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California Evangelical Missionary Conference Fails, But Liberals Experience The Agony Of Defeat

From: Loran G. Berck
From: Loran G. Berck
Sent: Saturday, May 13, 2000 1:35 PM
Subject: Evangelical Missionary Conference results

Dear ERF Friends,

I want to share with you from my perspective what happened with the Evangelical Missionary Conference petition that we sent to General Conference. First of all we need to give a hearty Amen, and our sincere and deep thanks to Richard Thompson and Ron Greilich who watchdogged and shepherded the petition through the most crucial stages of its consideration.

It seemed at first that someone was trying to sandbag it from the beginning because it was switched through two of the major committee before finally landing in the Conferences Committee. All the while Richard, Ron, and I were taking EVERY OPPORTUNITY to speak with delegates and delegations. Good News was very, very helpful to us. They helped us strategize and gave us key delegates to talk with.

Once the proposal finally landed in the Conferences Committee Richard and Ron made their presence made known to the leadership and when the petition finally came up for discussion in one of the subcommittees BOTH of them were given opportunity to speak! It was extremely rare when persons other than from one of our General Boards and Agencies were granted this privilege. God was so good! Richard and Ron received a warm welcome and a good hearing. The result was that the petition received a favorable vote of 12 for, 5 against from the Subcommittee, and it passed out of the subcommittee with a recommendation for Concurrence.

The privilege of voice was not granted to Richard and Ron when it got to the full Committee. However, it did receive a good discussion and the final vote from the full Committee was for Nonconcurrence, 47 for and 28 against. What that meant was that the petition would come before the full Conference and could not go on the Consent Calendar.

Needless to say, we were surprised and very delighted!

We had to make a decision at that point. Should we file a minority report? The committee had been told following its final vote that such a report would be coming.

By this time Richard had left General Conference because of other obligations. Ron Greilich, Don Roulsten, Bob Kuyper, and myself made the determination that the best strategy was not to present a minority report. The reasons are as follows:

  1. When filing a minority report the rules of the General Conference are such that there must be a change to the original petition involving more than just editorial changes. We did not see where any such changes could legitimately be made without diminishing the desired result of the petition;

  2. We were deeply concerned that amendments and or substitutions from the floor could gut the meat of the petition;

  3. Discussion amongst us was held about having the petition referred. Don was our strongest advocate for not referring the petition. He did not feel that he could go home and tell you or his church that our petition was now subject to the whims and wiles of some General Board or Agency. Bob Kuyper was an equally strong advocate for allowing referral to take place. His reasoning was that this would keep the issue alive and active for the next four years, giving us a base of strength for 2004.

  4. Most of us had a deep sense that we did not want to see our petition "institutionalized", or co-opted by someone or some agency that did not have an understanding of what was going on in the Western Jurisdiction, nor especially in the Cal-Nev Annual Conf..

With these understandings in mind we chose the following strategy:

  1. Let the petition come to the floor of General Conference with a recommendation of nonconcurrence;

  2. Ask Harry Wood to make an arrangement with someone on our Delegation such that he could come to be seated in the plenary session when our petition was brought to the floor, and then give a speech asking for the Conference to not support the Committee’s recommendation and to allow we evangelicals the opportunity to truly be United Methodists;

  3. Continue to contact as many delegates as possible seeking their support. (You need to know that we felt support for our petition was growing stronger each day. All of us who were present were continually being asked questions and being given opportunity to talk about our petition. It was VERY HEARTWARMING to experience such widespread support.).

  4. Allow the delegates, who by this time were openly telling us that they would speak in favor of our petition, to discuss the petition on the floor.

All of this time we were in a quandary about when the petition would be placed before the Conference. No one knew when that would happen, so we had to be alert to all of the proceedings.

On Thursday evening, actually Friday morning – yes, we rarely got to bed before 1 AM – Good News people suggested to Bob and I that they felt the best strategy was not that which we were pursuing and that they felt that a motion to refer was the best opportunity for the petition to survive. Would we be upset if they presented a petition to refer. Bob and I stated that we would not oppose them if that is what they felt was best, but that we were still going with Harry Wood as our speaker.

You need to understand that by this point Good News had achieved remarkable success. No, they did not get everything they wanted. But for the first time in anyone’s memory they were not having to scramble to write Minority Reports! They were being affirmed right and left! Virtually all of their efforts were being achieved, and they had incredibly remarkable support from across the Denomination!

Well, our petition was the very first one considered at the morning session, Friday, May 12th. Harry did get seated. I believe Don Fado gave up his seat for Harry.

