Therefore go - highlights from General Conference 2016
For 11 days 860 delegates, approximately 150 bishops, and a couple of thousand visitors, staff and volunteers made the convention center in Portland Oregon their home. The following are some of the many highlights from the intensive days at General Conference – at times it was frustrating and even discouraging, but mostly it was hopeful and joyful, not least because all we did was wrapped in worship that filled our hearts with joy and led us into the presence of the triune God.
We began with Christian conferencing, engaging in respectful and honest conversations to set the tone for the remainder of the meeting.
The 860 delegates that made up the 2016 General Conference chose to stand united for the sake of staying in mission. We are a global church made up of people with differing viewpoints, yet we affirm a commitment to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.
The General Conference committed to continuing our work in the four Areas of Focus, and adopted bold new goals for the next four years: to make a million new disciples of Jesus Christ; to engage 3 million leaders to make a difference in the world; to transform 400 communities for vital abundant living; to reach a million children with lifesaving health interventions; and to double the number of vital congregations.
We had serious discussions about the global growth of the church and the state of the church in the U.S., and passed a reduced budget that utilizes the existing structure to address the problem through our general agencies working together while also providing an additional $5 million for theological education in the Central Conferences.
More than ever before the world wide nature of the church was reflected in the composition of the conference, in the debates, in worship and through utilizing simultaneous language translations for all. And then we decided to continue the work towards a global general book of discipline and to create revised global social principles.
Nordic & Baltic presence
Added to the number of the ten delegates from the Nordic and Baltic area were several members of general agencies and not least two gospel choirs Signatur from Oslo, Norway and KEFAS from Copenhagen, Denmark.
The two choirs did an excellent job singing in worship services, at a lunch concert and through giving several concerts in churches in the area. Their performance lifted the worship services, and put a smile of joy and pride on our Nordic and Baltic faces.
All our delegates participated in a very active and competent way in their legislative committees, some even as members of administrative committees, and Andreas Elfving and Jørgen Thaarup served as subcommittee chairs in their legislative committees. Several of our delegates spoke from the floor of the plenary.
Audun Westad has served on the Commission on the General Conference in the past quadrennium, where he has done an excellent job particularly on the rules committee, which in several ways was reflected during the conference.
Bishop Christian Alsted preached in one of the worship services on the theme “Going under authority”, and furthermore he was given the task of presiding at two of the plenary sessions of the conference.
One of the most significant expressions of the Nordic and Baltic presence at the conference was, when rev. Øyvind Helliesen was elected as the first European to serve in the Judicial Council. Øyvind is highly competent in his knowledge and understanding of the Book of Discipline, and he will be an asset to the Judicial Council.
We celebrated our ecumenical partnerships as we move into full Communion with the Uniting Church in Sweden. This important relationship has already been put in place as an agreement were signed at a worship service in Malmö in the fall of 2015 in the presence of members of the council of the Uniting Church in Sweden (Equmeniakyrkan) and the Central Conference Council.
An Offering for a Way Forward:
There are deep divisions in the church about human sexuality, but the conference showed that there are options other than restructuring. We do not desire to split the church, and we seek unity for the sake of our mission and witness. For the first time, a General Conference appealed to the Council of Bishops to lead legislatively as well as spiritually, a responsibility that has been reserved for the body. The council humbly accepted this challenge to find a way forward and the body affirmed their proposal.
The Council of Bishops will lead a process to help the church move forward. This process has not yet been fully developed, but the Council will report to the church as we continue our conversations. It is yet to be determined whether there will be a special session of the General Conference.
We postponed any changes in our positions on human sexuality, and the Council will create a Commission to examine and possibly revise sections of church law regarding human sexuality. The Commission will include representation from every region of the UMC and from different perspectives.
Due to the process that has been initiated, no changes were made to the Book of Discipline regarding our official positions on matters of human sexuality.
As we near the end of our Imagine No Malaria campaign, we celebrated our success in raising $68.5 million in the fight against malaria, an effort that has served to help revitalize and engage churches in mission outreach.
We shared in the consecration of deaconesses and home missioners and the commissioning of 29 missionaries.
