General Conference 2020 Postponed

3/20/2020

A Word from Bishop Bryan:

Dear South Georgia Conference family,

I continue to say, these are unprecedented times. We have so many questions about what the days, weeks, and months ahead look like. While I don’t have all the answers, I do want to assure you that I am in constant conversation with the Cabinet and others in leadership as we look at all that is before us. With that said, there are a few things I want you to be aware of right now.

Postponement of General Conference 2020
Wednesday, the Commission on General Conference announced that the 2020 session of General Conference, The United Methodist Church's top legislative body, has been postponed and will not occur May 5-15, 2020, as planned. The Minneapolis Convention Center notified the commission that they are restricting events involving 50+ people at the venue through May 10, 2020, following recommendations by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Governor of Minnesota, and the Mayor of Minneapolis. In addition to the obvious public health concerns, the travel restrictions in place would prevent delegates from Africa, Europe, and the Philippines from attending and representing their areas. 

The Commission on General Conference has begun the process of assessing when it will be safe to hold General Conference and in what location. The logistics of such a global gathering are extremely complex. Let us pray for the members of the Commission as they undertake this enormous responsibility. On Monday, March 23, the Commission issued a statement that they have elected to work toward setting a date in 2021.

What does the postponement of General Conference mean for us in South Georgia?
With all the preparation and education that have gone into GC2020, a sense of disappointment is certainly an understandable response to this announcement. Annual Conference delegations all around the global UMC have been meeting regularly. Various individuals and groups have offered legislation, including several proposed plans for restructuring or separation of The United Methodist Church. In South Georgia, the Leadership Forum Task Force has been meeting regularly to monitor proposals and engage in scenario planning. A section of our conference website contains a wealth of informative materials related to GC2020.

Some things we do know: General Conference will be rescheduled. The legislation and proposals we have been studying will be taken up. There is a requirement that every petition must be considered by one of the legislative committees. The work that has been done will not be wasted. In fact, we now have an unusual opportunity to inform and educate the laity and clergy of South Georgia about the implications of specific pieces of legislation that will come before the rescheduled General Conference.

How might we use this opportunity?
This is one of many questions to be considered by the Leadership Forum Task Force when we meet via video conference March 31. You can rest assured that this group of thoughtful leaders will continue to study plans, such as the Protocol, in order to provide a clear assessment of their application to the South Georgia Conference. I will give additional information after that meeting of the Task Force.

With GC2020 off our calendar, we can focus our full attention on caring for our local churches and our communities as we seek to lower the infection rate of the coronavirus. I know you are already expending a lot of energy in maintaining your church while embracing creative ministry opportunities during this unprecedented time. Please be sure to pace yourself so that you can be sustained spiritually, emotionally, and physically as we journey together week by week until we are out of danger from the virus. Spiritual disciplines are not optional; they are the key to our survival. Let us follow John Wesley’s third rule: “Attend upon all the ordinances of God.”  

How does this affect our Annual Conference Session?
At this time, Annual Conference has not been postponed. However, we realize this is a fluid situation, and we are making contingency plans should we find ourselves needing to shift our meeting dates. 

Join the 12:19 Prayer Movement
The coronavirus is also known as COVID-19. This has led to discussion among churches and pastors about inviting us to pray together at 12:19 p.m. each day. Let us join together in praying for: the researchers who are working for a cure, the medical personnel who are on the front lines of this fight, those whose jobs are in jeopardy, those in particularly vulnerable groups, the business owners who are living with financial uncertainty, and our churches as we seek to bring hope through Jesus Christ. Wherever you are at 12:19 p.m. each day, the Cabinet and I ask you to join us in this prayer movement. 

I am thankful for the people of South Georgia as we seek to be Alive Together in Christ,

R. Lawson Bryan