Day Six of General Conference sees passage of nearly 200 petitions, with more to come Tuesday

Pictured, United Methodist Bishops Robin Dease (left), Karen Oliveto, and Kennetha Bigham-Tsai lead singing at the gathering. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/UM News.

By Jessica Brodie

CHARLOTTE—After a much-needed rest day, delegates to the United Methodist General Conference completed a jam-packed day of business Monday, April 29, including the passage of nearly 200 petitions and the consecration of 26 people as deaconesses and home missioners.

It also brought deep prayer, as the body learned mid-day about a shooting in a nearby Charlotte neighborhood that claimed the lives of four officers and a suspect.

The day started with a worship service preached by Mountain Sky Bishop Karen Oliveto, who lifted up the day’s theme, “In The Serving… Know that I am God.”

Drawing from Matthew 25:34-40, Oliveto urged attendees to see every person we encounter as being made in the image of God.

“Every single one of us has someone we don’t see,” Oliveto preached. “Jesus doesn’t allow our voluntary ignorances and/or our hardness of heart to give us a pass on loving our neighbor. Every neighbor. Especially the ones we would rather overlook.

Also during the morning’s worship, bishops consecrated 26 laypersons, including three from central conferences, to a lifetime of service as deaconesses and home missioners. Bishop Robin Dease, who hails from South Carolina and now serves the North Georgia Conference, was among those consecrating.


Above: Oliveto consecrates a deaconess. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/UM News

Numerous petitions pass

Perhaps the biggest news Monday was passage of nearly 200 petitions all lumped into three consent calendars —one with 73 items, one with 114 and one with eight legislative items. All passed with an overwhelming majority vote.

Among the items on these consent calendars: a formal public apology to Native Hawaiians for the church’s complicity in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893; protection for the girl child protection; a Native American Comprehensive Plan for the UMC; mandated anti-racism training in every conference in the United States; making collegiate ministry a priority of the church; and the nurturing of relationships with indigenous persons in the area of every conference.

Three more consent calendars are slated for vote Tuesday, one with 106 Disciplinary items, one with 80 items pertaining to the Book of Resolutions and one with three committee referrals.

As well, delegates on Monday passed two stand-alone petitions related to Central Conference matters in Africa. One of the petitions, 20649, established a Comprehensive Plan for New Episcopal Areas and Bishops in Africa, shifting the total number of bishops in Africa from 13 to 15. The present Congo Central Conference will get one more bishop, as will the present Africa Central Conference will get one more.

Lengthy debate, including a number of amendments mostly from African delegates, kept discussion on the petition going the rest of the morning, tabling the vote for a lunch break before the body ultimately voted to 645-96 to pass the petition.

The other petition, 20650, established a comprehensive Plan for a New Central Conference and the Renaming of Central Conferences in Africa. Again after debate, the body passed an amended petition that would increase the Africa central conferences from the current three to four conferences. It would also change the names of these conferences: Congo Central Conference become the “Mid Africa Central Conference,” consisting of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia.

Part of the present Africa Central Conference becomes the new “East Africa Central Conference,” consisting of Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda

The other part of the present Africa Central Conference becomes the “Southern Africa Central Conference,” consisting of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

And the West Africa Central Conference (without a name change) consists of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivorie, Guinea, Ginea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.


Above, Harald Ruckert, Germany Episcopal Area, speaks on the Standing Committee legislation. Photo by Larry McCormack, UM News.

Nominations continue

Also key Monday was nominations for the UMC’s Judicial Council, which is the denomination’s top court.

With Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball began presiding, several were nominated from the floor, including two South Carolinians, along with already noted nominations.

South Carolina Delegation Co-Chair Jackie Jenkins stood to nominate James Salley for the 2028 Judicial Council and the Rev. Ken Nelson for the 2032 Judicial Council. The nominations will be considered later in General Conference.

As the body turned to nominations for the Commission on the General Conference, Delegate Ian Urriola of the Upper New York Conference made a motion from the floor for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding the required membership. Urriola questioned what the body should do regarding the lack of youth nominations, as Discipline Para. 511.1 a and b mandate that a youth be among the nominees.

