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GC Misconceptions: Stateside or global?

October 12, 2011

The United Methodist Church is a worldwide Church.  And General Conference is a worldwide gathering.

382 of the 988 delegates to the 2012 General Conference will come from outside the United States.  282 delegates will come from Africa, 52 from Europe and Eurasia, 48 from the Philippines, and 6 from the Caribbean and Central America.

Wisconsin has 6 Delegates to General Conference in 2012.  By contrast the North Katanga Annual Conference (in the Democratic Republic of Congo) has 52.  The Cote D’Ivore Annual Conference has 40.

At the 2008 General Conference interpreters translated the live proceedings into 9 languages: American Sign, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili.  At each succeeding General Conference more and more delegates wear headphones to hear the proceedings translated.  The second most commonly spoken language among United Methodists is French.  In Fort Worth several delegates addressed the body in French and we got a taste of what it was like to wait on translation to understand what was said. On one of these occasions Bishop Walter Klaiber from Germany was presiding and responded in fluent French.

Within the foreseeable future the majority of United Methodists will live outside the United States.  One of the key issues at the 2012 General Conference is how our efforts to restructure will recognize this reality.  By 2020 all delegates may be wearing headphones.  I can also foresee a time when it will make
sense to hold General Conference outside the US.

As John Wesley said, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”

Related Links:

Post by WI Jurisdictional Conference Laity Reservist,
John Lawson

One Comment
  1. Steve Zekoff permalink

    I still remember vividly the time I spent with a delegate from the North Katanga Conference at the 1996 General Conference in Denver. He had arrived in Colorado with a broken leg – which he had walked on for three days back in the Congo so that he could catch a bus to take him to the airport to fly him from Africa to North America. I have frequently thought since those days that I know few United Methodists in the U.S. who would be willing to walk an hour to get to a church meeting, let alone three days. Delegates from the United Methodist Central Conferences outside of the U.S., as well as those from the autonomous Methodist churches with concordant agreements to send voting delegates to the UM General Conference, bring a very different life and faith experience to United Methodism’s quadrennial gathering.

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