Louisiana United Methodist helps edit Book of Discipline

February 13, 2017
Take a minute to read the inspiring story of Dianne Wilkinson, a member of Benton UMC, who served on the Committee on Correlation and Editorial Review for the 2016 General Conference, and because of that assignment, helped to edit the Book of Discipline.

The call from the Bishop’s office came out of the blue.  It wasn’t the first time that I had been asked to work on a special project, but it was certainly a surprising request. 

The voice on the phone said, “Hi Dianne, this is Kathy Moore. Are you sitting down?”  “No,” I replied, “but I am close to a chair. What’s going on?”  Kathy then told me that Bishop Harvey wanted to know if I could go to General Conference to serve on the Committee on Correlation and Editorial Review. “What is that committee--and why did she select me?” I wanted to know.  Apparently, Bishop Harvey had been contacted by the Secretary of the General Conference who asked her to provide a person from the Louisiana Conference to fill a position on this committee. 

Bishop Harvey said that the qualifications for committee members were to be detailed oriented, to possess a willingness to work until completion, and availability to serve. I was both flattered and anxious about filling the position. I explained that I couldn’t give an answer right away, but would let her know early the next morning.

The first call I made was to my sister. Our 90-year-old mother had just had a total knee replacement, so I explained to Betty that I would need her to come and stay with our mother while I was gone. I asked Betty, “What do you think I should do?” She replied, “Well I think if the Bishop calls you to do something, you should say ‘Yes.’ I will move in with mom while you are away.” I immediately called and accepted the assignment.

Within two hours, I received the letter of confirmation of my appointment on April 29, 2016, specifying that General Conference would be held May 10-May 20 in Portland, Oregon.  The assignment would be for two weeks, but the committee serves for the quadrennium.  The function of the Committee on Correlation and Editorial Review (CCER) is to review all proposed legislation reported in the Daily Christian Advocate or special reports to the General Conference (this tome of work had 14 daily journals and was six inches tall by the end of the conference!); make sure that an item on the consent calendar is not in conflict with another calendar item discussed and voted on in plenary sessions; and last, but not least, edit the Book of Discipline.

We began our training on May 9 and completed the work of making necessary changes to the Book of Discipline (2016) on May 22. The team bonded quickly with each other and our common task.  There were five clergy and five laypersons on the committee plus the Book Editor.  Members came from California, Arizona, Iowa, Tennessee, New York, Maryland and Louisiana. We worked before and after the plenary sessions on making sure that petitions that passed were written correctly.  All our reference material was shipped to our home in case further work needed to be done.

Members of the CEER had a bird’s eye view of the delegates and guests to the General Conference.  We were seated on the podium in front of the Council on Bishops.  Our reference books quickly took up a lot of room as well as the translation devices that allowed immediate translation of the many languages that represented this global body.

The morning worship was always special with powerful messages from the bishops and wonderful vocal and instrumental music and dance from around the world.  I believe that worship with praise was the unifying thread throughout this event.

It was disheartening to hear all the wrangling and dissension about so many social and cultural views that divide the church.  It was a relief for the Bishops to accept the proposal that we would pull all issues of gender and sexual identity off the table and work toward a resolution of these issues through a special General Conference in 2018. Because this is being bathed in prayer, I do not think we are just kicking the can down the road.

I have been so blessed as I have answered the call to be all that God has envisioned for my purpose in life.  I received my embossed copy of 2016 The Discipline of the United Methodist Church two weeks ago, and it will forever be a reminder to say “Yes” when my Bishop asks me to do something!

Story by Dianne Wilkinson, member of Benton United Methodist Church