The United Methodist Church in the Philippines, despite a steep decline in its reported membership, will enjoy an overall increase in the number of delegates it sends to the 2102 General Conference and will have a level of representation far out of proportion to its membership.
Likewise, the representation level of the European Central Conferences will bear no connection to actual membership.
These details are included in a report released by the secretary of the General Conference that sets the total number of delegates to next year’s quadrennial gathering at 988 and advises annual conference leaders about the number of delegates each annual conference will be allowed to send.
A seven-page spreadsheet summary and analysis (PDF) of the denominational data, prepared by former North Georgia Conference Lay Leader Joe Whittemore and obtained by MethodistThinker.com, notes that Europe and the Philippines, which together account for less than 2 percent of total UMC membership, will have delegations that comprise more than 9 percent of the 2012 General Conference.
Specifically, the Whittemore analysis notes that Philippines Central Conference, despite a reported decline of nearly 28 percent in membership since delegation sizes were calculated for the 2008 General Conference, will nonetheless see a 14.3 percent increase in the size of its 2012 delegation.
(The steep membership decline in the Philippines is left unexplained in the denominational data; it is likely due in part to more accurate membership reporting from the annual conferences there.)
Meanwhile the European Central Conferences (Central and Southern Europe, Germany, Northern Europe), despite a overall membership loss of 8.5 percent since delegation sizes were calculated for 2008, will see no impact on the size of their delegations.
The out-of-proportion representation afforded to Europe and the Philippines is the result a constitutional provision, applied to small annual conferences, that overrules the normal formula for determining representation.
Typically, the size of each annual conference’s delegation is based on a formula — approved by the 2000 General Conference and found in ¶502 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline — that allows each annual conference to send one clergy delegate and one lay delegate for every 375 clergy members in the conference, plus one clergy delegate and one lay delegate for each 26,000 lay members.
Certain conferences, however, are too small for the formula to apply. Under the United Methodist Constitution (¶15: Section II, Article III), such conferences are guaranteed a minimum of two delegates — one clergy and one lay — regardless of membership. The guaranteed-minimum rule gives these smaller conferences — and the Central Conferences or Jurisdictions areas of which they are a part — outsized representation at the expense of larger conferences.
Based on a strict application of the 375 clergy/26,000 lay members formula, the Philippines Central Conference would send only 14 delegates to the next General Conference, according to the Whittemore analysis. Instead, because the Philippines church is composed of 23 annual conferences, the Philippines is guaranteed a minimum of 46 delegates. (Its actual delegation size next year will be 48.)
Likewise, without the minimum rule, the Central Conferences of Europe would send only eight delegates to the 2012 General Conference, according to Mr. Whittemore’s calculations, rather than the 42 called for under the recently released delegation data.
The additional delegates afforded to Europe and the Philippines by the guaranteed-minimum rule will mean that the Central Conferences of Africa (Africa, Congo, West Africa) will have a level of representation that falls well below what would be required under a strict application of the 375 clergy/26,000 lay members formula.
According to denominational membership tallies as of Dec. 31, 2009 — the figures used to calculate delegation sizes for the 2012 General Conference — United Methodists in Africa comprise 34.6 percent of total UMC membership. However, at next year’s General Conference, African delegates will make up only 28.5 percent of voting members, assuming all delegates are present.
The second- and third-largest areas of the UMC, the United States’ Southeastern and South Central Jurisdictions, respectively, will also see their representation diluted by the two-per-conference-minimum rule. The SEJ, with 24 percent of total UMC membership, will have 22.3 percent of delegates. The SCJ, with 14.4 percent of members, will have 13 percent of delegates.
The three other U.S. Jurisdctions — Western, Northeastern, and North Central — will all enjoy delegation sizes slightly larger than their actual membership would call for if General Conference representation was strictly proportional.
As noted above, the number of delegates for GC2012 has been set at 988.
The UM Constitution (¶13: Section II, Article I) requires that the quadrennial General Conference “be composed of not less than 600 nor more than 1,000 delegates, one half of whom shall be clergy and one half lay members, to be elected by the annual conferences.” Further, the Constitution requires UM missionary conferences to be considered as annual conferences for purposes of General Conference representation.
Ten delegates to the 2012 General Conference are expected to come from “concordat” churches with which the United Methodist has a formal relationship, including four voting delegates from the British Methodist Church (see ¶13).
A November 2010 press release from the UMC’s Office of Public Information offered background on the process of determining delegation sizes for the 2012 General Conference:
The Constitution of The United Methodist Church allows for the General Conference to have anywhere from 600 to 1,000 delegates. Because the formula that is provided within church law for the distribution of delegates currently allocates more than 1,000 delegates, the formula must be adjusted to bring the total within that range.
In October 2009, the Judicial Council issued a decision stating that the secretary of the General Conference has the authority to “determine the number of delegates that each annual and missionary conference will elect to General Conference within the provisions of the Constitution and the legislative enactments of the General Conference.”…
A decision about the number of delegates was delayed in part because of a request from the South Carolina annual conference for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council concerning the secretary’s authority to calculate the number of delegates to be elected by each annual conference.
At their fall meeting, the Judicial Council said it has no jurisdiction to act upon that request because the request did not “have a direct and tangible effect on the work of the” South Carolina Conference.
The current secretary of the General Conference is the Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist, the pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, Pa.
Reist was nominated to the secretary’s post by UM Council of Bishops and was elected by the 2004 General Conference. He was re-elected in 2008.
|•||Prominent UM layman offers analysis of amendments outcome|
Related articles and information
|•||2012 General Conference delegations as compared to membership (PDF) | Joe Whittemore (Jan. 7, 2011)|
|•||The Jurisdictional Conferences (U.S.) and the Central Conferences of the United Methodist Church | Wikipedia|
|•||Fairly represented? GC 2008 considers limits on delegates | Bill Fentum, United Methodist Reporter (April 18, 2008)|
|•||Southeastern delegates push for fair representation at General Conference | Alice Smith, United Methodist News Service (Sept. 24, 1999)|