RULE 44 is NOT FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

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It isn’t that today was a surprise. It’s just that it was a disappointment. I knew all along that we were fighting an uphill battle. Although our blog policy (if families can also make policy) is that we don’t dwell on legislation, I think I can step outside of that because I believe it’s pretty much now internationally known where I stand/stood on Rule 44.

There was posturing as soon as we began presenting the rules. The attempt to make the bar higher to pass the rules was repeated by persons who wanted to defeat it. Today, after the Rules Committee gave its report not recommending any of the amendments offering yesterday, we tried to move to a vote. The bishop gave her ruling that we would vote on the report with just a majority vote. But again it was challenged and the vote to overturn the ruling of the bishop was supported by 5 votes. At that point, I knew it would not pass.

The organized opposition to Rule 44 was strong. There were groups that had organized and lobbied against it. Some of the facts that they used in their arguments were just wrong. The misinformation hurts and it is hard to refute (although I did get a chance to refute some of it, but it was really too little too late as arguments go). I have spent a year interpreting this rule to a variety of groups. But, I cannot match the concentrated effort to defeat it.

So, Rule 44 is not for such a time as this.

Early in this quadrennium I realized that while the task was overwhelming, I could only do what I could, where I could. And “for such a time as this” became part of my daily prayer – that my work would be of use for such a time as this. It helped keep things in perspective and made me realize that, while what I was doing was important, the Kingdom didn’t depend on any one thing I did. It was helpful for me.

But in reality I did want my time to be God’s time. I wanted to see us have these discussions. I wanted to see if we could change the way we did legislation. I wanted to SEE it. But today showed that, while good may come from this, it isn’t coming at GC2016.

But that doesn’t mean that other good things can’t come.

A message from one of my favorite bishops (who has prayed for me and the General Conference daily and told me so):

I hope you can let it go and be at peace about it. Didn’t Jesus say something about “letting one day’s evil be sufficient for the day?”

Many hugs from many people – in person and through cyber space. The hugs make me cry when the disappointment doesn’t.

There are other times. God’s time. Not my time.

As we ended our day in legislative committees, we had devotions together. We prayed these words:

“God, we are not you. Hallelujah! …..We pray that you will guide us to joyful obedience to Christ’s Gospel call on our lives.”

May I be ready when you use me. For such a time as this.

79° Mostly Sunny
200–298 NE Holladay St, Portland, OR, United States

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“…but the Lord’s purpose will succeed” (Proverbs 19:21)

mom7

And Conference begins. I have lived General Conference for four years. So many hours in meetings, emails, phone calls, and conversations. So much prayer. So much joy and pain. So many decisions, big and small.

And now it has begun.

It is really hard for me to not begin with a list of things that have gone wrong on the first day. No one was present for the First Time Delegates Orientation. FAIL. Convention Center WiFi is not what was promised. Queuing tablets can’t work when the wifi is weak. FAIL. Bishop falls from stage and has to be taken to the hospital. FAIL. Interpretation equipment not passed out to everyone and then the list that they had was out of date. FAIL. Training for small group leaders not scheduled prior to small groups happening. FAIL.

See how hard it is for me to not think these things? I just listed those things off the top of my head. I’m sure I didn’t hit them all. In my address to the Conference, I tried to share how hard it is to make everything come together. And the pain that we feel when we don’t.

Joe and I are staying across the river from the Convention Center. It requires coordinating with the train schedule. We are actually fortunate that the Max shut down actually added a train to our stop, so that isn’t really a problem, but what is a problem is that I kick myself for not insisting that I be closer. I should’ve made a better decision. When I made the original reservation I was closer but I couldn’t get the extra days that I needed. But I could’ve moved. And I chose not to. So now – I scream at myself: FAIL. And the funny part is, it really hasn’t been that bad. But my natural impulse is to focus on the FAIL.

All of this makes me realize that I am not allowing room for the spirit to work within the FAILS and create SUCCESS.

Seeing so many friends I haven’t seen in a long time. SUCCESS. So many new friends that I have met. SUCCESS. Ribbon cutting service that I just made it to and then got to speak and cut the ribbon. (Who knew?) SUCCESS. Beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures. SUCCESS.

