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May 5, 2000 GC-022

Daily wrap-up: Delegates discuss CPT report for first time

CLEVELAND (UMNS) – General Conference delegates had their first discussions May 5 about a report that proposes a restructuring of the United Methodist Church.

The delegates referred the entire report by the Connectional Process Team (CPT) to the General and Judicial Administration Committee, one of the assembly’s 10 legislative committees. The CPT was created by the 1996 General Conference to develop a "transformational direction" for the church. The team has spent four years working on its report.

The action by the 992 delegates was the first discussion of the report in a plenary session after extensive review in small groups. An assessment of strengths and weaknesses was reported to the delegates May 4.

The Rev. Minerva Carcano of Dallas, a CPT member, asked the conference to create a temporary Covenant Council that would initiate gradual change toward a transformational direction for the denomination. The entire report suggests sweeping changes in both regional and international activities and organizational structure.

On behalf of the CPT, Carcano proposed that the temporary Covenant Council would replace the current General Council on Ministries and would be accountable to the 2004 General Conference. The temporary body would continue the work done by the CPT and report regularly to annual (regional) conferences and the Council of Bishops.

After extensive debate and parliamentary motions, more than 63 percent of the delegates voted to refer the entire report to the legislative committee. That panel will review the CPT report and proposals and bring recommendations back to the entire body of delegates before the conference adjourns May 12.

General Conference, which meets every four years, is the top legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church and the only body that speaks for the denomination.

In another action, the conference voted 861-67 to support removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol building. The vote was taken as the result of a resolution brought by the South Carolina delegates. The state’s annual conference, Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey, and other church officials and bodies in the state have called for removal of the flag.

Also during the May 5 session, the gavel symbolizing the presidency of the United Methodist Council of Bishops passed from Bishop Robert C. Morgan of Louisville, Ky., to Bishop William B. Oden of Dallas. Bishop Elias G. Galvan of Seattle has been named president-elect to take office a year from now.

In a news conference, Oden said the major issue before United Methodism is the global nature of the church. "We have basically been a U.S. church with global outposts … (and) are having to recreate our structure" to make the global nature visible.

Other major issues cited by Oden were racism, poverty around the world and theological education.

Asked if he thought debate on homosexuality would be harmful for the church, Oden said he believes such discussion will draw "us closer together."

In the spirit of the May 4 service, in which the delegates repented for racism in the church, the General Conference adopted by a near-unanimous vote a resolution introduced by Ronald Bretsch of Norwood, N.Y., extending greetings to Pope John Paul II and recognizing "the profound statements of sorrow and regret that you have made in this year of Jubilee regarding certain past practices of the Roman Catholic church, Catholics and other Christians."

"We accept your apology for the use of force in the search for truth practiced against our Protestant forebears in the Christian faith. In the instances of misunderstandings, insensitivities and harm brought about by the United Methodist Church and its predecessors in the faith to the Roman Catholic Church and Catholics, we in turn ask forgiveness for our deeds of commission and omission.

"We rejoice in the growth of mutual understanding of each other that has developed in the past decades between the Roman Catholic and United Methodist churches and among Roman Catholics and United Methodists. We look forward to increased understanding that is brought about by prayer, dialogue and reflection."

During the morning worship service, Arkansas Bishop Janice R. Huie called on United Methodists to let go of their fear and distrust of each other. The church cannot step out in mission when it is focused on "hanging on for dear life," she said in her sermon.

The church has been doing "far too much hanging on and surviving in the last part of the 20th century," Huie said. "Too long, we’ve tried to love God and love our neighbor and still hang on in fear."

Other highlights of the morning included a report on the growth of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and singing by choirs from the university and from United Methodist-related Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla.

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- Robert Lear

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