Legislative Committee Work


By Andy Adams
On Sunday afternoon the General Conference began its work as a legislative committee. For those of you confused between the work of the plenary session and the legislative committee, let me explain:

  • In a normal General Conference, we divide all the legislative material into groups depending on the section of the discipline it seeks to alter. I explain that in this blog entry from GC2016:
  • Because of the importance of the legislation for this specially called session, the sessions committee (an elected group who meets ahead of time to work on the schedule and agenda) agreed that all General Conference delegates would serve as one legislative committee.
  • The work of the legislative committee is to perfect and filter the legislation before sending it on to the plenary session.
  • Anything that receives a 50.01% approval vote in legislative committee is sent on to the plenary session to debate, amend, and vote on.
  • If a piece of legislation receives less than 50.01% of the vote in legislative committee it is not completely dead, but I’m not going to get into this much because it would require at least 50.01% of the plenary to resurrect the legislation, and if it didn’t receive over 50% in a legislative committee made up of the entire body, it likely won’t receive over 50% from that same body (make sense?).
  • A couple other notes – the legislative committee is not presided over by a bishop but by a member of the body who is elected by the body. Same with vice chair and secretary.

So, what is happening in our GC2019 legislative body of the whole? First, the objective. We need to vote on every piece of legislation on our docket. EVERY ONE. And it must be done by tonight so the report can be printed in our materials for our plenary session for tomorrow. As you can guess, we won’t be able to spend time on every piece of legislation. If it did not receive a large percentage of “high priority” votes the day before, it is likely that it will be quickly rejected without much conversation. We will see how that plays out.

Here’s the update on the progress thus far through lunch on Monday:

Sunday afternoon we approved the two petitions that dealt with clergy pension calculations for any clergy person who leaves the denomination and still has a “defined benefit” as part of their pension. That benefit will be converted as fairly as possible (according to Wespath, the UMC’s benefits provider) to a lump-sum benefit. This was a “no brainer” as it potentially applies to any and all ways forward.

Monday morning we began with the Traditional Plan. If you recall, the Bishops originally told the Commission on a Way Forward to not work on such a plan, so they spent the vast majority of their time working on the One Church Plan and Connectional Conference Plan. After some pressure to have three plans, the Commission was allowed to create such legislation in the final days of the Commission’s work. When the Judicial Council was asked to make preliminary rulings on the One Church Plan and Traditional Plan (late in 2018) several parts of the Traditional Plan were ruled in conflict with our Book of Discipline’s constitution. Thus, there are several necessary amendments to be made in order to attempt to bring it into compliance. That’s what much of Monday morning was spent doing. In short synopsis, several amendments were made, several speeches were made against the plan as a whole, and the plan was ultimately approved. However, for it to be constitutional, it will need to be amended further by the plenary session on Tuesday.

After the Traditional Plan was passed, we moved on to the Gracious Exit Plans. After a few amendments, the Taylor plan was approved followed by the Boyette plan in its entirety. In case it isn’t obvious, no more than one of these would be able to be approved by the plenary session on Tuesday.

When we come back after lunch, we will have the One Church Plan before us followed by another Exit Plan and 18 other pieces of legislation that received less than 30% “high priority.” I expect many if not all of those to be dealt with swiftly, but again, we will have to wait and see.