The General Purposes Committee was formed in September 1905 when it was separated from the Finance & General Purposes Committee (which had been in existence since September 1884). In 1912, as part of the restructuring of the committees (as well as the general administration) of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society the General Purposes Committee gained the additional responsibilities of the former Staffing Committee. The committee's responsibilities in 1912 included: nominations for, and general arrangements of, all Sectional Committees, the General Committee and the Missionary Council; arrangements for visitations to mission fields; oversight of office and warehouse staff; furlough regulations and arrangements; allocation of duties of Secretaries; arrangements for presentation of business in Wesleyan Methodist Conference.
In 1931 the General Purposes Committee merged with the Finance Committee. The Joint Finance and General Purposes Committee (combined meetings of the Finance & General Purposes Committee with the Women's Work Advisory and Finance Committee) met from 1948 until 1964.
In March 1964 the General Purposes Committee was established as a single entity again with the responsibility 'to discuss major items of general policy in the [Methodist Missionary] Society as a whole' and to meet at least twice a year. Its terms of reference included: examination of budget proposals of the Officers to the General Committee; examination of business proposals for Methodist Conference; matters of Connexional Inter-departmental relationships; education in world affairs of the Home Church; balance of MMS activities, particularly emerging inter-denominational matters; major structural changes; inter-relationships of General Fund & Women's Work activity; appointment of working groups as required.