By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Annual Conference kicked off early Monday with several new changes approved by the body to the conference’s standing rules, including a change on voting for resolutions from the last day to the second full day and a change to help simplify voting and ensure there will be no situations where a “no” petition vote means “yes” (and vice versa).
In a report led by the Rev. Michael Hood, chair of the Committee on Standing Rules, who opened with the hymn “Lord of the Dance” played on the harmonica, Hood likened Annual Conference to a dance and standing rules as a way to bring order inside that dance so all have the freedom to experience God’s grace and express their voice.
The body approved changes to five of the six proposed changes to the standing rules:
1) Standing Rule 27 involves election of lay delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences. Per the rationale, the change will help save time during election years by limiting the number of names read by the bishop after voting. The change specifies that the bishop will read only the names of those laity who receive a minimum of 12 votes for election. Then, for each successive ballot, the minimum number would increase by 12 votes per ballot not to exceed a minimum of 60 votes.
2) Similarly, the change to Standing Rule 28, which involves election of clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences, specifies that for the first ballot the bishop will read only the names of those clergy who receive a minimum of 12 votes (increasing as with SR 27, above).
3) Standing Rule 70 is an effort to eliminate confusion in voting on petitions by intentionally avoiding situations where a “no” vote means “yes” and vice versa. Therefore, the change specifies the vote as called will be on the petition itself and not on the recommendation of the committee.
The Rev. Bob Stillwell, retiree, spoke against the change, noting such an attempt to simplify is “unnecessary and a bit pedantic,” but Edward Kennedy, of Pinopolis UMC, Pinopolis, spoke for it, recalling a vote several years ago that was “so confusing I didn’t know what in the world we were voting for.”
4) Standing Rule 71, which pertains to resolutions, now has four changes, which include clarifying that votes shall now be on the resolution itself and not the recommendation of the committee (per SR70 above); noting that if a resolution is submitted late, it shall be referred to the committee or similar body for consideration at the next year’s Annual Conference and included in that year’s Pre-Conference Packet; adding language specifying that the Committee on Resolutions shall act on the resolution as offered and not offer its own amendments; and changing voting on resolutions and appeals to the second full day of conference and not the morning of the third day. The rationale noted the latter would raise the likelihood that Annual Conference will be able to end on time.
5) Finally, Standing Rule 83—which required lay agency employees of the conference to conform to the compulsory retirement age set for ministers—was deleted in entirety because, as Hood explained “forced retirement of lay employees violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,” so the rule is not currently in compliance with the law.
Not approved was a proposed change to Standing Rule 11 that would have meant resolutions could not be amended on the floor of Annual Conference. Speaking for the change was the Rev. Cathy Jamieson, a member of the Committee on Resolutions, who noted that amending resolutions often tweaks resolutions so intensely that they lose the original intent of the resolution’s author.
But speaking against the change, Dr. Rosetta Ross said taking away the ability to amend resolutions affects the “dance.”
“A part of what happens in debating and amending of resolutions is that we are dancing. … We are learning and expanding and challenging one another and the church in deciding what we as the body want to say and to do so,” Ross said.
“To not allow amendments from the body is taking away, to my thinking, a part of the response and the opportunity of being in conference together.”