Q&A Get to Know Your Delegates

Date Posted: 3/12/2020


By Lindsay Peyton - En Español

General Conference convenes every four years to determine the UMC’s course for the future. Annual Conferences elect their delegates, half clergy and half laity, for the event, which examines church law and adopts resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. The General Conference also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs for the next four years. The 2020 General Conference will be held in early May, with 862 delegates from around the world – and thousands of visitors – in attendance. The 18 delegates elected for the Texas Annual Conference continue to prepare for the event. Let’s meet a couple of our delegates:

Rev. Dr. Jeff McDonald serves as Senior Pastor at St. Paul's UMC in Houston. Prior to the appointment, he was the Pastor of FUMC Nacogdoches, FUMC in Chandler and FUMC in Trinity. He served as Executive Associate Pastor at Christ UMC in Sugar Land, and his first church job was at Cokesbury UMC as a part-time youth director. While in school at Centenary he was a youth intern under Senior Pastor John Fellers. He also served as Director of Youth Ministries at FUMC Lufkin and FUMC in Lake Jackson. Originally from Houston, McDonald earned an associate of arts degree in English from San Jacinto College, a bachelor of arts degree in Christian Education from Centenary College of Louisiana, a master of arts in history from Stephen F. Austin State University, a master of divinity from Southern Methodist University and a doctor of ministry from Houston Graduate School of Theology. He is active in Conference and District activities, including serving as the Chair for the Board of Ordained Ministry, where recently he travelled to Thailand and Laos to begin the process of certifying United Methodist pastors in those countries. He was a Co-Dean for Local Pastor Licensing School and a member of the Lakeview Board. In addition to local mission projects, he has worked in Mexico, Haiti and Costa Rica. His doctoral project was a hands-on plan to involve the church in identifying and working on local missions in the community.

Q. Why did you want to throw your hat in to be elected as delegate for General Conference?
A. I was not going to run this year, but I think it is such a critical time in the life of the United Methodist Church so I decided to run. Voices that want us to remain together need to be heard and represented on the delegation. 
 
Q. How would you describe your job preparing for General Conference?
A. The delegation meets regularly. We were in Oklahoma City recently with all the delegates for the Jurisdiction. I have been reading LOTS of legislation and meeting and praying. I go to lots of Sunday school classes, groups and other churches to talk about the work that is before us.


Q. What is your reaction to the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation?
A. I think the Protocol is a good way forward for the church. It allows for different thoughts in different congregations while allowing us to continue with the strength of the connection. 


Q. What do you think will be the future of the Church?
A. I do believe some congregations will vote to leave the UMC. That is going to cause some pain, and it makes me sad. I believe that once we are past these decisions, we will be able to again focus our time, energy and resources back on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 


Q. What gives you hope or makes you feel excited during this time?
A. I found great hope in our last visit to Laos where we heard stories of growing churches, pastors sharing God’s love and grace and the strength of our connection. Every time I meet with the Board of Ordained Ministry and hear how our newly commissioned and ordained pastors are excitedly living out their faith, it gives me hope. When I go to Local Pastors Licensing School and see a group so eager to be serving in our churches, it gives me hope. 


Rev. Dr. Laceye Warner has an abiding love of United Methodism. As an elder in the Texas Annual Conference, she has served in an extension ministry appointment at Duke University Divinity School since July 2001. She is currently associate dean of Wesleyan engagement and the Royce and Jane Reynolds associate professor of the practice of evangelism and Methodist studies. She has served urban congregations in the Methodist Church of Great Britain, as well as interim pastoral ministries and preaching in UMC local congregations. Warner attends FUMC West, Texas and her home church in the Texas Annual Conference is The Woodlands UMC. 
 
Q. Why did you want to throw your hat in to be elected as delegate for General Conference?
A. I was encouraged by colleagues to submit my name for consideration based on my teaching Wesleyan and UM Studies for over two decades, authoring a number of related books, including a widely-used textbook, “The Method of Our Mission: United Methodist Polity and Organization.” I have also served on several denominational bodies including the University Senate, Council of Bishops Ministry Study Commission and the UM Council of Bishops Task Force for Theological Education and Leadership Formation. Additionally, my spouse, brother, and friends told me that if I did not submit my name, I could not dwell on or complain about any outcomes. So, here we are!
 
