General Conference to consider rule change to facilitate a process for Christian conferencing

gc2016logo_550Portland, OR  –  Participants at the 2016 Pre-General Conference Briefing got a hands-on look at a new proposed small group process for Christian conferencing, proposed for use by the Commission on General Conference for the 2016 General Conference. The General Conference, the top-level legislative body of the church involving delegates from throughout the world will be meeting in May at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

Today’s presentation outlined the process proposed for Rule 44, a new means of deliberation that moves away from Roberts Rules of Order toward a more conversational process of decision-making.

“It’s called Rule 44,” said Judi M. Kenaston, chair of the Commission on the General Conference, “simply because it follows Rule 43 in our rules of organization. Some have wondered if there is any special significance to the name, but there’s not.”

Kenaston and a team of leaders led Pre-General Conference Briefing participants through the proposed small group process. According to the new rule, if adopted by the General Conference, delegates would be assigned to small groups of no more than 15 persons. Each group will have a leader (selected from the conference delegates) who will facilitate the conversation process. The groups will also have a non-delegate monitor whose task is to ensure that a set of guidelines for the process is observed throughout the conversation. The leaders will help the group consider a petition using a set of questions which move from personal feelings about the proposed legislation to the specifics about the petition itself. A secretary selected from the delegates will use a standardized means of reporting the results on the conversation. The results from all the groups are then reviewed and tabulated by a Facilitation Team who then brings the legislation to the full General Conference body. The full rule which outlines the process and guidelines can be viewed on page 93 of the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate, which may know be downloaded for review by clicking here.

There has been speculation in various sources that this proposal was a means for avoiding legislative action on issues related to sexuality, a long-time source of division in the church. However Kenaston said that was not the case. She reminded all that the 2012 United Methodist General Conference had directed the Commission to consider means of conferencing that moved away from Roberts Rules of Order, which are distinctively American in nature. The proposed “Rule 44” process is an attempt to offer an alternative means of discernment which can be used at any time for issues which “…span different paragraphs of the Discipline, or on topics that would benefit by the input of as many voices as possible.” (ADCA p.45)

While Rule 44 (if adopted) would allow for this process to be used as needed, Kenaston noted that it is the intention of the Commission on the General Conference to offer a separate proposal to have all petitions related to human sexuality addressed under this process. No explanation was offered for the Commission’s decision to suggest that Rule 44 be used for these petitions.

In the trial run of the process briefing participants were asked to consider an old piece of legislation that is not up for consideration at this year’s conference and walk through the process. In the course of that exercise suggestions were offered to streamline and improve the process overall.

The ultimate goal, said Kenaston, was to create a process in which the conference is encouraged to: (1) Love the Lord our God and love our neighbor; (2) emphasize the centrality of relationship and call to deeper relationship; and (3) expect the imitation of Christ in all we do.

For more information on the 2016 United Methodist General Conference visit

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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8 Comments on "General Conference to consider rule change to facilitate a process for Christian conferencing"

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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Roger Tanquist

Considering the extraordinary amount of energy that has been spent on controversial issues for many years–often with very hurtful comments made–I look forward to a more gentle approach.
As one who prided myself on “winning” debates, I now seek to understand other points of view, accept diversity of opinion, and seek consensus on commonalities.
As followers of Jesus, we have so much work to do, we must find ways to move beyond divisive issues and focus on the gentle, loving example
that Jesus taught.

Got it. Unable to stop people from thinking… determined institutionalists seek to stop them from speaking and thereby stop them from acting. Got it. What to do? What to do? Do what others have for so many years done. Refuse to comply. However, in sharp contrast to the prior practice of others, refuse politely to comply. Video everything and upload it in real time so as to assure that events as they unfold cannot be edited to support a particular partisan view. Given that the institutionalists only reflect a partisan perspective, they are without legitimate authority to require that all… Read more »

The rule change has to be voted. Tell all your delegate reps to vote no.

Richard Hicks

“Christian conferencing” means more talk. Oh goody!!! More words! “Go ye therefore into all the world teaching them to talk, to conference, to talk some more, to conference some more, . . . ” One eternal CPE encounter group session, aka, “hell.” Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

Paul W.
I skimmed through the new rule. It is truly sickening. This is 10 steps beyond shameful. Rule 44 is nothing except complete hijacking and control of the discussion to ensure that only the will of the UMC leadership matters on the issue of advocating for full acceptance of the LGBT agenda by codifying a process to allow blatant disregard of the individual views and votes of the delegates at General Conference. The process even goes so far as appointing teams of “political correctness” monitors to immediately shutdown any discussion that deviates from the intended outcome in the name of stopping… Read more »

[…] at least three rules which could prolong the debate. The most contentious is the so-called “Rule 44” in which the Rules Committee and the General Commission on the General Conference (GCGC) are […]

David Goudie

I was surprised to learn that the real term ‘Christian Conferencing’ and the presentation from Dr Kevin Watson to the Bishops about what it means …is the exact opposite of what Rule 44 does.

How much different would it be to have the delegates share confession, accountability and share on ‘how does it go with my soul’ …’how is God been transforming my life and my communiy’.
Rule 44 is not Christian Conferencing.
At least be honest and use a different term for Rule 44.

This new process is designed to inhibit discussion and allow the elite leadership to arrive at a predetermined outcome. Only the gullible will vote for this. “The rule would allow for monitored group conversations that would produce a response sheet that would then be looked at by a group of delegates, elected by the General Conference, who would bring back legislative recommendations to the full plenary. The General Conference would then vote on the legislation presented according to the current rules” The group discussions will be compiled by specially appointed leaders who will determine the final consensus language. This is… Read more »
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