ST. LOUIS, MO—Day 2 of the Special-Called General Conference kicked off with a time of worship including a spirited version of “This Little Light of Mine” as delegates from around the world gathered to find a way forward as United Methodists review the church’s policy regarding homosexuality.
In his sermon, Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., President of the Council of Bishops, urged the delegation at the Dome at America’s Center to consider the weight of the task before them. “Take a look at your hands. This work is in your hands,” he said.
Bishop Carter urged the 864 delegates to “assume the best about others” and make every effort to maintain unity for the sake of God’s mission as the denomination’s top legislative-making body of the 12.6 million-member church. “We gather in submission to the cross and flame,” he reminded the group.
At the first legislative session of the 2019 General Conference, delegates on Sunday heard the presentation of the Commission on a Way Forward’s report.
Jasmine Smothers, a delegate from North Georgia, offered an overview of The One Church Plan, which values denominational unity and “gives conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context,” she said.
Mazvita Machinga, a delegate from Zimbabwe, Africa, presented The Connectional Conference Plan, which values “a new form of unity around a shared core.” She likened the plan to Jesus’ illustration of one vine with many branches.
Jessica LaGrone, a delegate from Kentucky, detailed The Traditionalist Plan, which values unity in doctrine, accountability, and consistency in practice. “The clarity of our discipline on sexual ethics should be clearly followed in our practice across the denomination and be connectional within the Church throughout time,” she said.
The Commission on a Way Forward, comprised of 32 members, offered an overview of their time collaborating as a committee, which was met with a standing ovation from the grateful crowd.
“I am thankful for the dedication and hard work of the Commission on a Way Forward over the last few years. Today, we were able to directly hear from them regarding the plans they worked so hard to craft,” said Indiana delegate Tyler Best. “I look forward to the work ahead as we consider these proposals and many others in the coming days.”
After lunch, the delegation prioritized their 78 legislative petitions.
As they moved forward with business, protestors marched through waving LGBTQ flags and chanting, “Hate divides! Love provides!”
In the afternoon, the delegation voted in their leadership for the Legislative Committee:
Chair – Joe Harris from Oklahoma
Vice Chair – Betty Kazadi Musau from Democratic Republic of Congo
Secretary – Carlene Fogle-Miller from Florida
“In many ways, General Conference is like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces have to be put together in a certain order or they won’t fit together properly,” said Indiana delegate Kim Reisman. “Today the first few pieces were put together – we determined the order in which we would handle our business, elected the leaders to guide our process and began our work. I’m hopeful that the positive tone of our day today will carry over to tomorrow as we continue to sort through the very complicated pieces of the puzzle that remain.”
A parliamentarian was on hand to ensure that the correct parliamentary procedure was followed. The delegation completed discussion on their first prioritized petition which passed (Wespath Recommendations – Pension Liabilities and CRSP Amendment Par. 1504m 90016-17, 168-69). They then voted to adjourn early for the day, bumping coverage of their second petition (Traditional Plan 00032 – 90040, 90042 – 47, 182-86, 190-94) to Monday morning.