How often has there been a special called General Conference?

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter gives the sermon and benediction during opening worship for the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News. Ask The UMC is a service of United Methodist Communications.
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter gives the sermon and benediction during opening worship for the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News. Ask The UMC is a service of United Methodist Communications.

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General Conference, the highest legislative body in The United Methodist Church, historically meets every four years.

United Methodists from around the world assemble as the General Conference to connect in worship, prayer and fellowship and to handle the legislative work that shapes our shared life.

General Conference makes binding decisions related to the connectional and missional life of the church, approves a budget, and sets the denomination’s official positions on a variety of issues and cultural challenges. It is the only body authorized to speak for The United Methodist Church.

A special session may also be called as needed by the General Conference or the Council of Bishops. Business considered during a special session is limited to the purpose stated in the call unless the delegates, by a two-thirds majority, vote to address other matters.

Since The United Methodist Church formed in 1968, few special sessions of General Conference have been held outside of the normal four-year schedule.

The first was in 1970 when the General Conference called the session to complete the merger of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations.

The 2019 General Conference was the first time a special session was called by the Council of Bishops. Its purpose was to act on proposals seeking a way to strengthen church unity despite deep differences around homosexuality.

The Council of Bishops also called a one-day, virtual special session on May 8, 2021 to address administrative items amid the delay until the postponed 2020 General Conference is held in 2022. However, the Council of Bishops canceled its call for the May 8 special session after deciding it was not in the best interest of The United Methodist Church to hold the one-day virtual conference at that time. 


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