Being a delegate to General Conference is demanding work. Be sure you want to spend hours reading through over 1400 pages of instructions and legislation that you will receive prior to General Conference, meeting with your delegation during the months preceding General Conference, and spending two weeks of vacation working on legislation from early in the morning to late at night. You will also be part of the Jurisdictional delegation that will spend an additional week later in the summer at your Jurisdictional Conference. The order of your election will determine which committees are available for you to choose to serve. You will spend the first week of General Conference reviewing legislation in your assigned committee. During the second week, delegates debate and vote on all items during the plenary session. However, over 850 delegates will be vying for an opportunity to speak. As a result, you may not have the chance to speak to the issues that are your particular concerns. Consider the financial obligations. General Conference and annual conferences provide some travel and per diem reimbursement, but they seldom cover all expenses. Pray about this decision.
To be a lay delegate you must have been a member of the UMC for two years and active in a United Methodist congregation within the bounds of the annual conference for four years. So, teach a Sunday school class, lead a Bible study, become a youth leader, or serve as a chair of at least one committee or board. Clergy delegates should continue their involvement at district and annual conference events, providing leadership when appropriate.
Clergy are automatically members to their Annual Conference. However, laity must be elected by their local church at the annual charge conference in the fall, or made an “equalization member” by their district superintendent. In every annual conference, the number of clergy delegates must equal the number of lay delegates. Since retired clergy and those appointed beyond the local church are still clergy members of their annual conference, lay members are needed to balance the clergy numbers. We call those lay members “equalization” members. Speak to your pastor about becoming a lay member or an equalization member to your annual conference. Step 4:
After being elected a member or designated an equalization member of your annual conference, or if you are a clergy member, be sure to attend conference events and let your district superintendent know you are interested in serving on an annual conference committee. Volunteer to take minutes at meetings, join a mission team, or write an article for an annual conference publication.
Annual conferences will elect delegates in 2018 or in 2019 for General Conference 2020. Contact your annual conference for deadlines and dates. Annual conference procedures differ, and you may need to declare your interest as much as nine months in advance. Annual conferences have very different rules about campaigning. Many strictly prohibit it. Others will allow a candidate to distribute brochures, pins, or use social media to promote their candidacy. However, almost every annual conference will ask you to submit a biography to be printed in the annual conference materials. Use the biography to outline the strengths that make you an exceptional delegate. Consider asking for an endorsement from a particular group and including it in your biography.
Now that you are a General Conference delegate, or if you have been elected as a reserve delegate, the work begins! You will be reviewing legislation, meeting regularly with your delegation, and preparing for the two weeks of General Conference. If you were elected as a reserve, you may still attend General Conference and you still have work to do. Reserve delegates are responsible for reviewing legislation and attending delegation meetings in case a member of the delegation is unable to attend, or if a delegate steps away from the General Conference plenary session for a break. Those elected as delegates and reserves to General Conference will also be Jurisdictional Conference delegates, attending the Jurisdictional Conference later in the summer. Reserve delegates are also elected for Jurisdictional Conference. Congratulations! Serving as a delegate to General and jurisdictional conferences is an honor and a privilege. For more information about General Conference, Jurisdictional Conference, or becoming a delegate to General Conference, refer to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. ¶601-657 for rules of an Annual Conference ¶34-36 for elections the General and jurisdictional conferences ¶501-528 for functions of General and jurisdictional conferences