General Conference 2016: Our Delegation Begins Preparing
Even though the conferences are still months away (General Conference in May, Jurisdictional in July), they’ve already spent a lot of time preparing. In fact, the full delegation of 28 people (14 lay and 14 clergy) have met three times in Columbia and several attended a jurisdictional briefing in Oklahoma City.
I know there will be a lot written and discussed between now and May, so I’d just like to give you an idea of our work so far.
First, let me say that I’m honored and humbled to serve as delegation leader. We’ve got a great delegation with many first-time members plus several veterans of past General and Jurisdictional conferences. And I really appreciate the help from clergy co-leader Cody Collier plus Larry Fagan and Lynn Dyke. Of course, prayer is an essential for all of us, as is beginning each of our meetings with a time of worship and prayer.
One of the first things we did at the first meeting in August was share our hopes for the conferences. Each person comes to this role with hope for what will happen (or what won’t happen), along with maybe a few anxieties. It was helpful to hear those. I also shared my hopes, which are:
- That God will be present at both conferences, in obvious and memorable ways;
- That our Missouri delegation will be united in purpose, focused upon connecting people with Christ, and engaged in the process while seeking God’s truth and grace;
- That we may return from General Conference in Portland as stronger leaders for our Missouri conference, focused even more on our mission of reaching people through building stronger congregations and leaders;
- That we may return from Jurisdictional Conference in Wichita with a bishop assigned for the next quadrennium who can and will provide continuity of focused leadership for the next phase of our journey.
Another thing we did early on was to develop our “Shared Values”, agreeing to act according to them and hold each other accountable to following them:
- Be Christ-centered
- Pray & Discern
- Show Respect & Honesty
- Listen & Contribute
- Maintain Confidentiality & Integrity
- Affirm Diversity with Unity
- Practice Accountability & Collaboration
- Keep the Focus on the mission of making disciples through healthy congregations
And finally, we’ve begun learning about some of the main issues that we will face at General Conference in the form of legislation. All 12 of our General Conference delegates (6 lay and 6 clergy) are assigned to a legislative committee for detailed work, to finalize legislation for consideration by the entire body of 850. Our entire delegation will hear more details of proposals and discuss legislation in greater depth at future meetings, after we receive the legislation that has been submitted.
The months ahead will be important for all delegation members, and the conferences are important for our denomination and our Missouri conference. Please keep us all in your prayers in the weeks ahead. I’ll be writing more in future columns during the spring. In the meantime, the main work of our church happens with YOU in each local congregation – THAT’S where lives are changed and disciples are made!
Before we get too caught up in the conferences to come, let’s have a blessed advent season and a Merry Christmas as we celebrate Jesus – God with us. Thanks for all you do!
Dr. Bob Lunn, a member of Schweitzer UMC, is a former college professor, and a certified trainer in a process called Crucial Conversations. Members of the Missouri Conference delegates to general and jurisdictional conferences have recently read the book Crucial Conversations, and Lund was invited to speak to them regarding how Crucial Conversations can be an aid to Holy Conferencing when addressing difficult issues.
“It often comes down to the difference between focus on self and focus on others,” Lund said. “Jesus excelled at crucial conversations because he led with love. He started from the heart.”
Lund referred to Matthew 18: 15 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him – work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend.”
Listening can be the hard part.
“It’s difficult to listen when you’re in an argument. Instead you’re formulating your response and getting angry,” Lund said.
Lund referred to advice from the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:6. “Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person.”
For a Wesleyan perspective, John Wesley characterized Christian Conferencing as a means of grace. Christian Conferencing wasn’t something that is brought to a difficult conversation, but rather was when God’s grace comes over a group that is making a good faith effort.