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GENERAL CONFERENCE NEWS - May 4, 2012 (update)

  • Motion to Refer Plan UMC Failed. A motion to refer the restructuring plan declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council to the Council of Bishops was not approved. A motion to bring the referral request back from the table, where it was placed earlier in the session, was defeated.
  • General Conference Approves New Sizes of Boards. Following the finding that the restructuring Plan UMC was unconstitutional, the General Conference took up legislation dealing with the reduction of the board sizes as proposed by the General Boards. The petitions were approved by the General Conference.


Delegates at General Conference Voted Today on Key Issues Impacting the Future of the Church and the World
Here is a brief summary of some of the decisions made today:

  • Plan UMC Was Voted Unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council determined and announced today that Plan UMC concerning the restructuring of the Church is unconstitutional. The General Conference had approved the plan on Wednesday, May 2nd. The decision was based on the rule that states the General Conference cannot delegate oversight to another body. In the plan, some oversight had been delegated to the newly created General Council for Strategy & Oversight.
  • The General Conference Budget  and Apportionment Formula Was Approved with Amendments. The General Conference voted today to approve a slightly amended budget for the 2013-2015 Quadrennium. The final budget is $603.1 million, a 6% reduction from the last Quadrennium budget. The delegates also voted to approve the new formula for apportionments as submitted by GCFA. Detail information will be published in the near future. You can read more here.
  • Petition Submitted by Wisconsin on Becoming Multicultural and Multiracial Congregations was Approved by General Conference. The General Conference voted to approve Petition #20751 as amended by the Legislative Committee submitted by the Wisconsin Annual Conference, which recommends intentional multicultural and multiracial congregations. It encourages all local United Methodist Faith Communities to take intentional efforts, through a visioning process with a strategy (based on demographic missional needs), to become multicultural and multiracial congregations by either starting ethnic ministries or supporting ethnic ministries of the Conference or partnering with ecumenical ethnic ministries or adopting ethnic ministries. It further stipulates that The General Conference provide needed resources and assistance to help local congregations move from mono-culture to multi-culture. The original petition was authored by Sam Royappa, Capital/Coulee District Superintendent.
  • Minority Report on Retiree Health and Connectional Service Was Approved. A Minority Report submitted by the Financial Administration Legislative Committee, which recommended referral of Petition #20412 concerning portability of retiree health care to the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits for further study, was approved. It further recommends that the study be conducted in consultation with Annual Conference pension boards, and be reported back to the 2016 General Conference. The Report was presented to the General Conference session by Lisa King, Wisconsin Conference Lay Delegate.           

Check Out the General Conference Website for Ongoing Tools and Information
If you haven't had a chance yet, be sure to visit the General Conference 2012 website. It has ongoing news and information from all of the daily events at General Conference, live streaming of plenary sessions and worship services, as well as a conversation area for blogs, tweets, and more. Be sure to check out the myriad of photos on the United Methodist News Service Flicker page. And, if you want to know what has happened with any piece of legislation, you can search by petition number, key words, or state.

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Delegates at General Conference Voted Today on Key Issues Impacting the Future of the Church and the World
Here is a brief summary of some of the decisions made today:

  • Change in Social Principles Regarding Sexual Orientation Did Not Pass. Efforts to change the Social Principles to acknowledge the differences that exist in the United Methodist Church  regarding sexual orientation were rejected by the General Conference, including a resolution offered by Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter. Their amended version acknowledged that homosexuality continues to divide our society and the Church, but that we all affirm that homosexual persons are of sacred worth. It stated that the majority view that same-sexual intimacy is contrary to the will of God, a belief rooted in passages from the Bible. However, it also acknowledged that many view the scriptures which speak to same-sex intimacy as reflecting the understanding of the period in which the scriptures were written, and do not reflect the timeless will of God. The amendment proceeds to say, “We have a choice: We can divide, or we can commit to disagree with compassion, grace, and love, while continuing to seek to understand the concern of others. Given these options, schism or respectful co-existence, we choose the latter.” Following the morning break, a peaceful demonstration resulting from this decision gathered in the plenary causing the General Conference to break early for lunch. Those who gathered left prior to the afternoon session, following a statement by the President of the Council of Bishops and prayer. See more information and photo of the gathering here and here.
  • General Conference Changes Pension Plan for Clergy. The Comprehensive Retirement Security Plan (CRSP) has been modified by General Conference. The revised plan may reduce the amount of the pension required to be paid by local churches for their pastors. According to the Board of Pensions, it will reduce some benefits for clergy, and costs for local churches and Annual Conferences.

