General Conference & What It Means for Us

James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Have you ever wondered how the United Methodist Church develops it rules and guidelines for organization? That governing and legislative body is the General Conference which meets once every four years. The 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church meets May 10 – 20 in Portland, OR, in the Oregon Convention Center, the largest convention center in the Pacific Northwest. The theme will be “Therefore Go,” which is based on Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew.

As the top policy-making body of the international United Methodist Church, General Conference is the only body that officially speaks for our 7.3 million members (and additional 5.5 million residing outside the U.S.). We have 32,000 active churches and 57 Annual Conferences. The General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church which meets once every four years. The conference can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs.

During the nine-day session, 850 delegates revise the current Book of Discipline, which regulates the manner in which local churches, annual conferences and general agencies are organized. The book also sets policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property and judicial procedures. At the end of General Conference, the 2016 Book of Discipline will be generated and published later in the year. Delegates may not revoke or change the Articles of Religion or the Confession of Faith unless two-thirds of the delegates agree to change this provision and three-fourths of the annual conference members also agree.

A number of United Methodists have denounced the 2012 gathering as the “do-nothing” General Conference. The Judicial Council — the denomination’s top court —overturned an effort to restructure the church’s general agencies and overturned other legislation to eliminate guaranteed security of appointments for ordained elders in good standing. The wider General Conference ran out of time before it could consider a number of petitions approved by legislative committees. With a 15% decrease the number of delegates attending General Conference, the hope is that the delegates will work with increased efficiency.

The People of The United Methodist Church and Trinity Church are being asked to: Help people in their community; accept others for who they are; offer a place to belong; care for and support each other; show respect for other religions; support people facing difficult times; welcome diverse opinions and beliefs; and, guide others to find deeper meaning and relationship with Jesus Christ. All the missions and ministry areas of Trinity Church are doing this. AMEN.


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Trinity United Methodist Church is located in McLean, VA. Our weekly worship services are on Sundays at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and on Wednesdays at noon. Sunday School is at 9:30 a.m. for children and adults. Children up to 6th grade are also invited to Children's Education during the 10:30 service. Adult Bible Study also occurs on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Please visit our website for more information.

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