The General Conference is the highest legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church. As such, to be a delegate to the General Conference is both a privilege and a responsibility. A privilege because I will take part in setting the policy and direction for the church that could help in the churchwide programs for the next four years. A responsibility because it is in this assembly that we revise our Book of Discipline, which is the book of law of our church that sets policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property, and judicial procedures; and the Book of Resolutions, in which we declare our stance on different issues in the society. As the General Conference is the only entity that can speak for and on behalf of the whole United Methodist Church, the task of being a delegate is a serious responsibility.
Why should my congregation care about what happens at General Conference? Structurally speaking, the local church has a link to the General Conference, which is the charge conference. It implies that the local church should have a direct access to the information from the General Conference because while the General Conference embodies the will of the general church, the local church is the grassroots implementor. It is in the local church that we carry out or implement the policies that we set forth in the General Conference.
Theologically speaking, the local church is the primary expression of the entire church. Our Book of Discipline defines the local church as “the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs”; the “strategic base from which Christians move out to the structures of society”; and the level “where the church encounters the world.” As the primary expression of the entire church, the local church must be aware of what the highest legislative body of the church does.
What I hope to happen this upcoming assembly is for the General Conference to approve petitions that would be empowering to the churches whereby we could effectively provide appropriate training and nurture to individuals and communities, continually widen our ecumenical relationships, strengthen our ecological responsibilities, persist in our social justice initiatives, and to minister to the poorest of the poor in the world. As a delegate from the Philippines, the issues of self-identity, contextualized polity, and holistic ministry are still the burning issues for most of my people.