The following is made up from excerpts from a United Methodist News Service (UMNS) story about General Conference published online by Joe Iovino.
As a United Methodist, you might be 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. But what exactly happens at General Conference?
The best-known aspect of General Conference is the legislation. General Conference is the body that determines direction and speaks officially for our denomination. 864 delegates elected by their annual conferences will consider 1044 petitions. Half the delegates are clergy and half are laity. Bishops lead the sessions, but have neither voice nor vote. Amendments to The Book of Discipline that guides the work of local churches, pastors, annual conferences, general agencies, and bishops, are adopted. Delegates also vote on resolutions that give the official positions of The United Methodist Church on social issues which are published in our Book of Resolutions.
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.
On Wednesday, May 18, at 9:48 a.m. (PDT), The United Methodist Church will celebrate one of those ministries by which we have helped millions. Imagine No Malaria has greatly contributed to a coordinated international effort to eradicate this preventable disease. Through the efforts of this amazing ministry, more than 1 million mosquito bed nets have been distributed and more than 250,000 people have been diagnosed and treated. That is reason to celebrate.
You can watch the Imagine No Malaria celebration, and the rest of the General Conference session live at GC2016.UMC.org.
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.