First order of business for delegates: forming covenant to guide their work

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

First order of business for delegates: forming covenant to guide their work

Sept. 13, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0738}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

LAKELAND — Representing the Florida Conference on an international stage is a tough job, and the 66 Florida Conference United Methodists who will do that at next year's General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences met for the first time since the 2007 annual conference event to begin preparing for that important role.

Their first order of business: prayer, worship and covenant building.

Meeting Aug. 17-18 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lakeland, the delegates and reserves undertook the task of forming a covenant that will guide the way in which they work together. The Rev. David McEntire, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lakeland and a clergy delegate to General Conference, lead them in that process.

The covenant is similar to the “holy conferencing” intended for the 2008 General Conference. Organizers of General Conference, which meets April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas, have endorsed “Guidelines for Holy Conferencing — What God Expects of Us” as a blueprint for conversations that will take place at the conference.

The guidelines are a response to long-held concerns that the style and conduct of General Conference more closely resembles that of secular political bodies, rather than the higher expectations of a faith-focused group, according to Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, who leads the Houston Area and is president of The United Methodist Council of Bishops.

The 10 principles outlined in the delegation’s covenant focus on respect, civility and mutual understanding, as well as ensuring that diverse voices are heard when considering legislation and resolutions.

Florida Conference Lay Leader Bill Walker addresses members attending the laity session at the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event last June. Walker was the first lay person elected at the annual gathering as a delegate to next year's General Conference, and he is serving as chairman of the conference’s delegation to the 2008 General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #07-0670.

The covenant “is our first step at leading the way toward holy conferencing,” said Bill Walker, Florida Conference lay leader and chair of the delegation. “Our commitment is to discerning where God is leading us, rather than using the winner/loser approach to making decisions.”

The covenant addresses four questions: How do you want the leaders to treat the members of the delegation? How do members of the delegation intend to treat each other? How will members of the delegation treat our delegation leaders? How will we deal with conflict and difficulties that arise?

The covenant begins with: “The Florida Conference delegation members forged this covenant as a behavioral guideline, integrating the principles and teachings of Holy Scripture. Each member of the delegation will take responsibility … to review this covenant prior to getting together, and pray that with God’s help, it will aid us in creating and maintaining an atmosphere of trust and encouragement.”

In the four sections — one for each of the covenant’s key questions — prayer is the number-one item listed as a response. Respect and value for each member are also high priorities, as are integrity, sincerity, compassion and love.

In the conflict and difficulties section, delegates agreed to keep Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-17a in mind: “If another member sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” If that doesn’t work, Jesus said, bring two or three others along to confirm the evidence. If that still doesn’t work, if the person “refuses to listen,” Jesus said, “Tell it to the church (leaders).”

Delegates spent more than six hours over the two days crafting the covenant. The full text is available on the Florida Conference Web site at

Delegates also learned about an interactive Web site they can use to communicate on topics of interest. Called a wiki, the private Web site allows virtual meetings — forums where delegates can ask and answer questions — and helps members stay informed between meetings. The delegation plans to meet twice more before General Conference. 
More about holy conferencing and the 2008 General Conference is available at{2B1F5695-20AD-47C1-BAC7-18E6878B6063}¬oc=1.


This article relates to General and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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