· Church Renewal

Thoughts from St. Louis

By Gil Hanke

This was not my first rodeo, nor my worst rodeo, but it was frustrating. There were some positive moments, some of which took me by surprise.

I don’t think any of us felt this was a success.

  • I have spent an extended time in prayer before, but not with 850 folks. I think we all had doubts, but the Saturday of prayer and worship set us up for the legislative work.
  • It was wonderful to see colleagues in ministry from around the world and to make new friends.
  • In my former professional life, I was elected to serve in a representative council that was aided by a professional parliamentarian. That person was helpful and allowed us to do our work. I was delighted the General Conference had taken the same step. But on Tuesday, we continued to use the rules of the General Conference and Robert’s Rules in ways that impeded our work rather than promoted it. Most of the delegates would describe themselves as leaders, and each had ideas about every item debated.  A legislative process limited to three speeches for a proposal and three speeches against, followed by a vote left many delegates frustrated when they did not have a chance to speak.
  • The best of ideas must be crafted into legislative language which must be legal and consistent with the Constitution of the United Methodist Church. An extraordinary number of resolutions did not meet those requirements. When the Judicial Council meets in April, resolutions we passed will be evaluated and I would not be surprised if some of the legislation will fall short of these requirements.
  • We were led in music to high moments of collective worship. It did not matter where you were from, or your opinion of the matters before us, we worshipped with a oneness of spirit.
  • We sometimes forget the broad reach of the UMC; it was clear in that room in a wonderful way.
  • Although some believed “a vote of 50 percent plus one is a win,” I had hoped we could find a way forward that had broad support. Clearly that did not happen.
  • It was wonderful again to be in the company of Dr. Joe Harris, my close friend and the first general secretary of the commission. Joe was selected by the body to chair the legislative committee and he did a marvelous job.

This will be my last General Conference as a delegate. I was elected to the Texas Conference delegation in 1992 and have served as a General Conference delegate since 1996. It has been an honor to be part of the team that created the General Commission on United Methodist Men and to see our whole connection catch the spirit to dramatically reduce malaria. I saw the creation of Africa University and worked with its graduates on General Conference committees. I have seen us become the leaders in disaster recovery and build schools and churches around the world.

I have had the honor of seeing the United Methodist Church at its very best. I want my 6-year-old granddaughter to have that same honor. 



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