Part of the agenda of the 2011 Indiana Annual Conference, June 8-11, in Muncie will be the election of delegates to the General and North Central Jurisdictional Conferences of The United Methodist Church. Indiana will elect nine clergy and nine laity to the 2012 General Conference and an additional nine clergy and nine laity to the 2012 North Central Jurisdictional Conference, plus three clergy and three laity as reserve delegates.
General Conference is composed of nearly 1,000 delegates from all of the conferences of the global United Methodist Church and will meet at Tampa, Fla., April 24-May 4. The North Central Jurisdictional Conference, about one-third the size of General Conference, will meet at Akron, Ohio, July17-21.
The Annual Conference will hold a Meet-and-Greet gathering on Wednesday, June 8, of annual conference beginning at 5 p.m. before the lay and clergy sessions at 7 p.m. The names of members who turned in a Willingness-to-Serve form will be listed in the conference workbook, as well as on the conference website (www.inumc.org). The website information also will include candidates’ responses to the questions asked on the form.
Indiana Annual Conference rules state: “Persons willing to serve as delegates and their supporters may distribute promotional material intended to truthfully, accurately and positively inform the voters of issues or persons willing to serve as delegates, outside the auditorium or at its entrances.”
The election will be similar to elections held in the past. Lay voting members of conference will elect the lay delegates who will represent the Indiana Conference. Clergy voting members will elect the ordained clergy who will represent Indiana. Each voting member of the annual conference will be given a stack of scan-tron ballots along with a list of those who turned in a Willingness-to-Serve form. Each name on this list will have an identifying number assigned to it. Members will vote using these identifying numbers. Write-in votes are allowed for those not on the list, but the voter writing in a name must be sure the person named is willing to serve and that his or her name is spelled correctly.
After each round of voting, the ballots will be collected and electronically tabulated. Candidates receiving a simple majority of the number of valid ballots cast in each round will be elected. Conference members will vote in ballots until all of the positions for both clergy and lay delegates, as well as reserve delegates have been filled.
Head of delegation
The first conference member elected will serve as the head of the delegation. Traditionally in Indiana, this position alternates between the first lay elected and first clergy elected to each General Conference. This year the first clergy elected will be the head of the delegation. During the General and Jurisdictional Conferences, members of the delegation will be seated in the order they were elected.
According to the Rev. James Butler, a retired clergy member of the conference leading the election process, “Being a delegate to General Conference requires a lot of preparation, meetings, reading, study and prayer. It seems like there is a ton of paper that will arrive in delegate’s mailboxes about General Conference, petitions to change The United Methodist Book of Discipline’s wording, and other proposals that will come before the legislative committees and the plenary sessions. The main task of the Jurisdictional delegation will be to elect any new bishops for our jurisdiction of the church, assign bishops to annual conferences and take care of any other jurisdictional business.”
Each General Conference delegate will receive a large bundle of information (more than 1,400 pages) containing all of the petitions and proposed amendments to The Book of Discipline. Delegates will need to read and become familiar with this information. In addition, delegates need to attend all General Conference team meetings; the entire 10-day General Conference; all General and Jurisdictional Conference team meetings; and the 5-day Jurisdictional Conference in Akron, Ohio. General Conference days average 15 hours. Jurisdictional Conference days average 12 hours. Intense concentration is required, as well as a tolerance for sitting several hours with little exercise.
Yes, there will be funding available, but not nearly enough to cover expenses. Delegates will receive a modest per-diem, not yet determined, which may be enough to cover meals and perhaps a portion of the lodging. Delegates will be responsible for their own travel costs and any expenses the per-diem doesn’t cover. Currently, the 2012 Indiana Conference budget is in development, but a request for some additional support is being made.