Preparations begin for Minneapolis General Conference in 2020
A new Commission on General Conference met Nov. 7-9, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla., to begin organization for the 2020 General Conference to be held in Minneapolis.
The officers of the Commission on the General Conference for 2017-2020 are Duncan McMillan of the North Carolina Conference, chairperson; Marie-Jeanne Kashala Mujinga, vice-chairperson, South-West Katanga Conference; and Kim Simpson, Secretary, Central Texas Conference.
The Commission voted that the Rev. Gary W. Graves, secretary-designate of the General Conference, will assume the office of secretary on Dec. 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.
A survey of 2016 General Conference delegates revealed only 43 percent of respondents prefer a printed copy of the Advance Daily Christian Advocate, indicating an opportunity to allow delegates to opt for electronic delivery only, if desired. The committee will explore this option further before making a recommendation.
The survey also indicated higher rates of satisfaction than dissatisfaction in all categories from worship to table configuration to language needs to the amount of time given to various types of activities. According to the survey, 57 percent of respondents were male; 43 percent were female. Half were first-timers, with 22 percent returning for a second time, 10 percent who were three-time delegates, 10 percent four-time veterans, and 8 percent who have served as delegates five or more times.
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. The committee will consider ideas that might facilitate the work of legislative committees so they will have time to vote on all petitions. A majority of delegates in 2016, according to the survey, felt that both the number and the length of days were ideal.
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. Updates might relate to simple mistakes that have carried over, changes related to new mandates in the Book of Discipline, and any other changes the committee might want to enact based on experience and feedback. The committee began discussion of areas where changes might be beneficial.
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.
The Commission’s work does not include, at this time, any preparation for a special called session of the General Conference in 2019. Last week, the United Methodist Council of Bishops expressed their intent to call for a special session of the General Conference in either February or March of 2019 but have not actually issued such a call, so the only action to be taken at this time will be the continued consultation of the secretary and business manager of the General Conference in exploration of necessary details such as available venues, bids and timelines.