Tentative General Conference dates publicized

Other Manual Translations: français português español

After the pandemic-caused postponement, the new prospective dates for The United Methodist Church’s General Conference are Aug. 31-Sept. 10, 2021.

The Council of Bishops disclosed the proposed dates, including a Council of Bishops meeting starting Aug. 26, in an email to its members and other church leaders. The proposed dates also were discussed among delegates of at least one jurisdictional conference in late March.

General Conference organizers have not confirmed the dates.

Previously, the organizers announced that they resolved to keep the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly in the Minneapolis Convention Center. General Conference was originally scheduled to meet at the convention center May 5-15 of this year.

With the legislative assembly on the calendar, other church gatherings also will get new dates.

The Council of Bishops said that once the General Conference dates are official, new dates will be announced for the five jurisdictional conferences —simultaneous meetings where new U.S. bishops are elected. The jurisdictional conferences, originally scheduled for July, are now on hold.

The seven central conferences — church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines — also are rescheduling their meetings and bishop elections. Still to be determined is what the delay in bishop elections means for bishops who were to retire this year. The Council of Bishops plans to have a virtual meeting on April 29-May 1.

The yearlong postponement of General Conference is unprecedented, according to the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History.

The United Methodist Church and its predecessor bodies typically have held a General Conference at least every four years since 1792. The Methodist Episcopal Church South replaced General Conference with a two-day informal meeting in 1862 during the turmoil of the U.S. Civil War, but it continued its meeting as scheduled in May 1918, the early days of the influenza pandemic.   

However, organizers had to postpone the 2020 General Conference after the Minneapolis Convention Center canceled events into May to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The shutdown would have affected the first five days of 10-day gathering.

Planning the assembly comes with multiple moving parts that must align. These include securing visas, hotel space, transportation, interpreters and a large-enough venue for a gathering set to draw 862 delegates and 66 bishops from four continents as well as potentially thousands of others.

Under The United Methodist Church's constitution, General Conference is to meet every four years “at such time and in such place” as determined by General Conference itself or “by its duly authorized committees.”

The gathering — the only body that officially speaks for the entire United Methodist Church — is responsible for many crucial decisions. These include electing members of the Judicial Council, the denomination’s equivalent of the Supreme Court, and voting on the four-year budget that funds denomination-wide ministries. Among other factors, the budget affects how many bishops the denomination will financially support and thus how many can be elected.

The 2020 gathering also was set to consider multiple proposals to split the denomination and divide assets after longtime debate over biblical interpretation and the status of LGBTQ people. Those proposals are now on hold.

The deadly virus that causes COVID-19 has threatened and disrupted lives around the globe. It has led to shuttered businesses and suspended in-person worship services.

As of April 21, Johns Hopkins University — which is tracking cases — reported that the coronavirus had infected more than 2.5 million people and killed more than 171,000 worldwide. In the U.S., more than 42,300 people have died from COVID-19.

Even before the Minneapolis Convention Center’s cancellation, United Methodist bishops urged that this year’s General Conference be postponed because of the global health emergency and related travel restrictions.

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Local Church
Vacation Bible school is going virtual this year, since many churches are closed or just reopening because of the coronavirus put in place. Vacation Bible school online program logos courtesy of (clockwise, starting top left) Cokesbury, APEX UMC FAMILY, First United Methodist Church Oviedo, Go! Children’s Ministry Curriculum; illustration by Laurens Glass, UM News.

Different vacation Bible school coming this summer

Many churches are opting for a virtual vacation Bible school for the safety and health of children and volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social Concerns
Two women march with signs calling for justice for Breonna Taylor, during protests in Louisville, Kentucky, over the police killings of Taylor in Louisville, George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., and other African Americans. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was shot eight times in her bed when officers broke down her door to serve a search warrant. Photo by Cathy Bruce, courtesy of the Kentucky Conference.

United Methodists preach, protest and decry racism

Many United Methodists participated in protests in support of Black Lives Matter, calling for an end to police brutality and violence against people of color after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
General Church
The United Methodist Church is feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses have closed their doors and churches have suspended in-person worship, due to the health guidelines. Mask image by panos13121, courtesy of Pixabay; church doors photo by Steven Adair, courtesy of United Methodist Communications; graphic by Laurens Glass, UM News.

Collection rates plunge as COVID-19 rises

Giving to general church ministries plummeted in April as the denomination focused on slowing the disease and supporting local churches.