What’s different at AC2020
September 29, 2020 / By The Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding, Assistant to the Bishop and UNY Director of Connectional Ministries
Editor’s Note: The Upper New York Annual Conference is scheduled for Oct. 3 at 9:30 a.m. The livestream link for non-eligible voting members can be found here. Eligible voting members must access the secured livestream via a different link that will be emailed to them and must login with the email and password they created at registered. If you are a voting member who has forgotten your login email and/or password, you must contact Tech Support by Friday Oct. 2 at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 315-898-2023.
One thing is certain: Saturday’s Annual Conference session will look and feel different.
The first thing you’ll likely notice (besides being able to attend Conference in your PJs at the kitchen table if you like!), is the agenda. Due to the limitations of a virtual gathering, we’ve focused our agenda on the few things we must get done:
- Receiving the report of the Conference Lay Leader and District Superintendents in the Leadership Report;
- Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits recommendations;
- Equitable Compensation recommendations, including 2021 minimum clergy salary recommendations;
- Board of Trustees report and recommendations, including closed church recommendations;
- Committee on Nominations recommendations for 2021 committees and leaders;
- Council on Finance & Administration recommendations, including the 2021 shared ministries supported budget;
- Acknowledgement of appointments.
Regrettably, we’ll need to wait until our next in-person Annual Conference to share worship, bible study, table fellowship, mission projects, and debate other resolutions and petitions.
The proposed organizational motion, which establishes the process by which we discuss and decide on recommendations, is also different for this Annual Conference session, particularly regarding amending recommendations. Here’s what is proposed:
The meeting will be conducted in a manner such that all participants are afforded a reasonable opportunity to participate. Only items in the published agenda will be considered. Due to the limitations of a virtual gathering, each report and recommendation will be presented to the Annual Conference session with provision for debate but not amendment. All participants will have the right to speak and address those in attendance during the meeting. Poll logs will be maintained for all votes.
The rationale for this is straightforward. Proposing, debating, modifying, and adopting amendments (and amendments to amendments) to recommendations is no easy task even when we are physically together in one location; it will be incredibly difficult for 1000+ of us seated separately at our kitchen tables to manage. Limiting ourselves to debate followed by an up or down vote will keep things simple, timely, and focused. This format will only be for this virtual session. When we are physically together again, we can return to our normal practice.
This year’s nominations report will also be different due to the pandemic. Because of the pandemic, General Conference 2020 was postponed until September of next year. This change also shifted the beginning of the new quadrennium from January 1, 2021 to January 1, 2022. Because the Book of Discipline and our Conference rules tie the terms of service for several Conference teams to the completion of General Conference or the start of a new quadrennium, the end date for these team members in the class of 2020 is extended into 2021. These teams include:
- Council on Finance and Administration
- Administrative Review Committee
- Committee on Investigation
- Committee on Episcopacy
- Conference Director of Lay Speaking
- District Lay Leaders
- District Directors of Lay Speaking
- College Ministries Team
- Global Ministries Team
- Social Holiness Team
An interim board of ordained ministry will also be elected due these changes. This board will serve until the 2021 Annual Conference when a new board will be elected for the new quadrennium.
Several Conference leaders elected by the Annual Conference have also had their terms extended until next Annual Conference due to the postponed General Conference and the delayed start to the new quadrennium. These include the Conference Secretary, Conference Chancellor, and Conference Treasurer. The Conference Lay Leader’s term is also extended but because Susan Hardy is stepping down, the Annual Conference will elect a new Conference Lay Leader this year.
If this weren’t complicated enough, New York State’s requirement that we elect Conference trustees by written ballot means new trustees can’t be elected during our virtual session. The Book of Discipline does allow the Bishop and Cabinet, on recommendation of the nominating committee, to fill vacancies ad interim (between sessions of Annual Conference). The nominating report lists the three persons who will be appointed using this provision. They will serve only until our 2021 Annual Conference when new trustees will be elected by Conference members using a written ballot.
Like so many things since last March, COVID has forced us to adapt our ways of being together and living our mission as a Conference. Saturday’s Annual Conference session will be different, but it will also be good. Working together, we will do what we need to do to equip leaders and congregations for ministry in the year ahead.