Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Quick Conference and Quick Elections

I attended the two day conference of the North Alabama Conference. Usually this conference starts on Sunday afternoon and finished late Wednesday afternoon. However, not many of the lay delegates could come or all you got were the retirees. So our conference last year shortened by one day, and this year it was shortened to the two days. The Memorial Conference was moved to Thursday night and to one of the churches. That was well attended and it was a good service instead the sterility of the college Coliseum. We women had our clergywomen gathering right after the service in the parlor of the church. That was nice too. I think it was one of our better gatherings. The Bishop even joined us for awhile. Then the next day we started the long day of Friday. A lot of us were concerned that elections though would lead to a long weekend. The last elections took a whole lot longer than planned for. I felt like we were running through the business pretty fast almost at light speed with little discussion. We had no Bibles study, no workshops and fewer worship services.

Bishop Huie spoke to us about the changes that are going on in the Texas Conference. As I listened I thought to myself, "It won't be long that we will be doing some of the same things."
She also preached at the Ordination service. She was imaginative and creative, well spoken. Boy is she a dynamite. The commissioning service will be done later at another church. Bishop messed up though the ordination of Jan McCarver, I think he must have forgot what she was being ordained for. But that will be corrected.

The next day was a quickie too. We did finish the elections. I had to leave early because of the girl's had a Dance Recital, that I was not going to miss even for the conference. Now something you need to know is that last year we had a big argument over one of the petitions that came before the conf. this petition was to tell the President to end the war. The same petition came up again. The person from the petitions committee did a good job presenting it, asking us to stop and pray for those who have died in the war. It was very moving. The Bishop brought up that he had lots of letters about last year's discussion, and so he did not want us to have a discussion again. That just ruined the tone, because our conference has always had a history of discussing things sometimes pretty heatedly, but coming out on the other end. Everybody was pretty upset that we could not discuss, he even used the Roberts Rules to keep that from happening. But then one of the Pastors out maneuvered him and brought an amendment to it. The amendment basically took out the language of telling the President what to do and took out the time line. Well it passed, and the Bishop was fed up. Two other people at that point stood up to speak. One of them started saying that maybe we needed to think about what sacrifice we could make and he basically shut him up. Well don't you know then the conference was pretty mad at the Bishop. You see we have history of being able to speak and be listened to. Usually we have one for the and then one against, like that. That is all he had to do. You know we are students in a class that you tell us what to think and what to do, and be quiet. I spoke to the man about what he was trying to say. I know this man very well. Good fellow, bright, thoughtful, worth listening too. His son is a Marine in Iraq. What he was trying to say, is okay, instead of just saying we are for peace, lets to something, find out what is needed in Iraq. How we can make things better and do it. You know I think he is on to something. I suggested he present that next year. Start now finding out how we can help, how we can do something and present it. I don't like war anymore than anybody else, but I think writing the President and telling his to cease fire, and withdraw immediately is not the only answer. I think we the people need to begin to give and help too. I don't remember it being so bad last year, but that was a year ago. I do think that a fair discussion is okay. But with limited time like this was set up for, there is little time for discussion.

The place we met was great, I have no complaints. I don't even mind making possible for lay people who work to be there. But what would it mean if we just go ahead and met on Sunday too. Go ahead and give enough time for what has to happen and be taken care of. Have lay speakers or retired ministers preach. I think it was too short of time.

Now to the elections. I am going to put the results of the clergy elections up here, and you tell me what you see and think....

General Conference
1. Will Garrett
2. Bill Morgan
3. Mark Parris
4. Paul Hillard
5. Robert Sparkman
6. Amy Bowers
7. Tommy Grey

Jurisdictional Conference
1. Dalton Styes
2. Sheryl Thornton
3. Steve West
4. Rudy Guess
5. Glenn Conner
6. Andy Wolfe
7. Robin Scott

1. Amelia Sims
2. Alan Head
3. Sara Cameron
4. Tim Barnes
5. Alan Weatherly
6. Dale Cohen
7. Kenny Baskins

I will say we had more mission moments that were really inspiring. We had good ministry reports also. I would say over all it was a good conference.


Elizabeth said...

I see a lot of men elected!

mompriest said...

Yes. Not nearly enough women elected to leadership. This was very true up north in my diocese up until about 4 years ago. Things are slowly changing...At least there were other aspects of the conference that made it worth while.

The Vicar of Hogsmeade said...

looks to me like your women need to learn how to "block" vote.

Bishops who are scared of discussion because of the clock or conflict scare me.

People need to be heard.

gmw said...

A lot of fellas indeed.

