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Taking care of business

Raising yellow cards high in the air, the 2018 Annual Conference gets legislation done.

Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Conference

ACME, MI (MIC) – The 2018 Michigan Annual Conference made history in several areas, including legislation. Thousands of votes had been taken at the previous 49 sessions of the Detroit and West Michigan annual conferences. But it was a new moment when yellow cards were held aloft in Governor’s Hall on Thursday. No more color coding … orange circles and blue squares … to denote conference membership. All members, one yellow square. It was a visual and actual signal that The Michigan Conference has become one.

The 28 resolutions that were before the body for decision-making were, as typically the case, split evenly between matters that govern life together as a church and matters that govern the church’s engagement with the world. When the Conference agenda turned to legislation, it was an opportunity to act according to John Wesley’s Rules of Discipleship … ordering our conference, districts, local churches and relationships with the world in a spirit of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion.

Much debated

Eight resolutions generated lengthy discussion. All the motions eventually prevailed with the exception of one referral.

R 1 Plan of Organization: concern was expressed and amendment offered about the structuring of district leadership and organization. Design Team Co-chair Marsha Woolley explained that the team’s intention was to leave “as much empowerment to the districts as possible,” giving flexibility honoring the unique context of each district. Confidence was expressed in the work of the Design Team. Amendments were defeated and the Plan was approved with minor editorial changes.

R 12 Poor People’s Campaign: after much debate in which concerns were expressed about civil disobedience and the church moving outside its walls and into political halls, members voted to pray and witness for this National Call for a Moral Revival supporting workers and those in poverty. “It’s advocacy that makes things happen.” (Rev. George Covintree). “We do a lot of charitable work. Justice is often missing. Support this.” (Rev. Len Schoenherr)

R 13 Acknowledgement of Sin: Members took the scope of the resolution beyond the church setting by deleting the words “pastors and laypersons.” Approved the statement: “We acknowledge we have sinned in how we have sometimes treated those marginalized (people of color, Native American, women and LGBTQI).” A number of youth members were among those speaking in favor of confessing mistreatment of persons and extending blessing as Jesus did. Others expressed concern about disciplinary language.

Rev. Mary Ivanov, Muskegon: Lake Harbor UMC, participates in the debate in Governor’s Hall. ~mic photo/Hannah Hazen

R 14 Call for Unity in Diversity:  Delegate to the 2019 special called session of the General Conference Rev. Melanie Carey, presented R 14 saying, “John Wesley argued that diversity provides opportunity for us to grow in holiness … This resolution gives us space for grace and to disagree agreeably …. And gives the opportunity to send that message to the General Conference in 2019. Think of what unites us.” A substitute motion urging the Michigan Conference’s adoption of the One Church Model, on behalf of Minnesota clergyman David Meredith, a married gay man, was defeated. The original resolution was passed overwhelmingly.

R 15 Prevent Gun Violence: “The Michigan Conference of the UMC calls on the state of Michigan through communication by the Bishop to state representatives and senators to advocate for a state of Michigan ban on private ownership of AR-15s…” was overwhelmingly supported after discussion that called for churches to hold family support events; buy-back of weapons; security concerns; and the addressing of systemic issues within society that lead to gun violence. “We are called to a tradition of non-violence whether we like it our not. The AR-15 is a tool designed to break a commandment, ‘Do not kill.’” (Corey Simon)

R 16 Raise the Age in Michigan: The resolution, encourages Michigan UMs to contact legislators to support the bill that permits 17-year-olds to be considered juveniles in criminal court and to be held in juvenile facilities. Questions were raised around the risks to youth, the effects of abuse while incarcerated  and the present practice of the state’s judges. The Resolution passed overwhelmingly as amended in committee.

R 18 Childcare for Conferences: Debate began on Friday regarding provision of childcare at multi-charge conferences, and other mandated district and conference events. Questions about who would organize, who would pay, and assurance of safe childcare led to tabling on Friday and eventual referral to the Michigan Area Protection Policy Committee on Saturday.

R 20 End U.S. Military Support of Saudi Coalition for the War on Yemen: After much discussion, it took a standing vote of the house to determine that this resolution passed: “The Michigan Conference urges its members to advocate for legislation by the U.S. Senate to end the U.S. military support of the Saudi coalition for war on Yemen. We urge our members to contact Senators … in order to end U.S. assistance of this military action.” Arguments in favor of the action spoke to humanitarian concerns. Arguments not in favor spoke about terrorism and a general belief that such legislationon only “stirs us up.”

Amending the Constitution

Constitutional Amendment #1: Bishop Bard explained to Conference members on Saturday that there had been an error in the wording of one of the Constitutional Amendments that were voted on across the global connection in 2017. This requires a new vote by all annual conferences of The United Methodist Church. The amendment proposed a new paragraph between current Paragraph 5 and Paragraph 6 of the Discipline focusing on gender justice. A written ballot was taken which will be submitted to the Council of Bishops.

The recount will be announced after all 131 annual conferences have submitted their ballots. It takes a 2/3s vote in an annual conference to pass a Constitutional Amendment; then 2/3s of all annual conferences must  approve in order to ratify. Stay tuned.

(Note: the original vote on Amendment #1, announced earlier this year, revealed both the 2017 Detroit and West Michigan annual conferences  approved Amendment #1.)

Substitute motions are always a parliamentary challenge. Bishop Bard used an alternative way of navigating such legislation, asking at one point, “Do you want the bacon-and- eggs or the sausage-and-eggs version?” The “breakfast method” served the Conference well when processing several resolutions. ~mic photo/Hannah Hazen

Other legislation

These are the resolutions that passed on the Consent Calendar or with minimal discussion or amendment in the general session …

R 2 Management of Benefit Claims; R 3 Housing/Rental Allowance for Retired Clergy or Clergy on Medical Leave; R 5 Past Service Rate; R 7 Michigan Conference Human Resources Policy #1; R 9 Policy on Use of Proceeds of Sale & Accumulated Assets of Local Church Properties; R 10 Clergy Family Statement added to 2017 Covenant of Clergy Sexual Ethics Policy; R 17 Breastfeeding Facility at Michigan Annual Conference;  R17 Stop a War on North Korea; R 22 You Shall Not Bear False Witness;  R 25 Protecting the Right to Peacefully Address Injustice through Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions; R 26 Guidelines for Equitable Compensation Support; R 27 Minimum Base Compensation Support for 2019; R 28 is included in the Treasurer’s Report.

These are the resolutions that were referred with minimal discussion in the general session …

R 4 2019 Comprehensive Benefit Funding Plan referred to the Board of Pension & Health Benefits; R 6 Amend Rules of Order Par. 5.1.2 referred to Rules Committee; R 8 Michigan Conference Human Resources Policy #2 referred to Human Resources Committee; R 11 Formation of Older Adult Ministries Council referred to the Board of Congregational Life; R 23 Child Incarceration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UMW Priorities referred to Board of Justice; R24 Advocating for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Occupation referred to Board of Justice.

Note: Resolution 19 (Questions for Candidates for Federal and State Offices) was not considered because the presenter was not in attendance at Legislative Committee.

Click here to see the detailed Resolutions in the Legislation Book.

Click here for the Consent Calendar and Legislative Committee Reports that include amendments in committee.

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