Conference News

General Conference to move to 2021

published 3/23/2020

Nashville, Tenn.: Subsequent to the announcement by the Executive Committee of the Commission on the General Conference that the 2020 General Conference will be postponed, the full Commission met March 21, 2020 to determine next steps to take in setting a new date.

After hearing recommendations from Sara Hotchkiss, Business Manager of the General Conference, and discussion of possible alternatives, the Commission made a determination that the General Conference will not meet in 2020 as originally planned and elected to work toward setting a date in 2021.

“As we looked at the complex issues that we will need to navigate to reschedule the event and the lack of options available, it does not appear feasible to plan for 2020,” said Kim Simpson, chair of the Commission. “These issues include the undetermined length of the pandemic, uncertainty around travel bans in different areas of the world, delays in processing visas due to government and business closures and other questions.”

In giving direction for next steps, the Commission resolved that holding the event in Minneapolis is a high priority and authorized the business manager to pursue negotiations regarding other dates available at the Minneapolis Convention Center in 2021. 

“The Dakotas-Minnesota Area Host Team has done a wonderful job in partnering with us to prepare for this event, and we are grateful for their willingness to continue to work with us as we move toward a new date,” Simpson said.

“As many groups have cancelled and are being rescheduled, they are given priority by venues they have already been working with,” said Hotchkiss. “Continuing to work with the Minneapolis Convention Center and area hotels will help us avoid competing with other groups for space in those facilities if they did not already have a contract.”

Hotchkiss said that steps are being taken by their travel agency regarding flights booked for delegates and others who booked through ADTRAV:

  • ADTRAV will cancel all flights booked for primary delegates.
  • Travelers will only need to call ADTRAV if they booked a personal ticket for themselves and/or a family member with ADTRAV (855-417-8789).
  • Each traveler will receive a copy of the RezConfirm showing that the flights were canceled.

Regarding hotel reservations, Connections Housing will be sending emails regarding individual reservations made through them for the GC2020 hotel block. There is no penalty for this cancellation.  No deposit was charged for reservations, therefore no refund is due and no further action is required regarding hotel reservations.

Once new dates for the General Conference are set and adjustments with current vendors are made, additional information will be sent out to delegations regarding a timeline and next steps.

Group looking at new General Conference dates

published 3/21/2020

(UMNS) - General Conference organizers are exploring potential new dates for The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly after the coronavirus pandemic forced postponement.

“Details are not yet being released because the business manager is negotiating arrangements,” the Rev. Gary George, the secretary of the Commission on the General Conference, said at the conclusion of the group’s meeting.

George said the group would share more information March 23. That information will include the process for canceling travel and housing arrangements for the General Conference previously scheduled this May.

The multinational commission held an emergency meeting by teleconference March 21 after the venue that was to hold General Conference canceled events into May to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Most of the commission’s two-and-a-half-hour meeting took place in closed session to allow members to discuss contract negotiations. Negotiations, “when general knowledge could be harmful to the negotiation process,” are an activity listed as an exception to the denomination’s open-meetings rules.

For meeting participants, the teleconference started as early as 6:30 a.m. on the U.S. west coast and as late as 9:30 p.m. in the Philippines.

George said that the group heard recommendations from Sara Hotchkiss, the General Conference business manager, and the Rev. Gary Graves, General Conference’s top executive.

“As soon as negotiations are complete specific dates will be announced,” George said.

In opening the meeting, commission members acknowledged they were dealing with an unprecedented challenge.

“Almighty and loving God, we have made plans and they have been upended,” prayed the Rev. Beth Ann Cook, a commission member. “We are at a loss and feel disoriented, but we know that you are God.”

The spread of the deadly virus that causes COVID-19 has threatened and disrupted lives around the globe and has required people to keep their distance from public spaces.

Cook prayed for the church around the world to respond to people in crisis and especially for health care workers on the front lines of combatting the disease.

As of March 21, Johns Hopkins University — which is tracking cases — reported that the coronavirus had infected more than 286,000 people and killed more than 11,900 worldwide. In the U.S., more than 250 people have died from COVID-19.

Kim Simpson, General Conference commission chair, reminded fellow commission members that they are dealing with only one part of the public health crisis.

However, she also acknowledged that planning the 10-day international assembly comes with multiple moving parts that must align. These include securing visas, hotel space, transportation, interpreters and a large-enough venue for a gathering set to draw 862 delegates from four continents and potentially thousands of others.

