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¶220 GENERAL CONFERENCES

1.  Guiding Principles

The Free Methodist Church recognizes the need to preserve unity in faith and fellowship, yet allow for the distinctive characteristics of nation, language, and culture.  Therefore it provides for the Free Methodist churches of one or more nations to be organized into a general conference provided that the requirements of ¶222.1 are met and maintained. When ongoing spiritual, political, economic or cultural realities make the formation of a general conference inadvisable, these areas may continue as annual conferences or provisional general conferences.

A general conference may encompass more than one nation, but there shall be no more than one general conference in a nation.  Any exception to this principle requires approval by the World Conference.

When it becomes necessary for a general conference to elect more than one bishop, the bishops, once elected shall be formed into a board of bishops.  Each bishop shall then be assigned to a region and where applicable, each shall be granted legal representative status for the assigned region according to the laws of the nation and the bylaws of the general conference.

2. Status

Existing general conferences must continue to meet the requirements of ¶222 to retain general conference status.

2.1 Existing general conferences experiencing a serious threat to viability due to physical or moral calamity, to war or to economic crisis, may propose interventions or substantial organizational adjustments. The World Conference Executive Committee is authorized to make interim rulings on such proposals.  These rulings shall then be submitted to the World Conference for confirmation.

2.2 In the event that it is reported to the World Conference Executive Committee that a general conference no longer fulfills the requirements of ¶222, the World Conference Executive Committee shall arrange for an assessment of the situation and may use members of the Council of Bishops to make the assessment.

  • 2.2.1 If the assessment does not sustain the need for action the matter shall be dropped.
  • 2.2.2 In the event that action is required, the World Conference Executive Committee shall provide counsel and may use members of the Council of Bishops to assist the general conference in remediation.
  • 2.2.3 If remediation is successful the matter shall be dropped.
  • 2.2.4 In cases of persistent inability to meet the requisite conditions, the general conference may request, upon a majority vote of the general conference, to be returned to provisional general conference status or annual conference status in which case the World Conference Executive Committee shall take action on the request and make assignment to a general conference. Should the general conference not take appropriate actions as above, the World Conference Executive Committee shall submit the matter, with recommendation, to the World Conference for vote.

3.  Amendments

Proposals to amend the Common Constitution of Free Methodism as defined in ¶210 may be initiated by a general conference as provided for in ¶230.2.

4.  Relationship to the World Conference

      Each general conference shall recognize the role of the Free Methodist World Conference as set out in ¶230.

4.1 Each general conference shall be represented in the World Conference as defined in ¶230.4.1.

4.2 Each general conference shall ensure that the World Conference president has a copy of its current Book of Discipline* containing all its legislation, orders, and policies. If a question should arise concerning the agreement of any item therein with the Common Constitution of Free Methodism, the procedures of ¶230.3 shall be applied.

4.3 A general conference or its board of administration may refer to the World Conference Executive Committee, as a representative coordinating body, any problem that may arise with another general conference involving boundaries, recognition of credentials, and other inter-jurisdictional matters. The World Conference Executive Committee shall limit its involvement to the giving of counsel and assistance with mediation. If no solution satisfactory to both general conferences is reached, the matter shall be referred to the next sitting of the World Conference and its ruling shall prevail.

4.4 The board of administration of a general conference may appeal to the World Conference Executive Committee (see ¶230.7) for counsel to assist with the resolution of conflicts within its general conference. The World Conference Executive Committee shall limit its involvement to the giving of counsel and  assistance  with     If  no  solution  satisfactory  to  the conflict is reached, the matter shall be referred to the next sitting of the World Conference and its ruling shall prevail.

4.5 A general conference may not, under any circumstances, vote to leave the denomination and/or join another denomination. It may not vote to change its name with the intention of becoming a new denomination.  Any action to do either of the above shall be deemed illegal and shall result in action by the World Conference to suspend the general conference, to re-organize the loyal elements within the area of that general conference, to declare all other ministers and members to be withdrawn from the Free Methodist Church and to ensure that assets are retained by the Free Methodist Church.

4.6 Where possible, general conferences shall work together with neighboring annual and/or general conferences and/or Free Methodist mission agencies to develop groups such as area fellowships.* Their purpose is to provide inspiration, spiritual counsel, mutual encouragement, vision casting and strategic planning to better reach the world with the gospel through Free Methodist ministries.

These partnership organizations shall operate under constitutions suited to their particular vision and mission.  These constitutions and any changes thereto must be approved by the World Conference Executive Committee and ratified by the World Conference.  Such World Conference approved entities shall be granted one honorary seat at the regular sitting of the World Conference.

5.  Church name

No church or other organization may use the name “Free Methodist” without the express permission of the Free Methodist World Conference, a general conference, or authorized Mission agencies/associations of a general conference.  Wherever the use of the name “Free Methodist Church” is impossible or impractical, a general conference, or in the interim of its sessions, its board of administration, may authorize an adaptation of the church’s name, subject to the approval of the World Conference.

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