The Free Methodist Church in Canada (FMCIC) typically meets for General Conference (GC) every three years. This is the only gathering of ministers and lay delegates from all of our approximately 140 churches and so it is a time of connection. We greet old friends and meet new ones. As a denomination we re-examine our core values and consider how these mesh with the changing society that we live and serve in. We explore new approaches to ministry and hear from our sister-churches who are trying them. Exhibitors display their products and new technology available for local church programs. We hear from our global partners such as International Child Care Ministries and Tearfund. It is a time of inspiration. Finally, it is a time of doing business that we believe will help our local churches, the national church, and the World Conference of the Free Methodist Church. We anticipated an enriching time at our GC 2020 that was scheduled for May.
And then our world changed with the covid-19 pandemic. It soon became clear that we would need to postpone the conference and to make this a virtual conference rather than a face-to-face meeting. After considering various options we elected to hold a series of early sittings to conduct business, and culminate with an informative and inspirational virtual gathering in June 2021. Although our sittings will be conducted on-line, we aspire to holding informative and supportive meetings with many of the same components as regular conferences. We will connect, examine our basic principles, discuss our mission in society, explore ministry options, learn about new opportunities, and conduct our business sessions.
Our plan is to conduct much of the business of resolutions and motions during short early sittings of conference currently scheduled for September 12, 2020, October 17, 2020, and tentatively planned for January and February 2021. The final sitting will be held in June 2021. All sittings will be held using the Zoom virtual meeting platform which many of our churches have incorporated into their ministry programs. The June meeting will include presentations by major committees, our leadership team, our ministry partners, and exhibitors.
There are challenges to this new approach which the conference committee is busy addressing. Our attendees will be in six provinces, in four time zones, and speaking two languages. There are over 300 voting members of conference as well as many honourary members (supply pastors, commissioned ministers etc.) who may speak to motions. To encourage discussion we are planning a listserv operating before each sitting, and a ‘town hall’ discussion before business sessions. New Standing Rules of Order have been developed to accommodate the virtual format.
How do you prepare for General Conference 2021? To attend each session and be able to vote you should have a desk or laptop computer, internet access, and a secondary device (a tablet or smart phone) on which you can check your e-mail and cast your votes. Read Cliff’s Notes each week, and the conference materials as they are sent to you. Download a copy of the Manual from the FMCIC website and review the Introduction and Chapters 2 and 4. Reflect and pray. I am looking forward to participating in General Conference 2021 with you in the coming months.
Chair, The Board of Administration