General Conference typically has met every four years since 1792. But in the past three years, the volunteers who serve on the commission have needed to plan two such large gatherings, including a special General Conference in 2019.

“I do commend you as a commission,” Simpson said. “You have done more in our three years than most commissions do in eight.

Under The United Methodist Church's constitution, General Conference is to meet every four years “at such time and in such place” as determined by General Conference itself or “by its duly authorized committees.”

The gathering — the only body that officially speaks for the entire United Methodist Church — is responsible for many crucial decisions. These include electing members of the Judicial Council, the denomination’s equivalent of the Supreme Court, and voting on the four-year budget that funds denomination-wide ministries.

Bishop Thomas Bickerton, the Council of Bishops representative on the General Conference commission, said the bishops are discussing with their chancellor the ramifications of the constitution’s four-year requirement.

“We are cognizant of those issues and are exploring those at this point,” he said.

He and other bishops urged the postponement because of the coronavirus and related travel restrictions.

In this time of pandemic, it remains unclear how many other United Methodist gatherings can go on as planned.

United Methodists in the Philippines, Cote d’Ivoire and Germany already have postponed 19 annual conferences indefinitely. The Judicial Council, which like General Conference was set to meet in Minneapolis, also postponed its spring meeting because of the ongoing threat.

Whatever happens, Simpson spoke with confidence that General Conference organizers are up to the challenge.

“We are strong people, and we are fit for what comes ahead,” she said at the meeting’s end. “And I hope we’ll all come together, as we’ve done in the past, to try to find the best way to bring the vehicle for General Conference.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

An Update on the 2020 AWF Clergy Appointment Process

published 3/20/2020

Several weeks ago, I outlined the appointment process and asked for your prayers. On behalf of the cabinet, we have felt and appreciated your prayers around this vital work. We were scheduled to begin contacting pastors this coming Monday, March 23rd. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and other factors have caused some of this work to be placed on hold. This year’s timeline was earlier than most years due to General Conference in May. With the pandemic and the recent postponement of General Conference, it allows us to give more intentional time to this process.

I know there is a lot of anxiety around the health crisis and the appointment process. The cabinet’s desire is that we perform our work well while keeping it centered in prayer. Therefore, in the spirit of transparency, I want to update you on our progress.
-We will begin calling some pastors next week. Most pastors and SPRC chairs receiving calls will be those who are being appointed as associate pastors in our large membership churches.
-Next, the district superintendents will contact those serving part-time pastoral appointments.
-All others receiving new appointments will be contacted at a later date. My desire is for this to take place in the next two weeks.
These are uncertain times, and a new normal is yet to be determined. Again, thank you for your prayers and patience as we do this work.

In Christ,
Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference 

A Word from Bishop Graves: Digital Devotionals

published 3/19/2020

We invite you to watch an important video message update from Bishop David Graves. Click here to viewClick here to read transcript
You may also listen to this message as an audio-only podcast by clicking hereby searching for “AWFUMC Podcasts” on iTunes or in your preferred podcast player. We invite you to subscribe to these podcasts.

Please click here to access daily devotional Zoom meeting.

The Monday evening clergy check-in may be accessed here.  

New to Zoom? Click here for instructions and resources to help you get started.

A Statement from Bishops Graves on the Postponement of General Conference

published 3/18/2020

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Commission on General Conference announced that the 2020 session of General Conference has been postponed due to the spread of COVID-19. The Minneapolis Convention Center notified the commission that they were restricting events involving 50+ people at the venue through May 10, 2020, following recommendations by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Governor of Minnesota and the Mayor of Minneapolis.

At this time, it is not possible to predict what this outbreak will mean for the 2020 Annual and Jurisdictional Conferences. Should any changes be made to those events, we will inform you as soon as possible.

In this time of waiting and experiencing new realities, I again encourage you to focus on the mission of the United Methodist Church.

There will be many questions that we do not yet have the answers for related to this postponement. I am committed to communicating with you as I receive information related to this topic. Please make sure you visit often and subscribe to our newsletter here (select NewsCONNECTION).
In this time of waiting and experiencing new realities, I again encourage you to focus on the mission of the United Methodist Church. In every way life looks different in the coming days and weeks. This is true in our homes, offices and worship spaces. It will be a unique time for churches to demonstrate creativity and compassion in ministering to their communities. I am grateful to be your bishop and challenge you to continue to change your corner of the world. Your adaptive leadership in such an historic time has given me great hope. Join me in praying for all of those affected by this virus.

Bishop David Graves
Resident Bishop
Alabama-West Florida Conference 

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