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Jurisdictional Conference and General Conference– What’s the diff?

November 9, 2011

In the United States, The United Methodist Church is divided into five areas known as jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western. These provide some program and leadership training events to support the annual conferences.  Every four years the jurisdictional conferences meet to elect new bishops and select members of general boards and agencies. In 2012 our jurisdictional conference, the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, will be held in Akron, OH, July 17-21.

The General Conferenceis an international body of nearly 1,000 delegates that meets every four years. They are held in years divisible by 4, such as 2004, 2008, etc. The delegates are elected by annual conferences (at annual conference sessions) to attend General Conference. They represent all annual conferences around the world. Half of the delegates are laity (non-clergy members), half are clergy.  The only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination is the General Conference.Bishops attend the General Conference but cannot vote. Different bishops serve as presiding officers during the conference. Other bishops cannot speak unless permission is specifically granted by the delegates. During General Conference, delegates discuss and vote on petitions and resolutions proposed by individuals, agencies, annual conferences, and other groups within the denomination. These actions result in a revision of the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s book of law, and Book of Resolutions, policies of the denomination on current social issues.

It is at General Conference where delegates wrestle with today’s issues in light of scriptural teachings and the church’s understanding of that teaching. Here is where the church’s official stands and church policies are made regarding such issues as human sexuality, abortion, war and peace, as well as determination of ministries and funding. Our denomination’s next General Conference is set for April 24- May 3, 2012 in Tampa, FL.

-Amanda Stein
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