Written by Rev. Becky Brown
Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska always affirms my call to be ordained clergy, encourages me in ministry, challenges me, uplifts me through spending time catching up with ministry colleagues, and brings to light new ideas for ways to be in ministry together as the Body of Christ. Delegates from Greensboro to Murphy gather for several days to share in worship together, celebrate Holy Communion, celebrate clergy who are entering retirement, celebrate the life of the clergy and spouses who have entered the church triumphant, commission and ordain those who have answered the call to pastoral ministry, and take care of the business of the conference.
During the business sessions, proposals are presented to the gathered body of delegates. There is an opportunity for people to debate the legislation in an organized manner, and then the body votes whether to adopt the statements presented into our annual conference bylaws. Several petitions came before the floor, and here’s a few highlights for me (the reader’s digest version – if you’d like to see the whole book of reports, I’m happy to provide you with a link):
Resolved, that the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, in the name and Spirit of Jesus Christ, shall respectfully request the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice to reunite children with their families who had previously been separated by the United States government due to the “zero tolerance” policy in an expedient, humane, and compassionate manner.
** This passed with an overwhelming majority vote. The conference secretary, Kim Ingram, is sending a letter to the Dept of Homeland Security and Department of Justice on behalf of our annual conference.
Resolved, that the Western North Carolina Conference is committed to employment practices that are aligned with The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church. The WNC Conference encourages and supports local church policies in which laity called to serve are employed and dismissed based solely on their gifts and graces without regard for sexual orientation or gender identity.
** There have been several known cases of people being dismissed from church staff or leadership based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This states that practice is not in keeping with our Social Principles and is not allowable in our conference. This passed with an overwhelming majority.
Resolved, that the Western North Carolina Annual Conference strongly urges that any plan passed by the 2019 General Conference have within it the provision of a just and gracious exit path for congregations who cannot in good conscience abide by the stance of the church regarding LGBTQ ministry, as determined by the 2019 General Conference. Such an exit path should allow congregations to leave the denomination with their buildings and assets, assuming their own liabilities, but without demanding payments to the conference that could impact the congregations’ ministry. “Though we may not think alike, can we not love alike” (J. Wesley).
** This petition was not brought before the floor because Bishop Paul Leeland proclaimed it “out of order” because we cannot make decisions as an annual conference before we know the results of the General Conference in February 2019.
I’m happy to meet with anyone who has questions about Annual Conference and what goes on there. I’m happy to go over the legislation presented and passed. I’m happy to talk with folks about United Methodist Church organization and unpack how the larger church functions as one body. Just give me a call, text me, or stop by!