2016 General Conference- Day 6

“Bring in the Southpaw”

I had a distinct honor today. With several of our delegation being away to celebrate either their own graduation or the graduation of a family member, North Georgia had to deploy its entire reserve delegation that was on-hand at the end of morning worship. This meant I had to step into the Conferences Committee. Many items came through this committee, including Jeremy Smith’s petitions on creating a free, searchable online digital Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions to be available the year prior to a General Conference. There are two we wrestled with that I want to bring up:

  • What to do about the number of Jurisdictions, number of Bishops, and how their salaries are funded: rather than trying to piecemeal this or offer something that could be incongruent with the work of transitioning to a more globally relevant church, they setup a task force. I know it sounds like the typical churchy thing to do–call more meetings–but this was brilliant. A result of true Christian Conferencing.
  • Commission on Separation: it was lunchtime and almost at our hard stop. Our subcommittee chair asked us to begin looking at a petition. When we turned our Daily Christian Advocates (book of petitions) to the page she told us, the room filled with a combination of gasps, sighs, and “oh…..”. We didn’t get to conference about it fully but you could feel an energy in the room. I glanced down at my book and the paper seemed to turn a few shades lighter. I have never dealt with dynamite or a grenade before, but I can imagine. All of these petitions are serious an impact the lives of faithful Christians. But this one? Wow. Lunch came and went. We went back into full committee and spent the rest of the afternoon voting on 41 different petitions. Then, the Commission on Separation Plan came. Again the room–this time the full committee–felt the seriousness. There were a couple of speeches followed by a successful motion to table. You can read the full text here. I’m someone who has been outspoken on Church Unity. And while it might literally break my heart if the United Methodist Church schismed, I did find it something less than satisfactory in not having a more definitive statement from our committee. I even offered to un-table it if there was time, in order to have a more substantive conversation and, hopefully, a statement made on the unity of this part of Christ’s church.

$20 Million for “Charter Churches”

I spent the better part of the legislative committee time until Saturday present in the Financial Administration committee. This group works on petitions relating to pensions, investments, and our budget. Our budget now includes a plan that has the proposal of taking $20 million dollars outside our current structure and work with a group of entrepreneurs to oversee a group of strategically identified congregations and pastors. This is to see if we can stem the tide of declining worship attendance (and giving) in the United Methodist Church. It feels very similar to Charter Schools. I have three concerns:

  • Why is this $20 Million not taken equally (or even equitably) from all program agencies? Why disproportionately take from GCORR, GCRSW, and GBCS? This feels intentional. See Lane’s post.
  • How can there be a modicum oversight from the General Church in this use of apportionment funds? Maybe make this a special program of Path 1?
  • Can we not have this $20 Million paid out each year over the quadrennium at the prior years’ apportionment payout percentage? My daughter goes to a great school in Atlanta. It could be better if the state and city fully funded what the law says. A few miles away is an excellent Charter School. That school gets all of its funding regardless of the school system’s budget or needs. It must come off the top. My child’s school loses teacher positions, programs, and opportunities. It doesn’t seem fair for children. It doesn’t seem fair for churches.

That said, I’m not against this proposal. As a matter of fact, I think it is a good idea. After all, what we are currently doing isn’t working so well (a complex problem, I know). There’s no need to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just be aware of unintended consequences and precedence set.

“Sine Die”

We ended the day a 9:30pm. All committees had to cease work at 9:20pm, finish with a brief worship service, and go home. All petitions not placed on a calendar or sent to the plenary is left as unfinished business.

Vital Signs Important Numbers:

  • Steps Taken: 10,063
  • Hours spent in committee today: 8 hrs, 10 min.
  • “Press ‘1’ if yes, Press ‘2’ if no. Please vote now”: countless….