Camping Resolution, General Conference petitions among legislation to be considered


By Paul Black
A resolution seeking the retirement of three conference-owned camps along with four counter-proposals and four petitions to General Conference are among the 37 legislative items that will considered by the 2015 Annual Conference session.
Combined with the voting for lay and clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference and seven reports, the agenda is quite full for the three days the Annual Conference will be in session.
In an effort to address the time necessary to elect delegates, Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton announced that elections will take place in simultaneous voting in the clergy and lay sessions, beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The goal is to have the entire General Conference delegation (five clergy and five laity); the Jurisdictional delegation (an additional five clergy and five laity along with the General Conference delegates) and the three lay and three clergy alternates elected before the Opening Worship at 7 p.m. In all, 38 clergy and 17 laity have express interest in being elected to those 13 lay and clergy positions. Retired Bishop William B. Lewis will be presiding over the laity balloting while Keaton will handle the clergy elections.
A special second section to this issue of The Current is provided for conferees during this election process.

Camping Resolution and counter-proposals

The Conference Commission on Camping and Retreat Ministries (LI 125) is proposing the reduction and sale of three conference-owned camp sites and reallocation of those funds for the purpose of major maintenance, redesign and modernization of the remaining two sites.
Those campsites which would be retired include Jensen Woods located near Timewell; Living Springs near Lewistown and Epworth Camp in Louisville. The remaining two sites at East Bay Camp on Lake Bloomington and Little Grassy Camp near Makanda would remain in operation, absorbing the headcount of campers from the three retired sites.
Beulah Camp, which is owned by its own Board of Trustees and the Conference is a user group with a fixed camper cost, is not affected by the proposal.
The proposal came out of a two-year process with the consulting firm Kaleidoscope, Inc., which analyzed site usage, operational costs, conditions of current facilities and the cost  of upgrading the facilities due to deferred maintenance. The conclusion was that the conference had too many facilities for too few campers and that two facilities could accommodate present camping headcount as well as future growth if attendance would reverse course and grow by 3 percent annually for 10 years. The cost of immediate maintenance of all camp-owned sites was placed at $12 million – roughly the size of the annual conference budget. (A list of Frequently Asked Questions about the process and factors leading to the proposal can be found in LI 125A).
The Conference Council on Finance and Administration, the IGRC Connectional Table, the IGRC Cabinet support the proposal.
Four counter-proposals have also been offered for various parts of the Camping Resolution:
  • Legislative Item 206, offered by the Epworth Camp Site Support Team, seeks to delay retirement, sale and reallocation of camp properties for two years so that site support teams can develop action plans. Should this legislation pass, it would deem the remaining counter-proposals moot because the conference would maintain ownership of the three camp properties.
  • Legislative Item 203, offered by retired pastor Sidney Crowcroft, seeks to have the assets of Jensen Woods Camp turned over to an organization called Jensen Camp Foundation. Supporters of this resolution, in subsequent mailings to members of the annual conference, have indicated that the conference would remain owners of the campsite but that the Foundation would manage its operation. However, none of this is spelled out in the resolution before the Annual Conference session. Should this resolution pass, Legislative Items 204 and 205 would be moot because it not only addresses the issue of the campsite but its management.
  • Legislative Item 204, offered by Melba Funk, a lay member from Beverly UMC, seeks to postpone the sale of Jensen Woods Camp and calls for a committee appointed by the Bishop to be empaneled for dealing with management under a not-for-profit organization with the committee reporting back to the 2016 Annual Conference.
  • Legislative Item 205, offered by Merle Kenady, lay member from Mt. Sterling UMC, seeks a one-year delay for the purpose of forming a 501c3 organization be formed, modeled after the management model at Beulah Camp. The resolution does not elaborate on details. Beulah Camp is unique in that churches and individuals own their cabins and lease ground on the campsite. All five Conference-owned campsites do not have private ownership as part of their model.

General Conference petitions

Four petitions which would change The Book of Discipline or The Book of Resolutions have been filed for consideration by the Annual Conference session. Any petition approved will be forwarded to the 2016 General Conference.
  • Legislative Item 128, Eradicating Modern Day Slavery. Sponsored by the IGRC Board of Church and Society, this petition would replace the language currently found in Resolution 6021, entitled Church Supports Global Efforts to End Slavery and 6023 – Abolition of Sex Trafficking.
  • Legislative Item 201 petitions General Conference to remove the performance of officiating same-sex weddings as a chargeable offense in paragraph 2702.1 of The Book of Discipline
  • Legislative Item 202 seeks to have the designation “respectful and painless life” for meat animals, fish and fowl to paragraph 161.I.C of the Social Principles.
  • Legislative Item 210 (Supplemental Packet) seeks to petition General Conference to change its petitioning requirements. Presently, any United Methodist member, clergy or agency may submit petitions to General Conference. This petition adds the requirement that lay petitions have the support of a local church council, clergy petitions have at least 15 clergy supporting the change and that agencies have the support of its governing board.

