Friends, Finances and Frustrations

By this point (Thursday evening) we have been at General Conference for so long, it’s hard to believe that we just have one more day of this routine. I ran in to a woman this evening who I met last week in our legislative committee. We were joking about how long it had been since we had seen each other. It seems like it could be years!

Perhaps the best part of General Conference is the people you meet and the friends you make. In reality we see each other so rarely, and some we will never see again, but yet we are connected in a very real way. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a friend I met in 2004 at a training for Conference Secretaries in Rhode Island. We have now met up at GC 2008 and GC 2012, but I consider him a good friend. I was pleased to have Joe meet him because he’s heard a lot about him. He’s moved on from Conference Secretary (having served just about every position in the Rocky Mountain Conference and now going to be District Superintendent). The Commission had one last meeting late last night to work on some of the chaos caused when petitions are amended and passed without adequate thought (a lot of that going around, unfortunately!) It was sad when we realized that this genuinely was to be the last meeting of the current group. This group has spent nearly a month over the past 4 years hanging out together (and, of course, working diligently!) These people are truly friends and my brothers and sisters. I will miss them. Some of us will be going on to the new Commission (although we have yet to see the new list or vote on them). Because of changes made yesterday during the restructuring, some of those who would have returned will be ineligible. I believe that I will be eligible, but this is because the other people from my jurisdiction are going off. It is all very confusing. I’m not sure we know yet what we have wrought.

It’s been a long hard two days. My biggest frustration is the re-structuring plan which passed after being amended slightly from what an ad-hoc group brought after the legislative committee failed to pass any legislation. In an hour and a half we voted on a 70-some page document that most of us had not had time to digest (and which was not translated in print). And it was legislation that a smaller committee had worked on for four days and couldn’t come to an agreement on. There were a lot of things wrong with it. And, then from the floor they came up with a proportional representation model that drastically increased the number of Central Conference participants on all boards and agencies. Now, whether or not I agree with this in philosophy (which if we are actually a world church then surely we should have representation) I do not think that we have fully grasped the cost of this proposal in terms of limited dollars available. Some people have said that people do not have to meet “face to face”, but I have participated in meetings on the phone and by skype and neither of them are very satisfactory when it comes to building relationships of trust that are needed to provide the kind of leadership that we must expect from our boards and agencies. Just on the Commission, the additional persons required will cost an extra $89,000. None of this is in the current budget request. And, the truly frustrating part was that we rushed this as if we had no other option. We didn’t HAVE to pass anything. All boards and agencies had recommended cuts to their numbers that would have amounted to a cost savings. I think we should have waited and let a group think through this new re-structure slowly and brought it to GC2016. But that didn’t happen, and we will live with the new structure. Perhaps the very worst is the loss of both GCORR (Commission on Religion and Race) and COSRW (Status and Role of Women). They were combined into a neutered “Committee on Inclusivity” which is assigned the task of monitoring, but none of the work of advocacy performed by these commissions. You can read Diane’s thought of this – she expresses herself much better than I can. Her post has gotten a lot of traction – many people have reposted it and I’ve had a lot of comments even from us old people!

Today we dealt with a change to the Social Principles on human sexuality. As expected no change was made, although support from Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter lent credibility to a proposal to say that we agreed to disagreed. This was defeated as the minority report (once again using the new rule we passed). Following this ruling, there was a protest on the floor and the bishop called a 3 hour recess, which was hard to understand when we had so much to do. I have heard that there will be no other petitions dealing with homosexuality coming to the floor, but don’t know if that is credible. This would mean that one of two primary pieces of legislation coming from our legislative committee would not be considered. At this point, there still seems to be a lot to do.

Today, we changed the clergy pensions for those clergy in the U.S. (again using the minority report rule). It should be the option most fair to our lower paid clergy (which would be most of the West Virginia Conference). Neither plan was as good as what is currently there, but that was really a given. We also did other less remarkable legislation, including adjustments to figuring membership that allows a conference to maintain a bishop.

I have continued to have fun on twitter – I have even surprised myself with that. I doubt I will tweet much after this but it was really fun watching the feed, and I even tweeted a few myself, as well as answer some questions (probably my useful task!)

Was surprised and honored to receive a gift in my honor (as well as Diane’s) to Missions by the UMW, sent by Elizabeth Bailes. Thanks so much, Elizabeth!

The last two mornings I have awakened from a dream where I was back in WV and then remembered that I had to be back here to finish up all the legislation. I guess after tomorrow, I won’t have to worry about that dream.

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