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How GC/JC Delegates are Chosen

October 17, 2011

I’ve been a United Methodist for my entire life, but until pretty recently, I had no idea that the Church has a multi-national legislature, much less how any of the delegates to that body are chosen. Here’s a short description of the process by which each of us was elected:

Every United Methodist church, once a year, elects one or more lay members from its membership to send to Annual Conference (AC). For most churches, one lay member will attend along with the pastor, but for large churches the delegation scales up. All of the churches inWisconsin are members of the Wisconsin AC, and that body, which is kind of like a state legislature, meets annually (as the name implies) to tackle the business of the church and make decisions that effect the congregations within the conference. One of the duties of the AC is to elect delegates to send to the General Conference (GC) and Jurisdictional Conferences (JC). There will be another post exploring what these conferences are all about, but you can think of JC as a regional body that primarily has the duty of selecting bishops, and GC as the global body that has the ultimate say on church policy.

Any member of a Wisconsin church and any clergy who is a full member of the Wisconsin Annual Conference can run for election to GC and JC; you don’t have to be an elected representative to AC to run. Each AC in the denomination has a number of representatives that it can elect to GC and JC based, in part, on what proportion of United Methodist clergy and laity are members of that, particular, AC. Our AC got to elect 6 delegates to GC. We got to elect 12 delegates to JC, as each annual conference elects as many additional delegates to that conference as it sends to General Conference.

At AC, the clergy and the laity have completely separate elections, so only laity vote on lay people and only clergy vote on clergy. The delegations to GC and JC are each half clergy and half laity. Each candidate running for a delegate position submits a brief questionnaire about their qualifications for the job and their thoughts about why they should be elected, which are distributed to all AC delegates, and at the AC those lay persons standing for election can make a short speech to the gathered lay members as well. Then the voting begins. In each round of voting, in order to be elected, a candidate has to receive a certain proportion of the total vote. Some rounds may elect multiple candidates, and some rounds may not elect anybody. When someone is elected, their name comes off the ballot so that the whole AC votes on who else should be added to the delegation.

The first three elected (from the lay side and the clergy side, respectively) are elected to *both* GC and JC. The next three are elected only to JC, and are considered alternates to GC. Four final candidates are elected as alternates to JC. That makes a delegation to GC of three clergy and three lay people, a delegation to JC of six clergy and six lay folks, and four clergy and four lay alternates who are available in case anybody elected ahead of them should get hit by a bus or be otherwise unable to fulfill their duties. All twenty elected delegates and alternates work closely together to decide and do what they believe is best for Wisconsin Methodists and for the Church as a whole.

So that’s how we got here. To learn more about who we are and which conference we were elected to serve, check out our introductory blog posts!

-Chris Reynolds

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