Thoughts and Comments

   

The Imperial Delegation

By the Rev. Warren Ashmore (retired)

In June of this year, our Annual Conference meeting in Florence elected clergy and laity to represent us at the General Conference in 2016. Isn’t that what we did?

Did you know they don’t have to hear from us or be in contact with us as they prepare to debate issues of faith and polity that will govern The United Methodist Church for at least the next four years?

I recently approached the Rev. Tim Rogers, secretary for the delegation, seeking contact information on the laity delegates (email, phone, etc). The clergy information was easily found on the conference website. My request was to enable Reconciling Ministries to be in dialogue with our representatives on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues that will surely dominate much of this coming conference.

In talking with Rogers, I was informed that another person had requested the same contact information so they could present the delegation with some other ideas for our delegation to consider.

I was informed that the delegation had denied that request and he was, for the moment, denying mine. To quote Rogers, “The delegation has decided they did not want to be involved with that role.”

Several weeks later I reached out again by email to Rogers. I also sent the email requesting the information to Dr. Tim McClendon, chair of the delegation and a candidate for bishop in 2016, and our current bishop, Bishop Jonathan Holston. McClendon responded the next day by email and gave me much the same response:

“The delegation has already expressed it has little desire to hear from others.” He said they would revisit that decision in January. McClendon then quoted a decision by the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council that ruled “the General Conference is a delegated not representative body.”“The delegation has already expressed it has little desire to hear from others.” He said they would revisit that decision in January. McClendon then quoted a decision by the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council that ruled “the General Conference is a delegated not representative body.”

That means they don’t have to represent our views or be in dialogue with us. They can “represent” their personal views. Wow, that’s not what I thought I was voting for in the 25 years I served as a pastor in this conference. Silly me!

Delegates-Representatives: what is really the distinction? Aren’t we just playing word games and hiding personal opinions behind a wall of religious semantics? How much did you know about these people before you chose them to represent us?

We have allowed clergy at all levels to tell us what to believe and how to believe it. Suddenly our experience of God’s love and grace are not valid.

We do, however, spend countless time and money printing up the Discipline (the United Methodist “bible”), which I fear has gained more power than the Bible.

Open Hearts, open minds, open doors? It’s more like hardened hearts, closed minds and guarded doors to keep the unworthy and the unwanted out.

You may not care, but I do. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my position on LGBTQ acceptance in our churches or other issues, but I do expect our delegates to at least hear me.

I am the proud father of a transgendered daughter. All I want for her and other members of the LGBTQ group is for The United Methodist Church to quit branding LGBTQ individuals in our Discipline as “the goats of God’s world” and sentencing them to hell as unfit and unable to be Christian.

I leave you with the assurance McClendon gave to me: “I do wish to assure you that if agreed upon by the majority (of the delegation), we will be fair to all sides on every issue.” Question: How will we know?

If you agree or disagree, I would love to hear from you! ewarrena@gmail.com.


Publication: South Carolina United Methodist Advocate; Date: January 2016; Page: 20

POSTSCRIPT: A follow-up article in the February 2016 issue of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate titled "McClendon: 'All welcome' at monthly delegation meetings" reads, in part:

 

Both General and Jurisdictional conference delegates and alternates meet roughly once a month, and Dr. Tim McClendon, their episcopal nominee, said all are welcome to attend the meetings and learn with them.
“Every meeting is an open meeting—all welcome,” McClendon said.
McClendon said the delegates are striving to be as transparent about their monthly meetings as possible.

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