Tuesday, May 17 – The Power of Words

The day began with applause after it was announced that the agenda in Tuesday’s Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) – for the first time – was printed in French, Portuguese and Kiswahili, as well as English.

The lack of print translations has been a repeated topic during plenary sessions at this General Conference.

The DCA contains the daily agenda, lists the day’s worship leaders and service participants, calendar items for consideration on the floor, articles highlighting the previous day’s presentations and transcripts of its plenary sessions.

Just as on Monday, when a protest shut down the conference, the most talked-about moment of the day was not on the agenda before the plenary session began.

Following Tuesday’s morning break Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, asked for a moment of privilege to address the body of delegates.  He did so on behalf of the Council in response to rumors on social media Monday night about the fate of The United Methodist Church.

“I stand before you today, on behalf of my episcopal colleagues, to tell you I have a broken heart – that collectively we have a broken heart,” Ough said. “Our hearts break over the pain, distrust, anger, anxiety and disunity we observe and experience in our beloved United Methodist Church.

He acknowledged that the bishops are “shepherds of the entire flock” and that they are “committed to maintaining the unity of The United Methodist Church.”  His address came on the heels of social media rumors that the denomination was heading for a split.

“We are not advancing or advocating any plan for separation or reorganizing the denomination. We clearly understand and respect the constitutional prerogative of this body to propose and act on legislation. Our job is to preside.  As your presiders, we are committed to enabling this body, by the grace of God, to perform your legislative function,” Ough continued.

Rev. Mark Holland
Rev. Mark Holland

When delegates returned from their lunch break the Rev. Mark Holland of the Great Plains Conference proposed a non-binding motion to “respectfully ask the bishops of our church to convene today (Tuesday) in order to offer a non-binding recommendation back to this body tomorrow (Wednesday) morning as to how the church might move forward around the issue of human sexuality.”

In speaking to the motion Holland stated, “I think now, more than ever, we need the leadership of our temporal and spiritual leaders to move into Holy Conferencing and model for this body how a divided body moves forward for good.”

“We would like you all to lead us, which is why you’ve been elected,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, of the Virginia Conference, in speaking for the motion.

Rev. Adam Hamilton, of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, concurred, saying, “I’m pleading with you, please help us.”

The Council of Bishops, minus the presiders of the afternoon plenary session, began meeting during the afternoon break.   Following an hour-long dinner break, they worked into the night.

Wednesday morning Bishop John Hopkins said, “The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is like a modern day Pentecost where people from all over the world are listening to each other about their experiences of Jesus Christ.  We are seeking to know, love and send God in many different contexts and languages.”

He will preside at the 9am PDT (12pm EDT) business session when General Conference resumes on Wednesday.

By Rick Wolcott, director of East Ohio Communications