General Conference delegates begin with Scripture
|By Holly McCray
The 44-member Oklahoma Conference delegation turned to Scripture during its first preparatory meeting for the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
Delegation leaders Judy Benson of Frederick and Linda Harker of Norman asked: What Scriptures will provide guidance for who God is calling us to be as a delegation?
Among the selections shared Aug. 20 at OKC-St. Luke’s:
Numerous verses were cited, and the two women posted them to inspire the day’s work. They also asked members who served on previous delegations to describe distinctives of the Oklahoma group.
Maggie Ball responded, "We’re all in ministry together, and I value that." Tom Junk said, "We work together, not by order of election." Darrell Cates liked alternating seats between laity and clergy at the conference sites.
Others said that Oklahoma explores both sides of issues, that the team covenants to pray, and that alternate delegates are valued and used.
Joe Harris said he appreciates "the collegiality, the lack of vitriol" he’s observed in six previous Oklahoma delegations.
This first meeting was structured by Rev. Harker and Benson to help members "understand what the delegation is about and what is to come," they explained.
Oklahoma’s delegation is one of the largest in the South Central Jurisdiction. It consists of an equal number of clergy and laity.
SCJ delegates invited to come
For the next meeting, Oct. 21-22 at St. Luke’s, Oklahoma will take on a major hosting role.
Invitations were sent throughout the eight-state jurisdiction, to every annual conference (15 total), to every elected delegate to the 2012 events.
Benson and Harker said presentations will be made by at least three bishops and the leaders of several top-level groups, including the General Board of Pensions, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM), and General Council on Finance & Administration (GCFA).
The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. Friday and conclude at noon Saturday.
Duo speaks to Orders
Harker and Benson are intentionally advocating for more awareness in Oklahoma about General and Jurisdictional policy-making in 2012. They launched this effort in August, speaking to Oklahoma’s clergy at the Orders Meeting.
Major proposals for changes are bubbling in the Church.
Petitions have been filed that propose realigning General Church agencies, restructuring top-level boards, reducing the timeline for ordination, even abandoning guaranteed clergy appointments.
The number of active bishops has already been reduced. A performance assessment for them is proposed.
A $603 million budget for 2013-2016 is recommended for the denomination. That is a 6.4 percent reduction from the 2009-12 budget, noted Bob Long, senior pastor at St. Luke’s.
Other recommendations call for identifying financial "best practices" and redesigning the clergy pension system.
Where to learn more
Benson and Harker point to online resources, available to all, that inform United Methodists on these issues and more. These include the Call to Action report and GBHEM ministry proposals.
"I cannot encourage you enough to read the Call to Action," commented Rev. Dr. Long, a member of the General Board of Pensions.
Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. requested prayer for Oklahoma’s delegation. His episcopal duties outside the Oklahoma Area include GCFA. He was in charge of coordinating the collation of all the petitions submitted from GCFA to the General Conference for action.
Tampa, Fla., will host the General Conference on April 24-May 4.
On July 18-21, Oklahoma City will host the Jurisdictional Conference, at the Cox Convention Center. "Invite your family and church members to come to Oklahoma City to celebrate what God is doing here," said Debra Davis.
Junk said, "It’s a great experience to see the Church with its arms around the world."
(View this story online to access visual aids shared by Harker and Benson.)