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DYK? Delegates Count

Posted: March 31 2019 at 12:00 AM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Asst. to the Bishop and Dir. of Connectional Ministries

NIC General Conference delegates participate in worship, prayers, debates, and voting at the 2019 Special Session in St. Louis.

The far-reaching impact of the decisions made at the 2019 Special Session in February has heightened our awareness of the role delegates play in our United Methodist democratic process.

During this Annual Conference, June 2-4, 2019, we elect a new set of delegates to attend the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences of The United Methodist Church. In the wake of the General Conference Special Session and the realization that many important decisions happen with close votes on highly charged issues, many clergy and laity have now turned their attention to learning more about how we select our delegates for General and Jurisdictional Conference.

The number of delegates assigned to each conference is based on a formula for conference membership with delegations made up of equal numbers of lay and clergy. For instance, Alaska has two delegates and Cote d’Ivoire has 34 delegates. Northern Illinois sends six delegates to General Conference (three Clergy/three Lay). We also have twelve votes at Jurisdictional Conference (from the combined six General and six Jurisdictional elected delegates) where one of the most important agenda items is the election of Bishops. We also elect two alternates in the event that someone on the delegation cannot fulfill their responsibilities.

You can see that if we rely on votes alone, Northern Illinois Conference’s impact on the legislative process of the church is minimal. The voting is the final step in a complicated process of legislative debate, negotiation, diplomacy, compromise, and networking.

Effective delegates are people of faith who have a commitment to The United Methodist Church. Effective delegates are knowledgeable about the UM Discipline, have jurisdictional and general church experience and a network of relationships across the connection. Delegates need to reflect the heart of the conference in their beliefs so they can reflect the views and wishes of the conference when they vote their conscience.

All Full Member Elders and Deacons are eligible for election. All will be assigned a number and be part of the electronic ballot. Laity who are Lay Members to Annual Conference are eligible to run as delegates, but those who wish to commit to this task must fill out a Lay Delegation Election Information Form in order to be assigned a candidate number.

The Board of Laity will host a candidate’s forum on Sunday, June 2 following the ordination service to meet and greet those running as laity delegates. Once elected, the work of the delegation is rigorous. There will be thousands of pages of legislation to read, meetings as a delegation, as well as meetings with interest groups and experts.

General Conference in 2020 will take place in Minneapolis, Minn., May 5-15. The North Central Jurisdictional Conference will take place in Fort Wayne, Ind., from July 15-18.

You can find the Lay Delegation election form at

Delegates count!

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