GC 2016: General Conference Report

By Rev. Lyssette N. Pérez

As the Vice-President of MARCHA, I was honored to coordinate the legislative work of MARCHA at the 2016 General Conference with our MARCHA Team.  The names of the team members are listed at the end of this report.  A total of 864 delegates from our denomination met at the Portland Convention Center in Oregon, for 11 days and worked with more than 1,000 petitions to amend and update the Book of Disciple and the Book of Resolutions.  There were only 18 Hispanic/Latinos delegates at the conference.  Petitions were assigned to the following 12 legislative committees:

(1)    CA Church and Society 1

(2)    CB  Church and Society 2

(3)    CO Conferences

(4)    DI   Discipleship

(5)    FA   Financial Administration

(6)    FO  Faith and Order

(7)    GA  General Administration

(8)    GM Global Ministries

(9)    IC    Independent Commission

(10)JA   Judicial Administration

(11)LC   Local Church

(12)MH Ministry and Higher Education &


MARCHA worked hand in hand with the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group (IESDG), a group of over 30 persons representing the 5 racial ethnic caucuses of the denomination.  In previous general conferences we had worked together with IESDG.  This year IESDG received a grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race to equip 30 people, 6 from each racial ethnic caucus (at least 2 young adults from each caucus) to become Advocates and Monitors of the General Conference.  Advocates were able to track and advocate for 114 petitions which had an impact on racial ethnic ministries. Monitors of the General Conference played an important role in our commitment to be an inclusive and cultural competent church.  MARCHA and all Ethnic Caucuses were also part of the Love your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC) and most of the revision of petitions that impacted our ministries, and our tracking work, was done with the support of the coalition.

During the time of General Conference, we were able to connect through group texts, emails and internal communication with the Hispanic/Latino delegates, alternates, agencies staff, conference staff, observers and delegates from Latin America and the Caribbean (over one hundred people).  This helped us to keep the people aware of some of the strategies and events during general conference.  This time, more than ever, technology played an important role in general conference.  MARCHA & IESDG worked very closely with agency staff to develop strategies and to get support for our petitions.  LYNC provided an outstanding support for all of our petitions and IESDG related petitions.  They helped us to connect with delegates and to develop strategies for our priorities.  LYNC helped us with the logistics and provided space for meetings, among other things.


MARCHA submitted a total of 11 petitions to the 2016 General Conference.  All of them were adopted with the exception of one of them, which was not considered in plenary, although it was approved with the majority of votes at the respective Legislative Committee. The petitions included 6 resolutions, 2 pieces of legislation, and 3 non-disciplinary petitions.  The following are the petitions with the respective General Conference actions and total of votes in parenthesis (original petitions can be found at our web site: marchaumc.org)


(1)   R #3222 – Annual Conference Strategic Comprehensive Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries:  To call annual conferences to develop a strategic comprehensive plan for Hispanic/Latino ministries in their mission context.  (Petition # 60870-GM-R3222; Global Ministries)  ADOPTED with the following amendment in one of the last paragraphs: Be it further resolved, that the Council of Bishops, the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino-Latina Ministry, the General Board of Discipleship and the General Board of Global Ministries ensure that the conference comprehensive plans are in place by the indicated date and provide support and consultation in the development of the plans.  (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

(2)   R #6057 – Political Status of Puerto Rico: To call upon the churches to be educated about the political situation in Puerto Rico without promoting a particular political partisan perspective and to foster a process of self-determination for the people in Puerto Rico.  (Petition # 60877-GM-R6057-G; Global Ministries)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

(3)   R #6058 – US Policy in Vieques:  To advocate for the damage caused to the eco-system in Vieques by the US Navy Military practices. (Petition # 60878-GM-R6058-G; Global Ministries) ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

(4)   R #6072 – United States-Mexico Border: To call for the development of national and international policies between USA & Mexico. (Petition # 60871-CA-R6072-G; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED with the following amendment: at the last line, delete “work toward demilitarization of the border” (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

(5)   R #6102 – Violence against Children in Latin America and the Caribbean:  To call programmatic agencies in partnership with CIEMAL, to develop programs addressing the crisis of children struggling with violence and poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Petition # 60876-CA-R6102-G; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED with the following amendment: Be it further resolved It is strongly encouraged, that  the Council of Bishops and be referred to the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM)  and the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) to support for  the implementation of a program these programs. (Votes 737 in favor, 33 against)

(6)   R #9999 Lift the US Economic Embargo in Cuba:  To end the embargo of the USA against Cuba. (Petition # 60875-GM-R9999-G; Global Ministries)  ADOPTED with an editorial change:  Editorial Change: In the paragraph beginning with “Therefore, be it resolved…” Correct spelling from “Barak Obama” to “Barack Obama.”  (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

Disciplinary Legislation:

(1)   Amend ¶ 507 – Submission of Petitions to General Conference of Concordat Churches: A disciplinary change to allow concordat churches to have the right to submit petitions to General Conference. (Petition # 60879-CO-¶507-G; Conferences)   Adopted on Conferences Legislative Committee: 32 in favor; 31 against, 2 abstentions.  It was not assigned to the Consent Calendar by the committee and it was not considered at the general body of the General Conference.

