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Fwd: GC 2004 Planners Promise "Holy Conference"

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  • Pasha Saltcellar
    2004 General Conference planners promise holy conference Oct. 7, 2002 News media contact: M. Garlinda Burton·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 2002
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      2004 General Conference planners promise 'holy conference'

      Oct. 7, 2002 News media contact: M. Garlinda
      Burton·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn. 10-21-71BP{453}

      NOTE: Artwork of the 2004 General Conference logo is available with this

      By M. Garlinda Burton*

      PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - Planners of the 2004 General Conference hope logistics
      for the upcoming legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church will
      allow more time for prayer, biblical reflection and non-political fellowship
      - and will foster less divisive politicking - than at previous global
      law-making sessions.

      The 16-member Commission on General Conference said that the church's top
      law-making gathering, held for two weeks every four years, should embody
      Christian fellowship, worship and face-to-face discussion about important
      church and social issues.

      Instead, commissioners lamented, recent sessions of the quadrennial
      gathering have degenerated into a morass of dueling theological and
      political factions, exhaustive parliamentary quagmire and contentious
      caucusing and debate.

      At their Oct. 3-5 meeting in Pittsburgh, site of the 2004 assembly,
      commission members said they hope to restore the spirit of "Christian
      conferencing" at the upcoming General Conference by recommending:

      · Open seating in daily worship services. In past sessions, the 1,000
      voting delegates to General Conference were seated by regional (annual
      conference) delegations.

      · Bishops serve as chair people of the 11 legislative committees.
      Instead of electing delegates to oversee the work of the committees - which
      review, amend and forward petitions to the whole assembly - bishops would
      lead, with a secretary elected to report to the whole conference. (This
      suggestion was forwarded to the General Conference rules committee for final

      · A single training session for delegates, instead of having separate
      sessions for U.S. people of color, women, youth and other affinity groups.
      (Those groups would still have the option of holding their own training or
      networking sessions.)

      · Daily Bible study and time for meditation, discernment and
      conversation before voting on tough issues. (This was recommended by the
      church's Council of Bishops.)

      · Delegates be paired as prayer partners, before and during the

      These changes would become effective at the next General Conference, set for
      April 27-May 7, 2004. The group also voted to move the Episcopal Address
      from 8 p.m. the first evening to earlier that afternoon, and to limit the
      address to one hour.

      The group forwarded to the rules committee a recommendation about the 2008
      General Conference requiring that individual petitions to change church law
      be filtered through an annual, jurisdictional or central (outside the United
      States) conference, or through a churchwide agency.

      Gail Murphy-Geiss of Centennial, Colo., chairs the ad hoc subcommittee that
      suggested several changes in the way General Conference runs. Rancor and
      divisiveness marked the 2000 assembly, she said, with heated demonstrations
      and debate on the issue of homosexuality and other hot-button topics.

      The tension, she said, was exacerbated by the increasingly grueling schedule
      of each General Conference and by-delegation seating, which left little time
      for celebrating worldwide mission and witness, community worship, group
      prayer and getting-acquainted.

      "Yellowstone only had two delegates to the 2000 General Conference, so I was
      sitting between delegates from Liberia and delegates from Angola. The best
      part of the conference was worshiping with them, singing with them and
      praying with them," Murphy-Geiss said.

      "We're assuming that all people come to the conference with open hearts and
      that they want more dialogue and less political posturing," she added.

      Allowing delegates open seating during worship services - starting with the
      opening service of Holy Communion April 27 - could allow the 1,000-person
      assembly to connect with people from other states, other countries and other
      perspectives. "We'll be reminded that we are a Christian congregation, not
      just political delegations," said Murphy-Geiss, adjunct professor at Iliff
      School of Theology in Denver.

      Likewise, commission members hoped assigning bishops to preside over the 11
      legislative committees would de-politicize and ensure more consistent
      administration of the legislative process. (Currently, bishops preside only
      at the plenary sessions in the second week. Bishops still would have neither
      voice nor vote.)

      The other recommendations for tightening the schedule will allow more time
      for daily Bible study, small-group discussion and prayer, providing voting
      delegates with more reflection time around decision making.

      In other action, the Commission on the General Conference:

      · Unveiled the 2004 General Conference logo, under the theme "Water
      Washed, Spirit Born." The emblem features the United Methodist
      cross-and-flame symbol centered in the globe, with Pittsburgh's three
      converging rivers - the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio - flowing
      from the foot of the cross.
      · Approved plans to translate the 2004 Advanced Daily Christian
      Advocate (containing petitions and reports to the General Conference) into
      German, French, Portuguese and English, and to provide language interpreters
      on site to translate the proceedings into those languages plus Spanish and
      Swahili to accommodate delegates from outside the United States.
      · Set a 45-minute time limit for worship services and 15-minute limit
      for daily Bible study at General Conference, citing the financial and human
      costs of running over time.
      · Agreed to study a suggestion that corporate vendors be invited to
      set up booths at future General Conferences.
      · Set March 1, 2003, as the deadline to receive applications from
      choirs, dance and other United Methodist groups that would like to
      participate in worship in the 2004 General Conference.
      · Recommended to the church's fiscal agency a $6 million budget for
      the group's work in 2005-08.

      # # #

      *Burton is director of United Methodist News Service.

      United Methodist News Service
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