864 delegates from all over the world gathered May 10 – 20 in Portland, Ore. for the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Every four years, delegates convene to debate legislation, including potential changes to the denomination’s Book of Discipline (BOD). Delegates also debate resolutions, worship, pray, and fellowship together during the event.
Delegates passed a $604 million budget, celebrated the denominations Imagine No Malaria effort, and passed a petition creating a Hymnal Revision Committee. The new hymnal, which will be distributed electronically or by print on demand, will be the first revision since 1989.
The General Conference voted, 428 – 405, to accept a proposal from the Council of Bishops (COB) asking the General Conference to defer addressing legislation on human sexuality in order to establish a commission that could have further discussion on human sexuality and the unity of the church. The commission, which will be named by the Council, will explore and potentially propose significant changes to language around human sexuality in the BOD that it will then bring back to the General Conference. This means that there could be a special two or three-day session of the General Conference, called by the Council of Bishops, in 2018 or 2019.
>>>Read the Council of Bishop’s initial statement from COB president, Bishop Bruce Ough.
In an interview last week in Portland, West Virginia Area Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball said that spiritual formation is key to moving the church forward in conversations around difficult issues, such as human sexuality.
“When we can sit down at a table and recognize that Christ is present, not just in the atmosphere…but in the person with whom we are speaking…when we see Christ in each other, that is how love grows,” she said.
The bishop also made it clear that she believes that all people are children of God. “We are each, all of us, created in God’s image, filled with different gifts. God created us to be in community together,” she said.
>>>Read this piece by the Rev. Jonathan Nettles about the value of dialogue and friendship in the midst of disagreement.
We also caught up with Judi Kenaston in an email interview about her GC experience. Kenaston served as the chair of the Commission on the General Conference.
The Council of Bishops today revived a tradition that dates back to 1812 when Francis Asbury and other early Methodist leaders sent a letter to churches after the first General Conference.
Check out the photo gallery below from opening worship at General Conference 2016 from United Methodist News Service (UMNS). You can view all photos from General Conference on the UMNS Flickr feed.