Today was the final day of Annual Conference. We were all tired, but ready to finish our work and to face the emotional issues that were on the schedule for the day.
The day opened with a couple of short videos, one about UMW and the other about the Kids Clean Up Challenge to raise money for people affected by flooding and tornadoes in the Great Plains Conference. The children of Grace may very well have inspired this challenge! After the terrible flooding in Nebraska earlier this spring, Pastor Lora talked to our kids about what had happened and they brainstormed ideas for ways to raise money to help and ended up collecting change and donating it. Pastor Lora mentioned this to the Bishop and some clergy friends and soon after the Bishop created the Kids Clean Up Challenge. The children of Grace are leaders in compassion and generosity!
Our most important goal for the day was to finish electing delegates for General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference in 2020. We voted, read results, and voted again. Over and over until all 28 delegates and 6 alternates were elected. This took a while. The clergy voted 10 ballots before they were able to elect the seven General Conference delegates and the laity voted 9 ballots. Overall, I was pleased by the people we elected to represent the Great Plains Conference. All of the clergy elected as delegates are progressive and fully affirming of LGBTQ persons. Four of the seven lay delegates for General Conference are progressive, as are six of the seven Jurisdictional delegates. The clergy delegates are racially diverse and of various ages. The laity delegates have some racial diversity and the Jurisdictional delegates include several young people and at least one person who identifies as queer. There is more information on the Great Plains website, but here are the names of those we elected:
General Conference – Clergy : Adam Hamilton, Amy Lippoldt, Junius Dodson, Kalaba Chali, Dee Williamston, David Livingston, Cheryl Jefferson Bell
General Conference – Laity: Oliver Green, Lisa Maupin, Scott Brewer, Randall Hodgkinson, Steve Baccus, Dixie Brewster, Lisa Buffum
Jurisdictional Conference – Clergy: Anne Gatobu, Mark Holland, Eduardo Bousson, Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson, Stephanie Alschwede, Zach Anderson, Andrew Conard [A. Gatobu, M. Holland, and E. Bousson will also be Alternates for General Conference]
Jurisdictional Conference – Laity: Abigail Koech, Dan Entwistle, Jesi Lipp, Shayla Jordan, Ally Drummond, Esther Hay, Joyce Jones [A. Koech, D. Entwistle, and J. Lipp will also be Alternates for General Conference]
Alternates to Jurisdictional Conference- Clergy: Ashlee Alley Crawford, Kurt Cooper, Nathan Stanton
Alternates to Jurisdictional Conference – Laity: Roy Koech, Abraham Ruffcorn, Charles File
After voting was finally finished, we moved on to legislation. The Creation Care Team introduced a resolution encouraging churches to reduce their carbon footprint and take other measures acknowledging climate change. Thank you, Lynne Hunter, for being a part of this! The resolution was eventually referred on for further recommendation before voting.
Next a resolution was introduced on the Conscientious Dissent of the Traditional Plan. (This originated in a petition that many Grace members signed during the special General Conference in February.) There was emotional debate both for and against the resolution. One of the youth spoke passionately in favor of it. Legislative votes are usually taken by a show of hands, but LGTBQ issues are so controversial, that we used our devices to vote for them. This resolution passed 60/40.
Pastor Lora introduced the next resolution, on supporting the UMC Next and committing to working towards following Jesus, resisting evil, injustice, and oppression, rejecting the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019, eliminating discriminatory language, restrictions, and penalties in the Book of Discipline, and building a church that affirms all people. Introducing resolutions on the floor of Annual Conference is nerve wracking and hard, because hundreds of people are watching and there are so many rules and regulations about how it must be done. Introducing resolutions as emotional and controversial as this one takes enormous courage and conviction. Pastor Lora followed her own message to us – rise up and do not be afraid – and led beautifully. We should all be incredibly proud of her. There was debate on the resolution and once again, a youth stood up to argue in favor. The resolution passed 59/39.
A third resolution on LGBTQ issues was introduced. This one was Science of Sexual Orientation Study Guide, and dealt with making materials available on the science of sexuality, emphasizing that sexual orientation is biology, not a choice. This resolution also passed 60/40.
The last resolution of the conference involved changing the way we structure conference sessions. It requested that many of the reports given during Conference be posted online and encouraged the Bishop to rearrange the schedule so that more time could be spent on legislation. This was debated and passed.
Annual Conference ended with the introduction of all of the General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates, the introduction of the Cabinet (the District Superintendents from each district and appointed to administrative positions at the Conference Office), and the fixing of appointments. This is the official and final announcement of pastoral appointments. We sang and prayed together and then Annual Conference 2019 was dismissed.
This has been an emotional and exhausting week, but much good work has been done. I was challenged to try new things and move into new roles and that has been very rewarding. I am so grateful to have had the honor of serving as your lay member to Annual Conference.