Special General Conference 2019 Communication Toolkit


The following resource is adapted from "Your 2019 Special Session of the General Conference Communications Tool Kit" By Rev. Jeremy Steele. 


By Jeremy Steele (Adapted for North Georgia Conference)

As the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference approaches, churches are presented with unique communication opportunities with their members.

This may feel like an overwhelming job, but the church has collected a wealth of information to aid you in this task. There are a number of resources available to help you cover topics ranging from the structure of the church to details of what happens during the three-day legislative meeting.

Communicating about the Structure of the Church

As you begin talking about General Conference, some members will need a refresher on the structure of the church. This foundational knowledge equips them to better understand what General Conference is and how its work functions within the denomination. It's also important to explore why it's meeting in February and focusing on one topic outside of the normal quadrennial multi-issue session.

Gathered for Mission, Structured to Serve: A General Conference Primer offers a short introductory guide about what General Conference is, how it works and who participates.

The best place to learn more about the structure of The United Methodist Church is the church's official website. The "UMC Handbook" is offered at no charge from United Methodist Communications and is packed with denominational details, beliefs, history and maps. This handbook is a one-stop destination for all things United Methodist. 


Communicating the Purpose of the Special Session

United Methodist Communications has produced a detailed Special Session Q&A page answering everything from why the conference was called to what the bishops do at General Conference.

Communicating the Content of General Conference

The most critical task you face is explaining its main purpose: to receive and act on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward that examined paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explored options to strengthen the unity of the church. (Summaries of the Way Forward Commission Report and the Finding a Way Forward handbook will help you introduce the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and the plans put forth.)

The key to communicating this effectively is to be clear without fostering anxiety. We all need a safe space to consider and process the important work of this special session of the General Conference.

The Judicial Council has ruled that it's "limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Way Forward." The work of the commission has been received and translated for download into the official languages of the General Conference.

In addition to that report, petitions have been submitted that outline other plans and related pieces of legislation. All of the petitions received by the deadline have been published in the Advanced Edition of the Daily Christian Advocate, which can be downloaded or read in its entirety online.

Engaging in the Conversation

Many churches in the North Georgia Conference have held conversations and information sessions about the Special General Conference. 

Beyond that, there have been, and will continue to be, many voices in conversation around the work of the Special Session. It is important to give members the tools they need to evaluate news sources and understand who has authority to speak for The United Methodist Church.

To be clear, General Conference is the primary legislative body of The United Methodist Church. It is the only body that officially speaks for the church. Everything else is commentary on the work of the General Conference.

North Georgia Conference clergy participated in a day apart in 2018 to begin preparing for these important but difficult conversations. Many of the Districts in North Georgia have held sessions for training, information and/or discussion. Each church is encouraged to utilize these tools and training to have healthy conversations. Find resources centered around the words in our United Methodist Communion Liturgy, "One with Christ, One with each other, One in ministry to all the world," at www.ngumc.org/One. Discipleship Ministries has a useful Courageous Conversations resource that provides structure for deep conversations and introduces a method for discussing difficult or divisive topics that can be found on that page. 

Keeping Informed During the Conference

Once General Conference begins, there are a host of tools to stay current on what has transpired without being there in person.

  • The event will be streamed by United Methodist Communications in its entirety -- beginning with worship on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 9:00 a.m. and adjourning at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26. That livestream will be available online in both English and French.
  • North Georgia Conference will send a Daily e-Newsletter during General Conference. Be sure to subscribe
  • News and updates are posted regularly at ngumc.org/News (or use this link to follow just the news related to General Conference)
  • United Methodist News will report from on-site and update news both online and in its Daily and Weekly Digest e-newsletters.
  • Ask the UMC will continue to field questions during the Special Session.


Other Helpful Tools

Each annual conference has also been working hard at offering tools to communicate with local churches. The North Georgia Conference offers

Whichever tools you use, we hope everyone will continue to pray for the work of the General Conference and the ongoing mission of The United Methodist Church as we seek to make disciples for the transformation of the world.


After General Conference

North Georgia clergy and laity are invited to district gatherings after General Conference:

Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford, Augusta, and Athens-Elberton Districts
March 17 | 4 to 6 pm 
Greensboro UMC, South Campus

Atlanta-Marietta, Northwest, and Rome-Carrollton Districts  
March 17 | 4 to 6 pm 
Kennesaw UMC

LaGrange, Griffin, and Atlanta-College Park Districts
March 24  | 4 to 6 pm
Cascade UMC

Atlanta-Emory, Atlanta-Roswell, and Gainesville Districts
March 24  | 4 to 6 pm

— Rev. Jeremy Steele is the teaching pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, Alabama, as well as a writer and speaker.