengthening our theological statement by emphasizing the primacy of Scripture passed.
10) A petition allowing other ministries with women besides the official UMW passed in legislative group. This same petition presented by Renew had failed at a number of other General Conferences.
11) A footnote in Par. 311 which deals with the meaning of homosexuality in clergy matters passed 38-36. This will be debated on the floor of the conference.
All of these actions need discussion and approval by the plenary session before they become official. These debates will begin Monday and will last through Friday.
Saturday, April 28, 2012 - Day 5 at General Conference
Reports are coming in from legislative groups and their subcommittees. Each of these reports will be forwarded to the plenary sessions that will start dealing with petitions on Monday, April 30. Here are a few that will be of interest to Confessing Movement supporters.
1) A strong statement against pornography, submitted by the General Board of Church and Society, was approved by the subcommittee.
2) Petitions to change the definition of marriage to something other than a covenant between one man and one woman have not been approved by subcommittee.
3) After a time of holy conferencing and a long debate, a motion to delete the words “we believe the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” passed by a vote of 14-12. However, as they often report on TV on the night of elections, “all the precincts are not yet counted.” About 100 supporters of Common Witness, the group lobbying to change the church’s position, crowded into the room. One African delegate indicated he felt he was uncomfortable. The petition will be forwarded to the whole legislative group and then to the plenary. Defenders of the Biblical stance on sexuality feel this vote will be overturned in the larger committee.
4) A petition to study transgenderism failed 8-45.
5) A vote to remove the prohibition against using church money to advance homosexual causes failed 1-21.
6) The vote is not yet finalized on a resolution for the church to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), but a preliminary vote in subcommittee passed.
7) A motion for the funding of seminary education in the Central Conferences to the tune of 5 million dollars for the quadrennium passed the legislative group. This was instead of petitions that would cut the percentage of Ministerial Education Funds (MEF) going to U.S. seminaries in order to fund overseas seminaries.
8) Petitions which affirmed the pastor’s role in determining readiness for church membership have passed subcommittee. This topic became a major issue when a pastor in Virginia delayed membership to a practicing homosexual. He was removed from his pulpit by a bishop who said he did not have the right to deny anyone membership. The judicial council then overruled the bishop’s ruling and the pastor was restored. These petitions clarify and strengthen the pastor’s responsibility and right.
9) Legislation overturning guaranteed appointments for pastors has passed subcommittee. The legislation will allow easier removal of ineffective pastors.
10) The issue of term limits for bishops (appointed for eight years but need to be reelected for the next eight-year term) failed by a close margin of 25-28. This is sure to be debated further.
11) Legislation that would require 40% of faculty at United Methodist seminaries to be United Methodist, with reduced funding if less than that, has passed subcommittee.
All of this legislation will need to be approved or disapproved by the plenary session of all delegates but these first votes are an indication of which way the conference is leaning.
Friday, April 27, 2012 – Day 4 at General Conference
As at other General Conferences, this year’s General Conference (GC2012) has been bathed in prayer. It is an encouragement to know that groups in the Congo have committed themselves to 24-hour prayer vigils, asking that God’s will would be done at the conference. The Women’s Division has a prayer booth. There is a special room set aside by the General Conference for prayer. The Confessing Movement in Indiana sponsored a service of prayer and it is believed this was also done in other conferences. In addition there are persons associated with The Confessing Movement who have come to the conference at their own expense to pray constantly, which includes prayer walks through the halls, praying during legislative meetings, and even when approaching groups of people in conversation. Numbers of local churches have encouraged prayers for General Conference. Prayers are for discernment, for courage, and for the will of God to be done.
Many prayer volunteers are walking around the Convention Center and are praying for hours. Please join us in praying for General Conference and General Conference delegates.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 - Day 3 at General Conference
Committees have begun very serious deliberations at Tthe United Methodist Church General Conference. Starting at 8:00 am the legislative committees began their work. 988 delegates are divided into 13 legislative groups and these groups further divided into subgroups. These groups will deal with several thousand petitions that have been submitted by annual conferences, agencies of the church, churches and individuals. The whole process is quite open. Any United Methodist, clergy or lay can submit a petition.
There are many “hot button” issues, homosexuality for one. It is not just homosexuality. It is human sexuality as practiced by the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender groups. The supporters of this view are gathered in a group called Common Witness. The group is backed with several hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups outside the church. Not only did they submit several hundred petitions but they have brought dozens and perhaps hundreds of supporters to Tampa to work for changes in the church’s historic stand on marriage as between one man and one woman, and for faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness in the practice of human sexuality. The Common Witness group has erected a large tent across the street from the convention center. The group wants it to be known that the space in on private property and that they are paying rent for the space.
On this day the Common Witness group is everywhere passing out literature, stoles, badges, and newspapers (not just newsletters but newspapers). At the Reform and Renewal Coalition (of which The Confessing Movement is a part) meeting yesterday we were reminded that we should not project the final outcome of the conference based on how much noise is being generated early in the conference by various groups.
The overseas delegates are active in the discussions, especially the African delegates, and are a blessing just to be around. Members of the Reform and Renewal Coalition are dedicated to Jesus Christ, love the United Methodist Church, and are knowledgeable in the ways of General Conference.
By tomorrow we will have some preliminary reports on legislation.
At the evening session, nominations for Judicial Council (the United Methodist Church’s Supreme Court) were made. The Confessing Movement has been active in recruiting excellent candidates. Nominations for University Senate were also made. Confessing Movement candidates were nominated there as well.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 – Day 2 at General Conference.
The Renewal and Reform Coalition (RRC), comprised of The Confessing Movement and other renewal groups, held the first breakfast meeting this morning. Over 200 persons showed up for the 6:30 am event, most of them delegates and the rest team members, spouses, and visitors. Delegates were seated by legislative group to discuss election of officers for the group. This first week the team is monitoring and helping to serve as a resource for legislative groups. No major issues have been debated as yet.
The main business of the conference on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning was adopting the rules of the conference. One important rule states that no one other than delegates and General Conference personnel is to be on the floor of the conference without a vote of approval by General Conference delegates. (This is an existing rule that has been ignored by bishops when the demonstrations related to homosexuality have taken place the last several conferences). It is to be seen how this will play out this year.
The conference tried something called Holy Conferencing this afternoon. Delegates broke into small groups to listen to each other and confer on issues relating to sexuality. Whether this did any good remains to be seen. The issue of the practice of homosexuality continues to be the most divisive issue before General Conference. Almost all the delegates who have served in the past have been through this routine many times before.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 – First day of General Conference
General Conference began at 4:00 pm today. It was a beautiful day in Tampa as United Methodists from around the world greeted one another, renewing old friendships and making new ones. It was encouraging to see about 35 people sharing their time and talents to be here as volunteers for the renewal groups.
The volunteers from local Florida United Methodist Churches are gracious and helpful. The overseas delegates seem happy to be here. Many of the women from Africa were in beautiful, colorful dress. The music and pageantry during the opening worship was inspiring. Delegates are prayerfully talking of our task as United Methodists to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
One of the first orders of business is the adoption of rules to govern the proceedings. The rules were debated and numerous amendments were offered. These amendments must receive 24-hour consideration so they will be voted on tomorrow.
During the first week of GC, delegates meet in committees to deal with issues before they are sent to the entire body for consideration the second week of conference.