Methodism's Big Tent

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church is a big deal. Held every four years, it represents 12 million United Methodists around the world. On Feb. 7, Dumbarton's Chett Pritchett, executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, reminded Adult Ed of the power and privilege of General Conference. "If it decides to do something, it has the numbers behind it," he said. "And it creates an opportunity for the church to work with non-religious coalitions worldwide."
In 2016 Portland, Oregon will host the 10-day event attended this year by 5,000 delegates, clergy, and laypersons. Fifty-eight percent are from the U.S., 30 percent from Africa, and 11 percent from Europe, Asia, South America, and the Pacific Islands. 
The more than 800 delegates elected to General Conference will be voting on countless petitions and resolutions having to do with potential changes in the way the church works--from reducing the size of boards and meetings to granting local churches more autonomy to lifting the ban on same-sex weddings. One proposal supports discontinuing the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, despite continued inequality in pay for female clergy and ongoing breaches of sexual ethics. Another proposal would broaden the church's divestment in coal companies to divestment in fossil-fuel industries.
"Come volunteer at General Conference," Pritchett encouraged Adult Ed. "Show you are a justice-seeking person of faith." He also urged Dumbartonians to visit the website of the Love Your Neighbor The Coalition's 13 member groups include social justice advocates like Marcha, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, and the Native American International Caucus. Dumbartonians who visit the site can add their names to 2,000 others supporting the Coalition's statement and "just love" theme.

--By Ginny Finch