By Craig This and Elaine May
The jurisdictional pool is the collection
of persons from which the jurisdictional
nominating committees select people to
serve as board members of the various
agencies of The United Methodist Church.
(The General Council on Finance and
Administration, General Commission
on United Methodist Men, and General
Commission on Archives and History select
their board members in a different manner
as prescribed by the Book of Discipline.)
Laywomen represented the largest group
in the 2008 U.S. jurisdictional pool, with
596 persons. The remaining groups are 587
clergymen, 473 laymen, and 376 clergywomen.
Therefore, women comprise 48% (972) of the
jurisdictional pool and men make up 52%
(1,060) of the jurisdictional pool (see Table 1).
The jurisdictional pool provides unique insight
into the board membership of the general
agencies, and the number of women and people
of color at these decision-making tables is directly
tied to how aggressively each region is recruiting
and assigning a fully inclusive slate to each agency.
The 52%-48% split of males to females in the
2008 jurisdictional pool mirrors the overall
percentages in the five U.S. jurisdictions. Only
two jurisdictions, North Central (51%) and
Western (54%), had a greater percentage of
women than men in their 2008 pools.
The split along lay and clergy lines also
generally reflects the overall jurisdictional
percentages. The Western Jurisdiction
has the largest percentage of laywomen at 60%, followed closely by Northeastern at 59%.
The Southeastern Jurisdiction has the smallest
percentage of clergywomen at 34% (see Table 2).
Racial-ethnic women, lay and clergy, comprised
17%, or 350, of the total jurisdictional pool,
and 36% of the total number of women in the
jurisdictional pool (see Table 1).
One notable exception is the Western Jurisdiction,
which has only one African-American
clergywoman in the jurisdictional pool. Likewise,
with the exception of Pacific Islanders, most racial-ethnic groups have representation in each
jurisdiction. (For more detailed information, please
There are, in fact, sufficient numbers of women
and people of color in the pool to offer gender
and racial parity at the agency power tables. Why,
then, are women and racial-ethnic persons underrepresented
on many agency boards?
Equitable representation is not just a matter of
adequate numbers, but also is affected by the
agencies people in the pool choose to serve. Most
members of the pool, across categories of race
and gender, select as their first four choices for
placement General Board of Church and Society,
General Board of Discipleship, General Board of
Global Ministries, and General Board of Higher
Education and Ministry (Table 3).
Most clergymen rank the Connectional Table as
their fourth choice and drop the General Board of
Church and Society to fifth. Overall, laywomen
rank Division on Young People as their fourth
choice, and the General Board of Higher Education
drops to eighth.
Again, Table 3 indicates that women are willing
to serve on each board of an agency. However,
when tracking by race-ethnicity and gender, some
agencies have few or no women and people of
color ranking them as first choice. In fact, several
agencies had no laywomen or clergywomen who
ranked them their first choice for the 2009-12 term.
Likewise, laymen and clergymen did not list some
of the agencies as their first choice.
Why, then, don’t more individuals wish to serve
on specific boards and agencies? Why is it that
most individuals wish to serve on the four general
boards? Has the church stigmatized and labeled the
work of the commissions (e.g., Status and Role of
Women and Religion and Race), such that people
do not ascribe the same prestige and urgency to
serving on those boards?
Or do the nominating committees within the
denomination—or at least certain jurisdictions—
pigeon-hole members of the pool, so that men do
not understand that they, too, are needed on the
General Commission on the Status and Role of
Women, and that white people are needed on the
General Commission on Religion and Race?
True, some may not feel called to serve on a
particular board or commission. Other individuals
may feel that their time and talents are best served
within a particular board or commission. Yet, in
looking at the choices, it must be asked: When it
comes to serving the general church, do individuals
approach that work with an open heart and open
mind and truly believe, “Here I am, Lord, send me?”
A challenge for annual conference clergywomen’s
groups, United Methodist Women’s groups,
women of color networks and COSROWs is to
make sure that we are urging women to seek out
new opportunities for service and learning on all
agencies, and to make sure that agencies are seeking
out diversity through their additional nominating
process (see sidebar). It will also help if these groups
help orient women and people of color who are new
to church leadership about the work of all agencies
and how their gifts can enhance the mission of every
Craid This is data analyst in the Department of
Institutional Research at Wright State University in Ohio.
Elaine May is assistant general secretary of GCSRW
After the jurisdictions meet and select their
slate of persons for each general agency,
each jurisdiction designates one clergy, one
laywoman and layman who has been elected
to a general agency or Connectional Table to
nominate additional members of that general
agency or council. The 15 members (three
from each jurisdiction) are the committee to
nominate additional members for that agency.
The number of additional members is allocated
by the secretary of General Conference to ensure
to the extent possible that membership of the
agency reflects the proportionate membership
of the jurisdictions. The nominating committee
selects from the jurisdictional nominating
pool for the election of persons to fill the
additional membership positions from their
jurisdictions ensuring diversity.
Adapted from Par. 706, 2004 Book of Discipline