Disaffiliation Rumors, Myths, and Opportunities – #11: Three General Conferences?

A version of this post first appeared on my Facebook Page on March 22nd, 2023.

A UM News Article about some Judicial Council rulings. They came down in one decision. The first ruling is that we can have elections if there are vacancies in the delegations for whatever reason.

The second, and more interesting thing is that we must have the postponed General Conference in 2024, another General Conference between January 1, 2025 and December 31, 2027, and then again in 2028. This is because we cannot cancel a General Conference that is mandated by the Discipline. The reference is: ¶ 14. Article II.—The General Conference shall meet once in four years at such time and in such place as shall be determined by the General Conference or by its duly authorized committees. And Judicial Council 1451: “The Constitution further establishes the minimum frequency at which the General Conference must convene, not the actual year when this occurs…No provision in The Discipline authorizes the cancellation of a regular session of General Conference or the annulment of elections properly conducted by an annual conference.”

Therefore, we have to have a General Conference to for the 2024-2027 Quadrennium along with the one from 2020-2023. There are complications to this, including the way we function financially, structurally, and that these events cost an exorbitant amount of money in a time where church finances are struggling. Moreover, any legislation that passes at 2024 that requires a Constitutional amendment may not get fully through the system before another General Conference and throw legislative discussions awry. Although, I would hope we would plan to make sure it makes it through. The same is true for the this next one and the 2028 scheduled one, unless from this point forward we move our General Conferences to Winter Olympic years and not Summer Olympic years.

[Side note: I propose we call the General Conferences by their number, not their year, like the Super Bowl: so this would be either (based on The United Methodist Church) either the 14th or 15th depending on how we would consider the 2019 special session.]

What does this mean for the local church: mostly that the rules might change every two years for a bit, the structure of the greater church might change in quick succession, and it may impact apportionments (how, I cannot say), resources, and even clergy (as we define ministry/ordination more fully for the current world). I think this might be a good thing, in that we, as a denomination have to make some tough decisions, and waiting four years to make decisions based on previous decisions feels like too long. A two year window allows for us to get stuff rolling and then add to it in quick succession. Which may make for a richer more robust doctrine and polity. So, there are ups and down. And, in the end, General Conference could pass a provision to change the Constitution to allow them to delay or cancel a General Conference.

We just have to actually meet to do it.

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