Wisconsin talks about covenant

Here is the account of the handling of the clergy covenant proposed by a group within the Wisconsin annual conference.

“Rev. Steve Scott presented the Clergy Covenant report at Sunday morning’s Plenary session. The team was formed at the 2012 Annnual Conference session to address procedures for clergy in order to help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant within the Wisconsin United Methodist Church. “This is all very personal,” Scott said. “We are the church together. What we have discovered is that we can either continue to debate over differences in theology or we can focus, as this team is charged to do, on living together in better ways.” Bishop Jung affirmed the document as “a tool to be used for future conversation, not as a document up for debate or approval.”

The report was presented to the clergy session according to this report. The presentation to the clergy session dropped a controversial recommendation regarding sexuality. The Q&A on the clergy covenant web site gives some indication of the discussion around that provision. Before the conference, the web site had said the covenant would be voted on by the clergy session. I cannot find sign of that now.

The Wisconsin conference website has a link to a video of the plenary session at which the covenant was discussed. The covenant discussion begins at about 1 hour and 8 minutes into the session. Here is a report of the clergy session presentation. Here is a report of the plenary session presentation. These appear to be advanced texts and not transcripts of the actual presentations.

In my brief watching of the video from the plenary session, I believe I heard the presenter says that the recommendation about sexuality (recommendation 6 in the report linked in the first paragraph of this post) was not presented to the conference because doing so was the only way to ensure that everyone in the clergy covenant group returned to the group again when they started to meet again. I may be misinterpreting it, but it sounds like some conversation went on between the time the group published its report and the time the presentations were made at annual conference session.


7 thoughts on “Wisconsin talks about covenant

  1. Great stuff.
    History in the making
    Time will tell if your observations are correct.
    What I found the most interesting is noted in the title to this thread.
    “Wisconsin talks about covenant”

    Consider this.
    God designs a covenant with man.
    Man rejects God’s covenant and creates their own.

    That is the theme found on the Wisconsin annual conference site.
    What does your covenant look like, they ask.

    Clergy Covenant: An Invitation
    by Rev. Amy E. DeLong
    May 2012
    Available online

  2. This question is indirectly related
    John and others:
    What did you think?
    When the Bishop asked the new leaders being welcomed in, “What was John Wesley’s birth date”? and no one seemed to know the answer. The question caused confusion among the group of inductees.
    Why do you suppose the question was asked?

    1. I did not watch that portion of the video. I was skimming ahead to find the covenant talk. I’m not sure why that question would be asked. Wesley’s birthday is June 17 (on the old calendar), maybe he thought the closeness to that date was worth bringing it up. Not sure why else.

  3. Shalom!

    As a member of the Covenant Team, i’d like to correct a couple of things in this blog entry.

    The entire Report was presented to both the Executive Session and a plenary session. The Team had intended for some time that the Report is a progress report for a several year process and as such would not be offered for a vote. Moreover, we do not think that a vote in favor guarantees implementation or that a vote against ends the discussion. As one of the Team said several months ago, “We don’t want your vote; we want your LIFE.”

    We offered this Report as one step along the way and as something at least a bit new. We are interested in a process, not a product. We are offering the Report as a gift; it is public and we do not and cannot control what happens.

    While the Team had worked with the assumption that the Report was for the Clergy Session initially (and so we had mailed the Report to each elder, deacon, and ABLC), our Bishop wanted it presented to the laity too this year. So enough additional copies of the Report were printed for each Conference member’s packet.

    As i listened to the presentation of our Report (at both Clergy Session and plenary), i heard the full Report offered. Our Team is ready to continue meeting in this process, and in fact, today we have set our next meeting for early in July. We’re eager to continue.

    Shalom! dave werner

    1. Dave,

      I appreciate the perspective from inside the room. I do see that all six recommendations were mentioned in the presentation. The first five — to my ears — were offered in a different way than the sixth. The sixth was framed as something that had to be said because the people in the group needed it said so that everyone could come again together when you reconvene. I’m not sure what that means and it is not in the printed text.

      Nonetheless, recommendation 6 is oddly worded if never intended as an action item for the conference. How did the group intend other clergy to read recommendation 6?

      I’m also interested in the purpose of the 18-page exegesis on the Book of Discipline.

      1. Well, you’re asking me questions i cannot answer, and i surely can’t answer for the Team. As far as i know, we’re ready and willing to continue our work. i can say that we want to function in a way quite different from other groups or committees or what have you. For example, in terms of your question of how the Team intended others to read a recommendation, we didn’t think that way. Since we were not going to ask for a vote, we were more interested in helping develop a way for pastors to talk with one another. That Recommendation #6–that continues to draw so much attention!–is something that our Team finds to be a reasonable understanding of our thinking as a Team. One might say that the action is in the reaction….

        Personally, i view the work on the DISCIPLINE as a survey of what the DISCIPLINE “says” about “covenant.” One of our directives is to describe what “covenant” is or what it means, and we are finding that to be more difficult than one might think. One of the long-retired elders with whom i had a conversation some months ago suggested that “Well, I guess we kind of ASSUMED we were in covenant.” One of the issues facing our Conference is that i’m not sure folks assume a covenant now, and, if that’s true, the challenge goes well beyond the present hot-button contention about sexuality.

        Again, what i write here is my thinking; i am not speaking for the Team.

        Shalom! dave

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