Q. How would you describe your job preparing for General Conference?
A. Preparing for General Conference includes reading substantial amounts of materials, listening to and participating in conversations with leaders from across the UMC and persistent prayer. Some conversations and materials are in formal contexts, while others are in local churches as well as with students preparing for ordained ministry. I think active listening is probably one of the best preparations -- listening to God foremost, and also to the pain, fears, concerns, hopes and joys of my fellow Methodists. 
 
Q. What is your reaction to the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation?
A. The Protocol, like other plans negotiated and shared in recent months, is a practical approach to addressing the likelihood of splits within the denomination. However, the Protocol, like other plans, is not from a body representative of all of United Methodism. The General Conference is the authoritative body of the UMC. Working through legislative committees and the business of plenary sessions often highlights new considerations for deliberation. That is why we all take the time and expense to meet together face-to-face. 
 
Q. What do you think will be the future of the Church?
A. The present and future of the Church is lived out in participation with God’s mission to the world. God’s reign will continue to unfold in the days and years to come regardless of this or future General Conferences on the United Methodist Church. On a more practical note, the General Conference and the denomination as a whole have real challenges of governance, financial sustainability and mission to address. These will likely lead to new embodiments of the Wesleyan tradition. 
 
Q. What gives you hope or makes you feel excited during this time?
A. Worshipping in local churches, teaching students called to ministry in seminaries, course of study, and licensing schools, and participating in God’s reign through ministries like Zoe-Life Explorations give me hope reminding me of God’s love in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. In reading the Scriptures, there are few tranquil times for the people of God.  We often disagree and stumble, but God remains faithful. I look toward the future with hope and expectation about what God may reveal.
 
Jason Bass is a lifelong Methodist, and his father was a Methodist pastor. He currently serves as director of music ministry at Alvin FUMC, where he is a member. He calls Friendswood UMC his home church. Bass has worked at several churches and organizations within the Texas Annual Conference, including Alvin FUMC and Friendswood UMC. He also worked at the Wesley Foundation at Kilgore College as the discipleship intern and as a part-time worship leader at First UMC Carthage. This will be his first time as a delegate to General Conference. He has served as an at-large delegate to Annual Conference for the south district since being a junior in high school.
 
Q. Why did you want to throw your hat in to be elected as delegate for General Conference?
A. What inspired me to become a delegate was listening to the Young People’s Statement from the 2019 General Conference. I disagreed with a lot of it. It overemphasized unity rather than facing the reality of the current situation. In their support of the One Church Plan, they insinuated that we would lose scores of young people if the church did not change. And they were wrong to shame the body for not having many young people as delegates. On top of this, most young people who spoke on the floor of the Conference were progressive. All of this moved me to try to be elected as a delegate to represent the many young evangelicals in the conference and around the world -- and to have an opportunity to speak up
against the lie that the church will lose a generation if we do not change the Book of Discipline.

 
Q. How do you describe your job preparing for General Conference?
A. I have been told by several people who have been to General Conference in the past that the spiritual warfare can be intense during the 10 days of General Conference. Prayer is a huge way that I am preparing. I pray for the Conference as a whole, for the delegation, for personal strength from the Holy Spirit, and for protection from spiritual warfare. I recently received the Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) in the mail. The DCA has over 1,000 pages of proposed legislation, reports, changes to the Book of Discipline and resolutions for General Conference 2020. I am currently on page 920 and have skimmed, marked and made notes of most of the proposals. I am on the Sub-Committee of Ordained Ministry. The Ordained Ministry section of the DCA has over 60 pages of legislation. I have not gotten to that section in the DCA yet, but I plan on reading every proposal several times, making notes, marking questions and familiarizing myself with every proposal so I can be prepared for my sub-committee.
 
