Bishops Reconsider May 8 Special Session of General Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church met on Monday, March 22, 2021 in an additional meeting to consider pressing matters  related to the Council’s work.  After much conversation, the bishops reached a decision that in the best interest of the church at this time, they would cancel the Special Session of the General Conference which was set for May 8, 2021.

The bishops announced that they will dedicate their regularly scheduled April meeting to conversation based on results of listening sessions that are occurring and discern a possible need for a new timeline toward General Conference 2020 set for August 29 to September 6, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

At the April meeting, the bishops will also discuss ways to empower the work at the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. 

“Much has been learned over the past few weeks and the extended timeline will allow for even deeper listening by the bishops at the general church level but also in our residential settings,” said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president of the Council.  “We are thankful for the collaboration fostered with the Commission on General Conference and especially grateful for the work that had already begun in the planning for the Special Session,” Bishop Harvey added.

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Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
mmulenga@umc-cob.org
202-748-5172
www.unitedmethodistbishops.org

Statement from Bishop Mueller on Postponed General Conference

Statement from Bishop Mueller on Postponed General Conference

February 26, 2021

Yesterday, United Methodists across the global connection learned that the postponed General Conference 2020 had, once again, been postponed to Aug. 29 – Sept. 6, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can read the Council of Bishops’ press release on their website.

What this means for our church is that 2021 will not be focused on solving our deeply held differences in the church, but instead it will focus on continuing the work that we already have in place and preparing for the work that must be done when we meet again in 2022.

The Commission on the General Conference made the decision in a Feb. 20 meeting that holding a meeting of our global body in 2021 would not be feasible due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the technological barriers that would prevent a virtual meeting from taking place.

Instead, there will be a called virtual special session on May 8, 2021, to handle a limited number of legislative pieces, enabling us to make changes to the Book of Discipline so that we can continue to carry out ministry in 2021 and 2022. It will be a very brief session to establish a quorum to suspend the rules and allow us to vote on 12 pieces of legislation through a paper mail-in ballot system. You can read about those 12 legislative pieces here. The ballots will be mailed to delegates following the Special Session, and the results of the ballots will be released on July 13, 2021.

The Protocol of Grace and Reconciliation Through Separation, as well as other plans that have been submitted, will not be considered until our 2022 meeting. The budget will also not be considered until the postponed General Conference gathering. As well the 2016 Book of Discipline as amended will remain in full effect through our next General Conference gathering.

More information on all of these moving pieces will be forthcoming.

In this time of waiting, I am aware that some of you are anxious about settling the church’s future. That’s why I urge you to remember three things while we wait for the 2022 General Conference.

First, be graceful to each other, as you have done so well up to this point.

Second, continue to keep the main thing the main thing, which is creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

And finally, during this time, we need to be open and aware of how God is at work in our midst. Maybe God has plans for us and our church that will be revealed to us in the coming months. 

I am proud of the work you have done in 2020, and continue to look forward to the work we will accomplish in 2021, 2022 and beyond. We all should remain in prayer that the work of God’s church will manifest in powerful ways.

Grace and peace,

Gary E. Mueller
Bishop

Statement from Bishop Mueller on Postponed General Conference

General Conference Postponed to 2022

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Commission on the General Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2021

Meeting on February 20, the Commission on the General Conference made a decision to further postpone the 2020 General Conference until August 29 – September 6, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minn. as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the safety of mass gatherings and travel.

It is the Commission’s responsibility to select the site and set the dates of General Conference. Further, the Book of Discipline requires the Commission on the General Conference to “take necessary measures to assure full participation of all General Conference delegates.” The Commission concluded that mandate was not achievable by means of either an in-person meeting in 2021 or a virtual meeting.

In making the decision, the Commission determined that it was not feasible to safely hold an in-person meeting involving all delegates as currently scheduled for August 29 – September 7, 2021 due to a number of barriers:

  • The number of COVID cases continues to rise, with nearly 2.49 million confirmed cases the week of February 15.
  • Vaccine is not expected to be widely available this year in many countries, and new variants of the virus which may be resistant to vaccines are emerging globally.
  • International travelers to the U.S. must show proof of negative COVID-19 test results no more than three days prior to travel, but in many places, testing is not readily available or provided free of charge.
  • Visa services remain limited in some areas.

