General Conference will meet May 10-20. As usual, it will be political and ecclesiastical. The political agenda will focus on two issues of no surprise: homosexuality and abortion. The church issue is that of guaranteed appointments for elders in full connection. The supporters of the LGBTQ agenda want to remove the statement in the Book of Discipline that says the homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with Christian teaching and openly accept LGBTQ persons for ordination, probably the most debated issue of the conference.
The petition to withdraw our affiliation with Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) will again be on the docket. The Discipline supports abortion only when the continuance of pregnancy will cause the death of a woman, not her lifestyle. RCRC supports abortion for all reasons including partial-birth, use as birth control and even gender selection. In the many decades we have been affiliated with RCRC, there is no evidence that our involvement has had any impact in bringing them to a stance that reflects our Discipline’s standards.
Ordained Elders have worked under the protection of guaranteed appointment. This means once you have ordination you will always have an appointment unless you commit a crime or some extremely sinful activity. The story is told of a preacher who “served” five churches in five years. When asked about his ineffectiveness he responded, “There are a lot more than 40 churches in the Conference and I’m not planning on serving more than 40 years.” The “No Guarantee of Appointment” resolution would end this. The question is what determines effectiveness. If it is the ability to please everyone all the time, no one is effective. If it means to never ruffle feathers, let’s remember the prophetic preachers of the ‘60s who preached the hard stuff and benefitted from the guaranteed appointment. Also, there is a widely accepted hunch that in some circles of great influence, effectiveness is based on whether the apportionments are paid in full. (But you didn’t hear that from me!) Guaranteed appointment has helped promote the unpopular, prophetic word in the past as well as the slackers who bluffed their way in. This is a big decision! Pray for General Conference. -- Ben