May 19 Wrap-up: Native Americans, Cost of Special Session and Missionaries

May 19 was a busy day of at General Conference 2016.

Raising Awareness of the Impact of Mascots

The conference passed a resolution calling on United Methodist agencies to raise awareness about the negative impact of sports franchises that use mascots or symbols that disrespect Native Americans. The petition was scaled back from the original in the Discipleship Committee. It originally included language that would have asked United Methodist groups not to have meetings in cities that have sports teams with such mascots or symbols.


New Missionaries

29 new Missionaries were commissioned on Thursday. The come from 11 different countries and will serve in 16 different countries. Among the missionaries commissioned was Rio Texas' own Anna Troy. Anna was commissioned to serve as Outreach Coordinator for Partners in Ministry, Youth Empowered to Succeed, Laurinburg, N.C.



Cost of Special Session

The General Council on Finance and Administration reported that the special called General Conference recommended by the Council of Bishops and Supported by the General Conference would cost approximately $3.39 million for two days and $4.12 million for three days.

Moses Kumar, chief executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration, told the assembly that the special session could be paid for without changing the proposed 2017-2020 general church budget. Kumar recommended shortening the 2020 General Conference to offset the cost.




“Standing Committee on Strategy and Growth" Ruled Unconstitutional

The Judicial Council has ruled that the proposed creation of a “Standing Committee on Strategy and Growth” funded by $20 million taken from the World Service Fund in unconstitutional. The council ruled that the proposal is in conflict with paragraph 16.9 of the constitution.

The Judicial Council reviewed the proposal after the General Conference requested a declaratory decision on the amended petition from the Financial Administrative Committee.





GC2016 Puts Hold on Sexuality Debate

Late afternoon May 18, General Conference delegates voted by 428 to 405 to accept a recommendation of the Council of Bishops to delay a debate on homosexuality at this year's conference and let a proposed commission study church regulations.

Read the recommendation of the Council of Bishops

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie talks with rio texas delegation members Laura merrill and abel vega during a break in Wednesday's proceedings.

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie talks with rio texas delegation members Laura merrill and abel vega during a break in Wednesday's proceedings.

The vote came after a contentious day that first saw the defeat of a motion proposed by Rev. Adam Hamilton, Pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Hamilton's motion added detail to the Council of Bishop's call for the creation of a commission and a special General Conference to deal with sexuality issues calling the bishop's ideas "our best chance of finding a long-term solution."

The new motion accepted the recommendation of the Council of Bishops in its entirety raising some questions about the details of moving forward.

Watch Adam Hamilton's reaction to the acceptance of the bishops' plan. (Courtesy of Great Plains Annual Conference):

Bishop Ough shares Council of Bishops proposal for unity

The following is a statement read during the morning plenary session May 18 in Portland, Oregon:

Galatians 3:25-29 (NRSV)
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.
Your bishops were honored to receive the request of General Conference to help lead our United Methodist Church forward during this time of both great crisis and great opportunity.  As far as we can discover, this is the first time that a General Conference has ever made such a request of the Council of Bishops, and we accept this request with humility.
We share with you a deep commitment to the unity of the church in Christ our Lord.  Yesterday, our president shared the deep pain we feel.  We have all prayed for months and continue to do so.  We seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters.  This deep unity allows for a variety of expressions to co-exist in one church.  Within the Church, we are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other rather than separation from one another.  This is the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21-23.
UNITY   We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God.  We understand that part of our role as bishops is to lead the church toward new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures which allow a unity of our mission of "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world" while allowing for differing expressions as a global church.  Developing such new forms will require a concerted effort by all of us, and we your bishops commit ourselves to lead this effort.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to affirm your own commitment to maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church.  We will coordinate this work with the various efforts already underway to develop global structures and a new General Book of Discipline for our church.  Strengthening the unity of the church is a responsibility for all of us.
PRAYER  We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead the UMC in a "pause for prayer" - to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God's will for the future.   As a Council of Bishops, we will lead the church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God's guidance.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to join us in this effort, beginning this week.  We were moved by the sight of delegates praying around the table, and we hope these efforts will continue.  As your bishops we are ready to join you and to lead you in these times of prayer.
PROCESSES   We have discussed in depth the processes which might help our church heal and move forward - up to and including the possibility of a called General Conference in 2018 or 2019.  We have not finalized our plans for such processes, but we will keep working on options we have heard from many of you, and we will keep reporting to this General Conference and to the whole church.
NEXT STEPS   We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.  We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate for the variety of local, regional and global contexts.  We will name such a Commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate.   We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this Commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes. Should they complete their work in time for a called General Conference, then we will call a two- to three-day gathering before the 2020 General Conference.  (We will consult with GCFA regarding cost-effective ways to hold that gathering.)
CONTINUING DISCUSSIONS  We will continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another - including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline.  We will continue our conversation on this matter and report our progress to you and to the whole church.
Today, as a way of beginning to find our way forward, we suggest that in place of the allotted legislative time we spend 1-2 hours of plenary time in prayer, confession and exploration of a creative way forward.  The bishops are prepared to provide questions to guide your conversations.  Your conversations will be the first step to a way forward.

