In my last post, I wrote about the need for the whole church to prepare for the upcoming General Conference through prayer. I want to follow that up with some resources for study that my readers can use if they would like to familiarize themselves with some of the issues that will be on the agenda when the GC convenes next week.
With that in mind, here are some resources worth checking out:
1) Generation Rising: A Future with Hope for the United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press, 2011). This is a book I edited last year that includes chapters from 12 different Generation X leaders in the UMC. True, it is not specifically about the General Conference. But when we proposed this book to Abingdon Press a couple of years ago, one of our main reasons for doing so was to make the church more aware of the rising generation of leaders (and their ideas!) in the lead up to GC2012. It is less a ‘plan of action’ than it is a collective vision for Wesleyan renewal through practical theology and ministry. If you pick up a copy and read it, let me know what you think.
2) Proposals for major change at GC 2012. This overview article by Sam Hodges, managing editor at the United Methodist Reporter, offers a good summary overview of major issues that will be considered by the General Conference. This article is a good place to start if you are wanting to get some familiarity with all that will be going on in the next two weeks in Tampa.
3) Call to Action materials. This website maintained by the general church is intended to provide information related to the Connectional Table’s Call to Action restructuring proposal. The constellation of issues in the proposal will likely be the most intensely studied and debated part of the GC. (I admit that I have avoided an in-depth commentary on CTA on this website, and I continue to go back and forth in my feelings on it. I did do some column writing on CTA in the United Methodist Reporter last year, which you can find through my column archive.)
4) Plan B to the Call to Action. A group of Methodist folk is proposing an alternative to the Call to Action that will be offered as a substitute motion (hence the “Plan B”). The link is to the website created by this group for publicity around Plan B. If you want to read an overview article on it, check this one out.
5) General Conference online newsroom. This webpage serves as the church’s official clearinghouse for information about GC2012. My guess is that this is where you’ll want to go during the two weeks of the conference for daily updates and news reports.
6) Issues related to human sexuality. In previous sessions of the General Conference, debates related to homosexuality have been contentious. The United Methodist Church considers an active homosexual lifestyle to be “incompatible with Christian teaching,” does not allow for the blessing of same-sex unions, and does not allow “self avowed practicing homosexuals” to serve as ordained clergy. Recent sessions of the General Conference have consistently upheld that position, while a vocal minority in the church have advocated for change. It is unclear whether this General Conference will spend much time debating the relevant issues, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
7) About General Conference 2012. This page will provide you with links that explain the nature of the General Conference and how the legislative process works.
8) The Four Areas of Focus. Four years ago, the GC committed the general church to focusing on a ministry initiative that emphasizes global health, ministry with the poor, leadership development, and congregational growth/development. These “Four Areas of Focus” are cited in the Call to Action report and clearly played a role in its development. How much the Four Areas will play a direct role in GC this year is not clear to me, but I am hopeful that we won’t lose sight of the ministry initiative. It isn’t perfect, but it is a good statement of some important ways the church can focus its ministries of evangelism, outreach, and formation.