April 25, 2017

The Council of Bishops (COB) has called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. You can read the full letter sent to the Heads of the Delegations to the 2016 General Conference (or successors), Secretary of the General Conference and the Chairperson of the Commission on the General Conference can be read here.
 
The Missouri Annual Conference was notified on Monday afternoon of this news by Bishop Marcus Matthews, Executive Secretary for the Council of Bishops. While it comes as a surprise to us, we look forward to offering the Church and her guests radical hospitality in the days leading up to and throughout the special session. At this time, we are unaware of any responsibility for the session upon our conference. As opportunities to serve are made known to us, we will share them with the annual conference.
 
The Missouri Annual Conference was not involved in the choice of a location. Nor does our Conference have any representatives on the Commission on the Way Forward or on the Commission on General Conference, the planning team for the quadrennial meeting. Given the time of year (and the frequency of ice storms in February), we might have chosen somewhere warm and sunny, maybe near Jupiter, Florida, the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals, or perhaps, the dry southwest, like Phoenix, the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals.
 
Who represents Missouri at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference?
The Book of Discipline ¶14. Article II includes the following paragraph: A special session of the General Conference, possessing the authority and exercising all the powers of the General Conference, may be called by the Council of Bishops, or in such other manner as the General Conference may from time to time prescribe, to meet at such time and in such place as may be stated in the call. Such special session of the General Conference shall be composed of the delegates to the preceding General Conference or their lawful successors, except that when a particular annual conference or missionary conference16 shall prefer to have a new election it may do so.17 The purpose of such special session shall be stated in the call, and only such business shall be transacted as is in harmony with the purpose stated in such call unless the General Conference by a two-thirds vote shall determine that other business may be transacted.18
 
The General Conference delegation elected at the 2015 Missouri Annual Conference session to serve at the 2016 General Conference and the subsequent quadrennium are:
 
General Conference Laity Delegates
1. Brian Hammons                                         
2. Larry Fagan                  
3. Margie Briggs              
4. Randy Biggerstaff       
5. Jill Wondel                    
6. Ivan James                    
* Yvette Richards (alternate)
General Conference Clergy Delegates
1. Cody Collier                  
2. Lynn Dyke                     
3. Emanuel Cleaver III    
4. Matt Miofsky     
5. Karen Hayden              
6. Andy Bryan                   
* Steve Breon (alternate)
 
What is the process following the Commission’s work to the General Conference?
Only the General Conference can speak for the United Methodist Church. Since we are not sure what the Commission will present to the General Conference, it is hard to say what the process will be at this point. Nothing is set in stone until after the General Conference body votes on any proposed legislation (Feb. 23-26, 2019) and even then, depending on the nature of the change, it could require all of the annual conferences to ratify the change (a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members voting in all annual conferences). If this is the case, you can expect this to be a LONG process and we won’t know immediately, even after the special session meets in 2019, what impact their work will have on the work of the local church.
 
What now?
Bishop Farr calls the Missouri clergy and churches, regardless of opinion, to engage in unceasing prayer. Pray for the Commission and the Church as we continue to partner with God for the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world. Missouri will be joining the “Praying Our Way Forward” initiative, 75 weeks of focused prayer for The United Methodist Church. The initiative invites the whole Church in the work of immersing the Commission’s efforts in prayer. The Missouri Annual Conference has identified the week of September 17-23, 2017 for this purpose. We invite everyone in the Conference and in your local church, to dedicate that week for that purpose. Specific ways you can participate in that week include:

  1. Online sign-up for hourly prayer throughout the week for all United Methodists in Missouri.
  2. Daily, guided meditations via Facebook Live to help you start each day in prayer.
  3. Liturgical resources for local churches to participate including daily scripture readings, model prayers and worship resources for the Sundays on either side of our dedicated week.
But, you don’t need to wait until September to begin the good work of prayer. Here are three ways you can begin immediately:
  1. Pray daily in our effectiveness in reaching our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  2. Pray daily for the work of the Commission on the Way Forward.
  3. And, lastly, as you are able, consider a weekly fast for our Church’s future and mission.