By Jessica Brodie
PORTLAND, Ore.—The first day of official business at General Conference May 16 saw everything from a massive United Methodist Women 150th anniversary celebration to a Black Lives Matter protest on the plenary floor calling for racial healing and an end to police violence and homophobia.
All this, as well as consent calendar approvals, election of Judicial Council members and a celebration of a church older than the United States itself—John Street Church, founded by a laywoman in 1766 in New York—rounded out a full day of worship, prayer and business designed to be the voice of The United Methodist Church in the world today.
One of South Carolina’s own, delegation chair and episcopal nominee Dr. Tim McClendon, got to play a role in morning worship as Scripture reader, reading from Matthew 22:1-14.
South Carolina delegates spent the day electronically voting at tables on the plenary floor with their global counterparts, while alternates, pages and observers kept them in prayer and offered other support.
South Carolina lay alternate Donald Love said he has been grateful and thankful for his experience so far. This is his first time at General Conference, and he has been able to sit in on committee sessions last week and hope he might have time on the floor this week.
While he knows there has been strife over some issues, like human sexuality, the atmosphere has been kind and Christian overall.
“People are really seeking to love each other and understand each other,” Love said. “I know there’s concern in our church with the hot-button issues, but everyone’s been civil in trying to discuss the issues.
“It’s important to remember we’re all children of the almighty God and we have to treat that with respect and love.”
The day’s business ended with intense debate over a proposal to translate the Book of Discipline into other official languages of the UMC (French, Portuguese and Kiswahili); those same languages have translations of the Daily Christian Advocate but not the Discipline. Currently the Discipline is only available in English. The body adopted the motion, voting 706 to 93 to refer the translation to the General Council on Finance and Administration and the United Methodist Publishing House.
A performance by the Africa University Choir and a celebration of the impact that school has made on the continent of Africa rounded out the day, followed by the report of the UMC’s Higher Education and Ministry.
Check back Tuesday night for the next General Conference wrap-up.
Brodie is editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.