Thursday, May 12, 2016
By Pam Brokaw

Pacific Northwest Conference delegate and clergy member Mary Huycke said she had several emotions including disappointment when the General Conference voted Rule 44 down. “It was time to bring something new,” she said. Although adoption of the rule was rejected, Huycke remained optimistic there was learning to inform next steps.

Rev. Mary K. (Sellon) Huycke
Rev. Mary K. (Sellon) Huycke

With regard to next steps, Huycke also pointed out that each delegate can request discussions at each table during General Conference on a topic at hand. “There does not have to be a rule to do that,” she said. She was hopeful delegates would make such requests during the remainder of the General Conference and said she would consider doing so herself. She said there were a number of topics that would lend themselves to individual table conversations.

In the moments following the vote, Huycke reflected on possible courses of action that would have been helpful in the last four years leading up to the vote. Testing the process in several conferences, video-taping the success of this new way to discuss topics in small groups, all of these approaches could have helped gain support and trust at the General Conference level, she said.

In trying to do something new that was much needed, new approaches were also needed to bring about the change process that Rule 44 offered, she said, adding this did not happen. Moving forward, she said, will require new options. Had Rule 44 passed, Huycke was part of a team that would have assisted with implementing the conversational approach if it was used to discuss a topic.

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Resident bishop of the Raleigh Area, presided over the plenary session as it made its decision on Rule 44.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, resident bishop of the Raleigh Area, presiding over the plenary session as it made its decision on Rule 44.

Clearly there was anxiety in the room, Huycke acknowledged. There is always anxiety over doing something new and there were challenges to the transparency of the process. For example, delegates seeking to speak couldn’t see if they were on the list to speak. It was unclear whether they would be called or when. This, too, raised anxiety levels in the moments leading up to the vote on Rule 44.

The rule would have provided a way for delegates to consider complicated and contentious legislation. Discussion would occur in small groups. Recommendations would come back to the full body for discussion and vote. If it passed, Rule 44 could have provided a less contentious way, for example, to consider multiple pieces of legislation dealing with sexuality. The rule was not limited to discussing sexuality, however. Its adoption would not have required its use. It would have been a resource to be used to set the table for improved conversation and understanding.

Regarding conversations in the future at both the conference and individual church levels, Huycke said there are ways to prepare churches and conferences to have the conversations that people yearn for. First, she said, we can get a sense of the conversation that is wanting. Second, we can think through what it would take to have the conversation and then begin.

Did the General Conference process create a barrier to the Holy Spirit? “We are the barrier to the Spirit,” she said. “Spirit works through the cracks like water and rain.”

Pam Brokaw serves as pastor at the Castle Rock and Winlock United Methodist Churches in Washington. She is a member of the PNW Media team serving at General Conference 2016.

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