This morning I had the opportunity to address the seminarians that are here for a class and to just absorb General Conference. It was a really neat experience to talk with them about General Conference. It made me realize how much I know (SUCCESS!) And then I had the frustrating experience of dealing with the parliamentary nightmare that is passing our rules. We are trying to pass Rule 44 and it is frustrating that so many people equate the rule with the legislation that the rule might be used for at this Conference. It’s been explained over and over. But people don’t listen. And that’s frustrating.

So tomorrow we will know the SUCCESS or FAIL of the proposal. No matter what – it has been suggested and discussed. So I guess that is SUCCESS.

I have to remind myself that success and failure in my terms, may not be the success and failure God sees. May we now see all the things that go right.

60° Mostly Sunny
777 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR, United States

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Day One

Written by Connor Kenaston, Lay Reserve Delegate from WV

And so it begins… After a long flight, time changes, and not enough sleep, I have finally arrived in Portland! Honestly, much of the first day of General Conference was wonderful. I was surprised at how many people I already knew! In many ways, the first day really felt like a family reunion. Seeing all those friendly faces brought a rush of smiles, hugs, and memories. The intentionally inclusive worship was also powerful. There are few other times in one’s life when one is surrounded by such a rich diversity.  It is truly wonderful to worship in a way that reflects the kingdom of God.

However, General Conference encompasses more than the joy of family-like reunions and powerful worship. And sadly, the first day’s legislative duties brought much of the logjam, confusion, and frustrations that many people had been fearing in the buildup to General Conference. Emotions were not high, but parliamentary strategy, complex rule procedures, and insider-language was running rampant. The decision to delay adopting the rules caused a great degree of confusion and even included us having to work until 9:30pm when we would have finished at 6:30pm!

The letdown of having struggled much and accomplished little is difficult, but I am still hopeful. I am hopeful due to the conversations that I’ve had with other delegates about the future for the church. I’m hopeful due to the reminder of the power of communion and scripture. In all our different languages, cultures, experiences, dreams, and hopes, the Spirit can truly flourish, and so I remain hopeful.

But then again, it’s only Day One 😉

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Even got to hang with one of my former roommates who I lived with in intentional community my first year as a Global Mission Fellow, US-2!

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2016…

It’s been four years since this blog has been updated… what a lot has changed! And yet here we are, as ready as we can be for another General Conference. I (Diane) am not sure how many blog updates there will be this quad, since I’m not on-the-ground in Portland (and no one wants to read commentary from someone whose only connection to GC is “text me when something important happens!”). But I am qualified to get us started with a few family updates, and hopefully Mom, Dad, and Connor will chime in as GC gets underway.

(Same as in 2012: opinions expressed by individual family members do not necessarily reflect the whole family or the groups we’re affiliated with. Judi blogs under “OneMoreStepUp.” Connor blogs under “Stretch Out Your Hand.” Diane blogs under “La Peregrina.” Joe blogs under one of the other usernames, but we’ll always cite his name at the top. Rachel and Adam avoid blogging at all costs.) 

Judi – now the chairperson of the Commission on General Conference:

(yes, we made fun of her for saying “I love the process. I love the way the church works. I like reading the legislation. I really get excited by the workings of the church and seeing our connection work together in the global church”… but the reason we make fun is because it is so true!)

Judi wrote about the worldwide nature of the church and her identity as a United Methodist Christian here.

Joe – now district superintendent of the Southern District of the West Virginia Annual Conference and marshal for the 2016 General Conference

Connor – now a Global Mission Fellow for The United Methodist Church. Connor is wrapping up two years as a missionary for racial justice in Missouri. You can read Connor’s Global Mission blog here. Following the 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri, he has interviewed African-American Methodists (UMC, AME, and AMEZ) in Missouri to discuss faith and race on a podcast with accompanying free curriculum for local churches.

Connor is a reserve lay delegate from the West Virginia Annual Conference. He and Diane were recently interviewed by UMCom about how to blog General Conference.

(Also at General Conference 2016 is The Lovely Maria, a Global Mission Fellow recently returned from China)

Rachel – now a film editor in New York City (a move up from “assistant film editor” in 2012!). As the only person in the family not employed by the UMC, she keeps the rest of us in good humor by gently poking fun at church bureaucracy 🙂

Diane – now ordained elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference and pastor of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, MO (blog). Diane is concluding her second quadrennium as a board member for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) and urges delegates to consider how proposed legislation affects women and girls. Specifically, please vote to add “gender” to paragraph 4 of the Constitution!

