What is a General Conference?

The General Conference is an international body of nearly 1,000 delegates that generally meets every four years. 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.

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.

General Conferences are generally held in years divisible by 4, such as 2012, 2016, etc., with the exception of special sessions.

Didn’t the UMC just have a General Conference in February 2019? 

A General Conference Special Session was held in February 2019 specifically to consider three possible models with the hope of moving The United Methodist Church through its impasse regarding human sexuality and ministry with LGBTQ persons including performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies and ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.  The model that passed was called the “Traditional Plan”. This means the United Methodist Church’s current statements about homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ persons did not fundamentally change. However, the impasse within the Church has continued due to resistance of the Traditional Plan by many churches and church leaders.   As a result, nothing was truly settled at the Special Conference and the same topics will be debated again at General Conference 2020. Delegates at General Conference 2020 are not bound by actions taken at the Special February 2019 Conference.

What Can We Expect Leading Up to General Conference 2020?

  • We can expect that significant conversations will take place “across the aisle”, as traditionalist, centrist, and progressive leaders meet to find a different way of relating as Methodists.

  • We can expect many different petitions to be submitted to the General Conference from different groups.  Possible petitions may include models similar to the three models presented to the February 2019 General Conference such as:

    • Affirming the “Traditional Plan

    • The “One Church Plan”

    • The “Simple Plan”

    • The “Connectional Conferences Plan”

  • We can also expect new petitions such as:

    • Dissolution of the UMC and the birth of new Methodist Expressions

    • Other plans 

What will AUMC do to keep members informed?

This resource center is one way to stay informed.  New materials will be posted periodically over the coming months.   In addition, AUMC has formed a General Conference Awareness education plan that includes written materials as well as in-person information sessions that will offered.   Dates and times for the sessions listed below will be communicated when finalized:

  • Organization of the United Methodist Church and the local church and Review of Central Texas 2019 Annual Conference. - Participants will understand the structures and organization of the UMC, the local church and learn about actions taken at the 2019 Central Texas Annual Conference.

  • Overview of Significant Petitions to be Considered by General Conference 2020 - Participants will understand the provisions of significant models and plans submitted to the General Conference. 

  • Debrief on the Outcome of General Conference 2020 - Participants will learn about the outcomes of the General Conference and the potential impact, if any, to the Annual Conferences and the local church.