By Susan Sneed
Bishop Robert Farr officially opened the business of the 2018 Annual Conference, followed by the traditional singing of “And Are We Yet Alive” and the setting of the bar by Conference Secretary Rev. Monica Jefferson. This involves stating who is included as the conference according to where they are sitting on the floor.
Rev. Kim Jenne, director of the Office of Connectional Ministries presented the staff and officers of the annual conference, including the many volunteers helping to run the annual conference.
Rev. Marsha Eichler reported on this year’s session, Freed 2 Lead, pointing out the workshops and other events available over the next three days. This year a worship planner on a jump drive has been distributed as well as thank you cards to use as the attendees visit restaurants, etc. in Springfield. She moved that the agenda be adopted and it was passed unanimously.
Hannah Shanks reported on the Standing Rules Committee, noting that the vision has been updated to state that the conference will be “relentless” in seeking disciples, broader in seeking out and including the laity, moving the laity leadership into the Center for Pastoral Excellence and changing the name to the Center for Leadership Excellence. Ex-officio status was clarified to say that conference employees could not vote on mission council. The equalization formula noted that voting laity outnumber clergy members and made changes to correct it. There were several corrections to language and math cleaned up. This report will be voted on Sunday.
Standing out in the first plenary are the preliminary Nominations report by committee chair Rev. Jeremy Vickers. These names need to be reviewed for accuracy before the final vote on Sunday. There are also vacate positions to be filled. This can be done by going to the moumethodist.org web site.
Rev. Jenne also introduced a video of this year’s awards night presentation. The awards for the Denman Evangelical Awards(Clergy and Laity), the Robert and Martha Mission Award, the Unity Award and the ONE Matters Discipleship Award were made at an earlier event. A full report on that event and the recipients is available in the June isue of The Missouri Methodists.
A vote was taken on the first of five constitutional amendments presented by the 2016 General Conference. The vote on Amendment One and Two failed the 2/3 requirement, however Amendment One was misstated and all conference were required to re-vote on this amendment. The amendment acknowledges that men and women are created equally by God and that the UMC “…should confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organization or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large.” This amendment would parallel a paragraph on racial justice.
There was one speech supporting and no speeches against the amendment. The results of the vote will not be reported until May of 2019, as this is a vote that will be taken in the worldwide church.
Rev. Larry Williams(Northwest) made a motion for the Missouri Conference request of the General Church to allow a re-vote on Amendment 2, which also concerned gender. While this motion was ruled out of order, Rev. Williams was informed he could petition the General Conference himself in 2020.
Rev. Tom Sanders(Gateway Central) pointed out that Rev. Williams did not ask that our conference or our delegates was not binding to any action. Larry Tucker, the Conference Chancellor, said it would be an action speaking for the whole conference. Rev. Sanders asked to suspend the rules to allow such a vote but that suspension vote failed. It is worth noting that the Conference had originally voted overwhelming to support both amendments.