Up Close Series: Meet Your General Conference Delegates
This ongoing series provides insight from two of the delegates representing the Texas Conference at the mid-May General Conference. In the video and article to follow, meet Dr. Janice Gilbert, pastor of St. James UMC in Beaumont in the South East District. This article also spotlights Marquice Hobbs, 23, a member of Jones Memorial UMC in Houston, who attends Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.
Why did you want to participate in General Conference?
A few reasons why I wanted to participate in General Conference are: to represent the youth and young adults of The United Methodist church especially within the jurisdiction of the Texas Annual Conference, to understand better the political and bureaucratic side of the United Methodist Church, to aid in moving the church forward and setting the standard of our legislation and governing principles upon Biblical doctrines, and to just have fun and meet new people. I understand with this role comes a lot of responsibility and esteem. Thus, I do not take it lightly, for I want to represent my conference, especially the young adults and youth, as best as I can. This is my first time attending General Conference, and from the advice of my mentors, I’m ready for a long ride.
Why do you think General Conference is important?
I believe General Conference is important because it is a time where those of us under the United Methodist denomination can meet and fellowship with others. We are all unique in our culture, our stations in life, our spirituality, our political views, favorite genre of music and books, employment, and even in our hobbies. We are a large community of brothers and sisters, so just to be able to appreciate the differences amongst us in the spirit of community, holy conferencing, and fellowship is highly important. In addition, General Conference is the stage where a lot of big tickets items are dealt with such as how will we respond to global crisis, the concepts of human sexuality, the candidacy process and the most effective method for producing quality pastors through various means, and how best to indoctrinate the Holy Scriptures of God. General Conference is the place to direct the vision and agenda of the United Methodist Church, but it is also a time to meet and greet our many brothers and sisters whom represent their respective conferences from across the World.
What is your greatest hope for General Conference?
My greatest hope for General Conference is to be led by the Spirit of God, for if we are led by any other spirit we would fail. Moreover, I hope that all legislative committees can be heard and present their legislation before the body because it is highly important to deliberate and focus on all aspects and offices/ministries of the United Methodist Church throughout its hierarchical stages. I also hope that we can handle the topic of human sexuality and its place within the church and church leadership, along with other hot topic debates, with much integrity, diligence, and care. Lastly, I hope that somebody might be saved amongst our midst and that we might imprint upon the city of Portland the true faith of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and most importantly, our witness to Jesus Christ.
What is your greatest hope for the UMC?
My greatest hope of the United Methodist Church is that we might continue to shine bright the light of Christ into this dark world. The UMC should be hope for the hopeless, freedom for the oppressed, relief for the distressed, comfort for the afflicted, love for those engrossed with pain, and a mural of Jesus Christ, for the UMC stretches its arms through the world and is able, under its auspices, to touch any region therein. To many times the people of a community are separated by the walls of a church, so I hope that the UMC might break down its walls and have church in the streets, festivals with the homeless, revivals in the prisons, and choir rehearsal within the schools in order to transform the lives of people in the name of Jesus of Christ.
What are some of the most exciting ministries that the UMC is doing globally or locally?
One of the exciting things the United Methodist Church is doing globally, ministry wise, is UMCOR whose work reaches at least eighty countries. Through this ministry of the UMC, so many prayers are answered, so many people’s needs are met, and so many lives restored. They help people receive health provisions and are active participants in the sanitation of water for countries where the need is dire, amongst many other things they do. I have so much respect for this ministry, its accomplishments, and its many members. Locally, however, I feel it only best to speak to what I know which is the Texas Annual Conference. Within my personal conference, I love the summer College Pastoral Internship Program. This has been in effect for over five years now, and it gives young adults a glimpse of what being a pastor is all about. Interns are able to serve in a local church through the areas of teaching, preaching, administration, and so on and so forth. Young adults are required to live with a member of the church in order to be fully immersed within the life of that church. I remember the two years that I got to do it, and let me tell you, both years shaped my life. During my first year, I was able to stay with the Associate Pastor of The Foundry UMC in Cypress, Texas, Ray Hughes. It was a new church start for their second location where he was the pastor, and I got to experience the life of a pastor through all dimensions of social and personal interactions. He is a great man, his family is wonderful, and oh my goodness their church is a staple of Christian Discipleship, and I think nothing is more evident than their construction of Cy-Hope. My second year was just as amazing under the leadership of Robert Besser and his team at Wesley UMC in Beaumont, Texas. We did door to door ministry, and had a blast in the office. His leadership style was one I took to heart, and from both pastors, their pastoral team, church, and ministries I definitely was mentored, supported, and loved on. In addition, through the culmination of both experiences it made me even more excited for my first day in office at a local church.
How is being a delegate in General Conference part of your calling?
Being a delegate is a part of my calling because God has called me to be a leader. I am a very humble person, but when you are confident in the work of God you are able to speak boldly. General Conference is the Mecca of church leaders who decide the future of the UMC and who network in order to create and renovate potential partnerships between persons, ministries, conferences and businesses. I believe God wants me to be an active participant on this stage of the UMC, and my hope and will is that I can do the ground work to be as effective as God so desires.