From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Delegate Diary: Important issues face assembly

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 29 Apr 2004 11:51:33 -0500

April 28, 2004	  GC04-013

Dawn Hand, the communications director of the Western North Carolina
Conference of the United Methodist Church and a lay delegate to 2004 General
Conference, will offer her thoughts during the two weeks of General
Conference in Pittsburgh.

By Dawn Hand

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - Welcome to General Conference!  

This is my second time at General Conference as a delegate, and I worked at
the two prior to Cleveland in 2000. Being a "veteran" is not any easier
because, while you may have a better idea of what to expect, it's still the
same amount of work. We face a long journey over the next two weeks, sitting
in plenary sessions and going to meetings. It's a daunting task because the
decisions we make are not for ourselves but for the entire church, and that
puts a lot of things in perspective. 

Every four years, people come together as delegates and observers, thinking
this will be the most poignant General Conference yet because of the
important issues that we face. 
For example, the "Connectional Table" presentation by the General Council on
Ministries and the General Council on Finance will warrant a lot of

This time the budget will be a huge issue because of our churchwide economic

The problem for me is that we look for cutbacks and we talk about stewardship
in lean times, but never in times of plenty. So we have created a theology of
scarcity. At the same time, we have a wealth of resources that are available
to United Methodists. As long as our church agencies are faithful to what has
been entrusted to them, then people will have more respect for the whole
budgetary process. 

When I vote on budget issues, as a conference staff person I look at how it
will affect my annual conference, but as a local church member, I look at how
it will affect my local church. We have to remember that the local church
supports the general church. When we're adding millions to our overall
budget, you have to wonder how the local church will respond. Not very
favorably, I think.

Homosexuality will always be a hotly contested issue before the church. We
live in such a sexually oriented society that any items related to sex will
command a lot of attention.
We've talked a lot about the international delegates' visa controversy, and
I'm still very concerned about those delegates who struggled to get here and
those who are not here. I just feel like the whole process creates a General
Conference that is highly slanted toward the U.S. delegations.

While some issues may create anxiety, I come to General Conference with a
desire to discern God's will, and to prayerfully consider the tasks before
us. It's an awesome responsibility that we hold for the church, and one I
don't take lightly. Before I left home, my church prayed for me and for all
our delegates.

The pastoral letter, released Monday by the Council of Bishops, sets the
right tone to guide the church. We have some tough decisions ahead of us, and
I'm grateful to the bishops for their leadership. If we stray from our
reasons for being here, we can reflect back on our purpose and re-center

Our opening worship was phenomenal! The ushering in of the Spirit was quite
moving for me. As the woman carried the symbolic Holy Spirit, we felt the
Spirit spreading throughout the assembly. Bishop Ruediger R. Minor's message
was powerful; I hope we will heed his words.

I love the blending of cultures and the concerted effort to make sure all of
God's people were represented. I think this is what heaven will look like. We
all come from different cultures and perspectives and blend together in a way
that honors God.

# # #

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.
After May 10: (615) 742-5470.


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