The Commission on the General Conference has announced new 2021 dates for General Conference following the postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The quadrennial legislative event will take place on August 29 - September 7, 2021, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
"We're grateful that we were able to secure new dates while keeping the site of General Conference in Minneapolis. Nearly seven years of pre-planning and preparations by the host team have gone into this event," said Kim Simpson, chair of the Commission on the General Conference.
The Commission decided to focus on 2021 as it was not feasible to schedule any earlier with so much uncertainty over international travel and the spread of COVID-19. Business manager Sara Hotchkiss was authorized by the Commission in March to pursue negotiations for new dates with the venue and area hotels after the Convention Center canceled May events due to concerns over coronavirus.
Hotchkiss said that it was surprising to find an available time block long enough to accommodate General Conference needs with so much competition for event space and lodging with other events shifting their dates as well.
“The hospitality industry has been devastated by COVID-19 with staffing levels significantly reduced, so negotiating amid the pandemic was a much slower process. I am grateful for our partnerships in the industry we have built over the years that assisted us in getting our foot in the door early enough to find any dates in 2021,” said Hotchkiss. “Another challenge was to secure agreements for the number of hotel rooms and room types that we needed. Again, many of our partners faced furloughs and reduced staff hours.”
Read the full announcement.
Immediately following the announcement of the new dates for General Conference, the Council of Bishops announced that Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States will meet November 10-12, 2021. The Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference will be held at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Read the full announcement.
Not the First Health Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic is not the first health crisis to affect the timing of a General Conference. According to historical documents, the start date of the 1800 General Conference was moved up from October 20 to May 6 because of the prevalence of yellow fever during the fall – which is how the General Conference came to be held in May.
The topic of General Conference dates was also discussed at a meeting of the Joint Commission on Unification of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1920. Bishop Richard Cooke said, “The General Conference has full power to do many things. But it is lacking in divine omniscience, and cannot predict the possibility of an epidemic … Now, if there should arise any time in the providence of God such an epidemic as would render the meeting of the General Conference impracticable, the Commission would have the right … to fix such other time as might be necessary.”