Message from Bishop Wallace-Padgett: Postponed 2020 General Conference

March 01, 2021

Dear Friends,

Many of you have read the February 25 news release announcing the second postponement of the 2020 General Conference, now scheduled to take place on August 25- September 6, 2022. The Commission on General Conference made this difficult decision after months of careful discernment.

Two primary factors influenced this decision. 1) It was discerned that due to the current stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person global gathering the size of a United Methodist General Conference would not be able to convene safely in August/September 2021. 2) The Commission on General Conference’s Technology Study Committee research showed that a virtual General Conference could not assure equitable and secure voice and voting access to all delegates around the world. Though there are many important matters before the General Conference, the safety and full participation of all delegates are priorities.

Our United Methodist Book of Discipline was not developed with a pandemic in mind. As a result, some simple and basic administrative aspects of the General Church are on hold until we are able to meet as a General Conference again. To address this, the Council of Bishops has issued a called General Conference for May 8 to deal with twelve nonconflictual administrative matters that will allow our denomination to move forward. The Protocol for Separation with Grace and Reconciliation as well as other legislation that will involve debate and amendments will not be addressed until the 2022 in-person General Conference. See the FAQ document developed by the Southeast Jurisdiction College of Bishops about upcoming General and Jurisdictional Conferences dates and purposes.

This liminal time in which we find ourselves is not easy. There are two research-based elements to liminal space. First, we feel disoriented as the old dissipates and the new emerges. Secondly, liminality allows for creativity as the new is still developing. (Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges)

A challenge for leaders is that the changes happen at a faster pace than our feelings can process. Nuanced and sensitive leadership is required to enable equilibrium to be restored. Illustrations of disorientation and creativity can be found in both Scripture and our Annual Conference.

Biblical examples include the exodus from Egypt by the Hebrew people, wilderness wanderings, the period of the Judges, the centuries before Jesus’ birth, the days between Jesus’ death and resurrection and the weeks following Jesus’ resurrection and before the coming of the Holy Spirit. As we keep our eyes on God and the mission of the church, we will move through our own liminal space with similar grace and strength.

During this liminal time, I am thankful for the focus of our North Alabama clergy and churches on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This involves highlighting evangelism and social justice . . . emphasizing discipleship and community development . . . and honing a strong personal relationship with Christ and connecting with a local church.

The ministries of our clergy and local churches are central to the North Alabama Conference Leadership Team’s work of encouragement and equipping. Some examples include the:

  • the Evolve Initiative co-sponsored by the Appointive Cabinet, Board of Ministry and New Church Development Team to provide clergy and laity with monthly virtual leadership enrichment experiences featuring nationally acclaimed presenters.
  • the Multicultural Team’s strategies for dismantling racism.
  • the Methodist Foundation Leadership Call with Ron Martoia offering insight on current trends and tools each week.
  • the Bishop’s Op Team’s current initiative to learn and share insights about discipleship processes from North Alabama Churches that are particularly effective at making disciples.
  • our partnership with the Alabama/West Florida Conference to seek ways rural communities in Alabama may have greater access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

During this time of delayed General and Jurisdictional Conferences, ministry continues to happen in North Alabama. May God continue to work in and through us, our local churches and the North Alabama Conference to make disciples and transform the world.

As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.

Debra Wallace-Padgett
Resident Bishop
North Alabama Conference

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