Transcript: Audun Westad: Planning General Conference for a Global Church
Audun Westad: “I’m trying to give a voice to the Central Conferences of The United Methodist Church and also I hope I can bring the voices of the young people into the work that has to be done in planning the General Conference.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Audun Westad is the leader for his annual conference youth board in Norway and chairperson for the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference youth council. In 2016, Westad will have the opportunity to shape the future of The United Methodist Church as a delegate to General Conference.
Audun Westad: “I don’t think the voting in itself is the most important thing. I think the dialogue between the different delegates is the important thing at the General Conference—meeting each other, understanding what’s difficult in your annual conference and your local church and how can the general church contribute in solving these problems and making things go the right way.”
Westad is also a member of the Commission on the General Conference, a 25-member panel tasked with working out the logistics for these global gatherings.
Audun Westad: “If the General Conference, all the practical things around it, goes smoothly you give the delegates more time to do what they’re really here to do. You don’t have to worry about, ‘When am I going to eat? Where am I gonna sleep?’ All that is sorted out. You just have time to be a delegate and to meet the other people and doing what you’re here to do for the church."
"The biggest challenge with being in the Commission, it’s a personal challenge of leaving the family and when you have small kids being away for such a long time, a week at a time.”
The Commission on General Conference includes representatives from United Methodist churches in Africa, the Philippines, and Europe. When planning an event for a global audience, this input is essential.
Audun Westad: “I’m trying to see or to show that the things we discuss might have different angles and are interpreted differently around the world. So if it’s understandable and okay in the U.S. it might not be that when you get to other central conferences. And try to see that we are a worldwide church and what that really means."
On a recent tour of the 2016 location, Westad was impressed with Portland, Oregon; especially the public transportation system that should help international guests navigate an unfamiliar city.
Westad was a delegate to General Conference in Tampa in 2012.
He believes one of the best improvements in the last four years is the move to tablets and e-readers to save paper and make the legislative process easier to navigate. There is also an app for accessing translation.
Audun Westad: “Since this is the highest assembly we have, it’s important to understand what the possibilities are for the church when we are having this conference. I really like that from the local church to the whole world we have the same similar buildup. So, the same way you can participate in your local church you can also participate in the worldwide United Methodist Church. And that’s a very good thing and a strength of Methodism.”
In addition to doing on-site planning for Portland in 2016, the Commission is also currently laying the groundwork for General Conference 2020 in Minneapolis.
Learn more about General Conference 2016.
This video was originally posted October 16, 2015.