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Michigan lay delegate Diane Brown recounts a series of surprises she has experienced during the 2024 General Conference.

Laity Delegate, Chelsea: First UMC

I’m honored to be attending my fourth General Conference of The United Methodist Church. While this postponed session has been a long time in the offing and was infused with so many unknowns about what the denomination would look like at our first large gathering since the pandemic and some local church departures . . .

Diane Brown GC 2024
Diane poses with Rev. Bence Vigh, Hungary Provisional Conference. Diane serves with Bence on the Committee on Credentials. ~ photo courtesy Diane Brown

Surprise! I have found it filled with hope and forward-leaning momentum into our future. It helped that almost every sermon we experienced during the first week trumpeted those movements, sometimes as loud, repeated directions. But I believe many delegates came to live out our call from Jesus to love one another.

Surprise! One of the blessed highlights of this conference is the new friends I’ve made. We sit at round tables, more than 120 of them, for our meals with other voting delegates and volunteer staff members. With a bit of internal nudge, I have had intriguing and laughter-filled conversations with folks I just met.

Surprise! I also found myself on a new-to-me committee of nine delegates from around the world. A few months ago, Bishop David Bard, our resident bishop in the Michigan Conference, asked me on behalf of the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ) College of Bishops if I would represent the NCJ on the Committee on the Credentials.

Our Book of Discipline states that the committee shall have a representative from each of the seven central conferences (our international siblings) and the five U.S. jurisdictions. Unfortunately, no one from the three conferences in Africa attended our meeting the day before the General Conference began, but the remaining nine met for the first time. Only one person had served on the committee in the past, so essentially, we were all rookies trying to lead each other in support of the Office of the Secretary of the General Conference.

While we try to speak slowly so we can understand one another, we have worked well as a committee. As a result of two official meetings and several spontaneous hallway conversations, I now have eight new friends from Germany, Rhode Island, Philippines, Alaska, Hungary, Louisiana, Russia, and North Carolina.

These and many other new friendships I’ve formed have occurred mostly because I took steps out of my usual comfort zone to introduce myself and strike up conversations. After all, what’s the first step in breaking down barriers and making this world a more friendly and welcoming environment? Relationship-building is key to ending disputes, arguments, and fights because we are no longer strangers to one another.

Surprise! This 2020/2024 conference has been a heart-warming, wonderful experience for me and, I think, for the Church as well. Thanks be to God!

Last Updated on April 30, 2024

The Michigan Conference