Get Ready to Pre-Conference -- Delegates to learn issues, technology in preparation for Annual Conference

Date Posted: 7/9/2020

By Lindsay Peyton
Think of the Pre-Conference Meeting as a preview for Annual Conference, a time to learn more and prepare delegates for the important job ahead. This year, the meeting will be held online and presented in three separate sessions.
Since Annual Conference will move completely online this year, an informative Pre-Conference is more critical than ever, Rev. Kip Gilts, Assistant to the Bishop, explained. “This will be our technology walk-through,” he said. “We’ll see how to do our live conversations and voting on Zoom.”
Pre-Conference will prepare delegates to virtually attend sessions during Annual Conference – and will also give them opportunities to delve into all of the upcoming issues. After Pre-Conference, they have about a month to ruminate, research and get ready to vote.
Gilts explained that this will be the first time that Pre-Conference will take place on Zoom. There will be three sessions, each at 6 p.m. on either Sunday, July 19, Monday, July 20 or Tuesday, July 21, depending on the district represented.
“Pre-Conference really helps you know what to look forward to in Annual Conference,” Gilts said. “The benefit of this meeting is that it gives you a primer for what’s important and about to come up.”
The Annual Conference, which has also become a virtual event, will be held Friday, Aug. 14 and Saturday, Aug. 15. There will be ceremonies to celebrate the retirement of pastors and the ordination of new ones, as well as a variety of worship services.

There are also a number of issues that will be on the docket, including approving the budget for next year and taking a vote on the Strategic Mapping Team’s recommendations on restructuring, decentralization and creating a more agile Conference. “There are some big deals coming up for discussion,” Gilts said.
One topic will concern disaffiliation. Gilts explained that the rules have not yet been codified for how churches in the TAC could withdraw from the denomination. During Annual Conference, delegates will examine proposals on the subject.
The Pre-Conference meeting, each part of the consent calendar for Annual Conference will be discussed in more detail, as well as the annual budget and the Resolution to End Harm and Open the Table.
Most of the Pre-Conference session will be video-based, and Gilts will emcee the filmed segments and then lead live discussions. “We have to be prepared to navigate an Annual Conference that will be different from what we’ve ever done,” Gilts said.  “It will hopefully facilitate an efficient, thoughtful Annual Conference in August.”
In addition, the Pre-Conference will be a time to learn about the Guidebook that features the Annual Conference journal. Delegates will learn exactly how to use the software. “You’ll have all kinds of information available on the Guidebook,” Gilts said. “The Pre-Conference meeting will allow you to download the Guidebook, get oriented and walk through how it works.”
Attending the Pre-Conference meeting, watching the videos and reading the journal on the Guidebook are the best ways to prepare for the Annual Conference, Gilts explained. “And pray daily for God’s guidance in these unprecedented times,” he added.
While Annual Conference will be different this year, the importance of the decisions made during the event are still paramount. “It’s going to be very different, but there’s also the opportunity to do new things,” Gilts said.
The theme of the event will be: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” which Gilts said was determined a while back but could not be more relevant. In the midst of the pandemic, Jesus has been at work as churches respond in creative and innovative ways. In the cry for racial justice, Gilts said to remember that Jesus was extremely concerned about justice too.
“For the church, the message has not changed, just the medium for communication has,” Gilts said. “The work of the Annual Conference has not changed, but the way we will conduct it in 2020 has. It’s very inspiring to see how God has led churches to adapt to challenges before us, and God will lead us to conduct the business of the Annual Conference in the same way.”