The conference will open at 4 p.m., Tuesday, April 24, with a worship celebration that will include Holy Communion. Preaching will be Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Charlotte (N.C.) Area and president of the Council of Bishops.
The Commission on the General Conference has invited President Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States and first African American to serve in the post, to address the assembly.
Then-U.S. President George W. Bush and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf were invited to address General Conference in 2008. Johnson Sirleaf, the first female head of state in Africa and an active member of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, accepted the invitation and addressed the General Conference on April 29, 2008.
In 2004, President Bush and President Boris Trajkovski of Macedonia were invited to address the conference. Trajkovski accepted and was scheduled to speak, but died in a plane crash earlier that year. In 1996, U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, a United Methodist, addressed the General Conference in Denver.
The Episcopal Address, Laity Address and Young People's Address will be presented during a plenary session beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 25.
Boston Area Bishop Peter D. Weaver was selected by the Council of Bishops to prepare and deliver the Episcopal Address on behalf of the entire council, which comprises 68 active bishops and 85 retired bishops from the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia.
The Laity Address will be delivered by three annual conference lay leaders - Dr. Steve Furr, Alabama-West Florida; Betty Spiwe Katiyo, Zimbabwe West; and Amory Peck, Pacific Northwest. The three were selected to give the address jointly with the theme "If It's to Be, It's Up to Me." Furr has been a member of the General Board of Church and Society for eight years and a family physician in Jackson, Ala., for 27 years. A member of the executive committee of the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders, Katiyo received her early education at Old Mutare Mission, the first United Methodist mission established in Zimbabwe. Peck also serves on the General Board of Church and Society and on the board of the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders.
Developing and delivering the Young People's Address will be Krin Ali from the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference and Joy Eva Algodon-Bohol of the Visayas Annual Conference, a part of the Philippines Central Conference. They will share snapshots of young adult ministries from around the world.
Delegates will participate in "An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People." The service is intended to begin the process of spiritual healing between The United Methodist Church and indigenous peoples. It will take place on Friday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.
The act of repentance and plans for continued healing in the months following General Conference stem from atrocities and injustices committed against Native Americans and other indigenous peoples around the world. The service specifically grew out of an incident in the United States known as the Sand Creek Massacre. Col. John Chivington was an ordained clergyman who led the early Methodist mission to the Rocky Mountain district of the Kansas Conference. He abandoned ministry for a military career and, while an elder on location, led troops in attacking an encampment of Cheyenne women, children and elderly people, killing at least 165 of them. Those slaughtered had been relocated to a designated plot of land under the protection of the U.S. government. Chivington never left the ordained ministry and, in 1868, was admitted to the Nebraska Conference on trial and located again in 1870. Though he was denounced by the U.S. Congress for the massacre, he was never disciplined by the church.
United Methodists offered an initial apology as the 1996 General Conference meeting in Denver adopted a resolution to support government restitutions to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes for wrongs against humanity. General Conference 2008 authorized a resolution charging the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns with preparing resources to help bring about spiritual healing. A resolution submitted by the commission to the 2012 assembly outlines additional actions for the church.
"We Need a River: A Plenary Celebration and Challenge of the Mission and Ministry of The United Methodist Church" will take place Sunday, April 29 at 7 p.m. Delegates and guests will hear about the many ways in which The United Methodist Church is in mission and ministry around the world.
It will feature a variety of celebrative moments, presentations and reports looking at the past, present and future connectional life of United Methodists.