(2)   Amend ¶ 2551 – Shared Facilities:  To create an equitable process for the sharing of facilities in the local churches. (Petition # 60873-LC-¶2551)  ADOPTED with the following amendment: “The financial relationship established in the covenant is neither intended to generate profit nor to support the general budget (other than utilities appropriate normal operating costs)  of the receiving local church or any other entity involved in the sharing of the facilities.” (Votes 761 in favor, 21 against)


(1)   Holistic Strategy on Latin American and the Caribbean as a Special Program:  A Special Program as per ¶ 703.10 to address critical needs in the Latin America/Caribbean region and To respond to the missional opportunities that are present there. (Petition # 60874-GM-NonDis-$-G; Global Ministries)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 742 in favor, 40 against)

(2)   Release Mr. Oscar Lopez Rivera from Prison:  To request the liberation of Mr. Oscar López Rivera from federal prison. (Petition # 60971-CA-NonDis; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor 24 against) Letters were sent from General Conference to President Barack Obama and the Secretary Loretta Lynch, Attorney General of the Department of Justice, for their consideration and action.

(3)   United Methodist Hispanic/Latino College Fund:  To develop a plan and raise funds for the creation of a “United Methodist Hispanic/Latino Scholarship Fund.” (Petition # 60872-MH-NonDis; Ministry & Higher Education / Superintendency)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor 24 against)



We celebrate the adoption of all the Racial Ethnic National Plans, including the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries.  We also celebrate the adoption of the majority of the petitions submitted by general agencies and endorsed by MARCHA, especially those which are (original petitions can be found at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/legislation-tracking by petition number):



  • Resolution 3121: Affirming the Use of Diverse Languages (Petition # 60112-CB-R3121; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)
  • Resolution 3123: Support for the Six Ethnic Ministry Plans (Petition # 60123-GM-R3123; Global Ministries) ADOPTED as submitted.  (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)
  • Resolution 3372: Ongoing Acts of Repentance (Petition # 60119-CB-R3372; Church & Society 2)  Adopted on Church & Society Legislative Committee: 61 in favor; 11 against, 0 abstentions.  It was not assigned to the Consent Calendar by the committee and it was not considered at the general body of the General Conference
  • Resolution 3373: Affirmative Action (Petition #60111-CB-R3373; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24)
  • Resolution 3374: Responsibilities for Eradication of Racism in the U.S (Petition # 60124-IC-R3374; Independent Commission)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 765 in favor, 21 against)
  • Resolution 3375: Membership in Clubs or Organizations That Practice Exclusivity (Petition # 60118-CB-R3375; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)
  • Resolution 3376: Opposition to White Privilege in the United States (Petition #60122-CB-R3376; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED with amendment. (Votes 686 in favor, 81 against)
  • Resolution 6024: Resolution on Global Racism, Tribalism and Xenophobia (Petition # 60120-CB-R6024; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 754 in favor, 24 against)
  • New: Opposition to Racial Profiling (Petition # 60121-CB-R999; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED with amendment.  (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against) 

Disciplinary Legislation:

  • Purpose and Responsibilities of GCORR (Original Title: General Commission on Religion and Race: Equipping the Church for Relevance and Relationships in a Global Community: Discipline Paragraphs ¶ 2002 and 2008) (Petition # 60115-IC-¶ 2002-G)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 735-41)
  • Annual Conference Commissions on Religion and Race: Discipline ¶ 643.1-5 (Petition # 60113-IC-¶643; Independent Commission)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 735 in favor, 41 against)
  • Expertise and Leadership in Board Membership: Discipline Paragraph ¶ 2003 (Petition # 60117-IC-¶2003-G; Independent Commission)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 735 in favor, 41 against)
  • New: Culture and Identity – Add to The Social Principles ¶ 161 (Petition # 60114-CB-¶161-G; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED with amendments.  (Votes 559 in favor, 213 against)
  • New: Rights of Racial Ethnic Persons (Original Title: Equity and the Social Community – Add to The Social Principles ¶ 162.A) (Petition # 60116-CB-¶ 162.A-G)  ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes 761 in favor, 21 against) 


