Episcopal Office Answers Frequently Asked Questions on the Further Postponement of General Conference

March 14, 2022

The answers below are based upon information we know as of March 8, 2022. The delay in General Conference has proven that we are in unprecedented times and answers could change depending on various circumstances.

Q: Why was the General Conference postponed again?
A: The Commission on the General Conference made the decision to postpone General Conference 2020 until 2024 due to the ongoing pandemic and long processing time of obtaining visas for delegates from outside of the United States. A virtual option had been considered previously but was rejected due to the 16-hour span of time zones, unreliable internet, and challenges to safeguarding the voting. You can read more from the Commission on the General Conference here.

Q: Why would the Commission on General Conference not schedule a General Conference session before 2024?
A: It takes the commission years to plan a General Conference. With the 2020 session being postponed again, the commission will start over with planning such as securing dates, location, hotel blocks, international visas, etc. International delegate pandemic/vaccination issues and the backlog of visas were a major hindrance to this process.

Q: When will a new date be announced?
A: The commission has already secured a venue for what would have been the regularly scheduled quadrennial event. An announcement about the location will be forthcoming as soon as the required logistical planning is complete. The event will be in 2024.

Q: Has the Global Methodist Church (GMC) decided to launch their new denomination on May 1, 2022?
A: Yes. In response to the third delay, the GMC has decided to launch their denomination early instead of waiting until after the General Conference Session in 2024.

Q: What if my church does not want to wait until 2024 to decide if we will remain with the UMC or explore other denominational options?
A: Any current UMC church has the option to explore disaffiliation pursuant to the 2019 legislation found in paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline. WNCC has a very specific process to pursue disaffiliation and if you would like information about disaffiliation, please contact your district superintendent. The first step that triggers the process is for lay leadership from a church to communicate to the DS a desire for the church to have a conversation about disaffiliation. Disaffiliation is a several-month process which includes the vote of the Annual Conference.

Q: Will our church need to conduct a vote?
A: Not at this time. All United Methodist Churches are still under the legislation that was approved at the 2019 Special General Conference session and the 2016 Book of Discipline. Bishop Carter is also living into the spirit of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, which is not only a way of separation, but the way we live together in the interim.

Q: I’m concerned about the uncertainty in the UMC and what the policies could be related to marriages in my local church. How do I know what the future UMC will look like?
A: Local church has autonomy on how church property is used as well as a clergy’s authority to determine at what weddings he/she officiates has not changed. The Bishop and Cabinet have affirmed, as a general direction, an expanded profile that would serve the needs of traditional churches in our conference who want to remain connectional. District Superintendents have begun to have conversations regarding this additional information as a part of their consultations with churches and clergy.

Q: Will the Western North Carolina Conference elect new delegates for 2024?
A: Since the 2020 General Conference was postponed, it is our understanding that the delegates elected at the 2019 session of Annual Conference will continue to serve in this capacity. In the commission's press release, Rev. Gary Graves, chair, states, "We will need to look to the Judicial Council for clarity regarding which preparations and processes are based on the postponed 2020 General Conference and which would need to be enacted should this be seen as a new 2024 General Conference." We will communicate any updates we receive.

Q: Will we be able to have a Jurisdictional Conference before 2024 to elect new bishops?
A: There are ongoing discussions about this possibility, but that decision has not yet been made.

Q: How will this decision affect the meeting of our Western North Carolina Annual Conference?
A: This decision has no impact on the meeting of our Annual Conference, which is planned for June 17-19, 2022, at Lake Junaluska. We will continue to prioritize the mission and ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Faithful Ways to Respond

  1. Holy Discernment – With plans not working out the way some had hoped, there will be increased confusion, anxiety, and pressure to act. However, there is no need to give into this pressure. While it is frustrating, there is nothing that has changed in the UM denomination. Our current UM polity in the Book of Discipline agrees with the traditional theology of the GMC. There is currently an abeyance on charges related to LGBTQ clergy and same gender weddings, as one expression of our desire to live with the values of grace and reconciliation. Everything is still on pause, so there is no internal change causing churches to exit out of the denomination ahead of the General Conference. Despite the pressure of GMC, the wisest course of action may be to hold the course and let General Conference provide a path and process for churches to discern their best path forward.
  2. Fair and Balanced Information Sessions – Emails from representatives to GMC encouraging churches host informational sessions are being circulated. As you field questions at your churches, we request the following practices as we navigate the next several months and years. No meeting with GMC should happen without the pastor’s knowledge. If there is a meeting to learn more about GMC, then there should be a meeting to learn more about the Continuing UMC. District Superintendents will be happy to offer those informational sessions upon request. On behalf of the Bishop and Cabinet, our desire is that there be fair and balanced information sharing as we proceed. For those churches who feel the need to explore the GMC, let’s make sure that accurate information is shared so decisions can be made faithfully and truthfully.
  3. #BeUMC Campaign – For those who would like more information about the continuing UMC, #BEUMC celebrates the core values and four foundations themes that connect the people of The United Methodist Church. It is built upon the stories of people living their faith around the world. Check out this website for more information. Our Conference has joined this campaign and your church(es) may choose to do so as well. Everything is customizable for your context.

Download a copy of these FAQs

Bishop Carter offers this message to speak into the present moment.

Read Bishop Carter's Pastoral Response to the General Conference Postponement Announcement

Bishops discern ways for churches choosing to separate from UMC; seek court's guidance on Jurisdictional Conferences

Read Council of Bishops President Cynthia Fierro Harvey's statement and the full announcement from the Commission on the General Council.

Bishop - News GC2020