With eyes turned toward the upcoming General Conference of The United Methodist Church, Candler’s Bill Mallard Lay Theology Institute (LTI) is focusing on the denomination’s history, theology and polity in “Holy Conferencing: From Wesley to 2016.” The event will be held on Saturday, April 9 at Northside Church in Atlanta from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Registration is $25.00 for students and $35.00 for others. Lunch will be provided. Register here.

Elliott, Burkholder The event will focus on the origins of the early Methodist concept of conferencing and consider the role of the practice in weighing current issues facing the denomination’s 2016 General Conference, to be held in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20.

The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Mallard LTI and dean of Methodist Studies at Candler, says the phrase “holy conferencing” is used in Methodist circles in ways that assume we know its meaning, but we may have different ideas about what it really is. The term received significant attention during the 2012 General Conference, as efforts were made to engage in “holy conferencing” with mixed results, especially as the denomination weighed proposed changes to its Book of Discipline regarding issues related to human sexuality.

“Given that background and with the approach of the 2016 General Conference, the time seemed right to focus on questions about holy conferencing—what are its origins, does it have significance for us today? We want to get at those questions,” says Burkholder.

“This upcoming General Conference has the potential to be a pivotal event in the life of the denomination, so the topic is worthy of such in-depth attention.”

Watson, MatthewsProviding that in-depth attention will be four of Candler’s distinguished Methodist Studies faculty. Assistant Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies Kevin Watson will focus on John Wesley’s understanding of conferencing as a means of grace, its impact on the development of early Methodism, and the value of Wesley’s original understanding of the term today. Rex D. Matthews, professor in the practice of historical theology and Wesleyan studies, will trace the story of the emergence and function of the conference between 1744 and 1844. Thomas W. Elliott Jr., assistant professor in the practice of practical theology, will speak to the formation of the General Conference and its role in evolving issues of the last century. Anne Burkholder will round out the presentations with a discussion of current issues facing the 2016 General Conference.

This is the first time an LTI event has had multiple speakers address one issue. “This year’s institute is meant to showcase Candler’s Wesley and Methodist scholars,” says Burkholder. “While our work overlaps at certain points, we each bring a unique perspective to the table, and we all believe that this issue merits the extra voices.”

The Bill Mallard Lay Theology Institute at Candler School of Theology offers theology seminars for laity of all denominations in partnership with a variety of congregations, and a curriculum that provides excellent theological education for a lay, ecumenical student body. Designed to bring the gifts of Candler’s faculty to laypersons, the institute was named in honor of the late Professor Emeritus of Church History William “Bill” Mallard, one of Candler’s longest-serving and best-loved professors.

Northside Church is located at 2799 Northside Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA 30305.