Conversation starter: Organizational Motion approved
Save for an amendment that “strongly urges” participants in the conversation circles to refrain from wearing objects that indicate their preference on the topic of human sexuality, the Organizational Motion was adopted as originally presented by a super majority vote.
The approved motion means that seven resolutions for the 2016 General Conference session and one resolution for this Annual Conference session will be discussed during conversation circles when the bar of the Conference shifts to the dining room (Exhibit Hall B) on Thursday afternoon, May 28.
Human Sexuality Task Force members – lay members Jami Breedlove and Noel John along with the Rev. Bill Allen and the Rev. Marti Swords-Horrell – outlined the process of the conversation circles; it also appeared on pages 13-14 in the Pre-Conference Workbook.
“They have been working for two years and one of their charges was to bring to us healthy ways in which we could have the conversation,” said Upper New York Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb.
The eight resolutions and petitions that refer to human sexuality will be discussed in the conversation circles and then voted on “without further discussion, debate, or provision for amendment, tabling or referral. A single ballot listing all resolutions and petitions referring to human sexuality will be provided for members to indicate whether to ‘adopt’ or ‘not adopt’ each individual resolution or petition,” according to the Organizational Motion.
Conversation starter questions will be “very open-ended,” said Rev. Allen, to help facilitate a conversation rather than just a “here’s my stance” monologue.
Breedlove added that the goal “is not to educate someone to the point to change their mind. Our goal is to have every single person at every single table to have the opportunity to be heard. Period.”
With the adoption of the Organizational Motion, Thursday’s schedule will be: a three-minute each presentation by the submitters of the resolutions beginning at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch, then conversation circles in the dining room at 2 p.m., the votes on the resolutions and petitions at 4 p.m., and returning to the main plenary room at 4:15 p.m.
Breedlove said although everyone is encouraged to be a part of the conversations, and there will be tables for hearing-impaired individuals, those who wish not to participate can be excused from the room and return for the final voting.
There was a motion by the Rev. Steve Clunn, serving on extension ministry as the coalition coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action in Washington, D.C., to remove petition GC2016.8 Disaffiliation for Reason of Conscience from the list earmarked for the conversation circles. The petition, submitted by Submitted by the Rev. Merrill S. Bender, seeks the Conference’s endorsement to petition the General Conference to amend The Book of Discipline regarding a local church’s surrender of its charter. When asked by Bishop Webb if the members understood Rev. Clunn’s amendment, they answered with a resounding “no.” Rev. Clunn provided an example as to his rationale why the resolution didn’t belong in the mix, but ultimately his amendment failed.
Other comments and concerns included: do any of the resolutions and petitions conflict with each other? Is the time allotted and the questions to be asked during the conversation circles enough to dig deep on any of the issues? And is two hours of constant dialogue too much without a break?