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FORT WORTH: More than 3,000 United Methodists from around the globe are expected to converge on Fort Worth, Texas this week for General Conference 2008. The General Conference is the top legislative body of The United Methodist Church. The General Conference meets every four years to determine the denomination's future direction. It is the only body that can speak officially for the denomination, which represents 11.5 million members worldwide.
The voting membership consists of 994 delegates representing an equal number of clergy and lay delegates, each elected by the annual (regional) conferences. Of those 994 delegates, 290 of those are from outside the United States. Simultaneous voice translation for delegates will be available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, Russian, Korean and Mandarin Chinese, as well as American Sign Language.
On April 29, delegates will be addressed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female head of state and Liberia's first elected female president, is a United Methodist. Bill Gates, Sr., co-chair of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and father of billionaire Bill Gates, Jr., will address the delegates and guests on May 1.
The Council of Bishops, the top staff executives of the church's general agencies, and the Connectional Table, a 60-member group responsible for coordinating the mission, ministries and resources of the church, will also be calling upon United Methodists far and wide to join together in focusing the expression of their faith in four "areas of focus."
- Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world
- Creating new places for new people and renewing existing congregations
- Engaging in ministry with the poor, and
- Stamping out killer diseases by improving health globally.
Other highlights of the ten-day event include the first ever Young People's address featuring six United Methodists ranging in age from 15 to 28. The speakers – five from the United States and one from Russia – will give a 45-minute presentation on the concerns, hopes and dreams of young people in The United Methodist Church.
Additionally, Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher of Illinois will present the Episcopal Address. This address reviews the state of the denomination and speaks to future needs and directions for United Methodism. She was selected by the Council of Bishops to present the multi-media address on their behalf.
When General Conference convenes in Fort Worth, The United Methodist Church will celebrate its 40th anniversary 30 miles from its 1968 birthplace in the Dallas Convention Center when the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church merged to become The United Methodist Church.
The General Conference's proceedings will be available through GC2008.umc.org or www.umc.org. Worship, special addresses, celebrations, and other selected plenary sessions will be available on live video streaming.
About General Conference 2008
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 for the next four years. The 2008 meeting will take place April 23-May 2 at the Fort Worth Convention Center.