2012 General Conference Delegate Survey Prepared by GCFA
According to a General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) survey conducted at General Conference, the delegates believe that the restructuring of the Church is the most important issue facing General Conference. The guaranteed appointment, homosexual/human sexuality, the global Church and the Church’s budget/finances rounded out the top five issues for General Conference. Survey responses were provided by 484 U.S. delegates and 120 Central Conference delegates. Nearly 38% of respondents came to General Conference with a good idea of where they stood on issues and how they would ultimately vote. Over 78% expected to learn more about the issues while at General Conference that would influence their votes. Over 42% of respondents believe the UMC has ideas, but no clear vision, goals or direction. Over 45% believe the UMC is always ready to try something new: 65% of respondents are excited about the future of the UMC. The full report will be available after General Conference through GCFA; contact This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Some Insights and Experiences from Delegates and Representatives from Wisconsin

  • Steve Zekoff, Clergy Delegate--Now that the General Conference is into plenary sessions taking action on the reports, it has become very publicly evident again that there are differences in understandings of what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ. The various perspectives that delegates bring from across the Jurisdictional (U.S.) and Central (international) Annual Conferences result in struggles coming to common ground on some issues. It is a blessing to be enriched by what all bring to the experience, yet we need to also recognize that having such wide diversity within the General Conference means that we need to work at being accepting of each other and what we believe. Those differences will be manifesting themselves over the rest of this week as we decide what the future structure of our denomination will look like, adopt a denominational budget, and discuss again Disciplinary language related to sexuality.
  • Dan Dick, 1st Clergy Delegate--As we move into the fourth quarter of this year's General Conference, a prevailing sense exists that we haven't done or changed much. After long deliberation, we adopted Plan UMC, a third alternative plan offered in response to that of the Interim Operations Team. Some feel this is evidence of an unwillingness to change. But rather than blaming an unwillingness to change, I believe that none of the plans provided clear outcomes. It was very difficult to look at any individual plan and see how it offered something superior to what we already have. Now we are looking to restructure, then figure out how to make it work effectively. I believe it will be critically important for the new General Council for Strategy & Oversight to define clear priorities and objectives that will allow us to develop appropriate systems and processes to be more effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  • Amanda Stein, 2nd Clergy Delegate--I'm loving reconnecting with United Methodist friends--friends that are family to me. I'm also appreciating making new connections with members of the Methodist family of Sierra Leone, Columbia, Congo, and the Dominican Republic. It's a great way to brush up on my Spanish & French!
  • Sam Royappa, Jurisdictional Delegate and GC Volunteer--I see and praise God for the ocean of gifts to His Church called The UMC--both local and global people sharing and conversing together inside and outside the bar. I am amazed to see hundreds of staff working together both manually and technologically. I also see political values and Kingdom values at their peaks as members of our global faith community try to claim their identity, whether they are called to be delegates or disciples. As delegates, they are law makers, and as disciples of Christ, they are called to experience and express grace. I do appreciate one thing (in the midst of a tension between secular and sacred), that every conversation is all about the "Church" that Christ founded with his promise: "I will build my Church" Thanks be to God for new friends! God is good all the time.
  • Steve Polster, 1st Clergy Reserve--A great highlight at this General Conference was the consecration of Bill and Gwen Gibson from Wisconsin as missionaries this past Sunday, along with several others deployed in mission and ministry worldwide. As exciting and inspiring as it is to witness and experience the vital mission and ministry of United Methodism from around the world, the General Conference also has moments of great disappointment and frustration. The Wednesday morning Plenary was one of those times for me. When given the opportunity to change our Social Principals, allowing us to acknowledge our differences of thought and interpretation of Scripture, and to affirm our love and care for all people, the General Conference sadly said no. I pray for the day when we as United Methodists will not only acknowledge that we have differences and can remain connected in Christ, but become as inclusive and welcoming of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, as I believe God calls us to be. Come Holy Spirit. Come.
  • Judy Vasby, 1st Lay Reserve--I was impressed with the importance of the legislative sessions in which small groups (of about 80 members each) processed all the petitions that came to General Conference. Each legislative group read through their assigned petitions on one general topic, such as church and society, discipleship, faith and order, global ministries. They accepted them as written, or changed them by amendment, or voted not to approve. Petitions that had fewer than ten "no" votes went on to the Consent Agenda. But if they were close votes or had financial implications, they were assigned to the "calendar" for the entire body to discuss and vote on. The Consent Agenda was brought before the Conference in large chunks to approve all at once. If approved, all of the petitions in the group became "law." There was a process for lifting out individual petitions for further discussion, but few were brought up for further consideration. Therefore, a majority of the decisions for the Conference were made by the legislative committees--small groups, large influence.
  • Gail Burgess, Hospitality Volunteer--Florida has taken the task of hosting this event very seriously and they are very organized. The other night I worked with folks who traveled by bus from Citrus County to serve as greeters. Many folks are present every day to train and oversee all the volunteers. A special map highlighting the area hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, and more was printed just for this event. First Aid, including an onsite paramedic, and the Lost and Found booth have been very busy. The really cool thing for me, though, is how appreciative everyone is of all that is being done. My "job" is simply to greet folks and answer questions, so I am pretty amazed by all the people who have stopped to say "Thank you for all that you are doing". Even when we don't speak the same language, we are able to communicate with a smile and a wave.
  • Jen Southworth, Jurisdictional Delegate and MFSA Intern/Legislative Monitor in the Ministry and Higher Education Section--This is my first General Conference and I’ve spent more time frustrated, confused, and tired than hopeful, joyful, or excited. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t felt those positive emotions – they’re what keep me going through 18+ hour days, sitting in a conference room struggling to wade through Robert’s Rules, complicated amendments, and obvious dissention concerning where the Church might be moving. There’s a steep learning curve here, but it doesn’t take much to recognize the passion and love for God, Jesus, the UMC, each other, justice, peace, the Gospel, and so on, even when we can’t agree how that passion plays out in legislation. Passion and excitement fill the air here, even in the seemingly dull moments when the delegates are testing their voting remotes, practicing by choosing their favorite disciples (Peter won, by the way). Everyone here knows that it isn’t often that the Church changes anything, so to be here and know that you’ll either be a part of it, or at least a witness to it, is invigorating. Connectionalism is physically visible at General Conference. Meetings, reunions, dinners, handshakes, hugs, songs. Being relatively young and relatively new to the Methodist world, I have fewer reunion moments, but seemingly exponential new friendships and connections, especially with inspiring people my own age. So, despite the confusion, exhaustion and the frustrating and inexplicable decisions being made as a full Conference, so far the glimpses of hope and excitement have been weightier than the more frequent moments of darkness. I’m interested to see how this event of judicial connectionalism resolves itself in love and grace, or at least without destroying itself.