Adam – In 2013 Adam joined the family in a very churchy wedding in which Diane gave him another PHD – “Preacher’s Husband Degree” 🙂  Adam is a commissioned deacon who teaches historical theology and Methodist history/doctrine at a UCC seminary in St. Louis. His recently published book helps to keep General Conference in perspective: “For Augustine, the unity and integrity of the church were not rooted in the purity of the bishops or the guarded boundaries of the community, but rather depended upon the work of the triune God.”

Prayer for today:

As Judi, Joe, and Connor participate in General Conference, may they be filled with the Holy Spirit. May they stay rooted in You. May they radiate a calm, non-anxious presence. And may all of the delegates, pages, monitors, marshals, observers, reporters, and participants be guided by deep listening, deep love, and deep discernment. Amen!

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A Final Word

It was my intention to write an “end of conference” reaction on the day after conference ended. And then I thought well, perhaps a 48-hours later reflection. But, unfortunately, I hit the ground running and haven’t really stopped since leaving Tampa on Saturday morning. So, perhaps after all this time, I have completely sorted out my thoughts and can offer insightful analysis of all we did. (I hope by now all readers can recognize when I speak tongue-in-cheek).

Friday at General Conference was certainly a wild ride. There was a level of frustration among delegates and visitors that was palpable. The strange part was that the frustration seemed to be a generalized sensation more than something caused by specific decisions or actions. It just seemed to feed on itself. And, as the day went on, the frustration grew. We were running out of time. Everything seemed to be 60/40 – could we really be so divided on everything? Finally, just before lunch we voted on the Commission on General Conference – well, at least those that the Council of Bishops had managed to figure out. (Later in the day they added the remainder of persons from the Central Conferences). I was very disappointed to lose some truly dedicated delegates from this group due to the shift away from the northeastern, north central and western jurisdictions. By chance, we had three people returning from the North Central Jurisdiction and only 2 slots. How the choice was made I don’t know, but I was disappointed to lose a gifted delegate and good friend from the Commission.

During the morning, I was asked by a member of the current executive committee if I would agree to be nominated for chair of the Commission. I had suspected that I would be considered for leadership, but was deeply honored (and a bit overwhelmed) that I was elected as chair. As this nomination came from people that I have a lot of respect for, their confidence in me is extremely affirming.

The afternoon began slowly and it was beginning to dawn on me that we were going to be leaving an awful lot of work unfinished. This includes most of what my legislative committee had done. I was starting to understand the way those on the General Administration legislative committee had felt after working on restructuring for 4 days, and then having nothing to bring forth. And then the 4 pm bombshell – the Judicial Council had found the legislation that we had passed on restructuring was unconstitutional and “unsalvageable.” The experience of being in that room at that moment is something that I won’t soon forget. There was a shocked silence and then a shocked rumbling. All were shocked – those who were gravely disappointed and those who had a sense of relief – all questioned what to do and what would happen next. The plan had been for conference to adjourn by 5 pm (I know this from serving on the Commission). Many people were leaving. Some had to drive long distances, some had important Saturday commitments.

Immediately a 10 minute recess was called for delegations to talk together. Power circles were formed. Looking around, I wondered which power circle could produce the answer we needed. But more importantly, was the sense I had that the Holy Spirit had moved through our clunky, awkward, very human process and stopped us from doing something that we shouldn’t do. Sometimes “no” is a very strong word, and it was my feeling that we had heard a resounding, “NO!” We had a very long dinner break – much longer than I felt was necessary, but we came back with a sense of resolution and were curious to see what would happen next.

Perhaps my sense that we were finally going to do the RIGHT thing, made the proposal that was brought to the floor more difficult to swallow. Refer the plan to the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table so that they could fix the “unconstitutional” parts. (Fix the unsalvageable?) This really did not sit well with the delegates. Perhaps all was made worse by the inclusion of the “possibility” of an additional session of General Conference at a ridiculous cost. Whatever the reasons, the conference was having nothing of it, and eventually agreed to table the proposal to work on some legislation that would make the sizes of the boards and agencies smaller (proposals that had come from the agencies themselves). These proposals did not include the increase in delegate representation from the Central Conferences. But even this may be one of the areas that needs to be perfected. How do we make this truly representative of the membership that we have? Our past has not included the idea of proportionality. Is this what our future should look like? Or should we be concentrating on areas where our growth is stagnated? Is proportional representation truly the way forward? Is squeezing the areas that are struggling and taking away the representation that they have really the best thing to do? I think again of the impact that this had on the Commission – and the mix of fate that kept me from being in this same situation.

