The activity of General Conference can seem far removed from our home congregations, but that could not be farther from the truth. The work, worship, celebrations, and remembrances at General Conference are the activity of all the people of The United Methodist Church.
“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” General Conference meets every four years to facilitate this work happening in each of our churches.
What will General Conference mean to my United Methodist church?
As a United Methodist, you are probably aware that General Conference, the once-every-four-years official meeting of the church is happening in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20, 2016. What may be far less clear, however, is what happens there and what it means to your local congregation. General Conference receives reports, votes on legislation, and passes a budget, but it is more than a business meeting.
The General Conference sessions are the only time The United Methodist Church gathers from across the globe in a single location. In that sense, it is something akin to a family reunion—albeit a ridiculously large one. When we come together every four years, we take the opportunity to worship, remember, and celebrate. The theme of General Conference comes from Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 28:19-20,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
At the 2016 General Conference legislation will be presented and debated on human sexuality, the budget of the general church for 2017-2020, a more global church structure, the ordination process for our pastors, formation of a hymnal revision committee, and more.
When the United Methodist family gathers, we come from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. We come together as one in our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for The United Methodist Church. There are, however, a variety of languages and cultures represented.
The worship of General Conference celebrates our unity and diversity.
The 2016 gathering will also take time to celebrate important milestones that have had tremendous impact in our congregations. This General Conference marks the 60th anniversary of the ordination of female pastors. The 1956 General Conference of The Methodist Church granted full clergy rights to women.
The gathered church will also begin celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Disciple Bible Study in 2017, and the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women in 2019. Both of these ministries have been instrumental in the spiritual growth of so many members of United Methodist congregations.
General Conference is also an important time to remember our history.
At General Conference 2016 United Methodists will pause to remember Francis Asbury. Asbury was the first bishop in our Methodist heritage. Born in England, he came to America to form and lead this new church. Under Asbury’s leadership Methodism grew. This year is the 200th anniversary of his death on March 31, 1816.