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General Conference 2016 delegates allotted, with U.S. at 58.3 and Africa at 30 percent

By Diane Degnan*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — The secretary of the General Conference, the Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist, released today a list of numbers of delegates by annual conferences. Secretaries of each annual conference were previously notified how many delegates their own conference would have. (See breakdown.)

GC 2012 delegates 300x200 General Conference 2016 delegates allotted, with U.S. at 58.3 and Africa at 30 percent

Delegates work at the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBos

The number of delegates per annual conference is calculated based on the requirement for one lay and one clergy delegate for each annual conference, with additional delegates assigned according to a formula that considers the total clergy and lay membership per conference.“The reduced number of delegates did not result in significant changes in the proportionate representation of delegates from individual jurisdictions and central conferences,” said Reist, who has served as the secretary since his election in 2004.

Thirty percent of delegates in 2016 will be from Africa, 58.3 percent from the U.S., 4.6 percent from Europe and 5.8 percent from the Philippines, with the remainder from the Concordat churches.

At the October 2013 meeting of the Commission on the General Conference, the body voted to reduce the total number of delegates for the 2016 General Conference from nearly 1,000 to approximately 850.  The 2012 General Conference shifted the responsibility for determining the target number of delegates from the secretary of the General Conference to the Commission, offering the rationale that it should not be the decision of only one person.

The Constitution of The United Methodist Church allows for the General Conference to have anywhere from 600 to 1,000 delegates. The overriding factor in reducing the number of delegates was a desire to move toward a smaller structure which meeting facilities outside the U.S. could accommodate.

“While there were reasons to set the number of delegates at the higher and the lower end of the range, the Commission arrived at this figure in a spirit of compromise,” said Judi Kenaston, Commission chair. “It is an incremental move toward a smaller conference, which will allow us to hold General Conference outside the United States, and it represents responsible stewardship while limiting the percentage change in representation from various parts of the worldwide church.”

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17 comments

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  1. Stephen York

    Africa and the Philippines should have their own General Conferences. The USA should be an exclusively American event.

    1. Rick Edwards

      I totally agree.

    2. ryan

      Why should the Americans have their own General Conference? We each have our own Annual Conferences and when we come together we are a global Church. I don’t understand why you think we should have different geographic or national conferences.

      1. eric pone

        Simple reason is values. The US church has a different value system from Africa. Our rules and polity should reflect those differences. A global conference to celebrate our shared heritage is fine but to risk our church here in the US on those decisions. I don’t think so.

    3. Kris

      No way, man. It’s the African conservatism that keeps us from completely turning our backs on the Bible. They are growing there, whle we shrink at an alarming rate. Keep it together.

  2. John J. Shaffer

    Stephen:

    This may happen eventually. There was some hint of it at the last General Conference in Tampa Bay, Florida. However, there was so much suspicion in the air, that even compromises could not get adopted.

    Some times it takes General Conference a long time to get some things done correctly.

  3. jeff

    from your lips to God’s ears.

  4. theenemyhatesclarity

    Aren’t we the United Methodist Church? Why should Africa and the Phillippines have separate General Conferences? And if they are separate, will they be “separate but equal”? The African and Phillippine Methodists are primarily black and asian. This sounds like a racist proposal.

  5. Jesse

    I disagree, we are a global church. When Christ returns in victory, there will be no national boundaries anyways. Why is it bad that United Methodists from around the world have a say in the affairs of the UMC in America and vice versa? If anything, having the diversity of voices keeps us more in tune with God’s work across the world, and forces all of us out of our own bubbles and comfort zones.

  6. ryan

    I am writing this as a separate comment because I don’t want to put words in any other commentator’s mouth. I do want to state the only people I have heard voice a desire for America to have their own General Conference are those with a pro-homosexual agenda. If that ever happened you would see a plethora of congregations in the US that place themselves under the authourity of the African Conference. This might not be a bad solution as it would essentially split the US UMC into liberal Gospel deniers and African congregations.

    1. John J. shaffer

      Make that liberal gospel affirmers and you might be on the right track.
      The Battle for the Bible has an interesting history. There was a bishop that proclaimed that the world was created in 4004 BC. He figured out this calendar from the Bible itself (and of course the Bible could never be wrong) and the battle has gone on ever since.

      Yesterday I was reminded of one of my first encounters with biblical literalists. A teenager came to me (after we had toured a museum in Chicago-Natural History) and she said: “my grandmother says that all of the bones are fake, meant to destroy our faith. Is she right?”

      Literalists are everywhere.

      Even some educated people are literalists.

      And then again, some are not.

      You have been very busy tonight or this morning or whereever you are.

      I am praying for some sanity in Pennsylvania this morning. My goodness, a pastor follows Paragraph 335 and gets hit with another paragraph or two, some of which are not binding.

      Wonder how many elders are charged with disobedience by “not preaching on gun control – a clear position of the United Methodist Church.” I know I never had the guts to preach on “gun control”. But gay rights was never a problem. I do not think we should follow the Bible at all. I do not think all “gays” should be killed. I will not even be tempted to follow the Bible on this (and several other) subject. Just to make sure I am not tempted, I have sold all my guns. I am now a rich man.

      1. ryan

        If you wish to paint me as a literal is then you paint me as no less than Wesley described himself as. I do believe the parts of Scripture which are history are literal. Do I take the most beautiful poetry of Scripture literally? No. I am no absurdist. In the Song of Songs I do not believe anyone to have a face literally made of pomegranates. Do I believe David existed historically? Yes. Do I believe in the miracles of Jesus? Yes. These are passages of history and I take them as such.

    2. theenemyhatesclarity

      I like the idea of each church choosing the conference they would be under. It also would give more authority to the local church, which is where real ministry takes place, anyway.

      1. Ryan

        I am not proposing this as a solution so much as something that could be a reality. It is already a reality in the Episcopal Church as many local congregations or dioceses are now Anglican or African in the sense that they have placed themselves under the authourity of a Bishop from there.

        1. John J. Shaffer

          Many will leave, but they can’t take the property with them.

          I was appointed to a church once that had voted to leave the denomination. The District Superintendent went through the process with them, then ask for the keys to the building. They reconsidered the previous motion.

          One of my more interesting appointments.

          Many in the congregation thought the then Methodist Church was filled with communists. One of the proofs was that the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was available with red covers. Who could argue with that logic? Not me.

  7. Nzoyisaba Justin

    Thank you the 8 delegates given to Burundi Annual Conference but we know two groups in this country. My question who will choose the 8 delegates can you help us solve that question.

  8. David Keith Wells

    Yes ,it does appear that idea for cutting loose the Africans and Philipinos did start when their delegates supported the discipline at conference .I remember comments by Bishop Carcano about their “lack of maturity” I believe she said.

    I have commented before that the 2016 event would be a great time to begin dividing the pie and let folks wander of into what ever thicket they chose. This is a questions for lawyers and accountants not theologians. Give all churches title to their property, and privatize all pension and insurance. Anutize the pensions for those all ready retired. Sell all the bricks and morter not directly in use by congregations and lease office space.This would be a painful and generally ugly experiance, but no uglier than the name calling and bad behaviour we are seeing now. The big disagreement then would be deciding who keeps the current bishops.
    God help us all.
    David Keith Wells

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