On Monday, our own Dr. Tim Bruster, Senior Pastor, was again elected as lead clergy delegate to the 2020 General conference. This is Dr. Bruster’s fourth time to lead the delegation as first elected clergy, as well as serving as the head of the delegation to the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences and the Special Session of the General Conference this past February.
In another proud First Church moment, Jenny Johnson Spidell, recent Oklahoma City University honors graduate and rising freshman at TCU Brite Divinity School, was elected as a laity alternate to the Jurisdictional Conference. Jenny, who is the daughter of FUMCFW staff member and worship assistant Elaine Johnson (and husband, Rod) grew up in First Church and served in many youth leadership roles as well as currently as a Youth Ministries Intern. The lead laity delegate is Kim Simpson of St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in Arlington.
Full slate of elected clergy and lay delegates, alternates, and delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference:
On Tuesday, the second day of the conference, two very important things happened in the life of our church. Rev. Chuck Graff (in addition to Rev. Jim Connor, a former First Church Associate Pastor) was honored among other retiring pastors in our annual conference in the afternoon CTC retirement ceremony. A video interview of Chuck with his wife, Peggy, FUMCFW Organist and Associate Director of Music and Worship Arts, featuring Chuck’s reflections on his 47 years of ministry was played before the packed Arlington Convention Center meeting hall, heralding Chuck’s official retirement. (Although unofficially he’ll serve as interim pastor at La Trinidad UMC and El Buen Samaritano UMC, both in Fort Worth. Chuck, as it turns out, is not very good at retiring!)
And then, in a special worship service and ceremony at First United Methodist Church of Hurst, Rev. Lance Marshall was ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. Many members of the church were on hand to celebrate Lance and Elizabeth as they take this giant new step in ministry, marking the end of a time of arduous study and work even as he was building The Gathering, a highly popular alternative First Church worshipping community. Be sure to congratulate Lance when you see him on a job well done!
And finally, on the last day of the conference, Dr. Tim Bruster presented both the delegation report and a resolution to the annual conference that came from the UMCNext meeting held in May in Kansas. The resolution, which included the four points established by the UMNext meeting, was presented, along with what is called a “Friendly Amendment.” The term, Friendly Amendment, signifies the commitment of all sides of the human sexuality question now before the global United Methodist Church to continue talking and listening to one another and praying together to discern God’s leading through this complicated and emotionally charged issue in our denomination. The joining together of people on both sides of the issue to craft and present this amendment is a significant step in finding our way forward together. This resolution, with its Friendly Amendment passed with a vote of 426-216, marking the beginning of healing discussion and prayerful effort by both sides to find a way forward that is in the best interests of individuals, congregations, and the Methodist denomination.
Another resolution, presented by Rev. Ginger Bassford and passed by the conference stipulated that the costs associated with church trials will not be paid by apportionments, which are the funds churches pay to their annual conferences based on their size to help fund various aspects of denomination-wide initiatives and expenses.
Organization: The Church as Connection (from umc.org)
Terms: General Conference, Jurisdictional Conferences, Central Conferences, Annual Conferences, Districts, Charge Conferences and Local Churches
United Methodist leaders often speak of the denomination as “the connection.” This concept has been central to Methodism from its beginning.
The United Methodist structure and organization began as a means of accomplishing the mission of spreading scriptural holiness. Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, recognized the need for an organized system of communication and accountability and developed what he called the “connexion,” a network of classes, societies, and annual conferences.
Today, our denomination continues to be organized in a “connectional” system, which “enables us to carry out our mission in unity and strength” (Book of Discipline, ¶ 701). Every local church is linked to an interconnected network of organizations that join together in mission and ministry, allowing us to accomplish far more than any one local church or person could alone.
Within the connectional structure of The United Methodist Church, conferences provide the primary groupings of people and churches for discernment and decision-making. Wesley described Christian conferencing as a spiritual discipline through which God’s grace may be revealed. At every level of the connection, church leaders and members come together in conversation, or conferencing, to discuss important issues and discover God’s will for the church. The word, conference, thus refers to both the assembly and organization of people as well as the process of discerning God’s call together.
As the primary legislative body, General Conference is the only entity with the authority to speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church. The General Conference meets every four years to consider the business and mission of the church. An equal number of lay and clergy delegates are elected from United Methodist conferences around the world to decide matters of policy and procedure for the denomination. Learn more.
There are five geographic jurisdictions, or regions, in the United States, which are comprised of eight to 15 annual conferences each. Learn more.
In Africa, Europe and the Philippines, there are seven geographical regions, called central conferences, each of which is comprised of annual conferences and divided into several episcopal areas. Learn more.
The annual conference is a geographical entity, an organizational body (made up of elected lay and clergy members), and a yearly meeting. It is the fundamental body of the church (Book of Discipline, ¶ 11). Learn more.
Each local church is part of a district, which is an administrative grouping of churches in a geographic area. Learn more.
Charge Conferences and Local Churches
As the visible presence of the body of Christ, the local church is the place where members grow in faith and discipleship, putting their faith into action through ministry in the world. Learn more.Read on UMC.org
Constitutional Structure (from umc.org)
Terms: General Conference, Council of Bishops, Judicial Council
The United Methodist Church does not have a central headquarters or a single executive leader. Duties are divided among bodies that include the General Conference, the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council. Each of these entities is required by our Constitution, a foundational document, to be part of our structure, and plays a significant role in the life of the church.
The General Conference, the primary legislative body of The United Methodist Church, is the only body that speaks officially for the church. Meeting once every four years to determine legislation affecting connectional matters, it is composed of no fewer than 600 and no more than 1,000 delegates.
Working within the boundaries of the Church Constitution and General Rules, the General Conference defines and fixes the conditions, privileges and duties of church membership; the powers and duties of elders, deacons, diaconal ministers and local pastors; and the powers and duties of annual conferences, missionary conferences, charge conferences and congregational meetings. It authorizes the organization, promotion and administrative work of the church. The General Conference also defines the powers and duties of the episcopacy, authorizes the official hymnal and book of worship, provides a judicial system and procedures, initiates and directs all connectional enterprises of the church and enacts other legislation for the operation of the church. Learn more.
Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops gives general oversight of the ministry and mission of the church and spiritual leadership to the entire church connection. Composed of all active and retired bishops, the council meets as a group at least once a year.
Bishops are elected by Jurisdictional Conferences and assigned to a particular area, made up of one or more annual conferences. Each bishop provides oversight of the ministry and mission of annual conferences in his or her area and appoints all clergy to their places of service.
Through its Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships, the council builds and maintains ties with other Christian denominations as well as other faith groups. Learn more.
As the denomination’s highest judicial body or “court,” the Judicial Council’s nine members, made up of laity and clergy, are elected by the General Conference and normally meet twice a year to consider whether actions of the various church bodies adhere to the constitution and follow the rules outlined in the Book of Discipline.
Their cases are generally referred to them by action of the Council of Bishops, the annual conferences or the General Conference. According to the Constitution, decisions of the Judicial Council are final (Paragraph 57, Article III). Learn more.Read on UMC.org