General Conference 2008: West to Have Just Five Bishops in 2012; Pacific Islanders Win After Losing
By Bruce Pettit
California-Nevada News Service
General Conference made that decision Tuesday night by 457 votes to 401, or 53 to 47 percent, as a cost-saving move. An amendment a few minutes earlier, passed by 52 to 48 percent, directed that the savings go to developing ministries in the Central Conferences – Europe, the Philippines, and Africa.
Dale Weatherspoon, clergy delegate from the California-Nevada Annual Conference, pleaded on the plenary floor, to no avail, for no reduction. Citing two of the four "Future with Hope" points set last week for the 2009-2012 quadrennium, he said, "I came here hopeful" about the Council of Bishops' affirmation that "we would be developing leaders and growing churches. I was excited that this is a focus on mission and ministry – I see it now as a focus on dollars." The Rev. Weatherspoon insisted, "To grow our churches in the
But the Rev. Bob Long of
Devin Mauney of the Desert Southwest Conference (
Briscoe was the author of the petition for the Task Force to Study the Episcopacy. The formula: Each jurisdiction having 300,000 or fewer church members shall be entitled to five bishops, and each with more members would get one more bishop for each additional 300,000 "or major fraction thereof." The Western Jurisdiction was cited in the report as having 397,392 members.
Pacific Islanders Win Ministry Study 24 Hours Later
Eddie Kelemeni, a former district superintendent in the Rocky Mountain Conference, who has taught Lay Speaking classes for Tongans in California-Nevada, petitioned this General Conference on behalf of the Pacific Islander National Caucus of the UMC for a new study for their ministries.
Unfortunately for them Monday night, they were the last petition heard for new ministry studies after several others had passed. All new funding items were to have been included in the $642 million figure the General Council on Finance and Administration has set for 2009-2012. The Pacific Islanders, projecting a need for $300,000 for their study, were outside of that budget for allegedly not bringing it to GCFA attention soon enough. They lost their study request by a vote margin of 53 to 47 percent.
Off the floor shortly afterward, several delegates said they could perceive hurt on the part of Pacific Islanders at the rejection. A Western Jurisdiction delegate said she could not sleep that night but could only pray for forgiveness.
Tuesday night, Charles Boayue, clergy delegate from
A new motion was to refer the study to the secretaries of the General Agencies. Kelvin Sauls, a clergy reserve delegate with the California-Nevada Annual Conference, had persuaded them to accept the job of working with the Pacific Islanders to find the money within their existing budgets – which the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt of the Board of Discipleship confirmed on the plenary floor. The motion passed 95 to 5 percent.
Despite that turnaround, several people came to the arena microphones at various times to say that the UMC's number of studies is getting out of hand. Some noted how many $10 bed nets to fight malaria could be purchased with all the study money. Young delegates vowed to find ways, if they are delegates again, to get ministry started immediately rather than have it go first to "studies."
Church and Society Dodges a Bullet
General Conference tabled, 82 to 18 percent, a petition to have the General Board of Church and Society reviewed by the General Council on Finance and Administration for alleged misuse of funds. A petition by Bill Howie of
Bishop James E. Swanson of the Holston (East Tennessee) Conference said GBCS itself brought the issue to court in the