General Conference 2024

April 19, 2024 • Rev. Rob Fuquay

General Conference is the collective delegates elected by annual conferences from around the world. The numbers of delegates from each conference are determined by the percentage of membership in those conferences, similar to the number of representatives each state has in congress. There is an equal number of lay and clergy delegates who were elected at the 2019 Annual Conference. Indiana has 8 delegates, so that is 16 total GC delegates from Indiana. Overall, there are 862 voting delegates at the General Conference, not counting the reserve delegates who are seated to vote in the event a delegate has to leave. Roughly 40% of these delegates are outside the US. A great resource to understand the work of General Conference and how petitions are received and presented can be found here.

As I have said in recent worship services, this is shaping up to be the most significant General Conference in our 56-year history. While Methodism in this country predates the Revolutionary War, we have existed as The United Methodist Church just since 1968. The Charlotte GC hopes to be the first time we remove exclusionary, discriminatory language toward LGBTQ+ members, allowing for marriage in the church and by our clergy (something St. Luke’s declared we would start doing nearly 2 years ago), and also open the way for ordination. This conference is also considering significant legislation that could change the structure of the church, and potentially pass the first sweeping revision of our Social Principles. 

These goals have been described as the 3 R’s: Remove Harmful Language; Revise Social Principles; and Pass Regionalization. The last one has to do with freedoms for the US churches of United Methodism. Our global United Methodists are grouped by regions called Central Conferences. The Central Conferences have long been allowed freedom to amend non-constitutional parts of our binding policies and doctrines called The Book of Discipline. They can amend based on the need for cultural context. US churches have not had this freedom. Changing this, however, is a tall order. Because this would be a constitutional change it requires a 2/3 majority vote, and then ratification of 2/3 majority vote carried out by each annual conference. 

We will also be voting on a 4-year budget that calls for as much as a 40% reduction: a significant change in the pension program of pastors, changes to the status and requirements of ordained and non-ordained clergy, and much more. Again, you can understand more through the above link. It offers ways to watch the live proceedings online. Another great resource that will provide daily updates is UM News to which you can subscribe here. A few Conference Superintendents have also planned several General Conference information sessions which can access here. Obviously, most of these are past, but one is tomorrow and another May 5. You can also subscribe to receive updates through our Indiana Conference here.

I offer this message and resources, not only to be helpful in understanding the work of General Conference and offering ways to stay informed, but also to put expectations into perspective. Many centrist and progressive members of the UMC around the country are hopeful that the changes we want to see will happen. However, there are many hurdles in dealing with the legislative process of the church, and not all goals may be met, at least not right away. Somethings may not make it out of committees. Others may not make the required percentage of votes. Still, others may get tabled and withdrawn for reasons that help the GC to enact other legislation. 

Inevitably the news media will report on the outcomes of GC, and they don’t always represent the full actions taken or how the church actually functions. So be careful about drawing conclusions by what gets reported. Since I will be sending updates while at the conference but then will leave a few days early to start sabbatical May 1, I will not be able to report all final actions. However, our District Superintendent, Dr. Aleze Fulbright, will be at St. Luke’s shortly after returning to Indianapolis to record a video summarizing the work of GC. This will be available to the congregation around the second week of May. Additionally, we have created a page on our website where we will upload relevant information throughout the conference to keep everyone updated. You can access that here

For now, let me close by asking that you pray for the work of General Conference. God shows up in legislative processes in incredible ways. In the process of hearing petitions, listening in committees, discussion with other delegates, hearts change. Sometimes people who anticipated voting a certain way on certain issues change their mind. All of this is to say, pray for our delegates. Pray for the conference. Pray for God’s will to prevail. A great resource has been created called the 40 Days of Prayer for General Conference which you can access here. Regardless of what outcomes occur in Charlotte, St. Luke’s will continue to be an opening community of Christians helping people find and give hope through Jesus Christ. Our inclusion, our nurture of people in the life of faith and community, and our local and global mission and outreach will continue no matter what! 

God Bless You, 


Rev. Rob Fuquay