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Jan./Feb. response: General Conference

The United Methodist General Conference takes place April 2024 in Charlotte.

United Women in Faith will be there. 

by Tara Barnes

Every four years The United Methodist Church holds its General Conference, the top policymaking body for the denomination. From April 23 to May 3, 2024, 862 delegates from around the world will gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, to set denominational policy, revise church law, approve budgets for churchwide programs, and adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy, and economic issues. Delegates to General Conference, equal numbers of clergy and lay, are elected at their annual conferences. The delegate count for each conference is based on the number of clergy and professing lay members of the conference in a formula laid out by The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

Deaconesses and home missioners dance down the aisle at General Conference 2016.

The session originally scheduled for 2020 was first postponed to 2021, then to 2022, then to 2024 as the church navigated hosting a large, international event during a global health pandemic. The 2024 General Conference is considered the postponed 2020 conference.

The previous full session of General Conference was held in May 2016 in Portland, Oregon. A special session of General Conference was held in 2019 focusing on the denomination’s policies and practices regarding LGBTQ+ clergy and marriages. General Conference is the only body that can speak for The United Methodist Church.  

United Women in Faith at General Conference

At 2019 annual conferences, United Women in Faith members across the country were elected and helped women be elected delegates to General Conference. In 2023, some conferences elected new delegates to help fill vacancies caused by disaffiliations and General Conference’s many-years delay.

The Rev. Hikari Kokai Chang, left, speaks to Cherry Trotter and Rita Smith at the United Methodist Women exhibit at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Chang is a United Women in Faith regional missionary based in Japan.

Voting as delegates on the many petitions brought to General Conference is an important way United Women in Faith members offer key leadership to the church on behalf of women, children, and youth. But it is not the only way United Women in Faith is present at General Conference.

In 2024, United Women in Faith will be bringing four new pieces of legislation to be included in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church on observing Children’s Sabbath, protecting the girl child, protecting voting rights, and the status of women and realizing full human rights. We’ll also be seeking readoption of 11 resolutions set to expire from the same book and seeking annual conference voting rights for retired deaconesses and home missioners. United Women in Faith also supports regionalization and the work of our fellow boards and agencies in the church. 

United Women in Faith will also join with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women to host gatherings for central conference and all women delegates before the conference begins. We’ll also host a display, an organized action on our advocacy priorities, and a consecration service for deaconesses and home missioners. Each delegate will receive a unique beaded pin made by Native American artists commissioned by United Women in Faith paired with a card reminding them of the hundreds of thousands of our members in prayer for them. Members across the country pray before, during, and after for the delegates and for a church that prioritizes marginalized communities. 

Robin Ridenour is consecrated as a deaconess by Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey on May 16 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon.

We partner with central conference United Methodist women through our regional missionaries, the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, women’s desks, organized gatherings, and other projects and programs.

United Women in Faith is also seen in the presence of all women voting delegates and of clergywomen, as organized laywomen in the Methodist and United Evangelical Brethren tradition fought tirelessly for women’s representation and women’s ordination. United Women in Faith is also seen at General Conference in the presence of translators, delegates, bishops, and other United Methodists from around the world who have been supported by United Women in Faith through scholarships, programs, and transformative educational experiences to equip them to grow as leaders. 

United Women in Faith General Secretary and CEO Sally Vonner, who took office in 2023, continues United Women in Faith’s legacy of inspiring, influencing, and impacting our communities.

United Women in Faith is the only official women’s organization of The United Methodist Church. United Women in Faith is at General Conference—and in local churches and communities around the world—because the church cannot make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world without women.

Stay tuned to upcoming issues of response for even more on United Women in Faith at General Conference. You can even consider gift subscriptions for your conference’s delegates or others interested in the upcoming conference.

The Rev. Eunice Musa Iliya of Nigeria laughs during a briefing for central conference women delegates at the 2019 United Methodist General Conference. The gathering was sponsored by United Women in Faith.

Our foremothers left us a vision and a legacy of love in action. We continue that legacy as United Women in Faith inspiring, influencing, and impacting our communities. We’re a sisterhood acting in faith to tackle the hard work of the world without hesitation. The church needs you for such a time as this. 

Tara Barnes is director of Denominational Relations for United Women in Faith.

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