By Jessica Brodie
Delegates and other church leaders are in the final stretch as they prepare this month to head to the special called session of General Conference to help the denomination move beyond its impasse on human sexuality.
The special session is slated for Feb. 23-26 at The Dome in St. Louis. There, 16 delegates from South Carolina (eight clergy and eight laity, plus their alternates) will join the 864 total men and women who are delegates from each conference in The United Methodist Church.
The Advocate will be at the special session covering the event for South Carolina readers, and South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston is calling on clergy and laity in this state to join him in daily, focused prayer that the church continue doing God’s work in the world no matter what happens at GC2019.
“Together each day, let us join one another in prayer, believing that God hears every word,” Holston said. “There is not magic that erases our trials or suffering, but in the midst of it all, a life of prayer shifts our perspective from a spirit of despair toward a spirit of hope. We truly trust in God’s promises.”
What will happen at GC2019?
The purpose of GC2019 is “limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon the recommendations of the Council of Bishops.”
The way forward commission was created at GC2016 in Portland, Oregon, and charged to examine paragraphs in the Book of Discipline on human sexuality and help the church explore ways to move beyond its differences over sexuality. The way forward commission developed three plans for the church: the One Church Plan, the Traditional Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan.
Other plans are also expected to be considered at GC2019, such as the Simple Plan and the Modified Traditional Plan.
The UMC Judicial Council has ruled on two of the three way forward plans. It ruled the One Church Plan is largely constitutional, noting that while there are constitutional issues with three of the 17 petitions to the One Church Plan, the plan mainly passes muster. It also ruled the Traditional Plan had constitutional issues with nine of the 17 petitions that must be fixed before it can pass muster. It said it does not have jurisdiction to rule on the Connectional Conference Plan, because that plan contains proposed constitutional changes.
According to a release from the General Conference Committee on Reference, 78 petitions submitted for consideration by GC2019 are in harmony with the purpose of the special session. The Commission on the General Conference tasked the Committee on Reference with the responsibility for deciding whether petitions meet that standard. The reference committee met Jan. 11-12 in Irving, Texas, to review all the legislation in advance of the special session.
All those petitions must receive a vote in legislative committee, according to a 2016 provision in the Discipline, and all those approved by legislative committee must receive a plenary vote. There will be a single legislative committee.
March Advocate a little late to include news about GC2019
The March edition of the Advocate will be a little later than normal in order to accommodate the news about what happened at special called session of General Conference, Feb. 23-26. That edition will go to press Feb. 27 and be posted online later that week at www.advocatesc.org. The edition will arrive in mailboxes a few days later.
Learn more about GC2019 at www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2019-special-session.
You can also browse past detailed Advocate coverage of GC2019 by going to www.advocatesc.org/gc2019coverage.
Bishop Holston’s daily focused prayers
Now through GC2019, Feb. 23-26:
- Sunday: Gracious and loving God, we give thanks for your presence in our lives and the promise that you have plans for us to prosper and not be harmed. Continue your good work in our families and our lives. Help us to understand how we can make a difference—in our church, in our community, and in our world—as your instrument of hope. Amen.
- Monday: Merciful God, help us to see the many opportunities before us to serve you by serving our neighbors. Open our hearts and our hands to both receive your grace and to offer it to everyone we meet. Amen.
- Tuesday: Almighty God, we confess to you that we have not loved you with our whole hearts. We have often failed to be an obedient church when we have not heard the cry of the needy. Free us for joyful obedience that, where there are corridors of shame, despair and want, we might create corridors of faith, hope and love that glorify you. Amen.
- Wednesday: Gracious God, I know that you are the potter and I am the clay. Mold me and make me into a disciple of Jesus Christ. Show me how to offer your grace and mercy in ways that transform the world. Amen.
- Thursday: Lord, we know that when we make space in our hearts for you, Jesus redeems the broken pieces of our lives. We ask, O God, that you will be at work in us and through us to make a difference in the lives of the hurting and the hungry in our midst. Amen.
- Friday: God, we thank you for the gift of faith that carries us through those times when we cannot yet see what you are doing in our midst. Help us to walk in your light and to be a light for others. Amen.
- Saturday: God of Heaven and Earth, as your humble servants, we know that the needs around the world and around the corner are great. Open our eyes so that we can see how to use the gifts you have given us to serve our neighbors and be in mission in the community and beyond. And give us the strength and perseverance to get started in this holy work. Amen.