- See more at:

General Conference Recap from 5/17

The General Conference is now getting down to business as calendar items from the committees come to the full assembly. Here is a summary of some of the legislation that was considered yesterday.


Term Limits for Bishops
A petition originating with the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders and handled by the Higher Education/Superintendency Committee. The vote tally was 482 in favor and 332 opposed. Because the legislation required a change to the denomination's constitution, it required a 2/3 vote to pass.

Had the legislation received approval, it would have been elected to a term of eight years with the possibility of being elected to another eight. Bishops are currently elected with lifetime tenure.

Read More

New Hymnal
In approving a consent calendar, the General Conference, on Tuesday, approved  a petition authorizing the creation of a 15-member Hymnal Revision Committee. This gives Discipleship Ministries and the United Methodist Publishing house permission to move forward in creating the first new hymnal for the denomination since 1989.

The new Hymnal will be a big step forward in technology as it will be cloud based and print-on-demand. The committee's recommendations will need to be approved by the 2020 General Conference.

Read More

Deacons and Sacraments
The General Conference approved legislation streamlining the process through which ordained deacons request authority to administer sacraments. Deacons may now request such authority directly from their bishop. Previously, a pastor in charge or a district superintendent was required to make the request of the bishop.

Read More

Bishops Respond to Schism Rumors
Monday evening and Tuesday morning, social media was was busy with rumors that the Council of Bishops were going to create a special commission to explore schism and hold a meeting in 2018 to discuss the plan. Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops addressed the conference to deny the rumors and express that the Council of Bishops supports church unity.

Read More

Laura Merrill Elected to Commission on General Conference

On Monday, El Valle District Superintendent, Rev. Laura Merrill was elected by the General Conference to represent the South Central Jurisdiction on the Commission on General Conference. Rev. Merrill will be a part of the team that plans and organizes the next General Conference in 2020.

Elections were also held on Monday for the Judicial Council with five open positions filled, and The University Senate with four open positions filled.

Read all the details at

General Conference Says No to Rule 44

After a long morning of debate, mostly regarding parliamentary procedure, the assembled delegates of General Conference 2016 voted down proposed Rule 44. The Rule was created and recommended by the Commission on General Conference as an alternative to using Robert's Rules of Order to deal with contentious legislation. If Rule 44 had passed, some legislation would have been gone through a small group process designed to encourage dialogue.

With the rules finally set, the General Conference has moved on to business.

Read more at GC2016 delegates say no to Rule 44

Rio Texas delegate Carol Loeb chairs a subcommittee of the General Conference Legislative Committee.  Photo: Virgilio Vasquez Garza

Rio Texas delegate Carol Loeb chairs a subcommittee of the General Conference Legislative Committee. Photo: Virgilio Vasquez Garza

Much of today will be dedicated to the meeting of the Legislative Committees. The committees receive petitions and proposals, debate them, and determine whether to approve, amend, combine or disapprove them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference.


Read more about the legislative process at GC2016: About the Legislative Process

Rules Debate Continues

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference and Interim Bishop of Record for Rio Texas closes Wednesday's business session with prayer.

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference and Interim Bishop of Record for Rio Texas closes Wednesday's business session with prayer.

In its second day, General Conference 2016 was still debating the rules that will govern the business of the rest of the conference. While the rest of the rules were approved, Rule 44 has not passed. At one point in the day, a motion to adopt the rule was tabled and then untabled. After many amendments came to the floor, the rule was sent back to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee will bring it back to the assembled delegation during the business session today.

Read the recap of day 2 at

Read more about Rule 44 at

Read Rev. Laura Merrill's General Conference Blog.