Immediately a delegate favoring Good News was recognized. He proposed an amendment to refer the petition to the General Council on Ministries. Harry was they recognized and he had no choice but to recommend that they vote against referral. After some minor discussion – which in my view was not really germane – a vote on the amendment was taken and it lost 358 for referral, 557 against referral.

Another delegate was recognized who proposed a substitute motion…, and friends you will have to read the Daily Christian Advocate to get the exact wording, because I could not write fast enough to get it all down. But…, it was a very biting motion which said in effect that the Council of Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction was DIRECTED (I believe the words used were: "instruct and bind") by the General Conference to enter into a direct process, which would include the makers of the petition and those of similar persuasion, along with the leadership of Cal-Nev to investigate, and discuss in face to face dialog the concerns represented by the petition such that reconciliation in some manner might be achieved. (Now please forgive me that I am not clearer about this. Things were moving so fast that It was difficult for me to take accurate notes. The words of this substitute motion were, to me, so precise and biting that I was very surprised and a bit stunned!) In any case the motion failed 300 for, 600 against.

Our petition then became the main motion once again, and remember the recommendation was for nonconcurrence.

Harry was immediately recognized and was able to speak. He gave a very persuasive, a very good and clear speech outlining the reason for our position. He used the full time allotted to him, and I was very satisfied that we had been given a fair hearing.

A Korean pastor from Cal-Pac spoke against the petition saying that four years ago their effort to get a Korean Missionary Conference was based solely upon language and not theology, and that he was fearful of the results if our petition was approved.

Mariellen Sawada, the chair of our delegation from Cal-Nev was recognized. She gave a VERY PASSIONATE speech against our petition, saying that this was not necessary, that District Superintendents were already in dialogue with those who agreed with this petition, saying in effect that leadership was not insensitive to the needs of evangelicals. In my opinion, the words and passion she used told the Conference that everything Harry had said in his speech was simply untrue.

When the vote was taken the Conference supported the recommendation for nonconcurrence: 615 for, 312 against.

It is fair to say that although our delegation was emotionally supportive of Harry, they were most certainly not supportive of anything he said. Indeed, immediately after the vote I had conversations with a couple of our folk from Cal-Nev who took strong objection to our rationale for the petition – the rationale which Harry so ably lifted before General Conference. I also had conversation with Mariellen who said that she did not say what I understood her to say. Well, I could be wrong, and if so I will apologize to her. But I do want to read the text of her speech when it arrives in the Daily Christian Advocate.

Now…, do I feel that we lost. Quite honestly I believe General Conference was a tremendous victory! Yes, our petition did not get approved. However, the evangelical conservatives of Cal-Nev, and indeed the entire Western Jurisdiction, have been affirmed and recognized in a way that has never been done before! Our brother and sisters across this denomination KNOW WE EXIST! They supported us in unprecedented numbers as never before! They are praying for us! They are willing to continue the battle with us! They are saying to us, "Please, don’t give up! Your struggle is our struggle! We ARE watching you and what happens to you, and WE WILL NOT LET YOU GO DOWN WITHOUT A GREATER FIGHT!"

Friends, you had to be there to see it and feel it…, we ARE NOT alone!

Again, friends, you had to be there to see it and feel it…, the Western Jurisdiction delegations, with their liberal socio-political agenda were defeated across the board! Words that I heard them share was "we are being marginalized, demeaned, ignored, and even brutalized" (Does that sound familiar?!) I even heard one of our liberal colleagues say, "The blood of the liberal camp is flowing freely." Another said to me, "I now know what you ERF people have been experiencing…, this is brutal!"

There is a great opportunity out there for us now. We can try to re-engage, trusting God to continue his miraculous love and grace in our ministry together, or we can self isolate and say "Well, they are finally getting their just reward ". There is a TREMENDOUS amount of spiritual pain being felt by those in the liberal camp. I would challenge you to step it up a notch and truly be the loving light and enriching salt of Jesus to our Cal-Nev colleagues. They are wounded and bleeding. Let’s not emulate our experiences of the past. Will we wrap their wounds with the healing balm of the love of Jesus? We will be as the Samaritan and embrace them with God’s forgiving grace?

If you have questions, please feel free to ask away. I know that Richard and Ron and Bob, as well as Shep, and Don, and Randy Anderson, and Al VomSteeg would be more than willing to respond to any question you might have. These words above are simply my recollections of an extremely exciting 12 days.

In Christ’s Love,

Loran Berck

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