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2019 General Conference legislation

By: UM News Service with contributions from Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference

Rev. Rebecca Trefz, clergy delegate for the Dakotas Conference, listens at General Conference 2016. Photo by Dave Stucke, Dakotas Conference.

February 23-26, 2019, the Dakotas Conference delegation of Rev. Rebecca Trefz and Beata Ferris will join 864 delegates from around the world to seek a way forward for our denomination on the topic of human sexuality. Trefz and Ferris will be in St. Louis with the Dakotas Conference alternate delegates Rev. Roger Spahr and Matt Bader for the 2019 special session of General Conference.

Delegates face an enormous task and only a short time to do it. The Committee on Reference recently decided all 48 petitions in the Commission on a Way Forward report – including those of the One Church, Traditional and Connectional Conference Plans – are “in harmony” with the Council of Bishops’ call for the Feb. 23-26 legislative gathering in St. Louis.

The Committee on Reference manages to retain a sense of humor while undertaking the challenge of deciding which petitions can be considered by the special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church. The panel met Jan. 11-12 near Dallas. Photo by Sam Hodges, UMNS.

Another 30 petitions got the go-ahead, meaning 78 petitions, in total, have been cleared for General Conference 2019, a gathering of the denomination’s top legislative assembly aimed at helping The United Methodist Church stay unified despite deep conflict over homosexuality.

Petitions outside the Way Forward report that deal with LGBTQ inclusion or exclusion in the church made the cut. So did petitions that would make it easier for local churches to exit the denomination.

Two very different legislative alternatives, the Simple Plan and Modified Traditional Plan, survived. But petitions that would change the episcopacy and Judicial Council did not. A petition that would allow for dissolution of the denomination also was ruled out of harmony.

The reference committee, consisting of clergy and lay General Conference delegates from all jurisdictions and central conferences, met Jan. 11-12 at an airport hotel near Dallas.

Committee members arrived at criteria for their decisions but acknowledged they were feeling their way through an extraordinary screening process.

“We don’t have a template for what we’re doing,” said the Rev. Chuck Savage, committee chair, as the session got underway.

He and 18 other committee members present decided to focus on relevance rather than the merits or constitutionality of petitions. Read the entire article here

The Commission on the General Conference has devised a process for determining the order in which legislative proposals will be considered by the single legislative committee during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.

Petitions which compose a plan will be considered together as one unit. Petitions which are not part of a plan will be considered individually. On the first official day of the session, February 24, plans and petitions will be listed one at a time on the video screens in numerical order by petition number(s). Delegates will then be able to indicate whether they consider each a high priority or a low priority by pressing either 1 or 2 on their voting device.

New voting devices using smartcard technology will make voting simpler and more secure. Each delegate will have a smartcard which can only be used once.

The Rev. Juliet Spencer, a commission member from the Louisiana Conference, tests out a new voting device that will be used by General Conference delegates in 2019 and 2020. Photo by Heather Hahn, UMNS.

On-screen prompts give delegates easy instructions to direct them on what to do, how they are voting, and to confirm receipt of the vote.

Each plan or petition will be listed in order of the High Priority percentage. Results of the ranking will not be shown until completion of the process for all plans and petitions. At that time, the outcome of all the rankings will be projected, with all plans and petitions listed by percentage.

Legislative committee officers will prioritize the plans and petitions in order according to the percentages listed, and the legislative committee will perfect them in that order. All petitions must receive a vote in legislative committee.

Items will be brought to the floor of the legislative committee for perfection and a committee vote in order according to the prioritization. Items receiving an affirmative vote in legislative committee will be placed on the appropriate calendar and brought to the floor of the plenary session for further debate and a vote according to the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order. All petitions approved by a legislative committee must have a vote by the plenary session.

A Dakotas Conference communications team will also be on the ground in St. Louis.  You can expect email summaries and features, plus real-time coverage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.  You can watch the 2019 General Conference live here.

Here are some resources to learn more about the specific petitions that will be considered.

The Committee on Reference’s report, which lists the petitions determined to be in harmony and which were not, is available online .

The final report of the Commission on a Way Forward

The Advance Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA) contains the agenda, rules, delegate listings, petitions, reports from the general agencies/commissions and study committees, information for delegates, and codes of conduct for the 2019 General Conference. 

The Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) is produced daily during the General Conference sessions, and contains news and features as well as the verbatim transcript of the conference proceedings and calendar items. View the DCA here

“Perspectives on a Way Forward,” a panel discussion streamed on February 6, featured speakers for each of the major plans proposed to the 2019 General Conference. View the discussion here.

Track legislation throughout the 2019 General Conference by petition number or keyword here


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