|Chris Corbin speaking during a committee session. --Photo by Rev. Wayne Wiatt|
In interviews on Thursday, the next to the last day of General Conference, two of Florida’s young delegates expressed hope for the future of The United Methodist Church, despite the conflicts and disagreements on policy and social issues that they have observed.
Chris Corbin, age 24, from First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, attended General Conference for the first time this year. He served on the Local Church legislative committee, and Corbin’s first impressions included both the positive and the negative.
“It’s good to be here and see how global the church is, but I have been disappointed with the level of discourse that’s been going around from a variety of sources” he said. “Some have not been engaging ideologically,” seeming to avoid speaking about a variety of viewpoints.
He also said that he felt that this avoidance had affected the decision-making process and not for the better. “There have been arguments about one thing, when really the issue was another thing--sometimes people have not been open about policy decisions,” he said.
When asked if the conference had held any big surprises, he said, “Unfortunately, no. The direction was expected, including the polarization of viewpoints.”
Asked about the prospects for the next General Conference, in 2016, Corbin said, “I predict that the discourse will be more polarized, but I am hopeful that good can come out of all this.”
Carlene Fogle-Miller, who turned 21 on the first day of General Conference, found that her first General Conference experience was bogged down with procedures. She served on the Church and Society legislative committee A, and her view is that dialogue on disagreements often used procedure to avoid discussion about difficult topics.
|Carlene Fogle-Miller, center, during legislative committee sessions.|
What surprised her? “How much we didn’t do.” She added, “But I did see how prayer is universal and that we all have a connection in Christ, even though it can be hard to see sometimes. I saw that even when it comes to people we disagree with, God blesses them, too.”
Fogle-Miller was surprised at the forceful lobbying from groups advocating for their position on issues such as homosexuality.
"As a young delegate, I felt like these lobbyists were perhaps targeting me because they thought I might be more easily influenced. At times, it could be unsettling and even intimidating to see people marching, singing and shouting in protest,” she said.
“During one very heated discussion of the issues in my committee meeting there was a very tense and forceful debate going on and I stood up and just asked if we could take a moment to pray. Then I led the group in prayer with the help of an interpreter,” she said.
When asked about her predictions for the 2016 General Conference, Fogle-Miller observed, “A lot will depend on what gets done or does not get done here and now. Continuing issues will remain, especially the issue of homosexuality. My fears are that the disagreements will lead to a split,” she said.
However, Fogle-Miller added, “But I am really hoping and praying that it doesn’t happen and the global church will survive.”