Saturday, April 26, 2008

General Conference- April 26

The first few days of General Conference were carefully scripted and intended to put the UMC's best foot forward. It didn't take long, however, for underhanded partisanship to rear its ugly head.

It was discovered yesterday that a group known as the "Renewal and Reform Coalition" has been offering the use of free cell phones to delegates from African, Asian, and Philippine conferences, as well as inviting them to "informational gatherings" where they will be instructed on how to vote on certain issues.

The "Renewal and Reform Coalition" is one of those groups that has chosen a seemingly harmless name, kind of like the "Family Research Council" or the "Institute for Freedom and Democracy" to avoid being upfront about their conservative agenda.  Say what you want about groups like "Reconciling Ministries" and "Mosaic", but they are upfront about their agenda and stance on particular issues. Perhaps we'd be able to have a more open and honest dialogue about the real issues at and if we quit pretending we weren't divided on them.

What's even worse about this is it seems like the "Renewal and Reform Coalition" have read Rudyard Kipling a few too many times and feel a sense of "white man's burden" to instruct people from the two-third's world on how to vote, as if they couldn't make up their own minds for themselves.

It's time to stop this underhanded garbage, put away our bags of tricks, and sit down together and speak openly and honestly about the issues. I hope this will be the last incident of this type at General Conference, but only time will tell.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Quick update on the cell phone issue - there was a motion on the floor to create an ethics committee (or sub-committee - I can't remember the exact wording) for GC 2012, specifically in response to this issue. It passed by a HUGE margin (less than a dozen or so of the 1000 delegates voted against it.) From my perspective here, the body is really upset about this issue and does not want to see anything similar ever happen again.

- Mark Hagewood, lay person, Hendersonville FUMC, TN (attending GC as a staff member for GBHEM)

Dom Kameron said...

I'm confused at how "Renewal and Reform Coalition" is somehow an unclear and underhanded name and Mosaic is a name that somehow give a clear definition of the organizations goals? Surely going to a breakfast openly sponsored by Good News and the IRD isn't some hidden agenda.

The truth is that unlike every delegate from the United States, the Central Conference delegates phones do not function here. This offers a distinct advantage to those with working cell phones to communicate with each other.

As way of "instructing on how to vote" - I unaware that neither the Reconciling Ministries nor Mosaic do not have a list of candidates they endorse. To give people information on candidates is a valid and vital part of voting. There is no possible way in the short time of General Conference for anyone to learn about the candidates outside of information provided through these endorsements. To think that somehow a vote could be "bought" by a cell phone is to demean the intelligence and faith of the delegates.

Anonymous said...

The letter that announced the gifts of cell phones to Central Conference delegates concluded with a request that candidates consider voting for a specific slate of members for Judicial Council - so yes, the "Renewal and Reform Coalition" does have a list of candidates they endorse. The R&RC have linked the "gift" with their agenda. Furthermore, candidates have submitted a short bio that was published in today's DCA (given to each delegate each day), so there is info about candidates readily available. I would say that telling them who to vote for demeans their intelligence and implies they can't read the bios and make their own decisions.

Dom Kameron said...

Of course they had a list of candidates they endorse! That's my whole point! Every group has a list of candidates they endorse that they distribute in some form or another. While bio's are published they won't list these endorsements. It is foolish to believe that every group that has an agenda is not actively pushing a list of endorsed candidate, regardless of their theological stance.

To say that the phone is linked to people voting in a certain way is to insult not only those that are handing them out, but those that are receiving them.

Reba Kassia said...

Wouldn't this be the equivalent of cell phone gifts
"over 200 scholarships have been given to bring in young people for the weekend who would stand in witness for Reconciling Ministries" Bringing in people to push their agenda and influence voters...

Matt Kelley said...

Those young people can't vote.

I'm glad we're generating conversation here, but let's keep it respectful, folks.

Jeff said...

Matt, thanks for sharing. I too fear some shenanigans are a happenin' -http://e-merginginindiana.blogspot.com/2008/04/general-conference-shenanigans.html

Dom Kameron said...

Those that are passing out cell phones can't vote either.

Interestingly enough, You can sign up for cell phone updates on the reconciling ministries blog. So the reconciling ministries is also using the cell phone as a tool to get information out.

Rev. Jeremy Smith said...

Hello friends,

There's a difference between scholarships offered to young people (who cannot vote) to help out caucus groups, and the cell phones given to Central Conference delegates (who can vote). In the former, a gift is given to non-voting people; in the latter, a gift is given to voting members. That's a huge difference in understanding them as a gift.

Cell phones are being used as a communication tool, no doubt. But to claim that because RMN is coordinating using cell phones is equivalent to handing out cell phones to delegates feels like a stretch to me. With the former, you are willingly signing up for their propaganda. With the latter, you think you are getting a free phone with no string attached, but what is this instruction sheet attached?

Opting-in to a cell phone system is different than accepting a cell phone and not realizing that you have opted into a system of influence.

B Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B Smith said...

I think no matter how you slice it there is an unfair influence when you hand out cell phones to one particular group from another specific group with a specific agenda. Matt I couldn't agree with you more, why can't we put our cards on the table and honestly, openly discuss the matters of the church. When the world sees the church acts no better than the politicians in Washington they will run away as fast as possible.

Smitty said...

Sure, the cell phones are useful -- so is a $100 bill. What's the difference between handing someone a cell phone with a list of candidates or handing someone a c-note with a list of candidates? Either way it's graft.

Crickovich said...

Dom K - MoSAIC states its platform in its name - Methodist Students and Seminarians for an All-Inclusive Church. That's pretty upfront if you ask me.

While a beautiful acronym, they aren't hiding behind pretty words like freedom and renewal. Not only that - they are actually Methodists. Who are the main funders for the IRD?