By Walter Fenton
October 4, 2023
The Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council has announced that the new denomination’s convening General Conference will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica, September 20 – 26, 2024.
Launched on May 1, 2022, with just 24 local churches in Bulgaria, the GM Church has rapidly grown to 3,800 congregations world-wide.
“It has been an incredible journey to reach this point,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the GM Church’s Chief Connectional Officer. “With a willing spirit and steadfast faith, thousands of people from around the world have joined together to give shape to the denomination. And in less than 12-months, duly elected delegates from Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the United States will gather in a Central American country to discern the future God has for the Global Methodist Church. The Transitional Leadership Council is confident the Conference will serve as a great milestone as the Church continues to press forward.”
Meeting weekly for three and half years, the Council first laid the groundwork for the GM Church and then guided it into existence. Earlier this year it enlisted 22 clergy and laity from around the world to serve on the GM Church’s Transitional Commission on the Convening General Conference, and it asked the Rev. Beth Ann Cook, Lead Pastor at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Poseyville, Indiana, to serve as its chairwoman.
“The Commission recognized that finding the right location was critical; many logistical details flow from when and where the conference will be held,” said Cook. “We still have a lot to accomplish to be ready, but we also have dedicated and talented people on the Commission. We have also recruited a wide variety of people from across the Church serving on various task teams. I am incredibly grateful, honored, and humbled to serve with these leaders from around the world.”
“All the TLC members are very thankful for the men and women serving on the Commission on the General Conference,” said Ms. Cara Nicklas, Chairwoman of the Council. “The tasks we assigned them are monumental and ongoing. We’re excited with what they have already accomplished, and we will continue to support them as they address the numerous challenges still ahead. We call on all GM Church members to pray daily for the Commission members and for the GM Church’s convening General Conference.”
Some of the major decisions the Commission must still make include establishing the official languages for the Conference, preparing the daily agenda for the gathering, making additional logistical arrangements to support the work of the gathering, and organizing the delegates to craft the final legislation that they will consider. It also needs to determine the number and allocation of delegates to regions all around the world. That decision is made more complicated by the fact that the GM Church continues to add local churches almost daily.
“Relatively speaking, congregations in the U.S. have had easier pathways to join the GM Church than those in other parts of the world, particularly in Africa,” said the Rev. Charles Savage, II, Lead Pastor at Sardis Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and leader of the Commission’s Logistics Team. “We are truly in a transitional season, so the Commission members know many more congregations will join the GM Church over the next year, and it’s very likely the majority will come from Africa. This is great news, but when it comes to the allocation of delegates it will require flexibility on the part of the Commission and all the provisional annual conferences and districts that have already formed. As we work through this challenge and many others, we’ll need to show one another a good deal of patience and grace.”
GM Church leaders report that that provisional annual conferences outside the U.S. are operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Spain, and the Philippines. In the coming months it is expected that new conferences will form in Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. They will add hundreds of new congregations to the denomination. Leaders also believe it is possible several more African provisional annual conferences will take shape between May and August of 2024. In addition to the growth in Africa, the GM Church is currently working with representatives in Central and South America, Asia, and Europe to receive local churches and organize the new denomination in those parts of the world.
“Interest in the Global Methodist Church is certainly spreading across the continent of Africa,” said the Rev. Dr. Kimba Evariste, a TLC member, and the president pro tem of the Provisional Annual Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “I know the Commission considered holding the GM Church’s convening Conference in Africa. However, I have talked with many Methodist leaders across the continent and the consensus was Africa was not prepared to host in 2024. We are pleased that securing a travel visa to Costa Rica is fairly straightforward, so African delegates will be happy to join their Global Methodist sisters and brothers in Central America.”
While there are no GM local congregations in the Central American country, the Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica has agreed to warmly welcome Global Methodists to their nation. The Evangelical Methodist Church has approximately 100 local churches spread across Costa Rica, with a membership of 10,000, and average worship attendance over 13,000. Bishop Luis F. Palomo leads the denomination.
“I cannot begin to express the absolute joy I have sensed that San Jose, Costa Rica, will be the site for the first and historic convening General Conference of the Global Methodist Church,” said Palomo. “As the GM Church advances the proclamation of Jesus our Savior around the world, the members of the Evangelical Methodist Church will be honored participants in such an event and ready to assist in any way.”
San Jose is Costa Rica’s capital city. It is located in the mid-west region of the Central Valley with a population of 350,000, the nation’s largest. The country’s population is 5.2 million. Large rainforests, dramatic volcanoes, and beautiful coastlines along both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean draw tourists from around the world to the country. The GM Church is contracting guest rooms in several San Jose hotels and will advise all people planning to attend the conference which hotels are official, and how to secure GM Church preferred rate reservations. The GM Church strongly encourages people planning to attend the conference to await further instructions before attempting to reserve any hotel rooms.
“The GMC is resolutely committed to being a global church,” said Bishop Scott J. Jones, one of the two bishops providing episcopal oversight during the denomination’s transitional period. “It will be a joyful celebration to see and hear the diversity of God’s people joining together for this convening General Conference. I am confident John Wesley would be overjoyed to know that Global Methodists are enthusiastically embracing his maxim, ‘The world is [our] parish!’”
Jones and Bishop Mark J. Webb will preside over the General Conference sessions, assist in leading worship, and serve as the celebrants at Holy Communion services. Over the past several months, the two bishops have traveled around the world to preside over convening annual conferences and lead at regional gatherings. Collectively, they have ordained over a thousand deacons and elders to serve in the new denomination.
“It is an honor to serve this marvelous Church in ‘such a time as this,’” said Webb. “Day in and day out, I have the privilege of working with clergy and laity who are pouring themselves into its formation and faithfully making disciples of Jesus Christ through its missions and ministries. It will be a great day for all Global Methodists when we gather in person and in spirit for our convening General Conference!”
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The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.