June 2012 - Global Influence Seen at General Conference
United Methodists from more than 60 nations addressed a variety of challenging issues
during the denomination’s recent General Conference. But, as Bishop Thomas J . Bickerton put
it, at the end of the 10-day legislative gathering, “more was said, than done.”
Meeting in the Tampa Convention Center on Tampa Bay, 988 delegates and about 4,000
volunteers, visitors and staff recalled Jesus’ healing and transforming ministry beside the Sea
of Galilee through worship, music and sermons.
Just as storms on the sea alarmed the disciples, conflicting stands on church structure and
social justice issues troubled delegates. Bishop Bickerton observed two significant divisions--
one based on generational differences and the other on contextual differences between U.S.
Jurisdictions and the growing central conferences outside the U.S., particularly Africa. Over
one-third of the delegates were from central conferences. The divisions made it difficult for
delegates to find common focus and direction, he said.
Although a hastily crafted compromise plan to restructure the church was passed, the
church’s Judicial Council announced on the last day that it violated the denomination’s
Constitution. In an attempt to salvage some of the structural changes, the delegates approved
proposals to reduce the size of 8 of 13 general agency boards.
In other actions during the April 24-May 4 gathering, delegates:
•Retained the church’s position regarding homosexuality, narrowly defeating a proposal
to adopt language saying that United Methodists are not of one mind on this issue;
•Did away with “guaranteed appointments” for clergy (This decision will be reviewed by
the Judicial Council.);
•Rejected a proposal to set aside a bishop to serve as full-time president of the Council
•Entered into full communion with several historically black pan-Methodist denominations;
•Approved making the United Methodist Women an autonomous organization, rather
than a division of the church’s missions agency;
•Adopted a reduced budget of $603.1 million budget for 2013-2016; and
•Decided not to divest from three companies whose products are used by the Israeli
military in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Noting that no institution, structure, or legislation will transform the world as much as someone
sharing their faith with another or reaching out in hands-on ministry, Bishop Bickerton added:
“It doesn’t take an action of General Conference for The United Methodist Church to be the
church of Jesus Christ. What it does require is all of us deciding to follow Jesus with enthusiasm