On Thursday, General Conference delegates began working their way through the 1,200+ petitions sent to the quadrennial gathering.
All petitions are first considered in one of 13 legislative committees. Those committees broke into subcommittees April 26 to begin considering each proposed change to the Book of Discipline or the Book of Resolutions.
Newly elected committee chairs and subcommittee chairs helped the groups prioritize their work, since petitions not acted upon by the evening of April 28 may not be considered at all, unless 20 delegates pull the petitions out of the virtual wastebasket.
All legislative committees will present their recommendations to plenary sessions, beginning Monday, April 30.
After meeting in legislative committees on Thursday morning, some delegates attended a Service of Holy Communion on a Tampa Bay walkway. Others attended luncheons sponsored by various organizations, and some paused to hear choirs singing in the lobby of the convention center.
Later delegates gathered for the only plenary session of the day, where nominations were submitted for University Senate, Judicial Council and General Conference Secretary.
The General Conference is responsible for electing four of the 25 members of the denomination’s University Senate. Prior to taking nominations from the floor, the Council of Bishops selects a slate of nominees from a pool of chief executive officers of United Methodist-related educational institutions. The bishop's pick are Jerry Campbell, Cameron West, Trudie Kibbe Reed, John H. Russell, Nathaniel Bishop and Jan Love. Elected from other education-related positions are Lallene Rector, Tanya Linn Bennett, Jeannie Trevino-Teddle, Robert Hill, Ester Chung-Kim and Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan. About 20 people were nominated from the floor. One of the names brought forth from the floor was Dr. Bill Arnold, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary and a clergy delegate from the Kentucky Conference.
The Council of Bishops has nominated 12 persons – six clergy and six lay – to fill two open positions in each category for the nine-member Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court. Clergy nominees are John Harnish, Dennis Blackwell, Tim Bruster, Jane Tews, Susan Henry-Crowe and Oyvind Helliesen. Lay nominees are Beth Capen, Randall Miller, Janey Lutz, Oswald Tweh, Deanell Tacha and Warren Plowden. Nominations also were taken from the floor during the Thursday evening plenary session. Those nominees are Kibomba Kiboko, Robert L. Lockabie, Jr., Curt Glasgow, Mark Dickens, Solomon Christian, Reynaldo Abdon, Laura Esto and Carl Baumgardner.
Fitzgerald Reist was nominated by the Council of Bishops to continue as secretary of the General Conference. There was no nomination from the floor for that position.
Elections for both the University Senate and the Judicial Council are scheduled for Monday morning.
As the evening plenary came to a close, a "Point of Personal Privilege" turned into a time of protest. The presiding bishop, Bishop Robert Hayes, Jr., shut down the protest, pointing out that the protestors were "out of order." Mark Miller, a New Jersey delegate, then asked Bishop Hayes to pray for the protestors. His request was granted, and a prayer for healing and reconciliation was said.
Healing also was theme of the worship service that followed. The McFarlin Memorial UMC Choirs led those gathered in singing “There is a Balm in Gilead.” Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata, Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, preached on healing and what it takes to have a healthy soul. Bishop Hoshibata cautioned us to "maintain a healthy soul, maintain a healthy spirit," reminding us that John Wesley often asked others, "How is it with your soul?"
Bishop Hoshibata pointed out that we all stand in need of healing and that no matter what you may have done you are still a good person. He ended his sermon by telling us that "when we become aware of another person's suffering, God calls you to become a part of their healing."
Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. takes nominations for the United Methodist Judicial Council during General Conference. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Legislative committee members vote on proposed legislation on April 26 during the 2012 General Conference. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.