There also remains the possibility that a temporary six-month visa bond program which requires bonds of $5,000 – $15,000 per person for residents of some countries could cost up to $2.5 million in bonds for affected delegates if the program should be extended beyond June.

The Commission’s decision was informed by the report of the Technology Study Team appointed to explore the implications of options for accommodating full participation at General Conference, including but not limited to the possibility of utilizing technology and online voting, in considering whether the meeting should be held virtually.

According to their report, “The study team considered a number of challenges and implications, including how to keep participants safe, providing for global participation, safeguarding the integrity of the voting and credentialing process, and meeting legal requirements …”

The Technology Study Team analyzed a variety of options, including an entirely electronic General Conference with participation from individual locations; an entirely electronic General Conference with delegates gathering at regional satellite hubs; and two sessions, with the first part being electronic and the second part in-person when it is safe to convene. None of these options were determined by the study team to be viable.

The study team did find that a more traditional method—utilizing mail ballots to vote on emergency actions—could help The United Methodist Church to address important, urgent matters through the General Conference. Their report recommended utilizing mail ballots for making a limited number of “Emergency Interim Actions” on which the General Conference delegates would indicate a yes or no vote for each item.

“The Commission shared the study team’s findings and recommendations with the officers of the Council of Bishops in a collaborative effort to jointly explore how this alternative might be utilized to address critical matters until an in person gathering of delegates can be safely convened next year,” said commission chair Kim Simpson.

Some of the concerns mentioned in the report regarding having a virtual session include:

  • Lack of infrastructure in some areas, including Internet access, Internet speed, and electricity
  • Lack of technology for equitable Holy Conferencing
  • Complexity of the legislative committee process
  • Concerns about accurate credentialing and verification of identity
  • Difficulties in seating reserve delegates properly
  • Security of voting
  • Safety concerns about regional satellite gatherings

Simpson said the August-September dates in 2022 will mean that General Conference will be one day shorter than planned for 2021; however, these dates were the only option available. Simpson said that the Commission regrets the fact that these dates once again conflict with the start of the academic year in the U.S. which a group of young adults had asked the Commission to avoid, but there were no other dates available.

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About General Conference
General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. The assembly meets at the beginning of each quadrennium to consider revisions to church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs for the next four years
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Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (c)

Keep Listening, God is Still Speaking

Keep Listening, God is Still Speaking

By Rev. Jessie Waddell Teegarden

General Conference Clergy Delegate

Growing up in the church, Scripture has been an important voice in my life from my earliest memories. It first began with listening to stories from my storybook Bible, singing the words of songs, and exploring the Bible in Sunday school. These experiences ingrained important messages in my heart about God, the one who made me and loves me. As a baby in the nursery, I was taught through the songs of E.C.A. (Early Christian Awareness) that the Bible is God’s book and it says that God loves me. In Sunday school, I heard stories of people who were called by God to do amazing things, times God helped people who were suffering, and words of guidance for how to live as a disciple of Christ. The Biblical truths I was hearing and singing were an important foundation for my love of God, Scripture, and the Church. 

The knowledge of these Biblical truths about the love of God and God’s presence with us came alive through experiences in my life. One time I remember God speaking through Scripture was my senior year of high school. I was struggling with friendships and dreaded going to school each day. It was during this difficult time that the words on the pages of the Bible came alive. The words of Matthew 28:20, “And remember, I am with you always,” and the Romans 8:39 reminder that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God,” provided strength and comfort in a powerful way. I found myself more invested in the messages I heard at church and wanting to spend more time there. In youth choir, I was introduced to the anthem “Psalm 139” by Allen Pote which became a source of healing as I sang these words. “Where can I flee from your spirit, where can I go to run away? If I go to heaven or live in hell, you are there.” I heard God speaking these words over me in a new way. The words became ingrained in my mind and heart providing me with the strength and comfort to carry on amidst a dark time.

