Saturday, April 28, became a day of rest for members of the Independent Commission and Discipleship legislative committees, while members of other committees picked up speed to process as many petitions as possible before the 9:30 p.m. closing bell. Any legislative proposal not acted upon by adjournment time will not be considered unless 20 delegates pull it up for consideration.
The Committee on Ministry and Higher Education agreed to ask the plenary session to approve legislation that would end guaranteed appointments, but they added a provision for an eight-member team to develop a list of issues and concerns to guide the cabinet and bishop when a full-time missional appointment is not available for an elder.
Cabinets will be asked to report annually to the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry on which elders have not received an appointment and why. Cabinets will also be asked for a report on the age, ethnicity and gender of each elder without a full-time missional appointment. This data will be evaluated by the conference and jurisdictional committees on the episcopacy.
Delegates and visitors gathered under the brilliant Tampa sun for a noon rally against the privatization of prisons, led by the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration.
Participants in the April 28 rally sang “We Shall Overcome” while carrying signs saying, “Profit from Pain is Inhumane.”
The rally celebrated the establishment of a new investment screen adopted by the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits. That screen, adopted in January, forbids board investments in companies that derive more than 10 percent of their revenue from the operation of prison facilities.
The policy change resulted, in part, from requests from the task force.
“We believe that profiting from the incarceration of persons is immoral and antithetical to our Christian faith,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño, co-chair of the task force, in a letter to the board. “The fact that an inordinate number of persons incarcerated in the U.S. are people of color and persons who come out of poverty raises serious concerns about investments in prisons serving to perpetuate racism and classism.”
“Something is wrong,” exclaimed Iowa Area Bishop Julius Trimble during the waterside rally. Trimble who is co-chair with Carcaño, said, “People are detained for being poor, out of status or because they don’t speak English.”
Desmond Mead, a second-year law student who has been incarcerated, said detention is a “world problem,” not just a Hispanic or black issue.
The Rev. Audrey Warren, pastor of Branches United Methodist Church in Florida City, Fla., and a task force member, said her 150-member congregation includes a number of immigrants. “The immigrant is not a stranger,” she said. “The immigrant is a United Methodist.”
Warren said the problem of private prisons is not a political issue for United Methodists, but a “family dinner table conversation.”
The Detention Watch Network, an advocacy organization, reports that in 2009, some 49 percent of 385,524 immigrants were detained in 30 private prisons, at an average daily cost of $122 per day, or $1.7 billion.
On Sunday evening delegates will return to the convention center for a service celebrating the 20th anniversary of Communities of Shalom, the 40th anniversary of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, Archives and History, five ethnic national plans, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, the Four Areas of Focus, Global AIDS Fund, and the Advance. The General Commission on United Methodist Men will note the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts and present a Good Samaritan Award. The evening will conclude with the consecration of 17 deacons and the commissioning of 23 missionaries.