happenings at annual conference, wednesday

A busy day at Annual Conference (AC). I did take some time to talk worship stuff with my friend JD Walt. Always a blessing. Alright. Here are a few highlights.

1. A final lunch with pastor friends during the clergy spouses luncheon (all our wives were in that luncheon, so we slipped out for barbeque). Good time. Several of the guys are headed to new appointments, one in another conference.

2. Resolutions handled today. We had several resolutions that the body dealt with. One involved a significant tweaking of our “core leadership team” (CLT), increasing the membership by roughly one-third. Last year, we voted in an overhauled model for ministry as an AC. We slimmed down our boards, divisions, committees, and task forces in order to acheive a more “nimble” structure, over against what was judged by us to be a cumbersome, unwieldy structure with bulky membership on the above mentioned bodies. In listening sessions at the districts this spring, which were conducted to get feedback on the new model for ministry, two items came up over and over: youth ministry and communication. I’ll get to a resolution about conference youth ministry next.

The authors of the resolution increasing CLT membership (full disclosure: my bro is a clergy member of the CLT), cited communication as the major reason for their proposed increase from 18 members on CLT to 24 members. An amendment that was approved by the AC added 2 youth, bringing the total to 26 members. A couple of folks spoke in favor of the resolution; quite a few spoke against it. It required a 3/4 majority to carry and was defeated. Full disclosure: I voted against the resolution because I did not favor the trade-offs entailed in addressing the communication problem over the past year by increasing that body from 18 to 26 members. That said, it was a healthy thing for the body to consider in my view. We all agreed on the problem. In affirming the current model for the CLT, we agreed in some (helpful, it seems to me) measure on the solution: let the CLT have a second year to iron it out. At that time, as I understand it, the conference’s whole model for ministry will be assessed. That sort of work may lead into tweaks of that manner with better data–if they are needed at all.

3. On the youth ministry front, we did have a different outcome. The resolution to expand the conference youth ministry council about 4-fold was adopted by the group. The common understanding was that a move towards efficiency with the conference-level youth committee did not work when trying to live it out “on the ground.” According to some folks, the “slimming” process in the initial year of the new conference structure ended up disconnecting some youth ministry folks and perhaps disempowering some of those same folks that it would have been better to have included in the process more. Plus, it limited youth involvement considerably in comparison with the previous conference structure.

4. Board of Church and Society resolutions. Last year, we tabled several BCS resolutions on the last day of conference. So they were right here waiting for us today. The tabling action of the last AC pressed BCS and the conference to engage in conversation in a more deliberate way. I believe there were sessions for feedback and discussion throughout the year. There were town hall-type sessions during our Tuesday afternoon seminar time in which the resolutions were trotted out and discussed. As with most areas of ministry, our BCS folks are very passionate about these concrete expressions of Christian faith and witness. Sometimes, they have not engaged the whole conference well enough to deal with resolutions addressing techniques for creation care and energy conservation, “the budget as a moral document,” and other such politically active type resolution. Well, the problem is that even when we share values, we may not share strategies for implementation. In this, I deeply admired the BCS report. They spoke very openly and honestly about the feedback sessions, the points of common understanding, and the points of divergent understanding. Further, they shared people’s feelings and values on the wording of resolutions and the act of passing as an AC at all. The result was that they removed the resolutions that were controversial and lacked adequate common understanding, values, and strategies, leaving 1 out of 4 resolutions still on the table. I deeply appreciated their humble actions. Some pragmatism must have played a part–“I see we don’t have the votes, let’s not put it to a vote and lose.” Even still, backing off of something you feel passionate about it difficult. Wise, sure. But that does not eliminate the “good will points” I think the group should get for honoring the listening and discernment process they entered into.

5. Cote de Ivoire AC / Texas AC partnership. And the “nothing but nets” campaign just kept getting more and more money behind it. Exciting stuff. I’ll say more about this one later.

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2 Replies to “happenings at annual conference, wednesday”

  1. Guy,

    I have a different understanding of what happened with the BCS resolutions. Last years proposal to table ALL of the BCS’s resolutions came out of no where (from the then area provost, now your senior pastor) and BCS folks were hurt and surprised by that action because it was the intent of BCS to have the items discussed. I believe the value of having the items discussed over the past year was much higher than a win/lose vote on the floor of annual conference. The purpose was to have folks talking and thinking, which happened and thus they removed the resolutions.

    I find it interesting that you proclaim an anti stance on win/lose, us/them, left/right, etc. but went right to win/lose with the BCS resolutions. The Chair of BCS is an honest and forthright person and I took her at her word when she said that the committee felt that the goals of holy conversations had been met and that we didn’t need to vote because their original intent was conversation with one another. Glendon and the BCS group have “lost” votes before but continue to be voices in the wilderness for justice issues that others are sometimes too worried to bring up, so I don’t think withdrawing the resolutions was about a fear of losing the votes.

    Of course, I could be wrong, but your thoughts weren’t consistent with my experience of BCS or their report.

    blessings,
    Stacy

  2. Stacy,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on how the BCS resolutions were handled. Though I’ll engage your perspective on them and press back some, I very much appreciate your pressing me on my take of the events. I am mulling over what you’ve said here.

    I would certainly agree that a goal of holy conversation around those issues was met, and I would suggest that it was because of the way the conversation was framed over the past year and at this year’s AC. I doubt that an open debate on the conference floor last year would have acheived that goal. So, while tabling them may have caught the BCS by surprise, I think it’s also fair to say that the resolutions from BCS caught many delegates to last year’s AC by surprise because there was a lack of broad conversation around them prior to what seemed to be an effort to press them through at AC. That perception may be false in reality, but the point remains that adequate lead-up conversation seemed lacking. This is not to suggest that there was some strategy to avoid broad conversation, only that since it was lacking, BCS was open to that appearance.

    As for whether or not the resolutions were withdrawn because the votes were missing to pass them, I can definitely envision a situation in which the goal of holy conversation is a principle one, and suspect that to be the case here. At the same time, I have difficulty believing that the resolutions would not have remained before the AC body for a vote had there not been a sense that they would not pass. For that reason, I don’t so much see it as backing off in order not to lose–as if to preserve the reputation or feelings of one’s group (in this case, BCS). I would agree with you that BCS has demonstrated willingness to die on the hills they feel convicted to die on–to their credit. I would tend, instead, to see it as humbly assessing where the body is on the matter and seeking a way forward that facilitates continued engagement with the root issues by the whole body and advocating for one’s (BCS’s) position on the issues, while taking care to gain a sense of unity before bringing the resolutions (that entailed solutions to the issues that seemed not to be widely agreed upon) to a vote on the floor of the AC.

    If I’m reading the situation correctly (and I admit that I may not be), this is precisely why I so appreciated the humility BCS displayed, while stating clearly that they were interested in action on the issues and would be facilitating ways for people to engage issues of social justice whether or not the AC agrees on the specifics of how to engage those issues.

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