Tuesday was a busy day for the Kentucky delegation, both on the floor of the conference and outside of the plenary hall. Legislatively much was debated and voted on, but one of the most surprising pieces of legislation that passed was the vote about "guaranteed appointments" for clergy. The surprising fact was that the proposal was brought to the floor as part of a consent calendar and was passed as such.
After passage there was an attempt to lift the item from the calendar but that effort failed. So the 2012 General Conference voted to discontinue guaranteed appointments for ordained elders. Bishop Lindsey Davis understands that there will be some anxiety going forward.
"I want the clergy in Kentucky not to be fearful about this process; we are going to do this carefully and methodically, as Methodists tend to do,” Bishop Davis said. “We are going to have lots of conversations, and we'll try to implement it in a very careful way.”
Dr. Tom Smith, Director of Ministerial Services, spoke about the reactions to the legislation that he has seen so far, "I really thought it would be divided along age lines, but some of the young clergy here are upset with it and some of the young clergy here are applauding it. I think it goes both ways." Dr. Smith went on to point out that being in ministry is unlike most other positions that one may hold. "This doesn't change anybody's call. People do this not because they have security of appointment but because God's called them to this ministry."
Tuesday also marked the day that Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) episcopal candidates introduced themselves to delegates from the 13 SEJ conferences. Seven of the 14 candidates spoke on Tuesday and the remaining seven, including Rev. Debbie Wallace-Padgett of Kentucky, will have their turn on Wednesday.
The body also celebrated the adoption of the full communion agreement, which was voted on Monday, with six other Pan-Methodist denominations. The United Methodist Church is the last of the denominations to adopt the full communion agreement. Bishops from two of the other denominations and a representative from a third joined in the celebration during the afternoon plenary.
In other legislation, delegates opposed a longer preamble proposed for the Social Principles by a legislative committee. They agreed with a minority report that affirms “our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the gospel.”
Voting 532 to 414, delegates added a clause, “We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all – that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
Some delegates argued against the added sentence saying that belief and action can separate us from the love of God in Jesus. Others suggested that there is a difference between God’s love for all and human response to that love.
Delegates also revised the Social Principles statement on abortion to say, “We mourn and are committed to the diminishment of high abortion rates.”
Churches were encouraged to support “crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women explore all options related to unplanned pregnancy.”
The body also voted to create a new episcopal area in the Congo.
Kentuckians at General Conference