After several additional ballots today, the laity elected their 14-member delegation to General Conference. Only one of the 14 was not on the so-called “Vision Team”, the innocuously named group of hard-line conservatives. This process took ten ballots in total. On the first ballot for Jurisdictional Conference, however, the laity elected all 14 delegates at once! Remarkable? Yes, somewhat. However, we were choosing from a much smaller overall pool of candidates. And just to cut through any potential suspense, no, I was not chosen for either delegation. The conservatives filled 9 of the 14 Jurisdictional delegate slots as well.
For inclusivity reporting purposes, the GC delegation has two African-American women, three white women, and nine white men. Why does this not look to me like the average church attendance? The JC delegation is a little better, with two AA women, two AA men, five white women, four white men, and one Korean man. The very last person elected is a woman about whom I feel very good as a representative, but she is woefully outnumbered.
Ironically enough, the Conference passed a resolution tonight calling on General Conference to consider, in their elections and appointments, “members with differing Christian theological perspectives and to perfecting the representation of gender and racial and ethnic groups, taking into account membership elected by the jurisdictions and general conference.”
As for the clergy side, they managed to elect a few more folks to GC, but they have a long way to go. We laity still have to elect five additional reserve delegates, and there’s a chance we can get another progressive or moderate person in that contingent; however, there are exactly five members of the “Vision Team” remaining, so it’s possible that their supporters might simply bloc vote all of them in.
Is there anything good going on in Athens? Well, yes. Today was our Great Day of Service, although that was cut short by the need to return for voting and business sessions. I spent a few hours out at Roots, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm featuring locally grown, organic, sustainable-farmed produce raised in a co-op structure. Although we didn’t have time to do much work, we did learn a bit about the operations of the farm, and as a lot of the volunteers there were young adults, I think they gained some insights into the nature of our agricultural practices and how those relate to environmental stewardship and creation care.
Speaking of environmental stewardship, tomorrow’s MFSA (Methodist Federal for Social Action) breakfast speaker will be Georgia Interfaith Power & Light’s Director, Katy Hinman. Somehow I’ll manage to get up for a 7:00 a.m. breakfast in order to hear her.
I’ll close with one other positive note: Rex presented the Eleanor Richardson Award for Social Justice today, which is given each year to honor a recipient who has worked for social justice causes in the NGUMC. This year’s posthumous recipient was Rev. Sally Daniel, former pastor of Grant Park UMC and former Conference director of ministry to persons with AIDS. In presenting the award, Rex got to say to the whole Conference that one of Rev. Daniel’s accomplishments was pastoring Grant Park as it became one of the first churches in the Conference to fully welcome and include gays and lesbians. So now there have been two positive references to the inclusion of the LBGT community at AC: one by me in my candidate’s speech, and one by Rex today. We’re not the only ones in the Conference who feel this way, though – despite my mediocre showing in the balloting, I continue to have people come up to me and tell me they thought my speech was great, and that they support my candidacy, and most importantly that they believe in the things I said and hope the Church continues to move in that more positive, inclusive direction. So Frodo may have lost the ring for now, but we must continue to believe and hope and work and strive for the day when love and justice will triumph over fear.