You have probably heard us praying for General Conference and delegates, staff and volunteers during worship at St. John. Or perhaps you have heard General Conference mentioned in various ministry team meetings.
The 2016 General Conference is currently underway in Portland, Oregon. Now seems like a time to answer the question: “What exactly is General Conference?”
The short answer is General Conference is the decision-making body for the 12.3 million member United Methodist Church. It is the only body that can officially speak on behalf of the entire Church.
St. John United Methodist Church is connected in mission and ministry to United Methodists all over the world – here in the United States, in Europe, Africa, Asia, the South Pacific and beyond.
As a denomination we are organized as a representative democracy – much like the United States. The 864 delegates to the 2016 General Conference – half of whom are clergy, half are lay people - are elected by annual (regional) conferences in proportion to the membership of the annual conference. The Alaska Conference has two delegates (the minimum an annual conference can be allotted): Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Alaska Conference Superintendent, and Joanne Hayden of Anchor Park UMC.
Together these delegates will consider legislation on issues such as the Church’s 4-year budget, the structure as a global body, how and when clergy are ordained, our Church’s position on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons (including issues of marriage and ordination), the socially responsible investment screens for clergy pension funds and even a new cyber hymnal.
Those present for General Conference (or livestreaming online, click on the website below) will also witness presentations highlighting our connectional ministry of the past four years and the new direction in the next four. For example, highlights will include a celebration of the conclusion of our 8-year, $75 million Imagine No Malaria campaign. but let me just sum it up this way: When the UMC started our campaign a child was dying from this entirely preventable disease every 30 seconds, now it’s every two minutes.
Although this is still an incredible loss, it is incredible progress! Leaders at the United Nations, Gates Foundation, Global Fund and World Health Organization have all pointed to the United Methodist Church as one of the most significant world leaders in fighting malaria. St. John embraced this mission in a big way, contributing over $71,822 personal and matching gifts. (Learn more about the campaign here: www.imaginenomalaria.org)
I invite you to continue praying for the many big decisions being made in the next 10 days, for the tone and content of the many difficult conversations and debates, and for the strength, endurance, energy, and well-being of the delegates, reserve delegates, staff and thousands of volunteers at this General Conference. We especially pray for our own Art and Marilyn Carpenter who are volunteering in Portland and witnessing for full inclusion within the denomination.
If you would like more information, or to follow along with news items about General Conference, check out its website: www.umc.org/gc2016 or follow #UMCGC on social media. You can also find an introduction and overview of the conference here: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/gc2016-general-conference-guide