Women are increasingly represented on churchwide agencies. However,
more than half of churchwide agency members are also General Conference
delegates. Is our leadership table still more insular than truly inclusive?
By Lindsey Graham and Elaine Moy
Overall participation of women directors
of general church agencies has increased,
(although men are better represented),
when one compares churchwide
However, we found the five U.S.
jurisdictions were more likely to give
seats to the board of directors of general
agencies and those already holding
leadership positions than to new-toleadership
What does it mean that so many U.S.
agency voting members were (or are)
General Conference delegates? A positive
interpretation is that the five regions
recognize and send to the agencies persons
with a proven commitment to church
leadership and to participation in the global
work and witness of this denomination.
There is also more likely to be continuity in
our corporate Christian work.
However, a potential drawback to the
jurisdictional nominating process is that
the task of setting churchwide policy,
practices, mission and ministry has
remained in the hands of a minority of
persons, and a new, broad, more diverse
group of leaders is missing from the
denomination’s leadership tables.
Current U.S. lay membership in The
United Methodist Church is about 8
million. Of those, nearly 60% are women
and 40% are men.
Additionally, there are nearly 45,000
United Methodist clergypersons in the
United States (including elders, deacons
and local pastors). Men represent 77
percent of the clergy, women 23 percent.
In the January-March 2009 issue of The
Flyer, we explained that the jurisdictional
pool is the collection of persons from
which the five jurisdictional nominating
committees name regional representatives
to the churchwide agencies every four years.
In 2008, each nominating committee of
the five U.S. jurisdictions recommended
from the pool—and their respective
jurisdictions approved—356 persons
to serve as board members of general
agencies. They have decision-making
power to direct and guide where these
agencies will be working and serving
the church in the next four years.
(These numbers do not include General
Commission on Archives and History
and the General Commission on United
Methodist Men, which have different
processes for membership.)
In 2008, laywomen represented the largest
group in the total U.S. jurisdictional
pool, with 596 (29%), followed by 587
clergymen (29%), 473 laymen (23%), and
376 clergywomen (19%). In total, women
comprise 48% of the jurisdictional pool,
slightly less than parity according to
total U.S. membership, and men are
represented at 52%.
The Book of Discipline (Par. 705)
recommends that the jurisdiction
membership on each program board
incorporate one-third clergy, onethird
laymen and one-third laywomen.
However, the aggregate number of people
in the 2008 jurisdictional pools—and
those finally assigned to agencies—do not
follow that recommended formula.
Of those 356 elected board members last
year, 105 were clergymen (29%), 98 were
laywomen (28%), 92 were laymen (26%),
and 61 were clergywomen (17%).
Clergymen make up 61% of the clergy in
the jurisdictional pool while they were
64% of the clergy assigned to agency
boards. Clergywomen made up 39% of
the jurisdictional pool and were 37% of
the clergy assigned to boards, which is
Laymen were 45% of the laity in the
jurisdictional pool and 48% of the laity
named to boards of directors. Laywomen
were 56% of the laity in the jurisdictional
pool and 52% of the laity elected.
In addition, of the 356 persons assigned
to agencies for the current quadrennium,
216 (61%) were delegates (172 people or
48%) or reserve delegates (44 people or
13%) to the 2008 General Conference.
Of the 172 board members who were
also General Conference delegates, the
largest group was clergymen with 32%
(56), followed by a tie of 26% laywomen/
laymen (44), and 16% clergywomen (28).
Of the remaining 140 persons assigned
from the jurisdictions to churchwide
agencies, 60% had been delegates to
previous General Conferences.
Lindsey Graham is website coordinator for GCSRW.
Elaine May is assistant general secretary for GCSRW.