By Cate Monaghan
Interim Director of Communications, California-Nevada Annual Conference
The legislative work of the 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church begins on Sunday, Feb. 24 with an organizational session. First order of business will be standard housekeeping items such as setting the bar and taking roll call. The plenary will receive reports from the Committee on the General Conference, Committee on Agenda and Calendar, and Administrative Committees, as well as the report from the Commission on a Way Forward.
Emily Allen, co-chair of the California-Nevada delegation, has been elected chair of the Committee on Agenda and Calendar.
That completed, plenary will be adjourned and the presiding bishop will convene a Legislative Committee (comprised of all voting delegates, who will not move from their places) with Gary Graves, secretary of General Conference, as organizing secretary. At that point delegates will elect a committee chair, vice chair, and secretary – a crucial matter from the perspective of the One Church Plan Coalition, which is lobbying for election of delegates seen as unbiased toward any one proposal for the reorganization of the church.
The body of work for the day will involve prioritizing the petitions that have been submitted.
“That will be done by ranking a high priority or a low priority,” said Graves, explaining that those will be the options for delegates to press into their voting device. “And [subsequently] we will rank everything in a list, based on the number of votes, or the percentage of high priority. So it will be ranked [from] the most high priority to the lowest – one list – and that is the order in which the items will be going to the Legislative Committee.”
A Judicial Council ruling created a last-minute change to the order of business. The Council ruled that anything related to the Central Conferences must be received and reviewed by the Standing Committee on Central Conferences. Previously all 78 pieces of legislation that the Committee on Reference had found to be in harmony with the purpose of the special session had been assigned to the Legislative Committee; now the Standing Committee will have to convene and report findings to the Legislative Committee on those items pertaining to the Central Conferences. How many petitions will be affected will be determined by the Committee on Reference, which was conducting a review of the 78 items Saturday
The Legislative Committee could begin its work on Sunday or wait until Monday – the designated day for the committee work to be done.
At an orientation session Saturday afternoon, following the Day of Prayer celebration, Graves introduced Dr. Leonard Young, who has been hired to serve as the parliamentarian of the 2019 General Conference.
“It was a motion of the 2016 General Conference for the Commission on General Conference and the secretary of the General Conference to explore the possibility of bringing a professional parliamentarian to bring advice to our deliberative process,” Graves explained. Young was engaged to coach the bishops in the areas of presiding and parliamentary processes, to prepare them to preside over this General Conference and the annual conferences they oversee. He has been a professional, registered parliamentarian for 35 years and “believes deeply,” Graves said, “that parliamentary processes should bring unity, peace, and good fellowship among people of faith.”
Every conference – general or otherwise – could use a little of that.
Watch the live stream Sunday from opening worship (7:30 a.m. Central Standard Time) to adjournment at 6:30 p.m. CST.