During May 10-20, 2016, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) will be meeting in Portland, Oreogn at the Oregon Convention Center. The General Conference of the UMC is a meeting of Methodist from all over the world. It meets every four years to decide direction, finances, changes to the Books of Discipline and Resolutions, as well as other items for the UMC to follow on a world-wide basis. The General Conference is for all Methodism as the Administrative Board or Charge Conference is for a local church. The General Conference has over 800 delegates with each Annual Conference having at least 2 delegates (1 clergy and 1 lay) plus alternate delegates. Some conferences with large numbers of members such as in the Southeastern USA (Virginia-22) or Congo (North Katanga-48) have many more conference delegates.

In 2012, I had the opportunity to attend General Conference in Tampa, FL as an alternate lay delegate from the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. The experience was very stimulating in observing their discussions, actions, and worship services. The worship services are very special for enriching our love of God by hearing sermons, music, and other gifts to God from all over the world. We in the Oregon-Idaho Conference and the Portland area have a fabulous gift to see world-wide Methodism action in our own back yard. It is something we should not miss.

One of the ways you may observe General Conference is as a volunteer at the Conference. There are many needed to provide assistance for the attending delegates. You can go to the web site, www.gc2016pdx.org to volunteer your service. A few weeks ago, I heard there was a need for volunteers in the morning and evening hours plus during the week (May 3-9, 2016) before conference starts.

Another great opportunity is to observe from the visitor seating. During the first week, most of the activity will be in separate legislative committees discussing requested actions. Visitor seating at legislative committees is very limited and often not available. On May 16, 2016 the main action of General Conference will start. For observing action on the floor of General Conference, visitor seating is much greater and should be available. The best way to plan your visit to General Conference is to view the booklet, 2016 GENERAL CONFERENCE GUIDE. This 52 page booklet has the conference schedule as it now stands (it may change slightly) and a lot more information. Read or download the guide at www.gc2016.umc.org. If you don’t have a computer or are not comfortable with computers, ask a friend or relative to help you. To read about all the action items that are being presented to the Conference, you can read the “GC2016: Advance Edition Christian Daily Advocate.” Download the file and you will be viewing 1488 pages of Conference information and legislative action requests. You may read and/or print out whatever you wish.

Having the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church in our back yard this May is such a great gift. It is a fabulous opportunity for us to learn and understand so much more about our church. Also, the ability to hear and participate in worship with Methodists from all over the world brings one closer to God. Do not miss this gift.

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Norm Dyer

Norm Dyer is a reserve delegate to the 2016 Western Jurisdiction Conference and will be attending General Conference as an additional reserve delegate and observer. Norm served as the 2008-12 Lay Leader of the Metropolitan District and lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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