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Conservative African Delegates Protest Loss Of Voting Privilege Due To Shortage Of Interpreters


Increased Number of Interpreters Solves Dilemma

A group of Central Conference delegates from Africa responded with righteous indignation at the first meeting of the Legislative Committee on Church and Society May 3. They discovered they had been forced to choose between serving in their assigned committee of choice without an interpreter or to have interpreter services in a committee in which they had neither voice nor vote* . After a flurry of activity it was announced Thursday evening that more than 70 interpreters (double those previously available) now covered every legislative committee.

These delegates traveled thousands of miles to attend General Conference. They came ready to participate in legislative committees and general plenary sessions only to be frustrated by a lack of interpreters. Some wanted to speak on resolutions on human sexuality and abortion, but those resolutions had been transferred to Faith and Order, a committee with no French or Swahili interpreter.

They asked for the right to speak and vote in the legislative committee; however, General Conference rules denied them that right. After several attempts to resolve the issue, Church and Society responded Wednesday evening by voting to suspend all actions of its legislative committee until the issue was resolved.

The Rev. Terri Rae Chattin, legislative committee chairs and Baltimore-Washington delegate, said, “Church and Society sees this as a justice issue. It sends a message to the General Conference about full and equal participation. If we are a truly global church, all delegates should have a vote. This is an issue the whole General Conference must address.”

Randy Nugent, general secretary, General Board of Global Ministries, explained that at the request of the General Commission on General Conference, the General Board of Global Ministries provides interpretation services for General Conference. The budget, languages and number of interpreters is decided in advance by the General Commission on General Conference.

An amendment to Chattin’s motion said the General Conference would “immediately” act to remedy this situation.

The motion, as amended, was adopted by the General Conference on a vote of 91.6 percent.

The cost to General Conference for these last-minute changes is estimated at $95,000, said the General Council on Finance and Administration Thursday evening. All persons and groups involved said they are committed to full participation of all elected delegates and will strive to provide enough interpreters for this and future General Conferences.

—Paul Widicus and Gretchen Hakola, Daily Christian Advocate

* The delegates were removed from the Faith and Order Legislative Committee which deals with the issue of homosexuality.

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