Author: Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The first day of General Conference 2019 feels different. There is a palpable tension in the air. This is a momentous conference, and everyone knows it. I was initially skeptical of the “soft opening” with a day of prayer, but it was probably the right way to begin with everyone so on edge. I still marvel at how great the singing is in worship at General Conference. We really do make wonderful music together…even when it is tense.
A couple of highlights. One, the General Conference hired a professional parliamentarian. This guy is a rules nerd deluxe…and he was great. He read the transcripts of the last two General Conferences and noted the biggest errors we have been allowing. He called out the manipulation of the process with “points of order” and inappropriately “tabling” issues to kill them. He will be advising the chairpersons of every session to stay on task. He also offered to stick around at lunch and breaks and help anyone accomplish their goals the right way.
This is a huge step forward! There has been so much manipulation of the process for years. This was a very smart move to bring in a professional to run the meeting, well, professionally. Well done GC committee and staff!
The second highlight was the Judicial Council unanimously struck down a major portion of the Modified Traditional Plan. Petition 90078, pg. 211 of the ADCA would have created a Global Episcopacy Committee. This was an attempt by the “traditionalists” to control bishops. Right now, bishops are under the supervision of the College of Bishops (each jurisdiction within the U.S. or Central Conference.) This petition would have made all global bishops accountable to a group elected by the General Conference. This was basically a power grab to force uniformity…which is the entire goal of the Traditional Plan: Control and uniformity. The Judicial Council unanimously said, no thank you.
Inside there was a moment where there was a call to pray for the LGBTQ delegates. This could have been a major demonstration but was tastefully handled by the bishops and delegates. It was a pleasant contrast to the debacle outside of the convention center where the gay-hating Fred Phelps clan chanted with their bull horns. According to these individuals, God hates gay people, and apparently, everyone who does not also hate gay people. Honestly, if being a hater like this gets you into heaven, not thanks. These people are sick.
Tomorrow is a big day. It starts at 7:30 am with worship. We will prioritize legislation and elect a chair person. We will have a clear sense of where we are heading after tomorrow. Stay Tuned.