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General Conference

The Path Ahead

What decisions face delegates at General Conference?

by Tara Barnes

Next month, the 862 delegates to the United Methodist General Conference will be voting on 1,066 pieces of legislation—785 proposed changes to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 48 nondisciplinary petitions, and 232 petitions related to the denomination’s Book of Resolutions, including 83 new proposed resolutions and 149 requests for current resolutions to be readopted.

The legislation and delegates are divided into 14 legislative committees, where petitions will be reviewed, and those supported will move to the full plenary session.

The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters will address 34 petitions.

Delegates will also hear reports, vote on the denomination’s budget, and elect committee officers, a calendar coordinator, the conference’s administrative committees, trustees of John Street Church, the secretary-designate of the General Conference, bishops who will serve on general agency boards, and members of the Commission on the General Conference, Interjurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy, Judicial Council, University Senate, and Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters.

You can find all of the legislation in the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate. I hope the delegates can find themselves in your prayers!

Who we want to be

Delegates have many decisions to make April 23 to May 3, from what our Social Principles should be, to who can vote at annual conferences, to pension and health plans, to ordination processes, to how the church should be structured, to who and what is compatible with Christian teaching, to what we care about and how we will advance God’s grace and justice together and more.

Receiving top billing in the conversations leading up to General Conference are the budget, regionalization, the revised Social Principles, and the continuing decades-long fight to remove discriminatory language from the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality. These are important discussions, and not the only important discussions.

As the laywomen’s organization of The United Methodist Church, we bring the concerns of women organized for mission to the General Conference, as we know uplifting women and girls is an essential part of building the kin-dom.

While the church can’t solve all of the world’s problems in 10 days, it can certainly make a statement about who it wants to be.

United Women in Faith will be present to help ensure women and children are prioritized—but we know this work is intersectional and can’t be accomplished without also prioritizing racial justice, climate justice, disability inclusion, support for racial/ethnic caucuses and national plans, mutuality in worldwide mission, LGBT+ inclusion, lay ministry, other means of celebrating the diversity in which God so clearly delights.

Deeply committed delegates rooted in their faith can accomplish a lot in 10 days.

Building the connection

A healthy faith community takes time to wrestle with how to best reflect God’s love and put feet to its prayers. It also takes time to make room for the Holy Spirit.

Each day of General Conference begins with worship—hymns will be sung, prayers will be prayed, bishops will preach. Delegates will take time in committees to get to one another, and they will eat meals together. Young people and laity will give addresses. Retiring and new bishops will be recognized. The 80th anniversary of UMCOR and the 100th anniversary of the United Methodist Building will be celebrated. Different groups will host vigils and actions and meals. Missionaries will be commissioned. Deaconesses and home missioners will be consecrated.

We will come together to be reminded of the deep blessing of our United Methodist Connection and the good we can do together. It’s at least worth a try.

Pray for General Conference. Stay connected by signing up for our General Conference newsletter. Dare to believe in a bright future for United Women in Faith and The United Methodist Church.

Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith.

What else to know: Heather Hahn with United Methodist News shares a comprehensive overview of how the 2024 General Conference will work and the proposals delegates will consider. You can also watch the recordings of the virtual pre-General Conference delegate briefing held Feb. 29 and March 1 to learn more.

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