Plans vary for completing annual conference business

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Even with COVID-19, United Methodist annual conferences around the world need to complete matters by the end of the year. The denomination’s regional bodies will do this in a variety of ways: face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, and combinations of the two. The annual in-person conference meetings are ideal for almost everyone.“We are a connecting people,“ said Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the California-Nevada Conference.

“We want to take advantage of opportunities to test where we can be together… and not be isolated any longer than we need to. Even to the point of taking a risk.“In the US, annual conferences usually take place in May and June. The California-Nevada Conference has been rescheduled from June to September 18-21 at the Doubletree Hotel in Modesto, California. Social distancing will be practiced during meetings, if government officials still recommend it at that point.

An annual digital conference would be difficult because of the sparse population in parts of northern California and Nevada, Carcaño said.“We have entire samples from rural communities where the internet is not a possibility,“ she said. „I’m not really sure you can do it without a lot of the annual conference members.“

On the other hand, at the Iowa Conference, an annual virtual one-day conference is planned for late summer or early fall. A virtual session of the clergy will be held on June 5th. Typically, the annual conference – which includes both lay and clergy members – conducts matters such as approving a budget and considering resolutions. The conference includes a clergy session that considers the qualifications of candidates for ordained ministry.

„Locations for a group of our size (1,400 people), there’s really only one in the state that can handle this,“ said Rev. Harlan Gillespie, assistant to Bishop Laurie Haller. That location is the Iowa Events Center, which is primarily reserved for other events that have been postponed because of COVID-19.“So we think the best thing to do is to simply plan a virtual annual conference in this legislative session,“ Gillespie said. „We think we can do that in a day, maybe about six hours of legislative time.“He is confident that remote voting is doable.

Conference annual meeting list

United Methodist Communications has compiled a list of annual conference adjournments and plans for 2020. The list is incomplete and additions will be made as more details are finalized.“We’ve been working with Option Technologies for nearly 20 years, voting electronically,“ he said. „So it seems like a very viable alternative to us.“

It may be that more people attend this annual conference online than in person.“We have a small church in northeast Iowa, Volga United Methodist Church, that has been broadcasting their worship times for a few years now and they have regulars from all over the world who are part of their community,” Gillespie said. „It’s been a really good way for many of our congregations to expand.“

Retired clergy who are homebound but connected via the Internet are also a potential audience, he said.“There are some upsides, but I also think there are some things that will also help us expand our connection.“ In Africa, Europe and the Philippines, annual conferences are held throughout the year.

All annual conferences in the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area will be rescheduled in August, September, October and November, said Bishop Christian Alsted, who leads that area. „We have decided that the church needs to physically gather for the annual conference once current restrictions are lifted,“ the bishop said.

„Coming together as annual conferences in worship and prayer to discern Jesus‘ direction in ministry is particularly important in times of crisis,“ he said. „The postponed annual conferences will emphasize the power of connection and the value of unity in Christ in mission and ministry, and I believe they will build cohesion in the church.“

Bishop Eduard Khegay of the Eurasia Area at the Northern Europe and Central Eurasia Conference said meeting in person this year became less important when the 2020 General Conference, scheduled for May, was postponed to 2021 because of the pandemic. of coronavirus.

„Instead, we will have all five annual meetings of the conference separately on Zoom,“ Khegay said. They are likely to be held this summer, he said. The 17 annual meetings of the conference in the Philippines have been postponed indefinitely because of COVID-19. Some annual conferences in Africa were held before the start of the pandemic, including Sierra Leone and Liberia, while others – such as Zimbabwe’s December conferences – are scheduled for later in the year.