Getting a jump on electing General Conference delegates

Chappell Temple

Amidst all of the petitions which failed, were never considered at all, or passed but then were overturned by the Judicial Council, at least one new provision in the Book of Discipline that was adopted by the largely “Do-Nothing General Conference” last year, now provides an interesting opportunity to annual conferences across the connection.

Originally proposed by the North Alabama Conference delegation, and then amended by the legislative committee which considered it, the provision was adopted by the full assembly by a vote of 889-20, though since it appeared as a consent calendar item it is likely that many of the delegates never actually read it.

The small change to Paragraph 502.3, however, should be interest to many as it allows for an earlier election of delegates to the next General Conference which is scheduled for Portland in 2016.  While under the previous polity those elections would normally take place in 2015, or just nine months or less before the General Conference, they may now take place a year earlier during the conference meetings of 2014.  The catch, however, is that in order for that to occur, most annual conferences will need to decide to do that at this year’s sessions, which are just now beginning.

Why the change?  Since many of the central conferences outside of the United States do not hold their sessions until the end of the calendar year, the previous schedule made it difficult to not only arrange for travel, but to secure visas to be allowed to come to America, as well.  Choosing delegates twelve months earlier will thus give far more time for what can often be a convoluted and complicated process.

But there is another reason why even American conferences may wish to exercise this new option which is that given the enormity of challenges facing the denomination, the extra time of preparation for a delegation to learn to work together, become more comfortable with parliamentary procedures, thoughtfully process the issues, and review and propose legislation—including its constitutionality– before the deadline for such, can be helpful indeed.

It is for that reason that the members of the Texas Annual Conference delegation have unanimously proposed a shift in the voting process for that conference, which meets the final week of May.  Other annual conferences are considering a similar course of action, but even without a recommendation, the idea may be proposed from the floor in any such session.

After all, a little extra time for a bit more preparation certainly can’t hurt, particularly if we hope not to repeat the “Dismay in Tampa Bay” experience.

Rev. Chappell Temple is pastor of Lakewood UMC in Houston.




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