Later this year, The Methodist Church in Singapore will be holding its regular session of the General Conference (GC) – which is held only once every four years. What is it all about? And how will the average Methodist be affected? Methodist Message sits down with GC Secretary and long-time volunteer Mr Lim Soo Chin to find out.
Lim Soo Chin was elected as the General Conference Secretary in 2000, and is presently serving his 16th year as the Secretary. He spends his retirement attending to his General Conference work and Lay Preacher duties in his church, Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church, which he has attended since young. He enjoys his work at the Methodist HQ as it enables him to help take care of his three grandsons during their period of study at Anglo-Chinese School (Primary).
Q: Mr Lim, can you explain to us what the General Conference (GC) is?
A: The GC is basically a gathering where representatives of the three Annual Conferences (ACs) of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) come together to revise church laws, approve work plans and budgets for churchwide programmes, as well as adopt resolutions on moral and social issues. GC establishes councils or bodies for the general work of the MCS, and during the course of GC, elections are carried out to choose officers to supervise work in various councils and agencies. The elections include the choosing of a Bishop to oversee the work in the GC. A regular session of the GC is held once in every four years (a quadrennium), and special sessions are held in between the regular sessions whenever necessary.
Q: Why is it held in two parts?
A: Usually, the first part is held in September, so that when the ACs are held in November, the Bishop for the next quadrennium would have already been elected and the ACs can elect their AC President from among eligible pastors. Under Para 574 of The Book of Discipline of The Methodist Church in Singapore (BOD), a Bishop cannot concurrently be the President of an AC. The second part is then held in December to enable the statements of accounts for the year ended 31 July to be audited and presented for adoption. In the coming 11th Quadrennium, the first part of the GC will be held from 12-16 Sep 2016 in Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church and the second part from 1-2 Dec 2016 in the Methodist HQ in Barker Road.
Q: Who gets to attend the GC?
A: According to the BOD, there should be no less than 30 but not more than 70 delegates to the GC, half of whom shall be ministers and half lay members. The present arrangement is for each Annual Conference to send seven ministerial delegates and seven lay delegates to the GC, making the full house of a GC comprising 42 people.
Q: How is the GC relevant to the average Methodist?
A: Firstly, do pray for the GC, as many important decisions are made and directions for the Church over the next four years are set there. In particular, pray for the election of officeholders, that God will grant them strength and wisdom to fulfil their roles over the coming quadrennium.
The GC also receives petitions, which are proposals to make changes in our Church, and debates them. These are often initiated by the Annual Conferences, pastors as well as lay people.
In the last three GCs, a total of 75 petitions was received – subject matters ranged from the Constitution, Conference Administrative Order, Judicial Administration, Social Principles, Local Church, Administrative Order, Church Property and Trustees, the Ministry, and editorial corrections required in the BOD. The Discipline Review Commission assists to look through petitions before assigning them to Legislative Committees, who debate them and then present their recommendations to the full body of the GC. The House then agrees or disagrees with their recommendations.
Please pray for the coming GC