As the 2016 General Conference session concluded today, many in our denomination, as well as many of you back home, leave with questions about the approved Council of Bishops plan entitled, “A New Way Forward.” Bishop King offers the following statement about this plan:
To my beloved South Georgia Annual Conference:
The Council of Bishops will be meeting the Saturday after General Conference. We will release a statement for clarity and direction regarding the naming of a special commission to bring recommendations back to General Conference on disciplinary paragraphs related to human sexuality. There have been no changes in The Book of Discipline around human sexuality. Please be prayerfully patient.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops and leader of the Minnesota Conference, addressed the General Conference today, asking for a point of privilege to discussrumors of a plan for schism.
Bishop Ough confirmed that the Council of Bishops is in talks with a number of groups across the denomination, but that the Council believes we are called to maintain unity.
“We belong to God and one another,” he said.
As the afternoon progressed, delegates approved a motion that asks the Council of Bishops to meet Tuesday evening and return Wednesday with a report outlining a way forward.
South Georgia Bishop James King affirms the sentiments of the Council and offers these words for South Georgia United Methodists:
"It is so important for me to communicate with you that recently the Council of Bishops met and it was in that meeting that we made a fresh commitment to focus on unity in the life of the church - not division, not splitting. So as far as we are concerned, we are working together, even across our differences, to be a people that are working to unify the life of the Church and to have us all working together for a Christlike world. So back in South Georgia let’s stay focused on making disciples. Our focus is on growing a Christlike world, and trust that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, we will be working together to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And all of the other things you are hearing, please know that they are not coming from the Council of Bishops and they are surely not coming from your bishop, so let us continue to pray together and to pray for unity."
During today's General Conference plenary session, two clergy and three laity as well as six alternate clergy and six alternate laity were elected to the Judicial Council, the denomination’s “highest judicial body.”
South Georgia Conference Chancellor and member of Vineville United Methodist Church Warren Plowden was elected as a lay alternate for a second quadrennium, this time as the first alternate.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve again on the Judicial Council, and I look forward to the opportunity to be called as an alternate,” Plowden said.
The Judicial Council is composed of nine members and reflects the diversity of The United Methodist Church. The Council determines the constitutionality of any act of the General Conference, proposed legislation, and shall “pass upon and affirm, modify, or reverse the decisions of law made by Bishops” among other duties and responsibilities.
Tuesday, May 17 the General Conference passed a petition that allows deacons to contact their resident bishop directly to ask for permission to administer sacraments. Previously, the pastor-in-charge or district superintendent had to make the request on the deacon’s behalf.
Reserve delegate Rev. Stacey Harwell-Dye, who is a deacon and minister of community building at Centenary UMC in Macon, had the opportunity to step in for one of our clergy delegates as the vote was being taken. In response, she had the following to say:
"I am grateful the petition, which allows deacons to request from the bishop sacramental authority in their primary and secondary appointments, passed. Presiding over the sacraments when and where necessary helps deacons extend the church to the world in the most beautiful and holy way - literally sharing the bread of life and cup of blessing, Christ's body, and the water of baptism with those in the margins whom we encounter in our day to day ministry in the world. Many of us deacons serve appointments that have us frequenting spaces where people on the margins - who love Jesus and desire the sacraments - live, be it in prison or elsewhere. This only a small change from current legislation but it is an important step forward."
General Conference recognized retiring United Methodist bishops during plenary May 19, including South Georgia's Episcopal Leader, Bishop James King. Four others bishops will retire from the Southeastern Jurisdiction, including Bishop Young Jin Cho, Bishop Lindsey Davis, Bishop Larry Goodpaster, and Bishop Michael Watson.
Rev. Stacey Harwell-Dye, left, Minister of Community Building at Centenary UMC in Macon, and Rev. Denise Walton, right, Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries, celebrate clergywomen's rights with The United Methodist Church the General Conference.
The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women celebrated two milestones within the life of The United Methodist Church at an order of the day in today's plenary session at General Conference 2016. Narrated by Rev. Grace Imathiu of the Community UMC in Naperville, Ill., a video entitled, “Are We There Yet?” explored two significant milestones related to female clergy. In 1956, the General Conference session held in Minneapolis, Minn. allowed full clergy rights to 27 Methodist clergy women. Today we celebrate the 60th anniversary of that moment in history. Also, at the 1976 General Conference session in Portland, Ore., clergywomen were elected to be delegates for the first time in history. Retired Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher was one of 13 women to be a clergy delegate in 1976. This marks the 40th anniversary of that memorable moment.
Rev. Scott Hagan, senior pastor of Bonaire UMC, is a first time reserve delegate to General Conference. In a quick video, Scott answers the questions, "What has been your experience as a first time delegate? Have you learned anything new by seeing General Conference at work first hand?"
"How true it is that The United Methodist Church is a worldwide church. When you sit across from delegates from Central Conferences or from the other side of the United States you are just blown away by how great it is to be engaged in spreading the gospel of Jesus in far, far places, and we do it well. And there’s fruit of that all over the place."
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky (left) introduces Gary L. Roberts, author of a report on the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in which U.S. troops led by a Methodist preacher-turned-cavalry officer attacked unsuspecting Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. Roberts presented the report to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference and tribal representatives who were guests of the conference in Portland, Ore., on May 18. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS
Historian and South Georgia United Methodist Gary L. Roberts, a member of Tifton First UMC, gave a powerful and poignant report on the Sand Creek Massacre to the General Conference on Wednesday evening, May 18. In his report he implored United Methodists to "Listen, learn, and do not forget." Click here to read a South Georgia Advocate story about Roberts and his report
Roberts wrote the report, "Remembering The Sand Creek Massacre: A Historical Review of Methodist Involvement, Influence, and Response,” on the 1864 massacre in which U.S. troops, led by a Methodist preacher-turned-cavalry officer, attacked unsuspecting Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. Roberts presented the report to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference and tribal representatives who were guests of the conference.