GC reports provide important updates

Above, Jim Salley, South Carolina, introduces the board of Africa University to the 2024 United Methodist General Conference in Charlotte, N.C. Monday April 29, 2024. Photo by Larry McCormack, UM News.

By Jessica Brodie

CHARLOTTE—In addition to legislation and worship, General Conference 2024 also received a number of key reports from important groups within the church.

The United Women in Faith presentation on April 29 featured a dance skit complete with pompons and dance ribbons that celebrated the many gifts women—and United Women in Faith—bring to the church. Sally Vonner, top executive for United Women in Faith, lifted up the many ways the organization makes an impact, from support for community centers and women’s projects to training women leaders.

Vonner was joined onstage by other leaders in the organization who also lifted up the good work of the group. One, Darlene Alfred of Central Texas, shared how important equity and gender parity is in the world and in the church. 

Noting that women are 58 percent of the UMC, Alfred asked, “How different would our church be if we were also 58 percent of General Conference?”

Also on April 29, Africa University’s report, introduced by South Carolina’s Jim Salley, lifted up the work of the United Methodist-related institution founded in 1992.

Calling Africa University “a gift God has given to some of the most underprivileged children in Africa,” Salley thanked the body for their love and the way they consistently show up for the 32-year-old Methodist-founded university located in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

CEO and Vice Chancellor Peter Mageto spoke next about how Africa University graduates are growing the church and driving change.

As he noted, they are, “Building a future where Africa’s future is fully realized.”

Another speaker and Africa University graduate, Betty Kazadi-Musau, shared that the university is “the hope of the continent.”

“I am what I am because of the United Methodist church,” Kazadi-Musau said to applause. “I am what I am because of Africa University.” Salley called upon all people at General Conference who were graduates of Africa University to stand as the room resounded in ovation.

Pointing at the room, Salley said, “It’s been said if you want to determine the relevance, the success, of a university, look at its graduates—you see who they are, where they are and what they are doing.

“As we celebrate 32 years, look around us.”

Also that day, United Methodist Men presented on their men’s ministry efforts. Bishops James Swanson and Gary Mueller lifted up their new logo as well as their excitement about the ways men’s ministry is transcending old models of ministry and fellowship.

“Our focus is having a living relationship with Jesus Christ,” Swanson said, noting the Spirit is calling and they are doing their part to answer.

During Week One, the body heard the Laity Address, as well as the Young People’s Address, the latter delivered by Alejandra Salemi, Florida Conference, and Senesie T.A. Rogers, Sierra Leone.

Salemi shared how disaffiliation has taken a toll on young people in the church, and it feels much like a divorce.

“Young people are feeling the weight of the emotional, physical and spiritual trauma,” she said, urging people to consider whether we are working toward a world that looks less like hell and more like heaven.

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