What will be different this time?

By Rich Peck, Interpreter Magazine • • •

Holy conversations, evening worship and a program of celebration and challenge are among the changes for General Conference 2012.

Others include a proposed deadline for legislative committees to complete their work.

Planning the 2012 event is the 25-member Commission on the General Conference, led by Randall Miller of Emeryville, Calif. The Rev. James Harnish, senior pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, is chair of the host committee.

Speaking and listening

Bishop Sally Dyck

Bishop Sally Dyck

While General Conference planners hope holy conferencing will be the norm, delegates will engage in three specific times of “holy conversation.”

On Wednesday, April 25, delegates will break into 13 groups for discussions designed by the Unity Team of the Council of Bishops.

The first conversation, focusing on the church’s identity and theology, will reflect on questions based on the Episcopal, Laity and Young People’s addresses that delegates heard that morning.

The second conversation will focus on human sexuality. Bishop Sally Dyck, chair of the Unity Team, said planners are drawing on the experiences during a previous gathering of representatives from groups with opposing views on homosexuality.

“There is a lot of pain involved in these discussions,” Bishop Dyck said. “Sometimes people just want assurance that their views have been heard. The purpose of the gathering is to discuss how we can live together in spite of our differences on homosexuality.”

On April 30, the Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church will coordinate a discussion of how each regional group can serve and be served by the denomination.

Legislative committees

Delegates will be asked to mandate all legislative committees to complete their work by 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. Any petition not processed by that time will not go to a plenary session unless 20 delegates file a written request for it to be considered.

The Rev. Alan Morrison, General Conference business manager, said the schedule calls for about 25 percent more time for committee work than in 2008. In the past, some legislative committees have met during the plenary to finish considering all their assigned petitions.

Worship and music

Marcia McFee of Truckee, Calif., is the director of worship and music for General Conference. She is designing the service of worship and celebration of Holy Communion that will open General Conference at 4 p.m., ET, on Tuesday, April 24. Dr. McFee is also responsible for worship scheduled for 8:30 p.m. most evenings and the prayer services that will begin each day. Bishops will preach for most of the evening services. United Methodist musicians from around the world will be among the worship leaders.

Celebration, challenge

Dr. McFee is also designing “We Need a River: A Plenary Celebration and Challenge of the Mission and Ministry of The United Methodist Church.” Scheduled for 7 p.m.,  ET, Sunday, April 29, it will feature presentations and reports looking at the past, present and future connectional life of United Methodists.


The Rev. Peck, a retired clergy member of the New York Conference, is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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