1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Conference
CONFERENCE, a bringing together (Lat. conferre) for the purpose of discussion, particularly a meeting of members of one or more societies, of representatives of legislative or other bodies, or of different states. Such are the meetings between members of the upper and lower chambers of the British parliament, or of the United States congress, to adjust matters of difference, and the assemblies of the prime ministers of the various British colonies, held at stated intervals to consult with the imperial government. The title of Colonial Conference was changed to that of Imperial Conference in 1907, but the proposal to change Conference, to Council was dropped; it was felt that the administrative functions usually connoted by the word “council” made that title less suitable to an assembly with purely deliberative and consultative powers, which were more fitly expressed by “conference.” In diplomacy the word “ conference ” is used of a meeting of the representatives of states of greater or less importance for the purpose of settling particular points, as distinguished from a “congress,” which is properly a meeting of the great powers for the settlement of questions of general interest. In practice, however, the distinction is not consistently maintained. The meetings preliminary to a congress and the sessions of the congress itself are also styled “conferences” (see Congress). The word is also applied to the annual assemblies for transacting church business in the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Great Britain and to various similar assemblies in the Methodist Episcopal Church of America (See Methodism).