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.