GC2016: Worship, Addresses and Special Events

Betty Spiwe Katiyo of Zimbabwe delivers part of the Laity Address to an April 25 session of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey
Betty Spiwe Katiyo of Zimbabwe delivers part of the Laity Address to an April 25 session of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey

General Conference will open at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, with a worship celebration that will include Holy Communion. The preacher will be Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. of the San Francisco Episcopal Area, president of the Council of Bishops.

The Episcopal Address by Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the Ohio West Episcopal Area will be Wednesday, May 11, at 8:30 a.m. The Council of Bishops selected Palmer to prepare and deliver the Episcopal Address on behalf of the entire council, composed of 65 bishops presiding over episcopal areas in the United States and central conferences. The council also includes retired bishops, which now number 88.

The Laity Address will begin the 8:45 a.m. Plenary Session on Friday, May 13. Dr. Scott Johnson of the Upper New York Annual Conference will be the main speaker. Supporting him will be Courtney Fowler, Great Plains Annual Conference; Brian Hammons, Missouri Annual Conference; Warren Harper, Virginia Annual Conference; Simon Mafunda, Zimbabwe East Annual Conference; and Holly Neal, Tennessee Annual Conference. The speakers were solicited from laity through a process of voluntary submissions. A group of judges reviewed all submissions and recommended both presenters and content. Written content from all submissions was crafted into one address. The Executive Committee of the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders coordinated the speaker search.

The Young People’s Address will open the Saturday, May 14, Plenary Session at 8:45 a.m. The speakers are Peter Cibuabua of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chelsea Spyres of Detroit, who will share their witness for the church. They will also feature videos and interviews with other youth and young adults who submitted their ideas through media, including podcasts, YouTube and web channels. “This will not be an address by youth for youth. This will be an address by young people for the whole church,” said the Rev. Carl Thomas Stroud Gladstone, Discipleship Ministries’ Young People’s Division regional staff member for the North Central Jurisdiction.

Delegates and visitors will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church on Tuesday, May 17, at 10:20 a.m. The AME Church is a sister Wesleyan denomination that was born in protest against slavery. It will hold its 50th quadrennial session of General Conference July 6-13 in Philadelphia.

The morning of Wednesday, May 18, will include a celebration of the successful Imagine No Malaria campaign scheduled to begin at 9:48 a.m. When the General Conference launched Imagine No Malaria in 2008, the intention was to save lives. As this revolutionary ministry culminates in celebration today, United Methodists around the world attest to the denominational transformation that has occurred, the lives saved, the crowning financial goals reached and the emphatic message that we are stronger when we work together.  Truly, God “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20b, NRSV)!  A reception that evening will be a time of food and fellowship as we continue to celebrate the amazing journey through video and stories of personal witness.

This eventful day will also include a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the highly successful DISCIPLE Bible Study at 3:58 p.m.

Delegates will hear a report on the Sand Creek Massacre later on May 18 at 5:40 p.m. The 2012 General Conference participated in “An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People,” which continues to be an ongoing process, and called for further attention to Sand Creek. The Council of Bishops and the General Commission on Archives and History were charged with authorizing a joint resource team, including an independent body, to explore the involvement of the Rev. John M. Chivington, a Methodist Episcopal clergyman, and John Evans, a Methodist and territorial governor, in the 1864 massacre. A 700-person force of the Colorado Territory militia destroyed a peaceful village of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho people, most of whom were women and children.

Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky of the Mountain Sky Area offers insights into the observance planned in conjunction with the report. “The Sand Creek Massacre of 1864,” she says, “is the most thoroughly documented atrocity against Native Americans in United States history, and it was led by a Methodist preacher.” The 2016 General Conference will welcome and honor descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre as it receives the report “to provide full disclosure of the involvement and influence” in the massacre by Chivington, Evans, “the Methodist Church as an institution and other prominent social, political and religious leaders of the time.” As part of the continuing work of repentance for harm done to indigenous peoples, in this report, The United Methodist Church will ask itself how we could wander so far from the gospel of love, justice and mercy and how we can form healing relationships with the people who still bear scars 150 years later.

The 2008 General Conference voted to contribute $50,000 to the development of a research and learning center at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, 160 miles southeast of Denver. The United Methodist Connectional Table designated an additional $75,000 for the historic site from the World Service Contingency Fund.