North Georgia seeks more representative system of allocating delegates
By ED TOMLINSON
Fair representation has been one of the core values in this nation from the beginning. United Methodists also value fair representation and inclusivity. Illustrations of such commitment have been evident in the past three general conferences.
Before 2000, the formula for allocating delegates to General Conference did not adequately account for annual conferences where growth had occurred. These conferences were under-represented. The 2000 General Conference provided for “Proportional Representation” where the number of delegates would be in relation to the total number of members (clergy and laity) of an annual, missionary, or provisional conference. There was, however, in our constitution a minimum of two delegates from each of the aforementioned conferences.
At first glance, all seems to be fair until one learns that conferences with fewer than a thousand members must be allocated two delegates to General Conference. But, there are almost 1,000 members and one would not reason that this small number would create a severe imbalance. In reality, more than 100 delegates come from conferences that have a smaller membership than several of North Georgia’s large churches. While the provisional conferences are by definition established with at least 10 clergypersons and no minimum number of members, they do currently have a right to two delegates. No one questions their existence. They serve important missional purposes. But the minimum number of delegates creates an imbalance.
To identify the scope of the situation, one needs only to look at the Philippines and Europe. The annual and provisional conferences of these two regions receive 90 delegates or 9-plus-percent of the representation with only 1.7 percent of the total membership of The United Methodist Church. If the minimum of two were not employed and the current formula were used uniformly, the Philippines and Europe would be allowed 22 delegates. With a maximum of 1,000 delegates, when one conference is over-represented another has to take less. North Georgia is so impacted. Though the growth of North Georgia has led the denomination over the past four years (and consistently over the past 3 to 4 decades), the delegation went from 30 delegates to 26 for this 2012 General Conference. Some of this reduction is due to the minimum-of-two rule, but some is legitimately due to the growth in Africa.
In order to mitigate this unfair imbalance, the North Georgia Annual Conference along with three other annual conferences submitted a resolution to General Conference requesting that the minimum be based on episcopal areas instead of annual, missionary, and provisional conferences. An episcopal area contains all the conferences presided over by a resident bishop. Some bishops in the central conferences have under their care between 4 and 10 of these provisional and very small annual conferences. The result of moving to a minimum of two for each episcopal area would free the allocation of more delegates to the growing areas.
Successful passage of the resolution will impact the growing areas of Africa exactly the same as North Georgia. All areas of the church should be given a fair voice. The vision and vitality of these expanding conferences are a source of hope, encouragement, and resource to United Methodism.
Over the next several weeks, the North Georgia Advocate will address some of the key issues facing delegates at the upcoming General Conference describe how decisions are made. You are welcome to submit questions to email@example.com. If space and research time are available to make an adequate response, your submission will be addressed in this effort.
Ed Tomlinson has been elected as a clergy delegate to four General Conferences. In 2004, he served as Chairperson of the General Administration Legislative Committee which formed the Connectional Table. He is a current director of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits and a member of the Church Systems Task Force formed by action of the 2008 General Conference.
Clergy elected to the 2012 General Conference Session
Sharma Lewis, Jonathan Holston, James Cantrell, Phil Schroeder, Jane Brooks, Alice Rogers, Ed Tomlinson, John Simmons, Nora Martinez, Jamie Jenkins, Chuck Savage, Steve Wood, David Bevel Jones
Laity elected to the 2012 General Conference Session
Jane Finley, Lyn Powell, Mathew Pinson, Joe Whittemore, Jeff Jernigan, Bill Stikes, Tonya Murphy , Leon Jourolman, Dianne Spencer, Joe Kilpatrick, Richard Williamson, Bill Martin, Marjorie Kimbrough