General Conference Briefings Blog: May 2, 2024

by | May 2, 2024 | General Conference Briefing

It’s been a busy several days at General Conference as decisions have been made with plenty of amendments, parliamentarian inquiries, and motions. We’ve been fully engaged in the work of decision-making. 

Ecumenical Partners & Bishop Updates

On Tuesday, the General Conference recognized ecumenical partners from many different denominations around the world including the Moravian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (Roman Catholic), the Episcopal Church, among many others. We celebrated our communion with the Moravian Church and voted to affirm our denomination’s desire to share communion with the Episcopal Church. 

A historical moment came, as the gavel, which represents leadership of the Council of Bishops, was passed from Bishop Tom Bickerton to Bishop Tracy Malone Smith, who is the first African American female bishop to be entrusted with this leadership position. On Wednesday morning, we heard from Rev. Dr. David Wilson, who is the bishop of the Great Plains Conference and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He is the first Native American elected as a bishop in the history of The United Methodist Church

We also remembered the bishops, spouses, and others who have served the General Conference and died since the last gathering. This included our former bishop in Indiana, the late Mike Coyner, who also ordained me. Bishop Mike died in early 2020 but is fondly remembered here at General Conference and throughout Indiana. 

There has been considerable debate related to finances, apportionments from the conferences to the general church, the budget, petitions related to the number of bishops and funding. Much of this will be brought back to the floor of conference on Friday for final approval. 

“Do No Harm”

A part of the approved consent calendar included the adoption of additional portions of the revised Social Principles which include 8 petitions supporting LGBTQ inclusion. The most notable was a petition removing funding bans against organizations supporting equal rights.  

The biggest moment of General Conference so far was the quiet moment that eventually brought celebration when delegates voted by 93% to strike the harmful language from the qualification including “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and “self-avowed and practicing homosexuals.” A part of the General Rules of the UMC is to “do no harm.” Removing such language helps us to live out our rules to do no harm to anyone. With the striking out of this language, the church fully includes all people who feel called to pastoral ministry regardless of sexual orientation. 

You may read about this in the news as many outlets have picked up this news story around the country. I’ll be writing a more in-depth message later this week. For now, I hope we continue to hold fast to our church values that state, “We are all members of the family of God. In our practice: we will: Value without judgment each person as a child of God. Welcome and actively support people in all their diversity. Love God and love neighbor.” The decision of General Conference reflects our values and desire to welcome everyone into the life of our congregation. 

A Prayerful Witness

On a non-conference update, you may have heard in the news about the shooting on the east side of the City of Charlotte that took the lives of 4 police officers. We paused our work the day the shooting happened to pray for all affected. I talked with a Charlotte police officer while walking around Uptown. I told him that I was from the UMC conference down the street, which he knew was happening, and told him we paused our work to pray. He was visibly moved by this and asked me, and all of us, to keep him, his colleagues, and their families, in our prayers. This is a reminder that while the work of General Conference continues, our first call is to share a prayerful witness 

I am planning to have more updates in the next few days as additional decisions are made. I’ll also be writing a separate blog on the history made today. It’s been a busy almost two weeks in Charlotte with two more days to go. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.