|Leaders hope Conference Table will be chaotic, creative
By Michael Wacht
LAKELAND — Delegates to the 2002 Florida
Annual Conference Event May 28-31 here approved the creation of the
Conference Table as a place where everyone in the conference is
welcome to gather and discuss matters of strategic importance to the
conference. The vote was nearly unanimous.
The Rev. Jim Harnish said the table would be
focused on conversation. “We desperately need a place where the
agencies of the conference can be in conversation,” Harnish said.
“We expect it to be a chaotic place where chaos happens, and out of
the chaos God will bring something new to creation.”
Harnish is senior pastor of Tampa’s Hyde Park
United Methodist Church, chairman of the Conference Council on
Ministries (CCOM) and one of the Conference Table’s designers.
Most of the discussion prior to the vote
centered on who would attend Conference Table gatherings. “There are
certain people who are expected to be in attendance, but it’s open
to all people to be involved,” Harnish said.
The expected participants include lay and clergy
leaders who represent a variety of conference ministries and agencies,
but each session will be open to all clergy and laity. They will meet
on an as-needed basis, then report their discussions and
recommendations to the annual conference.
John Dowell, conference president of the United
Methodist Men (UMM), proposed an amendment to the proposal asking that
UMM and United Methodist Women be included in the list of expected
agencies. Calling it a “glaring omission,” Dowell said it was “difficult
to see how these large, influential groups would be omitted.”
The Rev. LeeAnn Inman spoke against the
amendment. “There are a number of people I would like to add, but I
understand the point of keeping it simple,” Inman said. “If we
care, our voices will be there.”
The amendment was defeated.
The Rev. Linda Standifer, pastor of First United
Methodist Church, Hobe Sound, and former chairwoman of the conference
Missions Ministry Team, spoke against the proposal, saying the
Conference Table will do what the CCOM ought to be doing. She said the
CCOM has eliminated meetings and streamlined staff to save money. CCOM
meetings now focus on budget and keeping ministry costs down, with no
freedom to plan ministry and members of the CCOM not knowing each
“The CCOM is broken, but I believe we can fix
it,” Standifer said. “Refresh the CCOM. Don’t replace it with
another level of hierarchy.”
Harnish said Conference Table meetings would be
announced in “every possible way,” including the conference’s
Web site and the “Florida United Methodist Review.”