The General Conference of the United Methodist Church will convene in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. The UMC’s website has devoted coverage to issues related to General Conference for those interested in what will be going on.

I have begun writing a column for the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper that is going to be called “Practical Divinity.” It’s a reference to John Wesley’s description of the kind of practical theological work he thought was most important for believing Christians as a resource to faith and Christian living.

I mention this now because the first column has recently appeared and I’ve devoted it to talking about how we can all prepare for the General Conference — whether we are actual delegates or just church members who have a concern that the gathering be a faithful expression of Methodist conferencing.

My column argues that the best way to prepare for the GC is through prayer. I don’t mean this in some type of overly pious, sentimental way. I rather understand prayer as one of the primary means of grace, a way for us to heed the words of James when he tells us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

We should hope that the bishops and delegates to the GC take their work seriously, as I think they all will do. And we should also hope that the Holy Spirit is present throughout, guiding the work of the conference in all its deliberations and decision making.

I invite you to read my column, which is available both online (here) and in a pdf version (at this link). And of course, your feedback and comments are welcome.