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Delegates at General Conference Voted Today on Key Issues Impacting the Future of the Church and the World
Here is a brief summary of some of the decisions made today:

  • ‘Plan UMC’ Debated, Amended and Decided Today. As expected, the full assembly took up restructuring legislation on Wednesday, May 2. The UMC plan radically changes the way our Church is organized by consolidating some boards and greatly reducing the number of members within boards and agencies. It was approved with one amendment, which added back some board membership by the addition of more representation from Central Conferences. Follow this link to see a chart outlining the percentage of representation by category and jurisdiction. The new structure will be led by a new General Council for Strategy & Oversight, which replaces the current Connectional Table. The team who proposed the plan, which included Wisconsin Conference delegate Steve Zekoff, other members from the General Administration Legislative Committee, and others, was allowed to give a presentation to explain the proposal. The amended proposal will be published in the May 3rd DCA. The legislation was then referred to the Judicial Council to determine if the plan is constitutional, with a decision expected before end of General Conference. For more information, click here.
  • Church Approves Legislation Regarding Israel and Palestine. The General Conference approved legislation today that calls for the United Methodist Church to explore peace making strategies in Israel and Palestine, and also encourages United Methodists to partner with people in the Middle East working for corporate accountability and human rights. Amendments to the legislation that would have required divestment from various companies was not approved.

All Three Annual Conferences in Partnership with East Angola Met with the East Angolan Bishop Today
For the first time, all three United States Annual Conferences, including the Wisconsin, Florida and Yellowstone Conferences, that are in a partnership with East Angola had the opportunity to all meet at the same time for fellowship with East Angolan Bishop Jose Quipungo and Ana Ingles, the President of the United Methodist Women in East Angola. In attendance from the Wisconsin Conference were Lamarr Gibson, Chair of the East Angola Task Force; Deborah Thompson, Missions Coordinator and Staff Liaison for the East Angola Task Force; Judy Vasby, President of UMW and task force member; and Michele Virnig, Director of Communications. In attendance from the Florida Conference were Amondo Rodriguez, Chair of the East Angola Partnership Committee; Icel Rodriguez, Director of Global Missions; Vaughn Harshman, member of East Angola Partnership Committee; John Brown, committee member; Holly Brown, Conference lay member; Sandi Goodman, committee member; Dorothy Collins, Chair of Global Ministries; and Sherri Lingle, Program Coordinator for the Florida Conference. In attendance from the Yellowstone Conference was Mark Calhoun, member of the East Angola Partnership Committee.

Bishop Quipungo expressed his thanks for this unique opportunity for representatives from all four Conferences to meet in fellowship. He was deeply moved by the good will and love that the U.S. Conferences show for East Angola. “Thank you from my heart,” he said. The group discussed the potential for all three U.S. Conferences to send representatives to East Angola for their Annual Conference in February 2013. They also discussed opportunities to work together more to ensure that each of the three Conferences fulfills the highest priority needs for the East Angola Conference, but also does not duplicate efforts.

The Wisconsin Conference remains committed to helping the 40 congregations in the East Angola Conference that have risen from the ashes of the country’s war torn past. To date, we have supported their Conference with financial support, educational tools, medical supplies, and more. But much more is needed. For more information, click here.

Some Insights from a Clergy Reserve Delegate at GC: Sam Royappa
Sam Royappa, the District Superintendent for the Capital/Coulee Region, is here at General Conference in multiple capacities. He is a Reserve Delegate, and to date, has not had to perform as an alternate delegate. But Sam has been keeping very busy as a volunteer. His first week at General Conference was spent as a recorder for the Local Church Legislative Committee on behalf of the Petitions Secretary. In his role, he helped the committee as they considered 75 petitions over the course of the week. He would receive all of the information from the Petitions Secretary; then he had to feed the information into a computer system called CALMS after a petition is acted upon. Ultimately, the information is then published in the Daily Christian Advocate. Sam said that the work was mentally challenging, but he enjoyed it greatly. He also had great respect for the team of officers in his group who were extremely cooperative and dedicated to the work. He was also gratified that two petitions on stewardship and leadership generosity that he authored were approved by the Wisconsin Conference, sent to General Conference, and subsequently approved by the committee to move forward for plenary vote. The Stewardship Focus of the Finance Committee petition #20747 was adopted as part of the Consent Agenda on May 1st. The Generosity Among Leaders petition #20744 has not been voted on yet.

