General Conference delegates begin worldwide conference

April 25, 2012

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church is meeting April 24 - May 4, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. General Conference is the highest legislative body in the denomination. It meets once every four years. It is the only entity that speaks for The United Methodist Church. The primary responsibility of the General Conference is to enact legislation for the denomination. The General Conference revises The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions.

Most of the first week of General Conference is spent with delegates doing their work in legislative committees. These 13 different committees review, refine and make recommendations on the petitions (which were submitted by individual members, groups and organizations of the United Methodist Church) assigned to them. The committee recommendations will then go before the entire General Conference in a plenary session. Most of the second week is made up of plenary sessions where the entire body discusses and acts on legislation. No legislation is final until the entire General Conference approves it.

The 2012 General Conference will be made up of 988 delegates from around the world – including delegates from the North Alabama Conference who were elected at Annual Conference 2011.

Clergy Delegates
Mark Parris, senior pastor of Northport First UMC
Bill Morgan, senior pastor of Canterbury UMC in Birmingham
Kelly Clem, senior pastor of Holmes Street UMC in Huntsville
Robert Sparkman, senior pastor of Hartselle First UMC
Paul Hillard, senior pastor of St. Paul UMC in Tuscaloosa
Robin Scott, Mountain Lakes District Superintendent

Clergy Alternates
Julie Holly, senior pastor of Discovery UMC in Hoover
Tommy Gray, senior associate pastor of Asbury UMC in Madison

Lay Delegates
Gloria Holt, member of ClearBranch UMC in Trussville
Scott Selman, member of Vestavia Hills UMC and Conference Treasurer
Pat Meadows, member of Pleasant Hill UMC in Bessemer
Steve Lyles, member of Alexander City First UMC and Conference Lay Leader
Neal R. Berte, member of Canterbury UMC in Birmingham
Ellen Harris, member of Crumly Chapel UMC in Birmingham

Lay Alternates
Carol Toney, member of St. Paul UMC in Triana
Zac Riddle, member of Canterbury UMC in Birmingham

As the Delegation from North Alabama arrived to General Conference and began the act of conferencing with United Methodists from around the world, some delegates took time to share a brief statement of reflection, hopes, dreams and prayers for this 10-day gathering of the highest legislative body in the denomination United Methodists from around the world.

We are part of a great church as United Methodists and it is an honor to attend General Conference.  I look forward to celebrating our connectional ties, experiencing inspirational worship, and "holy conferencing" to strengthen and fulfill our mission to "make disciples for Jesus Christ."  – Neal Berte

One of the things I love the most about General Conference is the reunion with old friends and colleagues. We are sitting with delegates from Nigeria, one whose name is John Wesley. Today we are bogged down in yesterday's business trying to agree on the rules! – Rev. Kelly Clem

It is my hope and prayer that this General Conference will see the return of the Spiritual power and control of the United Methodist Church to the Lord Jesus Christ. Far too long the control has been tilted toward human ability rather than divine function, we must take the lead of the UMC in the Central Conferences, particularly on the continent of Africa, where they are experiencing boundless growth. – Rev. Paul Hillard

Like the way we have prayed The Lord's Prayer in our own language at the same time in worship for these first two days, I pray we can all share our own voices as we take steps together toward greater church-wide faithfulness and effectiveness in making more disciples all around the world. – Rev. Julie Holly

For the past two days I have attended the American Association of Conference Lay Leaders in Tampa, prior General Conference. The hope and prayers of this group from all the Jurisdictions, is that God will be present and clear to the Delegates in the decisions that are made, shaping the future of the United Methodist Church. – Steve Lyles

General Conference is an elephant's ballet. Clumsy, awkward but something of a miracle such a critter can dance at all. Another term for this GC elephant's ballet is Christian conferencing. The challenge of the delegates' dozen or so languages pales to the passionate diverging convictions. That we sit down and have the conversation at all - pulled back and forth between Babel and Pentecost - is a God thing. – Rev. Bill Morgan

It is very clear that one of the themes of this conference is the world wide nature of the church. With over forty percent of the delegates being non US delegates it is abundantly clear that our church has changed demographically. Also the number of female delegates is approaching forty percent. Our church is both global and for all persons regardless of race or gender. We are also aware of our need to reach more persons on the local church level. Creating "vital" congregations is spoken of often. Hopefully we will concentrate on makIng fully devoted followers of Jesus. - Rev. Robin Scott

I am already here in Tampa and there seems to be a positive spirit this year. I hope we can really focus on ministry and the future of vital local congregations. The "Call to Action" has given us a new vision, now we have to figure how to make it a reality.  – Rev. Robert Sparkman

Add your prayers for General Conference at the North Alabama Conference online Prayer Center at


For more from General Conference

Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.