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General Conference

General Conference: Frequently Asked Questions

The 2024 United Methodist General Conference took place April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, more than 700 elected delegates from around the world set denominational policy, revised church law, approved budgets for churchwide programs, and adopted resolutions on current moral, social, public policy, and economic issues.

In May 2024 United Women in Faith hosted a virtual town hall on the outcomes of General Conference and invited members to submit questions. Some of those questions are answered here, with more answers to come!

You can watch the recording of United Women in Faith’s post-General Conference town hall on our YouTube page.

How will United Methodists learn about what happened at General Conference?

The official General Conference website has everything you need to know, including a comprehensive summary of major legislative decisions, which United Methodist News sent to pastors and conference directors of communications. Pastors and leaders should share news in local churches, as will local, district, and conference newsletters. Some district superintendents and bishops may hold virtual or in-person sessions as well.

When will General Conference decisions go into effect?

Except for legislation specifically named to take effect at the end of General Conference, the new Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions will go into effect January 1, 2025. Decisions in effect now include removal of bans on gay clergy and same-sex weddings and preparation for worldwide regionalization, including the formation of an Interim Committee on Organization for the creation of a U.S. Regional Committee and Interim U.S. Legislative Committee.

When will the new Book of Discipline be available?

The new Book of Discipline will be published in January 2025. It will include the new Social Principles and all updates and changes made at the 2024 General Conference. The official General Conference site shares the effective dates of General Conference legislation, and you can pre-order copies of the Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions at Cokesbury.

What General Conference legislation requires a vote from annual conferences?

Any changes to paragraphs 1 to 61 in the Book of Discipline require votes from annual conferences. These paragraphs are The United Methodist Church’s constitution, changes to which must be ratified by voting members of every annual conference around the world. Ratification means approval of General Conference’s decision by two-thirds of all voting members of all annual conferences. It is an aggregate vote: every yes and no counts toward the total.

Do local churches need to vote on the decisions made at General Conference?

No. Nothing passed at the 2024 General Conference requires action at the local church level. However, the decisions allow change to occur if that is the desire of your congregation. The removal of the bans is an opportunity, not a mandate.

Can LGBTQ+ individuals now serve as clergy in The United Methodist Church?

Yes, if they meet the requirements laid out in the Book of Discipline, including education, experience, and approval by boards of ordained ministries and clergy sessions of annual conferences.

Can LGBTQ+ couples now be married in The United Methodist Church?

Yes, if the elder or licensed pastor chooses to officiate the ceremony. After due counsel with the parties involved, the decision to perform the ceremony for any couple is the right and responsibility of the pastor.

How and when will changes related to LGBTQ marriage and ordination be implemented at local churches?

The removal of the bans on gay clergy and same-sex weddings went into effect at the end of General Conference.

How does General Conference scripturally justify changing the discipline on homosexuality?

In 1988, the General Conference instructed the General Council on Ministries to create a committee to study homosexuality from a theological standpoint and report to the 1996 General Conference. Even then the committee recommended removal of the condemnation of homosexuality from the church’s Social Principles.  

Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience is how we mature as Christians according to the founder of Methodism John Wesley. Letting new information, perspectives, and experiences change how we live our faith has always been a part of Christian history. The decisions of General Conference do not enforce conformity but allow for diversity—from all perspectives—without punishing one group. 

Suggested resources to help answer this question: 

Your church may have a copy of the book The Church Studies Homosexuality, a study for United Methodist groups using the report of the Committee to Study Homosexuality, published in 1994 by Cokesbury. The General Commission on Archives also has the position papers collected by the committee.   

See the Rev. James Howell’s “15 Propositions Regarding the Bible and Homosexuality.” Howell is a pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can also lead or participate in the study Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. 

The documentary For the Bible Tells Me So focuses on five Christian families with gay children and deconstructs the arguments that the Bible condemns homosexuality, featuring clergy and scholars who explain the cultural and historical context for Old Testament quotes routinely referenced as arguments against homosexuality and describe the nuances of translation.  

Bishop Karen Oliveto’s book Our Strangely Warmed Hearts: Coming Out Into God’s Call is a 2024 United Women in Faith Reading Program selection.

For more resources, check out those suggested by the Reconciling Ministries Network

If I don’t agree with General Conference decisions, can I still be a part of United Women in Faith?

