In just a few days, General Conference will begin in Tampa. The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body will convene on April 24 and run each day until closing worship on May 4.
Delegates from all over the world – 988 of them – will come together to set the direction and policy for our church for the next four years. Almost 40% of the delegates will come from outside of the United States, with the largest groups arriving from Africa. Each delegate has been elected from their Annual Conference to transact the business of our denomination. The General Conference is the only entity that speaks officially for The United Methodist Church.
In addition to the delegates, over 4,000 people will serve in a variety of volunteer roles such as greeters, registration officials, marshals, pages, translators in six different languages, musicians, technicians, reporters and many other responsibilities.
Our own Rev. Gary Graves, pastor at Rockfield UMC, is the Petitions Secretary for the General Conference. He has had the monumental task of receiving and processing over 1,500 petitions. Every petition has been assigned to one of the thirteen legislative committees, where each will receive careful and prayerful consideration.
During the eleven-day session, the delegates (equally divided between clergy and laity) will vote on the petitions and revise The Book of Discipline, which governs how our Church is organized for ministry around the world. The General Conference will also set our denominational budget for the next four years, which has a significant impact on our Conference budget here in Kentucky.
Two choirs from our area will sing at General Conference. The Kentucky Wesleyan College Chamber Singers will sing during Higher Education Night on Monday, April 30th. The Cardinal Singers from Red Bird will share their musical talents on May 3rd at the noon break. Their music will include use of the lap dulcimers common to Appalachian tunes.
Please pray for me, our delegates, volunteers and young musicians as we travel to Tampa. May we serve Christ and our Church with a faithful witness.
Delegates at a plenary session during the 2008 General Conference