Commission reduces GC Special Session registration fees
Editor's Note: Following the passing of the 2019 budget at the 2018 Annual Conference session, a declaratory decision was requested from the Judicial Council about the reality of charging observers a fee to attend the special session of General Conference in 2019. Due to the actions described in this article, those fees will no longer be charged.
Thanks to a $450,000 grant from United Methodist Communications (UMCom) and budget reductions identified by the General Council of Finance and Administration (GCFA) and General Conference staff, there will be no registration fees for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
The Commission on the General Conference voted this week to rescind the registration fees after United Methodist Communications agreed to provide $450,000 to cover communication-related needs outside the scope of their responsibility that would normally come from the General Conference budget. Any remaining shortfall could be covered through budget reductions recommended to the Commission on the General Conference and revenue from ministry partnerships.
“We recognize that this is a monumental event for the church in its history,” said Dan Krause, General Secretary of United Methodist Communications. “It was a chance for us to help the denomination, while also recognizing a broader communication role.”
At their May 2018 meeting, the Commission voted to institute registration fees for attendees in order to cover a nearly $700,000 budget shortfall for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Commission members expressed concerns about the registration fees, but ultimately determined that charging registration fees was the best available alternative at the time, though concerns remained that charging a registration fee could limit attendance to those who could afford the cost.
Moses Kumar, General Secretary of GCFA, said that after the meeting, his team began to work on alternatives so that the registration fees would not be necessary.
The grant came in response to a request from GCFA asking that the denomination’s communication agency consider helping to fund a portion of the budget shortfall so that the registration fees could be eliminated. UMCom had already offered to cover all of the production costs for the event.
“For many quadrennia, our partnership with United Methodist Communications has been essential to carrying out the work of the General Conference,” said the joint request from GCFA General Secretary Moses Kumar and Bishop Michael McKee, President of GCFA. “Given UMCom’s commitment to providing services related to technology and strategic communication for The United Methodist Church and to further the partnership and facilitate communication for the denomination, the Commission on General Conference would like to request a grant in the amount of $450,000 to underwrite the cost related to equipment rental, infrastructure, and interpretation for the Special Session.”
The General Commission on Communications voted to approve the request. “We are pleased to be able to make the event more inclusive by helping to remove any cost barriers for participation,” said Board president Cashar Evans, Jr.
The price tag for the 2019 special session is estimated to be $3.7 million, up to $3 million of which had been funded by GCFA.
As in the past, there will be a suggested badge charge of $7 in advance and $10 at the site of the conference to help offset the expenses of the credentialing process. Delegates, reserves, official monitors required in the rules of the General Conference, Judicial Council members, hospitality volunteers, and General Conference staff will not be requested to pay this amount.
The suggested amount for the badge is not new, dating back as far as 2008, and is optional so not the same as a registration fee. However, all attendees will be required to be credentialed to enter the meeting spaces. Convention Center staff will be monitoring the badges to direct attendees to proper seating areas based on their credentials. The decision was made by the Commission on the General Conference for the safety and well-being of all attendees. Also, there will be other events happening in parts of the America’s Center during the special session of the General Conference. More details of the credentialing process and a diagram of the plenary hall including seating will be released at a later date.