Author: Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The Coronavirus continues to change our lives in ways in which we are not yet aware. As the pandemic continues to march across the globe it has been described as this generation’s 9/11, an indelible stamp on a lifetime. It is a once-in-a century global outbreak. It has the capacity to impact our lives, and how we view our lives, well into the future.
This certainly puts the probable postponement of General Conference in perspective. With people dying, many losing jobs, economic crisis, border closings, restrictions on travel, and the known need not to gather in large numbers, there is really no way to pull off General Conference in the next 6 weeks. Even attempting some super Zoom video meeting extravaganza (which I humbly predict would fail spectacularly with 862 participants and 14 languages) feels disrespectful for the gravity of our situation. The United Methodist Church needs to remind the world that our primary focus is the health and well being of people. General Conference can wait.
I do not envy the Commission on the General Conference. Holding the meeting this May will likely prove impossible. Even if it is held, is it justifiable to have a meeting with a huge percentage of people not present? There really is no way to do electronic balloting for a legislative process. Rescheduling is the best option, and that is a nightmare. It often takes up to two years to find a venue that can handle a convention of essentially 3,000 people. Can they pull that off next year? With all the cancellations happening right now, there will likely be a lot of competition for convention space a year from now. And, with annual conferences meeting (eventually) can more legislation be submitted? This is a full-blown logistical nightmare.
Maybe a creative option will emerge that is both feasible and respectful.
The Advisory Board of Mainstream UMC has a video call next week to evaluate our advocacy over the next several weeks. We certainly want to keep up with the goings on in the church. And we want to be respectful of the suffering many are experiencing. This is the balance of the days ahead.
Also, if (when) General Conference is postponed, we want to offer insight into meaningful ways forward for the church. Many of us—across the political and theological spectrum—have hung our hopes on a positive, and immediate outcome to move forward. We cannot give into despair, but we will need to leverage the in-between time into a constructive, life-giving narrative. This is certainly appropriate work moving forward.
In the meantime, stay safe. Continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ—even if electronically. The world needs Christ now more than ever. Our thoughts, prayers, and actions are with those in need right now.
Please consider a donation to support Mainstream UMC’s global advocacy, www.MainstreamUMC.com/donate Thank you.
Here is the recent UM News article about the Bishops calling for postponement of General Conference 2020. https://www.umnews.org/en/news/bishops-ask-postponement-of-gc2020