We acknowledged our heritage by observing a number of anniversaries: the 250th anniversary of John Street Church; the 200th anniversary of the death of Francis Asbury, the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, the 60th anniversary of the Methodist church granting full clergy rights to women, and the 25th anniversary of Africa University.
The Council of Bishops welcomed a new leadership team with Bishop Bruce Ough assuming the presidency of the Council. New members of the Judicial Council were elected, and for the first time a member from outside the US was elected president. Gary Graves was elected secretary of the General Conference.
Some additional legislation:
· A proposal to remove “for the transformation of the world” from our mission statement was defeated.
· Voted to withdraw United Methodist membership from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
· Approved a new cloud-based hymnal.
· Approved a petition to create a new provisional conference in Rwanda and in Southeast Asia and Mongolia.
· A new formula was created for the Central Conference theological education fund, allowing all Central Conference apportionment funding in excess of $750,000 to go to the education fund .
· Favored recommendation of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to add five bishops after General Conference 2020.
· Allowed the General Conference to set provisions in regard to bishops’ accountability and alter the complaint process against bishops.
· Effort to remove constitutional ban to end guaranteed appointments failed.
And then when we went home…
And then after long and intensive General Conference days I left with new insights, new friendships, new and deeper appreciation of our global connection, and with new hope for unity in mission and witness. And here I am, out of the General Conference bobble with a 9 hour jetlag, thankful and hopeful.
New administrative assistant to the bishop
Kirsten Hastrup becomes the new administrative assistant to the bishop, when Lilli Uth retires by the end of May this year. Kirsten is 54 years old, an educated teacher and has in addition a degree in commercial English and French. For the past 12 year she has worked as a teacher in a public school Lindegardsskolen in Lyngby. Previously she worked as a project manager and as correspondent.
Since 2005 Kirsten Hastrup and her husband has been members of the Jerusalemchurch United Methodist Church in Copenhagen. She is the mother of two grown up sons, both active in the children’s and youth ministry of the church.
Kirsten Hastrup assumes her new position on Monday 22. February. In a transitional period of 3 month she will work closely together with Lilli Uth until she assumes the full responsibility by the end of May.
At the Central Conference 19-23. October in Fredrikstad, Norway there will be an opportunity to thank Lilli Uth for her ministry as administrative assistant to the bishop since 2009.
Refugee Ministries in Europe
On its last meeting in September, 2015 The European Methodist Council considered the present refugee situation in Europe through Bible studies, prayer and conversation. Read more in the Pastoral Letter, Newsletter No 1, to all member churches in Europe.
See further information on the UMC.org webpage
Pastoral Letter from bishop Eduard Khegay and bishop Christian Alsted
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil.1:2)
In a time of turmoil and unrest in Ukraine and other European countries we write to You, the people called Methodists in the Nordic & Baltic and the Eurasia area to encourage You to continually devote yourselves to Christ in prayer for peace and understanding among the peoples of this world.
Many things divide the earth’s population - nationality, culture, language, economy, ethnicity, gender and age, however the kingdom of God has always been a realm that despite of all gathers people together in mutual love in Christian community.
While the political winds are shifting, the church is called to be a fellowship not of this world and yet sent into this world to reflect the self-sacrificing life of Christ. (John 17: 16, 18) This is by no means an easy task, and we continue to be challenged by the ever changing circumstances under which we live, as we seek to interpret and live out what the church should be, a redeemed and redeeming community.
As United Methodists in the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference we are bound together in a covenant to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our mission is along with other Christians to be part of Christ’s redeeming and transforming work in people’s lives, in the society and in world, rather than only to be successful and recognized. To “spread scriptural holiness” is to grow together and as Christ followers intentionally influence the society “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8)
Jesus said to his followers: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives.” (John 14:27) Trusting in this promise we ask our churches to unite in prayer...
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be comforted as to comfort;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in forgiving that we are forgiven;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May we as the United Methodist Church be such an instrument of peace always reflecting the love of Christ.
Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.
Eduard Khegay Christian Alsted
Bishop of the Eurasia area Bishop of the Nordic and Baltic area
We are starting new churches...
We are starting new churches in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Lithuania, and Estonia and Latvia are on their way. New exciting ministries are developing reaching out to the community with hope and love through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Watch this video and learn more...