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Wednesday evening plenary session

by Neill Caldwell
May 2, 2012

During the May 2 evening session, General Conference delegates paused to pray for fellow delegate Jessica Ireland from Des Moines, Iowa, who was struck by a vehicle on the way to the session. She was transported to Tampa General Hospital and her condition was unknown at press time.

In the plenary session, delegates approved a change in language from “Lay Speaking Ministries” to “Lay Servant Ministries.” Speaking for the Committee on Discipleship, the Rev. Eric Park of Western Pennsylvania said the name change better reflected the many gifts of lay people in the church.

The General Conference had already passed the name change on its consent calendar, but needed to specifically pass this change because it added the path for lay speakers as specifically trained in pulpit supply. The term “lay speaker” occurs many times in the Book of Discipline.

The body voted 589-319 to refer a petition on “Revising the Social Principles” to the newly created General Commission on Strategy and Oversight.

Bethany Amey, a Greater New Jersey lay delegate, said the legislative committee that handled the petition “felt it was time for our Social Principles to reflect the global nature of the church.”

The Rev. Jim Harnish of Florida made the motion to refer. “I am deeply in favor of designing Social Principles that speak to the global nature of the church,” he said, “but our debate has shown that there are more questions than we can answer here on the floor. Something this important needs more time.”

Jim Winkler, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said the petition did not come out of “a formal consultation but simply a casual conversation between members of the central conferences and the General Board of Church and Society. There is a concern that the church in the 21st century, that is so very U.S.-centered, ought to have Social Principles that are truly representative (of everyone).”