Lake Junaluska, NC—The nine members of a newly formed steering committee responsible for planning a pre-General Conference 2020 Orientation for Central Conference Delegates held their initial meeting November 3 at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The orientation was added last September by the Commission on the General Conference as an official part of The United Methodist Church’s legislating assembly that convenes every four years. Central Conference delegates are those from outside the United States, notably from Africa, Europe/Eurasia and the Philippines.
The idea for a pre-conference orientation for Central Conference clergy and lay delegates originated with the General Secretaries Table (a group of chief executives of denominational agencies). It received the endorsement of the Commission and was supported by the Council of Bishops. Members of the steering committee were named by the Commission on the General Conference, the Council of Bishops, and the general agencies. Members of the steering committee include:
For the Commission on the General Conference:
Kim Simpson, Joseph Mulongo and Juliet Spencer
For the Council of Bishops:
Bishop Harald Rückert, Bishop Pedro Torio and Bishop John Yambasu
For the general agencies:
Erin Hawkins, Dawn Wiggins Hare and Thomas Kemper
At the November 3 meeting at Lake Junaluska, acting under church rules giving the Commission responsibility for all training for General Conference, the Rev. Gary Graves, Secretary of the General Conference, and Sara Hotchkiss, Chief Administrative Officer of the General Conference, joined with the steering committee to launch the work.
During the half-day meeting, the steering committee affirmed the importance of the orientation for Central Conference delegates, reviewed preliminary objectives, and organized working groups to help prepare the orientation agenda over the coming months. Kemper was affirmed as chair of the steering committee.
To be held May 1-3, 2020, in Minneapolis, the pre-General Conference Orientation for Central Conference Delegates will include logistical and related training for delegates, as provided by the Commission on the General Conference. As prescribed by the steering committee, the orientation also will include sessions devoted to discussion of key legislation slated for General Conference 2020.
The discussion sessions will highlight opportunities for relationship building among Central Conference delegates and, if they so choose, discussions within and across Central Conference delegations so that they can review further the implications and impact of proposed legislation. The orientation steering committee recognized that these will be new opportunities for Central Conference delegates, distinguishing the orientation substantively from previous pre-General Conference meetings. Legislation anticipated by the steering committee for discussion among delegates at the orientation will be proposed legislation affecting organizational structures of the general church and, accordingly, how the proposed structures may affect disciplinary requirements concerning human sexuality. The Book of Discipline is the theological manual and rule book of The United Methodist Church.
Commenting on the work of the steering committee, Simpson welcomed the opportunity to offer additional training tools to assist delegates. “This is a major responsibility of the Commission,” she said. “It builds on our longstanding work in leadership development for General Conference.”
Kemper pointed out that the planned orientation will create a new way to equalize General Conference preparation between Central Conference delegations and US delegations. “This orientation will bring together in one place all the Central Conference delegates, building relationships, trust, equity, and transparency. We have dreamed of this for many years.”
To ensure the orientation agenda responds to the interests of greatest importance for Central Conference delegates, the steering committee will distribute a survey to all Central Conference delegations. Responses received by the steering committee will guide development of the orientation agenda, Kemper said.
Throughout the steering committee meeting, members commented on the value the pre-General Conference Orientation will bring to Central Conference delegates. Bishop Yambasu voiced special enthusiasm: “I look forward to the experience we are planning. It will inform delegates, without bias, and enable them to work effectively in the General Conference context.”
Invitations to the orientation will be issued to Central Conference delegates by the Commission on the General Conference, according to Rev. Graves. Central Conference delegates to be invited to the orientation include the approximately 370 delegates elected by the Central Conferences. Additionally, the steering committee will invite up to 50 others including staff, translators, and speakers.
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