A new Commission on General Conference met in November to begin organization for the 2020 General Conference to be held in Minneapolis.
The Commission voted that the Rev. Gary W. Graves, secretary-designate of the General Conference, assumed the office of secretary on December 1. According to church law, the transition of responsibility from one secretary to another is to occur as soon after the General Conference as all work in connection with the session has been completed. The Commission recognized and thanked the current secretary of the General Conference, the Rev. Gere Reist, for his service in that role since 2004. The Commission also recognized the contributions of Sara Hotchkiss, business manager of the General Conference.
The Commission has added the newly-formed Education and Innovation Committee, chaired by the Rev. Juliet Spencer of the Louisiana Conference. This committee will review surveys and evaluations by delegates and staff to find areas for improvement, and make recommendations to the Commission in those areas. The committee will also work to continually advance technology into the processes of the General Conference and identify and develop opportunities and resources for education and orientation of delegates.
The Program Committee, chaired by the Rev. Lynn Hill of the Tennessee Conference, is responsible for recommending the schedule for General Conference – including the adjournment time. The post-survey for the 2016 General Conference indicated that 93 percent of respondents liked ending at 6:30 p.m. daily. The committee is also responsible for reviewing requests for plenary time and making recommendations about time-related policies.
The Program Committee reported that they don't believe the number of days for the 2020 General Conference should be reduced from 2016, in part because of a new mandate set by the 2016 body to consider and vote on all petitions by legislative committees and those sent to the plenary for vote. The report also cited the need to provide adequate time to consider matters related to the General (Global) Book of Discipline and any items that might emerge from a special session of General Conference in 2019, should one be called.
Further, they acknowledged the Disciplinary directive to focus on the General Book of Discipline within the first three days of the session and requested the Commission to communicate that commitment to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters.
The Rules Committee, chaired by Stephanie Henry of the Upper New York Conference, is tasked with studying potential amendments to the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order and proposing those changes or adaptations to the Commission for approval and submission to the General Conference.
The Commission also voted to authorize the addition of a youth representative to the Commission as an official observer. The youth representative will be selected at the Spring 2017 meeting.
The Commission's work will continue at its Spring 2017 meeting to be held in Minneapolis. One of the items on that agenda will be to begin the process of selecting a theme and a logo.
Diane Degnan, Director of Public Information, United Methodist Communications
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