The following are questions and responses that were submitted prior to the March 16, 2019 GNJ Special Annual Conference Session.

Please read the following questions and responses prior to coming to the Special Session.  

Delegation Nominations Legislation

1.    How many nominations were made from the laity?  How many from the clergy? –Creed Pogue
There are 7 laity and 11 clergy nominations.  For laity, this is a drop of 42%.  For clergy this is a drop of 27%.

2.    Considering the actual demographics of our laity and clergy, how are we measuring “underrepresentation”?  –Creed Pogue
For 2016 delegates, 70% of the nominations were women. In 2020, just 38% of the nominations are women. Women overall represent an estimated 65% of our worshipers. We have five different types of ethnic congregations in GNJ –African American/Black, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic/Latina/Latino, and Native American. For the entire slate of lay and clergy nominations, there are no nominations for one of the ethnicities and one nomination for two other ethnicities.

3.    If we are trying to resolve an “underrepresentation” then should the additional nominations be limited to those groups? -Creed Pogue
We could but there is not a significant pool in the others as well. We do not have enough nominations for a complete delegation. We do not understand how or why this occurred and we will look into how we promote nominations in the future.

4.    Rule 63 actually does not prohibit late nominations from having their biographical information shared. In the past, it was allowed to have information distributed at Conference until the instructions were changed without any rationale being given. Nothing prevents us from extending grace to allow additional nominees from being included in the pre-conference journal without a rule change. Nothing prevents us from allowing nominations to be made on the floor and biographical information to be distributed without a rule change. The Conference Secretary who made the current prohibitions has the authority to rescind them and extend grace unilaterally. Instead of going with an arbitrary deadline that is then extended when leadership does not approve of the results, wouldn’t it be better to simply extend grace while acknowledging those who obeyed the original deadline?  -Creed Pogue
This is an important point, but extending the nominations creates the opportunity to promote the need for more nominations.

CFA Policies Legislation

1.    Is there a model for these?  Why are they being brought forward now?  -Creed Pogue
The Committee on Investigation had recommended charges against one of our clergy for trial. In investigating the case, they found concerns and issues but not clear policies. The Committee recommended to CFA and the Cabinet that they develop policies in these areas. CFA has reviewed best practices and is recommending each of the policies to the Annual Conference Session. They are being recommended at this time so that GNJ has appropriate policies in place and that GNJ can move forward.

2.    A number of congregations are involved in ministeriums or other types of cross-church mission groups. Will a change in signers for a bank account (management) require approval by the district superintendent?  -Creed Pogue
CFA is recommending that it is always appropriate for a clergy person who is managing a bank account for ministry to report to those who have oversight of clergy and finances. It also ensures the clergy person is following best practices for handling money and that there will be an audit.

3.    A number of congregations receive money from the Clean Communities program administered by municipalities and counties and funded by NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Congregations may receive monies from public groups or private entities as appreciation for volunteer work. Are these considered “grants” under this policy? If not, how do we distinguish situations in the future even after the current bishop, Cabinet and CF&A have moved on? -Creed Pogue
Money given from one organization to one of our churches is either a reimbursement, fee for service, or gift/grant regulated by IRS standards. The policy expects that gifts/grants will be reported to appropriate persons.

4.    In the past, outgoing district superintendents have been approved by CF&A to take their laptop or other electronic equipment with them when they left the Cabinet as appreciation for their service and recognizing that the resale/reuse value was minimal. Is this now being prohibited since there appears to be no exceptions in the policy? -Creed Pogue
It does not prevent the sale of a piece of equipment, but ensures that files are maintained and any information GNJ wants erased from the computer is erased appropriately.

5.    If an adult child of a clergyperson receives gifts to help with schooling from a godparent who worships with a previous congregation, are we truly asking the family member to be aware of this policy and research who the current chair of SPRC is at that congregation? -Creed Pogue
We are not asking people who receive funds from blood relatives or legally adopted children to report. The policy advises that clergy report the amount of gifts received. When in doubt about the relationships, reporting to the SPRC and the superintendent will ensure full transparency, accountability and avoid the perception of mishandling funds and gifts.

6.    Regarding clergy gifts: retirement gifts are mentioned but not pastor appreciation or Christmas gifts.  I have been in churches where I received a gift from the congregation of greater than $1000 at that time. How would that be related to this recommendation? -John DiGiamberardino
This is clarified in the policy. If the church collects money from parishioners and gives one check to the clergy person, this does not have to be reported. It is individual gifts or larger gifts from the church’s funds that must be reported.

Budget Legislation

1.    What was the amount of surplus as of December 31st? How much, if any, did we spend to get to 100% for General Church apportionments? -Creed Pogue
General Church apportionments were paid in full, per our budget which was approved. Every line item varies based on the completion of the budget year, so it is difficult to ascribe which funds are reserve funds usage. Some line items were at budget, others were under, allowing for full payment of our apportionments. The Conference reserve, at the end of 2018 fiscal year, stood at $1,122,718, minimally over the target set by the conference.

2.    We are seeing this amended budget because we only had a collection rate of xx, but we are still projecting a 91% rate for 2019. Is that realistic? Creed Pogue
CF&A is proposing the revised budget based on a detailed review of spending in 2018, anticipated spending in 2019, as well as a projected collection rate for 2019. It anticipates prudent spending and prayerful giving, which the committee fully believes is attainable.

