Annual Conference 2018 is finished and it was interesting, to say the least. Air travel problems and health matters upset the schedule and differences of opinion between members on The Way Forward and politics in general seemed to be a part of every issue. An old Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times,” seems to fit perfectly. No thank you.
Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr. from the Great Plains Conference (Kansas and Nebraska) was to be our guest preacher at opening worship but his plane was delayed so Bishop Mueller preached opening worship and Bishop Saenz preached Tuesday’s ordination worship service. Bishop Mueller challenged us to move from opinion faith to find deeper faith. Opinion faith is based upon making Jesus what we want him to be while deeper faith is taking Jesus as he is and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us to do things in Jesus name we cannot accomplish on our own.
Monday opened with the Bishop’s episcopal address. The Bishop encouraged us to follow the pathways of hope: God is still God, God is not finished yet, we still have all we need in Jesus Christ, and we can still experience God’s “unconditional, invitational and transformational love in Jesus Christ that changes everything.” Bishop Mueller reminded us, “it is not about how successful we are, it’s about what Jesus’ power can do.”
Our business sessions began Monday and ended Wednesday morning. In addition to regular reports, administrative matters and votes, legislative matters were also considered.
During Ordination worship we witnessed the baptism of the daughter of Rev. David Reuhr (Wesley UMC, Russellville) and wife, Emily, we heard Bishop Saenz preach, commissioned and ordained new deacons and elders and shared Holy Communion.
- We re-voted on proposed constitutional amendment 1. Last year’s vote on the measure was purged because the version send out to the annual conferences contained wording the GC has removed. The vote totals will be reported to us after all ac’s have voted again sometime after June 2019.
- A resolution supporting just and inclusive policy for lay staff was ruled out of order by the Bishop following the advice of the Conference Chancellor, Michelle Ator. Mrs. Ator’s opinion expressed that resolutions should express the will of the AC in non-mandatory terms while the resolution contained language that indicated mandatory action.
- A resolution seeking that each charge conference take a straw poll on The Way Forward was defeated on a counted vote (rather than show of hands). The primary argument against the resolution was that it would put pressure on our GC delegates to vote in a particular way rather than voting their prayerful conscience.
- A Petition Affirming Current Doctrine and Discipline was defeated. The feeling of the AC was that this measure, too, sought to inappropriately influence the GC delegates.
- A petition on the Affirmation of the Movement of the Holy Spirit was defeated. The sponsors of this petition detailed the changes the Holy Spirit has made in the Methodist Church since our beginning. Also seen as an attempt to influence the GC delegates, it was defeated.
- A resolution Affirming Women in Ministry was referred to holy conferencing. The measure was prepared and submitted without any input or consultation from the major women’s groups of our conference, the Conference Committee on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) and the Clergywomen of the Arkansas Annual Conference. In protest, a significant number of women clergy and laity left the bar of the Conference (walked off the floor the arena). A vote to refer the resolution to holy conferencing was approved. In the next year, the opposing parties will come together to attempt to resolve their differences.
- The Resolution to End Child/Parent Separation in response to the presidential administration’s zero tolerance policy concerning undocumented persons was approved.
- A resolution to reestablish the Committee on Native American Ministries was approved. Rev. Angie Gage presented a portion of her introduction in the Cherokee language.
It was a full several days to say the least.
If you desire additional information about AC 2018, please go the Arkansas Conference website, arumc.org, or contact me.