General Conference is happening. What can I do?

It can be easy for many of us to feel far removed from General Conference activities, but there are ways we can stay connected. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.
It can be easy for many of us to feel far removed from General Conference activities, but there are ways we can stay connected. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Hundreds of elected United Methodist delegates will gather from May 5 to May 15 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minnesota to set policy and direction for the church and handle other important business during the 2020 General Conference.

Meeting every four years, General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the denomination. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, updated every four years, incorporates changes made by General Conference.

This year's General Conference holds particular importance as delegates, with guidance from bishops, are expected to adopt one of several proposals that explicitly deal with the future of the denomination.

While you may feel far removed from what is happening in Minneapolis, there are ways we can follow what’s happening and support those doing the work.

Begin with prayer

There are many people involved in the 2020 General Conference. Lift them up in prayer beginning today.

Pray for your delegates. Your annual conference has elected delegates, half who are clergy and half who are laypeople. Pray for them by name (all delegates are listed here). Then pray for the rest of the delegates coming to Minneapolis from all over the world to make these important decisions for the church.

Translators are some of the many behind-the-scenes people working hard during General Conference. File photo by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Communications.
Translators are some of the many behind-the-scenes people working hard during General Conference. File photo by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Communications.

Pray for your bishop. Bishops do not vote at General Conference, but they lead the sessions. It can be a very taxing job to manage the legislative process of more than 800 delegates. Find your bishop’s name when you search by region. Be sure to include the other bishops in your prayers as well.

Pray for support staff. Holding a General Conference takes the work of many behind-the-scenes people. Lift them up in prayer as well. There are long, tiring days ahead for them. Pray for the Holy Spirit to grant them strength.

Pray for your church. Remember to pray for your pastor, staff and members who are answering questions. Pray also for your denomination, The United Methodist Church, as we wrestle with these disagreements.

Join the UMC prayer initiative. Upper Room is leading us in prayer at umcprays.org. You can sign up to receive prayer posts that guide us in praying for The United Methodist Church during this time.

Get the facts

You may read about General Conference on social media or secular news. Before responding or reacting, be sure to check the facts. The United Methodist Church has an informative website where you can learn more.

There you will find a lot of information about events leading up to General Conference, great resources to help you better understand the issues at hand and you also can review a chart that summarizes the proposed plans the delegates may be voting on.

Scripture and prayer are wonderful ways to support our General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.
Scripture and prayer are wonderful ways to support our General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

Remain receptive

Throughout the Bible, God surprises people. Through the prophets, God said unexpected things to kings, judges and other religious leaders. The teachings of Jesus often confounded the disciples, Pharisees, and others who thought they knew God’s Law well. Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, began as a persecutor of the church, convinced that was God’s will.

Today, we may feel fairly certain that we know exactly how God wants this to turn out, what Jesus would have us do and where the Spirit is leading us. But remember, God continues to surprise us.

Spend time with some Scriptures of surprise (we suggest several below). As you read, put yourself in the place of those who think they know what God will do, but are surprised.

Stay informed

GC2020.umc.org is the best source for keeping up to date with the General Conference as it happens. A live stream during the sessions allows you to watch and listen in on all of the proceedings.

UMC.org/GC2019 includes a live stream of the proceedings and lots of information for before and after the special session. File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.
Last year's special session of the General Conference included a live stream of the proceedings and lots of information for before and after the special session. File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Additionally, the many stories on the site will continue to help us understand everything that is happening. Remember, GC2020.umc.org is the best place to check the facts.

Continue in prayer

In the days leading up to the conference, the days they are in session, and the months that follow, remain in prayer for The United Methodist Church. May God guide us into a continued ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

This story was posted Feb. 14, 2019.

Scriptures of surprise suggestions