Texas Annual Conference delegation continues preparations for General Conference
By Lindsay Peyton
While the uncertainty of the future of the Church has taken centerstage in a number of articles, discussions and minds concerning General Conference 2020, the event could also be a time to refocus and redirect our energy toward God’s love. Dr. Thomas J. Pace, Senior Pastor of St. Luke’s UMC in Houston, has been poring through legislation, learning as much as possible, in preparation for General Conference in May. He said the General Conference will present an opportunity to rebuild and strengthen the Church and renew hope.
“We’re going to be forced to make some hard decisions,” he said. “But I am really hopeful. I don’t think it’s going to be easy or always pleasant, but necessity is the mother of invention. I think we’ll give birth to something important in the days ahead, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Each month, the 18 delegates for the Texas Annual Conference gather for their General Conference delegation meetings – and Pace is serving as the head of the delegation. There will be two more meetings before the General Conference.
Early on, one of the first orders of business was establishing a set of values, Pace explained. The TAC delegates agreed to focus on prayer, asking for guidance, and to treat one another with love and respect. Having integrity and accountability were next on the list. That requires honesty with each other, transparency and preparation, Pace explained.
Finally, the delegates agreed to consider possibility. “We will be forward thinking,” Pace said.
He explained that their approach will require focus, addressing current topics instead of rehashing old conversations and seeking solutions with a holy curiosity, asking what God can do in this.
Before the start of each meeting, Pace said, the delegates from the TAC read the values together, to reiterate their commitment to the Church and each other.
“This is a challenging time in the life of the Church,” Pace said.
At their monthly meetings, the TAC delegates have also spent time discussing their expectations, fears, motivations and aspirations for the General Conference 2020. “It’s been a very positive, honest conversation,” Pace said.
He explained that there is a lot on the table during the General Conference. Here are a few important topics to consider:
A defined-contribution plan is similar to the 401(k) plans of most U.S. corporations and provides an account balance to use during retirement, with the clergyperson assuming the risk of sustaining the money through the end of his or her lifetime, while a defined-benefit plan provides a set monthly pension payment for life, with the conferences assuming the investment risk.
Making this switch would not affect the benefits of retired clergy or reduce what active clergy have already earned.
Wespath is also providing legislation that would allow management of both groups if a Church separation does occur.
Pace explained that the end of the General Conference may be the beginning of some changes in the Church, Pace is confident that certain things will always remain the same.
“On May 16, we’ll get up, we’ll go to the hospitals, to Bible study, to worship, to feed the hungry and to reach people for Jesus, to share the story of his amazing love,” Pace said. “Nothing that happens at General Conference is going to change that at all – and that’s the heart of what we do.”