Q&A with Sharma Lewis: 'Denomination must begin to run more efficiently'


Sharma Lewis, superintendent of the Atlanta Decatur Oxford District, will have the honoring of leading the North Georgia delegation at the upcoming General Conference. The North Georgia Advocate recently asked the Rev. Lewis questions in advance of the big event.
 Q: How did it feel to be selected to lead the North Georgia delegation to General Conference?
 A: I was truly honored and humbled to be selected by my colleagues to lead the North Georgia delegation to General Conference.
 Q: How has the North Georgia delegation been preparing for General Conference?
 A: First, by practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer and biblical study; each delegate was assigned a prayer partner by the order of election. Every meeting was led in prayer and devotion. Secondly, leaders throughout the UMC (Barbara Boigegrain, General Secretary GBPHB and her assistant Dale Jones, John Goolsby, GCFA Deputy General Secretary and his assistant Scott Brewer, Jay Brim, principal writer of the restructure legislation and Vicki Palmer, member of the IOT Committee) were invited to present their legislation to the delegation.
After each presentation, members of the delegation responded to the presentation and led the delegation in small group discussions. This practice allowed the delegation to reflect and engage each other in further discussions. Members of the delegation attended two pre-General Conference briefings. The North Georgia Delegation held two “listening sessions” at Gainesville and Griffin First United Methodist Church.
 Q: How have you personally been preparing for your leadership role?
A: First, by diligently praying with my assigned prayer partner, Jane Finely, head of the lay delegation for General Conference. Secondly, by discussing with the 2008 delegation chair Lyn Powell the expectations of this role and responsibilities. Finally by reading, studying and being knowledgeable of the petitions and materials that I have received this past year.
 Q: What advice have you been getting from veteran delegates about preparing for Tampa?
 A: First, the importance of preparing yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually for General Conference. Secondly, reading, studying and being knowledgeable about the petitions in my legislative committee (Faith and Order) and “key” legislative petitions. Finally, engaging in Holy Conferencing and being open to the moving and presence of the Holy Spirit at General Conference.
 Q: What is your biggest concern heading into GC?
 A: My biggest concern as the chair of the North Georgia Delegation is that we faithfully serve and represent Christ and the United Methodist Church.  
 Q: What are 2-3 most important issues being addressed at GC and how would you like to see them resolved?
A: There are many important issues that are being addressed at GC. The issue that I am most concerned about is the restructuring of the UMC. I pray that we will be able to “listen” and to “hear” the suggestions; but ultimately the denomination must begin to run more efficiently and effectively.
 Q: What committee will you be serving on and why did you select that specific one?
A: Faith and Order.   I chose this committee because we will deal with petitions relating to the Doctrinal Standards and our Theological Task, the Ministry of all Christians and the Meaning of Ordination and Conference Membership.
 Q: Every four years at GC there is always lively debate about human sexuality and the teaching of the church. How would you like to see this ultimately resolved?
 A: I believe that human sexuality is a gift from God that is to be expressed responsibly with discipline and commitment. I reject the sexual exploitations of men, women and children in any forms in which it may exist. As ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our lives should be above reproach in all areas both public and private. I believe for the sake of the Gospel we should dedicate ourselves to the highest ideal of Christian life and teachings. I would ultimately like to see this resolved that we as Christians should lead by example and continue to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ as we move on to perfection.