General Conference memorials enable the entire denomination to hear the voices of those on the front lines in our local churches. Specifically, memorials are resolutions which propose to change the content of The Wesleyan Church Discipline which in effect changes the governance of our denomination. In addition, they serve as the primary vehicle shaping the proceedings of the conference, and helping the assembly consider important issues for the General Church.
Referencing the first General Conference of The Wesleyan Church (TWC), General Secretary Janelle Vernon said, “Elected representatives from the two merging denominations, first and foremost, sought God’s will as they considered, discussed and voted on memorials. It is through memorials that Wesleyans establish our culture, faithfully steward our history and shape our future of faithful witness and mission fulfillment.”
Memorials take a variety of avenues before arriving at General Conference. Some emerge from local church delegates who collectively sponsor a memorial, submitting it for consideration to their district conferences. Others emerge at the district level, where they are also voted upon by the district conference or the District Board of Administration (DBA). General officers and the General Board of Administration (GB) may also submit memorials for consideration. After each of these layers, a memorial is submitted to the GB, which acknowledges it as recommended or not recommended, prior to its consideration before the General Conference.
This process is designed to elevate every voice within TWC, making room for important issues to be considered by the entire denomination.
General Conference gathers representatives from the local church, regional districts, the denomination and the global church to worship, share stories of God’s work and faithfully consider the business of the church.
Although TWC’s General Conference typically convenes every four years, the 14th General Conference will gather six years after its predecessor due to delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, conference business in 2022 will cover the memorials submitted over the last six years.
Matters to be voted on by the General Conference delegates this May fall into three classifications:
A consent agenda allows members to vote on multiple items as a group without discussion. This is an efficient way to act upon routine noncontroversial business, like appointing a journal committee to review and approve the minutes of daily proceedings. If a member of the conference feels strongly that an item on the consent agenda needs to be discussed and voted on separately, they can address the chair and ask that the item be removed from the consent agenda. The request does not need a second and is not discussed (“Robert’s Rules of Order, Third Edition,” paraphrased).
Memorials that seek to amend statutory law (400-7040) are items dealing with such items as finances, and local church, district and General Church governance. These items require a simple majority vote of the General Conference (“The Discipline,” 155, 1590:4).
Memorials that seek to amend the constitution (Constitutional Law: 200-385) must meet two requirements. First, they need a two-thirds majority vote of the delegates of the General Conference. Second, they must be ratified by two-thirds of all the members of the district conferences (“The Discipline,” 145, 1590:1, 2).
Dr. Bud Bence, a TWC historian and retired Indiana Wesleyan University professor, shares, “Our governance procedures pertaining to memorials endeavor ‘to serve the present age’ by allowing local congregations, districts and denominational leaders to make appropriate changes in our operation and, on occasion, to refine our beliefs and practices. These procedures are designed to assure that changes are carefully considered and express the strong support of the entire church. We seek to be flexible to the changing world in which we live, while preserving the truths of scripture and the faith of those who have gone before us.”
Memorials being considered during 2022’s General Conference include:
- Memorial 52: Gifts of the Spirit — This constitutional memorial would modify the church’s statement on speaking in tongues as a spiritual gift given to some believers.
- Memorials 125 and 126: Governance Simplification — These statutory memorials would modify the church’s governance by simplifying sections that deal with the local church, district and General Church policies and procedures.
- Memorials 349 and 350: General Church Financial Plan — These statutory memorials would modify the local church’s investment in district and financial support as well as redefine the base income on which the financial plan is constructed.
For more information about General Conference visit wesleyan.org/unleashed. Memorials will be posted on his site in April.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of collegians and young adults at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s division of Education and Clergy Development.