"Delegates, not Representatives"
Who is eligible to vote? Lay members from local churches and district equalization lay members are all eligible to vote to elect the lay delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference. For clergy voting to elect the clergy delegates, it is full member clergy (elders and deacons), provisional members (both on the deacon and elder track), and some Local Pastors who have unique qualifiers (that information will be available at Conference, and all clergy who are eligible to vote will be receiving a letter ahead of Conference with that information). Those who are NOT eligible to vote include the balance of Local Pastors, Lay Supply, clergy from other denominations serving our churches, etc. Click HERE for a handy voting chart.
Those who are eligible to be elected as a delegate include all Lay Members and all Full Member Clergy (Deacons or Elders). The number of delegates we elect is determined by the General Conference Secretary and the General Commission on the General Conference. For this election that will be 8 clergy and 8 lay to General Conference, and additional 8 clergy and 8 lay to Jurisdictional Conference, and 3 clergy and 3 lay reserves. We have to keep in mind that our 16 total delegates to General Conference is a small percentage of the 850 total delegates. So while it is important that we elect excellent delegates, we also have to be realistic about their role among the larger number of persons from all over the world who will be voting delegates.
It is also very important to note that we elect persons who are "delegates" and not "representatives." Certainly we expect our Indiana people to reflect our Indiana Conference and by their own personhood to represent Indiana. But we elect "delegates" and we delegate to them the authority to make decisions at General Conference. Things move quickly (at times) during General Conference, and we cannot expect our delegates to be checking back home to see if they represent us. We delegate to them and trust them to be people of integrity, people who engage in Christian conferencing, and people who will vote their best wisdom on every particular piece of business.
Likewise our delegates must be persons who go to General Conference to engage in "conferencing" – listening to other opinions and debate, seeking God's guidance, and not going to General Conference with their minds made up on any issue. That is the whole point of the word "conference" – we confer with one another and with God. I have seen some delegates go to General Conference who did not listen, did not engage in discussion, and did not consider the possibility that the Conference might have wisdom. Such persons who go with their minds made up on any issue are often very ineffective delegates at General Conference.
So it is a huge responsibility for our Indiana Conference to elect a team of delegates. Quite honestly we probably have 200-300 persons who could serve well as delegates, but we only can elect our limited number. A number of persons have indicated they are "willing to serve" as a delegate, and their information, photographs, and brief statements are available on our Conference website (inumc.org). I hope everyone will review that list of persons, give them credit for their willingness to serve, and then vote for the ones who will be good delegates. Every time we do this, sadly, there are very capable people who are not elected simply because our numbers are limited. On Saturday of Annual Conference we will gather our elected delegates and pray for them – and they will need those prayers. General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference have grueling schedules and huge responsibilities. People serve as delegates at great sacrifice in terms of financial costs and time spent away.
We will bathe our election process in prayer, avoid political pandering, and seek God's will as we elect these delegates. Let's start now by praying for them. Thank you.
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