CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The future of the United Methodist Church will be decided in Charlotte. The global denomination is meeting for its general conference as it faces a loss of churches and lower membership.

The denomination was scheduled to meet in 2020 for the General Conference, but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

Delegates from countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe will vote on certain proposals that could alter the Book of Discipline and Social Principles.

“I think the church needs to rethink the way the church does mission,” James Laballa, a delegate from Liberia, said. “The mission has to be relevant to the context so that it meets the needs of the people.”

One hot-button issue delegates will consider is whether people in the LGBTQIA community can lead or get married in a church.

SC city refuses to give details on missing COVID tax dollars

Thomas Bickerton, President of the Council of Bishops can’t vote or speak officially for the church, but he hopes delegates choose to vote in favor of language that would welcome gay people.

“[It’s] time for us as a church to grow into a new reality,” Bishop Bickerton said. “We need to honor that giftedness that God’s placed on all of god’s children, that includes the LGBTQIA community.”

Thousands of churches across the United States have already left the denomination because of the issue, including more than 300 here in North Carolina. The Bishop says inclusion and progression will usher in a new generation.

“We’re trying to open up the church so that it can truly live out what it says it believes, and to really demonstrate publicly what it means to welcome everyone at our table,” Bishop Bickerton said.

Delegates from overseas say they hope the denomination also votes to give regions the power to govern themselves, something Laballa supports because he says issues in his country are different, especially when it comes to gay rights.

“In some countries in Africa, on the issue of homosexuality, it’s forbidden even by the constitution of the state of the country,” Laballa said. “So, you see the issue.”

This week is focused on legislative bodies coming up with the language for different proposals and next week delegates will vote.