By Andy Adams
For those of you who aren’t aware of the inner workings of General Conference, there is a TON of proposed legislation. Every delegate looks forward to February with fear and trepidation. February is when the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA) is published and sent to delegates. Don’t have any idea what the ADCA is? Imagine four phone books arriving at your doorstep only you are supposed to actually read them. Yes, four phonebooks. (After conference is intend to attempt tearing them in half like a true strongman.)
The volumes of legislation all seek to alter, in some way, the guidebook for United Methodists, the Book of Discipline, or it’s supplement, the Book of Resolutions. In order to facilitate the legislation, the 864 delegates are broken down into 13 different subcommittees that each deal with legislation around a particular segment of the Book of Discipline and corresponding Resolutions. Legislative committees include Church and Society (1 & 2), Conferences, Discipleship, Finance and Administration, General Administration, Global Ministries, Central Conference Matters, Independent Commissions, Judicial Administration, Local Church, Ministry and Higher Education, and my committee of choice, Faith and Order.
In Tampa, at the 2012 General Conference, I served on the Local Church subcommittee and experienced the legislative process first hand. Early on in the first week of GC, the delegates break into their legislative committees. Anywhere from 50-100 people gather together and one of the first tasks is to elect a committee chair, vice-chair, secretary and sub-committee chairs. Then an agenda is set and for the next few days the committee (or subcommittees) discuss, amend and ultimately vote on every piece of legislation. Sometimes there is overwhelming agreement sometimes there is contention. In either case, the committee’s decision isn’t final until the legislation gets to the floor of the entire body of General Conference in the second week. If there was overwhelming agreement, the legislative item will be lumped with MANY other items in a daily consent agenda and voted on in mass. If there is contention in the legislative committee, it MIGHT come to the floor to be debated, amended and voted on by the entire body. Whether it comes to the floor or not is determined by the agenda committee that is comprised partially by the chairpersons of each subcommittee. Yes, plenty of politics…
Anyway, you just got more information than you likely care to read about. Back to my original point of writing. WHY I chose Faith and Order. Faith and Order covers legislation in my favorite part of the Book of Discipline which cover our “Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task,” “The Ministry of All Christians” and the meaning of and qualifications for ordination. I chose Faith and Order because I love the doctrine of the church. I’m particularly passionate about ordination and our doctrinal standards. In fact, while serving on the Board of Ordained Ministry in the annual conference to which I belong, I love reading and learning from as well as critiquing and challenging the doctrinal work that our ordination candidates submit. It’s the part of the church that not only connects us with the church universal, but also highlights unique Wesleyan contributions.
This year our Faith and Order Committee will discuss important legislation that seeks to add the Nicene Creed to our Doctrinal Standards, possibly change our mission statement, sharpen language in our “Theological Task” and clarify the expectations for those seeking ordination (yes, there are several controversial issues regarding sexuality and ordination). For a doctrine nerd like me, it will make for an exciting few days in legislative committee during week 1 of General Conference.