Lay Delegate to Annual Conference Report
July 7, 2019
I would like to begin this report by thanking you for the honor of representing Sylva FUMC at Annual Conference. I have been a delegate for 3 years; it is something I take very seriously and attend as many of the session offerings as possible. This year I volunteered to be a teller, which is someone who assists in the voting process, fortunately, electronic devices were used and made things slightly easier than paper ballots once the body trusted the technology. It was learning experience and I appreciated the opportunity.
Typically, Annual Conference does not begin until Friday for laity, however, this year there was a teaching session at First UMC Waynesville, hosted by the Board of Laity. We heard reports from Lay Servant Ministries, United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men and the Accountability Groups or Wesleyan Covenant Groups. The groups are much like the small group that has developed among several of our younger adults. We have committed ourselves to each other through prayer, support, confidentiality and studying of scripture. We would be glad to give advice or assist anyone who wishes to begin a group in a similar format. Each presenting group had a breakout session. I attended the Lay Servant Ministries session, where the presenter spoke on the three levels of available training.
- Certified Lay Servant
- Certified Lay Speaker
- Certified Lay Minister
Bishop Leeland is highly encouraging of laity participating in these training programs. More resources may be found at www.wnccumc.org/lay-servant-ministries, and I have handouts that I would be glad to share.
Following the laity session, we heard from the 67 self-nominated candidates for the election of 2020 General Conference and 2020 Jurisdictional Conference delegates and three alternates. The voting lasted over several balloting sessions; in fact, the body choose to extend the business plenary Saturday evening to make sure we could vote on an additional petition. According to conference rules voting typically ends at 5:30 on Saturday, unless the bishop or body decides otherwise. The recognition of retirees’ service is also held on Saturday, during which time Rev. Dr. Dana Bunn was commended for his service to the United Methodist Church. The remaining time on Saturday afternoon was a scheduled business plenary and the reports of the various boards in our conference. For the purpose of this report I am going to focus on the five petitions submitted for consideration, the full versions of the petitions may be found on the conference website, www.wnccumc.org/ac2019 under the publications tab.
- Petition 17 this petition requested that the Bishop and cabinet proactively facilitate gender equality regarding the appointments of clergy. The petition passed by a show of hands.
- Petition 18 was submitted by an at large lay member and the chair of the Mission Engagement Team. The body voted in approval by a show of hands to form the WNCCUMC Child Advocacy Coalition, this coalition will “promote equity, opportunities and well-being for all children in Western North Carolina”.
- Petition 19 proposed that the clergy adopt a similar self-nomination process as the laity for the election of Jurisdictional and General Conference delegates. This process would allow the clergy candidates to write short bios rather than just voting from a pool of approximately 1200 clergy members. The action passed by a show of hands.
- Petition 20 The Jurisdictional Conference Plan, this plan aims to grant the current jurisdictions (United States), which are parallel bodies to global central conferences, the same constitutional and disciplinary authority to make changes and adaptations to the Book of Discipline as the cultural context dictates. The action passed with 754 votes for and 554 votes against.
- Petition 21 resolved that the WNCCUMC petition the 2020 General Conference to remove the language in the Book of Discipline that refers to the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching”. The petition passed with 692 votes for and 481 votes against.
- Petition 22 opposition to The Traditional Plan, the original petition sought to express the opposition of the Traditional Plan as passed by the special 2019 General Conference. There was a substitute petition presented and voted for as the new petition. This motion came from the group of clergy and laity that attended the UMC Next conference held this past May in Leawood, Kansas. The meeting was attended by more that 600 clergy and laity in opposition to the Traditional Plan. Here is the full petition as presented at Annual Conference.
The petition passed with 564 votes for and 328 votes against. This vote concluded the Saturday business plenary.
Throughout the weekend there were worship services and teaching sessions led by District Superintendents and Bishops throughout the connection. On the Friday teaching session Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of the Texas Methodist Foundation, described the work that is being done to bridge the gap of our intergenerational congregations. She spoke on the fact that people of a younger age do not have to tendency to see the world as “black & white”, in the way people do from the baby boomer generation and older. Both world views are valid and needed, however we need to take a new approach in communication and planning.
- Move beyond problem solving, make action plans.
- Be steady in purpose, but flexible in strategy.
- She presented a challenge: Live in a “yes, but” world.
The honor of delivering the sermon during the closing worship is given to Bishop Paul Leeland. His sermon was titled, “The Joy of Full Surrender”. Bishop Leeland spoke about how we need to trust and obey the words of Jesus. In the scripture lesson, Matthew 28:16-20, we are reminded that Jesus said “20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”. Are we fully giving ourselves to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Do we always trust and obey? Witnessing Bishop Leeland fight back emotions as he concluded his sermon was a moving moment, it is his prayer that we as a church surrender ourselves to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
As I close, I want to leave you with this; it is my belief/hope/prayer that most people want the church to remain united, of course there are outliers. The most evident fact is that no matter where you land on the spectrum of progressive or traditionalist, we are a group of believers who are passionate about Christ and the well being of his people. No one is certain about the future of the church, but the people representing our conference are focused on the inclusion of all people and desire to follow the call they have received.
“Loving God, may we continue to receive the call to follow your will, recognize and extend your grace and love as your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ taught. It is in your Holy name we pray. Amen. “