Yes. Women of various backgrounds and perspectives are welcome to be a part of United Women in Faith, with the understanding that we first do no harm, speak only from our own experiences, listen with our head and heart, and be willing to grow and change. As the official laywomen’s organization of The United Methodist Church, our beliefs, practices, and positions will align with those of The United Methodist Church, and it is a blessing to be part of a church that values diversity and welcomes conversation about how to best love our neighbors. United Women in Faith offers many avenues to participate in our mission and sisterhood, and we invite all women who want to positively inspire, influence, and impact their communities to check us out.

Were conservative caucuses like Good News present at the 2024 General Conference?

Yes. Good News and the Wesleyan Covenant Association lobbied ahead of and during the recent General Conference in Charlotte. Both groups stated that their goals were to extend disaffiliation, a divisive exit process that required a great amount of the church’s time and resources. By a large majority, delegates from around the world said no to disaffiliation of any form, as there are other, less harmful ways for churches to leave the denomination inside and outside the United States. Good News declared the 2024 conference its last, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association is now led by a president who is no longer a part of The United Methodist Church.

Did the United Methodist position on abortion change?

No. You can find the updated statement on p. 28 of the Revised Social Principles, which passed General Conference.

How will the decisions of General Conference impact local churches?

For many churches, it will continue to be business as usual, with the new, lowered apportionment rate likely having the most direct impact beginning in January. Churches have the option to host same-sex wedding ceremonies and the option to receive appointment of an openly gay pastor. If your church is served by a deacon, deacons can now preside over sacraments. A new clergy retirement plan goes into effect January 2026.  

A reduced denominational budget will affect district, conference, regional, and global funding and mission, including resources benefiting local churches. And church leaders and membership should familiarize themselves with new resolutions passed to ensure their preaching, actions, and practices align.

Like every General Conference year, your bishop may change. Bishops are the administrative head of your annual conference and responsible for appointing district superintendents and pastors. The 2024 General Conference approved two new bishops for United Methodists in Africa and a reduction to 32 bishops in the United States, recommending no new episcopal elections at the 2024 Jurisdictional Conferences taking place this July. Current bishops would be assigned to cover two vacancies in the Western Jurisdiction and one vacancy in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, taking effect September 1, 2024.

In addition, your pastor and voting member to annual conference will need be informed about regionalization, the addition of “gender” and “ability” to Paragraph 4, and other constitutional amendments on which they will be voting. U.S. annual conferences will likely vote on amendments at their spring 2025 gatherings. United Methodist Communications has created a helpful infographic

How will the decisions made at General Conference affect our denomination now that so many churches have disaffiliated?

Some more churches may choose to leave in the name of the decisions made at General Conference. And: New people are joining the church because of the decisions of General Conference. There is reason to hope for joy and growth on the other side of this time of change.   

What is the Interim Committee on Organization for the U.S. Regional Conference?

As part of worldwide regionalization, the Council of Bishops will appoint a 20- to 25-member committee to organize the convening gathering of the U.S. regional conference. Members will be chosen among elected delegates, with a minimum of three members from each U.S. jurisdiction. The committee will work the secretary and business manager of the General Conference along with three central conference members elected from their conferences.

What is the new U.S. Regional Committee?

The U.S. Regional Committee established by the General Conference comprises all General Conference delegates elected in the United States and one lay and one clergy delegate from each central conference. This committee is now in effect and does not need to be ratified. Like the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, this committee in the days immediately prior to a regular session of General Conference review all petitions pertaining to the operation, governance, witness, and ministry of The United Methodist Church in the United States and are adaptable by the central conferences, will do so in the days prior the regular session of General Conference. Should regionalization be ratified by the annual conferences, this committee will expire to the become the U.S. Regional Conference.

The United Methodist Church approved full communion with the Episcopal Church. Does the Episcopal Church ordain women?

Yes, the Episcopal Church ordains women, and no diocese can deny ordination solely on the grounds of gender. The Episcopal Church will decide whether to affirm full communion likely in 2027.

Was the General Conference supportive of the work of the general agencies?

The majority of the legislation submitted by the general agencies was supported by the General Conference. You can learn about the important mission and ministries of the church’s 13 agencies on UMC.org, where you’ll also find links to each agency’s website if you’d like to learn more about their General Conference legislation.

You can also review the denominational budget approved by the General Conference. The budget includes the World Service Fund, which supports Church and Society, Communications, Discipleship Ministries, Global Ministries, Higher Education and Ministry, Religion and Race, Status and Role of Women, and United Methodist Men, and the General Administration Fund, which supports Archives and History and Finance and Administration. Agencies can also receive direct giving. United Methodist Publishing House, United Women in Faith, and Wespath are self-funded.

If you have additional questions, reach out to Tara Barnes, director of denominational relations, at tbarnes@uwfaith.org.

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