General Conference Talk Sheet

Talk Sheet From Chat on General Conference

From York District Conversation on General Conference with Tom Salsgiver

April 6th, 2021



  1. Bishops:

  • There are currently 63 active UM Bishops throughout the world Including Africa, Europe and Philippines

  • There are 91 retired bishops for a total of 155 living UM Bishops.

  • In our jurisdiction – the Northeastern Jurisdiction we currently have 9 active bishops and 14 retired.

  • September 1 we will have 7 active bishops and 16 retired to cover 10 Annual Conferences.


  1. General Conference (GC)

  • USUALLY MEETS EVERY 4 YEARS – in our history we have had only 2 special General Conferences:

-1970 finish the merger of the EUB/Methodist Churches

-2019 (Special GC for A Way Forward)



  • WHO ATTENDS GENERAL CONFERENCE?

  • For 2020 or whenever we meet there will be 862 delegates:


55.9% from US

32% from Africa

6% from Philippines

4.6% from Europe


That means 55.9% from US and 42.6% from outside the US. That will change with next 2 General Conferences (outside US will grow larger)

  • Delegate numbers are set by formula calculating the # of clergy and the # of members in the local churches of each Annual Conference


WHO REPRESENTS SUSQUEHANNA AT GENERAL CONFERENCE?

  • Susquehanna Conference has 12 delegates: 6 clergy and 6 lay.

Annual Conference lay members vote for lay and clergy vote for clergy. We also take 2 clergy and 2 lay reserves to GC who can fill in. These are 1st 2 clergy and laity elected for JC.


WHO DECIDES HOW DELEGATES VOTE?

  • Important that delegates to GC and JC are not like the electoral college. Delegates go to represent the entire AC in all of its diversity. They are expected to study and read the legislation prior to going, listen and then vote their conscience based on the debate.



WHAT IS THE ROLE OF BISHOPS AT GENERAL CONFERENCE?

  • Bishops have no say and cannot vote at GC. They preach and they preside but they again no vote and no say unless invited to speak.




  1. JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCE

  • Meets every four years (usually) in July after General Conference.

  • There are 5 jurisdictions in the US. NEJ, SEJ, NCJ, SCJ, WJ. Discipline says ALL Jurisdictional Conferences meet at the same time.

  • We are part of the Northeastern Jurisdiction.

  • 10 AC make up the jurisdiction and there are 168 delegates and an additional 20 youth representatives.

  • Susquehanna has 12 lay and 12 clergy delegates

  • The main function is to elect bishops, make assignments, retire bishops, and set boundaries of ACs and Episcopal areas.


  1. HOW COULD BISHOP PARK AND BISHOP JOHNSON RETIRE WITHOUT A JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCE?

  • ¶408.2b. Book of Discipline allows it.


Why will Susquehanna share 2 bishops with West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania?

  • It is an experiment to try a new kind of Episcopal Leadership. It made sense because Western PA, WV and Susquehanna are culturally very similar.

  • Bishops will be full Bishops working in all 3 conferences.

  • THIS IS NOT A PRELUDE TO A MERGER. ABSOLUTELY – EACH ANNUAL CONFERENCE WILL RETAIN ITS IDENTITY, CABINET, BOARDS, ETC.

  • We are trying a new and creative way to do ministry – a new way of sharing resources and strategies for being in ministry.



  1. WHAT HAPPENS AT GENERAL CONFERENCE?


THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE

  • The only one that can speak for the UM Church is GC. No word in The Discipline can be changed without vote and approval of GC.

  • For the 2020 General Conference, there have been about 1,000 petitions submitted.

  • There are 14 Legislative Committees. Every petition is assigned a Legislative Committee. Every delegate chooses one of the Legislative Committee. They attend and it is in these committees that petitions are approved, not approved and/or amended. Then it goes to the full GC where all 862 delegates have a chance to discuss, amend, change vote yes or no. All 1,000 petitions must be voted on in the general session. To say that it is intense is an understatement.





  1. WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT A SPLIT? HOW DID WE GET HERE?

  • 2016 GC – Great division on LGBTQIA issue: some were upset as some clergy were breaking covenant with the Book of Discipline, others were departing because there was not full inclusion of LGBTQIA

  • A delegate from West Ohio stood up – “Bishops you must lead.”

  • Took a break – came back and they set up the Commission on Way Forward and set special session for 2019.

  • 2019 Special General Conference to vote on the Way Forward

GC could not come to an agreement


What did happen:

  • New Pension program was adopted

  • Tightened The Discipline’s language regarding homosexuality, preventing ordination, BOM and Bishops were mandated to comply with Book of D.

  • Passed Disaffiliation – provide a way for churches to leave with their property if they do not agree with the UM changes.


  1. WHY WAS GENERAL CONFERENCE DELAYED AGAIN?

  • Postponed because of COVID.

  • Set for 2021 – postponed again because of COVID, lack of vaccines available around the world.

  • Virtual couldn’t happen – explain why.

  • GC now set for 2022 – hopefully.



  1. GENERAL CONFERENCE 2022 WILL STILL DEAL WITH 1,000 PETITIONS

  • The Protocol and a potential split get the most media attention. But there are at least 5 other proposals to deal with


1. Proposal – US would become a regional conference with separate Discipline

2. GC determines number of bishops – based on numbers. Currently we could lose at least 2 or 3. Another proposal says each jurisdiction only gets 5. If a Jurisdiction or AC wants more than 5 Bishops they will have to pay for it.

3. Budget – General Agencies

4. Proposals for local pastors, requirements for ordination – number of courses, etc.

5. Laity rights


  1. WILL THE PROTOCOL PASS? WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN AT 2021 GC?

  • Anything that comes to the floor can be amended. The protocol will be definitely changed on the floor so no one knows exactly what will be passed

  • A good guess: that the changes will make it easier for a local church to leave the denomination with property, but there will still be a requirement to pay for unfunded Pension Liability

  • There will be some determination on same gender weddings, and ordination of LGBTQIA persons.

  • Some possible outcomes: (AND THESE ARE PURE CONJECTURE!)


*One Possibility: The UMC splits into at least 3 branches: (remember, this is just conjecture!)


  1. Global Methodist Church – holds to the traditional view and does not allow same gender weddings or ordination

  2. UMC - allows pastors, churches, and Boards of Ordained Ministry to decide if they will ordain or bless same gender weddings

Each church and pastor will separately decide what they will bless or not bless

  1. Liberation Methodist Church – blessing of same gender marriage will be enforced; full ordination for LGBTQIA persons

  • We really don’t know what the options will be until GC 2022

  • There will be a delay after GC 2022 before any plan can be implemented

*Judicial Council will need to review

*It will take time to understand and begin a process for churches/pastors to decide


OTHER CURRENT ISSUES FROM THE NEWS


  • South Georgia AC is planning to leave the denomination as an annual conference. There is some real question based on the Constitution of the UMC whether an AC can do that.


Individual churches can disaffiliate. If any church in the Susquehanna Conference feels that for conscience sake they cannot stay, they can reach out to their District Superintendent to initiate the process or simply have an informational meeting to discuss what disaffiliation might look like for their local church.