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A Potentially Unsettling Trend in Annual Conference Gatherings

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  • UMAffirmation
    A Potentially Unsettling Trend in Annual Conference Gatherings While there have only been 4 Annual Conference Gatherings so far: Detroit, Eastern PA, Kansas
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2011
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      A Potentially Unsettling Trend in Annual Conference Gatherings

      While there have only been 4 Annual Conference Gatherings so far: Detroit, Eastern PA, Kansas West (which I know nothing about yet) and Baltimore-Washington; I have noticed a disturbing trend when it comes to legislation on petitions for General Conference. They are being put at the tail end of the agenda for Annual Conference. In Eastern PA, things went as far as someone making the following motion:


      From the Detroit Annual Conference, we received the following update:

      The conference endorsed a petition to General Conference to strike "the

      incompatible" sentence from paragraph 161.f and to add sentences

      recognizing that "the church is not of one mind about the practice of

      homosexuality" and affirming "the call to inclusiveness."  

      The conference also endorsed petitions to create a new resolution to

      expedite the end of the war in Afghanistan, to end funding of hate-based

      rhetoric in paragraphs 613 and 806.9, and to add a subsection upholding

      the rights of migrants to paragraph 162. Unfortunately, time constraints

      were dealt with by tabling a number of other petitions on inclusiveness.


      The Baltimore-Washington AC found all of its legislation for General Conference being dealt with on Saturday – so a lot of encouraging took place to make sure that delegates stayed through the end of the session. Most did and the results were quite favorable.

      While good things are happening around delegate elections and some of the legislation, I just want to point out that this trend to deal with General Conference petitions and resolutions last on the agenda, is making the work of many MFSA Chapters and RUM groups more difficult.

      So,  if you find that this is the case in your Annual Conference, I have some suggestions on how to address the issue of delayed legislation:

      1)      If a motion is made to not discuss the GC petitions – I suggest that an argument be made that this violates our covenant of “Holy Conferencing” at Annual Conference.  We have had guidelines for “Holy Conferencing” in place since 2007 and they are rooted in the concept of "holy conferencing," as set forth by John Wesley, the  founder of Methodism. Wesley believed that "holy conferencing" -- Christians conferring together for the sake of peace and truth seeking -- was a "means of grace," even as are Bible reading, prayer, and the sacraments.  "We believe the Holy Spirit leads in all things, especially as we make decisions," says a postscript to the guidelines' ten points.  "We want to avoid making decisions in a fashion that leaves some feeling like winners and others like losers.  We can change the world through honest conversation on matters about which we are passionate."  There can be no “Holy Conferencing;” no leading of the Spirit, if we are unwilling to engage in even discussing the issues before us, together.

      2)      Make your Bishop aware that this is happening (if you think that would help) and that as the chair of Annual Conference,  they have the right to ask someone who makes a motion to table, “why they are making the motion at this time.”  If they feel the reasoning is dilatory (meant to delay or miss-direct the process), they have the right and responsibility to call the motion “out of order.”

      3)      If there are motions to table and you believe that this is an attempt to stall the issues so that time will run out; you have the right to call for a “point of order,” and to ask the chair to rule the “motion to table” out of order because you believe this is a dilatory motion that is intended to stall the process and keep us from having ample time to enter into Holy Conferencing around these important issues.  A WORD OF WARNING – this is a more adversarial approach and may be viewed that way by the maker of the motion to table… and possibly the chair… use this approach judiciously!

      4)      If legislation is delayed to the very last day, please remind the delegates that their presence throughout the entire Annual Conference session is part of the commitment and covenant that we make with each other, so that all voices can be heard and that we can truly be the representative body of all those congregations we serve.

      5)      Finally, if petitions and resolutions that you felt were important were not dealt with at Annual Conference… remember that you have until September 27th to submit them on your own. I am already encouraging the Eastern PA and Detroit Annual Conference MFSA & RMN groups to consider working together on submitting those petitions and/or resolutions as just that, a petition signing effort – I’m imagining how the General Conference secretary and Legislative Committees will respond if they get a petition not endorsed by an Annual Conference, but that reads; “submitted by the following clergy, local pastors and lay members of the ____________ Annual Conference:” and it is followed by hundreds, if not thousands of names. I imagine they will take the petitions and what has happened at that previous Annual Conference very seriously!


      I hope this helps if you feel someone or some group is attempting to stall or delay the good work of Annual Conference. My greater hope is that you don’t have to use these ideas/counter strategies at all and that your Annual Conference is indeed a time of the moving of the Spirit and the work of Holy Conferencing!


      With Blessings and Peace!

      Rev. Steve Clunn

      Coalition Coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the Reconciling Ministries Network, and Affirmation


      Methodist Federation for Social Action

      212 East Capitol St., NE

      Washington, DC 20003


      Phone: 202-546-8806

      Cell: 518-878-6737

      Email: steve_at_mfsaweb.org




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