Main Menu

Former General, Jurisdictional Conference delegates share tips to help 2008 delegates prepare

Former General, Jurisdictional Conference delegates share tips to help 2008 delegates prepare

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Former General, Jurisdictional Conference delegates share tips to help 2008 delegates prepare

Jan. 25, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0609}
An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**
LAKELAND — The opportunity to observe and participate in the life of The United Methodist Church arrives every four years and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

That’s the sentiment of delegates who represented the Florida Conference during the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh.

Betty Sue Mason, a member of Seminole Heights United Methodist Church in Tampa, has been a delegate at three General Conferences and described the experience as “wonderful.”

“It’s a challenge,” said Mason, a life-long United Methodist. “You realize the importance of the whole affair. It determines the future of our church.”

Florida Conference delegates to the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference vote during episcopal elections. Photo by Woody Woodrick, Mississippi Conference. File Photo #04-0049. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0119.

The next meeting of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church will take place in Fort Worth, Texas, April 23-May 2, 2008. Delegates representing the Florida Conference at that gathering will be elected at the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event this June. A total of 13 lay and 13 clergy delegates will attend General Conference. Another 13 laity and 13 clergy will be elected to attend the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C., July 16-19.

Delegates elected to General Conference are automatically elected to represent the Florida Conference at Jurisdictional Conference. The first two elected lay and clergy delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference also serve as alternates for General Conference.

Anyone interested in being a delegate to either 2008 conference must first submit a nomination form. The deadline to apply is midnight Feb. 15.

Mason said she will apply to be a delegate and supports the idea of people taking turns serving as a delegate. She also realizes there is a benefit to having been a delegate in the past.

“I start worrying that people won’t grasp the importance of it all,” Mason said. “I’ve served on the board for the General Board of Global Ministries, and I have a pretty good understanding of the church. I feel responsible and obligated to respond to the call to serve our church for the future.”

While her experience as a delegate in the past was key in her decision to apply again, Mason said it was only after a considerable amount of prayer that she made her final decision.

The Rev. Jorge Acevedo said a sound prayer life is a must for people who seek to be delegates. He’s been a delegate to General Conference twice.

Acevedo, who serves as pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Coral, described the pace of General Conference as very intense — a “break-neck pace” — and said it was amazing to see the church at work globally, internationally, spiritually and theologically. He said his experience was “bittersweet” overall.

“It was the worst of times; it was the best of times,” he said. “Sometimes we can rise up and do some really wonderful things and at others we can wallow in our brokenness, our humanness.”

Acevedo, who is prayerfully considering applying to be a delegate, said his idea of an ideal delegate would be someone who is Christ-centered, spirit-led and committed to the local church. He said the primary place of ministry is the local church and, therefore, a vital interest in it should be vital in a delegate.

“Everything else is secondary,” he said.

Acevedo said he prepared for his service as a delegate by spending time with his family, since he knew he would gone for two weeks, inviting people to pray for the entire church, and ordering his life as a pastor so he wouldn’t be preoccupied with the day-to-day business of General Conference and could stay focused on the tasks at hand.

Annie J. Woods said she didn’t find it hard at all to stay focused when she was an alternate delegate to the past two General Conference events. The member of Indian River City United Methodist Church in Titusville said her overall experiences were also good.

Woods said it was exciting to watch resolutions being sent to committees and having those committees come back to the entire assembly. She said she would encourage all delegates to take the time to read all of the pre-conference material and be prepared for long days.

A peaceful protest of demonstrators weaves its way through the main assembly hall during the morning plenary sessions May 6 at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. The group included clergy and laity and was led by Soulforce, an advocacy group that opposes church doctrine toward gays and lesbians. In a sign of solidarity many delegates stood as the group protested. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #04-0021. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0074.

“You have to be in good physical and mental shape,” said Woods, who relieved a delegate on the floor during a number of sessions. “I would say it was, overall, a good experience to watch the spirit of God at work through the delegates.”

The Rev. Dr. Robert Bushong, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Winter Park, said his experience was also positive. He served as an alternate at the 2004 General Conference.

Bushong said he was impressed and challenged by the process of how the church works. “It was tiring, yet energizing,” he said. “It helped to read the materials that were sent out and being in prayer with other people of faith.”

Bushong said he is wrestling with the idea of applying to become a delegate. He said he feels he would be a better delegate in 2008 because he knows the process and what to expect.

What was unexpected for Bushong was a chance meeting with a district superintendent from Kenya who just happened to fill an empty spot during a lunch meeting at a local diner one day at the 2004 General Conference. All of the men there, including several from the Florida Conference, immediately hit it off and a life-long friendship was forged.

Early this year that friendship was brought to fruition when Bushong, the Rev. David Dodge, executive director of the Florida Conference Center for Clergy Excellence, and the Rev. Wayne Curry, superintendent of the Gulf Central District, and others traveled to Kenya to teach a group of 80 lay pastors. They returned in mid-January.

“It was really humbling to go back and teach,” Bushong said. “That’s what General Conference is about, to be aware of issues around the globe. It’s really a great thing. Now I feel like I have a friend on the other side of the world.”
Nominations must be received by Feb. 15

Clergy and laity who feel called to represent the Florida Conference at either 2008 gathering should not delay in completing the on-line nomination form found on the Florida Conference Web site at Clergy must be nominated to be eligible for election, a change from previous years when all clergy were eligible.

Individuals who do not have a computer or Internet access may contact Dr. Kenneth L. Minton, the conference secretary, at 72 Lake Morton Dr, Lakeland, FL 33801, or 863-686-3163 to request a paper copy of the nomination form.
All electronic forms must be received by midnight Feb. 15. All paper forms must be postmarked by Feb. 15 and sent to: Delegate Nominations, Florida Annual Conference, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802. According to the Florida Conference Standing Rules no application may be received or considered after that date.

This article relates to 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event/2008 General and Jurisdictional Conference.
*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.