Report by Rev. Stephen Sparks, 5/1/2012, #1


Rev. Stephen Sparks, pastor, Indianola First UMC and reserve delegate

Did you know? Because of United Methodist efforts in Imagine No Malaria and Nothing but Nets, malaria rates in sub-Saharan Africa have been cut 50%-60%. There are 200,000 people alive today because of these efforts. There are 15 villiages in Sierra Leone that have requested a UM church plant because of net distribution. DS's in Sierra Leone have received requests by Muslim communities for a UM church plant. After GC2012, a net displayed on stage will be given to a family in Africa. It will be the ONE MILLIONTH NET distributed. God is at work in The UM Church and every life saved is a good. The word of God spread by the people of God and bringing physical and spiritual life. Thanks be to God.

This morning (4/30) the General Conference reconvened in Tampa in General Plenary Session. The church was able to complete elections in several categories. For the first time, two members from Africa were the top vote getters for the church’s top court. The Conference elected to the Judicial Council the Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko of the Southern Congo Annual Conference in Africa and the Rev. Dennis L. Blackwell of the Greater New Jersey Conference. The Rev. Kabamba Kiboko was the first woman ordained in the Southern Congo Conference. Dennis Blackwell is just completing a term of service on the Judicial Council. Oswald Tweh and Beth Capen were elected from the laity. Tweh is from Liberia and holds multiple law degrees, one from the University of Liberia and one from Harvard University. He is a professor of law at the University of Liberia and has served as the president of the Liberian Bar Association. Capen who is an attorney in private practice served on the Judicial Council before in 2004.

In other elections, the Conference also elected four members to the University Senate. In the category of University CEO's, Dr. Jan Love and Dr. Thimbang Owan Kasap received the highest number of votes. In the category of Other Relevant Positions, Dr. William Abraham and Bill Arnold received the highest number of votes.

In other action the Conference voted to reject a petition brought by the Council of Bishops to create a set-aside bishop without resident responsibilities. This issue was first brought before the Conference in 1968. Bishop Larry Goodpastor of the Western North Carolina Conference, elected to the episcopacy in 2000 out of the Mississippi Annual Conference, stated, “This position is to guide and focus the Council of Bishops and to give more time and energy to that.” The plan received a simple majority of 55.12 percent of the vote in favor, but it fell short of the two-thirds total required to pass because it dealt with a paragraph of the denomination’s constitution.   In response to the vote, Bishop Goodpastor stated that, “The Council of Bishops will continue to devote ourselves to the mission of the church as servants of Christ Jesus.” Goodpaster told United Methodist News Service. “The General Conference has decided and we move on with hope and confidence that the mission will be advanced. We will continue to focus our energy on the adaptive challenge and lead our episcopal areas and the whole church toward increasing the number of vital congregations around the globe. We know that the demands placed upon the president of the council will continue to expand. We will all find ways to support and encourage the person elected in every way possible as all of us who have served as president of the council have experienced.”

A petition to set term limits on Bishops to one quadrinium with the possibility to be elected to additional terms, a plan originally brought by Mike Childs, senior pastor of Louisville UMC, Mississippi Annual Conference but modified significantly by ammendment, was brought before the body shortly before the lunch break. While voting by a slim majority to approve the plan, it failed to garner the needed two-thirds majority to amend the constitution.