At our 2011 Session of the Indiana Conference in June, we will be electing delegates to the 2012 General Conference and the 2012 North Central Jurisdiction Conference of The United Methodist Church. This will be our first time to do these elections as the new Indiana Conference, so it is not too early to start thinking about how we will do these elections.

Two clarifications about eligibility and about the process need to be emphasized – and this word needs to be shared widely and quickly:

LAITY: Any lay member of any United Methodist congregation in the Indiana Conference (not just those who are Lay Members to Annual Conference) may be elected to serve as a lay delegate to the General or Jurisdiction Conferences. All Lay Members to the Annual Conference are eligible to vote for these persons. Only the laity vote for lay delegates, so all of our lay members need to carefully consider if they are willing to serve as a delegate. Any interested person should be sure to read the section below about the process to declare yourself as “willing to serve.”

CLERGY: Only “full member” clergy (either Elder or Deacon) are eligible to be elected to serve as a clergy delegate to the General or Jurisdiction Conference. However, the eligibility for voting for clergy delegates has been expanded: All provisional (commissioned) ministers, all Associate Members, and all Local Pastors who have completed the Course of Study or completed seminary and have been serving for two consecutive years are eligible to vote. Once again, any clergy who are eligible to be elected as a Clergy Delegate should be sure to read the section below about the process to declare yourself as “willing to serve.”

My use of the term “willing to serve” is an indication of the process that will be used for these elections at our 2011 Session. For all of our laity, this process will be the same one used in the previous North and South Conferences, namely that interested and eligible laity must complete a “Willing to Serve” form and submit it by March 15th in order for your name to appear on the ballots at the Annual Conference Session in June. That form is available on the conference website, so please complete your form promptly and make your name available to be elected.

For our 2011 Session elections, our eligible clergy will also need to complete a “Willing to Serve” form in order to be on the pre-printed ballots. Any name of an eligible clergy which is not on the ballot may still be written in, but obviously it greatly reduces their likelihood of being elected. So clergy who are eligible and willing to serve, should also complete the form and submit it by March 15th.

The purpose of these “Willing to Serve” forms is to help people make themselves available to be elected, but it also reminds all of us that being elected as a Clergy or Lay Delegate is a service offered to the church. First, it takes a lot of time. Second, it can be expensive, even though there is a per diem provided for delegates at both General and Jurisdiction Conference. Most importantly, those elected are “delegates” and not “representatives” – they are elected because we trust their judgment to make important decisions for the church. We really need people who are willing to serve and to see this as a service, not as a political event.

There will be “Meet and Greet” times on Wednesday evening of Annual Conference at 5 p.m. for people to talk with those who are Willing to Serve. The Laity “Meet and Greet” will be held at the Auditorium ahead of the Laity Session. The Clergy “Meet and Greet” will be held at Union Chapel UMC ahead of the Clergy Session. This will be an informal time, and it is hoped that this will allow for good conversation and getting acquainted with those who are Willing to Serve.

Let me conclude with one more comment about “politics.” Our conference rules were adopted to allow for persons to share with one another the names of persons they hope others will elect, but not to allow negative or hurtful “campaigns” to be conducted. I believe it is important for all of us to monitor one another, to monitor ourselves, and to set a high standard of excellence as we conduct our first elections as the Indiana Conference. 

This will be our first time to elect these delegates as an Indiana Conference, so I hope and pray we will do these elections in a way which glorifies God and builds up the Body of Christ.