During the second week of General Conference, Royappa took on a whole new job. He is one of only a dozen editors—four per shift--for the daily proceedings of the plenary, which get published in the DCA. In order to perform this duty, he listens to a recording of the session that he is editing and compares it to the transcriber’s version. To exemplify the sheer volume of this job, Sam indicated that they edited 181 sections yesterday.

Royappa was asked to apply for his position by the Business Manager of the General Conference and was selected by GCFA. It is completely volunteer and he works an average of eight hours per day. According to Royappa, he would do it again. “I feel part of the process. I am concerned about the future of our Church and I believe my work here helps to ensure the success of our denomination,” he said. Royappa also indicated that with all of the challenges the General Conference is facing, he has been impressed with the process. He said, “Our global faith community has so much to offer the broken world. If we really focus on God’s call, we can accomplish a lot. I also really appreciate the hundreds of volunteers who receive no compensation, but give of their time and resources to be here.”

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Delegates at General Conference Voted Today on Several Key Issues
Here is a brief summary of some of the decisions made today:

  • Process for Evaluating Clergy Appointments Was Approved by Consent Agenda. The General Conference decided to approve a petition that provides a process by which clergy appointments are evaluated. This includes the potential for not guaranteeing appointments for those ordained elders that are deemed ineffective in their position, appointing an elder for less than full time, and placing an elder on transitional leave for 24 months without pay. Calendar item 315, Petition 20303 was approved through the Consent Agenda. After discussion, a motion to reconsider the petition was not approved. Read more.
  • Social Principles Preamble Changed to Declare, “God’s Grace is Available to All” [UMC.ORG]. “We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” So said the delegates to the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church in approving an addition to the beginning of the preamble to the denomination’s Social Principles. The matter had been discussed by one of the gathering’s legislative committees focusing on “Church and Society” concerns. The new language is part of a minority report proposing new wording. The approved statement was added as an addition to the report’s statement that begins, “We affirm our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the Gospel.” The new wording precedes a statement, “We pledge to continue to be in respectful conversation with whose with whom we differ, to explore the sources of our differences, to honor the sacred worth of all persons as we continue to seek the mind of Christ and to do the will of God in all things.” (Book of Discipline 2008, Social Principles, Preamble.) The new statement was approved by a vote of 632 to 302 (67.7% to 32.3%).
  • ‘Plan UMC’ for Agencies Heading for Debate [UMNS]. At this point, much of the talk in the halls of General Conference is not about the Call to Action restructuring plan or the alternative Plan B. The talk is of “Plan UMC,” a compromise involving people who developed both proposals to reconfigure agencies working with delegates from the central conferences. The new legislation is printed in today’s Daily Christian Advocate. The General Conference Committee on Calendar and Agenda expects the full assembly to take up restructuring legislation on Wednesday, May 2. Discussions leading the compromise began in earnest Sunday, April 29, the day after the General Administration Legislative Committee adjourned without recommending any comprehensive proposal to consolidate agencies and shrink their boards. Read more.

Celebration of the Passing of the Pan-Methodist Full Communion Resolution Continued Today
The full General Conference approved Pan-Methodist Full Communion as part of the consent calendar on Monday, April 30, 2012. This action is a significant statement on a new and healing relationship between the United Methodist Church and our Methodist partners, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. Members of the Pan-Methodist Commission, including Chairman Bishop Alfred Norris; Bishop Sharon Rader, Ecumenical Officer for the Council of Bishops; Bishop Mary Ann Swenson; Bishop Thomas Hoyt; Bishop John White; Dr. Robert Johnson; and Dr. Stephen Sidorak, held a press conference today to express their enthusiasm for this new ecumenical relationship among these churches. Bishop Hoyt said that to make this work we have to “make a sacrament out of the cup of coffee”. He explained that we all need to learn to dialogue to help break down the racial divide. When asked how the Commission will change since the resolution was passed, Bishop Radar explained that the Commission has been expanding over the past four years, and will continue to be open to other churches. The current members are already working together on important issues like children in poverty and theological education, she said. In Wisconsin, Bishop Linda Lee, President of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, has been instrumental in getting the Pan-Methodists to be a part of the Wisconsin Council of Churches.

Following the press conference, the celebration continued in the plenary. Bishop Alfred Norris spoke to the plenary attendees about this monumental time. He said, “This is a watershed ecumenical moment-- a time of reconciliation and restoration. Our six denominations are identical in many ways…and our differences are minimal. From this vantage point and our common heritage, I welcome you.”

According to Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak Jr., General Secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, “We have a shameful history of blatant racism that led to the break-up of American Methodism into multiple denominations beginning in the late 18th Century. He continues, “But, there is some solace in the fact that there has been demonstrable dedication within The United Methodist Church to preserve a special relationship with the historic African-American Methodist churches. This has been expressed through the Pan-Methodist Commission which exists in part to be a repairer of the breach.” Read more.

