Oregon-Idaho Welcomes General Conference Briefing
Green vests were everywhere as the Oregon-Idaho Conference welcomed the 2016 Pre-General Conference briefing to Portland, Oregon, January 20-22.
The briefing was an event organized by United Methodist Communications to help communications professionals and delegates prepare for the General Conference that will be held May 10-120. Over 400 attendees heard from a variety of panels about what to expect at General Conference, and got a preview of some of the key issues that will be before the assembly in May.
Opening worship was organized by Rev. Steve Lewis, pastor at Gresham United Methodist Church. Inspiring music, graphic images and celebration of communion were accompanied by a challenging sermon from Lewis. A key line from his message has been repeated and retweeted across the internet, "In this age of social media, few will read what we write, but millions will watch what we do.”
Volunteers from the local host committee greeted arrivals at the Portland International Airport and helped them connect with the MAX light rail system. At the hotel they assisted with registration, provided welcome packets, and recommendations for exploring the city of Portland.
In the convention center, a local host booth provided more information about tours for those attending general conference, community service options, and other local tips. Green vested volunteers were on hand to help set up rooms, guide people, and provide tours of the convention center and local hotels. The briefing was a chance for delegates and communicators from around the nation to learn what to expect and hear about some of the key issues. Oregon-Idaho Director of Communications, Greg Nelson led a panel discussion with those planning the General Conference about the proposed agenda, rules, and processes of the gathering. Other panels talked about key issues such as the acceptance of LGBTQI persons in the church, plans for reorganization of church structure and the world-wide nature of the church. Bishop Grant Hagiya was part of a panel about possible changes for clergy and bishops in church rules.
Time was set aside in the briefing to explain and practice a new way of doing business at General Conference. The Commission on General Conference is proposing a rule (rule 44) that would allow the members of General Conference to remove some legislative petitions from the existing process and use an alternate process. This rule 44 process calls for small discussion groups to review legislation and identify key points. These will then be sent to a team of elected “writers” that will craft compromise legislation to bring back to the whole body. It is hoped that this process will allow greater participation and dialog than using the existing committee system and Robert’s Rules of Order. The committee is concerned that Robert’s Rules are not easily understood by all delegates, especially those from outside the United States. They hope that a discernment process can build Christian conferencing between delegates. In addition to the briefing, meetings were held in Portland for the United Methodist Association of Communicators and the Association of Directors of Connectional Ministry. Many visitors from the east coast got an extra vacation in Portland when their flights were canceled by east coast snow storms. Facebook filled up with pictures of VooDoo Doughnuts as they explored the city.
Additional briefings will be held in the Philippines, Africa, and Russia for Central Conference delegates. At least one person from each central conference also attended the U.S. briefing in Portland.
Learn more at www.umc.org/GC2016
Learn and sign up to volunteer at www.GC2016PDX.org
Read another report of the event in United Methodist Insight and United Methodist News Service.