So, we did what we could, left much work undone, and decisively declared that we did not want to lift the legislation from the table and refer it. And we left at the end after a brief worship service, still dazed.

Even with Joe’s help, it took far longer to pack up our stuff (partly because he was convinced that they weighed WAY too much, but I am pleased to say that our checked bags came in at 47 pounds each). I was glad that we had a noon flight. The night was still short, but we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

I truly believe the prayers that were offered for me for strength allowed me to make it through two weeks of conference feeling really good. Even with so little sleep, I had energy and never had a headache. I made up for it all on the trip home, however – my head hurt the whole way home and I felt exhausted. It is hard not to think that my physical expressions were related to my spiritual ones. The affirmation that I had felt while there, the sense of God being present, the kinship with so many who love the church and labor so hard in the vineyards gave way to the despair that even we, present with the Holy Spirit, cannot agree, or even treat each other with love. We cannot through our human processes reach the Divine.

I still love the UMC. As one tweet said during the conference, “When I consider leaving the UMC, I realize all my reasons for leaving are completely United Methodist.” General Conference was a wild ride. And, I do wish I could say I have sorted it all out, but I haven’t. I do know, however, that although we, in our humanness, can never reach high enough that we will touch God, the triumph of the incarnation is that God reached TO US and continues to search for us. And, as we finally affirmed in our legislation, “Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God.”

Thank you for following along with all of us as we experienced the General Conference. Your love and support in all ways uplifted me. So, unless I have a sudden revelation (not impossible!) or think of something I have neglected to say, you can look forward to more from Jurisdictional Conference in July!

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Breathe. The Kin(g)dom will survive.

I regularly send e-mails to myself in the future at futureme.org.  This time last year, Past Me was particularly helpful in sending words of wisdom for General Conference (Past Me is so smart!), and as we move forward post-General Conference,* I hope it’s helpful for you too.
*If you would like to join the DreamUMC movement, I encourage you to participate in the #dreamumc tweet-up next Monday night.
FutureMe.org

The following is an e-mail from the past, composed 11 months and 30 days ago, on April 26, 2011. It is being delivered from the past through FutureMe.org

Breathe.  The Kin(g)dom will survive.

Dear Self,

It’s General Conference time. You’re probably stressed. But in the scheme of salvation history, this little conference—with its politicking, drama, petitions, arguing, bickering, and injustice—is not going to make or break the *in-breaking of the kin-dom.*

Get some sleep. Don’t obsess. Be kind to your family. Love on your enemies, even those from the ___ Movement.

Love,

(Past) Diane

PS. Praying for the voices of global women!

PPS. How are Crossroads and Waverly?!?

 ——————————–
For the record, I am really enjoying my time at Crossroads and Waverly 🙂

Mom comes to town tomorrow to lead a pre-conference workshop in the district.  I’m looking forward to seeing her outside of Tampa.  This spring we have only seen each other four times: once in Tampa for a pre-General Conference training, once at a conference leadership team meeting in WV, once at my aunt’s house for Easter afternoon (when the extended family re-hashed the Easter music and services at over five different churches… we sure know how to party!), and then at General Conference.  Thank goodness for the district meeting tomorrow and annual conference in a few weeks!  And thank God even more that we have plans for our annual mother/daughter backpacking trip this summer… it will be good to get outside instead of stuck at church meetings!

But for now it’s off to Church Council…

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Digging into the Archives

by Connor Kenaston, Yale College ’14

Although this post was written yesterday before the Judicial Council (see the two posts written last night) ruled that the Plan UMC was unconstitutional, we feel that this analysis still applies.  Connor writes that his post is “slightly outdated now but still relevant.”  I (Diane) argue that it’s not even outdated, since a) if the Judicial Council had not ruled, the “de-toothing” of GCSRW/GCORR would have gone into effect, and b) even with the Judicial Council’s ruling, the aspects of the Call to Action that focus on membership and money (rather than discipleship, stewardship, and justice) are still in effect.

