When all of our clergy and lay members of Western North Carolina gather for our Annual Conference session from June 18-22, we will be continuing a legacy of John Wesley and Francis Asbury. 270 years ago, Wesley gathering the Methodists for a conference – the year was 1744 and that particular conference was, in the words of Richard Heitzenrater, “an important benchmark in the development of Wesleyan doctrine and discipline.” (Wesley and the People Called Methodists, page 144). Heitzenrater continues: “This conference was an organizational watershed for Wesley and the Methodists – a gathering of their forces, a recapitulation of their ideas, a sorting out of their structure and methods, and a plan for their growth.” (page 146)
When we assemble at Lake Junaluska this June, we will be modeling in the twenty-first century what Wesley planned for that 1744 conference. We will gather our forces: there is something about seeing Stuart Auditorium filled with devoted Methodist Christians, singing, praying, and discovering new ways to channel our energies and passions. We will sort out our structure: yes, every year we tweak the rules and plan of organization a bit, and this year we will have a few. More important, we will once again hear stories from Missional Networks, meet our visionary teams and their leaders, and we will plan for extending the mission of the church in the months ahead.