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General Conference; What *should* we talk about?

We've spent time around the methoblogosphere in the last couple of weeks talking about General Conference. I think many of us agree that even though we don't agree on issues around human sexuality, that we'll be sorry to see a once-in-four-years gathering of the UMC focus so much time and energy exclusively on those issues.

I received my Advance Daily Christian Advocates in the mail last week - there are hundreds and hundreds of petitions. Though certainly many surround these controversial issues, the bulk of them address the whole wide scope of church life - finances, global ministries, poverty, fighting AIDs, discipleship, ministries with young people, the candidacy process and elders orders, the episcopacy, etc.

So, what is important? What are the issues you most want to see us address at General Conference?

I'm particularly interested in:
1) The "global nature of the church" and proposals that decentralize the role of the United States in the denomination
2) Legislation concerning young people and the role of young people in the church
3) Legislation relating to the different orders of ministry and the appointment/itineracy system.

Of course, I'm also critically interested in talking about the role of the church in society, and why our denomination fails to be making disciples (in many different senses of the word), but that's hard to address in legislation, isn't it? Perhaps that's a key problem right there! As we shorten the length of General Conference by two days, I wish we could lengthen it by a week(!), so that we could not only do the legislative work that must be done, but also spend more time in conversation, more time in reflection, more time in discernment. The frenzied proposed schedule really worries me, and I fear for the integrity of our process together...

What's important to you at this General Conference?


John said…
I like your first priority.

What sort of legislative changes would you support for the third?
Beth Quick said…
I'm not really sure John. I think there are two somewhat different sets of legislation coming through. One would in effect further limit sacramental rights and more clearly define (and somewhat limit) rights of licensed local pastors. As I understand it, this is in effort to facilitate ecumenical dialogue with other faith traditions. The other set would expand the rights of local licensed pastors by creating a non-itinerating elder order. (I say this without currently looking at any actual legislation, FYI). Frankly, neither direction strikes me as particularly strong - I like where we are better, imperfect though it may be. But it's a topic I'm interested in and relatively open in my viewpoint ;)
Eric Helms said…
With regard to the third topic, I think we need a better understanding of what it means to be clergy. Particularly with regard to what it means to have an order of deacons that are considered clergy, but do not administer sacraments. If Deacons are to be specialized ministers in extension ministries, then it makes sense that they would be given sacramental rights. But then there is a question of why have a second class of clergy especially when in some cases it certainly seems as if they are considered "second class." I may be missing something, but it seams as if we have created the order of Deacon to exempt those clergy from itinerancy, which is understandable, but why then not give the right of sacraments?
Kristen said…
I agree with you that we need to look at the role of young people in the church. We need to address why there are so few of us around
Scott said…
i have been in campus ministry for eight years now. As the largest mainline denomination, I believe we need to revitalize campus ministry across the Church.

There is some legislation that is coming from the United Methodist Campus Ministry Associaton. ( that I believe is important.

I will be at General Conference, lobbying for young adults and college students.
Pastor Bill said…
Hi Beth!

Eric, I may be wrong, but I believe the Order of Deacon was created to recognize the life ministry of those not called to pulpit sacrament ministry but to minister to the body in other ways - music, counseling, christian ed. etc. Offering Deacons the opportunity to be licensed as local pastors would, in effect, create a non-itinerating elder. I do not think the system wants this at this time. Itineracy is going to be examined, and needs to be, but I don't think we are ready to step away from it completely.

Good thoughs here! Bill
methodist monk said…
I do believe some understanding is being worked out over the nature and understanding of clergy. There is a Study floating around the net somewhere that is set to be presented at the GC. I for one like the clarifications that the ministry study brings. Our current system is not the most ideal situation ESPECIALLY for younger clergy.

I would say one discussion area that I see currently in the Methodist Church is in the area of Young Adult ministry. Today while I was looking for curriculum for a College-Aged class I teach on Sunday I couldn't find anything. Nothing. Our website has very little in the way of resources for a group of Christians age 18-30. More emphasis might be welcomed in this area.
Eric Helms said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Helms said…
Hi Bill,
I do not suggest that Deacons should become non-itinerant elders. I just would like to see their extension ministry include extending the sacraments when necessary and appropriate. If sacraments are central to the life of the church and our identity as Christians, I would like to see clergy in all ministries be able to extend them--I am especially thinking of retreats, hospital chaplains etc. The defining difference between Deacons and Elders the would be Order. We could even specifically link the office of order to a call to itinerancy.

Stephen, I think you are right about the study, but I don't remember and specific proposals being made, I seem to think they were asking for another four years of study--though I may be wrong. I second the young adult problem. I am a 28 year old pastor, and I can't remember the last time I truly had a relationship with someone my age in any church--It has been at least since college.
Anonymous said…
I've recently been considering the possibility that the reason our church fails "to make disciples" is that our definition of disciple is too limited. The survey that was reported today citing the number of people who consider themselves not "affiliated" with any denomination but who are religious is a case in point. Rather than "making disciples" according to a narrow definition of what that constitutes why not develop strategies of utilizing the religious commitment of those who will not fit our narrow definition.
TN Rambler said…
I think that would be a topic worthy of discussion. How do we tap into the religious commitment of those who don't fit our definition of commitment? By the same token, how do we more effectively tap into the religious commitment of those who are already in our pews?
John said…
Perhaps ya'll could clarify something for me, as I am a latecomer to the UMC.

I've heard various people talk about the importance of youth ministry and campus ministry and how the Church must really emphasize these areas. I completely agree. But what I don't understand is how this can be a General Conference issue. What sort of legislation could GC pass that would have an impact on these ministries?
Beth Quick said…
Good question John. As Scott mentions in his comment, both campus ministries and the Division on Ministries with Young People have a lot of legislation they've proposed and considered important. For me, I particularly look out for legislation that urges greater representation of young people in board, agencies, and other bodies of the church. I remember in 2000 a piece of legislation trying to get 20% representation in young people on a particular board - can't remember what exactly - but it was defeated. The reason? Young people can't really understand that stuff (it was some finance related group I think.)

Funding for ministries with young people (and campus ministries) is also really important at GC. At every level of the church, in my experience, people try to cut the budget by cutting money from these areas. It's a regular fight to keep the money in these areas.
Anonymous said…
Typoquibble: It's AIDS, not AIDs. It's an acronym, not a plural.
Beth Quick said…
Come now, anonymous. A person can hardly correct grammar or spelling while using the 'word' typoquibble....
Wesley Sanders said…
I always get frustrated when youth are excluded because we (they? I think I'm technically a "young adult" now) can't understand all the big important things that the those who are doing "real church" have to deal with. I never understand why ageism is OK in the church; imagine the outcry if women or minorities were excluded from a board for similar reasons (sadly a reality from our past). Yet it's OK to demean youth and say that they can't understand complicated issues.

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