How do I sum up all that went on in the first day of business? I can’t. We covered so much, and honestly the details would bore. It was a little coma-inducing, and there was a lot of people who seemed to get up to talk just to talk. My only frame of reference is the Annual Conference in the United States, which seemed to have a more formal way of debating while Methodist Conference here tries to make it more like conferring.
For instance, in the South Carolina Annual Conference there was a motion that comes to the floor (often by committee or work done by a group). The main sponsors had a time of questions where clarifications took place (no debate). Then AC would move to debate where there were speakers for and against. If ever you couldn’t get one for each side, debate stopped (I don’t remember if there were time limits, but there likely were of some kind). If something is changed, an amendment is proposed.
Here, a resolution is brought to the floor. The contact person for it introduces and then it opens for comment. So even the resolutions for reports that conference just ‘receive’ (like the General Secretary’s report which just says ‘we heard it’) invited comment for those who wanted to say something. A lot of times you hear people stand up and say the same thing as someone else. There is a 4 minute time limit on each speaker, and then there is a limit to how much time is given to an issue. Otherwise, we would be there until next conference.
If something wants changing, there has to be a ‘Notice of Motion’ that has a person to move it, another to second it and six people who sign on. We did this yesterday (we, because I was a signer on it). In the pension debate, one of the big issues, we moved to change the proposed retirement date (not the official language, but it’s more or less what it is) to 66 rather than the proposed 68. Everything else seemed to go through with no problems. People kept saying that it will not hit older ministers the hardest, but the younger ones. Somehow this was to alleviate fears. Of course, something has to be done, but it does make me wonder if we will lose younger ministers and attract others to purse candidating. I don’t think this would be about people only caring about money.
At one point during the day we broke up into small groups to look at case studies on how people have been attracting the people in the missing generation, those in their 20s-40s (and sometimes 50s). The study we read sounded good, but it’s always hard to translate how anything would work in another church. I think would have preferred to hear what is attracting young adults to this rather than just what they did. Anyway, there is to be study on this that is going to look at Methodism (one person asked why we aren’t looking at those churches outside Methodism that don’t have a missing generation).
The business day ended with an inane vote on whether or not we would meet the candidates for President and Vice President of Conference. The problem was that not all candidates were at conference, so would it be fair to release the names last night. I understand the points on both sides, but did it really need that much talk and nearly a scrutineer count?
Our day ended with our district meal at a French restaurant with all the southeastern districts (that wasn’t on purpose). It all turned out to be great fun, as the chairs have a friendly rivalry. Of course, Steve Wild of Cornwall is a hard one to overshadow! Despite the sign in French that said no singing, he had us sing the grace. It was also a chance for us to talk to our own Chair of District, Stephen Poxon, who because of his role of past president, we don’t get to see him quite as much. The meal was the best part of the day!