General Conference Recognizes Mission-Founded "Provisional" Units
By Elliott Wright
Tampa, Florida, April 25, 2012—One of the first acts of the 2012 legislating General Conference of The United Methodist Church regularized the seating of delegates from a dozen "provisional" annual (regional) conferences established through mission work since 1980 in Africa, the Philippines, Russia, and other parts of Eastern Europe.
While these small delegations took part in earlier conferences, they had not been formally recognized under a provision of church law covering the inclusion of provisional conferences.
Provisional annual conferences can be organized in mission areas where the number of clergy is not less than 10 and the cost of operation is kept within bounds stipulated by the denomination's Book of Discipline.
The usual movement is from "missionary conference" to "provisional conference" and, with growth, to a regular annual conference status. Provisional conferences have special relations to the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
Each annual or provisional annual conference has at least two delegates, one lay and one clergy, to the General Conferences that meet every four years.
The provisional conferences recognized in Tampa were Bicol and Palawan, Philippines, and Southwest Philippines; Tanganyika/Tanzania, South Africa, and Zambia in Africa; Central Russia, East Russia/Central Asia, Kivu, North Russia, Southern Russia, and Ukraine-Moldova in Eurasia.
Missionaries serving in Tanzania meet at the General Conference in Tampa, Florida, 2012. Ngoy and Umba Kalangwa, Elizabeth and Eric Soard, Kabaka Alphonsine and Mutwali Wa Mushidi
Photo Credit: Christie House