Some Insights from a Clergy Delegate to GC: Amanda Stein
I think about my time in Guatemala and what I learned there– living among the indigenous people, and how those experiences shaped me. With General Conference upon us, some people have been asking what the Act of Repentance (AOR) is that we’ll be taking part of in Tampa. In part it is a time for us to remember, repent, and ask forgiveness for a shameful part of our Methodist heritage. On Nov. 29, 1864, Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister, led the attack on a Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment along the banks of Sand Creek. At least 165 were killed, mostly women, children and the elderly near Eads, Colorado in an attack known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

It is also a time of self-awareness. An acquaintance of mine, Rev. Chebon Kernell, of Oklahoma City, OK, and Executive Secretary of Native American/Indigenous Ministries at the General Board of Global Ministries wrote me this, “My concern is to use every opportunity to speak the truth. And for this issue (AOR and the motivation for it) it is the truth that the Church is not aware of.” Read Amanda’s complete blog post. Read more about the Act of Repentence.

Bishop Linda Lee was Honored in the Plenary Session Today in Celebration of Her Retirement
If you missed her presentation, you can view the live streaming via the link below. Pictures will also be posted at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/umcommunications/

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Important Decisions are Being Made this First Day of Plenary Voting There were a lot of reports and procedural business handled today. But GC 2012 also made some big decisions for the future of the Church.

  • Full Time Role for President of UM Council of Bishops and Term Limits for Bishops Defeated The General Conference decided not to approve a petition that would have created a new full-time role for the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. Calendar item 219, Petition 20314, received a simple majority of 55.12 percent of the vote in favor, but it fell short of the two-thirds total required to pass because it dealt with a paragraph of the denomination's constitution. The petition stated that the council "may elect from its active membership a full-time president" who also would "be relieved from residential responsibilities" while in that office. Read the complete article as reported in UMNS. In addition, legislation that would have set term limits for Bishops was defeated after significant discussion, attempts to refer, and amend.
  • Election for Highest Judicial Body Was Decided Two clergy, two laity and six alternate clergy and laity were elected today to the Judicial Council, the denomination's "highest judicial body." It is composed of 9 members and reflects the diversity of The United Methodist Church. The Council determines the constitutionality of any act of the General Conference, proposed legislation, and shall "pass upon and affirm, modify, or reverse the decisions of law made by Bishops" among other duties and responsibilities. Laity elected are: N. Oswald Tweh, Sr. and Beth Capen. Lay alternates: Sandra Lutz, Kurt Glassco, Randall Miller, Deanell Reece Tacha, W, Warren Plowden, Jr., and Reynaldo V. Abdon. Clergy elected are: J. Kabamba Kiboko and Dennis L. Blackwell. Clergy alternates: Timothy K. Bruster, John E. Harnish, Susan Henry-Crow, Oyvind Helliesen, Jane A. Tews, and Laura B. Easto.
  • The GC Voted to Require Publishing the Advance Daily Christian Advocate in More Languages General Conference approved legislation to include in the Discipline language requirements for publication of the Advance Daily Christian Advocate. Recognizing the global needs of the Church, they voted to require the publication also be available in French, Portuguese, and Swahili.

Pages Play a Significant Role at General Conference You've probably heard that there are pages running around General Conference, but some of you may not know the important work that they perform. Most of them work about 10 hours per day; and their work is strictly volunteer. They receive no financial support. An offering is typically taken at General Conference, but the amount collected doesn't begin to offset their expenses. Three pages from Wisconsin are serving the GC 2012, including Deborah Thompson, Jerry Lipka and Mary Beth Byrne. So why do they do it?

According to first-time page, Deborah Thompson, "I would do it again! It may seem like busy work. But it's work that is important to the life of General Conference. This experience has been fulfilling and inspiring. While the pages don't have an official voice, we are an important part of the process. Our presence is important. I believe my relationship skills, my love for the Church and my willingness to serve make me qualified to fulfill this calling."

Jerry Lipka has been a page for eight consecutive General Conferences. He was first inspired to the calling when he attended General Conference as an adult leader with a CCYM youth group. He knew then he wanted to play a part in General Conference. So he applied to be a page in 1984 in Baltimore. He volunteered as one ever since. Lipka is a retired clergy from Wisconsin, who now resides in North Carolina.

"I enjoy being here...I see my role as being a servant...serving the delegates to ensure they can do their important work, which significantly impacts our Discipline and all of the local churches," Lipka said. The page's role includes delivering information and messages, counting votes, assisting the legislative committee chairs and sub-chairs as well as delegates, ensuring the motions are recording and delivered to the General Conference secretaries, and more.

According to Lipka, this year 150 pages were picked from a pool of 600-800 applicants. He indicated that the selection process tries to ensure diversity and membership from throughout the jurisdictions as well as the Central Conference. "I also believe experience and dedication is taken into consideration. I take my responsibility seriously and I am here from the very beginning to the very end," he said.

He explained that the major change this year is the scheduling of all legislative sessions the first week, and all plenary voting the second week. In the past, they were interspersed throughout both weeks. Lipka thinks this will be a good thing in terms of focus and efficiencies, but the impact remains to be seen. The other change has been a drastic reduction in messages that need to be hand delivered to delegates since so many are texting and tweeting.