This weekend, I will finish my sophomore year of college.  I took my last exam Friday morning, and I just have a few more edits to my term paper for my history course on the American South.  I am writing about the role that leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) had in racial violence during the early 20th century.  In 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church split over slavery to create a northern branch (MEC) and a southern branch (MECS).

In my paper, I argue that due to the work of African Americans, northern Methodists, and women in the MECS, the MECS attitude toward African Americans gradually developed from evangelism into the ideology of paternalistic uplift (though consistently under the bubble of segregation) and finally to an official anti-lynching platform in 1930.  Despite this anti-lynching legislation, the MECS did not present a strong united front against racial terrorism because it was divided over issues such as religion’s role in politics and the pervading influence of the Lost Cause and its heritage of slavery and white supremacy.  These divisions contributed to the ambiguity and contradictions of the MECS leadership and forced the MECS position towards racial violence to evolve glacially over a span of 50 years.

I found many eerie connections between the MECS Conference of 1930 and the UMC General Conference of 2012.  Recent legislation at General Conference essentially de-toothed the agencies that stand up for women and African Americans, the two groups that were vital for pushing the church’s focus from purely “saving souls” to uplift, and finally to a recognition of the worth of the African American.  Recent legislation at General Conference deals with the idea of “vital congregations” which attempts to measure churches primarily on membership & finances. Wait.  Doesn’t this sound like the first stage of development, a focus simply on evangelism and numbers?  The United Methodist Church seems to be moving backward in terms of standing up for justice.

I argue that the correlation between activism and Methodism indicates that Christianity can inspire a person to pursue justice despite cultural hegemony.  However, the divisions and contradictions of Methodist leadership in the South made the church’s position toward racial violence a painfully slow evolution spanning upwards of 50 years.  As Methodists, we have a rich heritage of individuals standing up for justice, but we unfortunately also have a heritage of inaction and silence.  (Though they may need to do some of their own research since Archives & History took a hit this week) I hope that the delegates to General Conference 2012, 2016, and beyond will consider our Methodist heritage.

  • What is the anti-lynching legislation of the 21st Century?
  • What are the justice issues staring us in the face today while we focus on boosting membership and financial security?
  • When future scholars look back on General Conference 2012, will they be frustrated by our sluggish response to economic injustice, immigration, LGBT, sexism, or racism?

I cannot control the official stance of the church (as frustrating as this may be), but I can address these issues in my own life and on a local level.  Individual actions turn the wheels of change- they did in the early 20th century and they do now.  I hope that other individual Methodists will stand with me as we attempt to combat these issues over the next four years so that in 2016, our church may stand for justice and not simply for survival.

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Slightly less breaking news…

(If it’s less than “breaking,” does this mean it’s “cracking?” or “bending?”  What’s the verb here, y’all?)

Judi Kenaston, Chair of the Rules Committee

Congratulations to Judi /Mom for being elected chairperson of the Commission on General Conference.  She served the last four years as chair of the Rules Committee on the Commission on GenConf, but will now chair the entire commission.  Congrats!

If you haven’t already read them, go back and read our posts on the Rules Committee:

Someone asked on facebook what this General Conference has actually accomplished (besides getting rid of guaranteed appointment, which isn’t something I favored).  I initially responded cynically:
“We figured out that we don’t know how to be a global church, we don’t know how to do holy listening/conversation, we’re not in agreement about much at all, and we don’t trust each other (that last point was already articulated in the Towers-Watson report a few years ago). Hopefully, these learnings will not be lost (to cynicism or neglect), but will guide us into our future. Our true adaptive challenge is: How do we increase our trust of one another?

And then I added: “WAIT!  We did accomplish one thing!!  We passed the Rules Committee Report with a 92.5% approval rating!”