While that time in my life was difficult, it awakened my soul to the power of God’s word and the Biblical truths I had heard as a child. This awakening to God’s voice lead me to continue to explore God’s word in a new way. I was able to better live into my identity as a child of God and a few years later hear a call to ordained ministry. Through these sacred words, I found that God was speaking to me then and continues to speak through the words of Scripture. At times Scripture provides comfort and strength. At other times we hear words of instruction and guidance and, yes, at times they are a wake-up call. The important thing to remember is that we must keep listening because God is still speaking. 

I have reflected on the importance of scripture a lot lately in this difficult time in our church and world. I’ve also been listening to God’s voice as a new mother. I’m considering what rituals I want to begin with Georgia to help her discover the power of God’s word in her life. Will we read from a storybook Bible each night? What songs and prayers will we teach her? As I embark on this new journey, I am reminded of God’s voice throughout my life and have found that the words of Scripture have been at the forefront of my mind as I rock my sweet baby. I sing the words of the anthem “God you are there, you are there” and remember to listen and follow where God leads. 

God, you are speaking. May we open our minds and hearts to hear your Word.

Transformed by the Bible

Transformed by the Bible

By Elizabeth Fink

General Conference Lay Delegate

“The Bible is just a book.” “The Bible is a historical document.” “The Bible is just a self-help guide and a collection of nice moral teachings.” Have you ever heard someone use those descriptions?  In contrast, I have seen pictures and videos of believers in countries where it is illegal or very difficult to find a Bible (China, North Korea, Somalia, etc.) who are weeping and shouting because they have just received their first Bible in their own language! Would they be weeping if the Bible was just a book or moral code? In their eyes, that Bible is beautiful, powerful, and alive! 

I remembered thinking to myself, “I want to love the Word of God like that!” I began to question what I truly believed about the Bible. I had grown up reading the Bible, memorizing verses, and trying to glean some lesson or nugget of wisdom from the stories. What I realized was that I had all the wrong motivations. I was self-seeking in my reading and studying of scripture. Without even realizing it, my Bible reading had become all about what Elizabeth could get out of it.

When I was a senior in high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a Holy Land tour in Israel. The geography, history, and fascination of being able to stand where Jesus stood brought me to a whole new level of joy in reading the Bible. It brought it all to life as I have never felt before. Upon returning to the States, I could not stop reading my Bible. I even took it to school with me and read it every break I got. It was no longer a chore or obligation, but a hunger and yearning.

I was now reading and hungering, not for the Bible itself, but for Jesus. I had experienced Jesus in new ways through His Word. I knew that if I wanted to know God, the best way for me to do that is through the Bible. The Bible isn’t just a book about God, but it leads us to the very heart of God. It shows us His faithfulness, love, grace, mercy, etc. When we read it, we should not just read it for information, but for transformation. It is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). If the Bible is living and active, that means you can interact with it. It has power and can speak to you. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to come across any other book that can transform lives as the Bible can.

Without the Bible we can learn some things about God by just observing our world, but not the salvation story. How else are we to know about the detailed working of God throughout history to redeem His people?

 I read just the other day a Facebook status of a friend who said she no longer finds inspiration in the Bible and just doesn’t get anything out of it. I know there are lots of individuals who find themselves in the same spot I once did and my friend now does. If we go into it thinking about how much we can get out of it for ourselves, then we won’t get much. God is the central story. We read it and study it to find God, not for the purpose of self-help. People are reading the Bible, but completely missing the point: Jesus. Can the Bible alone give us salvation? No. We read the Bible to know Jesus more, and how to be like Him.

The Bible can be complicated, it can be confusing, it can also be beautiful. It makes me laugh and cry, but best of all it allows me to see into the heart of God. How has the Bible shaped my life? By giving me a foundation on which I build my life, a vision in which to see the greatness of the God I serve, and the courage to become a woman of one Book.

I pray that our love for the Word of God would increase to the point of weeping every time we hold it in our hands or hear it and that it would transform us in ways that this world cannot explain!