Local Pastors to Vote for Delegates

An interesting constitutional amendment will be sent for approval by annual conferences. You’ll find some of of the details in an article on umc.org.

If annual conferences approve the constitutional amendment, deacons, associate members and provisional members may join ordained ministerial members in full connection in voting for delegates to General and jurisdictional conferences. To be eligible to vote, local pastors must have completed the Course of Study or master of divinity degree and have served under appointment for served two consecutive years immediately preceding an election. Only ordained members in full connection with an annual conference may serve as delegates.

Stephen Taylor, over at NitroRev also has a few thoughts on this since he spent time on the committee that worked on this legislation.

I’m happy to see this pass, even though I’m sure many local pastors would like the opportunity to serve as delegates as well. In any case, I wonder what this means for the more politically minded among us. Will local pastors get more attention in election years than they have in the past? Will this mean we’ll have increased representation from clergy in rural areas? What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Local Pastors to Vote for Delegates

  1. That’s some curious wording buy the UMNS. Deacons are in full connection and already vote for delegates. The Arkansas Conference elected at least one delegate to General or Jurisdictional (can’t remember which). Most of the local pastors I know are pretty conservative so that could add some more drama 🙂

  2. Right, I noticed that too. Maybe it’s just an oversight by the person who wrote the article. So, you think there’ll be more of a conservative swing because of this?

    I’ve heard at least one person say our delegation would’ve been the exact same even if LPs & probationary/provisional members voted on it. I don’t know.

  3. I don’t know Matt… I suspect there would have been a groundswell of grass-root support to send you.

    This week has done little more than confirm a nagging fear that I have in regard to this little “ordination” ceremony that you and I are headed toward. As a denomination we have no flipping clue–and certainly no overall agreement–as to what ordination implies or entails.

    What a mess…

  4. I think you may be surprised to find how few new voters there will be IF this winds up being approved and the constitution is actually changed sometime over the next couple of years.

    Get out your Annual Conference Journal (or load up your AC Journal CD or DVD, which is what we’ll be doing in Oklahoma soon) and take a look at the Associate Members listing and the Local Pastors listing.

    In Oklahoma there are 26 Associate Members listed. Of these 18 are shown as retired; looking at the year of first pastorate, it appears that a good number of those may be elderly and not attending Annual Conference any longer.

    In Oklahoma there are 158 Local Pastors listed. Of these, 43 are shown as retired. 40 are shown as having completed the Course of Study, but 23 of those are also retired – leaving only 17 who appear to be in the category to be made eligible to vote on delegates to JC, RC, and GC. There are 9 others with 3 or 4 years completed and not yet retired (quite a few of those with 3 or 4 years completed are already retired and no longer in process to complete the Course of Study). Many, many of the listed Local Pastors have 1 or <1 year despite having served for a number of years, and are not likely to ever complete the Course of Study.

    I think that, at least in Oklahoma, the addition of 2 or 3 dozen additional votes would not have changed our elected clergy delegates for this year at all.

    I do agree that a higher proportion of Local Pastors might be called “conservative” than would be so among the ordained clergy. But there are “liberal” or “progressive” (sometimes quite “liberal”) Local Pastors and they tend to be more likely to complete the Course of Study than those well-labelled “conservative” Local Pastors, in my experience.

    just a licensed-not-ordained Local Pastor here and one who lives to the left of center on almost all issues which face, or haunt, us in the church today


  5. Another intriguing aspect of the criteria set in place to determine which Local Pastors would be enfranchised with regard to voting for delegates to JC, RC, and GC, is the requirement to have served for 2 consecutive years immediately preceding the Annual Conference.

    With Local Pastors having no guarantee of appointment and, quite literally, serving at the pleasure of the Bishop, it would appear that if there was real concern that a number of Local Pastors who would be eligible to vote would be likely to sway the election in a way that would upset the clergy leadership of the Annual Conference, the Bishop could (if she/he wished) delay an annual appointment of a Local Pastor by a week or two, or withdraw an appointment for a week or two (putting an interim in place briefly), and thus render those Local Pastors ineligible to vote in the upcoming Annual Conference.

    Just a thought…………………

    Of course, that’s the problem for any non-tenured faculty, is it not? And the truth is that, in practical effect, the difference between the ordained and the licensed-not-ordained in the UMC is a matter of tenure.

    Don’t get upset with me, I am not belittling ordination, I am simply pointing out that the practical effect is like unto tenure in a college or university. This is a thought apart from real distinctions of education, intensive and repeated evaluation and review by BoOM, depth and breadth of applicable reading and personal library, clerical attire in the pulpit or on the street, and any special spiritual gifts bestowed in the ceremony of ordination.


  6. Robert, I was hoping you’d weigh in. You probably need a couple of “guest-blogger” posts to explore issues in the world of Local Pastors in more detail. You’re welcome to do that sometime if you’d like.

    You’re definitely right about the number of associate members; I had forgotten about that part of the conversation we had on this the other day.

    On one other note, I’ll let you pretend that you’re more liberal than you really are so as not to blow your cover! However, I have it on good authority that you like to hang around Asbury graduates. 😉

  7. I can’t verify this because it would take far too long and I’m not interested enough to do it, but I have been *told* that a little less than *half* of the UMC’s in Arkansas have licensed local pastors. *If* true, and that’s a big if, then it would significantly impact our voting for General Conference delegates.

    My assumptions about the theological dispositions of our local pastors comes from my relationship with them. The ones I know well are good, rural people who, frankly, aren’t going to be too happy with a 20 minute “silent witness” if you know what I mean.

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