Constitution for the Global Methodist Church Recommended to Convening General Conference

Walter B. Fenton

This past Monday, the Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council voted to propose a constitution to the denomination’s convening General Conference, scheduled to meet in San Jose, Costa Rica, September 20-26, 2024.

The proposed constitution includes a preamble, a section that address the GM Church’s foundational principles, a section that addresses its organizational structure, and a final section that includes a historical restrictive rule and the manner for amending the document.

Approximately 350 delegates will receive the proposed constitution prior to the GM Church’s convening General Conference. The duly elected delegates from around the world will serve as the final arbiters regarding its order and contents. Their approved version will be included in the GM Church’s Book of Doctrines and Discipline.

During its transitional season, the GM Church has functioned without a constitution. Its transitional leaders believed only a convening General Conference composed of duly elected delegates would have the right to approve such a document, ensuring its legitimacy so that the Church’s members would embrace it and abide by it.

“We want to be clear, the TLC is proposing a constitution for the Church, not imposing one upon it,” said Cara Nicklas, the chairwoman of the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council. “Since the General Conference delegates will have much to accomplish in a short amount of time, the Council believed it was important to provide them with a base document well before they arrive in Costa Rica. With the release of the proposed constitution, General Conference delegates, along with all GM Church members, will now have time to review, consider, and debate what we have proposed.”

Key aspects of the constitution include stating that the GM Church’s doctrinal foundations are rooted in Scripture, the Christian faith’s historic creeds, and Wesleyan teachings and traditions. The document also makes clear the GM Church is a denomination for all people since “all persons are made in God’s image and of sacred worth.” People who repent of their sins, profess faith in Jesus Christ, are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and demonstrate a sincere desire to live a holy life are to be joyfully received as members of the denomination’s local churches.

In three succinct articles in section three, the proposed constitution also sets forth a conferencing organizational structure that is familiar to almost all Methodist denominations. It includes a General Conference with “full legislative power over all matters that are distinctly connectional.” It also notes that “annual conferences shall be formed for the purpose of connecting clergy and laity for shared ministry and accountability.” And with General Conference approval it allows for the potential formation of regional conferences. Regional conferences are not mandated and “have no authority to supersede or undermine the decisions of the General Conference.”

“A church constitution has far more to do with our responsibility to God and to one another, than in asserting individual rights,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the GM Church’s chief connectional officer. “In our constitution we remind ourselves we are God’s people, and we are called to fulfill his will in the world. How we go about doing that is very important, and I think our founder John Wesley, summed it well: ‘We are to watch over one another in love’ as we live as the body of Christ in the world.”

Like most Methodist denominations the proposed constitution makes room for bishops who are “entrusted to . . . provide spiritual leadership to the Church . . . and guard the faith, order, unity, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the church.” The responsibilities and duties of bishops will be spelled out in another part of the Church’s Book of Doctrines and Discipline. TLC leaders are confident the General Conference delegates will adopt term limits for episcopal leaders and make clear the office is not a lifetime appointment.

“We were blessed with laity and clergy who are experts in law and church history; they helped guide us in drafting and reviewing the proposed constitution,” said Nicklas. “We all expect the document will receive a good deal of discussion and debate over the next several months and at the convening General Conference. We are confident the delegates will modify it; that is as it should be. We offer it to help the GM Church grow and flourish as a healthy branch of the universal church.”

The proposed constitution can be read in approximately 20 minutes. The Transitional Leadership Council encourages Global Methodist Church members to read it alongside part one of the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline and the Church’s “A Catechism of the Christian Faith and Doctrine in the Wesleyan Tradition.” The Catechism in a booklet format can be ordered from Seedbed Publishing.

You can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website.

The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.