Bishops Change Call for General Conference; Commission Report Release Delayed

By Thomas Lambrecht –

In a press release issued Monday (July 9), the Council of Bishops announced it is changing the call for the special General Conference to be held in St. Louis in February 2019. This change is a technical correction based on the recent Judicial Council decision that allowed other petitions to be submitted to the special General Conference.

The original call described the General Conference as convening to receive and act upon a report from the Council of Bishops. The Judicial Council ruled that the 2016 General Conference did not ask the bishops to make a report or submit legislation to the 2019 General Conference and therefore they lack the authority to do so.

The report coming to the General Conference is now coming from the Commission on a Way Forward, not from the Council of Bishops. That means that all three plans (One Church, Connectional Conference, and Traditional) will be equally presented. It means that legislation for all three plans has been submitted to General Conference. It means that the bishops’ recommendation for the One Church Plan is no longer the controlling focus of the report, but is contained in an appendix to the report.

Because of this change in who is submitting the report, the bishops also needed to change the “call.” The official language for why the General Conference is meeting is important because it governs what business can be transacted at the conference. Anything not covered by the call cannot be acted upon unless it receives a two-thirds majority vote. So if the bishops had not changed the call, the General Conference could not have acted upon the Commission’s report because it was not in the original call.

From my perspective as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward, all of these developments are positive because they allowed the Traditional Plan to be put forward in its entirety and on an equal basis with the other plans. It allows the delegates to General Conference to consider all the options that have been developed.

Public Release Delayed

In an unrelated development, a separate press statement on Monday (July 9) informed the church that the public release of the Commission’s report has been delayed until July 30. Release of the report had been expected on July 8, which was the deadline for submitting petitions for the special General Conference.

The delay was caused by the need to negotiate a new translation contract due to the expanded amount of translation work needed. Instead of just the Commission report and related petitions, the Judicial Council decision opened the door to potentially many more petitions being submitted. This increased the volume of work that will need to be translated into French, Portuguese, and Kiswahili. By combining all the translation work into one contract, the business manager’s office was able to realize substantial cost savings. Unfortunately, it delayed the ability to start the translation work and thus delayed the release of the report. The actual report was ready for translation the first week of June, but the need to redefine the scope of work, obtain bids, and negotiate and sign a contract caused the delay.

Good News intends to begin talking about the details of the three plans, so that the church can begin to consider a faithful way forward without being endlessly put off by administrative delays. We will not be divulging details of the report itself, but we can certainly begin to understand the specifics of what each plan proposes to do. Stay tuned for upcoming Perspectives with those details.

In addition to the three plans recommended by the Commission, other petitions were received by the petitions secretary of the General Conference. The Renewal and Reform Coalition and our friends have submitted at least five that we know of. If you or someone you know submitted a petition for the special General Conference, please let us know what you submitted, so that we can begin to be aware of all the other proposals that are coming to the General Conference.

Because of the need for translation and publication into a book (called the Advance edition of the Daily Christian Advocate, ADCA) for use by the delegates of General Conference, it is not anticipated that the full list of submitted petitions will be released until November 26, which is the deadline for delegates to receive all the submitted petitions.

Good News will continue to keep you informed as information becomes available for the special General Conference in February.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. 


  1. IF our Bishops had of been following the BOD and Judicial Council decisions as closely as this with relation to the conflict before us, their sworn duty and responsibility, then we would not even be here today facing a Special General Conference in order to address the conflict.

  2. Richard Ivey says

    It has been speculated that with these developments the Bishops might postpone or possibly cancel the 2019 conference in order to maintain the status quo. My question is, could the COB actually take this action if they desired to do so? If they could, is it likely?

    • Rev. Thomas Lambrecht says

      Thank you for your question, Richard. I believe we are past the point of no return for the 2019 General Conference. Contracts have been signed and deposits put down. I don’t believe the bishops could or would cancel the conference.

  3. William Lord says

    Many of us depend on to continue it’s clear analysis of proposals and the anticipated fallout of each. God bless your efforts.

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