After a week of blog silence, I’ve decided to venture from my burrow and make predictions about General Conference. I warn you that in the March Madness Bracketology I only got 36 of 63 correct, and that that event portends to be mild compared to 992 delegates and guests having their say in Fort Worth. So here’s some of the news out of Forth Worth over the next two weeks.
Global Church and Regionalism.
The charismatic leadership of Scott Jones will convince the delegates that the Council on Bishops should be trusted with this pig in a poke and approve the Constitutional changes which might/could/should lead to Regional Conferences. Both liberals and conservatives will expect this major restructuring to aid their cause and so will combine forces for its passage, especially after the specter is raised by the Robbins and Wulf petitions of more radical implementation. A quadrennial commission will be created with each jurisdiction appointing 4 members (inclusive of all ethnic groups), the Council on Bishops appointing 3 members and selecting one of their own as the chair, and each of the Boards and Commissions and official Caucuses, along with the Connectional Table sending two members.
Judicial Council Elections.
Despite an organized effort, the Confessing Movement will fail in its attempt to have Keith Boyette and Mary Daffin re-elected. Too much fall out from JC Decision 1032 (pastor’s authority in determining church membership). However, the CM will succeed in placing three new conservative faces on the council (of five total elected), most likely Jon Enns, Gloria Brooks and Raymond Mutombo.
Progressives will feel confident of victory as the report out of the legislative committee includes the statement “we confess we are of divided minds (as opposed to open minds?) on the subject of homosexuality...” However, in the general session the statement is struck and the stances on homosexuality, same-sex unions, and self-avowed practicing ministers essentially remains the same, but with a slightly wider margin of passage 64 -36%. An orchestrated demonstration will disrupt proceedings and unfortunately turn bitter. No arrests like Cleveland, but Conference will have to recess for decorum to be restored.
Although the Majority Report of the Study Commission called for four more years, four more years, four more years…., the minority will succeed in getting several issues to the floor this year. Never ready to postpone what we can add to the present confusion, the following non-systematic changes will be made.
A) Full Deacons will be given sacramental rights, whether they want them or not. B) Sacramental privilege for Local Pastors will be limited to pastors who have completed Basic Course of Study or completed a two day worshop on the Sacraments (as part of or in additional to Licensing School). C) Moving ordination early in the process (at completion of seminary, for instance) and separating it from conference membership, will be defeated. D) Residency will change from three years back to two years. E) Full time Local Pastors will receive voting rights for General conference elections after completion of Basic Course of Study plus two years of additional service. F) "Guaranteed appointments" will be changed by making the requirement to prove "appointability" a responsibility of the pastor. And G) another Study commission will be approved for four more years.
The addition will pass, regrettably, after being truncated to “Our mission is to make disciples for the transformation of the world.”
The shocker. Organized efforts to limit the budget increase of General Boards and Agencies has an effect, and while there are no real reductions in their budgets, all additional funding requests are denied.
Book of Resolutions
We will pass resolutions on everything from the ethical treatment of chickens used in Grandma’s Chicken soup to the support of recycling copies of the 2000 and 2004 Book of Resolutions. However, this time the “whereas’s will not be printed.
The worship and singing will be great. The seats will be uncomfortable. The food will become tedious. The new friends will be a blessing. And the blogging will be uncontrollable!