Rules Committee Report on the Big Screen (with a blue prayer shawl)

And that got me thinking about what else we have accomplished:

  • We began the long, difficult process of repenting—of intentionally changing our ways—for our sins against indigenous peoples, especially Native Americans.  The wounds are still open, but this is a start.
  • The United Methodist Women became an independent agency, no longer subsumed under the General Board of Global Ministries.  See their awesome display here.
  • We voted to support peace in Palestine and Israel (book recommendation from both Diane an Judi: Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour. It will change your understanding of God, peace, the Beatitudes, and the Middle East).
  • We heard from Rev. Lorenza Andrade-Smith of the Rio Grande Conference who has been appointed to a ministry of solidarity with the poor in order to advocate for systemic changes.  She spoke both at the Methodist Federation for Social Action “tabernacle” (a justice-oriented tent) and in plenary.  Listen to her as she explains why she has a warrant out for her arrest!
  • We worshiped God.  And not only did we have amazing speakers and even more amazing testimonies, but our worship was subversive.  It was spirit-filled.  From “Heleluyan” to “And Are We Yet Alive,” we sang songs of freedom: “And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace…”And I believe that God is hearing our songs of prayer.
  • We approved a change from the title “lay speaker” to “lay servant,” which is a much more accurate description of the holistic role of lay speakers (which includes speaking/preaching but is more about the “speakers'” discipleship)
  • We (at the last minute) restructured the boards and agencies in a way that is thoughtful, cost-saving, globally-reaching, mission-oriented and (best of all!) constitutional.  Jesus has good words to say about those who come at the 11th hour.  I just wish we wouldn’t save our work for the 11th hour!
  • We read insightful reports each day from the monitoring team.
  • And we should not undervalue the decisions of the General Conference to NOT pursue courses of action in front of it: to re-define what it means to be a bishop, to rush into a restructure, to use proportionality instead of equity as the way of the church, to close the plenary hall to visitors.  Sometimes we have to say “no” in order to say “yes” to something better on down the line.  I believe that our NOs did that.

So it’s not perfect.  But when the bishop asks: “Are you going on to perfection—perfection in love?”
I pray we can say, “With God’s help, we are!”

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Breaking News! You should be watching live right now…

but if you’re not (or if you’re web-surfing while watching the General Conference Live Stream), here’s a quick recap followed by pictures/video:

Earlier this week, the General Conference enacted very hasty compromise legislation called “Plan UMC.”  My post on the subject went WV-level viral (meaning we got several thousand more hits on this blog than normal!).  Mom’s post, aptly titled “Friends, Finances, and Frustrations” is equally worth a read.  Tonight, hours before the GC is forced to leave the convention center (for another convention that will start tomorrow), the Judicial Council (the Judicial Council is vaguely like the U.S. Supreme Court) ruled this new Plan UMC unconstitutional.  Through action that is happening while I type, the original legislative proposals brought to GC by the boards and agencies themselves are going to be the way forward for the next four years. I am proud of the legislation that GCSRW and GCORR submitted, and I am eager for us to try the new structures that we proposed!

So we do, after all, get to celebrate the continuation of the justice and advocacy ministries for women and people of color!

So, Happy 40th Birthday, GCSRW!

My good friend Anna Guillozet (a pastor in the West Ohio Annual Conference) speaking at the Celebration Night for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW)

Anna and I were curly-haired roommates at GCSRW for the last four years.  We started out as laywomen in seminary and left as commissioned elders!  I am so grateful for her friendship.  When her plane would land first, Anna would rush to the nearest CVS and text me, “I bought us some hair gel!”  That was way cheaper than checking a bag, and we curly girls hafta have our gel!

Diane on the GCSRW 40th Anniversary Video

A collection of 40th Anniversary videos are available at the GCSRW website.  Caveat: these videos are not the one shown at GC because that one is being saved to be shown again at annual conferences around the world this summer. But the topic-oriented videos (on sexual abuse/harassment, global issues, leadership, advocacy, and the future) have way more information and anecdotes for your digestion.

Gen. Sec. Garlinda Burton with GCSRW President Bishop Dindy Taylor looking on

Betty Kiboko, Anna Guillozet and Bishop Dindy (on the big screen)

Here is the video on Global Issues facing women in The United Methodist Church:

Global Issues (GCSRW 40th Anniversary)

“My hope for GCSRW is that we expand exponentially…. so that we are able to continue reaching around the world with groups that are traditionally under-represented… I hope not everybody looks like me in the future!” – Diane, on the video from last summer

And tonight’s legislation does just that!

GCSRW 40th Anniversary Logo on the Big Screen

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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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