General Conference 2016
Letter From St. Luker Alice Williams, East Central District Lay Leader and General Conference Delegate:
As I’m writing this, in less than 14 days 18 members of the FLUMC, including yours truly, will be headed to Portland, Oregon to join representatives from UMC churches and missions all over the world for General Conference 2016. There will be 864 delegates gathering in Portland from May 10th through May 20th to discern how God is calling us as people called Methodist to go about our mission of making “disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”. As part of this process the delegates are assigned to committees (after all, we are Methodists) and in these committees we will wade through and refine some 1,044 pieces of legislation. The most crucial pieces of legislation then comes before the entire body for discernment and vote (we truly are a democratic denomination). In addition to the legislative work, we will hear how God is at work in and through the Methodist church throughout the world. We will also take part in what I am sure will be many moments of meaningful worship.
While I am extremely excited about being a part of this General Conference, I would be dishonest if I didn’t also let you know that I am somewhat apprehensive. There is no doubt that God will lead us and that whatever the outcomes, His steadfast love and grace will abound. My concern lies with how well we will honor what makes us so unique as a denomination – our connection, our unity. Through the extensive work over the past 10 years in the Florida Conference that I’ve been fortunate to be involved in, I have come to realize that as a denomination we are blessed to be a connectional church. We simply can do more and be more by being in connection with one another. While this General Conference is far from being a one issue conference, it does appear that our varying positions around human sexuality has been and continues to set a contentious undertone. There are those who say we will split because of it, and others who say nothing will change. I’m of the opinion that the outcome will be something in the middle – and what that looks like I haven’t a clue. My head and heart tell me that we are the church of Jesus Christ and that our table and denomination is open to and has room for all. God has gifted each congregation in unique ways and callings. I want to believe that as United Methodists each congregation can live into their calling that God will honor and use to reach a world in need of His love and redeeming grace.
The General Conference events will be accessible live via the web so that you can watch as you like. Simply go to UMC General Conference 2016 to catch the live-stream starting on the 10th. More importantly I would ask that you hold all those attending General Conference and especially your Florida delegates in prayer. This will not be easy work or a “cushy” time in Portland. The days will be long and I expect the work to be intense. As delegates, we’ve been preparing spiritually and intellectually since last year’s Annual Conference and I think we are about as ready as we can be. I am more familiar with the Book of Discipline (parts are still a snoozer to read) and our church’s polity now than I ever thought I would be. As events unfold, I will do my best to send email blasts to keep you updated on key events. Most of all, I commit to representing my church, the East Central District and the Florida Conference in a way that I hope honors God.
Here are the names of our delegates for you to hold up in prayer:
Remembering who we are and whose we are,
Delegate to GC 2016, proudly representing the East Central District and the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church