Sam Hodges, UMR’s managing editor, reports live from Tampa:

The weather is good, and the crowd is beginning to form for General Conference 2012, though the event doesn’t officially begin until 4 p.m. tomorrow with opening worship.

Late yesterday afternoon I caught up with the Rev. Alan Morrison, business manager for GC, before he met with UMCOM workers at the Tampa Convention Center.

Asked how things were going, he said, “It’s just normal start-up stuff, going from one fire to the other.” For the record, he was wearing a Cross and Flame shirt.


Rev Lorenza Andrade Smith

I also got to speak to the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, the Texas UM pastor who lives among the homeless to show solidarity and support for them. She noted that she would be sleeping outside each night of GC,  and had been scouting out a few nooks and cranies near the Convention Center. But she posted this on Facebook in the wee hours:

“Just asked to leave my bay-view sleeping spot outside the convention center… They said they’re getting ready for some church conference.”

This morning, Ms. Smith is attending the “Lighten the Burden IV HIV/AIDS” event at Hyde Park UMC in downtown Tampa. That’s sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Former President Jimmy Carter was on schedule to bring video greetings. Other speakers: Bishop Ivan Abrahams, newly elected general secretary of the World Methodist Council, Bishop Yvette Flunder, presiding bishop and senior pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco, and Rev. Lydia Munoz, senior pastor of PlumbLine Fellowship at Narbeth UMC, in Narbeth, Pa.

Today at 1:30 p.m. there will be the dedication of the prayer room that will operate throughout GC at the Convention Center. Various briefings and training sessions will also be underway, including a lengthy briefing by the Connectional Table for international delegates.

African delegates are much in evidence, their number having grown as the UMC has grown on the continent. Typically, they flew 16 to 20 hours to get here. One delegate I spoke to had made six flights.

Look for a full UMR story later this week on the increased presence of African and other international delegates at GC.

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