Later in the day, the Judicial Council returned with their ruling, noting the top court ruled that, if there were no youth represented a nominees, then the General Conference is requested to identify, nominate and elect “at least one youth who meets those qualifications set forth,” the court ruled.

Worldwide impact

In addition to voting, Monday’s plenary also featured a number of key reports showcasing the important work done by various areas of the denomination.

The United Women in Faith presentation featured a dance skit complete with pompons and dance ribbons that celebrated the many gifts women—and United Women in Faith—bring to the church.

Sally Vonner, top executive for United Women in Faith, lifted up the many ways the organization makes an impact, from support for community centers and women’s projects to training women leaders. Vonner was joined onstage by other leaders in the organization who also lifted up the good work of the group.

One, Darlene Alfred of Central Texas, shared how important equity and gender parity is in the world and in the church.

Noting that women are 58 percent of the UMC, Alfred asked, “How different would our church be if we were also 58 percent of General Conference?”


Above, United Women in Faith visually represent unity. Photo by Larry McCormack, UM News.

Africa University ‘hope of the continent’

Africa University’s report, led largely by South Carolina’s Jim Salley, lifted up the work of the United Methodist-related institution founded in 1992.

Calling Africa University “a gift God has given to some of the most underprivileged children in Africa,” Salley thanks the body for their love and the way they consistently show up for the 32-year-old Methodist-founded university located in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

CEO and Vice Chancellor Peter Mageto spoke next about how Africa University graduates are growing the church and driving change. As he noted, they are, “Building a future where Africa’s future is fully realized.”

Another speaker and Africa University graduate, Betty Kazadi-Musau, shared that the university is “the hope of the continent.”

“I am what I am because of the united Methodist church,” Kazadi-Musau said to applause. “I am what I am because of Africa University.”

Salley called upon all people at General Conference who were graduates of Africa University to stand as the room resounded in ovation.

Pointing at the room, Salley said, “It’s been said if you want to determine the relevance, the success, of a university, look at its graduates—you see who they are, where they are and what they are doing.

“As we celebrate 32 years, look around us.”

Wespath changes

Next, Bishop Robert Schnase joined Andy Hendren, general secretary and chief executive officer, for a report from Wespath Benefits and Investments.

Schnase noted that Wespath remains a steady force while the UMC stands at a crossroads.

“Wespath deeply cares about the future of our church and especially the people who dedicate their lives to ministry,” Schnase said.

Hendren shared about his own background and journey to spiritual wholeness, which he attributes to the loving environment at Wespath.

“I found my faith through my work at Wespath,” Hendren said, sharing about upcoming plans to replace the current plan with Compass, which he said is a sounder financial move.

He said if someone is already retired, nothing will change. If someone is in active service, their existing benefits are safe, but they will also keep a foot in both world, with access both to guaranteed pension and the more flexible options Compass offers.

Men’s ministry

United Methodist Men also presented on their men’s ministry efforts. Bishops James Swanson and Gary Mueller lifted up the group’s new logo as well as their excitement about the ways men’s ministry is transcending old models of ministry and fellowship.

“Our focus is having a living relationship with Jesus Christ,” Swanson said, noting the Spirit is calling and they are doing their part to answer.

Ethics and credentials

Ethics and credentials were also key discussions bookending the day. At the start of the day, the Committee on Ethics reported a complaint that an individual active in leadership of the Global Methodist Church had remained a UMC clergyperson and was at General Conference as a delegate.

While it was highly unethical, the committee shared, they determined they were not able to act to remove that person.

And Monday’s work concluded with a report from Diane Brown on the Committee on Credentials.  

Brown shared how the process for properly seating delegates for this General Conference began in 2017, but it was rife with a number of issues, from illness to fraud to some conferences simply not electing delegates.

However, after much hard work, she said, the delegates present now “are properly seated.”

“We believe this to be a legitimate and properly certified group of delegates,” Brown added.

Of the 862 allocated as voting delegates at General Conference, Brown noted 765 delegates have been seated (88 percent of the designated number). That 765 comprises 487 from the United States and 278 from central conferences.

She noted approximately 10 people were still en route from central conferences, leaving 60 who are reportedly “not coming.”

Some experienced visa issues while others had medical emergencies.

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