General Conference 2016
At the 2016 Oklahoma Annual Conference on May 31, physician Don Kim and pastor Linda Harker reported on the denomination’s General Conference (GC), also held in May. Respectively lay and clergy, they were the first-elected GC delegates from Oklahoma. This is from their report.
REV. HARKER: You were faithfully represented by a strong delegation that worked hard on your behalf. They waded through over 1,500 petitions.
When this journey began a year ago, I began to pray daily for one thing: that whoever was watching us might be able to say, "Wow, look at those Christians; see how they love." I don’t know what people saw. However, I can say that was what others experienced through your delegation.
General Conference was difficult. At times it was frustrating and baffling. Many times we were moved to tears, not necessarily by the decisions made, but by the way those decisions occurred.
I learned that we could spend an inordinate amount of time discussing whether iPads or bright yellow placards were the appropriate tool for recognition to speak from the floor, and that everyone should be grateful Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the 10 Commandments rather than Robert’s Rules of Order.
By a narrow margin, GC voted to set aside all petitions regarding sexuality. A commission will be formed by the Council of Bishops. There is a possibility for a Special Called General Conference, to discuss a way through what seems to have become an impasse in our worldwide church.
(See story below)
We did agree on Four Areas of Focus in the next four years:
• We will engage in ministry with the poor;
• We will work to improve global health;
• We will develop principled Christian leaders around the world; and
• We will create new/renewed congregations.
I want to remind you, as Bishop (Gregory) Palmer did, we are "prisoners of hope." That phrase has ruminated in my spirit. It has taken up residency in my soul.
We left with some God-sized goals, including 1 million new disciples and 400 vibrant new faith communities by 2020.
DR. KIM: Worship kept us focused in all the work that we did, helping us realize that work was for the purpose of serving God and not ourselves. We had many pause-for-prayer moments.
We took time to lament a historic tragedy, the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. I was especially moved by Mr. William Walks Along of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, a descendant of survivors, who said, "We now extend our hand in friendship to the Methodist church" and "we have developed a measure of trust, respect, and honor for each other." I felt like this was the kind of trust that we needed at the General Conference.
It was exciting to know this GC marked the 40th anniversary of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference being granted voting rights. GC also celebrated the 60th anniversary of full clergy rights for women and 150 years of United Methodist Women in ministry.
We will get a 21st-century technology boost in our new hymnal. It will be internet cloud-based and print-on-demand, the first high-tech hymnal for a mainline denomination.
Global Ministries sent out more than 29 missionaries, from 11 countries, to serve in 16 lands. Other missions action:
• Authorizing five new bishops in central Africa, the fastest-growing area of The United Methodist Church.
• Voting to double the Central Conferences’ Theological Education Fund to $10 million, which supports United Methodist schools, pastors, and pastors-in-training in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
We still remained close to the 2012 budget, approving $604 million for the next quadrennium. This translates as each U.S. church, on average, retaining slightly more than 85 cents of every dollar collected in the offering plate.
Jeremy Rosado, a top-12 contestant on TV’s "American Idol," debuted "God is able," a song commissioned for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. It has raised more than $68 million of its $75 million goal. We will turn next to Imagine Abundant Health. Worldwide, 6 million children die every year from preventable diseases.
Imagine Abundant Health seeks to engage at least 10,000 U.S. churches to reach 1 million children by 2020 with life-saving interventions through prevention, treatment, communication, and education.
Serving in missions to Mongolia for the past 14 years and as a physician, this is something I can sink my teeth into. Your church should be thinking about how you can be a part of this.
REV. HARKER: We can wring our hands and worry about our future, or we can roll up our sleeves and do what Jesus commanded us to do: Go, therefore (the theme for General Conference). We have good news to share and good work to do.
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