Expect to see the Commission on a Way Forward’s proposals in weeks — not months.
The organizers of General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, announced that they expect the needed translation work to be completed by July 30 — after which it can be made public.
The report is being translated from English to the three other official languages of General Conference — French, Kiswahili and Portuguese.
“As a matter of equity throughout the international church, it was deemed important to ensure that the report become available in all four languages at the same time,” said a statement by the Rev. Gary W. Graves, secretary of General Conference.
The Council of Bishops on July 9 revised its call for a special General Conference in 2019 so it will take up a report by the Commission on Way Forward.
The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book, requires all translated legislation to be distributed to delegates 90 days before General Conference. In this case, that deadline is Nov. 26.
Agencies and others who submit General Conference legislation frequently post their legislation well ahead of the big meeting, but generally not in all official languages.
Given the unique nature of this special session, Graves said, General Conference organizers agreed that the Way Forward Commission and Council of Bishops could publicly post the commission’s translated report before the deadline.
The move applies solely to what the Way Forward Commission has submitted — not other petitions.
The 32-member, bishop-appointed commission was charged with finding ways through the denomination’s deep divide on homosexuality. It is offering legislative petitions for three different plans for ministry with LGBTQ individuals.
The bishops initially announced that they expected the needed translation work to be completed no later than July 8, the deadline for petitions to the special General Conference.
The delay, General Conference organizers said, was in part because of Judicial Council’s Decision 1360, which expanded the number of petitions that could be filed and thus need translation.
In the May 25 ruling, the court said other United Methodists could submit legislation as long as the General Conference deems “the business proposed to be transacted in such petition is in harmony with the purpose stated in the call.”
To save money, the Commission on General Conference — the body that plans the big meeting — decided to have a contract that covered work for both the 2019 and 2020 General Conferences.
After the court ruling, the commission said, the scope of the 2019 portion of the contract had to be expanded and required significant updating before the bid and selection process could move forward.
“Combining the two contracts resulted in a significant cost savings to the general church,” said Sara Hotchkiss, General Conference business manager, in a statement.
She added that it also helps safeguard accuracy in translations by having the same company process all General Conference materials, using the approved United Methodist glossary.
The Judicial Council ruling also led the bishops to revise their call for the special General Conference. In a footnote, the court said that based on action at the 2016 General Conference, it expected the legislation to come from the Way Forward Commission — not filtered through the Council of Bishops.
The amended call now says: “The purpose of this Special Session of the General Conference shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon the recommendations of the Council of Bishops.”
Bishops have the authority to call a special General Conference under Paragraph 14 of the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book.
Other United Methodist groups and individuals have submitted petitions, which are also being translated.
All translated materials heading to the special General Conference will be sent to delegates in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate by Nov. 26.Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.