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General Conference news online lets United Methodists tune in from home

General Conference news online lets United Methodists tune in from home

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

General Conference news online lets United Methodists tune in from home

April 18, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0833}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

LAKELAND — Watching and following the 2008 General Conference from the comfort of home — or the office or a hand-held device — will be a snap for United Methodists.

The Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center spans 14 city blocks in the heart of downtown, providing nearly 255,000 square feet of exhibit space, 59,000 square feet of meeting space and a 13,500-seat arena. Nearly 2,000 delegates and other United Methodists from throughout the world will gather April 23-May 2 at the convention center for the denomination's quadrennial legislative conference. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau. File Photo #08-0761. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0801/ Feb. 21, 2008.

This year, news and information about the assembly is never more than a few mouse-clicks away.

General Conference, which meets every four years, is The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body and the only entity that speaks officially for the denomination. Delegates to the 2008 quadrennial gathering will meet April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.

A total of 992 delegates from around world, including 26 from the Florida Conference, will set policy and direction for the church, as well as handle thousands of petitions, gather for worship, hear reports, celebrate milestones and elect key leaders.

Live video streaming of the Episcopal Address, the Laity Address, the Young People’s Address, daily morning worship services and other highlights will be available during General Conference. Florida Conference United Methodists can access those events beginning April 23 by going to and clicking on the “General Conference” button on the top right-hand side of the home page and then following the links provided.

The Episcopal Address, titled “The Foundation for Hope,” will be delivered on behalf of the Council of Bishops by Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher of the Illinois Area. The address, which is intended as a time when the entire body of bishops speaks to the church, will be given April 24 at about 9 a.m. EDT.

The Laity Address will be given by Lyn Powell, a familiar face to many Floridians, that afternoon at 3:30 EDT. Powell, lay leader of the North Georgia Annual Conference, was the featured speaker at the Florida Conference laity session last June. Her address to General Conference is titled “Disciples Transforming the World.”

And the Young People’s Address — the first of its kind for the church and mandated by the 2004 General Conference — will also be Thursday at 12:35 p.m. EDT. Six United Methodists ranging in age from 15 to 28 have been chosen to develop this historic report, titled “Many Voices, One Call.”

Delegates to the United Methodist Church’s 2004 General Conference consider legislation from their seats in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin. Photo #08-0811.

During the assembly, United Methodist News Service, the official reporting arm of the church, will provide stories, photographs and reports every day — also accessible by going to and clicking on the “General Conference” button and related links.

Florida United Methodist Communications staff members will be attending General Conference and offering regular reports, features and stories on the happenings of the assembly with a particular Florida angle.

Key issues

Some of the issues facing delegates when they arrive are:

•  Future meetings — The Commission on the General Conference is proposing the number of delegates to the assembly be limited to between 500 and 600. The planning body also wants to allow annual conferences to set term limits for delegates if they choose. If adopted, the changes would take affect for the 2012 General Conference, which will be held in Tampa, Fla.

•  Four areas of focus for the denomination — The Council of Bishops, the top staff of the church’s general agencies and the denomination’s Connectional Table, a 60-member group responsible for coordinating the mission, ministries and resources of the church, are proposing four areas of focus: leadership development — developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world; starting new congregations and revitalizing existing ones; engaging in ministry with the poor; and fighting the diseases of poverty, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

•  The budget — Delegates will consider a $642 million spending proposal presented by the General Council on Finance and Administration.

United Methodist Bishop Joel N. Martinez presides over a session of the denomination’s 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. One of 69 active bishops will preside over each plenary session of the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, but may not vote on any proposal. A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin. Photo #08-0812.

The Rev. Dan Johnson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville and president of the Florida Conference’s Council on Finance and Administration, and Mickey Wilson, treasurer of the Florida Conference, will offer an amendment to the budget during its legislative committee discussion.

Their proposal would reduce the four-year budget more than $192 million, with the difference made up from unrestricted reserves currently held by the denomination’s general agencies.

“In short, we are asking general agencies to spend down their unrestricted net assets before asking for more money from the more than 10 million United Methodists around the world,” Johnson and Wilson said in a letter sent to delegates earlier this year.
Social Issues will again be at the forefront of delegates’ debates. Issues as diverse and connected as abortion, the war in Iraq, human sexuality, AIDS, the environment, race relations, immigration, stem cell research, and divestment from companies doing business with the government of Sudan and those connected to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land will be addressed. In addition, a new “Social Creed” is being proposed to update the original, which was first adopted 100 years ago, in 1908.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.