General Conference Day 7 brings full communion with Episcopal Church, passage of a new apportionments base rate, more

Above: Pastors, students, laity and delegates have a silent protest against the violence in Palestine during the 2024 United Methodist General Conference Tuesday. Photo by Larry McCormack, UM News.

By Jessica Brodie

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Day 7 at General Conference was Ecumenical Day, and it underscored not only cooperation among worldwide Christian churches but also a spirit of unity among United Methodists gathered for the 10-day event.

The morning started with a worship service preached by the Rev. Dr. Jerry Pillay, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

The service also included introductions to the many other denominations with which The United Methodist Church has strong relationships, including full communion with the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church, African Methodist Episcopal and AME Zion, African Union Methodist Protestant Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Uniting Church of Sweden and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church.

Lifting up the day’s theme, “In The Relationship… Know that I am God,” Pillay drew from Ephesians 4:1-6 as he preached on what God is calling us to do as Christians and as the church today.

“We are living in very difficult times,” Pillay said, citing climate change, injustice, poverty, disease, war and so much more. “In such a context, we must stop and ask: What is God calling us to do?”

The day also brought a special new relationship for the UMC thanks to passage of a petition that established full communion with The Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Now the agreement heads to the Episcopal Church for finalization.

General Conference Secretary Gary Graves called it “an incredibly significant moment.”

The day progressed with a host of other petition votes as well as a number of changes to the Social Principles.

Delegates pass almost 200 petitions in bulk

After worship, presiding Bishop Lanette Plambeck of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area called the plenary to order at 9:30 a.m.

The session started with the monitoring report, which observed that Monday saw a discrepancy in genders who spoke from the floor—males at 77.1 percent, females at 21.4 and nonbinary at 1.4. The body encouraged to pause and contemplate whose voice may be absent as they went about the busy day.

Delegates approved nearly 200 petitions in three consent calendars right away Tuesday, including a number of bans aims at LGBTQ+ people.

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Wednesday’s session will consider 67 more items bundled into consent calendars, along with many other petitions.

Priority Tuesday was all business items with financial implications so final work on the budget could be ready for the close of General Conference on Friday.

Base rate for apportionment formula reduced

One of those items with financial implications was Petition 21124, which dealt with the denomination’s base rate for calculating apportionments church-wide.

During an afternoon session April 30, delegates passed the new base rate for the UMC’s apportionment formula in the most contested plenary vote so far at this year’s General Conference.

As a result, conferences will shift from their current base rate of 3.29% to a base rate of 2.6% for 2025 and 2026. Then, if the apportionment collection rate is 90% or higher in those years, the base rate will jump to 2.9% for 2027 and 2028.

Bottom line: U.S. annual conferences will be asked to pay lower apportionments compared to what delegates passed at the 2016 General Conference. Also, denomination-wide ministries that rely on those apportionments — including general agencies and episcopal leadership — will need to be budgeted with those cuts in mind.

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Above: Bishop Christian Alsted of the Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area surveys the result of a delegate vote as he presides over debate April 30. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/UM News.

Jurisdictional Study Committee

Also key today was discussion about the Jurisdictional Study Committee’s report, including two petitions before the body.  

General Conference created a Jurisdictional Study Committee in 2016 to examine the best number and boundaries of jurisdictions and episcopal areas in the United States, as well as identify missional priorities in setting the number of bishops. They presented their report to the body Tuesday, noting they concluded the current jurisdictions and boundaries are appropriate as-is, as well as that the jurisdictions themselves are in a better position to assess their need.

They proposed legislation aimed at putting more of that control back on the jurisdictions, including whether each jurisdiction wanted to have more than five bishops. Those jurisdictions large enough to feel they needed more than five bishops will be able to discern how many they need, and then they would pay for those bishop costs instead of the entire UMC paying for this.

Five petitions go before General Conference this week; three are slated for Wednesday as part fo the consent calendar.

One, on bishops’ office expenses, went before the body immediately after the report and would have put financial responsibility for the episcopal office expenses of jurisdictional bishops on the annual conference, but that petition failed 437-254.

The other petition, 20963, which passed, places the determination of the number of bishops in the jurisdictions’ hands.

Three more petitions—on the interjurisdictional committee on episcopacy responsibilities; on the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy responsibilities; and on the number of active bishops in jurisdictions—are slated for vote Wednesday.

More petitions

Other petitions that got floor time Tuesday were as follows:

Delegates passed 656-70 a comprehensive plan for the alignment of countries and central conferences in Africa (Petition 20516), which changed the name of the Central Africa Central Conference (comprising Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia) to the Mid Africa Central Conference and also corrected countries whose names had changed.

Passing 639-85 was Worldwide Regionalization Petition #7 (A Non-Disciplinary Petition to Create a Plan for Organization of a United States Regional Conference); more information to come tomorrow.

Delegates authorized the Commission on General Conference to study and give serious consideration to the addition of increased Spanish language translation at the 2028 General Conference (passed 676-57).

Delegates OK’d the continuation of the Study of Ministry Commission to offer focused study and recommendations on the nature and structure of ministry in the new realities of the church and the world (passed 669-54).

Delegates also passed legislation establishing a Central Conference Higher Education Fund; passed an amended petition on Financial Stewardship and Justice in the Allocation of Bishops; and nominated seven youth to the General Commission on General Conference per Monday’s Judicial Council ruling. Elections are expected tomorrow.


Above: The Rev. Lydia Muñoz, a clergy delegate from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, speaks on April 30 during debate. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/UM News.

Protests and bishops

After a lunch break that included a peaceful demonstration by students advocating for Palestine in the ongoing conflict—a demonstration echoed on college campuses across the nation—delegates turned to more petition work.

Business was extended to 6:45 p.m. to ensure all the petitions with financial implications were addressed, and then at the close of the day, the body recognized all bishops who had retired since the last gathering, as well as those who were planning to retire in 2024 and early 2025.

Finally, outgoing Council of Bishops President Thomas Bickerton stood before the crowd to ceremoniously pass the gavel of leadership to the incoming COB President, Tracy Smith Malone of the East Ohio Conference.


Above: Outgoing COB President Bishop Bickerton passes the gavel to incoming Tracy Smith Malone during General Conference Tuesday. Photo by Larry McCormack, UM News.

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