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April 25 wrap-up: Historic moments regionalization, Eurasia exits

By: Joey Butler, UM News Service and Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

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Bishop Tracy Smith Malone surveys the results of a delegate vote in favor of a worldwide regionalization plan as she presides over a legislative session of the 2024 United Methodist General Conference in Charlotte, N.C., on April 25, 2024. The proposal needed a two-third majority vote to pass. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UM News.

The plenary session on Day 3 of General Conference produced two historic moments: the passage of a constitutional amendment that aims to put The United Methodist Church’s different geographic regions on equal footing and the approval of four Eurasia conferences’ official departure from the denomination.

Bishop Eduard Khegay, episcopal leader of the Eurasia Area, gave a moving farewell speech following the passage of a petition that will enable four Eurasian annual conferences to become autonomous. He expressed gratitude to the denomination, using the phrase for “thank you” in Russian: “Bolshoe spasibo.”

A green light for regionalization

General Conference has now passed much of the legislation that aims to give The United Methodist Church’s different geographic regions equal standing in decision-making. Delegates voted 586 to 164 for an amendment to the denomination’s constitution that will now go before annual conference voters for potential ratification.

 

It is unusual for such consequential legislation to be voted on during the first week of General Conference. The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters — a permanent General Conference committee with a majority of its membership from central conferences — gave its final approval to the eight petitions on regionalization in its April 21-22 meeting prior to the start of General Conference on April 23, opening up the proposals to be voted on so early in the assembly.

As part of the morning’s consent calendar, delegates also approved a measure titled “Regionalization and Contextualization of Marriage,” submitted by the Michigan Conference Bishop David Bard for the Council of Bishops. The new additions to the Book of Discipline allow central conferences to set their standards for marriage rites and clergy ordination.

The entire consent calendar that included the regionalization legislation and the Council of Bishops measure passed by a vote of 646 to 73.

Read more by Joey Butler

Reactions from Dakotas Conference delegation

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Bishop Lanette, center, prays with those dealing with trauma and abuse. Photo by Derek Leek, director of communications, North Carolina Conference

Rev. Rebecca Trefz, clergy delegate for the Dakotas Conference shared, “I was pleasantly surprised that it passed so quickly. There were good questions about how this will work and thankfully one of the petitions we passed was for a study committee to be implemented so we can learn and adjust as needed. It was really encouraging to hear from the Central Conference (international) delegates who spoke in favor. It was also powerful to realize this came out of the Christmas Covenant which was initiated primarily by a group of Central Conference delegates as a vision for how to move forward as a worldwide denomination.”

“The debate regarding regionalization was respectful and thoughtful. As I looked around, people were bowing their heads in prayer as the vote was taking place. When they announced the outcome of the vote with a strong 78.13% in support, I sensed a collective sigh of relief. It feels like our beloved United Methodist Church is moving forward in significant ways,” said Rev. Sara Nelson, clergy reserve delegate.

“It was great that this matter was passed so early in our work together. It sets the tone for the work ahead. It felt like a turning point,” noted Beata Ferris, reserve lay delegate.

Kara Heagel, lay delegate and head of the Dakotas Conference delegation, stated, “I echo what others have said. I was both surprised and pleased that the petition passed with little debate, or maybe not as much as I was expecting. I love that this was adopted without amendment as the majority of the work came from the Christmas Covenant; so we have honored the Central Conference delegates' work well as we re-imagine the structure of the UMC.”

Read more about regionalization

Other historic moments

Historic moments flourished, beginning with worship, where Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, resident bishop for the Washington Episcopal Area, and a survivor of domestic violence in a previous marriage, shared that when she entered the ministry, she was urged not to reveal that part of her life. "Too often," she said, “Silence has been the church’s response.”

During a break, Bishop Lanette Plambeck, resident bishop for our Dakotas-Minnesota Area, joined Bishop Easterling to pray with and care for those present that may have experienced abuse and trauma.

Bishop David Wilson, resident bishop of the Great Plains Area and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, presided. He is the first Native American to serve as a United Methodist bishop and preside at General Conference.
 

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Sharing communion as legislative committee work concludes for the day. Photo by Kara Heagel.

Legislative committee work continues.

Legislative committee work continued throughout the afternoon.

Dakotas Conference lay delegate Kara Heagal, a member of the Higher Education and District Superintendency Committee, shares, “Wednesday my legislative committee was tense and a little dramatic as we worked through our nominations and elections of committee officers. Today, however, we ended our time with communion, led by a Central Conference delegate.”

It was a true witness of the global connection and unity.

Today's schedule*
*EDT—Eastern Daylight Time
View entire agenda hereWatch the livestream.
8:00 – 8:45 a.m. —Worship
8:45 – 10:20 a.m.—Plenary Session
     Monitoring Report
     Laity Address
     Election of the Interjurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy 
     Connectional Table Report
     Administrative Committee Reports
     Calendar Items
10:50 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.—Legislative Committees 
1:30-6:30 p.m.—Legislative Committees 

General Conference Resources:

Dakotas Conference articles
Dakotas Conference videos
Dakotas Conference wrap-up videos: April 23, April 24, April 25
United Methodist News Service photos
Livestream archive
United Methodist Communications wrap-up videos: April 23, April 24
General Conference website
 

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