By Cody Collier
At the next Missouri Annual Conference in June, we will be electing delegates to the 2016 General Conference to be held in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20, 2016, and the Jurisdictional Conference that will be held July 13 -16, 2016, at the Hyatt Hotel in Wichita, Kansas.
The General Conference is the global gathering of The United Methodist Church where the mission and ministry priorities are established and The Book of Discipline is reviewed for possible revisions. The Missouri Conference will elect six lay delegates and 6 clergy delegates to the General Conference. For Jurisdictional Conference, we will elect 12 more delegates (six lay and six clergy) and four alternates who will serve along with the previous 12 elected for General Conference.
If you feel you are called to serve as a delegate to the 2016 General and/or Jurisdictional Conference, I hope you will offer yourself. It is my desire that our process for electing delegates will be thoughtful and reflective of spiritual discernment rather than having the atmosphere of a political campaign. In addition, my hope is that the delegation will be balanced and diverse, with an intentional invitation for young adults to be among those considered.
I pray we will prepare for elections and begin to think about the important decisions at this year’s conference by remaining aware of the Holy presence that guides, sustains and helps us to shape our work together. To assist us, there will be a prayer chapel at the lower level of the entrance of the main meeting room where, throughout the sessions, delegates can quietly reflect and pray for the Spirit of God to speak to our fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams.
We can also follow the devotional reflections of Rueben P. Job’s book Listen: Praying in a Noisy World, which was mailed to all delegates. I believe this small resource can have a large impact on our time together at conference – calling us to truly listen, pray and respond to God’s leading. And the Rev. Jenn Klein will be offering, as one of the conference workshops, a session on the Wesleyan practice of Christian conferencing. It will allow delegates to gather for a prayerful dialogue concerning some of the significant issues that might threaten to divide us if we are not attentive to faithful spiritual work. I pray we will see this conference as a period in which we will listen, learn, love and lead the church toward God’s preferred future.
Will you consider the following requirements and expectations? According to The Book of Discipline, 2012, the qualifications for clergy and lay delegates are as follows: Paragraph 35. Article IV. – The clergy delegates to the General Conference and to the Jurisdictional or central conference shall be elected from the clergy members in full connection and shall be elected by the clergy members of the annual conference or provisional annual conference who are deacons and elders in full connection, associate members, and those provisional members who have completed all their educational requirements and local pastors who have completed course of study or an M. Div. degree and have served a minimum of two consecutive years under appointment immediately preceding the election.
Paragraph 36. Article V – The lay delegates to the General and Jurisdictional or central conferences shall be elected by the lay members of the annual conference or provisional annual conference without regard to age, provided such delegates shall have been professing members of The United Methodist Church for at least two years next preceding their election, and shall have been active participants in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election, and are members thereof within the annual conference electing them at the time of holding the General and Jurisdictional or central conferences.
It is an honor and awesome responsibility to serve as a delegate. It provides you with the opportunity to be involved in the denomination and to work around tables with United Methodists from annual conferences throughout the nation and world—praying, worshipping together and deciding on legislation that helps shape the future direction of the church. You are answering a call to serve God, to serve The United Methodist Church, and to assist in “making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
What are the role and expectations in fulfilling such a call?
Role of Delegate: General Conference delegates are assigned to a legislative committee where they spend the first week studying petitions and resolutions that have been submitted for changes to the Book of Discipline. The General Conference Rules of Order set the number and name of each legislative committee and the Discipline paragraphs or topics assigned to each legislative committee.The second week involves voting on resolutions presented by each legislative committee. Jurisdictional Conference is a few months later where the main focus is the election of new bishops.
Responsibilities of Delegate:
Delegates should be prepared to invest themselves fully in the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. There will be numerous meetings of the delegation (clergy and lay delegates) during the year following election in preparation for General Conference. Usually these are full-day Saturday meetings each month. There are approximately 16 days of commitment for General/Jurisdictional conferences, along with travel. Delegates can expect thousands of pages to review to prepare for the legislative process.
Meetings at both conferences start at 8:00 a.m. and can last until 9 p.m. or later. In preparation for Jurisdictional Conference, delegates will have the unique opportunity to interview episcopal candidates as a part of their time together.
The Expenses for Being a Delegate:
Delegates are reimbursed for travel to and from General Conference, or flight arrangements are arranged or provided, whichever is most economical. Each delegate is given a “stipend” to cover rooms and meals. If you share a room with another delegate, it can help with the cost. Essentially, delegates should be prepared to cover most meals and part of your hotel accommodations.
Some delegates look to their local congregations to help with expenses so that the delegation is not limited only to those who can afford the additional expenses. For the pre-conference delegation meetings, many persons share transportation.
It is my prayer that following the next General Conference, delegates will leave feeling that the United Methodist church is clear about its mission, confident about the future, and more connected in Christ than ever before. And at Jurisdictional Conference, we pray that delegates will elect episcopal leaders with a prophetic and passionate commitment for transforming the church and world. May God give us such new leaders for a new church in a new day!