3.    I do wonder if we need to look outside the box and consider looking at the churches that have been consistently unable to pay the full 100%. Perhaps we can set a fixed amount for the bottom ten percent or so. That would allow us to improve the overall collection rate and provide space to discern the current situation for those churches. We may need to look at a different paradigm for those on the front line of mission. -Creed Pogue
Noted for consideration.

4.    There are a number of decreases in the budget. The Book of Discipline does require that conference benevolences be detailed (614.3) so we should be getting a “Schedule D” especially since the Connectional Table is being reduced by $100,000. I would ask that in the spirit of openness and transparency that the Schedules A-C that we used to get would also be provided.  That would eliminate the awkwardness of asking for them during the presentation on Saturday. -Creed Pogue
The revised budget is based on reductions of the same percentage, line by line, across all lines of Schedule D used for the current budget in place.

5.    The Conference receives $10,000 from the Episcopal Fund for an episcopal residence/allowance and Conference is directly contributing $28,135 for “Bishop’s housing.” How are those funds being spent? Is any of it going toward the two “Episcopal Residences” at Pennington and Eatontown? -Creed Pogue
The residence in Pennington is used by the Capital District Superintendent and the Eatontown residency is used by the Director of Connectional Ministries. No Episcopal funds are used in the support of either location.

6.    Are we able to cut $10,000 from Annuitant Health Insurance and still come out even? -Creed Pogue
The reductions in health insurance are consistent with our commitments and are sustainable in regard to our obligations.

7.    Considering GC2019, is it prudent to cut the Bridge Fund at a time where we may need more expenditure rather than less? -Creed Pogue
The proposal to reduce the Bridge Fund is led by those who administer those funds. They are confident in their ability to work within the revised budget.

8.    Looking at the other cuts, it is difficult to know how much are “paper” cuts for positions that haven’t been filled and if any reflects cutting current personnel? -Creed Pogue
The reductions in spending do not anticipate any reductions in staff, although there is an administrative assistant position that has not been filled that will be eliminated.  

9.    It may also be wise to consider adding three lines to the Shared Ministries billing for the general church apportionments in each category. Therefore, those who wish to “protest” can do so without any damage to Conference ministries. -Creed Pogue
Noted for consideration.

GNJ Way Forward Team Legislation

1.    How many of the seventeen nominees are supporters of the “One Church Plan” which failed at General Conference? How much true diversity of opinion is embodied in that group of nominees? -Creed Pogue
People were not asked for their view point, although, the Wesleyan Covenant Association and Reconciling Ministries were invited to participate. Others were chosen because of an office they hold within GNJ.

2.    Will meetings be announced and open to the public? Will provision for public comment be made BEFORE decisions on possible recommendations are made? -Creed Pogue
Meetings will not be open because confidentiality and trust is key to open and thoughtful conversation. The Team will seek input from people outside the group.

3.    How many members identify as LGBTQIA+ on the task force? -Kaleigh Corbett
People were not asked about their sexuality. We are not requiring people to disclose their sexuality. 

4.    Would a church be penalized if our congregation became part of reconciling ministries network? -Peter Pantalena
A church would not be penalized. We affirm that we have people who participate in Reconciling Ministries and the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

5.    Persons continue with “I will cast my vote by checkbook”. Can our shared ministry formulas change as reflection of potential divisiveness? -Peter Pantalena
This question has been referred to CFA.

6.    Is it possible that the decisions reached at the recent Special General Conference were a genuine expression of the will of the Holy Spirit for the United Methodist Church in 2019? -Bob Barnshaw
In Biblical times, lots were drawn to determine God’s will in instances. Generally, decisions in the Bible were made by an individual, or councils deliberated and came to consensus in the New Testament. Voting has not always been a reliable measure of God’s will. In the Methodist movement it was votes that divided the church over slavery, prevented women’s ordination, and segregated African Americans within the denomination. Votes at one time forbid tobacco and alcohol. Yet today all of these votes were overturned.

What can be said about voting is that after prayer the majority of the delegates voted that it was best for the denomination to move in this direction to be faithful to God and scripture. That can be said of the vote of the recent General Conference and the votes for and then against the issues referenced above. Scripture and prayer has been a part of every General Conference.

7.    In the Bishop’s letter to NJUMC immediately after the recent General Conference, Bishop Schol repeated an allegation that delegates were bribed or otherwise improperly influenced to support the passage of the Traditional Plan. Has ANY evidence emerged to support these serious charges? -Bob Barnshaw
The Bishop said the following: “Called for an investigation into an accusation that some delegates were being given money and other goods to influence their vote.” There is no reference to who or what to vote for. Bishop Schol does not know who was accused. He shared what was reported to the General Conference. More recently the New York Times reported voter fraud. The facts in this article have been verified by denominational officials. Click here for NY Times article. The following is United Methodist News press release about the reported issues in the New York Times article.  Click here for the UMNews press release.  

8.    For churches and individuals who want to be inclusive, which of our Shared Ministry payments may be financing the Traditional Plan? We do not want to give money that will be used for harm to LGBTQ+ people. Rev Amanda Hemenetz
This issue will be addressed at the Special Session and the question has been referred to the Council on Finance and Administration.