General Conference resumes this morning at 8:00 with worship.

Watch General Conference Live


The Use of Technology an Issue for Debate at General Conference 2016

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS   Delegates will use tablet computers to ask to speak during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Delegates will use tablet computers to ask to speak during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

As the Church moves into the 21st century, it is not always an easy journey. General Conference introduced new technology this year to streamline the process of calling on delegates to speak. In previous sessions, delegates held colored cards over their head and waited to be called on. Under the new system, delegates use tablet computers at their tables to relay a request to be recognized. 

Unfortunately, some delegates are not comfortable with the technology and there have also been questions about the effectiveness of the tablets, especially for delegates who are not computer savvy. The General Conference eventually adopted the rule that provides for the use of the tablets.

Read the full story at

General Conference 2016 Opens with Worship and Debate over Rules

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS   Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. helps lead opening worship at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. helps lead opening worship at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore

The opening day of General Conference 2016 went well into the evening as delegates debated the use of technology and the rules of the conference. But first, the conference was opened with multi-cultural, multi-lingual worship and gathered at The Lord's Table.

Read of wrap-up of opening day at

One important issue that was not settled on day one was the adoption of Rule 44. Delegates adopted the rest of the rules for the conference but action on a group discernment process, outlined in Rule 44 was delayed until today.

Read more about the alternative group discernment process proposed in Rule 44.


GC2016: African delegates poised to be a force

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — African delegates say they enter General Conference 2016 better prepared than at past legislative gatherings, and determined to gain more clout and resources for their continent’s part of The United Methodist Church. Most African delegates met for two days of briefings and strategy just before General Conference convened here. Sam Hodges reports.

Read story and post a comment

United Methodists meet in Portland for worldwide conference

United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information

May 9, 2016

Portland, Oregon: United Methodists from around the world will gather at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20 for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference. 

As the top policymaking body of the worldwide 12.3 million-member United Methodist Church, the General Conference meets every four years to determine the denomination’s future direction, consider revisions to church law, and approve plans and budgets for church-wide programs.

During the 11-day session, which includes worship and moments of celebration, 864 delegates will consider approximately 1,000 legislative petitions. Simultaneous voice translation for delegates will be available in English, French, German, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Kiswahili and American Sign Language.

More than 2,500 visitors are expected for the duration of General Conference, with 1,000 Portland-area volunteers supporting the event. Volunteers will be displaying radical hospitality throughout the city – from welcoming visitors at the airport to serving in a variety of roles at the convention center to distributing hand-knitted scarves to delegates from warmer climates.

"We as the Greater Northwest Local Host Committee have only one objective: 'Provide extraordinary hospitality,'" said Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. "It is our hope and prayer to welcome everyone with a sense of uniqueness and individual hospitality. What we have become aware of is when you have only one objective or goal, it makes everything so much easier in terms of competing priorities."  

Worship, special addresses, celebrations, and other plenary sessions will be available via live video streaming at, as well as the General Conference mobile app. Also available on the website will be daily news and feature stories, high-resolution photos, conference information and a “digital lounge” featuring short conversation segments with key persons. Stories and daily summaries will also be available by email from United Methodist News Service and on Facebook and Twitter.

General Conference 2016 will open at 2 p.m., Tuesday, May 10, with a worship celebration that will include Holy Communion. Preaching will be Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. of the San Francisco area and president of the Council of Bishops.

Bishop Gregory Palmer of the West Ohio area will deliver the Episcopal Address during a plenary session beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11, followed later in the week by the Laity Address on May 13 and Young People’s Address on May 14.

Conference attendees will also become volunteers on May 16, 17 and 18, serving the Portland community by working at Bethlehem House of Bread and the Oregon Food Bank. Six groups of volunteers will be completing landscape, building and feeding projects – a testament to the strength of the international church’s commitment to mission and outreach.

A celebration of the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria campaign, a $75 million fundraising effort to eliminate deaths from the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, will take place on May 18 at 9:00 a.m. and will feature a performance by Jeremy Rosado of American Idol fame.

Plenary sessions and legislative committee meetings of the General Conference are open to both the public and the news media.

News media are required to be credentialed in order to take photos on the floor and gain access to the fully staffed newsroom, media seating on the main plenary floor, and press conferences and news briefings involving delegates and church leaders. Applications for media credentials can be made onsite in the General Conference newsroom in Exhibit Hall E in the Oregon Convention Center. Monday-Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.