An Apology

2020 AMEC GenCon Member Discussion Forum

AMEs around the World

A Word of Apology

 

A few of my colleagues have suggested that I misrepresented their collective view on “virtual participation” in the General Conference or other connectional meetings.  I sincerely apologize for my misunderstanding and any distortion of the discussions among the Bishops and the meeting of the General Conference Commission.  Now that we have a better understanding, I will look forward to conversations in the near future.  I also pray the deliberations will lead to studies and draft implementation plans for virtual presence for our global gatherings as we wrestle with this pandemic.

The Virtual Option

Although the original vision for this blog is the discussion of legislative proposals, the current pandemic as called us to looked a some new church related issues.  To keep the discussion off of a totally public forum, I am privately engage through the blog.

This is the original post on Facebook.

The Rejection of Virtual Gatherings

Jeffrey N. Leath, 128th Bishop

The Council of Bishops and the General Conference Commission have summarily rejected the notion of a connectional virtual, computer-generated gathering.  The Council of Bishops and the General Conference Commission not only went beyond expressed displeasure with the concept, they also refused to research the issue and the efficiency of holding and conducting virtual meetings.  The failure to even study the possibilities is the most disappointing of their actions.  Is there due diligence for these uncharted times when we ignore options?

All of us have concerns about virtual gathering these days (Zoom, Go to Meeting, and private platforms).  Security. Equal access of all members of the deliberative body.  Mixed participation (some onsite while others are virtual).  The list goes on.  Complexity and novelty is no excuse for disregarding feasibility.

Here is the reality.  The world is already different.  If we do not at least think about new ways of doing business, we will be caught behind the curve in expensive, antiquated processes.  The current social order is a warning bell.  Why are we dreaming and waiting for the return of the “good old days?”

We understand the health interests for our members.  There is special concern for the most vulnerable.  We are also sympathetic to the need for fairness for our international institution.  However, there may be more equity in a virtual gathering than we duplicitously deny.

Where is the fairness of representatives from Districts 14-20 having to spend over $2,000 just to get to a point of entry where they will get the same travel allowance as American representatives to meetings like the General Board?  Where is the justice in observers traveling to any connectional meeting having access by auto, bus, or airplane with unrestricted movement, while persons outside the United States are burdened with the costs (and often the disappointment) of securing visas and forced air travel.

We can maintain our integrity with digital presence, that is, online face-to-face meetings, just as easily as in-person.  Better stewardship of fiscal resources and creative strategies may open new horizons of excellent service.  Can’t we look at it and give it a try?

We are wasting precious time and opportunity.  The Connectional Lay Organization is already using a virtual format for their Executive Board.  Why are we still riding the conference call pony while other institutions, as noble as ours, have jetted into the video age?

By implementation on a smaller scale NOW in anticipation of the inevitable, The Council of Bishops, General Board and Commissions should engage in virtual meetings NOW.  We can learn the technology; iron out the wrinkles, secure the systems; and assess the benefits and the liabilities.

During World War II, international travel among civilians was severely limited, and even during war, the General Conference met.  What if there is no international travel in the summer of 2021?  Will we still postpone the General Conference because of disease and travel restrictions, no matter the extent?

Perhaps, The People need to say to the Leaders, Let’s live in the technological present and consider ALL our options for doing God’s work through our Zion!    Do justice, Love mercy, walk humbly!

General Board 1.1.3 The GB & AME, Inc.

Rationale:  Since the inception of the General Board, the work of administering the “connection” has become significantly more complex.  The relationship between AME, Inc. and the General Board is woefully nondescript.  The ambiguity of sections of the Discipline and the opaque operation of AME, Inc. have created areas of conflict which need serious legislative and strategic attention.  This is CRITICAL.

Proposal:  1.  AME, Inc., in its present form, cannot be allowed broad administrative functions beyond the view and control of the Council of Bishops and the General Board.  2. We need clear avenues for a. regular reporting in the interim of the General Conference; b. protocols to communicate strategies and desired outcomes of actions; c.  a clear, concise guide for what constitutes necessary, discrete, independent action by AME, Inc.

The Conversation Plan

Over the coming months, we may modify the plan, but here is the process with which we will begin.

  1.  There will be a posting of some general ideas on a subject.  This may include goals and concepts for proposed legislation.  A few days will be allowed for discussion and input.
  2.   We will present a draft of legislation for review and discussion.  Larger documents will be available by links. We will make an effort to keep the site tidy.  We do not want to be distracted from the important task of thinking things through.
  3.   Once the discussion has slowed on one topic, we will move to a new area for consideration. (We can always go back, if necessary.)  Depending on the number of responses and proposed revisions, it should take 2-4 weeks to work through a primary issue.
  4.   The point of this blog is to get rational feedback on possible legislation. Please be brief with responses.  Although we have no intent to censor legitimate ideas, we are monitoring posts to minimize abuse.
  5.   When we get to a final draft, the text will be forwarded to leadership and submitted for official consideration.

Thanks for visiting.  If you have an interest in AME Church structure and legislation, prayerfully join the journey.  The first area of consideration will be The General Board.

An Invitation to Conversation

Welcome to the first post of my personal blog!  Though I am known for passion and opinions, the posts (for this season) will not critique individuals or situations.  This is not a forum to share our likes/dislikes about our denomination or its leaders. It is a platform to present ideas and processes for consideration by the AME Church public.  The goal is to reform our administrative structure to be more efficient, effective and equitable rather than encumbered by politics and process. Our structure should enable, not frustrate, our mission of ministry.  Moreover, the institution should not be an end in itself.

Through this blog, I hope to gather critical responses to proposals. Replies to correct and improve (or outright reject) ideas are welcome.  Iron sharpens iron.  We hinder our progress by not having enough conversations. Our conversations are not helpful if we talk without listening.  We pray for discernment as we hear the Spirit through voices of faith and reason.  Together, we can arrive at viable options for how to do church better.

While consensus on most matters will be nice, I am prepared to agree to disagree with love and respect.  Ultimately, the decisions about the future organization of our Zion will be made by the voters in the General Conference.  We can add to the wisdom of deliberations by offering rational assessments for some of the ideas floating around the connection.  The statements found herein have no official authority.  They reflect the personal  opinions of the writers.

Pray for holy wisdom and guidance as we press on!

+JNL