Disciplinary Legislation:

  • Amend ¶ 324.6c Expand Course of Study Education: To provide another route for local pastors to meet their educational requirements for Course of Study and provisional membership through an undergraduate degree. (Petition #60362-MH-¶324.6c-G; Ministries and Higher Education)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 761 in favor, 21 against)


New and Revised Resolutions:

  • Resolution 3281:  Welcoming the Migrant to the US (Petition # 60403-CB-R3281-G; Church & Society)   ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 2 -1)
  • New: Resolution:  Criminal Justice (Petition # 60463-CA-R9999-G; Church & Society 1) ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes759 in favor, 24 against)
  • New: Our Call to End Gun Violence (Petition # 60452-CA-R9999-G; Church & Society 1) ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 agains



New and Renewed Resolutions:

New: Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States (Petition #60263-CB-R9999; Church & society 2)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

New: Principles for Just and Sustainable Extraction and Production (Petition #60262-CA-R9999;Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes 611 in favor, 144 against)

New: Environmental Health (Petition # 60261-CA-R9999-G; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED as submitted (Votes 596 in favor, 118 against)

Resolution 1025: Environmental Racism in the US – Revise, Rename, and Readopt (Petition #60246-CA-R1025; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

Resolution 2025:  Responsible Parenthood Revised / Readopt (Petition # 60249-CB-R2025-G)  REJECTED (Votes 310 in favor, 445 against)

Resolution 3422: Speaking out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the United States (Petition # 60254-CB-R3422; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

Resolution 3371:  A Charter for Racial Justice Policies in an interdependent Global Community (Petition # 60253-CB-R3371-G; Church & Society 2)  ADOPTED with amendments. (Votes 754 in favor, 24 against)

Resolution 4056: Greed – Revise and Readopt (Petition # 60257-CA-R4056-G; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

Resolution 5051: United States Public Education and the Church – Revised /Readopt with changed title (Petition # 60259-CA-R5051; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED with amendments (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)




Resolution 3065: OBSERVANCE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY (Petition #60311-CB-R3065; Church & Society 1)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)

Resolution 6028: GLOBAL MIGRATION AND THE QUEST FOR JUSTICE: Re-adoption of this resolution with revisions that reflect not only updated statistics, but updated thinking.  (Petition # 60317-GM-R6028; Global Ministries)  ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 759 in favor, 24 against)


Non-Disciplinary Recommendations:


  • THE NATIONAL PLAN FOR HISPANIC/LATINO MINISTRY: To renew he National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry for the quadrennium 2017-2020.  The plan serves the whole church and has a national committee that provides program supervision and direction within the framework of Global Ministries’ administration. (Petition # 60332-GM-NonDis-$; Global Ministries) ADOPTED as submitted. (Votes 2-1)



 The petitions that caused more controversy and tension in General Conference were those related to human sexuality.  There were a total of 99 petitions.  The Commission on the General Conference recommended adding Rule 44 to propose a process to deal with controversial issues, such as human sexuality matters.  This process involved small groups’ conversations lead by a chair with the support of a recorder and a monitor.  Conversations were supposed to be recorded and sent to a group of persons who will have the task of summarizing the conversations to be considered by the plenary.  Rule 44 was rejected after significant debate and several witness demonstrations.

 Several delegates requested the Council of Bishops to provide leadership and direction to the church to move forward in the midst of the tensions.  The Council of Bishops met and brought a proposal promoting a “deep commitment to the unity of the church in Christ our Lord and seek a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters.” It also stated, “We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God. Strengthening the unity of the church is a responsibility for all of us… We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead the UMC in a pause for prayer-to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.”

The recommendation of the Council of Bishops was to form a special commission, with members named by the Council of Bishops to conduct a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality and include persons from every region of the UMC, as well as differing perspectives on the debate. Also, the Council of Bishops will call a special two-to-three day Gathering before the 2020 General Conference to act on the recommendations of the special commission.

They also stated that they will continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another-including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline and defer all votes on all petitions related to human sexuality until the proposed commission has done its work.  After long debate, the Council of Bishops’ proposal was approved with 428 votes in favor and 405 against.

MARCHA submitted several names of persons to the Council of Bishops to be considered to be part of this special commission.  A diverse group of people was intentionally selected representing our geographic regions, gender, clergy/lay and theological perspective on the issue of human sexuality.

Also, the Judicial Council ruled that petitions that had been approved by legislative committees requiring mandatory minimum sentencing for certain clergy offenses were ruled unconstitutional.



It was adopted that Ordained Deacons will be able to officiate the Sacraments with the permission of their bishop, for the duration of their appointment where “contextually appropriate.”

