'Shaping the UMC is a treasured experience'

'Shaping the UMC is a treasured experience'

November 10, 2015

“I am grateful to all my colleagues who voted for me and have confidence in me,” said Rev. Lilian Gallo Seagren, who had the honor of being the very first of the six clergy elected to the Iowa Conference delegation to the 2016 Conference of The United Methodist Church.  “The thought that I am a participant in the shaping and perfecting of the United Methodist Church is a treasured experience to me,” she enthuses. 

Interacting With the Delegates

This September they had their first meeting, which included both the General Conference delegates and the jurisdictional delegates. “In addition to getting to know each other, we did some planning about how we will spend time together to help each other prepare for the General Conference,” she says.

And then this past month, the North Central Jurisdiction invited delegates from different conferences. “We had the opportunity to hear the proposals that are coming from the general boards and agencies, so that’s exciting. And we had an opportunity to get to know the delegates of the North Central Jurisdiction. In July of 2016, when we come as a jurisdiction, we will be electing bishops,” she explains.

“That gave us an opportunity to have some conversation about what we are looking for in an episcopal leader, since that would be the body that’s entrusted with the sacred tasks of discerning who our next episcopal leaders will be in this jurisdiction.”

Considering important topics

Already, Rev. Gallo Seagren reports, these meetings have yielded some interesting and important discussions on subjects ranging from “the difficult and divisive concern that we have for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters” to proposals on how to make this a “global church in a global mission field.” All of which will be discussed at the General Conference next year.

“There is a proposal, for example, from the General Board of Church & Society on coming up with global social principles, and what the process would be to put that in motion,” she says. “I see a lot of intentionality on the part of the church to really come together and define was it means to be a global church, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Tackling the legislation

The delegates will soon have a great deal of material to pore over, as they read descriptions of the legislation that will be handled at the General Conference. “We have each been assigned to a legislative committee, and that will be our legislative committee while we’re at the General Conference. And that will be where we will participate in the legislative sessions.”

The idea is that each delegate can become a kind of specialist on certain sections of legislation, and then either present what they’ve learned to the other delegates or guide them to better understanding it. Rev. Gallo Seagren has been assigned to the independent commissions, some of which she notes are advocacy commissions.

Learning from the veterans

Team work like this plays a big role in making a Conference delegation successful, not only as they try to digest all the legislative material, but with all the other aspects of being a delegate. The “veterans” who have been through this process before are often of particular help.

“I really am grateful for some of our veterans in that delegation. They help us to focus and to center on our spiritual disciplines, our prayer life. In our first meeting we actually had communion together, and we’ll be meeting again next month,” Rev. Gallo Seagren says. “We’re scheduling a retreat in January, when we already have the materials in our hands.”

She continues, “There is this openness among the delegation, and each one kind of sharing what’s helpful in the past and what we may want to remember.”  For instance, one really good tip that the veterans have shared is to not be shy about using the alternate delegates, who can fill in when the long sessions – which can go from early morning to late at night – get really grueling at the Conference. “If you really need to rest a little bit or stretch, or to just have a two-hour break, there is an alternate waiting to be seated in the floor.”

Blogging about the Conference

Likewise, the younger members of the delegation have much to teach the older members, particularly when it comes to utilizing social media and technology.  “Pastor Katie Dawson created a blog where we can have some conversations or give our feedback or say how we are experiencing the General Conference,” says Rev. Gallo Seagren. “I really am grateful for the younger adults in the delegation because they see how valuable this is.”

She feels it offers the delegates an opportunity to give back to the people who elected them, while also encouraging interaction. “We would really like to invite people around our Conference to be able to engage with us while we are there. I’ll make sure I have my computer and my smartphone so I can participate in some of those conversations on the blog.”

Going Forward

Rev. Gallo Seagren views the experience of being a part of the General Conference as a “priceless” one. “The thought that I am a participant in the shaping and perfecting of the United Methodist Church is a treasured experience to me,” she enthuses.

“But I see us coming back with perhaps greater tasks ahead. There might be some uncharted territories. I imagine beyond me that there might be some great things in the fields that could happen, tasks for us as leaders of the denomination and of the Conference, tasks waiting to be started. I see our Conference open to new places, perhaps new people. And I look forward to learning how we may live into that future.”