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Newscope Excerpts


A Newsletter for United Methodist Leaders

Vol. 28, No. 6/February 11, 2000

Financial Administration Committee to Handle Most Legislative Proposals

Each resolution or petition to amend the Book of Discipline is first debated and often amended by one of ten legislative committees before presentation to a General Conference plenary session with a recommendation for concurrence or non-concurrence.

The Financial Administration Committee will deal with 286 proposals, the highest number of any committee. Some 612 individuals or groups hope this committee will support their proposal to make apportionments voluntary; 281 want all Ministerial Education Funds to be distributed by annual conferences.

Higher Education and Ministry will handle 264 proposals. Eighty-two want to reinstate the order of diaconal minister and 368 want faculty and staff of UM schools to affirm classical Christianity.

General/Judicial Administration will handle 230 pieces of legislation. Some 107 want General Conference to affirm that a truly inclusive church would exclude no one; 160 want to add conducting a same-sex service as a chargeable offense; 350 want to reduce general agency staff by two-thirds; 350 would like to establish a panel to rewrite the Social Principles; 368 want to require all general agency staff (with the exception of the general secretary) to pay their own way to General Conference; 368 want all general agencies members to be elected by jurisdictional and central conferences; and 359 want to eliminate GCOM.

Some 221 proposals are assigned to Faith and Order. A call to retain current wording on abortion is supported by 141 groups or individuals; 191 want to remove the clause declaring the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching, and 341 want to retain the clause; 203 want to remove "self avowed" and replace it with "persons who practice homosexuality"; 259 want to give clergy discretion in celebrating same-sex unions, and 90 want to delete the prohibition against conducting same-sex unions.

Church and Society will address 111 proposals. The group will deal with many proposed changes to the Book of Resolutions; 350 persons want to discontinue the General Board of Church and Society.

Ninety-four proposals have been assigned to Local Church, with 125 persons calling for a provision to allow absentee voting at charge conferences.

Conferences will handle 81 proposals, including an effort to change the formula by which General Conference delegates are elected. That proposition is supported by 110 persons or groups. Some 340 want resolutions to expire after eight years instead of 12.

Independent Commissions will have 56 petitions, including a request to create a General Commission on Alcohol and Drugs, supported by 76 persons. Some 350 persons want the UMC to withdraw from the National Council of Churches and to eliminate the Commission on the Status and Role of Women. 

Global Ministries will have 65 proposals and Discipleship will address 83 proposed resolutions or changes to the Discipline. -- Sheila McGee, petitions secretary

Computer Bugs Sting DCA Editors

Delegates to General Conference may never know how close they came to not having the Advance Edition of the Daily Christian Advocate (DCA)published on schedule.

After discovering that hundreds of petitions failed to make it through a sort performed by computer software, DCA staffers spent the entire week of Jan. 24 searching for missing petitions and re-entering them. Early Saturday afternoon, John Brawn, the person who designed the Petition Entry Tracking System (PETS) for General Conference, solved many of the problems. "You'll have to delete all the work you've done to date and reload newly sorted files," he said.

In a controlled state of panic, Peck recruited six volunteers who worked a total of 48 hours over the next three days, including an all-nighter on Monday night. The exhausted team had the 1,148-page document ready for the printer on schedule to begin deliveries on Feb. 24.

Brawn thinks many of the problems came from the practice of loading petitions from e-mail or computer disks directly into PETS. Some of the coding within these petitions corrupted other files. He advises that if DCA staff reopens each of the 1,800 petitions and saves them in the word processor used by PETS, the problem will be solved prior to its use by conference delegates when they assemble in early May.

PETS will not be posted on the web until all of the software wrinkles are ironed out. Newscope will advise readers about when and where it is posted.

In spite of the staff's Herculean efforts, some of the e-mail petitions never made it into the Advance Edition. X20As soon as technical issues are resolved, these petitions will be posted on the web and they will be included in the GCFA final report to be mailed to delegates next month.

Conferences Not Addressing Retiree Health Benefits, Say Officials

Funding retiree health benefits is the number one benefits issue facing the UMC, yet most of the annual conferences appear to be doing nothing to address the need, according to church officials.

The retiree medical liability facing annual conferences could be as high as $1.8 billion, said Bob Preusch, a staff executive with the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.

"The liability of the denomination is an enormous one, and it's growing very rapidly," Preusch told governing members of the board during their Jan. 27-28 meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Our participants are at risk of losing an important benefit."

Annual conferences are responsible for providing health-care coverage for their retired clergymembers and other employees. Funding that coverage was identified by the board's Benefits 2000 Task Force in 1998 as the top benefits concern for the denomination. The report stated that without a well-planned projection of the liabilities, a change in the makeup of the benefits, or some sort of cost-sharing with retirees, "the future holds the potential for financial catastrophe at all levels of the denomination."

The board set plans whereby General Conference delegates could offer an amendment to its petition directing the agency to develop a report on retiree medical benefits. The amendment, which will be offered in Cleveland, would enable the board to collect the information it needs from the annual conferences regarding retiree medical obligations and report back to General Conference in 2004. -- UMNS

UM Agency Surveys General Conference Delegates

Young people and poor persons will be under-represented at the 2000 General Conference, according to a recent survey by the General Council on Ministries.

Sixhundred forty-eight of the 831 U.S. delegates who returned survey forms were professionals, with 70% reporting they are more than 50 years of age. Eight out of 10 respondents have total household incomes of more than $50,000. Forty-nine percent of the respondents reside in households with incomes of more than $75,000. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents have a bachelor's degree or more education. Some 26% of the lay delegates are retired.

Thirty-eight percent of the respondents will be first-time delegates, compared to 43.7% of those responding to a similar survey in 1996, 42.5% in 1992, and 33.8% in 1988.

Asked what they believe will be the most significant issues facing the UMC, the 341 clergy and 307 laity respondents said homosexuality, finances, evangelism, restructuring, and the church's mission. 

Ninety-three percent of the delegates said they will vote their conscience, and only 25% said they feel obliged to support resolutions passed by their annual conferences. 

Black Church Initiative Achieves Goals

The 1996 General Conference launched "Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century," as a way of enabling growing churches to help other congregations. The goal was to establish 25 congregation resource centers that would provide resources and training for 400-600 teams of lay and clergy from local churches. 

A report to the 2000 General Conference shows 25 resource centers have provided training and resources for 298 lay and clergy teams from partner congregations. The group will ask General Conference to continue the initiative with a $1,732,000 budget for the 2001-2004 quadrennium.

Have questions about General Conference?  Call InfoServ at 1-800-251-8140, 8AM-4:30PM Central Time, Monday-Friday.  Email: infoserv@umcom.umc.org 

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