2008 General Conference to welcome online visitors


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)--People unable to attend the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, still can watch the proceedings and gather related information online with Internet access.

Since the 2004 assembly in Pittsburgh, United Methodist Communications has expanded and upgraded its Internet capability to meet users' needs and expectations, said the Rev. Larry Hollon, the agency's top executive.

"The Internet is the window into the General Conference for people around the world," said Hollon. "Live video and audio streaming offer an opportunity to view and listen to many of the proceedings of the General Conference."

About 1,000 delegates from around the world will gather April 23-May 2 to determine priorities and set direction for the 11.5 million-member denomination. The proceedings will be available through www.GC2008.umc.org and also through the church's Web site at www.umc.org. Worship, special addresses, celebrations and other selected sessions will be available on live video streaming. 

"We are confident we will not have the issues that affected many persons who followed the work of the General Conference on the Internet four years ago," said Hollon.

The denomination's Web sites often were overloaded during the 2004 meeting, resulting in shutdowns and lengthy delays in accessing information.

After 2004's General Conference, United Methodist Communications selected Kintera Inc., a San Diego-based software service provider, to host the church's Web site. Through Kintera, Hollon said, the church's communications agency can handle high volumes of Web traffic and meet the demands of a growing Web audience.

"Kintera is focused on continually providing our clients with the software they need to meet their mission," said Scott Crowder, chief technology officer for Kintera. "Kintera's fault-tolerant and redundant data centers help to ensure that clients like United Methodist Communications can safely increase Web traffic without sacrificing performance."

Multimedia resources
Significant multimedia resources related to the 2008 General Conference already are available online at www.GC2008.umc.org. Among them are video and audio recordings of panel discussions from the Pre-General Conference News Briefing, held in January in Fort Worth and sponsored by United Methodist Communications to provide information to delegates and journalists about significant issues facing General Conference.

Additional informational videos are available about General Conference, and related news stories also are posted at the General Conference Web site, as well as through United Methodist News Service (umns.umc.org). The January-February issue of Interpreter, the denomination's official ministry magazine, focused on the 2008 meeting and featured stories on how previous General Conference sessions have shaped The United Methodist Church. The articles are available at www.interpretermagazine.org.

Anyone wanting to learn more about General Conference and how it works can take a free five-session online course called "Exploring General Conference" through United Methodist Communications. To register, visit http://training.umcom.org. More than 600 people have already done so.

During General Conference, United Methodist Communications will send a daily e-mail digest of UMNS assembly coverage to anyone who subscribes to the free service. The agency also will provide an RSS feed allowing church and annual conference Web sites to list General Conference headlines as UMNS stories are posted. Coverage will include print stories in English, Spanish and Korean; video stories; audio newscasts; and a General Conference photo gallery.

InfoServ, the church's free information service, will staff the meeting and respond to questions by e-mail at infoserv@umcom.org, as well as by phone.

Hollon said the goal of United Methodist Communications is to be the online leader among major denominational organizations.

"We live in a different Web world in 2008. We learned from 2004, and we are benefiting from expanding technology," he said. "We are better prepared. We have the right systems in place, and we have the right people positioned to deal with any issues."