Start packing for Portland/Wichita
A clergywoman, an Asian-American layman, and an African-American clergyman were the first delegates elected May 26 to attend United Methodism’s General Conference (GC) at Portland, Ore., in 2016.
The 34-member Oklahoma delegation consists of two American Indians, two Asians, four African-Americans, and 26 whites, according to GC racial identification data. Ages range from 27 to 77. There are 14 women and 20 men, and an equal number of laity and clergy.
With their very first ballot at Annual Conference, the clergy chose Linda Harker, senior pastor of McFarlin UMC in Norman. She said she was "very surprised."
The laity, in their second round of voting, elected Don Kim, a member of OKC-Korean First.
Joseph Harris became the second clergy delegate. He is assistant to the bishop and director of Communications.
"It is unusual to have that kind of inclusiveness" on Oklahoma’s delegation, said Tal Oden of Altus. He was a GC lay delegate for 12 quadrennia, beginning in 1964.
"I can remember when there was only one woman." That was laywoman Mary Metzel in the 1960s. In the 1980s, Oden recalled, Tom Goto, an Asian, was elected.
"There were no black delegates until after ’64," Oden said. For decades, U.S. churches that were predominantly African-American were assigned to the race-based Central Jurisdiction. The 1964 GC decided that should be eliminated.
Oden said inclusivity is crucial. "If you want your Conference represented on general agencies, you have to be diverse," he said. Delegations’ members are first to be considered for service on the boards of those Church agencies.
"We were always seen as centrists," Oden said. "We had very liberal and conservative components, but it was clear we would walk across the aisle" to accomplish the Church’s work.
The General and South Central Jurisdictional Conferences are held every four years.
Dr. Kim said he was excited to be elected, but then he felt fear, realized the responsibility, and resolved to have courage.
He wants the delegation to share "what we have done right" in Oklahoma and to think about the overall health of the Church.
"We need to be doing a lot of prayers," Kim said. He hopes delegates will "truly represent Christ" as they participate and "not be bogged down by rules and regulations."
Kim, a physician who specializes in internal and pain medicine, said he was an agnostic until his wife, dentist Kay Cho, encouraged him to go to church with her.
Rev. Harker also was the first clergy delegate elected for the 2012 conventions. To be chosen again by her peers is "an honor and a privilege — a humbling experience," she said.
Her main concern is for The United Methodist Church to remain what its name says: united.
"My hope is that we can come together," Harker said. She expects GC to address "topics that are on everybody’s mind."
She did not comment on one such topic, same-gender marriage, but said she expects the conference to address "inclusiveness and what that means to the Church."
GC is the top policy-making body for United Methodism globally. Its delegates can revise Church law; adopt resolutions on moral, social, public policy, and economic issues; and approve plans and budgets for Church-wide programs.
United Methodists from eight states will gather for the SCJ Conference, July 13-16, 2016, in Wichita, Kan. Primary work there is election and assignment of bishops. The Oklahoma Area will receive a new bishop in September 2016, because Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. must retire.
From the Oklahoma Conference, the seven laity and seven clergy who were elected first are official GC delegates. Those 14 plus 14 more are SCJ delegates. Also, six reserves were elected. — Chris Schutz and Holly McCray
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Photo by Holly McCray
Meet Oklahoma’s delegates to the 2016 General/Jurisdictional Conferences. They are identified from left, numbers indicate order of election, and C means clergy.
Front row: Barbara Perry–OKC (10); Aly Shahan–Moore (7); Don Kim–OKC (1); Linda Harker–Norman (C1); Debra Davis–Ardmore (15); Valerie Steele–Okemah St. Paul’s (C13); Herschel Beard–Madill (3); and Bill Junk–OKC (2).
Second row: Janey Wilson–Ada (5); Cara Nicklas–OKC (6); Chuck Stewart–Stilwell (4); Earl Mitchell–Stillwater(14); Cindy Hull–Waynoka (12): Jessica Seay–Ardmore First (C4); Joe Harris–OKC (C2); and Ahnawake Dawson–Claremore (17).
Third row: Fuxia Wang–OU Chinese Fellowship, Norman (C14); Aaron Tiger–Tulsa First (C8); Reece Player–Altus(16); Sarah Nichols–OKC (8); Brian Bakeman–Oklahoma’s treasurer (C7); Kent Fulton–Edmond (11); Bob Long OKC-St. Luke’s (C3); and Sam Powers–Edmond First (C5).
Top row: Wade Paschal–Tulsa First (C9); Tom Harrison–Tulsa Asbury (C6); Jeff Jaynes–Restore Hope Ministries, Tulsa (C11); Ray Crawford–Claremore First (C15); D.A. Bennett–OKC-St. Andrew’s (C12); Lesly Broadbent–Enid Willow View (C17); Matt Judkins–McAlester First (C10); and Tish Malloy–Northern Prairie District superintendent(C16).
Not shown: Tom Junk–Tulsa (9) and Briana Tobey–OKC (13).