Nashville, Tenn.: As concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic continue to escalate, the Commission on the General Conference will meet on March 21 via teleconference to discuss plans for the 2020 General Conference, scheduled for May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minn.
According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, in the absence of a convened General Conference, only the full Commission, as the duly authorized committee of the General Conference, can set the date of the quadrennial meeting. (Paragraphs 14 and 511.4a) This would include making a decision and announcing a new date.
On Friday, March 13, the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops requested in writing a postponement of the General Conference, citing concerns over travel restrictions to the U.S., the potential spread of the virus, and the possibility of quarantine. Various delegations and individuals have also reached out to the Commission over the past week with their concerns.
The Executive Committee of the Commission on the General Conference has continued to monitor developments in the spread of coronavirus as the situation has been rapidly changing. New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released on Sunday, March 15, now recommends that, “for the next eight weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”
“We take our responsibility seriously to provide the delegates with a safe environment in which to make important decisions affecting the life and future of the denomination and to assure the full participation of all delegates in the decision-making process,” said Kim Simpson, chair of the Commission. “We appreciate the counsel of the Council of Bishops’ executive committee and others as we seek to make a decision that is in the best interest of all concerned.”
Simpson noted that planning such a large international event is a complex process that includes logistical and travel arrangements, visas, security of voting, housing, vendor contracts, significant financial implications, translation, interpretation, and more, all of which must be provided for as a decision is made.
“Through prayerful discernment and with the assistance of General Conference officers and staff, the Commission will be processing all of the various matters that would need to be cared for if the date of the event is changed and how those could be addressed. By doing so, we can make a decision that is thoughtful and rational,” said Simpson.