  • Two (2) new Special Sundays were approved – Volunteers in Mission Awareness Sunday and Women’s Ministry Sunday
  • One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday was renamed to “UMCOR Sunday.”
  • There were several petitions regarding the divestment of our pension funds from the fossil fuel industry, divestment from companies profiting from the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, statements on Creation Care, membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and many more.  These were not adopted.
  • General Church budget was amended to be reduced and their proposal was ruled unconstitutional.
  • Several petitions for restructuring the denomination were considered and all of them were rejected.



Worship services at General Conference were inspiring and with good preaching, but we missed the use of Spanish language and Hispanic/Latino songs and rhythms.  The following celebrations and presentations were part of the conference agenda:

  • Celebration of 200 years of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Celebration of 150 years of the United Methodist Women and its predecessors
  • Celebration of 60 years of full clergy rights for women
  • Celebration of 30 years of Disciple Bible Study
  • Celebration of 20 years of the Order of Deacons
  • Presentation of the Racial Ethnic Plans
  • Presentation of the Hispanic/Latino Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA)
  • Imagine No Malaria Campaign
  • Commissioning of 26 Deaconesses and Home Missioners
  • Commissioning of 29 missionaries to go to the world

 We also had an act of repentance to remember and repent for the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.  Problems between the Native American tribes and white settlers in the West had been increasing in the mid-1800’s.  Colorado Gov. John Evans encountered peaceful tribes of Arapahoe and Cheyenne in the Denver area which he helped resettle further east.  But on Nov. 29, 1864, with the authorization and support of Governor Evans, Col. John Chivington of the Third Colorado Regiment attacked and massacred these Indians – men, women and children. Evans was a prominent Methodist Episcopal layman while Col. Chivington was an ordained Methodist Episcopal pastor.  The Methodist Episcopal Church, instead of denouncing the injustice, stated that it doubted the massacre had even occurred and worked to clear Col. Chivington’s name.



  • Saturday May 7 – 12:00pm | Lunch with Delegates from Autonomous Churches
  • Saturday May 7 – 2:00pm | Briefing with Delegates from Autonomous Churches
  • Sundays May 8 & 15 | Worship Services in Spanish at the United Methodist Church Las Naciones at 1:00pm. (Pastor: Rev. Jorge Rodríguez)
  • May 9-14 & 16-20 | Immigration Task Force Exhibits | An exhibit of Hispanic/Latino art from La Plaza United Methodist Church, Los Angeles, CA. (Pastor Vilma Cruz) & Global Migration Exhibits
  • Monday May 9 – 6:30pm | Briefing for Women’s Delegates sponsored by United Methodist Women and General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW)
  • Monday May 9 – 7:30pm | Meeting with IESDG (Advocates and Monitors)
  • Tuesday May 10 – 9:30am | Briefing for Youth & Young Adults Delegates
  • Tuesday May 10 – 9:30am | Briefing for Delegates of Colors and Allies sponsored by the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR)
  • Witness demonstration for immigrants’ rights sponsored coordinated by Rosanna Panizo
  • Tuesday May 10 – 7:00pm | Multicultural Celebration /Reception for Central Conference and International Delegates sponsored by the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group (IESDG)
  • May 11 to June 10 | Amamantary Migrar Mother’s Day Month Art & Action Exhibition
  • Sunday May 15 – 10:00am | Worship Service sponsored by the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW)
  • Sunday May 15 – 3:00pm | Love Your Neighbor Coalition Worship Service lead by Lydia Munoz
  • Sunday May 15 – 5:30pm | Dinner and fellowship with Autonomous Churches & Hispanic/Latino Delegate sponsored by MARCHA and The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries
  • Monday May 16 – 12:45pm Human Rights Rally sponsored by the United Methodist Women and other ethnic caucuses. The rally calls for: “Don’t Poison Our Water: Water is a Human Right”.



I would like to express my gratitude to Bishop Elías Galvan for his guidance, Raúl Alegría, who was in charge of all the logistics and finance administration, the MARCHA Team who worked very hard for long hours, and all the delegates, staff and observers who worked with us.  Thank you all for your work in advocating for our cause.


Raúl Alegría                           Logistics

Héctor Burgos                        Advocate & Communications

Oscar Flores                           Monitor

Obispo Elías Galván               MARCHA Executive Director

Enrique González                  Advocate

Joel Hortiales                         Petitions & Consent Calendar

Rosanna Panizo                     Immigration Rally Coordinator

Lyssette Pérez                       Legislation, Strategy & Coalitions

Keren Rodríguez                    Advocate

Yolanda Santiago                  Monitor

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