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Transcript: Gere Reist: At the Helm of General Conference


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(Locator: General Conference 2012, Tampa, Florida)

He’s been a familiar face at General Conference for almost 25 years.

Bishop Patrick Streiff, Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area: “I would like to ask the Secretary of General Conference to give us a little bit of backup.”

Gere Reist: “Fitzgerald Reist, Secretary of the General Conference.”

Since 2004, the Reverend Gere Reist has served The United Methodist Church as the Secretary of General Conference, a gathering that sets the direction of the church for the next four years. During the sessions, Reist is present for every vote.

Gere Reist: “We have by our record had 18 amendments offered this evening.”

He works behind the scenes too, keeping up with the day-to-day details.

Gere Reist: “Host volunteer services has advised us that they have a lot of personal items that have been returned to their booth. These include such things as passports, picture IDs and such.”

Planning for General Conference takes years, but the two weeks the event happens are the most intense.

Gere Reist: “Typically as secretary of the General Conference I’m in the office until midnight, and I’m back in the office before 7 a.m. It’s the people that I work with that keep my energy up. And volunteer staff, delegates should remember, they’re not paid. They’re volunteers. They don’t get to vote. When you’re around people with that kind of self-discipline and that kind of caring, giving up two weeks of their lives to help something happen in which they don’t have a voice. That’s energizing.”

Gere Reist: “There have been several persons asking how you should write your checks. I hope you will write them as large as possible.”

Humor and prayer sustain Reist.

Gere Reist: “Being at General Conference is an act of constant prayer. People may not see me bow my head but they may see my lips moving a lot. I try to focus on the people I’m with when I’m with them. When I’m walking down the hallway, though, I’m probably praying.”

Four decades as a pastor serve Reist well in this role.

Gere Reist: “I come at it from a pastoral perspective. I try to listen to people. I try to hear where they’re coming from, what their understanding is, to not be judgmental. We have such different cultures in our church.”

Reist has attended six General Conferences. In 1992, he became inspired to take a more active role after seeing delegates from other cultures struggle with the legislative process.

Gere Reist: “I saw Central Conference delegates being ruled out of order without any explanation to them of why they were out of order. It hurt me to see them go back to their seats with confusion and pain on their faces because they were trying to do something, but they didn’t know how to do it. And they weren’t being helped to do it. That’s been one of the real motivations. And simplifying and streamlining things. I think the church makes better decisions when it understands what it’s doing.”

Gere Reist will retire in December of 2016 but he has enjoyed the fellowship and service during his years at the helm.

(Gere Reist sings "Happy Birthday")

Gere Reist: “I think anybody who goes to General Conference forms friendships that they carry with them. And I worry about people around the world, not in the sense that I’m anxious about them, but that I’m concerned for them and that I’m in prayer for them.  And that’s an automatic tie to God. So it strengthens the relationships and it’s an exciting part of the life, to know that we are so closely connected together.”

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Fran Walsh, 615-742-5458.
This video was first posted in September, 2015.