Standing rules

Standing rules are those policies which the annual conference has adopted for itself as the rules, requirements and expectations of how the annual conference will operate. Standing rules cannot stand in conflict with The Book of Discipline and require a two-thirds vote in order to amend them. The 2015 session will consider six amendments:
  • Legislative Item 107 – seeks to eliminate redundancy and revise record-keeping procedures that can be accomplished more efficiently with today’s technology. Policy and procedure statements are currently referred to the annual conference session. This provision gives the standing rules committee discretion on whether such referral is necessary. The legislation still requires that the policy and procedure statement be included in the Journal-Yearbook the year it is presented and added to the index of policies that appear every year with the location of all policies and procedures.
  • Legislative Item 108 – seeks to align conference policy with General Conference rules which requires standing rules to originate or be reviewed by the Standing Rules Committee and must be submitted by Feb. 15 each year.
  • Legislative Item 109 – seeks to provide clarity in the definition of membership in the annual conference and the equalization formula used to provide parity between the number of clergy and lay members to annual conference.
  • Legislative Item 110 – updates language in the standing rules to align with the discontinuance of clergy health benefits passed by the annual conference in 2014.
  • Legislative Item 111 – requires local churches to pay for internet service in the clergy residence as well as the designated office.
  • Legislative Item 112 – clarifies that the proceeds from the sale of retired camp property are retained by annual conference for the purchase, repair and/or development of camping and retreat ministry properties. The change would set camp property apart from other conference-owned property such as district parsonages.

Conference budget and reports

  • The proposed 2016 Conference budget (LI 104) is a flat one, proposing a $73 cut in a $12.3 million budget. A detailed narrative of each line item is provided along with the numbers in LI 104-A and their policies and procedures (LI 105) will also be before the body for approval.
  • The Conference Board of Pensions (LI 106) include the pension rates for full-time, ¾ time and ½ pastors, showing only slight increases for 2016. The board is also recommending a 2 percent increase for the pre-1982 years of service, increasing from $717 to $732 per service year in 2016. The pre-1982 pension plan is funded at 104 percent, so no additional contributions are needed from the Conference budget. Additional information is provided in LI 106-A.
  • The Conference Trustees will be bringing resolutions and a moment of remembrance will be held for 10 congregations that have completed their mission in the past year:Cahokia Park UMC (LI 116); Cubbage Chapel UMC (LI 117); Edwards UMC (LI 118); Elizabethtown UMC (LI 119); Elm Grove UMC (LI 120); Fairview UMC near Bridgeport (LI 121); Fortney UMC (LI 122); Hopewell UMC near Mt. Vernon (LI 123); Kingston UMC (LI 124); and Kane UMC (LI 129 – Supplemental Packet).
  • The Committee on Equitable Compensation (LI 113) is recommending a minimum salary of $40,404 for clergy in full connection, associate members and provisional elders and $37,076 for full-time local pastors. Both recommendations are in addition to the $12,000 health insurance allowance and represent a 3 percent salary increase over 2015 levels

Other business

  • The Committee on Nominations is offering a process whereby ad interim vacancies on conference boards and committees would be filled by the Committee on Nominations with the approval of the Connectional Table (LI 114).
  • The Commission on Communications is bringing an updated policy regarding clergy email accounts (LI 115), which repeals action taken by the 2008 session that created IGRC email accounts for all clergy.
  • Legislative Item 126 is an updated covenant with Evenglow Lodge.The Conference Committee on Church and Society is seeking reaffirmation of the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative (LI 127).
  • There are resolutions calling for “giving thanks for those things with which we have been entrusted, from the grain we sow to the animals we raise and butcher, treating all these gifts with respectful awe…” (LI208); and another on Caterpillar, Israel in Palestine, which calls for an invitation be extended to the CEO of Caterpillar to speak to the 2016 Annual Conference and encourage conference clergy and laity “engage in study and prayer about the relationships between Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religions in the Middle East, and especially that relationship between Israelis and Palestinians” (LI 209).
  • The Safe Sanctuaries Task Force is offering a Abuse Prevention Policy (LI 130 – Supplemental Packet) for ministries working with children and vulnerable. The policy also seeks annual publication in the Conference Journal-Yearbook as well as on the IGRC website.