Some Insights from a Clergy Delegate to GC: Dan Dick General Conference is amazing. I wish everyone could experience the best of conference - without necessarily sitting through the tedious and trying parts. But it is glorious to work side-by-side with men and women from around the globe. Even though we may not all agree (on much of anything) we are all brothers and sisters bound together in the love of God. This is a graphic microcosm of what we could be if we would only love each other a little bit more like God loves us. Oh, sure, there are some pushy people, some short-sightedness, and some uneasy tensions here, but these things pale when compared with the focus on God's Spirit and power to unite us. There is a sense of possibility here - not so much on the plenary floor, but in the relationships and community encounters. We are here praying and singing and reflecting and - at this point - bringing out the best in one another. Read more.

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Thirteen Legislative Committees Will Be Processing 1,200 Petitions this Week

Throughout the next few days, delegates will be meeting in legislative committees to determine which of the 1,200 petitions will be recommended for vote to the plenary session, which will be modified, and which will not be recommended. Our six delegates from Wisconsin are participating in their chosen legislative committee based on interest, expertise and significance:

  • Lisa King -- Financial Administration
  • Dan Dick --  Ministry and Higher Education
  • Dorthy Radley --  Local Church
  • Amanda Stein --  Church and Society B
  • Bill Stimeling -- Judicial Administration
  • Steve Zekoff --  General Administration

Steve Polster, a First Clergy Reserve, has posted his focus for General Conference while he is there on the Wisconsin Conference Delegate Blog. He will be monitoring the Conferences Legislative Section, which deals with Discipline paragraphs that include parts of the Constitution, and sections on General, Central, Jurisdictional, and Annual Conferences. Read more by visiting the blog.

For more information about the proposed legislation, you can read  the General Conference 2012 Advance Edition of the Daily Christian Advocate, which is available online.

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Join a Special Commissioning Service on April 29th

Twenty-three new missionaries from around the world are being commissioned by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries on April 29 during General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Among them are two special people from our very own Wisconsin Conference. Gwendolyn and William Gibson, who are currently serving the Wisconsin Conference through ministry in Senegal, will be commissioned at 1 p.m. Central Time on Sunday, April 29th, at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida. General Conference attendees can join them at the Commissioning Service at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, located at 3723 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, FL 33629. All United Methodists in Wisconsin can join in via the live webcast. Three hours after the event is over, you can view the commissioning video on the website for 24 hours (read more).

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Keep Our Delegates in Your Prayers Over the Next Two Weeks

Today is the first big day of General Conference and Bishop Linda Lee and our delegates are there already hard at work. Our lay delegates to General Conference include Lisa King, Dorthy Radley, and William Stimeling. Our clergy delegates to General Conference include Dan Dick, Amanda Stein an Steve Zekoff. Other Conference representatives are also there in a variety of capacities, including Judy Vasby, Steve Polster, Sam Royappa, Gail Burgess, John Lawson, Jennifer Southworth, Jorge Mayorga Solis, Mary Beth Byrne, Donna Veatch, Jerry Lipka and Deborah Thompson (Michele Virnig will be joining the group next week). Please keep them all in your prayers as they faithfully represent our Wisconsin Conference during this important event in the life of our Church, when the top policymaking body of the worldwide United Methodist Church meets to determine the denomination's future direction.

In total, nearly a thousand delegates and an estimated 2,500 visitors will gather at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. today through May 4th for the Conference. The theme of the 2012 conference is "Make Disciples of Jesus Christ to Transform the World." During the 11-day session, delegates from around the world will consider more than 1,100 legislative petitions, set policies, approve plans and budgets, and handle other business. As in the U.S. Congress, the bulk of General Conference business is conducted in legislative committees, which receive petitions, debate them and determine whether to approve, amend, combine or disapprove them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference. The committee work is conducted this week, and the voting process will be conducted next week.

General Conference 2012 officially opens at 3 p.m. Central Time today with a worship celebration. All Bishops, including Bishop Linda Lee, with be serving Holy Communion. Preaching will be Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Charlotte (N.C.) Area and president of the Council of Bishops. You can view the live video streaming at gc2012.umc.org. Boston area Bishop Peter Weaver will deliver the Episcopal Address during a plenary session beginning at 7:00 a.m. Central Time on Wednesday, April 25, followed by the Laity Address and Young People's Address. Delegates will also participate in "An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples." The service is intended to begin the process of reconciliation between The United Methodist Church and indigenous peoples. It will take place on Friday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. "We Need a River: A Plenary Celebration and Challenge of the Mission and Ministry of The United Methodist Church" will take place Sunday, April 29, at 6 p.m. Central Time. Delegates and guests will hear about the many ways in which The United Methodist Church is in mission and ministry around the world.

It was also announced by UMCOM today that there will be a surprise Malaria Mosquito Dance Mob on the floor of the Conference at 9 a.m. Central Time April 25 to raise awareness for the effects of malaria. This coincides with World Malaria Day, which is a worldwide observance for the global community to recognize, stand together and fight a preventable disease that claims the life of a child every 60 seconds.

Stay Connected through All of These Resources:

  • To hear the latest from our delegates, visit our Wisconsin Conference UMC blog.
  • Worship, special addresses, celebrations, and other plenary sessions will be available on live video streaming at gc2012.umc.org, as well as the General Conference mobile app.
  • Stories and daily summaries will also be available by email from United Methodist News Service<> and on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The General Conference blog page (gc2012conversations.com) will feature stories as they break during The United Methodist Church's legislative assembly.
  • To listen to sounds of the event, go to the GC2012 podcast page.

