The United Methodist Church has announced the new dates for its General Conference, having previously postponed the denominationwide gathering multiple times in part over concerns about COVID-19.
In a Friday announcement, the Commission on the General Conference said the churchwide legislative gathering will be held on April 23–May 3, 2024, at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Commission Chair Kim Simpson was quoted in the announcement as saying that Charlotte was selected because it “best met our varied needs.”
“We believe that delegates and attendees will be pleased with all the city has to offer,” Simpson said, noting that “both the Western North Carolina Conference and the North Carolina Annual Conference will co-host the event.”
North Carolina Bishop Leonard Fairley said he and his peers will “bathe this gathering in deep prayer while also praying for each delegate who will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we spend time in Holy Conferencing.”
“May you experience the beautiful natural setting of North Carolina, and the amazing hospitality of its people as you do the work of the Kingdom always remembering you are Beloved of God,” he said, as quoted in the announcement.
Normally taking place every four years, the UMC General Conference involves delegates coming from all over the world to debate and pass legislation regarding the denomination.
Originally, the UMC was planning to hold its next General Conference in May 2020, with the denomination’s contentious debate over LGBT issues being a key agenda item for the gathering.
For the past several years, theological progressives have actively resisted the official UMC policy prohibiting the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals and the ban on blessing same-sex unions.
The legislative gathering was going to entertain measures aimed at allowing theological conservatives to form their own denomination and graciously leave the UMC.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent gathering restrictions initiated in the United States required them to postpone the event, initially rescheduling to autumn of 2021.
In February 2021, the UMC Commission announced that they were again postponing General Conference, setting the new date for Aug. 29–Sept. 6, 2022. Pandemic issues and concerns over vaccine availability were cited as reasons for postponing.
Then, in March of this year, the Commission announced that the legislative gathering would not take place until some point in 2024, effectively skipping the 2020 General Conference.
The latest delay garnered backlash from theological conservatives, many of whom decided to go ahead and launch a new denomination, known as the Global Methodist Church, in May.
“It is anticipated that some theologically conservative local churches will find annual conferences willing to negotiate fair and just exit provisions, while others will, unfortunately, face obstacles placed in their paths,” stated the GMC back in March.
“The Transitional Leadership Council decided it was time to launch the Global Methodist Church, so those who can leave early will have a place to land, to begin building and growing, and making room for others to join later.”