Photo Courtesy of UMCom
Annie MacNeal, first reserve lay delegate from the New England Annual Conference.
Thoughts and happenings from my first day physcially representing United Methodist Insight at General Conference in Tampa, Florida.
Bishops Take a Beating: Be kind to your resident bishop, because the Council of Bishops took a beating Monday in legislative action. Delegates failed to vote in favor of the set-aside presiding bishop in a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds majority, required by the Book of Discipline. Then there was a prickly debate over term limits for bishops, which ultimately got a majority of favorable votes but not the two-thirds required for constitutional amendment. On Facebook, the United Methodist Reporter quoted Bishop John Schol of Baltimore-Washington Area, who presided at the afternoon session: “I would have liked to have seen the set-aside bishop. I think that would have strengthened our work as episcopal leaders. But we’re ready to work with the church with whatever General Conference approves.”
And Are We Yet Alive? One of the best things about General Conference is the chance to renew acquaintances and make new friends. After I greeted her with a cheery "It's good to see you!" retired Bishop Judy Craig responded enthusiastically, "It's good to be seen!" That pretty much sums up the value of face-to-face contacts.
A Visit to the Tabernacle: Lunched with the UMC's progressive wing at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle April 30. A sizable contingent of delegates showed up to hear speakers on divesting from companies that sell equipment to Israel that aids in the occupation of Palestinians. After lunch the delegates caucused on items they wanted to remove from the consent calendar so they could be debated on the floor. Clearly the Tabernacle is one of the places to greet, eat and meet -- especially when the catered fare of steamed pork, black beans, yellow rice and Cuban bread deliciously recalls Tampa's Latino heritage.
Tides of Politics: Renewal and Reform Coalition, basically Good News and Confessing Movement, celebrating the election of three of its slate of delegates: Revs. J. Kabamba Kiboko and Dennis L. Blackwell as clergy members, and N. Oswalk Tweh Sr. as lay member. Attorney Beth Capen, a progressive, was re-elected to the other open lay slot. Presumably R&R figures its candidates will hold the line against homosexuality in the UMC. Lay alternates elected are Sandra Lutz, Kurt Glassco, Randall Miller, Deanell Reece Tacha, W, Warren Plowden, Jr., and Reynaldo V. Abdon. Clergy alternates are Timothy K. Bruster, John E. Harnish, Susan Henry-Crow, Oyvind Helliesen, Jane A. Tews, and Laura B. Easto.
Shame on Us: Friends, few things illustrate the gap between oldtime United Methodists and the rising generations that they say they want to encourage than the story of first reserve delegate Annie MacNeal, a young adult from the New England Annual Conference pressed into service on the General Administration legislative committee when a delegate was called hom.
During a subcommittee meeting on legislation related to petitions on homosexuality, a clearly defensive chairwoman chastised MacNeal for reading from notes on her iPhone. The chairwoman accused MacNeal of being prompted to speak through instructions on her iPhone, MacNeal denied being manipulated or coerced, saying she that she uses a notebook application on her iPhone to take notes.
"I learned a lot this week as one of four young adult delegates on the GAdmin (general administration) committee," she writes on her blog. "Our voices had to be extra loud as we were smothered by many [whose voices] were older than ours."
You couldn't have contrived a confrontation more telling than this encounter to show why The United Methodist Church is failing. Not only do senior church leaders understand nothing about tech-oriented young adult culture, their quickness to accuse young adults of being the pawns of special interests because they express uncomfortable opinions gets them characterized as "haters." For those who don't know it, "hater" is one of the worst epithets in young-adult parlance. Who would want to join a church full of "haters" when Jesus preached love?
As Annie's T-shirt in the accompanying photo says, she and other young adult delegates are leaders of the UMC today, not of tomorrow when the rest of us are mouldering in our graves. They deserve to be respected as much as the grayest eminences among us.
Delegates, listen to this young leader's story and act on it this week! Do something to show that you mean what you say about wanting young people to lead The United Methodist Church!
And Then There's This: Contrast Annie MacNeal's unfortunate episode with the vast number of individuals and annual conferences using social media to inform United Methodists back home about General Conference actions. A good example of this is the Alaska Conference blog.
Now if only the delegates could learn how to use their electronic keypads properly. They've only had them since the 1988 General Conference.