Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church

“Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans...  to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Under the theme “Therefore, Go!” (from Jesus’ “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20), our denomination’s top policy-making body (called “General Conference”) will be meeting from May 10-20th in Portland, OR to make important decisions for our church’s future.  According to church law, no person or organization except General Conference (including our own church Bishops, courts, or individual Annual Conferences) has the authority to speak officially for our denomination.  Consequently, this body meets once every four years in a different location around the country, and is comprised of 1000 delegates (500 clergy and 500 laity), apportioned by the total membership of each Annual Conference from here in America, as well as our Conferences in other countries.  This year our North Georgia Conference is  sending 22 delegates (one of the larger delegations).

General Conference has several purposes:  to revise or reaffirm policies and guidelines regarding local church structure, ministry, and the pastoral leadership by examining and/or revising our Book of Discipline (our church’s law book), our “Social Principles,” and adopt various resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues; to approve plans and budgets for church wide ministry initiatives for the next four years;  to elect members of our church’s “Judicial Council” (our church’s “Supreme Court”); and (if necessary) to propose amendments to our church’s Constitution (which must be then ratified later by each of our denomination’s 133 National and International Annual Conferences). 

The legislation for General Conference comes from petitions and proposals written by church agencies, organizations, Annual Conferences (and through them from any church organization, ordained minister or lay member).  Though one of our church’s bishops presides over each session, in order to ensure the authority of elected delegates, bishops themselves have neither voice nor vote at General Conference.

The decisions made at General Conference have many potential ramifications for you and I as a local church here at LaGrange First UMC, so I ask that you be in prayer for this assembly for God’s will and way to be done during and through it. You can sign up HERE for prayer devotions that can be sent to your email.

As with every General Conference, there will be controversial issues addressed which will incite intense passion and heated debate on all sides, and (as has happened in the past) may even get mis-reported by the secular press.  So as you hear reports about this assembly on the news, I encourage you not only to be in prayer for all (including ourselves) to have Godly responses, but also for each of us to get our facts straight before we form opinions. 

For more information and impartial coverage of General Conference’s events and decisions, please visit our North Georgia Conference’s coverage HERE or visit the official General Conference website HERE. If you own a smart phone, you can even download an official app (Apple or Android compatible) to follow all the news and events (find information about the app HERE).

Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

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