Meets every four year
General Conference, which convenes every four years, is the top
policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. Church law states that
no person or organization except the General Conference has authority to
speak officially for the denomination (The Book of Discipline 1996, Par.
509.). Cost of the conference is more than $3 million
Site rotates among jurisdictions
The meeting sites are rotated among the church's five geographic
U.S. jurisdictions. The 1996 conference was held in Denver, Colorado
(Western Jurisdiction), the 2000 conference is being held in
Cleveland, Ohio (North Central Jurisdiction), and the 2004 conference
will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Northeastern Jurisdiction).
Delegation half clergy, half lay
Church law provides for a maximum of 1,000 delegates--half clergy,
half lay. It mandates that each annual conference must have at least
one delegate from each order. Beyond that, a conference's
representation is based the number of lay members and clergy members
in the conference.
Conference revises Book of Discipline
The conference revises The Book of Discipline (book of church law)
and "Social Principles" and adopts resolutions on various
current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also
approves plans and budgets for churchwide programs for the next four
years. The delegates can propose amendments to the church's
Constitution but those must be ratified later in the annual
conferences. General Conference also elects members of the Judicial
Council, the church's "supreme court", and some members of
Sources of legislation
Bishops don't vote
Primary sources of legislation are petitions and proposals from church
agencies and organizations. Petition deadlines vary, depending on the
source, but none may be submitted less than 150 days prior to the opening
of the conference. Any organization, ordained minister or lay member of
the church may petition the General Conference.
As in the U.S. Congress, the bulk of General Conference business is
conducted in legislative committees which receive petitions and proposals;
debate them; and determine whether to approve, amend, combine, or
disapprove them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference.
General (churchwide) agencies propose resolutions or changes in
legislation affecting their respective policies and operations. These,
along with petitions from annual conferences, are printed in the Advance
Daily Christian Advocate.
Members of the Council of Bishops attend General Conference, but do
not vote and cannot speak without permission from the delegates. A
bishop presides at each plenary session. Each bishop usually serves
during one morning, afternoon, or evening session. All bishops, active
and retired, attend the entire conference.
Also attending the conference will be all members of the General
Council on Finance and Administration, chief executive officers of all
13 general church agencies and people serving administrative and staff
functions at the General Conference.
Have questions about General Conference? Call InfoServ at
1-800-251-8140, 8AM-4:30PM Central Time, Monday-Friday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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