20,000 Pound SoSA "Produce Drop" May 1 at GC2012

20 tons of locally-grown produce to be bagged at the front steps of the Tampa Convention Center to feed the hungry in Central Florida.

  • WHEN: May 1, 6am–10am; News Conference at 7:30am.
  • WHERE: Tampa Convention Center, Front Entrance, 333 South Franklin St. - This produce drop and news conference will take place at the front steps of the United Methodist General Conference, a global gathering of church representatives. This meeting, scheduled every four years, creates the goals and rules for the denomination for the next four years. The United Methodist Church partners with the Society of St. Andrew in ministry to the hungry.
  • WHAT: Volunteers will bag 40,000 pounds of produce which will be distributed that same day to local feeding agencies across Central Florida. The 7:30am news conference will at the site, and will feature United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, and Gil Hanke, General Secretary of United Methodist Men.
  • WHY: This will be a great opportunity to cover a story of utmost importance right now. More than 45 million Americans are at risk of hunger, and more than 96 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in the U.S. This event will provide fresh, nutritious produce to local feeding agencies in desperate need of food for their clients. There will be hundreds of volunteers and plenty of activity to provide ample visual appeal.
  • WHO: The Society of St. Andrew is a national, nondenominational, grassroots nonprofit hunger-relief organization. It was founded in 1979 in Big Island, Virginia, where it maintains its national headquarters. Each year, SoSA coordinates more than 30,000 volunteers, and distributes more than 25 million pounds of fresh produce that would otherwise have been wasted. More details at EndHunger.org.

Tampa Event Geared to Immigrant Detention

A rally to protest the growing private prison industry in the United States, and especially the use of such facilities to incarcerate immigrants, is set for Tampa, Fla., during the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. The rally theme is "Profit From Pain Is Inhumane! Dignity Not Detention."

The April 28 event at the Tampa Convention Center is sponsored by the denomination's Task Force on Immigration and local and state groups opposed to the building of a 1,500-bed private immigrant detention center in Broward County, Fla. Private prisons represent a growing trend common across the country.

Click for more on this story!

Missionaries from 11 Countries to be Commissioned in Tampa

Twenty-three new missionaries are being commissioned by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries on April 29 during General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida.

Among those being commissioned, 10 are from outside the US. Home countries include: Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Puerto Rico, and the Congo. Among the countries the missionaries will be serving are: Argentina, Bolivia, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Russia, and Switzerland.

Click for more on this story!

Break Bread With* Tampa

"Break Bread With* Tampa" is a free and public outdoor luncheon on Tuesday, May 1, from 12 to 2:30 p.m. at Cotanchobee Park, along the Riverwalk near the Marriott Waterside to call attention to one of the United Methodist Church's four focus areas, "Ministry With the Poor." The event will feature singing groups from Tampa and African countries, a number of speakers, and up to 20 exhibitors from various ministries working with the poor. The food will be prepared by "Inside the Box Catering," an entrepreneurial initiative of Metropolitan Ministries. Proceeds from the sale of lunches are reinvested in providing meals to homeless and other hungry people in a four-county area.

Click for more information and other events on the larger "Partner With* Tampa" effort!

Sending Shalom in a Messenger Bag

Jacqueline Celestin's children were sick. She knew that if she didn't seek medical attention soon, she risked losing a child. But she had no money to pay the doctors. So she took out a micro-loan of $75 from Haitian Artisans for Peace International, also known as HAPI. HAPI is a fair-trade artisan co-op.

Jacqueline used the money to buy used coffee bean sacks, and then sewed the sacks into messenger bags. These became popular among tourists and Haitian locals alike, and she was able to afford her children's health care and pay back her loan. She even had money left over-so she bought more burlap sacks!

Her children are flourishing now, and so is her business. In fact, Jacqueline and about 30 other artisans recently completed an order for 2,000 messenger bags. These bags will be distributed by The Advance to delegates at General Conference 2012.

Click for more on this story!

Commentary: Pan-Methodist Full Communion, A Healing Step Forward

Click here for the latest press release, written by Rev. Stephen Sidorak, Jr., the General Secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. (4/19/12)

United Methodists Meet in Tampa for Worldwide Conference

Tampa, Fla.: Nearly a thousand delegates and an estimated 2,500 visitors will gather at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. April 24-May 4 for the 2012 United Methodist General Conference. As the top policymaking body of the worldwide United Methodist Church, the General Conference meets every four years to determine the denomination’s future direction. It is the only body that speaks officially for the more than 12.1 million-member church.

The theme of the 2012 conference is “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ to Transform the World.” During the 11-day session, delegates from around the world will consider more than 1,100 legislative petitions, set policies, approve plans and budgets, and handle other business. Simultaneous voice translation for delegates will be available in English, French, German, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Swahili.

Worship, special addresses, celebrations, and other plenary sessions will be available on live video streaming at gc2012.umc.org, as well as the General Conference mobile app. Also available at the website will be daily news and feature stories, high-resolution photos, a “digital lounge” featuring short conversation segments with key persons, and other information. Stories and daily summaries will also be available by email from United Methodist News Service and on Facebook and Twitter.

