“It is a way to create disorder within a respective annual conference,” she said. “And such an attitude is not acceptable. It is not an appropriate way of lobbying for the agenda to pass.”
She said the North Katanga Conference has held training to mobilize people to get vaccinated. “This is the work of the church.”
Dave Nuckols, one of the letter signers and co-head of the Minnesota Conference delegation, supports the formation of a task force to investigate the WCA’s vaccine effort. He especially takes issue with the advocacy group continuing the effort, despite alarm bells raised by United Methodist bishops and some General Conference commission leaders.
Nuckols said the WCA’s effort “has undermined both (1) the perceived legislative integrity of the General Conference body and (2) the UMC’s current missional priority to combat vaccine hesitancy and mistrust.”
He is a member of the Connectional Table, a denominational leadership body that alongside the United Methodist Council of Bishops, is working to promote global equity in vaccine distribution.
The United Methodist Church also has the Love Beyond Borders Advance, a designated fund that helps procure and supply vaccines worldwide.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association, for its part, insists that General Conference can go forward, and its vaccine effort is part of that.
In a Feb. 11 essay titled “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” the Rev. Keith Boyette wrote that the WCA and its partners are pleased to report more than half the delegates in Congo, Tanzania and Zambia are now vaccinated.
“We anticipate the remaining delegates who opt to be vaccinated will have completed their regimen of shots by the end of February,” wrote Boyette, WCA’s president. “More than $119,000 has been generously given to the Vaccination Access Initiative.”
The Africa Initiative statement advocating for General Conference this year says the group has tried to survey 286 delegates elected from Africa. The group said it estimates only 10% are unvaccinated, and that the remaining can get the needed shots before May. The initiative also says visa appointments have begun to open up.
Nuckols and other letter signers acknowledged that the General Conference commission faces many challenges in planning this church-defining meeting during a pandemic.
“Commission members are in a hard and lonely position, so I’m glad we can support them in making the best and timely decision,” Nuckols said.
Letter signers also acknowledged that after decades of church debate, many delegates are eager to move on with a formal separation.
Molly McEntire, a letter signer from the Florida Conference, said she knows the commission members are facing a lot pressure to hold General Conference in 2022.
“I would love to have General Conference,” she said. “But for the last two years, I have been thinking about how can I protect and care for my neighbors.”
She said those neighbors include delegates from four continents.
“I think we have to listen to God to figure out a way that we can have full in-person participation from all persons around the world.”
This article originally appeared here.