Does It Matter?

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Reporting from Portland

By Rachael Sumner | GC 2016 Lay Delegate

I am serving on the General Administration Legislative Committee. A large part of what my sub-committee is dealing with is Plan UMC Revised. For those that don’t know, Plan UMC was a plan to restructure agencies within the United Methodist Church. It was adopted at the 2012 General Conference and then ruled unconstitutional afterward by the Judicial Council. When a revised plan was submitted for GC2016, the Council of Bishops asked for a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council to determine whether or not it would be constitutional. This was to prevent the same situation as four years ago when so much time was spent on something that couldn’t be implemented.

When our sub-committee met yesterday, we moved fairly quickly to suggest adoption or rejection of petitions that were not related to Plan UMC. I was elected secretary of our sub-committee, which means that I am responsible for writing the recommendations of our sub-committee to the larger committee. Our sub-committee could take several actions: recommend approval of a petition, recommend rejection of a petition, or amend a petition and recommend approval. Once a petition goes to the larger committee, if it is approved it moves on to the entire General Conference for a vote. If the petition is rejected, it dies in committee. This are still ways it could get back to GC for a vote, but I’m not going into that here.

Candace Lewis, Steve Lambert, How Connelly, and Janet Earls wordsmithing subcomm local church. Photo by Janet Earls. See more photos from the General Conference.

Today our job was a bit more tedious. We began to dig into Plan UMC Revised and its constitutionality. There are so many different opinions around the table about what needs to happen as we seek to streamline the structure of the church. It seems we have had a lot of discussion but not come to any kind of consensus or resolution. We still have some time to work on this, but it has felt like we were spinning our wheels this afternoon.

A few minutes ago we went out for a 20-minute break. While on break, I went to the prayer room to clear my head and talk to God. As I walked the prayer labyrinth, I began to pray for clarity and really ask God what He wants for His Church. These are some questions and thoughts I had:

God, You are the Creator of the Church. Does it matter to You how we structure the Church? Is what we are doing making a difference in kingdom building? How does this restructuring make disciples? God, You created us. Created us to worship You and we are called to make disciples. Agencies like the General Committee on Race and Religion and General Committee on Status and Role of Women do make a big difference to many people in the world. Because of our structure, and these agencies are a part of that, we are a connection that reaches people all over the world to further build God’s kingdom. We are called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. A change in structure to redistribute resources is a part of being good stewards.

As I walked to the center of the labyrinth, my prayer was simply this: Jesus, be present. Jesus, be the center of all we say and do and guide our time together so that what we do matters for building your kingdom.

Many times when people hear of my involvement in the General Church or within our annual conference they say things like “That sounds boring,” or “I have no interest in getting into all of that political stuff.” For me though, it is so much more than church politics. It is about a structure that reaches around the world, providing resources and showing love to God’s people. It is about doing the most good with what God has given us and in doing so making the greatest impact. Does this committee work matter? It may not be something recognized in our local churches but I think it does matter and the impact is far reaching.

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