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Transcript: It’s a Wrap: United Methodist General Conference 2016


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(Locator: Portland, Oregon)

Bishop Warner Brown: “I call to order the first plenary session of the 2016 General Conference.”

Bishop Brown preaches: “Jesus, we are here for you!”

From May 10-20, 2016, the global United Methodist church gathered in Portland, Oregon.

The Rev. Harriett Bryan: “The most inspirational part of General Conference has been the worship. Every worship service has been like Pentecost.”

Bishop Cynthia Harvey: “Whether we’re progressive or conservative, gay or straight, rich, poor, black, white, Latino, Filipino, fit or misfit, broken or not, we will experience transformation that will turn this world upside down.”

During days of devotionals, and discernment, nearly 900 delegates sought to set policy for the denomination for the next four years.

Bishop Gregory Palmer: “The measure however of the quality of our life in Christ together will not be only the decisions we make, and the outcomes we have, but the measure may well be how we treat one another.”

There was great debate on the best ways to discuss the toughest issues, and in the end, a proposed group discernment process named Rule 44, did not garner enough votes to pass.

(Delegate): “We are still here, we are still trying to listen and talk to one another, whether we feel heard or not.”

(Delegate) “As an African, it is difficult to think as an American is thinking.”

Derrick Porter: “We are a church that shows compassion in action, and we need to stay together, so that these miracles can continue to happen.”  

 Some items moved forward, including plans for a new, high tech version of the hymnal; an increased general church budget, set at $604 million; a resolution to raise awareness about team mascots or symbols that disrespect Native Americans; a plan to create provisional central conferences in Rwanda and Southeast Asia/Mongolia; a recommendation to add five bishops in Africa after General Conference 2020; and a vote to double the Central Conference Theological Education Fund, to $10 million.  

One Great Hour of Sharing will now be known as UMCOR Sunday. Two other Special Sundays were added: Women’s Ministry Sunday and Volunteer in Mission Awareness Sunday.

New legislation related to clergy passed, including a call to strengthen the requirement for lifelong learning and coaching, and periodic assessments. There was no change to guaranteed appointments.

For the first time a member from outside the U.S., a Liberian, was elected president of the Judicial Council, the church’s top court.  Also, new relationships with the Moravian Church and the Uniting Church in Sweden were recognized.

(Delegate) “My biggest struggle has been when I’ve been in conversation with someone who is not willing to listen to what I have to say. It’s not very often that that’s happened, but it has happened.”

The Rev. Adam Hamilton: “You are our leaders, you are our spiritual leaders, we need you, we need your help. Please help us.”

After almost three days of debate, the body referred its most difficult subject--human sexuality--to a study commission, to be organized by the bishops. They could call a special General Conference in 2018 or 2019 to deal with the sexuality concerns and cost could be recouped by cutting the 2020 General Conference down by as many days as the special conference runs.

Bishop Bruce Ough: “Our heart is to be a people who remain united for the sake of the mission.”

The Judicial Council ruled unconstitutional a mandatory penalty during the “just resolution” process for clergy when they admit to violating church law.

The body voted to withdraw United Methodist church membership from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Delegates voted to not divest from fossil fuel companies.

A petition was adopted to add “gender,” “age,” and “ability” to the list of categories constitutionally protected for inclusion in the church. To be fully adopted, annual conferences have to vote on the petition in 2017.

April Mercado: “I can proudly say that the Filipino spirit is waterproof.”

General Conference also had several public witness events about issues including safe water, immigration, and climate change.

April Mercado: “Hold us in prayer and help us make my home country safer against the effects of climate change.”

Andreas Elving: “The way that our structure works really makes us uniquely suited to solve some of the greatest challenges the world has and to see that happening is extremely inspiring to me.”

Paul Gomez: “When I get back from General Conference, fortunately I will still be a Methodist. Happily I think we’re making steps in the right direction.”

The church’s heritage was celebrated with a nod to nearly 60 years of full clergy rights for women; the 200th anniversary of Francis Asbury’s death; the 250th anniversary of John Street Church in New York City; the 30th anniversary of Disciple Bible study; the upcoming 25th anniversary of Africa University and a whole day dedicated to United Methodist Women which soon turns 150.

“American idol” contestant Jeremy Rosado shared a song written as a gift to United Methodists to applaud the success of the church’s “Imagine No Malaria” campaign.

(Speaker): “There are those within the church who desire to make past wrongs right.”

Other special presentations included a report about efforts to atone for the 1864 massacre at Sand Creek which had deep Methodist involvement, and about United Methodist efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky: “What good news is there from The United Methodist Church?”

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky: “What would it mean if we came to Portland with ‘united we help millions’ and left a divided church? What witness would we be bearing? But we’re not gonna leave divided, because God is not finished with us yet!” (applause)

(Delegate) : “Our game plan is focus on ensuring that The United Methodist Church is a vibrant church that is biblically-committed, Christ-centered, evangelistically-functional, Holy Spirit-empowered, and vision-driven!”

(Speaker): “I am a leader who serves in ministry because of the support I have received, from The United Methodist Church and people just like you.”

Bishop Sally Dyck: “I want to be a part of a church that is willing to go, learn, mercy.”

Bishop John Yambasu: “Go out! Yes church we are called to go out. Therefore, go.”