Delegate FAQs

January 20th, 2012
This article is featured in the Call to Action (Feb/Mar/Apr 2012) issue of Circuit Rider

How many delegates are there? What will they do?

The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body, the General Conference, will gather April 24-May 4, 2012, in Tampa, Florida. Nine hundred and eighty-eight (988) delegates from around the world will set policy and direction for the church, as well as handle other business. General Conference is the only entity that officially speaks for The United Methodist Church. It meets every quadrennium (four years.)

Equal numbers of lay and clergy delegates are selected from each annual conference. Every annual conference is guaranteed one lay and one clergy delegate.

Where do the delegates come from?

Just as the U.S. Congress redistricts every 10 years following a national census, the number of lay and clergy delegates assigned from each annual conference changes each quadrennium based on the number of lay and clergy members. As specified in the United Methodist Constitution, the total number of delegates must be between 600 and 1,000. The 2012 conference will have an increased number of delegates from the Central Conferences (those outside the United States). Ten delegates will come from “concordat” churches with which the denomination has a formal relationship: 4 from Great Britain, and 2 each from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Caribbean and the Americas. There is ongoing discussion about the number of delegates elected to attend General Conference because of the cost associated with delegate expenses. General Conference 2012 is expected to cost 8.7 million dollars.

What is General Conference like for delegates?

General Conference is a multicultural and multilingual experience for every delegate. With nearly 38 percent of the delegates coming from outside the United States, the global nature of the church is becoming more apparent with each quadrennium. The Advance Daily Christian Advocate is published in English, French, and Portuguese. Simultaneous and one-on-one interpretation of plenary and legislative committee sessions are offered in French, German, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and American Sign Language.

Retired and active bishops attend the conference but do not vote and may not speak in plenary sessions without permission from the assembly. Individual bishops preside over business sessions.

Surrounded by worship and prayer, the delegates will hear the Episcopal Address; the Laity Address; the Young People’s address (new in 2008); and numerous reports of the general boards, agencies, commissions, and task groups. They meet in committees, consider petitions and vote on legislation, hold elections, and approve the general church budget for the next quadrennium. There are 13 legislative committees and they are expected to consider approximately 1300 petitions.


Adapted from the General Conference 2012 website.

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