Deanna Shimko, Conference Lay Leader and Chair of the Board of Laity, led the Laity Session. She began by introducing the Board of Laity members. View the Board of Laity brochure to see the members of the Board.

Bishop Jung spoke at the Laity Session before going to the clergy session. He spoke about all of the opportunities that God has provided for us. He said, “Today we are here together to listen to God’s amazing calling to you and me, as followers of Jesus Christ. In our heart, our mind, and our spirit: Say yes to God’s calling.” He emphasized the importance of unity in the Methodist Church and within the Wisconsin Conference. He concluded by saying, “I am so proud because Wisconsin is such a strong Conference, such a powerful Conference together. One with each other. So let’s work together.”

After Bishop Jung, Deanna introduced Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. Kemper is a lay member of the Church, though most of his predecessors had been clergy. He sees this as a testament to how the Methodist Church and the Wesleyan tradition prioritize lay members of the Church. Like Bishop Mamani during Opening Worship, Kemper also spoke about the importance of humility. He said, “Humility is extremely important to mission. None of us alone have the full truth. But together we are all followers of Jesus.”

Thomas Kemper gave many examples throughout his life of his experiences with diversity. He grew up in Germany, in a very pious, evangelical family with a preacher as a father. Growing up, he was surrounded by people who looked like him. It was when he was serving at a Methodist mission in London that he first met and lived with people from all walks of life. Another example was from a Methodist event one year, Kemper’s roommate was from South Africa and actively involved in fighting apartheid. Kemper was impressed not only by his roommate’s piety for God, but also his passion for fighting injustice. Kemper wanted to help in the fight against apartheid. Other people tried to tell Kemper that he didn’t understand what was truly happening; and that he had it wrong. But Kemper trusted his South African roommate, and that’s when he realized, “Our Methodist connection can be a connection of trust across continents.” After this story, Jorge Lockward led the laity in singing a South African song, “We are Marching in the Light of God.” He finished his speech by saying, “I want to call you to missionary service. Sometimes people think Methodists don’t send missionaries, but that’s not true. So I end with a call to mission.”

Music Leader Jorge Lockward used song to convey many inspiring messages. He introduced one song by speaking about how he had struggled with the phrase, “God is good, all the time.” He said, “I struggled with that phrase for a long time, because life isn’t good all of the time. But I realized that the people that say it the most, are often the ones who struggle the most.”

Deanna took time to recognize those that have become Certified Lay Speakers in the past year. She said, “This is the third year we are recognizing the Certified Lay Speakers that have met the new, additional requirements to become certified.” Eleven new speakers were recognized.

The session concluded with a presentation by Barbara Dick, a lay delegate to the Special 2019 General Conference. She gave an explanation of the Constitutional Amendment revote and an update on the Commission on a Way Forward with the Recommendations to the 2019 General Conference. The Constitutional Amendment Revote was recently announced. Five constitutional amendments were approved at the 2016 General Conference, and then sent to the Annual Conferences for a vote. Three of the amendments received the two-thirds majority votes needed to pass. Two failed. Read about the amendments here.

However, on May 11, it was announced that there had been an error in one of the amendments that failed to pass in 2017. The Amendment sent to Annual Conferences to vote on was an earlier version of the amendment that contained text that should have been deleted. General Conference Secretary Gary Graves consulted with the Council of Bishops on how to address the error. The correct wording of the amendment has been sent to Conferences for a re-vote on the amendment.

Dick went on to explain the purpose of The 32-Member Commission on a Way Forward, which was established after a vote at the 2016 General Conference. They met over 15 months to prepare options and a recommendation. The Commission provided three models for consideration:

  • Traditionalist Plan: Affirms current Book of Discipline language, seeks to strengthen enforcement
  • One Church Plan: Removes restrictive language against practice of homosexuality in Book of Discipline, and allows for contextualization about human sexuality. Adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who, due to theological convictions, cannot perform same-sex weddings, or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.
  • Connectional Conference Plan: Allows Conferences to choose affiliation among three connectional Conferences – traditional, progressive, or blended variety.

The majority of the Council of Bishops recommend the One Church Plan as the way forward. Full details of plans and legislative proposals will be released when final editing and translation in all official General Conference languages is complete.