General Conference Briefings Blog: April 30, 2024

by | Apr 30, 2024 | General Conference Briefing

We begin every day at General Conference with worship! It’s a wonderful way to begin the day. We hear different types of music including a praise band, traditional hymns, a bell choir with the largest bells I’ve ever seen, and an African hymn with drums. 

Monday started the new week of General Conference with the commissioning or blessings of Deaconesses and Home Missioners who serve in different ministries around the world. The service was powerful and included the beautiful Here I Am, Lord. The verses were sung in French, then Korean, then in all the different languages represented in The United Methodist Church around the world. It has been wonderful to worship in this sort of Pentecost spirit where native tongue is not a barrier, but a way to experience the fullness of God’s diversity. 

This has also been felt in the preaching at General Conference. On Saturday, we heard the Bishop of Zimbabwe, Africa, Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, preach a powerful message of unity. “Stop arguing. Haven’t we argued enough?” he challenged us. “We should do more to bring people to Christ, not remove people from the denomination.” While he recognized the challenges our denomination faces today, he also reminded us all to rejoice in the Lord. He noted, “There’s something happening at this General Conference. I hear many voices and languages and I hear joy and joy and joy. If this Conference produces joy, then I say Alleluia!” 

Bishop Nhiwatiwa rightly noted the beautiful spirit in the room that I have written about in previous posts. Even as the legislative committees met throughout the day on Saturday, some well after 9:00 pm, there was still a desire to keep the work going, to find compromise, and to move the church forward. 

As worship began on Monday, starting the week of plenary sessions, where the entire body votes on petitions from the legislative committees, Bishop Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Conference, preached a powerful word by asking “Are you willing to make God’s love visible in all that you do? If we define our church by who we exclude, it begs the question: have we ever let Jesus in?” 

The work and worship continued on Monday with some votes and many presentations. There was considerable debate around the number of bishops in African conferences. The General Conference voted to increase the number of bishops in Africa by two to match the growth happening across the continent. 

The United Women of Faith gave a powerful presentation on their history of advocacy and work within the denomination followed by additional presentations by boards of education and global ministries. There was a presentation by WesPath, the benefits organization of the denomination. They offered a presentation on the new clergy pension plan that affects only American clergy. 

Our afternoon session was paused to pray for the local community we’re meeting in. There was a shootout in east Charlotte with several police officers shot, so when the local bishop learned of this, the work stopped. I appreciated that our meeting paused to engage in the work of prayer. We prayed for those affected by the shooting and to ask God for comfort and peace. 

There was a lot of work completed today, but there is still much to be done over the next four days. Keep us in your prayers as we continue the work and ministry of the denomination this week.