Thanks for the reflections. I'm from the Texas Annual Conference. Yes, Huie is a firecracker. She's also an excellent presider at AC. Apparently she and Willimon were trading off conference preaching with one another b/c we had him as our preacher on Monday and Tuesday nights of AC, plus an hour session on Tuesday afternoon in which he addressed the whole AC on worship (as our AC theme this year was "passionate worship"--we're using the 5-fold core values/practices found in Bishop Schnase's book, and which we adopted a year ago, as our themes for the next several ACs).

Willimon was his usual, excellent self preaching and teaching. He did mention that he planned to hold a 2 day AC and have elections done within it (Ours begins with a worship service Sunday night, continues with clergy and lay sessions meeting separately Monday morning, then kicking off the business session Monday afternoon and concluding Thursday morning with final business and the service of consecration and sending forth. Throw in Tues. afternoon seminars, a bible study each morning and worship each evening--ordination Wed. night--and you've got a pretty full AC, plus ample time to elect our delegates--11 GC, 11 JC, 5 alternates, each for clergy and laity. The laity always beat the clergy in getting their 27 folks elected by about a day).

But I did wonder aloud with someone what sort of presider Willimon was as a bishop. Huie is a fine preacher in my experience, but not in Willimon's class. However, she is an exceptional presider. That has gained her much credibility among the clergy and laity of the AC.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that our discussion was blocked and I hope that the man wanting to help the people in Iraq finds a way to voice his opinion somewhere. It sounds like his idea should be heard, especially from his local church and district superintendent.

But a resolution from our Conference on Iraq is pointless. I don't think it is fair to say whether or not Bishop Willimon was "fed up" or "mad." He was being his usual self -- swiftly moving through conference.

We should be doing something more in annual conference than letting every person speak that has an opinon. It's a huge waste of time. Annual conference had always been mismanaged and I'm glad the culture is changing!!!

1-4 Grace said...

Looks like a disproportionate amount of men. We have come a long way, but dang it we have a ways to go.

revabi said...

Thanks for the comments from all. Yes again more men were elected. Only one African American male and female. Very few women. One problem is we don't have that many women, and it is hard to get votes from the others who are trying to get their persons elected. I think it will take more politicking in a positive way.

As for the conference itself and the managing of it, I do like the conference better. I did not like it before, all the boring reports. I like the videos, real stories, hopeful and inspiring stories. Truth telling about the state of the church.

But I frankly do not like no room for orderly dialog. I don't know John Wesley's take on it, and would have to go back and read up on it. But I think you will find that the Methodists have been known for dialog and debate. I believe if you look back at the past conferences it was five for and five against was what was allowed, and not everyone. And it was done where the one for spoke and the one against.

I belonged to a denomination before where there was no room for debate, dialog, difference of opinion, and the results were harmful.

I have thought about what I wrote, and I can't say what the Bishop felt only he knows what he felt. So here is what I will say instead, it appeared he was upset, fed up or mad.

I welcome the change in thing that are for the better of the church and our witness to others. I don't welcome change for change sake, necessarily. That's another topic.

mompriest said...

Our denomination has guidelines for discussion on matters pertaining to resolutions being discussed at convention (or AC as you call it). I think it is 15 minutes per resolution with an extension option at the perogative of the Bishop. I think there is even a time limit on how long a person can speak during the "debate" time, maybe three minutes? Often our Bishop will extend the conversation for a few minutes longer or until it seems the arguments are becoming redundant. 15 minutes is long time when you have 20 or more resolutions before convention. Thankfully not every resolution needs a long conversation about it. But also, this process allows some conversation but the time limitations help. Everyone knows that if you have an opinion you better get to one of the microphones fast, and speak concisely. But it works. Voices are heard and often these voices hold sway over the room. (Then it really begins to feel like the Holy Spirit is at work)....

hipchickmamma said...

we just finished our ac. i had to leave early but we only had 3 resolutions given all the voting. given that i was voting as laity and not clergy, i don't remember our clergy delegates off the top of my head but our laity lists consisted of 6 women and 2 men. however i think it only conisted of 2 african americans and the rest where white.

i understand the need for dialogue and agree BUT i dread the multitude of folks who fail to read the entire resolution before asking for lame clarification questions that would not be neccessary if they simply read the entire resolutions! ugh! sometimes i think folks in mighty mo aren't too bright! that's terrible but it is CRAZY here!

this year everyone recieved the schnase's new book. perhaps it has some valuable stuff in it but frankly i'm sick of hearing about numbers, numbers, numbers! what about people? quality ministry? that just might be in the book but all we hear about is NUMBERS!

we had an AWESOME ordination sermon by the Iowa Bishop--my brain is frozen and i can't think of his name right now. but it was AWESOME! Bishop Palmer--what a speaker! wow! i'll stop now that i've high jacked your blog! sorry!

will you be posting on the dance performance?

the reverend mommy said...

