Monday, June 13, 2011

5 Things to Consider when Electing General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegates

This week we in the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church will be electing delegates for General and Jurisdictional Conferences. I have been reading the one page nomination forms attempting to discern which of the extremely qualified candidates would best be our voice in the crucial issues our denomination faces. As I have worked through the forms I made a list of things I believe that, in addition to a solid commitment to Wesleyan theology, need to be considered. Here are my five things to consider when electing delegates:

  1. Working knowledge of current issues. The next General Conference will decide major issues of structure, funding, and future direction.  The current trajectories of trends have unmistakable consequences. This will not be a “single issue” General Conference, but one that looks holistically at the entirety of The United Methodist Church to discern God’s will for the future, and God’s plan and path for helping it return to being a movement rather than just another dying denomination soon to be a footnote in the history of American Christianity. We need to elect leaders who will do their homework.
  2. Ability to read and process a significant amount of information in a short period of time. What I learned four years ago as an alternate is that there are literally reams of legislation, documentation, and reports that the delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference will need to read, review, and process as they discern God’s will for The United Methodist Church. We need to elect leaders who will dedicate the time and effort to prepare. They must be willing to look at the entirety of the matters before The United Methodist Church and be careful not to "pre-decide" before they digest the information. Delegates also need to be able to think for themselves and not "rubber stamp" legislation. There are already significant changes to The Book of Discipline being proposed. A discerning delegate will prayerfully consider the "unintended consequences" of their decisions. 
  3. Willingness to discern God’s will without bending to the influence of others. We are entrusting our delegates with the future of not only our annual conference, but also the entire denomination. As we elect the delegation it is vital that those selected be of strong conviction and be willing to differ in opinion from the prevailing sentiment if led by the Holy Spirit. Referring back to the reams of material they will have to read, we must elect those who will, as much as possible, form their own ideas and opinions  after prayerful discernment and not simply vote with the majority. We need to elect leaders who can make tough decisions.
  4. Ability to articulate ideas to a group. General and Jurisdiction Conference are large, group bodies with many forceful personalities. As we elect the delegation it is important that those elected be able to communicate complex ideas to a large group with clarity, conviction, and brevity. Get to know those who you decide to vote for. Are they clear? Do they have a history of prayerful discernment without making hasty decisions? Can they share big ideas in ways everyone can understand and do it concisely? Can they get along in a delegation that may have people with vastly different opinions? 
  5. Stamina. Lastly, and perhaps the most obvious, as we elect the delegation it is essential that those selected have the stamina to endure the grueling sixteen hour days the General and Jurisdiction Conference demand. Making so many important decisions in such a short period of time requires incredible endurance. We need to elect leaders who are willing and physically able to endure and who have the stamina to go the distance. 
I admit I would consider it an honor to attend General and Jurisdictional Conference. More importantly I desire that those who represent the North Carolina Annual Conference do so with integrity and represent our views faithfully. Let us pray for wisdom as we select those who will shape the future of The United Methodist Church. I remain:

Consumed by the Call,
Marty Cauley (delegate #1115)


Taylor W Burton Edwards said...

Yes and Amen, Marty.

Thanks for posting this. I'm sharing it widely for the sake of those conferences that may not yet have met to elect their delegates.

Marty Cauley said...

Please feel free to share. We still have about half the annual conference either meeting or preparing to meet.

John said...
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John said...

All good points. But it's important to make clear that we choose delegates committed to submitting their own opinions and wishes to the guidance of Scripture as well as the Holy Spirit. Without such a concrete mediating reference, we too often get "guided by the Holy Spirit" being a sanctimonious phrase shallowly thrown around to justify directly contradictory agendas. I'm not saying that there's only one "biblical position" on all minute matters of polity, but without Scripture as a common-ground starting point, we're in big trouble.

John said...

I would also add deep knowledge and appreciation of our Wesleyan theological tradition, beyond glib reference to a few favorite out-of-context one-line quotes. After all, we are a Christian church in the Wesleyan tradition, right?

Marty Cauley said...


Excellent point. I suppose I thought that obvious, which may have been a poorly made assumption. Commitment to the theological task and the thirty nine articles are certainly minimum requirements.