|Delegates prepare, pack for General Conference|
In late April, nearly 1,000 delegates will converge
on the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center for the 2008 United
Methodist General Conference. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Fort Worth
Convention & Visitors Bureau.
A UMNS Feature
By J. Richard Peck*
April 16, 2008
Georgina Dapcevich, a lay speaker and president of United Methodist
Women at Sitka (Alaska) United Methodist Church, is packing her bags for
One of two delegates from the Alaska Missionary Conference, Dapcevich
will join nearly 1,000 other United Methodist delegates from the United
States, Europe, Africa and Asia for the denomination's top legislative
meeting, set for April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Dapcevich, the first Native Alaskan elected as a delegate, describes
herself as "a 52-year-old woman of Tlingit heritage and a strong
spiritual faith in Jesus Christ."
She is one of 175 laywomen delegates from the United States who will
join 131 clergywomen delegates in Fort Worth. That 306 total is down
from 343 in 2004, but there are 100 fewer U.S. delegates attending the
2008 session, due to an increased representation from countries outside
of the United States, primarily countries in Africa.
Forty-two percent of the U.S. clergy elected to General Conference
are women, compared with 26 percent of the total number of the church's
female clergy in the United States. Forty-seven percent of the lay
delegates are female, while 56 percent of the denomination's lay U.S.
members are women.
For the past few months, Dapcevich has been studying 1,564 pieces of
proposed legislation that delegates will consider during the 10-day
legislative marathon, which is held once every four years. She will pay
special attention to 60 legislative proposals assigned to the General
Administration Legislative Committee, on which she will serve.
Among other things, her committee will review a report of the Task
Group on the Global Nature of the Church, which proposes to make four
changes in the church's constitution designed to pave the way for a new
worldwide church structure.
Dapcevich retired in 2007 as administrator at the Sitka Pioneer Home
and has remained active at all levels of the church. At her local
church, she serves on the pastor-parish relations committee and the
administrative board. On the conference level, she serves on the
committee on finance and administration and has been active on its
Native ministries and new ministries committees. She is also on the
denomination’s Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious
As with previous General Conferences, the 2008 event includes a number of delegates with family ties.
"If we are able to sleep six hours a night, that would be really good." – Bill Junk
Brothers Bill and Tom Junk are part of the 20-member Oklahoma
Conference delegation. Bill is president of the Oklahoma United
Methodist Foundation and a member of New Covenant United Methodist
Church in Edmund, and Tom is a five-time Oklahoma Conference delegate
and a member of First United Methodist Church in Tulsa.
Bill, who is attending his first General Conference, has been warned
by his brother that he won't get much sleep in Fort Worth because of the
large amount of legislation considered. "If we are able to sleep six
hours a night, that would be really good," he told Contact, the newspaper of the Oklahoma Annual (regional) Conference.
Even though they'll be at the same assembly, the brothers may not see
a lot of each other. Bill will serve on the 62-member Financial
Administration Committee, and Tom will serve on one of two Church and
Society committees. Tom’s 57-member group will be the first to deal with
perennial lightning rod issues related to human sexuality.
The brothers grew up Catholic in Shawnee, but they began to attend a
youth group at Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church in that city. "I’ve
really grown to love the church," Bill said.
Both men expressed their appreciation to their employers for allowing them to commit their time and gifts to this assembly.
Forging new bonds
Keya Belt, a 25-year-old laywoman in the Baltimore-Washington Annual
Conference, will attend her first General Conference with her mother,
the Rev. Cynthia Belt, pastor of Centennial Caroline Street United
Methodist Church in Baltimore.
The Rev. Cynthia Belt is a clergy delegate, and her daughter is a lay delegate. A UMNS photo by Marta W. Aldrich.
"We are excited," Cynthia told the United Methodist Reporter.
"It’s one more thing that we have the opportunity to do together. But
also since I know who my daughter is and that she is centered
spiritually, I know she has a lot to offer the church. She has the
wisdom and understanding to speak for her generation."
Keya teaches middle school students at a Lutheran school and is
active in her mother’s church, working within the children’s ministry
and with sacred dance.
Cynthia will be a member of the 57-member Conferences Legislative
Committee that will consider proposed amendments to the church
constitution related to a new global church structure.
Keya will serve on the Ministry and Higher Education Committee. The
77-member panel will deal with a whopping 229 petitions, the highest
number assigned to any single legislative group.
General Conference delegates are elected from among the members of
the church's annual (regional) conferences. To serve, they must have
been a member of The United Methodist Church for two years and active in
a United Methodist congregation within the boundaries of the annual
conference for four years.
*Peck is a retired clergy member of New York Annual Conference and
has attended 10 General Conferences, four of which he served as the
editor of the Daily Christian Advocate.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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