During General Conference 2016, we are going to feature delegate stories from our NC Conference delegates, so you can learn more about them and the committees they will be serving.
Here are the questions we asked:
- Tell us about how you came to know Jesus.
- Tell us about your committee.
- What do you feel is important for the NC Conference to know about your committee/role at GC?
- How does this affect the people in the pews?
Today, we have Jacob Beasley and LaNella Smith sharing their stories.
I grew up attending our local church, Erwin UMC in Erwin, North Carolina. As a child, I would sit through the service and not really listen as many young children do. It wasn’t until I was around 12 or 13 that I really started listening to the words that were being said. I also started attending youth group at this age, where the messages became more relevant and I began to understand God and His love. I attended the Conference Youth Event Breakaway the summer after my 7th grade year, where I had a powerful experience with Christ. I continued to listen and ponder in church and attend Conference Youth Events and, year after year, I grew in my faith and understood Jesus more and more.
I am a reserve delegate. I am to fill in for anyone who may have to step away from the floor or their committees for an extended period of time. Although I am an alternate and not in any specific committee or on the floor at all times, having the voice of a young adult at General Conference allows for more voices and perspectives to be heard. It is important to have a variety of voices being heard.
All work that is done here will affect people in the pews. It will influence or change church policy and doctrine that will be followed by the church for the next quadrennium.
When I think about how I came to know Jesus, I immediately think of my mother and grandmother. Both were God-fearing, scripture-quoting prayer warriors. Praying was a way of life for both of these women, who also taught me to pray and to trust. This trust in Jesus was nurtured in Sunday School and BTU (Baptist Training Union). At the age of 12, I professed Christ for myself and walked down the aisle of Morehead Avenue Baptist Church and gave the pastor my hand and gave Christ my heart.
As a child, my life was centered on the church. Most of my social activities, outside of school, were church activities. I loved attending church, singing in the choir and hearing the preached word. I loved watching the ushers in their starched uniforms walk with precision. Church was both Sunday morning and Sunday evening service. Every first Sunday evening service was a baptism service. We lived with the expectation and anticipation that someone would give their life to Christ and be baptized.
At this General Conference, I am a member of the Independent Commissions Legislative Committee. I serve as the elected Secretary of the committee. This committee receives all petitions and resolutions relating to commissions and ecumenical concerns. The commissions include Archives and History, Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, Communications, Religion and Race, the Status and Role of Women, and United Methodist Men.
This committee also had two petitions related to United Methodist Women that are requesting new paragraphs to the Book of Discipline. Both petitions are related to the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner. One petition is requesting to recognize Deaconess and Home Missioner as Lay Orders. Two persons from our Annual Conference, Brenda Brown and Steve Taylor, have been affirmed for consecration and commissioning to the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner at this General Conference. The other petition is requesting Ecclesiastical Support for Deaconesses and Home Missioners who have been trained for chaplain or counseling ministries. This support would not include sacramental rights but would acknowledge a covenant of mutual commitment, accountability and support between the UMC through United Methodist Women and the deaconess/home missioner. Ecclesiastical support is required for professional certification.
Scripture makes it clear that all are called to ministry and are given abilities and gifts for ministry. Should the above mentioned legislation receive approval, it would show that the UMC affirms the ministry of the laity.
Our committee has one petition requesting a new paragraph to the constitution of the Book of Discipline. This new paragraph would be titled “Gender Justice.” This legislation is asking the UMC to acknowledge the long history of discrimination against women and girls and that the church would seek ways to eliminate gender inequality. Should this legislation receive a favorable vote at General Conference, it would then have to be voted on by the Annual Conferences.
Many in our U. S. pews may not think a constitutional amendment about Gender Justice is needed. However, we are a global church and our Discipline speaks to the global United Methodist Church. Even in America, women suffer inequality in the workplace. The average woman who works year-round earns 77% of her male counterpart, but the chasm widens significantly based on race. Women make up 75% of the low-wage workers. John 10:10 (ERV) states: “But I came to give life—life that is full and good.” Working to eradicate gender inequality helps women to experience the full and good life that God promised.