The practice of requiring or encouraging the printing of certain reports and balance sheets, for distribution to members of the Conference before the business was dealt with, grew to varying extent in the several Methodist connexions, but the development of a consolidated Conference Agenda, consisting of a printed copy, circulated in advance, of all reports, resolutions and accounts for the Conference, came later.
In WM the printed Agenda dated from 1881, its emergence probably being related to the creation of the Representative Session and/or the developing practice for Conference committees to meet at times other than at the Conference itself. In PM the creation of an Agenda and a Conference Agenda Committee to arrange its order, print and send it out to Conference members dated from 1901. The UM Uniting Conference of 1907 directed the annual production by the outgoing Secretary of the Conference of a printed Agenda based upon reports etc. received from the committees. No such formal Agenda appears to have been produced previously in the MNC, BC or UMFC.
Extant copies of many of these Agendas, and even more so of the earlier printed reports, are not as readily available nowadays as are the corresponding Minutes of Conference, but are often essential for interpreting the contents of the latter.
Since 1932, the Secretary of the Conference has been responsible for the preparation of the Conference Agenda, circulated to members in advance. The drawing up of the actual order of business and other related matters is now the responsibility of the Conference Business Committees, first created in 1990 (Representative Session) and 1994 (Ministerial Session).
A useful index to these volumes from 1932 to 1996 was produced in 2002 by B.E. Beck, with a supplement in 2007.
Note that some reports to the Conference do not now appear first in the Agenda, because they are produced too late for the publication date. They are circulated to the Conference in the Order Paper and are to be found in the Daily Record for the day on which the business is dealt with.
On the Methodist Church website (www.methodist.org.uk) can be found the full text of Agenda reports which have been accepted by the Conference since 2005, together with selected major reports from 1997. The Agenda for the current Conference appears each year on the Methodist Conference website (www.methodistconference.org.uk).