Differing View of North Georgia Conference Confessing Motion
I have a much different view than Dr. Bruce Webster about the recent session of the North Georgia Annual Conference. Although Dr. Webster and I have never met, we were both signed on as co-sponsors of a resolution asking the N. Ga. Conference to embrace the official Confessing Movement statement.
Here are a few corrections to the record.
1) Contrary to Dr. Webster's statement, the CM resolution was NOT strongly opposed in the resolutions committee. Yes, the committee did vote "non-concurrence" (by a 6-2 vote), but the motion for non-concurrence was offered, not by an opponent, but by a committee member who has be associated with the CM from the beginning.
It was his belief (a belief which I do not share, by the way) that the time was not right to push for passage of the CM statement. He warned that the current move to put labels on congregations and conferences -- "We're a reconciling congregation" "We're a confessing Conference," etc. -- is simply sowing seeds of further discord in the UMC. (Again, I disagree.) I recall no statement from any member of the resolutions committee "strongly opposing" the CM statement itself.
2) Yes, the preamble was stripped from the resolution. This was a change to which NONE of the co-sponsors present objected.
The problem with the preamble was that the assertions made in it were not footnoted or attributed. I wasn't happy with that lack of attribution, nor were some of the other co-sponsors. Several members of the resolutions committee also viewed the lack of "sourcing" as a serious matter. (As I recall, committee members raised this same concern regarding the preambles to at least two other resolutions.)
The four co-sponsors of the CM resolution who were present at the resolutions committee meeting agreed to strip the preamble because we realized that, if we did not, when the resolution came to the floor, the debate would end up revolving around the unattributed assertions and statements in the preamble rather than the CM statement itself.
3) I know nothing about various "insiders" being "dismayed" about the CM resolution being presented. No one expressed any dismay to me. Neither did anyone put any pressure on me regarding the CM resolution.
Ultimately, the resolution was pulled, not because of "unrelenting pressure," but because it became apparent that we, the co-sponsors, had not done the necessary work of educating people about the resolution. We became concerned that the resolution would be voted down out of ignorance, not out of opposition (people tend to vote against things they don't understand).
The pulling of the resolution was simply a change in strategy. What is needed is for N. Georgia United Methodists who support the CM to spend time and make the effort necessary to educate next year's delegates. I wish we had done that grassroots work this year, but we didn't.
Pulling the resolution had less to do with establishment pressure (which, as I say, I never felt) than with a desire to make sure everybody understood what we were voting on and why. The decision to pull the resolution was not a matter of whether the Spirit of God would be trusted to win the day. It was a matter of deciding to educate people about the importance of contending for, adhering to, and proclaiming the "the faith once delivered unto the saints."
On a final note, let me say that much of this year's conference was encouraging. The Bible teaching from Dr. Ben Witherington (professor of NT, Asbury) was Christ-centered and challenging. The morning praise and worship were tremendous. Many of the testimonies were uplifting.
God is at work in the N. Georgia Conference, and I have discovered that He usually prefers to marinate rather than microwave. If we will hold fast, pray the price and spend time in one-on-one education about the CM, I think the Holy Spirit will give us a victory -- a victory that will be far more than just a show of us hands. He will give us a victory rooted in changed hearts and transformed lives.
Grace and peace,
Joseph Slife Lay Leader Gateway UMC-Athens GA
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