By Jessica Brodie
ST. LOUIS—Day 2 at General Conference 2019 was a jam-packed day, tackling far more work than many expected.
Delegates set their legislative priorities and elected officers of the legislative committee, then reconvened as a legislative body and began addressing the first set of legislation. The goal is for the delegates to work as one legislative committee to perfect the legislation on Day 3, Monday, then spend the final day, Tuesday, voting on whichever priorities are brought forward by the committee.
“Today was a really good day,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, one of South Carolina’s 16 clergy and lay delegates. “I got the sense people are really engaged.”
After worship and a report on the plans from the Commission on the Way Forward, delegates jumped into voting on their legislative priorities, where they ranked which petition sets they would address first.
The body voted to address the Wespath Recommendations (Pension Liabilities and Clergy Retirement Security Program Amendment) legislation first, followed by the Traditional Plan, then two Disaffiliation legislation sets (first Taylor, then Boyette), then the One Church Plan and then the other Disaffiliation legislation (Ottjes), then the rest. (See the full list of all legislation packages and their ranking in this United Methodist News Service story, here.)
Nelson said it doesn’t mean the body has identified any of these particular sets of legislation as preferences for the denomination, just in which order they will tackle perfecting the legislation.
“It just means we’ll pick up talking about the Traditional Plan first,” explained the Rev. Mel Arant, another South Carolina delegate.
With that finished, the body began election of legislative officers, a task that took less than an hour.
Joe Harris, assistant to the bishop for the Oklahoma Conference who has been a delegate to seven general conferences, was elected chair of the Legislative Committee, garnering the majority (51 percent) of the votes. Betty Kazadi Musau, a graduate of Africa University, was elected vice chair of the committee, and Carlene Fogle-Miller, a young adult from Florida, was elected secretary.
South Carolina delegate Barbara Ware said Harris is an excellent choice as Legislative Committee chair.
“He’s unbiased, very qualified in the legislative field and very well respected by all,” Ware said.
“I think it’s great,” South Carolina delegate Herman Lightsey said of Harris’s election as chair. “Joe’s done a really good job in the past.”
Before beginning the legislative committee process, Harris took a moment to thank the body for electing him.
“I’ll do the best I can,” he said.
Body starts perfecting legislation Sunday
Before the session adjourned for the day, delegates began addressing the Wespath Recommendations, ultimately approving both amendments (Pension Liabilities and CRSP).
On Monday (Day 3), delegates will begin by working on the first plan, The Traditional Plan.
Arant said it was good that Sunday morning was consumed by the “very long, stretched-out” report by the Commission on a Way Forward, whose members really took their time explaining. Arant said the length of time ended up being extremely helpful in the prioritizing process.
“They made sure everybody knew their voices had been heard … that everybody in the church had a voice at the table,” Arant said.
Strong worship focus
South Carolina delegate Herman Lightsey said he appreciates the way General Conference has been going. Having been a delegate at the 2012 and 2016 general conferences, neither of which were able to address sexuality and the church satisfactorily, Lightsey said, “I came here very, very anxious, almost like maybe I’m wasting my time.”
But with the cordial spirit of this year’s conference, and the way the services keep going back to prayer and the Holy Spirit really working through the body, Lightsey is now feeling optimistic.
“I’m hoping maybe we’ll get something done,” Lightsey said. “I think we’re going to be fine.”
South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston agreed, noting Sunday was “a great day to be part of the church” and had a rousing, worship-filled opening.
“Keep praying,” Holston said in a message to South Carolina United Methodists back home, urging them to be encouraged and empowered. “What we do here is important not only to us in South Carolina but to the church globally, and God is with us every step of the way.”
Nelson said it’s not an accident General Conference 2019 keeps circling back to worship.
“In the end, this is about how we will be making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Nelson said. “All that’s before us now is how we’re going to do that.”
Importance of prayer
We invite you to be in prayer for every delegate, especially our South Carolina delegates and alternates, as well as our resident bishop, L. Jonathan Holston. Lay delegates: Barbara Ware, James Salley, Dr. Joseph Heyward, Herman Lightsey, Jackie Jenkins, Michael Cheatham, Martha Thompson, Dr. David Braddon, and alternates Lollie Haselden and Emily Rogers Evans. Clergy delegates: Dr. Tim McClendon, the Rev. Ken Nelson, the Rev. Tim Rogers, Dr. Robin Dease, the Rev. Tiffany Knowlin, the Rev. Narcie Jeter, the Rev. Mel Arant Jr., the Rev. Susan Leonard, and alternates the Rev. Telley Gadson and the Rev. Michael Turner.
We also invite prayer for the members of our South Carolina media team: Advocate Editor Jessica Brodie and the UMCSC Communications Office Dan O’Mara (communications coordinator) and Matt Brodie (production coordinator), as well as all others from South Carolina here to serve, pray and help.
Need more background?
Read past Advocate articles covering GC2019 and the way forward, plus our overview page on the event, here: https://www.advocatesc.org/gc2019coverage.
Also, stay on top of the South Carolina conference communications office coverage of GC2019 here: https://www.umcsc.org/gc2019
Additionally, United Methodist Communications is livestreaming proceedings at GC2019 in English, French and American Sign Language. The stream at umc.org/live will include all open sessions when the lawmaking assembly meets Feb. 23-26. Visual learners also can view a chart that offers an overview of four main plans under consideration: