By Jessica Brodie
As General Conference nears, delegates to the quadrennial legislative event are deepening their prayer and discussion about important issues facing The United Methodist Church.
South Carolina’s 16 GC2016 delegates, as well as Jurisdictional Conference delegates and alternates, have been meeting nearly monthly since June to be more aware about the issues they will address and how to hear God’s call throughout the process.
Now, with less than two months left until the event (set for May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon), delegates are dialoguing about major issues facing the UMC, including what episcopal nominee Dr. Tim McClendon calls “the hot button issues,” such as human sexuality, divestment in Israel, immigration, reproductive choice and membership in the Religion Coalition for Reproductive Choice, bishops’ accountability and minimum sentences for those found guilty for violating the Book of Discipline.
At their most recent meeting, McClendon said about a dozen members of Reconciling Ministries of South Carolina attended to urge delegates to be conscientious about inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender United Methodists.
“We welcome people,” McClendon said, reiterating what he has said in the Advocate for several months about how all are welcome to the delegation meetings (see below for upcoming meeting dates).
But more important than the issues, McClendon said, is prayer. Urged by the UMC Council of Bishops, McClendon and the delegation are calling upon all United Methodists to pray for delegates and for General Conference.
“It will be indeed a time of celebration and a time that will encourage local churches to find new ways to reach new people, younger people and more diverse people,” McClendon said.
He asked people to pray that General Conference can focus on how the UMC can truly make disciples of Jesus Christ.
“Rather than spending time on things that divide us, can we focus on Jesus Christ and who and what unites us?” McClendon told the Advocate. “My desire and my request of the Annual Conference is to keep the entire General Conference and delegation in prayer and not believe everything they hear is done at General Conference, because sometimes people report the worst and neglect the best that is done.”
Lay Leader Barbara Ware, first elected lay delegate for GC2016, said her prayer has been and continues to be that all we say and do at General Conference will reflect and glorify God.
“As I prepare to go to Oregon the one word that keeps coming to my mind is ‘awesome,’” Ware said. “Awesome in the fact that I have the opportunity to spend time with people from across the globe. It is mind-boggling at times to think how connected the UMC is and how far-reaching that connection really is for us. We share this connection with some folks who neither speak the same language nor live in a culture as we do in the United States. Yet we all worship the same God and are members of the UMC.”
McClendon urged people to feel free to contact delegation members (see emails, here) and attend meetings to learn more or voice concerns.
The next meeting is April 10 at 3 p.m. at the conference center. Coming up on May 1, McClendon said, Bishop Jonathan Holston will convene the delegation for a nominating committee for the jurisdictional pool of nominees for a variety of general boards and agencies.
Delegation meetings open to public
All are welcome to attend meetings of General and Jurisdictional conference delegates, set for the following dates at 3 p.m. at the United Methodist Conference Center: April 10, May 1 and June 18.