As with the brink of any new year, there’s anticipation of what may lie ahead in the next 12 months.
But 2020 could likely be a monumental year in The United Methodist Church. It is the end of a quadrennium, meaning both General and Jurisdictional conferences will take place, and the former is anticipated to see major changes in the denomination.
Here’s a look at what are likely to be key events in the year ahead, both in the Great Plains Conference and The United Methodist Church worldwide:
Orders & Fellowship (Jan. 15-16, Lincoln St. Mark’s UMC): The theme for the 2020 gathering of clergy is “Learning Our ABCDs,” an introduction to Asset-Based Community Development. The speakers include the Rev. Michael Mather from Indianapolis Broadway UMC, who spoke about the ABCD method during the annual conference session in 2019; and Darryl Answer, lead pastor of New Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri, a new church start that has put ABCD into place.
Laity Summit (March 21, Kearney First UMC): The first-of-its-kind gathering for the Great Plains Conference will bring together lay servants, lay leaders and all laity discerning a call for a larger lay leadership role in their churches. The keynote speaker is David Teel, director of laity and spiritual leadership for Nashville-based Discipleship Ministries.
General Conference (May 5-15, Minneapolis): Fifteen months after a special session in St. Louis that resulted in the approval of the Traditional Plan, continuing the Book of Discipline ban on LGBTQ clergy and allowing any clergy to perform same-sex weddings, opponents begin another attempt to rewrite the polity of the denomination. At least seven different plans will be considered, each attempting to be the future of the denomination. Worship at the General Conference on the morning of May 8 will include a sermon by Great Plains Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
Annual Conference (May 27-30, Stormont Vail Events Center, Topeka): The AC returns to the former Kansas Expocentre in Topeka for the second straight year (AC 2021 will be in Grand Island). Keeping with the quadrennium theme of “Therefore Go,” the subtheme for 2020 is “Seek Justice,” highlighting social justice efforts by those in the Great Plains. Because annual conference begins just 12 days after the conclusion of the General Conference, the content of the 2020 AC will be limited to episcopal and laity addresses, clergy and laity sessions, and time to process what happened in Minneapolis, with a special session of the annual conference possibly scheduled for later in the year.
OneEvent Reimagined (June 14-18, Lincoln and Omaha): After six years as a early-January rally for the youth of the Great Plains Conference, the last four years in Salina, only the name remains as the OneEvent morphs into four days of youth service projects in Lincoln and Omaha. Youth and their leaders will stay in churches while venturing out for a variety of work projects in Nebraska’s two largest cities.
South Central Jurisdictional Conference (July 15-18, The Woodlands, Texas): The 12 annual conferences in an eight-state region have their once-every-four-years gathering in suburban Houston. The primary purpose of the jurisdictional conference is election and placement of bishops. Three current bishops — Earl Bledsoe of Northwest Texas and New Mexico, Michael Lowry of Central Texas and Michael McKee of North Texas — are scheduled to retire, leaving a potential trio of openings for episcopal leaders. The final number could change depending on actions of the General Conference in July. Among the candidates is the Rev. Dee Williamston, district superintendent of the Salina District and a portion of the Hays District.
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