The Quadrennial Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) was held in Portland, Oregon from May 10 to 20. I, Akiyama Toru, attended this conference along with the Reverend Takada Teruki, a Commission on Ecumenical Ministries’ staff member. General Secretary Nagasaki Tetsuo was scheduled to attend, but due to his illness and subsequent hospitalization, I attended as his substitute.
The UMC is not limited to the United States. With congregations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, it has a membership of approximately 12,300,00. The UMC’s Quadrennial Conference is held once every four years, bringing together over 850 delegates from around the world. Added to these delegates were over 4,000 people who came to be a part of the conference in various ways. Held at what is said to be the largest convention center in the American Northwest, people around the world were able to follow these eleven days of proceedings via television and the Internet.
Although the Kyodan is not a member of the UMC, we are invited as a guest to attend each quadrennial conference because of our deep connection. Especially this time, we attended in order to express our gratitude for the support we received from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) following the 2011 East Japan Disaster. The activities of the Sendai and Ishinomaki Emmaus centers, the Kohitsuji (Little Lambs) Camp, radiation measurements, and other activities are continuing in large part because of the more than 100 million yen received from UMCOR.
Because I was only able to attend the conference from the opening worship on May 10 through May 12, I am not able to share a detailed account of the conference. However, tables with five or six delegates per table were spread across the conference floor, from which you could barely see the other side because of the size of the conference hall. Seated on the stage in front were the session conveners and parliamentarians, worship leaders, choirs, and over 50 bishops who oversaw the proceedings of the conference.
A bishop heads each church board, and I was able to view closely the episcopal structure and authority within the UMC. Of particular interest to me was the way voting and voices from the floor were handled. No hands were raised. Rather, each delegate had an instrument similar to a smart phone. These were used to vote as well as to notify the chair of a delegate’s desire to speak. When the instrument was used for voting, a large electronic bulletin board at the front registered the voting results immediately. When wanting to address the floor, a delegate would use the instrument to indicate to the chair whether his/her statement was in favor or in opposition to the topic being discussed, before being recognized. Following recognition from the chair, statements were limited to three minutes. After one minute passed, the electronic billboard clearly indicated how much time the speaker had remaining. In this way, the long speeches that often plague our Kyodan General Conference were avoided.
The theme of this conference was “Therefore Go,” taken from Matt. 28:19-20. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Addressing this theme, the president of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., energized the conference with a powerful sermon that I consider the highlight of the conference. Amid several standing ovations, Bishop Brown spoke powerfully of our mission as Christians and the possibilities we have as we take the gospel and confront the darkness of the present age. (Tr. JS)
— Akiyama Toru, chair Commission on Ecumenical Ministries
秋 山 徹（教団・世界宣教委員長） 参加報告
合同メソジスト教会（United Methodist Church(UMC)）総会が5月10日~20日アメリカ・