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Rule Change Document and Summary

January 3, 2012

Delegates to GC will be asked to vote upon Rule Changes to govern the conference (see blog post “New Rules Proposed”).  Here is a summary and link to the updated rules.


One of the first official actions that delegates will take at General Conference is the approval of the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order (“the Plan and Rules”). True to our heritage, we United Methodists have a “method” to our meeting as the church to conduct its business. The Plan and Rules, which is drafted by the Commission on the General Conference, includes 40 governing rules and all the other essentials for conducting the proceedings in an orderly and efficient manner.

The Plan and Rules provides the governance structure for the General Conference. The structure includes the Commission on the General Conference, the seven administrative committees, the Committee on Ethics, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and the legislative committees. With the exception of the Committee on Correlation and Editorial Revision, the administrative committees are composed of elected delegates appointed by the Council of Bishops at their fall meeting prior to General Conference. As with the makeup of General Conference, the committees are balanced between lay and clergy delegates.  Membership on the Commission on the General Conference and the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters are cared for in accord with the requirements of The Book of Discipline.

The purpose of this document is to highlight the most substantial changes being recommended to the Plan and Rules for the 2012 General Conference. For a full listing of all of the proposed changes, delegates and other interested parties should refer to the complete draft of the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order.

Reasons for Making Changes

The Commission on the General Conference has recommended changes to the Plans and Rules with the following goals in mind:

 To correct oversights, errors, and other problems identified since the last conference.

 To improve and streamline plenary and legislative committees proceedings.

 To keep abreast with technological improvements and advancements.

 To fulfill mandates and directives approved at previous conferences.

Highlights of Proposed Changes

1. Making Administrative Committees More Geographically Representative

The Commission is recommending that the membership of most of the Administrative Committees include at least one representative from each of the five (5) jurisdictions within the U.S. as well as each of the seven (7) central conferences outside the U.S. These recommended changes affect the following Administrative Committees: Agenda and Calendar, Credentials, Presiding Officers, and Reference. If approved, this change would be in place for nominations to the 2016 General Conference.

2. Creation of a Committee on Ethics

The 2008 General Conference mandated the creation of a Committee on Ethics to investigate alleged violations of the Rules of Order. In response, the Commission is recommending that its Rules Committee be designated as the Committee on Ethics while the General Conference is in session. Individuals may report alleged violations of the rules to the Secretary of the General Conference or infractions may be referred directly to the Committee on Ethics by one-fifth of the delegates meeting in plenary. The Ethics Committee will report its findings to the General Conference plenary along with any recommendations for further action.

3. Setting Time for Daily Adjournment

To ensure that delegates can do their work effectively and receive the appropriate amount of rest, the Commission is recommending that all plenaries and legislative committee work be brought to an end by 9:30 p.m. each night. To achieve this, the Commission has increased the total time allotted for work in legislative committees to 23.5 hours.

4. Deadline for Legislative Committee Work

The Commission is recommending that all legislative committee work be concluded by time of adjournment on Saturday of the first week. Any legislation not dealt with by the appropriate committee by close of business on Saturday night will die in committee and remain unfinished for the duration of General Conference. Those who want to bring such unfinished legislation to the plenary must submit signatures from twenty delegates in the manner stipulated by the Rules.

5. Additional Changes to Legislative Committee

In addition to the changes described above, the Commission has made changes designed to clarify that: (1) the training of legislative committee officers after their election is mandatory, and, (2) legislative committees may not do their work during plenary sessions or in conflict with other orders of the day. These recommended changes are intended to improve the smooth functioning of legislative committees and ensure that delegates can fully participate in plenary sessions.

6. Prioritizing Calendar Items

The Commission is recommending, where possible, that the Committee on Calendar and Agenda bring items before the plenary in keeping with the following priorities:

 Items affecting the global church

 Items with financial implications

 Items with minority reports

If adopted these priorities would ensure that legislative pieces that clearly impact the whole church would get first consideration.

7. Adopting Legislation brought by Committees

In keeping with the procedures used at the 2008 General Conference, delegates meeting in plenary will be asked whether or not to adopt the proposals rought to them by legislative committees by voting “yea” or “nay.” Delegates may also choose to refer, substitute, postpone, or reconsider legislative committee proposals.

Legislation will be reported to the conference by the committees in the following categories:

1. Disciplinary Items Recommended for Adoption

2. Non-Disciplinary Items Recommended for Adoption

3. Items Recommended for Referral

If a legislative item is not placed on one of the three consent calendars, it will be listed in the Daily Christian Advocate as one of the following:

 Not acted upon because another petition dealing with the same subject was acted upon

 Not supported by the legislative committee

 Not considered by the legislative committee

8. Dealing with Substitute Motions

If the proposed rule change is adopted, substitute motions will be handled in the following manner. Once a substitute motion has been made from the plenary floor, debate will be limited towhether or not it should replace the main motion. If delegates vote to replace the main motion with the substitute, debate will ensue on the substance of the motion and a final vote will be taken on whether to adopt it. This procedure allows delegates to express their preference much earlier in the process and more quickly perfect the legislation.

9. Dealing with Minority Reports

A minority report is a special form of substitute motion that is granted the privilege of being published in the Daily Christian Advocate in advance of its consideration by the plenary. In keeping with the proposed new procedures for dealing with substitute motions, initial debate and voting will be limited to whether or not the minority report should replace the main proposal put forward by the legislative committee. Once this decision has been made, debate will ensue on whatever motion remains before the body. Again, this new procedure replaces the lengthier process previously in use.


 [Source Note:  Please note that this document is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of proposed rule changes, delegates should review and become familiar with the complete draft of the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order prior to their arrival at General Conference.]

Complete Plan available at

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