February 19, 2011

Can We Improve Our Voting for General Conference Delegates?

This is the first year that I will have the opportunity to vote for those who will be my Annual Conference's delegation to the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. As readers of this blog know, I take a strong interest in the goings-on of the UMC at the denominational level. So, this first opportunity to take part in voting for the General Conference delegation is exciting to me.

But this opportunity brings challenge as well. As a still wet-behind-the-ears pastor, there are many clergy in our Annual Conference that I do not know or, at least, do not know well. Further, I don't know who is and who is not interested in being a part of the delegation. More importantly, I don't know where many stand on some of the important issues that will certainly come up at General Conference. I would like to vote for candidates who will represent my own values and what I believe to be best for the denomination. The problem is that we do not have a system in place through which clergy candidates can make public their positions on important issues facing the Church.

Perhaps an analogy will shed some light on the matter. Candidates for government offices all have opportunity to respond to questionnaires about their positions on important issues. A political candidate who not only refuses to communicate her platform but also neglects to make it known that she is running would stand no chance in a public election. In civic elections we want to know who we are voting for and what they stand for. Should it be any less in the United Methodist Church?

I've been told of a few Annual Conferences that already provide information sheets for potential clergy delegates. My own Annual Conference does this for lay delegates. I propose that we do the same for clergy delegate candidates as well. It would be especially helpful to younger pastors like me, and it would provide a vote with generally more integrity.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or a bad idea? What are the pros and cons? Does your Annual Conference have a questionnaire for clergy delegate candidates? If so, what has been the response?

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