One of the most unique and special aspects of being a United Methodist is our connectional system with other Methodists across the world. This year, we have the opportunity to meet and shape the direction of our church. To understand why this year’s Annual, Jurisdictional, and General Conferences are important, it is crucial to know how the United Methodist Church (UMC) is organized.
The top policy-making body of the UMC is the General Conference. General Conference meets every four years and is the only body that can speak for the entire denomination. 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 churchwide programs. Both clergy and lay delegates to this conference are elected by Annual Conferences throughout the world. Our very own Dr. Tim Bruster was the first elected clergy member, which means he leads our delegation. First Church has had a long tradition of both clergy and lay being elected to represent the Annual Conference. I was fortunate to be selected as an alternate to General Conference for the second time. This conference will be held in Portland, Oregon, from May 10–20, 2016.
The next level is the Jurisdictional Conference. The United States is currently divided into geographic areas called jurisdictions. We are in the South Central Jurisdiction. This conference includes all of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas. One of the primary roles of this conference is to elect bishops. Bishops are elected clergy who will represent a specific Episcopal area for a four-year term. They may continue to serve in four-year terms until retirement. Once all of the bishops are elected, they will be appointed to their Episcopal areas. The men and women elected to the position of bishop provide vision and direction for the future of our denomination. Dr. Bruster and I will be representing the Annual Conference at the Jurisdictional Conference which will be held from July 13–16, 2016, in Wichita, Kansas.
The next level is the Annual Conference. We are part of the Central Texas Annual Conference. The main function of the Annual Conference is the effective mission and ministries of the local churches. The Annual Conference is also broken into districts. Our Annual Conference motto is “Energizing and Equipping Local Churches to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” First Church clergy and laity representatives will attend this conference from June 5–8, 2016.
The local church is the fundamental structure in the UMC. All the other levels exist to assist and help the local church in growing disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Over the next several months, you will have the opportunity to learn about the most important topics of General Conference and have questions answered. I encourage you not only to attend these opportunities, but also to get involved with the UMC on a broader level.
Opportunities of Involvement at First Church
Sunday, February 7: Tim Bruster and Tom Harkrider presentation about General Conference in Wesley Hall from 9:30 – 10:30 am.
Sunday, February 21: General Conference Luncheon and Dialogue Group from 12:00 – 2:00 pm in Room 350. Child care will be provided, luncheon donation requested.
Sunday, March 6: General Conference Luncheon and Dialogue Group from 12:00 – 2:00 pm in Room 350. Child care will be provided, luncheon donation requested. (This will be different from the February 21 discussion).
Not only has being involved at all levels of the UMC helped me develop and grow in my faith, but it has also given me an even larger appreciation and understanding of what it means to be a United Methodist.
Grace and Peace,