General Conference 2012 will open at 4 p.m., Tuesday, April 24, with a worship celebration that will include Holy Communion. Preaching will be Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Charlotte (N.C.) Area and president of the Council of Bishops. Boston area Bishop Peter Weaver will deliver the Episcopal Address during a plenary session beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 25, followed by the Laity Address and Young People’s Address. Delegates will also participate in “An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples.” The service is intended to begin the process of reconciliation between The United Methodist Church and indigenous peoples. It will take place on Friday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.

“We Need a River: A Plenary Celebration and Challenge of the Mission and Ministry of The United Methodist Church” will take place Sunday, April 29, at 7 p.m. Delegates and guests will hear about the many ways in which The United Methodist Church is in mission and ministry around the world. Plenary sessions and legislative committee meetings of the General Conference are open both to the public and the news media. News media are required to be credentialed in order to take photos on the floor and gain access to the fully staffed newsroom, media seating on the main plenary floor, and press conferences and news briefings involving delegates and church leaders. Applications for media credentials can be made onsite in the General Conference newsroom in the West Hall on the 3rd floor of the Tampa Convention Center. Monday-Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. To be accredited, individuals must show proof that they represent a legitimate publication or news organization and will be filing stories during the conference.

The Public Information office, located near the news briefing area, can help reporters with interview requests and background information. United Methodist Communications has prepared a media guide that includes additional information about newsroom operation, staffing and resources.

Lighten the Burden IV HIV/AIDS Conference in Tampa

Tampa, Fla.: The "Lighten the Burden IV" HIV/AIDS briefing will be held on April 23, 2012 from 8:30 to 4:00 p.m. at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla., the day before the United Methodist General Conference convenes at the Tampa Convention Center.

The one-day briefing is sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee in order to heighten awareness about HIV/AIDS and highlight the ways faith-based organizations are addressing the issue. Information about the event is available online.

No registration fee will be required for media who want to cover the event unless they want to participate in the luncheon. Online registration is available. A post-event media availability with representatives of the Global AIDS Fund Committee will be also be held on April 24 at 10:30 a.m. in the General Conference newsroom located in the West Hall on the 3rd floor of the Tampa Convention Center. Media credentials are required for entry to the newsroom and applications for credentials can be made on-site.

Commentary: A New Vision for Living Out Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in The United Methodist Church

Click here for the latest press release, written by Rev. Stephen Sidorak, Jr., the General Secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. (4/16/12)

Statement from the Committee on Older Adult Ministries

Click here for official statement. (4/14/12)

Commentary: Making Good on Our Promises to Indigenous Peoples

Click here for the latest press release, written by Rev. Stephen Sidorak, Jr., the General Secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. (4/14/12)

Attend Higher Education Night

Join students and presidents for Higher Education Night at General Conference 2012. Review press release here (3/30/12)

Help Your Congregation Learn about General Conference!

The members of the Wisconsin delegation encourage United Methodists across the state to learn more about General Conference 2012. The delegation has designed a bulletin insert that describes what General Conference is and what it does-- even including helpful websites and blogs. Use it once, use it multiple times for worship or other educational settings-- it's a great way to teach and engage members in the pews! Click to download the bulletin insert!

Wisconsin Delegation Releases Statement

Rev. Steve Polster, Assistant to the Bishop of the Wisconsin Conference UMC and a member of the General/Jurisdictional Delegation from Wisconsin, today released the attached statement from the Wisconsin Delegation.

Remember the Future: 30 Days of Preparation - Reflections for General Conference

We would like to invite you to join Robert Schnase for Remember the Future: 30 Days of Preparation, a series of reflections as The United Methodist Church prepares for General Conference 2012. These daily meditations explore hope, purpose, leadership and making and becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. With Wesleyan, scriptural, and leadership themes, explore together the mission of the church in a time of great change.

The link, www.ministrymatters.com/30Days, will take you to an introduction to the series and an easy signup page. Each day beginning March 26th, a new essay by Bishop Schnase will be posted here and will be delivered without charge to email subscribers. Each essay will explore a key topic and scripture, and suggest ideas for deeper reading and exploration. Along with the blogs, short video clips will be posted on key topics each week. As the author writes in his introduction, "I hope the daily writings help focus the conversation on the mission of the church in Christ, and that they cause delegates at General Conference as well as local church leaders to continually remember the future!"

Preview Bishop Schnase's introductory video (posted on January 28th, 2012)

Briefing Previews General Conference Issues

Diverse issues presented at a recent three-day briefing signaled the workload ahead for the lawmaking body of The United Methodist Church, which meets this spring. More than 300 delegates, communicators and others who will be part of the 2012 General Conference met January 19th - 21st at the Tampa Convention Center, site of the legislative assembly, for a preview of some of the issues they will face April 24th - May 4th. United Methodist Communications sponsored the event, with involvement and support from other agencies and ministries of the church. This is a brief look at the issues explored. Read more.

Resources from the Pre-General Conference News Briefing

  • Pre-General Conference Video Archive: The Pre-General Conference video discussions, presentations, worship and other highlights are now available online.
  • Pre-General Conference Photos: Click here to view Pre-General Conference photos.

Additional Resources

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