After the March 3 announcement that the postponed 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church cannot be held until 2024, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi recorded this video message for the laity and clergy of the Western PA Conference. Acknowledging the need to address question raised by the postponement, the Bishop urged United Methodists in the meantime to "stay focused on our ministry and mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
On Tuesday, March 8, the Council of Bishops met and announced that it was requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on whether an annual conference can separate from the denomination under the provision of the Book of Discipline. The Bishops asked the Judicial Council to address six questions.
The Commission on the General Conference, which is charged with organizing the global legislative gathering, cited the long wait times for visas for delegates coming from outside the United States as the primary reason the decision to further postpone the 2020 General Conference.
“We engaged in a fair, thorough, integrity-filled discussion of the alternatives," said Kim Simpson, chairperson of the Commission on the General Conference, in a press release.
“The visa issue is a reality that is simply outside our control as we seek to achieve a reasonable threshold of delegate presence and participation. Ultimately our decision reflects the hope that 2024 will afford greater opportunity for global travel and a higher degree of protection for the health and safety of delegates and attendees.”
Responding to the announcement, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops, said the Bishops "will immediately begin to explore various pathways for sustaining the worldwide mission and witness of the United Methodist Church, given the announcement of this further and understandable delay." Bishops do not have a vote on the commission.
General Conference, delayed twice before due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was scheduled to be in Minneapolis later this year. The commission said a new already-secured venue would be announced at a later date as soon as logistical planning is complete.
Heather Hahn of UM News, the official news gathering agency of the United Methodist Church, reported additional details and reactions to the announcement in this story.