June 01, 2016

Every morning of General Conference, all those United Methodist from around the world were greeted by Randy Biggerstaff, as he gave his report at chair of the Journal Committee. “Good morning General Conference!” Biggerstaff said in a rousing voice. If he didn’t get much of a response, he would say it again. He even had a meme circulating on Twitter at one point.

Biggerstaff had a much bigger presence at this General Conference session than he did at his previous three. He was nominated by the Council of Bishops to serve on the Journal Committee and was contacted last fall. He reported in early on May 10, the first day of General Conference, where he expected to be joined by the other two people on the committee. Neither of them showed. 

“They said to me, ‘Randy, it looks like you’re chair, vice chair and secretary,” he said. 

Some checking determined that the two other people on the committee had declined the position, but their messages didn’t get through. For a bit Biggerstaff wondered if he’d be doing the job solo, but two more people were found to round out the committee. 

“It’s a good thing, too, because the job is about too big for three people,” Biggerstaff said. 

The job is to ensure accuracy. Everything said on the floor of General Conference Session is transcribed. Transcripts of reports and sermons are turned in, but comments and debate are recorded and transcribed during the day and overnight. These are all composed in a document called the Daily Christian Advocate. It also includes some news items related to General Conference that do not take place on the floor of the Conference. 

The Daily Christian Advocate is composed and printed overnight. The next morning, Biggerstaff and his team would receive the Daily Christian Advocate at around 6:15 a.m. and start proof reading it, trying to ensure factual accuracy, right down to appropriate titles and name spellings. When they are done, they give a copy of the corrected document to the General Secretary. Biggerstaff then starts the day by giving a brief verbal report to the entire body of General Conference.

Biggerstaff said he had prayed to carry a good understanding of what takes place at General Conference back home to Missouri, and that prayer was answered. 

“Sometimes when you’re just sitting and listening things get muddled together, but this year, having read through every discussion two or three times, I’ve come to understand and remember things pretty well,” he said. 

Despite the early morning and pressure of giving the daily reports, Biggerstaff said the job was fun.  

“I appreciated seeing what takes place behind the scenes, and a camaraderie our Journal Committee had with the DCA. They’re great people,” he said.