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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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)