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DYK: Attend your church conference—you are a link in the connection

Posted: September 26 2023 at 05:30 AM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop

Oct 23 Dyk Words

The role of a district superintendent is often described as having three seasons: appointment season (winter and spring), supervision season (summer) and church-conference season (fall). As we move into the last quarter of the year, our Northern Illinois Conference district superintendents are immersed in church-conference season. On many evenings and most weekends throughout the fall, our district superintendents are on the road, traveling from congregation to congregation to convene their conferences. 

Church conferences focus on electing leaders, setting the pastor’s salary, approving the church’s budget (if available), recommending candidates for ministry, and approving lay speakers. The event also includes a time to review and affirm the congregation’s plans for ministry and mission and learning about the work of the conference and the wider United Methodist Church.

These meetings are part of the fabric of our connectional nature. “Connectional” means that every United Methodist church in the world is connected through our mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  Through the connectional system, we are involved in God’s mission together. Together, we are able to do more than if we remained alone.

Gathering in this type of meeting can be traced back to John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, and the emergence of quarterly conferences in the early development of the Methodist movement. In February 1741 John Wesley met the Bristol Methodists to issue tickets of membership to those “who were sufficiently recommended.” By the following year, the quarterly renewal of these tickets was an established procedure. 

The quarterly meeting enabled the Methodist movement to become a compact ecclesiastical organization, a “connexion” rather than loosely associated groups. This legacy is part of our strength in creating a religious movement around the world.  

Somewhere in the 20th century we moved from quarterly conferences to annual charge or church conferences. This shift came as communication evolved between churches, districts, and conferences and we no longer depended on the district superintendent to bring us news of our denomination every quarter. Today, learning about what is happening in the church and the world no longer depends on one visiting church leader each quarter. It has become part of our lives through electronic connections, social media, print, and updates that are available daily. 

(Right now, our district superintendents are saying “Hallelujah! We can manage once-a-year church conferences better than quarterly ones!”) 

Check your church calendar and see when your conference is scheduled. Consider attending and learning more about your own church and the connection. We no longer give out membership tickets to those who are recommended, as they did in John Wesley’s day. But we do review, recommend, and connect through this tradition. 

Join in this rich tradition of connecting with the wider denomination as a way of showing your commitment to your faith, your church, and the United Methodist connection.

Recommit to the witness and mission of your church through this annual opportunity. Don’t miss it—it takes place only once a year.

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