The Council of Bishops announced in April the call to a special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
The special meeting of The United Methodist Church's top lawmaking assembly will be limited to acting on a report by Council of Bishops, based on the proposals from the Commission on the Way Forward. The 32-member commission, appointed by the bishops, has the charge of finding ways for the denomination to stay together despite deep differences.
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"The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for Holy Spirit breakthroughs for the Commission on a Way Forward and the Special Session of General Conference," said Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops.
The special General Conference session would use the same delegates as General Conference 2016 unless annual conferences choose to elect new delegates.
The Commission on General Conference, which plans the lawmaking assemblies, has set the delegate number at 864 — about 58 percent from the United States and 30 percent from Africa. The remaining delegates are from the Philippines, Europe and Eurasia as well as 10 from "concordat" churches with which The United Methodist Church has formal relationships.
The St. Louis location was unexpected in the Missouri Conference, which learned late April 24 it would be hosting the special General Conference.
"While it comes as a surprise to us, we look forward to offering the church and her guests radical hospitality in the days leading up to and throughout the special session," the Missouri Conference said in announcing the gathering.
Sara Hotchkiss, business manager of the United Methodist General Conference, said the St. Louis Convention Center and hotel packages were reasonably priced and able to meet United Methodists' needs.
"Meet St. Louis, the Convention and Visitor Bureau, has a volunteer corps that can assist in some of the areas that are often done by a local host committee," she added. "With limited planning time, this was a benefit from a host city."
Since The United Methodist Church formed in 1968, it has only held a General Conference once outside of the normal four-year schedule. That was in 1970, and its purpose was to organize the merger of Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations.
The hope is the special General Conference will help strengthen the denomination that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service
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