The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body is meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019. Eight voting delegates from South Georgia - half clergy and half lay - are among the 864 delegates from around the world.
General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, typically meeting every four years. At the request of General Conference 2016, the Council of Bishops set a plan for addressing the overwhelming number of proposals related to same-sex marriage, the ordination of gay clergy, and related topics. The bishops’ plan involved creating the Commission on a Way Forward and setting a Special Session of General Conference in 2019.
General Conference Begins with Prayer and Fasting
Delegates pause for prayer during the Feb. 23 Day of Prayer and Preparation at the 2019 Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.
Today marked the beginning of a significant time in the life of The United Methodist Church. Eight hundred and sixty-four delegates, Bishops, media, and observers gathered in the St. Louis America’s Center Convention Complex for a Day of Prayer.
The day was organized by the Praying Our Way Forward team, led by Bishops Deborah Wallace-Padgett and Al Gwinn. This initiative, begun in 2016, included Bishops and annual conferences and expanded to include the entire denomination. South Georgia United Methodists honored this time in January of 2018 by committing to worshipping and praying daily using a guide written by the Conference’s deacons.
Today’s gathering had two purposes: to pray for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference and to increase effectiveness in fulfilling the Church’s mission.
“For the first time anyone can recall the General Conference spent the entire day in prayer,” Bishop R. Lawson Bryan said. “We prayed for nearly seven hours.”
Delegates prayed in small groups and corporately; they danced, sang, and spoke prayers in Swedish, Russian, Shona, Spanish, Swahili, French, Korean, and English; and they sat together in expectant silence before God.
“Today, we got a real taste of what we all pray for: all nations and all people coming to Jesus Christ,” Bishop Bryan said. “And as we anticipate the next three days of work together, I was reminded that prayer should be how we do our work anyway.”
Video message from the Delegation: We are grateful for your prayers
South Georgia United Methodists serve as pages and marshals
Revs. Aimee and Shannon Baxter, both deacons in the South Georgia Conference, are serving as pages at the 2019 special called General Conference session.
In addition to the 864 delegates at this week’s special called General Conference session, there are many more volunteers and visitors at the America's Center in St. Louis, Mo. Among them are four South Georgia pastors who are serving as marshals and pages during the four-day conference, participating and observing the inner workings of General Conference in ways that few are able to do.
Revs. Aimee and Shannon Baxter, who flew out of Savannah early Friday morning, are serving as pages. Pages assist delegates, staff, bishops, members of the Judicial Council, and official guests with communication and other needs. Before their official duties started today, they were able to pray over the South Georgia and Alabama-West Florida delegation tables (Rev. Aimee Baxter’s home conference is Alabama-West Florida).
“What a joy it has been to be among our brothers and sisters from all over the world,” Rev. Aimee Baxter said. “I’ve had the privilege of serving our bishops this morning, watching them interact with one another, and I even danced prayers to African music with one of them. It’s all Kingdom in the here and now, and it’s beautiful.”
Dr. Nita Crump and Rev. Paula Lewis are serving as marshals, volunteers who assist delegates, guests, and staff with seating, checking credentials, providing information, and other duties as assigned.
“It is an honor to be able to serve the global church as we serve here in St. Louis,” Dr. Crump said.
A note about Sunday’s agenda: The Commission on the General Conference has devised a process for determining the order in which legislative proposals will be considered by the single legislative committee during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Petitions that compose a plan will be considered together as one unit. Petitions that are not part of a plan will be considered individually. Plans and petitions will be listed one at a time on the video screens in numerical order by petition number(s). Delegates will then be able to indicate whether they consider each a high priority or a low priority by pressing either 1 or 2 on their device. This process is not a final vote, but rather a prioritization of the proposals. Read more
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