Skip to main content

General Conference: Delegation Meeting Reflections

Last weekend I headed up to NCNY for a General Conference Delegation meeting. We had the pleasure of having a conference call with retired Bishop Joseph Yeakel, who served as bishop of the New York West Area before I knew what a bishop was. Bishop Yeakel is known around the connection for his exceptional knowledge of UMC polity and order. If you've been to General Conference, you've likely seen him sitting behind the presiding bishop, acting as the fount of knowledge he is when it comes to questions of decoding the Robert's Rules, etc. Bishop Yeakel spoke to us, and especially to first time delegates, about what to expect and how to prepare for General Conference. He also answered our questions about what big issues to expect (besides the usual suspects), etc. I really enjoyed his conversation and insight.

Some notes I made on the conversation:

Bishop Yeakel reminded us that there's a difference between being a member and a delegate. We are members of Annual Conference, but delegates to General Conference. Being a delegate means that our responsibility is limited to the event, the time of GC itself. We go as individual delegates. I know this is not always the view held in other delegations, but in NCNY we have always emphasized that we vote as individuals, not as a block.

The bishop said, "We’re not the church John Wesley thought he was starting." He talked about Francis Asbury, how Wesley would have appointed Asbury to the role of the first bishop in the American Methodist movement, but that Asbury instead (or in addition, I guess) wanted to be elected by his colleagues. So, Bishop Yeakel talked about us having a "polity quadrilateral." We are:
1) Conciliatory. Conciliar. We meet in council.
2) Connectional, legally and by covenant.
3) Itinerant church. "We're not called to be called. We're called to be sent." That's a powerful statement.
4) Episcopal. Not a hierarchical or separate order. But bishops are chief connectional officers. The only person who can interpret what’s in the ‘Book of Covenant’ (the Bishop's preferred term for the Book of Discipline) is the bishop of the area where topic is in question (and Judicial Council, in review.)

Bishop Yeakel also talked about the types of legislative responsibilities we would have at GC:
1) Constitutional. Only legislation that becomes effective only after referendum to Annual Conferences.
2) Temporal economy/organization and administration: 'immediate' and complete control at over this at General Conference.
3) Normative law, like Social Principles. This is our best understanding of our life together, but not legalism of second category. Includes narrative portions of discipline.

Concluding our time, the Bishop said, “There’s a part of each one of us that is a political animal, and hopefully the grace of God can work through that too.” Hopefully indeed!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

re-post: devotional life for progressive Christians

I posted this a while back before anyone was really reading this blog. Now that more people seem to be stopping by, I thought I'd put it out there again with some edits/additons since it's been on my mind again... Do you find it difficult to have any sort of devotional time? When I was growing up, I was almost compulsive about my personal Bible Study, devotion time, etc. Somewhere along the way, I got more and more sporadic. In part, I found myself frustrated with the devotional books that I considered theologically too conservative. I find it hard to bond with God when you're busy mentally disagreeing with the author of whatever resource you're reading. My habit was broken, and I've never gotten it back for more than a few weeks at a time. So, a disciplined devotional/prayer/bible-reading life - is it something I should be striving to get back, or something that is filled by other ways I am close to God? This is a debate I have with myself all the time. On the

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, "Hope: A Thrill of Hope," Mark 1:1-8

Sermon 11/26/17 Mark 1:1-8 Hope: A Thrill of Hope             Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is the glass of life half empty, or half full? My mom and I have gone back and forth about this a bit over the years. She’s wildly optimistic about most things, and sometimes I would say her optimism, her hopefulness borders on the irrational. If the weather forecast says there’s a 70% chance of a snowstorm coming, my mom will focus very seriously on that 30% chance that it is going to be a nice day after all. I, meanwhile, will begin adjusting my travel plans and making a backup plan for the day. My mom says I’m a pessimist, but I would argue that I’m simply a realist , trying to prepare for the thing that is most likely to happen, whether I like that thing or not. My mom, however, says she doesn’t want to be disappointed twice, both by thinking something bad is going to happen, and then by having the bad thing actually happen. She’d rather be hopeful, and enjoy her state of

Sermon for Second Sunday in Advent, "Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright," Isaiah 11:1-10, Mark 13:24-37

Sermon 12/3/17 Mark 13:24-37, Isaiah 11:1-10 Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright             “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon’ virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.”             This week, I read news stories about North Korea testing a missile that perhaps could reach across the whole of the United States.             This week, I spoke with a colleague in ministry who had, like all churches in our conference, received from our church insurance company information about how to respond in an active shooter situation. She was trying to figure out how to respond to anxious parishioners and yet not get caught up in spending all of their ministry time on creating safety plans.             This week, we’ve continued to hear stories from people who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, as the actions, sometimes over decades, of men in positions of power have been