Alternates reflect on sitting on conference sidelines

David Burke

2/26/2019

They hung on every word of the special session of the General Conference and sat at the ready in case they were called into duty.

Great Plans Conference members — including some delegate reserves — watch proceedings at General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Todd Seifert

But unlike the 2016 General Conference in Portland, alternate delegates from the Great Plains Conference saw little to no time seated at the floor of the special session.

“I’m fascinated by the fact that we’re in a roomful of several thousand really busy people who come here to sit hour after hour, day after day,” said Sandy Simmons of Leavenworth, Kansas, an alternate delegate. “You sit and listen and try to learn. You try to understand other people’s point of view. It’s been fascinating to be here.”

A supporter of the One Church Plan, Simmons also said she was frustrated by the outcome of the special session vote.

“It’s not gone at all the way I hoped it would go,” she said. “I’m terribly distressed by the harm we’re doing to the LGBTQ people.”

Keith Olsen, an alternate from Grant, Nebraska, also felt saddened by the outcome.

“What happened was pretty much what I was afraid would happen,” he said. “We talk about being together, but I don’t know if we are. I don’t know if we can leave here together.”

Likewise, he didn’t like waiting on the bench.

“It is frustrating to be sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “But I do have a great deal of respect for the delegates. With this large of a body, it’s tough to operate in. But our delegation has made some important statements at the right time.”

Randall Hodgkinson of Topeka says he’s proud to be an alternate.

“I don’t know if we have a lot to do with the outcome of legislation, but I think alternates have a large role in supporting our delegates on the floor, practically and spiritually, and interacting with people who are here,” he said.

Hodgkinson said he doesn’t see his role ending just because the special session has.

“I anticipate a big role in helping interpret what’s happening here in the next few weeks and months,” he said.
 
Contact David Burke, content specialist, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.
 
 


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