By Chassity Neckers
As Global Methodists, it is our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly. Our annual conferences are designed to be an extension of that mission. In the GM Church the real work of the annual conference begins when we come together for worship and prayer – crying out for revival and seeking God’s healing in our lives and commitment to our shared ministry.
Though the Global Methodist Church has only existed for nine months, hundreds of clergy and laypersons are already coming together and forming this new expression of Methodism so that more people may come to know Jesus.
In Texas, our first U.S. provisional annual conferences held convening meetings and are paving the way for many others to follow them. Provisional annual conferences are created during this transitional period before the GM Church’s convening General Conference to organize our work globally.
How does a Provisional Annual Conference emerge in the Global Methodist Church?
The Global Methodist Church structure dates back to the beginning of Methodism with John and Charles Wesley. The early pioneers of Methodism believed in “social holiness” – that the Christian life was best lived within community. The principal expression of connectionalism within Methodism has historically been within its conference system.
The GM Church’s Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline states: “The Transitional Leadership Council or the convening General Conference may establish regional conferences for the purposes of coordinating and conducting the mission of the Church around the world.” Those purposes consist of vital actions like the ordination of clergy and discerning God’s will together through conversation and the casting of votes that help unite the connection.
More importantly, in the GM Church we believe that personal faith formation, shaped in accountable disciple groups, is essential to authentic connection. It is in moments of prayer, worship, and Bible study where the church is strengthened for its outward mission. When hundreds of Global Methodists joined together in January and early February these were the core convictions of their gatherings.
Prayer, Worship, Awakening: Global Methodist Church Provisional Annual Conferences in the United States
In Waco, Texas, the Mid-Texas Provisional Annual Conference’s first gathering was a time set aside for awakening. The conference was described by many as a breakaway from the well-known annual conference structure. The attendees were provided opportunities to make space for the Holy Spirit to work throughout the two-day gathering, having only a one-hour voting session to approve budgets and various annual conference positions.
The historic conference celebrated the 90 congregations located in its region and ordained 28 men and women for service in the church. Mid-Texas President pro tem, Rev. Dr. Leah Hidde- Gregory described the ordination service as “spirit-filled,” with the sanctuary erupting in applause and excitement that God is doing a new thing through his people.
That new thing continued as two other provisional annual conferences were launched in late January and early February.
In Lubbock, Texas, hundreds of clergy and laypersons gathered together for the convening conference of the West Plains Provisional Annual Conference. The gathering was a moment of surrender centered around Christ, with many coming forward and kneeling in prayer, seeking Jesus as people gathered together.
The Rev. Dr. Jessica LaGrone, Dean of the Chapel, at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky and a member of the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council, spoke during the two-day event.
“We love Jesus, we love his church, and we believe that God isn’t done with the people called Methodist and that the best years of the Christian movement begun by the Wesley [brothers] are still, in fact, ahead of us,” LaGrone said.
In College Station, Texas, the East Texas Provisional Annual Conference continued with that same note of hopefulness.
The new provisional annual conference ordained 90 clergypersons and welcomed 254 Global Methodist congregations in its region. Like the Mid-Texas Conference gathering, the East Texas Annual Conference held a limited business session, providing additional time throughout the two-day gathering for worship, prayer, and connection.
The East Texas Provisional Annual Conference also made space for learning with a variety of workshops. The workshops included sessions on evangelism, small group discipleship, the new GM Church catechism, social witness, and worship.
The three annual conferences provided a moment to focus on where Global Methodists are headed as the Church as it is covered in prayer and holding on to God’s power, provision, and help.
While the Global Methodist Church is deeply rooted in the history of Methodism, our provisional annual conferences have embraced the Church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly. Our denominational structures exist to help and support congregations as they reach the world for Jesus.
The convening of GM Church provisional annual conferences is a joyous and historical moment for the fledgling denomination. For the first time, people in these areas gathered to celebrate and begin a journey together as Global Methodists. The three Texas provisional annual conferences join two others in the United States – North Carolina and South Georgia – and four provisional bodies outside the United States in Bulgaria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, and Slovakia. More are sure to come!
Chassity Neckers is a freelance writer who lives in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. She is also a member of the Global Methodist Church’s Indiana Transitional Conference Advisory Team.