Q. What is your reaction to the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation?
A. I am for separation. We as the UMC cannot and will not continue to survive as one church with annual conferences, pastors, bishops and some boards openly defying the Book of Discipline.  I like the protocol, because it is a compromise between many sides and allows a path forward towards separation. The thing I do not like about it is that an Annual Conference can vote to leave the UMC with 57 percent vote. It seems inconsistent to me that General Conference can change what the church believes about marriage and sexuality in the Book of Discipline with a simple majority, but that same standard of a simple majority will not be applied to annual conferences. However, if that comprise is what leads to the protocol being passed then so be it. The Liberian Annual Conference raised some great points about issues with the protocol and it will be interesting what other African Conferences have to say about the protocol in the upcoming weeks.
 
Q. What do you think will be the future of the Church?
A. A separation is inevitable. It is going to happen and has been building towards this for decades. We can either go down the road of the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Lutherans, where a split takes years, millions of dollars in lawsuits over property and continual church decline in the process or we can separate amicably, where we pray for each other, bless each other and even continue in limited mission with each other (UMCOR,  for example). I believe that most people know that this separation is inevitable, and I continue to see people say and write that they don’t want another General Conference like we had in 2019. I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic that the latter will happen.
 
Q. What gives you hope or makes you feel excited during this time?
A. What gives me hope is that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, the Spirit and the gifts are ours. Nothing will change this. No matter what happens in the future of Methodism, all Christians from all denominations, from around the world can rely on this awesome promise. That’s all the hope we need!
 

Eddie Erwin serves as director of youth and young adults for the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC. He grew up on the west side of Houston, a member at Ashford UMC, where he both discovered theology and incredible clergy, as well as what it means to serve as a lay person in connectional ministry. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, he began working at Lakewood UMC in northwest Harris County. He joined the church and worked in Student Ministries for 11 years, before accepting his current role in 2015. He has served as a delegate for Texas Annual Conference since 2009 and as District Lay Leader for the Central North District, General and Jurisdictional Delegate since 2012. He was a member of the Executive Table of Division on Ministries with Young People from 2012 to 2016, Jurisdictional Youth Ministry Organizer for the South Central Jurisdiction and the Executive Committee of the South Central Jurisdictional Mission Council from 2016 though 2020.

Q. Why did you want to throw your hat in to be elected as delegate for General Conference?
A. We only have one young person elected to serve as a General Conference delegate and two for the complete 44 delegates from the Texas Annual Conference. Until we truly start investing in the young, I’ll continue to put myself forward in disciple-making service.
 
Q. How do you describe your job preparing for General Conference?
A. When I first started out, preparation for General Conference was an abundance of reading and studying. As I experienced a couple, it became some of the more physically exhausting events I’d encountered, especially for just sitting and pressing a button. In preparation for this year’s General Conference, I’ve spent more bandwidth on relationships with other delegates. Getting to know them, their ministry contexts, and hopes and dreams for our denomination.
 
Q. What is your reaction to the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation?
A. My initial reaction was that the Protocol may be our “Best, bad option.” As the full legislation has come out, there are still some parts missing and some voices that were/are not at the table. My prayer for the Protocol is that it would end the harm we inflict on one another. I also realize that the Protocol still has a couple of hurdles to clear before making it to the floor of General Conference, and that we (General Conference) have a track record of legislating items till they become ineffective and kicking the proverbial can down the road.
 
Q. What do you think will be the future of the Church?
A. I know that we’ll wake up on May 16, and God will still be in control of the Church.
The church has gone through splits, collaborations, fights, unions and transformation for centuries of change. We know things will change, but it’s how we hold this tension and treat one another during this chance, that will mark our future.

 
Q. What gives you hope or makes you feel excited during this time?
A. The young people I get to serve give me hope. Through the past couple of years, I’ve gotten to witness them worship, when it would be easier to walk away. I’ve experienced the comprehensive community they develop with each other, when the rest of the world encourages exclusion. In addition to the Protocol, there are over 1000 pages of legislation for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Please continue praying for the rest of the delegates, especially those seeking visas, our bishops, others who attend the conference in Minnesota. Especially pray for those involved in transporting us to, providing meals for and hosting us during General Conference