Local Pastors, Get Out Your Buzzers…Maybe

During GC, I posted about local pastors possibly getting the right to vote for delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference. This wasn’t something that got a lot of attention during GC, and there was a bit of confusion over whether or not this really passed.

This morning I saw this article from UMC.org. Here is an excerpt,

The 2008 United Methodist General Conference approved a constitutional amendment giving local pastors, provisional members and associate members voting rights to elect clergy delegates to General Conference and jurisdictional conferences.

In 2005, nearly 15 percent––or 6,660 of the total clergy membership of annual conferences––were full-time or part-time local pastors. Of these, approximately 4,000 local pastors will be able to vote for delegates to the 2012 legislative meetings, should the amendment be approved during the 2009 annual conference sessions. In 2005, there were 2,492 probationary members, now called provisional members, and 2,065 associate and affiliate members.

To go into effect, the amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the aggregate vote of all clergy and lay delegates voting in the 2009 annual conferences, said the Rev. Robert Kohler, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Some of my faithful readers equate this to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and yes, I understand that 4,000 more people voting for delegates probably isn’t the kind of profound shift that will cause our denomination to be more or less faithful in the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

On the other hand, my Local Pastor friends seem to appreciate the potential opportunity to get some kind of voice in the process of electing delegates. To me, at least at least this would include them in the process. After all, they can’t serve either as lay or clergy delegates!

In any case, I’ll be voting that local pastors will get this opportunity.

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?