Well, we have five lovely days of conference coming up next week, plus early check in on Sunday -- I want the shortened version.

My pet peeve? I'm OK with the worship services, but do they HAVE to sing the dern hymns so sl-o-o-o-ow? And all the verses??

I'm looking forward to conference like I would look forward to a root canal.


Sherill said...

Actually, I don't think the Bishop was fed up at all. I was there when our friend tried to talk and I think the Bishop's concern was to keep us from having another horrible scene like last year.

I agree that we should discuss these issues, but the floor of Annual Conference is a poor, poor place to do it. Instead of Christain conferencing, last year we had the UM Version of Jerry Springer. Having three speeches for and three against only makes it a debate in which each side tries to win rather than a discussion in which we try to find a faithful response as God's people. Add to that the fact that those resolutions are pointless. The President won't meet with our Council of Bishops, he surely doesn't care what the North Alabama Conference says about it (unless of course like last year we say we agree with him)! And I don't know if you read last years resolution but it was an embarrassment for a church to say some of the things it said!

As for the length of conference, business etc., be sure and fill out the evaluation card. You are not the only one that misses bible studies, etc.

By the way, just a thought about the representation of women. Women make up only 17% of our fully ordained elders and deacons and our delegation has a representation of 14% (I'm not counting alternates which improves the percentage). As for people of color, they represent 7% of elders/deacons and they have a representation of 14% also. Still not what I would hope for, but it does put things in perspective.

Sorry I've gone on so long. Hope you enjoyed the dance recital!!!

revabi said...

Thank you for your perspective on things, from the up front position. I hadn't thought of the Jerry Springer discussion, nor that that is what happens with that three for and three against. Thanks. Perhaps the discussion belongs in a smaller meeting ie the districts, I don't know.

And I did fill out my evaluation form.

Sherill where would you suggest these things be discussed?

And as I said in my second statement it appeared to be so, and the people around me experienced it that way also. Just saying.

I am not sure what you are trying to say by the percentages? I can guess, but then I would rather hear from you before I write what I am thinking.

Sherill said...

We have been struggling with a more appropriate way to address such issues and I'm not sure there is an easy answer. Church and Society is willing to host a deliberative discussion of this issue and others. We've looked at standing rules of other conferences that send such issues back to committee for discussion. We've talked about discussions at pre-confernce meetings. Honestly, I'm not sure of the best way. I just know that I firmly believe that Roberts Rules of Order are not a very CHristian way of struggling with issues.

As for the statistics, I just meant that we are fairly represented by the delegation--if fairly means that the delegation looks like the confernce itself. Granted I think there are problems with that observation-such as why are there so few people of color and females in our conference.

We still have a long way to go.

revabi said...

How about a Town Hall Meeting instead perhaps hosted by the Church and Society, or a panel discussion, not just before conference but maybe throughout the year and then if a petition arises out of those present that to the conf. Maybe each district host one or something to the sort.

I agree with you about Robert's rules. They were made for civil meetings, and do tend to keep a certain order. But they are not spiritual.

Thanks for your explanation about the stats, I thought that's what you meant. And that is what I was thinking as well.

Lorna (see through faith) said...

Hoping they are men of God at least

seriously our conference is Weds-Sunday ... it's too long but there needs to be room for discussion.

I skipped this year (since I'm now persona non grata) and actually it was the right thing to do

Lorna (see through faith) said...

one thing I am against voting for women - "just for the sake of it" - which is what block voting can mean.

I mean in the UK we ended up with a woman prime minister (Margaret Thatcher) who was not favourable to women, the poor, the underprivileged for example and it took a LONG time to oust her.

and oh all you UMC out there - isn't it time to RECLAIM the conferences so that they would be a time of enrichment and spiritual filling not just politics.

teachergran said...

It was interesting to read about your conference meetings. I also liked reading the reactions to your post. As a mother with a daughter and a son-in-law in the army, I was heartened by the ideas about starting a dialog about Iraq. It seems that nothing much is happening on the national/political level as no one wants to engage in a discussion (which leaves the door open for changing one's views). While I strongly felt 4+ years ago that I had not heard anything that sounded like a valid reason to put anyone's kids in harm's way (and still feel that way), the fact remains that we did invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein. Now the questions seem to me to be to try to figure out 1)if we are doing more good than ill; 2)how to help Iraq become safe for all Iraqis; 3) how to protect those Iraqis who helped us; and 4)how to bring our troops home and help them re-integrate into "normal" society. Since the national leadership seems to be unwilling/unable to hold substantive (not sound-bite) discussions on this, perhaps meetings sponsored by churches throughout the country would be a good way to go? Thank you for at least offering a new suggestion in this area.