Editor’s note: Before some key members headed to Portland, Oregon, this week for a briefing on the upcoming United Methodist General Conference, Florida’s delegation met for worship, encouragement from Bishop Ken Carter and presentations on some of the legislative proposals that are expected to be before them when General Conference convenes in May. Click here for information about General Conference.
Following is a report on the delegation’s most recent meeting, prepared by Alice Williams, lay delegate to General Conference:
The delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference held their third delegation meeting on Saturday, Jan. 9, at First UMC, Lakeland.
The meeting began with music and praise led by Jeremy Hearn, lay delegate to General Conference, and then a time of worship led by Rev. David McEntire, clergy delegate to Jurisdictional Conference.
Rev. McEntire’s message focused on 1 Corinthians 13, followed by a time of group reflection led by Rev. June Edwards and Harriet Mayes from First UMC, Lakeland. The reflection, entitled “A More Excellent Way,” focused on how love binds us together, what divides us or makes us feel excluded and what unites us and makes us feel included.
The time of reflection was followed by Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, superintendent of the North Central District and clergy delegate to General Conference, leading the delegates through a time of remembrance of baptism and communion.
Following the time of worship, Florida Bishop Ken Carter met with the delegates to share his thoughts on the question on most people’s mind regarding General Conference: “So what do you think will happen at the General Conference?”
He reminded the delegation not to have the illusion that this General Conference will focus on solely one issue, but instead the work of the body will include shaping the Book of Discipline, adopting the budget for our denomination and electing leadership.
Bishop Carter expressed hope that the Florida Conference delegation will head to Portland with “the desire to unify the church.” He also reminded the delegation that the Methodist Church has been at a crossroads before, and regardless of what happens we are God’s church and God’s church will prevail. He also reminded the group that he is not as concerned about how they vote, as “that is your conscience,” but his interest is in knowing “how it is with your soul” leading up to and during the General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
The bishop closed by reminding the delegation that the General Conference is not about the survival of the church, but it is about “the way we come together to reach the last, the least and the lost with the gospel.”
The group next heard from Dawn Wiggins Hare, general secretary of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW). COSROW’s purpose is to challenge The United Methodist Church to commit to the full participation of women in the life and mission of the church. The commission serves as an advocate for, and on behalf of, women; seeks to eliminate inequities in relation to women in the church; and monitors the general agencies, institutions and connectional structures to ensure the inclusion of women.
Mrs. Hare encouraged each of the delegates to help ensure full inclusion within our local churches. She then shared some of the current statistics, including that approximately 75 percent of all U.S. clergy are male and 74 percent of all bishops are male, which continues to represent improvement but is not representative of full participation.
Hare also reviewed the legislation that the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is submitting to 2016 UMC General Conference. Click here to find the proposals on the GCSRW website.
After that, Dr. Wayne Wiatt, director of Clergy Excellence for the Florida Conference, spoke to the delegation regarding legislation already submitted by the General Board on Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the GBHEM’s mission is preparing global leaders for a global church and the world. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Click here for legislation regarding GBHEM slated for General Conference.
The meeting ended with reminders for the delegation regarding room and travel arrangements and conversations regarding the 11 episcopal nominees. For details on the nominees from the various annual conferences, click here.
A recommendation was made that the delegates engage in a listening session for our conference as part of the Bishop’s Conference Table on Feb. 13. The delegation was in favor of this and looks forward to hearing what key issues are on Florida Conference members’ minds. Details will be announced later.
– Feature home page photo from General Conference 2012 in Tampa. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.