By Walter Fenton
The Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council has announced that approximately 350 delegates from all around the world will be elected to attend the new denomination’s convening General Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, September 20 – 26, 2024.
“It might seem odd that we cannot precisely say how many delegates will be at the convening General Conference,” said Cara Nicklas, the council’s chairwoman. “But as a church in transition, with local churches from all parts of the globe joining us every week, we have to show as much flexibility as we can, for as long as we can. Wherever there are Global Methodist local churches in the world, we want them to be represented at our initial gathering. The formula we have adopted allows us to make room for up to 26 additional delegates; it’s also possible we could have two dozen less than 350.”
Nicklas explained that the total range of delegates was arrived at by using a formula recommended by the Credentialing Committee of the Transitional Commission on the General Conference. The 22-member commission, composed of clergy and laity, is charged with developing all the plans for the GM Church’s convening General Conference. It is divided into various committees tasked with discrete responsibilities.
“Data points are moving targets at this juncture,” said the Rev. Mike Grant, chair of the Credentialing Committee and senior pastor at Christ Church in Louisville, Ohio. “The committee decided to allocate delegates based on the number of local churches and the number of persons serving in appointed or assigned pastoral ministry in those churches. During this transitional season, we think it is fair to base our allocation of delegates on these verifiable statistics.”
Presently, 4,495 local churches and 4,504 pastors have joined the GM Church with more joining the Church each week. For now, most of them are organized into over two dozen regional bodies around the world.
“In addition to critical points like the total number of delegates and a fair system for allocating them across the GM Church, we had to factor in more mundane things,” said the Rev. Beth Ann Cook, the commission’s chairwoman and the Pastor at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Poseyville, Indiana. “We had to think about seating capacity at the convention center in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the expense of travel, housing, and feeding several hundred delegates for a week. In the end, the formula we devised will allow approximately 350 delegates to represent Global Methodists from around the world. We think we have a plan that is fair when it comes to representation and one that is mindful of the GM Church’s financial resources.”
In the coming weeks, plans regarding hotels and seating for observers at the conference will be shared. Hotel contracts to reserve rooms for delegates, church staff, translators, and logistics and operations personnel have been secured. A central reservation system will be deployed with favorable pricing on both lodging and airfare.
Seating capacity at the San Jose Convention Center will only allow for a restricted number of seats for observers at the convening General Conference’s daily sessions. Organizers are strongly encouraging people who want to attend as observers to wait until they can share more definitive information on the daily number of seats available for them.
“While San Jose is Costa Rica’s largest city, and it boasts a wonderful convention center we have realized that we probably won’t have enough room for all who would like to attend,” said Cook. “Because of the historic nature of this conference and the excitement in the Global Methodist Church, I’ve heard many people say, ‘I want to come to San Jose even if I’m not a delegate.’ I’d hate to see people spend money on travel and hotel rooms, only to discover when they arrived, that there was no seating for them to observe the conference. We’re working hard to determine how much extra capacity we’ll have, and we’ll share that information as soon as possible. We will also be releasing information on volunteer opportunities. I suspect we’ll also have more people who want to volunteer than volunteer spaces.”
GM Church delegates to the conference will come from provisional annual conferences in Bulgaria, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya-Ethiopia, the Philippines, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, and the United States. And the Church continues to register in other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas with the hope that other delegates from these areas will be able to participate in the GM Church’s convening General Conference.
“Determining how many delegates should attend the convening General Conference, and how to allocate them was a very challenging task,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the GM Church’s Chief Connectional Officer. “Hats off to the Commission on the General Conference, and especially to the Credentialing Committee members for their steadfast and faithful work.”
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The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.