“I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to questions relative to the upcoming “Called Session” of General Conference. I am thankful for the interest and for the support. We have an excellent delegation and, speaking in their behalf, we are honored to represent the churches and pastors of the NWTX Conference in St. Louis, February 23-26.”
How will the delegates to General Conference know the wishes of the individual churches when they vote at General Conference?
I was very pleased with the participation of pastors and churches at the “Listening Sessions.” We had invited all churches, leadership and membership, to participate. We recorded and collated the responses of the participants to each of the Three Plans from the “Table Reports” collected at each session. While every member of the delegation and the Bishop received the raw data, three individuals from the delegation did their own analysis. The approaches varied slightly but a very clear picture emerged about where our conference stood on the Three Plans. No less than 80% favored the Traditional Plan. No more than 10% favored the One Church Plan. So, we have a general sense of where the constituency of the conference stands. Also, at every “Listening Session,” the email addresses of each of the delegates were provided with the encouragement of churches and individuals to contact them with their concerns and questions. Several were received and responded to by the delegation.
If a decision isn’t made, will it be pushed to General Conference 2020?
I am sure that it will.
What will be the voting process be now that there are 78 resolutions?
The delegates will vote on the process when they arrive. In the past we’ve spent several hours hashing out the procedure. Hopefully it won’t take so long this time.
Is there a chance one of the 78 resolutions could be passed over the original 3 plans?
Anything is possible.
A graceful exit option was mentioned at the meetings earlier. Will this still be an option no matter which plan is passed?
Originally, the ‘graceful exit’ was only a part of the Traditionalist Plan. There has been some debate on whether the original language regarding a ‘graceful exit’ is constitutional or not. There have been pieces of legislation submitted to make a ‘graceful exit’ provision a part of whatever plan might be adopted. It may also be voted on separately from whichever plan is voted on.
What are some scripture passages that you have been reflecting on as you prepare to participate in General Conference 2019?
If I am totally honest, I have not been focusing on scripture as a preparation for the Called Session. Instead, I have been swimming through the details of each plan, trying to make sure I truly understand them and the consequences their implementations will bring, both good and bad. Of course, I am praying about it. Mostly, I am praying that we are the church God wants us to be, because at the end of the day, the church doesn't belong to us. The church belongs to God.
What have been your efforts to make UMC members in the Northwest Texas Annual Conference aware of the differences in the plans being voted on?
I have participated in the listening sessions that took place in each district in the NWTX Conference in February and March of 2018. I have written articles in my local church’s weekly publication, facilitated a discussion about the plans in a local Sunday School class and given talks at two United Methodist Women events, upon request. Rev. Gary Boles and I also invited voting delegate Rev. Rich Jones to facilitate a discussion about the Way Forward in an open meeting at Aldersgate UMC in Abilene.
How has preparing for this General Conference been different than the previous General Conference in 2016?
Preparing for this General Conference has been completely different than General Conference 2016. Preparation for GC 2016 required a massive amount of reading. As a whole we processed over one thousand pieces of legislation in 2016 and needed to be conversant in the petitions coming before our Committees. I feel blessed that the relief from the massive amount of reading this time has given me more time for reflection, contemplation and prayer. I feel like I am going into this General Conference with a much more spiritual approach than in 2016.