Under the theme “One Church, Many Nations, One Message,” nearly 150 delegates, spouses, church leaders, associate members, and special guests attended The Wesleyan Church’s International Conference in Panama City, Panama, January 27-29, 2012. Fifty countries were represented.

This was the second meeting of the International Conference, the first being held in 2008. Representatives from the North American General Conference (the United States, Canada, and Global Partners mission fields), the Caribbean General Conference, and the Philippine General Conference attended.

The International Conference is the highest governing body of the worldwide Wesleyan denomination. It consists of General Conferences which are fully autonomous except for doctrine. The International Conference also includes smaller units called established national conferences, which only involve one nation or established regional conferences that involve multiple nations, as well as the mission fields operated by each of these bodies.

The International Board met on Friday and prepared legislation for the Saturday and Sunday conference sessions, worship services, and celebrations.

“In the future, this conference will be remembered as setting in motion the development of mission fields sponsored by the various General Conferences as more self-governing mission partners,” says Dr. Jerry G. Pence, General Superintendent and vice-chair of the International Conference.

According to Dr. Pence, “The greatest outcome of this meeting was the creation of the South Pacific Conference as the first Established Regional Conference of The Wesleyan Church. The South Pacific Conference makes Australia, New Zealand, and their mission units in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville (a province of Papua New Guinea) a self-governing unit of the Church. That pattern of national and regional church maturity is one of our major missionary objectives.” The International Conference was created in 2008, when the North American General Conference of The Wesleyan Church re-crafted its international structure to respond to growth needs of the Church worldwide. General Superintendent Pence believes this step will begin a chain reaction of maturing leadership and self-governance elsewhere. The Church is encouraging other mission units to develop an indigenous governance style and practices that best fit their cultures.

Dr. H.C. Wilson, General Director of Global Partners (the missions arm of The Wesleyan Church), believes legislations made at the conference will advance the work of Global Partners around the world.

“The cause is advanced around the world because of network building and further recognition of the amazing capacity of our international leaders,” says Dr. Wilson.

Associate members also attended the International Conference, consisting of organizations that, though not officially Wesleyan, are so in spirit. They have united their efforts with the denomination through similar doctrine identification. Immanuel General Mission (with 120 holiness churches in Japan) is an example of an associate member with delegates in attendance in Panama.

Dr. Pence notes another significant occurrence resulting from this conference: the restructuring of the International Conference itself. A more simplified, streamlined governing structure eliminated an executive committee and reduced the number on the International Board from 25 to 7. Leaders also eliminated the dues structure and created a more sustainable, economic model for funding activities of the International Conference.

Wesleyan church leaders, including Global Partners staff and missionaries, said God was at work throughout the conference activities. “We saw God strengthen the sense of global unity and our missional purpose to spread hope and holiness,” says Dr. Pence.

“The Master blended together divergent cultural and linguistic groups around a common purpose to impact our world with the gospel message,” says Dr. Wilson.

The Conference also adopted two position papers–one on global migration and the other on racial and ethnic reconciliation. Both will be posted on the Global Partners website at a later date.

Sunday’s service at the conference included communion led in five languages (Japanese, Spanish, Polish, Zulu, and Tagalog [Philippines]) which were translated into English. The service was held on the Pacific Queen during a cruise on the Panama Canal. Services during the conference also featured traditional presentations by Kuna Tribal dancers and the Panamanian National Dance Troupe.

Rev. Usman J. Fornah, National Superintendent of Sierra Leone, provided the keynote address for the closing service.

Newly elected International Board members include: Dr. Alberto Patacsil, chairperson (The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines, General Superintendent); Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, vice-chair (The Wesleyan Church of North America, Board of General Superintendents Chair); Dr. Johnny Guillermo (The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines, General Director Educational Institutions and Sunday Schools); Dr. H.C. Wilson, treasurer (The Wesleyan Church of North America, General Director of Global Partners); Dr. Carlston Christie, (The Wesleyan Holiness Church of the Caribbean, General Superintendent); and members at large: Rev. Lindsay Cameron (The Wesleyan Church, Australia, former National Superintendent); and Dr. Juan Piñeros (senior pastor of Bogota North Wesleyan Church in Colombia).

The next meeting of the International Conference will be January 12-13, 2015, prior to The Gathering, the Wesleyan ministers conference in Orlando, Florida, January 13-15, 2015.