The General Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet April 24 - May 4, 2012, in Tampa, Florida.
General Conference is the highest legislative body in the denomination. It meets once every four years. It is the only entity that speaks for The United Methodist Church. The primary responsibility of the General Conference is to enact legislation for the denomination. The General Conference revises The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions.
The 2012 General Conference will be made up of 988 delegates from around the world – including six clergy and six lay delegates from the North Alabama Conference who were elected at Annual Conference 2011.
As a United Methodist, you have a connection to General Conference! Below is a list of 12 ways you can connect to and stay informed about General Conference 2012 as it happens.
The General Conference website is www.gc2012.umc.org. Visit the site to read news and feature stories, follow the business, watch the live stream and find general information on General Conference.
All plenary sessions will be streamed live online at http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8033183/k.8586/General_Conference_2012_Live.htm and through the General Conference mobile app. These sessions include the plenary business sessions; special events such as the Episcopal Address, Laity Address, Young People’s Address and Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People; and additional worship services that will happen each evening.
The North Alabama Conference Office of Communication, working with the Delegation from the North Alabama, will provide news and updates throughout General Conference. You can receive General Conference 2012 updates by email and also follow coverage from the North Alabama Conference through social media
Although the General Conference delegates’ service and important work for the Church includes many long hours over the 10 day General Conference meeting, delegates from North Alabama are taking turns to provide entries for a web blog from the Delegation throughout General Conference. Go to www.northalabamaumc.org/blogs/topic/21 to read the blog.
The Upper Room® created a resource called, 50 Days of Prayer Before & During General Conference 2012, to serve as an invitation to provide spiritual support to the 2012 General Conference. The resource allows United Methodists throughout the world to read the same scripture, share the same insights, and pray the same prayer for 40 days prior to the General Conference, as well as through each day of the General Conference. It’s not too late to join with others on prayer. Go to 50daysofprayer.upperroom.org to download a PDF of this resource.
As always, you can submit prayers on the North Alabama Conference website in the Prayer Center at www.northalabamaumc.org/prayers.
You download the schedule and proposed agenda for General Conference 2012 at www.umc.org/atf/cf/%7Bdb6a45e4-c446-4248-82c8-e131b6424741%7D/2012%20GENERAL%20CONFERENCE%20AGENDA%20-%202011-11-07%20VERSION.PDF.
This schedule notes the activities considered “Orders of the Day” such as worship services, special addresses and recognitions. It also shows the planned blocks of time delegates will do their work in committees and in plenary sessions. The more detailed scheduling (such as when a specific piece of legislation will be discussed or voted on) develops as General Conference happens. The Committee on Agenda meets each night to plan in detail the next day's business schedule. Visit the GC2012 website (www.gc2012.umc.org) each morning to see that day’s specific schedule.
Most of the first week of General Conference is spent with delegates doing their work in legislative committees. These 13 different committees review, refine and make recommendations on the petitions assigned to them. These recommendations will then go before the entire General Conference in a plenary session. Most of the second week is made up of plenary sessions where the entire body discusses and acts on legislation. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it.
Following specific legislation through General Conference can be a challenge, but here are two online tools to help you in that process.
First, you can find a short summary of the legislative process on the General Conference website at www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8032721/k.3AD7/About_the_Legislative_Process.htm.
Second, you can track legislation online at calms.umc.org/2012/Menu.aspx . The online tracking system allows you to search for legislation by Petition Number, Keyword, Submitter, Book of Discipline / Book of Resolutions paragraph or Legislative Committee.
The General Conference 2012 app brings the April 24-May 4 event in Tampa, Florida, to your mobile device. Available in iOS (for iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch) and Android versions, the app features live streaming of conference sessions and worship services; news stories, photos and videos related to General Conference; petition information; schedules; and maps. For more information go to www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8053085/k.FCF5/General_Conference_2012_Mobile_App.htm
Social media venues allow you to connect and be in conversation with others during (and before and after) General Conference.
If you have a Twitter account you can also search for and use the hashtag #gc2012 to keep up with and participate in the ongoing conversation. (If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can follow the conversation through the widget on the right side of this page - www.northalabamaumc.org/pages/detail/1719)
If you aren’t already connected with the North Alabama Conference through social media, take some time to make that connection now.
The General Conference website has a Guide section at www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8038075/k.C589/Guide.htm. In this section of the website you can find basic information about General Conference, the legislative process, the major issues to be addressed, and information about Tampa and the Tampa Convention Center.
In the Guide section there is also a brief article on the General Conference process called "How General Conference works." Read this brief overview at www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8038525/k.D58F/How_General_Conference_Works.htm.
General Conference is not the only United Methodist Conferencing happening this year. Read the news article “2012 is big year for United Methodist conferencing” on the North Alabama Conference website at www.northalabamaumc.org/news/detail/1126. This article gives you a brief overview of the United Methodist conferencing that happens at all levels of the denomination in a quadrennial year from a North Alabama perspective.
Sometimes the United Methodist connectional system can seem confusing. So as you follow General Conference 2012 and learn something new about the United Methodist Church share that story with your fellow United Methodists. Also take time to celebrate together that this system that guides our work as a church, and governs our policies also connects us to be in ministry throughout the world in more ways than any one person or any one congregation could do alone.