By First Elects, Paul Gómez and Rev. Dan Hurlbert
This past month Dan Hurlbert and Paul Gómez had the opportunity to attend the Pre-General Conference Briefing in Nashville, TN hosted by United Methodist News Service.
Much of the first day of the briefing was devoted to the presentation of various plans for restructuring the church. While all plans presented had their pros and cons, most of the gathered delegates were highly interested in the presentation of the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” which had made rounds throughout the national media at the turn of the year. While the desired outcome of the protocol is regrettably acceptable, the actual legislation determining its process as well as what vehicle it would be brought before the General Conference remains to be seen.
Exciting parts of the briefing included a presentation by the National Plans of the UMC with substantial data showing that the church is growing in ethnic communities–in some cases doubling over the last twenty years. This finding was contrasted with a twenty-one percent decline in anglo membership.
The women’s division presented important legislation to end domestic violence and human trafficking. A revamped pension plan has been developed that will help curtail rising liabilities while giving new participants an option to draw down student debt. The Revised Social Principles, Full Communion with The Episcopal Church, and new Doctrinal Standards are among some of the more interesting pieces of legislation coming forward during a season of separation.
Paul Gómez moderated a panel on behalf of UMNS with four young people from around the globe to discuss some of the proposed changes the Division on Ministries with Young People has submitted to delegates this May. This panel was also an opportunity to say and own the younger perspective of the church amidst the chaos it finds itself in today.
The General Commission on Religion and Race also organized a luncheon for delegates of color to strategize beyond theological boundaries and cultural differences. GCORR has developed an Implicit Bias course for delegates to complete. The course is designed to discover how biases inform decisions. A delegate impressed deeply upon all of the attendees when she said: “We all know about the elephant in the room, but when will we address the dinosaur in the corner?” That dinosaur being the racial injustices propagated by the General Conference for decades.
Delegates from the Western Jurisdiction agreed to four priorities.
Removing harmful language regarding LGBTQIA+ persons from the Book of Discipline, passing Next Gen UMC legislation regarding the church for the twenty-first century (a refreshed missional approach and rebranding for United Methodism), passing the Connectional Table’s “Regional conference plan” giving the U.S. autonomy, and living into the Protocol.
As our delegation meets, we are prayerful that the battle that took place in 2019 will not be revisited by our denomination this May in Minneapolis.
Editor’s Note: Searching for information to share with your congregation about the 2020 General Conference? Click on the highlighted words in the article to download the presentation materials mentioned, or go to dscumc.org/general-conference to find all the Pre-Conference Briefing presentation materials and other learning tools about the 2020 General Conference.